Public Reason: Vol. 9, No. 1-2, 2017
From Inevitable Establishment to Mutual Exclusion: The Challenge for Liberal Neutrality
Avigail Ferdman

One of the challenges that liberal neutrality faces in diverse societies is how to maintain neutrality towards conception of the good life, when establishment of a particular conception of the good and exclusion of other conceptions is inevitable, as in the case of language regulation. A possible solution is to justify this establishment by appealing to universal reasons, thus refraining from endorsing the intrinsic value of the established conception. This paper argues that such a solution is limited, as it does not cover all inevitable-establishment domains. This is because there is a distinction within inevitable-establishment domains: domains in which rival options can coexist, such as language policy, and domains in which options are mutually exclusive, such as land-use policy. The paper argues that language policy is a coexistence domain, since it allows for a degree of personal agency, and it can refrain from making value judgments about the language that is endorsed by the state. Spatial organization and land-use policy, on the other hand, must rest on value judgments about the good life and cannot accommodate neutral justifications. The distinction has important implications for the scope of neutrality: neutrality turns out to be applicable in coexistence domains, and inapplicable in mutually-exclusive domains. Ultimately, it may be the case that neutrality may not be applicable even in language policy, since language policy exhibits characteristics of a mutually-exclusive domain. 

Key words: liberalism, neutrality, multiculturalism, language policy, land-use, intrinsic value


Ferdman, Avigail. 2017. From Inevitable Establishment to Mutual Exclusion: The Challenge for Liberal Neutrality.Public Reason 9 (1-2): 29-48.