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Über dieses Buch

This book presents a collection of philosophical essays on freedom and tolerance in the Netherlands. It explores liberal freedom and its limits in areas such as freedom of speech, public reason, sexual morality, euthanasia, drugs policy, and minority rights. The book takes Dutch practices as exemplary test cases for the principled discussions on these subjects from the perspective of political liberalism. Indeed, the Netherlands may be viewed as a social laboratory in human tolerance. During the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, Holland took the lead in a global emancipation process towards a society based on equal freedom. It was the first country to legalize euthanasia, soft drugs and gay marriage. In the final sections, the book examines the question of whether the political murders on the politician Pim Fortuyn and the film director Theo van Gogh, the reactions to Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s film Submission, as well as the success of the populist politician Geert Wilders are signs of the end of Dutch tolerance. Although it recognizes that the political climate has taken a conservative turn, the book shows that the Netherlands still shows remarkable tolerance.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Introduction

Abstract
The introductory chapter presents the theoretical and conceptual framework of Tolerance: Experiments with Freedom in the Netherlands. The book concentrates on experiments with freedom and toleration in the Netherlands, which in the 1960s took the lead in a worldwide emancipation process. It was the first country to legalize euthanasia, soft drugs and gay marriage, albeit not always in a fully liberal way. In its analysis of political and social practice, the book views Dutch society as a social laboratory in which the political philosophy of liberalism is put to the test. This approach is based on the assumption that mankind can learn from both historical and current experience.
The Introduction provides an analysis of the liberal concepts of tolerance, freedom, harm and offence, and expounds the principles of political liberalism and public reason. Next it specifies how this theoretical framework is applied to political practice in the subsequent chapters, which discuss the history of modern freedom and toleration; sexual morality; incest; drugs policy; euthanasia; the position of marginal groups like human ‘freaks’; public reason and slavery; group rights of cultural minorities; freedom of discriminatory speech; state neutrality and head scarves; and the endangered future of tolerance.
Cees Maris

Chapter 2. Can We Learn from History? A Letter to Mr. John Locke, Philosopher

Abstract
This chapter outlines the history of freedom and toleration. It pays particular attention to the Dutch Golden Age that exemplified tolerance, a trendsetting pragmatic response to the problems of modern plural society. It addresses John Locke, who composed his A Letter Concerning Toleration during his stay as a political refugee in Amsterdam in the 1680s. Inspired by his Dutch intellectual friends, Locke expounded the basic ideas of a liberal constitution, albeit not as yet in a perfect way. Spinoza and other representatives of the ‘Radical Enlightenment’ were more coherent in their elaborations of the liberal principles of liberty and equality.
In the subsequent centuries philosophers, such as Mill and Rawls, have completed the model of the neutral democratic constitutional state that guarantees individual liberties and social rights. In interaction with this intellectual progress, in a process of trial and error liberal theory was transformed into political practice throughout the Western world via a series of real and metaphorical revolutions .
Cees Maris

Chapter 3. Sex, Morality and Law

Abstract
This chapter focuses on sexual legal morality and sexual ethics. In the erotic domain, Dutch practice provides an ideal testing ground for liberal theory. Since the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s, the Netherlands has been in the vanguard of sexual emancipation, providing a unique opportunity to observe the liberal model in action. The chapter analyses Dutch legal history in this field in the light of the current philosophical debate concerning the harm principle.
In the public sphere liberal legal morality is to be preferred to Christian moralism and moral majoritarianism. Indeed, research among Dutch youth shows that the emancipation of their sex life and the free availability of pornography on the Internet have not brought about an increase in harmful sexual activities. In the private sphere of sexual ethics, too, the harm principle is adequate: because of its highly personal character, anything goes in erotic love, with only one limiting condition—the consent of the parties involved. This is preferable to Bataille’s sacral eroticism and Nagel’s good sex. For connoisseurs, the model of Multiple Love is recommended as a standard of perfection for non-morally good erotic love.
Cees Maris

Chapter 4. My Story: Ascertaining the Truth in Cases of Incest

Abstract
This chapter discusses incest, a special case of sexual morality. The Netherlands belongs to the minority of European nations that have decriminalized incest between mature relatives. Dutch law only outlaws sex with minor relatives, in the same breath with prohibiting sex with non-relative dependent minors, such as pupils and minor servants. Dutch legal practice thus matches liberal political theory: it permits incestuous acts between consenting adults; incest with non-autonomous minors, even when voluntary, is prohibited on paternalistic grounds.
In incest trials the question of justice is closely linked to the question of truth. Because incest occurs in the bosom of the family, often the contradictory testimonies of the complainant and the accused is the only evidence available. Moreover, psychologists disagree about the truth-value of ‘recovered memories’ of incestuous relationships. How is the law supposed to deal with cases of this sort, where the seriousness of the offence is in inverse proportion to the weight of the evidence?
In this respect, incest trials are paradigmatic cases of the narrative theory of law. However, if the reality of law were as narrative as incest trials, this would imply the absurd consequence that no judge could ever exclude reasonable doubt. Foundherentism, an epistemological synthesis of foundationalism and coherentism, can overcome his sceptical conclusion. Even in incest trials it is possible to provide adequate empirical evidence. This argument is illustrated by analyses of the incest cases of Yolanda, Van Haaren, and Casanova.
Cees Maris

