Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 1095–1123 | Cite as

Toleration and the Design of Norms

  • Luciano Floridi
Original Paper


One of the pressing challenges we face today—in a post-Westphalian order (emergence of the state as the modern, political information agent) and post-Bretton Woods world (emergence of non-state multiagent systems or MASs as “hyperhistorical” players in the global economy and politics)—is how to design the right kind of MAS that can take full advantage of the socio-economic and political progress made so far, while dealing successfully with the new global challenges that are undermining the best legacy of that very progress. This is the topic of the article. In it, I argue that (i) in order to design the right kind of MAS, we need to design the right kind of norms that constitute them; (ii) in order to design the right kind of constitutive norms, we need to identify and adopt the right kind of principles of normative design; (iii) toleration is one of those principles; (iv) unfortunately, its role as a foundation for the design of norms has been undermined by the “paradox of toleration”; (v) however, the paradox can be solved; (vi) so toleration can be re-instated as the right kind of foundational principle for the design of the right kind of norms that can constitute the right kind of MAS that can operate across cultures, societies and states, to help us to tackle the new global challenges facing us.


Justice Kant Multiagent systems Toleration Rawls Westphalian order 



I discussed several versions of this article on many occasions in the past years and I am deeply indebted for their feedback to too many colleagues and members of the audiences to thank them all here. Some, however, deserve to be named explicitly because of their input and sustained effort in saving me from the most obvious mistakes: Anthony Beavers, Guido Boella, Elizabeth Buchanan, Schafer Burkhard, Juan Carlos De Martin, Massimo Durante, Guido Governatori, Patrick Grim, Patricia Mindus, Ugo Pagallo, Giovanni Sartor, and Mariarosaria Taddeo. The following occasions were especially useful for presenting and improving a draft that stayed with me for too long: the Weizenbaum Award Address, CEPE Conference—Computer Ethics: Philosophical Enquiry—11th edition (Autónoma University, Lisbon, 1–3 July, 2013); the workshop on “Protection of Information and the Right to Privacy: a New Equilibrium?” European University Institute, (Fiesole, 21 June 2013); an invited talk at the seminar at the Law School Stockholm University in collaboration with IRI Institutet för Rättsinformatik (Stockholm, 15 May, 2013); an invited talk at the Philosophy Department, Stony Brook, SUNY (New York, 30 March 2 April 2013); an invited talk at the EU Commission “Onlife Project” workshop (Brussels, 8 February, 2013); the Ethics Lecture—Institute for Global Studies (University of Evansville, 10–13 November, 2012); an invited talk at the Beijing Forum (Beijing, 1–4 November, 2012); an invited lecture at the ISI Foundation—Institute for Scientific Interchange (Turin, 13 September, 2012); an invited talk at the IACAP Symposium, IACAP-AISB 2012 World Congress, University of Birmingham (Birmingham, UK, 2–5 July 2012); the CLS Annual Lecture, Centre for Law and Society, University of Edinburgh (Edinburgh, 8 June 2012); and an invited talk at the Camera dei Deputati (Rome, 23 March, 2012). David Sutcliffe carefully copyedited the last version and provided several helpful suggestions on some unclear or ambiguous passages. Finally, a special thank goes to the two anonymous referees who provided insightful and helpful comments that significantly improved the published version of this article.


