Religious toleration is much discussed these days. But where did the Western notion of toleration come from?
Remer offers the surprising conclusion that humanist thinking on toleration was actually founded on the classical tradition of rhetoric. It was the rhetorician's commitment to decorum, the ability to argue both sides of an issue, and the search for an acceptable epistemological standard in probability and consensus that grounded humanist arguments for toleration
Remer also finds that the primary humanist model for full-fledged theory of toleration was the Ciceronian rhetorical category of sermo (conversation)
The historical scope of this book is wide-ranging. Remer begins by focusing on the works of four humanists: Desiderius Erasmus, Jacobus Acontius, William Chillingworth, and Jean Bodin. Then he considers the challenges posed to the humanist defense of toleration by Thomas Hobbes and Pierre Bayle. Finally, he shows how humanist ideas have continued to influence arguments for toleration even after the passing of humanism - from John Locke to contemporary American discussions of freedom of speech