Chapter 5. Dutch Weed and Logic

Abstract
In the 1970s the Netherlands took the global lead in a trend towards a liberal drug policy by decriminalizing the sale and consumption of small amounts of the ‘soft’ drugs marijuana and hashish. The aim was harm reduction. This tolerant policy sharply contrasts with the moralistic American ‘War on Drugs’. The Netherlands and the United States of America can be seen as unique social laboratories for a comparative analysis of the practical implications of a liberal as opposed to a moralistic drug policy. The Dutch way is to be preferred because it reduces the harm, both for drug users and for others.
Yet, tested against the harm principle, Dutch drug policy is imperfectly liberal. Because their prohibition inflates the price of hard drugs, addicts will commit additional crimes against property. The prohibition of hard drugs and of large-scale trade in soft drugs provides the underworld with a unique opportunity to enrich itself and to expand its grip on the legal world. The fundamental human right to self-determination includes the liberty to use one’s preferred narcotics: the user has a vital interest in controlled recreational consumption thereof. Therefore, both soft and hard drugs should be subject to regulation similar to that of alcohol.
Cees Maris

Chapter 6. I Have No Regrets: Dutch Euthanasia

Abstract
The Netherlands was the first country to legalize voluntary euthanasia. Dutch law forbids euthanasia by another person, with the exception of a medical doctor. The physician has to meet requirements of due care, such as: the patient has made a voluntary and well-considered request, and suffers unbearably without prospect of improvement.
This practice is based on three principles: the value of human life, beneficence or mercy, and individual autonomy. The doctor’s mercy is the decisive value. This paternalistic approach contrasts with the moralistic Christian doctrine of the sanctity of life, which absolutely bans suicide and euthanasia. In the same vein, Locke argued that the ‘natural’ rights to life and to freedom are inalienable; therefore, Lockean liberalism forbids euthanasia. Indeed, the freedom to sell oneself into slavery appears to be unacceptable. However, voluntary euthanasia differs from voluntary slavery in relevant respects. A fully liberal approach that centralizes individual autonomy permits voluntary euthanasia, provided the voluntariness is adequately guaranteed.
Cees Maris

Chapter 7. One of Us: On Human Identity and Freaky Justice

Abstract
This chapter concerns marginalized groups, in particular human ‘freaks’ who used to make their living by exposing their abnormalities in circuses and at carnivals. Such ‘Very Special People’ stand out since they challenge human identity: a Bearded Lady challenges the distinction between male and female; a Living Skeleton challenges the distinction between life and death. Such extreme cases also cast a focus on central ethical issues. First, a question of individual autonomy: should these marginalized individuals be free to expose themselves in freak shows? This question is answered in the positive.
Secondly, a question of distributive justice: what does treating ‘freaks’ as equals imply? Can liberal justice effectively guarantee their emancipation to respected members of society with an adequate sense of self-esteem? Rawls’ difference principle allows a redistribution of socio-economic goods if this is to the benefit of the least advantaged. However, ‘least advantaged’ refers to groups with an economic disadvantage; it does not compensate for ‘the outcome of the natural lottery’. An alternative liberal principle of social justice appears to be more promising: the state should compensate for disadvantages caused by sheer luck by guaranteeing special accommodations in the fields of work, education, and health. However, freaks will still be excluded from informal social circles because of their deviant appearances. An appeal to the Rawlsian primary good of self-respect is not helpful either, since ‘beauty and grace’ are essential conditions for self-esteem. With regard to freaks, then, liberal justice may provide necessary, but not sufficient, conditions for equal respect and self-respect.
Cees Maris

Chapter 8. We Want Our Freedom: Slavery and Public Reason

Abstract
This chapter concerns state neutrality: it discusses the requirement of Public Reason in the light of the historical debate on the abolition of slavery. Public Reason demands that state force be based upon reasons that are acceptable to all reasonable citizens; arguments derived from particular religious or metaphysical ‘comprehensive’ worldviews are excluded. Waldron rejects the constraints of Public Reason for being irrational: the Christian faith may be true. Moreover, its restraints are immoral: the abolition of slavery in the United States of America was expedited by Christian arguments; without such arguments slavery might have survived much longer. Instead, Waldron advocates ‘Comprehensive Reason’: all comprehensive views may be submitted; in case of disagreement, the democratic majority must decide.
However, opening the public debate on polity and legislation to comprehensive metaphysical views is irrational because it pushes political deliberation into an infinite regress. Moreover, Comprehensive Reason is amoral because it can equally yield morally good and bad decisions. The debate on slavery provides a test case for this defence of Public Reason. A concise history and philosophy of slavery is followed by a philosophical dispute between two historical characters. Waldron’s hero, John Locke, acts as an advocate for abolition; his opponent, the Afro-Dutch theologian, Jacobus Capitein, advocates slavery. Both parties primarily appeal to Christian arguments.
Cees Maris