  1. Abellán, J. (2012). Immanuel Kant—Tolerance seen as respect. In J. C. Laursen & M. J. Villaverde (Eds.), Paradoxes of religious toleration in early modern political thought (pp. 207–219). Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  2. Andrighetto, G., Governatori G., Noriega P., & van der Torre, L. W. N. (2013). Normative multi-agent systems. Schloss Dagstuhl-Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik GmbH.Google Scholar
  3. Austin, J. (1832). The province of jurisprudence determined. London: J. Murray.Google Scholar
  4. Austin, J. L. (1962). How to do things with words. In O. Urmson (Ed.), The William James lectures delivered at Harvard University in 1955. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  5. Austin, J. L. (1975). How to do things with words (2nd ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Austin, J. (1995). The province of jurisprudence determined. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Banks, J. S. (2001). Signaling games in political science, Fundamentals of pure and applied economics positive political economy 2. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  8. Boella, G., & der Torre, L. (2006). Constitutive norms in the design of normative multiagent systems. In F. Toni & P. Torroni (Eds.), Computational logic in multi-agent systems (pp. 303–319). Berlin: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Boella, G., & van der Torre, L. W. N. (2004). Regulative and constitutive norms in normative multiagent systems. Principles of Knowledge Representation and Reasoning, 4, 255–265.Google Scholar
  10. Boella, G., Van Der Torre, L., & Verhagen, H. (2006). Introduction to normative multiagent systems. Computational and Mathematical Organization Theory, 12(2–3), 71–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bohl, M., & Rynn, M. (2008). Tools for structured and object-oriented design: An introduction to programming logic (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  12. Durkheim, E. (1976). The elementary forms of the religious life (first published in French in 1912) (2nd ed.). London: Allen and Unwin.Google Scholar
  13. Floridi, L. (2003) Informational realism. In J. Weckert & Y. Al-Saggaf (Eds.), Selected papers from conference on Computers and philosophy-Volume 37 (37: Australian Computer Society), (pp. 7–12).Google Scholar
  14. Floridi, L. (2008a). A defence of informational structural realism. Synthese, 161(2), 219–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Floridi, L. (2008b). The method of levels of abstraction. Minds and Machines, 18(3), 303–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Floridi, L. (2009). Web 2.0 vs. the semantic web: A philosophical assessment. Episteme, 6(01), 25–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Floridi, L. (2013a). Distributed morality in an information society. Science and Engineering Ethics, 19(3), 727–743.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Floridi, L. (2013b). The ethics of information. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Floridi, L. (2014). The fourth revolution—How the infosphere is reshaping human reality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Floridi, L., & Taddeo, M. (Eds.). (2014). The ethics of information warfare. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  21. Forst, R. (2012). Toleration. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy.
  22. Fuller, L. L. (1969). The morality of law (rev ed.). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Gensler, H. J. (2002). Introduction to logic. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gensler, H. J. (2010). Introduction to logic (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  25. Governatori, G. (2014). Thou shalt is not you will. arXiv preprint arXiv:1404.1685.Google Scholar
  26. Governatori, G., & Rotolo, A. (2006). Logic of violations: A gentzen systems for reasoning with contrary-to-duty obligations. Australasian Journal of Logic, 4(1), 193–215.Google Scholar
  27. Hall, M. (2013). Ex-minister Sarah Teather: Government wants to make UK ‘hostile’ to immigrants. The Telegraph available online.Google Scholar
  28. Hart, H. L. A. (2012). The concept of law (3rd ed.)., Clarendon law series Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Herman, B. (1996). Pluralism and the community of moral judgment. In D. Heyd (Ed.), Toleration: An elusive virtue, chapter 4. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Heyd, D. (1996). Toleration: An elusive virtue. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Hobbes, T. (2012). Leviathan. 3 vols, Clarendon edition of the works of Thomas Hobbes. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Hollander, C. D., & Wu, A. S. (2011). The current state of normative agent-based systems. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, 14 (2).
  33. Holyoak, K. J., & Morrison, R. G. (2012). The Oxford handbook of thinking and reasoning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Horton, J. (1994). Three (apparent) paradoxes of toleration. Synthesis Philosophica, 9(1), 7–20.Google Scholar
  35. Ingram, D. (2006). Law: Key concepts in philosophy. New York: Continuum.Google Scholar
  36. Johnson-Laird, P. N. (2006). How we reason. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Kant, I. (1786). Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten. 2e Aufl. ed. Riga.Google Scholar
  38. Kant, I. (1991) (originally 1786). What is orientation in thinking? In Political writings, 237–249. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, originally Was heißt: Sich im Denken orientiren? First published in Berlinische Monatsschrift, VIII (October 1786), 304–330.Google Scholar
  39. Kant, I. (2011). Groundwork of the metaphysics of morals: A German-English edition. German text from the second original edition (1786) edited by Jens Timmermann, English translation by Mary Gregor, revised by Jens Timmermann. ed. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  40. King, P. (1998). Toleration (2nd ed.). London: Frank Cass.Google Scholar
  41. Kuper, A. (2000). Rawlsian global justice: Beyond the law of peoples to a cosmopolitan law of persons. Political Theory, 28(5), 640–674.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Linklater, A. (1998). The transformation of political community: Ethical foundations of the post-Westphalian era. Oxford: Polity.Google Scholar
  43. Locke, J. (1689). A letter concerning toleration. Translated from the Latin of John Locke by W. Popple: London.Google Scholar
  44. Locke, J. (1991). A letter concerning toleration. In J. Horton, & S. Mendus (Eds.), Routledge philosophers in focus series. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  45. Marcuse, H. (1965). Repressive tolerance. In R. P. Wolff, B. Moore, & H. Marcuse (Eds.), A critique of pure tolerance (pp. 95–137). Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  46. McKinnon, C. (2006). Toleration: A critical introduction. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Mendus, S. (Ed.). (1988). Justifying toleration: Conceptual and historical perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Mendus, S. (1989). Toleration and the limits of liberalism. Basingstoke: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  49. Mill, J. S. (1859). On liberty (2nd ed.). London: John W. Parker & Son.Google Scholar
  50. Mill, J. S. (1963). The collected works of John Stuart Mill. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  51. Minogue, K. (2000). Politics: A very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. O’Neill, O. (1986). The public use of reason. Political Theory, 14(4), 523–551.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Oberdiek, H. (2001). Tolerance: Between forbearance and acceptance. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.Google Scholar
  54. Pagallo, U. (2014). Il diritto nell’era delle società ICT-dipendenti. Turin: Giappichelli.Google Scholar
  55. Popper, K. R. (1945). The open society and its enemies. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  56. Popper, K. R. (2013). The open society and its enemies. New introduction by Alan Ryan, essay by E. H. Gombrich, single volume ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  57. Rawls, J. (1999a). The law of peoples: With, the idea of public reason revisited. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  58. Rawls, J. (1999b). A theory of justice. Rev. ed. ed. Cambridge, MA: Belknap.Google Scholar
  59. Ricoeur, P. (Ed.). (1996). Tolerance between intolerance and the intolerable. New York: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  60. Ross, Alf. (1941). Imperatives and logic. Theoria, 7, 53–71.Google Scholar
  61. Scott, J. F. (1971). Internalization of norms: A sociological theory of moral commitment. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  62. Searle, J. R. (1995). The construction of social reality. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  63. Solove, D. J. (2013). Privacy self-management and the consent paradox. Harvard Law Review, 126, 1888–1893.Google Scholar
  64. Stetson, B. (2005). The truth about tolerance: Pluralism, diversity, and the culture wars. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.Google Scholar
  65. Thomassen, L. (2006). The inclusion of the other? Habermas and the paradox of tolerance. Political Theory, 34(4), 439–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Warnock, M. (1987). The limits of toleration. In Susan Mendus & D. Edwards (Eds.), On toleration (pp. 123–140). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  67. Williams, B. (1996). Toleration: An impossible virtue? In David Heyd (Ed.), Toleration: An elusive virtue (pp. 18–27). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Oxford Internet InstituteUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

Personalised recommendations