Jerry: See, now that I don’t care for.
George: Right. I mean, we’re on a subject. Why does it have to be changed?
Jerry: It should resolve of its own volition.
George: That’s exactly what I said, except I used the word “momentum.”
Jerry: Momentum – same thing.
(Seinfeld S7E02, “The Postponement”)
This comedic blip from Seinfeld might seem miles away from the early modern debates around religious toleration, but Teresa Bejan’s Mere Civility demonstrates that early modern thinkers expressed similar concerns about the power of free-flowing conversation. In this reading, Martin Luther, George, and Jerry stand on one side, defending the importance of ongoing debate. On the other side stand early-modern strategies of tolerance that use speech norms to keep peace in the face of religious argument. For both sides of this debate, republican notions of civility can provide important ways of situating a demand to either continue or avoid further discussion.