Chapter 9. I Have Cleansed My Honour: Multiculturalism and the Dutch Pillar System

Abstract
This chapter discusses Dutch tolerance in relation to cultural minorities that endorse illiberal traditions. The influx of immigrants from foreign cultures raises two related questions. First, should the state accommodate cultural and ethnic minorities via special group-related rights to cultural identity, as Liberal Multiculturalists (Raz, Kymlicka and Carens) advocate? If so, would the proven Dutch pillar tradition provide an adequate integration model (in line with Lijphart’s Consociationalism)? It is argued that both liberal multiculturalism and consociationalism in the form of a Muslim pillar are inadequate.
The second question concerns the limits of liberal tolerance: to what extent should illiberal traditions of cultural minorities be tolerated? The custom of honour killing among immigrants from Turkey serves as a test case. The harm principle provides the answer: actions that affect the basic rights of others may be prohibited, even if they are valuable from the perspective of the immigrant culture. This also protects individual members of the cultural group in question. Honour killings violate the basic right to life, therefore perpetrators cannot, with an appeal to a cultural defence, claim to be acquitted or to receive a reduced sentence.
Cees Maris

Chapter 10. Close the Borders!: Dutch Intolerance and Freedom of Speech

Abstract
This chapter discusses Dutch intolerance of immigrants in relation to the proper limits of free speech: should discriminatory speech be banned? The focus is on the trials involving the Dutch populist politician, Geert Wilders, who is an expert in Islam-bashing. Wilders presents his verbal violence as a matter of self-defence against Islam’s jihad, a holy war in pursuit of world dominion. Muslim immigrants would be trying to transform the Netherlands into ‘Netherarabia’. Wilders’ political program builds on Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations, a prophecy of a cultural clash between the Western and the Muslim worlds.
However, Huntington wrongly assumes that Muslims share a common civilization. Wilders wrongly equates Islam with its most radical interpretations, notably Islamism. In the Wilders trials, two liberal principles have to be balanced: freedom (of speech) against equality (the right not to be discriminated against). Discriminatory acts are harmful and may therefore be prohibited. Discriminatory speech can be offensive without affecting the rights of others. Although Wilders’ statements about Islam and Muslims are grossly untrue and discriminatory, and therefore morally wrong, the harm and offence principles imply that he should be free to express them.
Cees Maris

Chapter 11. Laïcité in the Low Countries? On Headscarves in a Neutral State

Abstract
This chapter concerns the neutrality of the state with regard to religion, in particular to Islam. It confronts Dutch legal culture, where tolerance and equality play an important role, with the French model of laïcité, or state secularism. The latter emphasizes the importance of strict state neutrality, which has resulted in a legal prohibition of Islamic headscarves at public schools and other public institutions. In the Netherlands, Muslim women are allowed to wear headscarves in public institutions, with the exception of members of the judiciary.
The best solution to the headscarves question is to be found in a balanced synthesis of French absolutist secularism and Dutch tolerant pluralism. In their private domain Muslim women are free to dress as they wish. In the judiciary, strict exclusive neutrality is essential: social peace requires a public body that settles conflicts between citizens by impartial arbitration. Therefore, conspicuous religious symbols should be avoided. By placing other social positions on a Laicity Scale between both extremes, it is possible to differentiate by reference to context. Pupils at public schools are primarily private individuals who should be allowed to wear religious symbols. Allowing religious symbols at public schools prepares the pupils for the cultural and religious diversity that awaits them in the grown-up world.
Cees Maris

Chapter 12. Coda: The End of Tolerance?

Abstract
This chapter takes stock of Tolerance: Experiments with Freedom in the Netherlands. According to pessimists the end of tolerance is imminent throughout the Western world. Indeed, populist politicians achieve great electoral successes with destructive xenophobic and isolationist political programs. Present-day Dutch intolerance is a two-headed monster: large immigrant communities endorse intolerant traditions; many natives react with increasing intolerance to immigrants. Both tendencies reinforce each other, which raises the paradox of tolerance. According to Rawls, justice requires the tolerant to tolerate the intolerant ‘as long as liberty itself and their own freedom is not in danger’. The decisive question is, then, whether toleration is an endangered institution.
Optimists point out that even neo-conservatives and nationalists endorse the values of the Enlightenment, including gay marriage. Policies on euthanasia and drugs are tending to become more liberal. In short, the basic liberal achievements of the 1960s remain uncontested. This also holds true for the institutions of the liberal state. Present-day populists do not call for violent subversion of the democratic order. Despite all this, however, the rise of nationalist intolerance in liberal countries, the threat of Islamist terrorism, and the assertive nationalist attitude of the dictatorial regimes of China and Russia, make many worry about the world in which their children will have to live. In these circumstances it is difficult to make an educated guess about the future of tolerance. The major lesson we can learn from history is that we should continue to fight for freedom.
Cees Maris

Backmatter

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