The Leo Strauss prize is awarded annually for the best dissertation in the field of political philosophy. This year the recipient is Teresa Mia Bejan for her work on “Mere Civility: Toleration and its Limits in Early Modern England and America.”
In this thorough, sustained and engaging work, Teresa Bejan straddles early modern transatlantic and contemporary American discourses of toleration and civility. Bejan explores what the ideal of civility adds to the injunction to tolerate those we disagree with, perhaps disapprove of, or are even disgusted by. The work is well informed by the vast secondary literature on each of the three early modern thinkers she enlists as proponents of toleration – Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Roger Wiliams. Bejan convincingly demonstrates that each of these influential theorists answers her question about the relationship between civility and toleration in his own distinctive way, adducing different understandings of civility and of its contribution to a regime of toleration. Breathing new life into canonical texts and familiar themes, Bejan also consistently and convincingly considers their relevance for twenty first century political life. This excellent dissertation is scholarly, careful, intelligent, engaged and engaging, extremely well written, and wide-ranging without ever blurring its focus. Bejan’s deft and confident tour through interesting and important matters still manages to exude a sense of humor and a delight in the doing of political theory.
Ruth Abbey, University of Notre Dame
Elizabeth Cohen, Syracuse University
Xavier Marquez, Victoria University of Wellington
Recipient: Teresa Mia Bejan
Dissertation: “Mere Civility: Toleration and its Limits in Early Modern England and America,” Yale University