Liberal Neutrality: A Compelling and Radical Principle


Compared to other debates in contemporary political philosophy, the light-to-heat ratio of discussions of neutrality has been somewhat dismal. Although most political philosophers seem to know whether they are for it or against it, there is considerable confusion about what “it” is. To be sure, some of this ambiguity has been noted, and at least partially dealt with, in the literature. Neutrality understood as a constraint on the sorts of reasons that may be advanced to justify state action is regularly distinguished from “consequential neutrality”—that the effects of state policy must somehow be neutral.1 Yet interpretations of neutrality are far more diverse than most analyses recognize.2 Neutrality is sometimes understood as a doctrine about: the intent or aim of legislation or legislators,3 the proper functions of the state,4 the prohibition of the state “taking a stand” on some issues,5 the prohibition of the state enforcing moral character,6 or the requirement that the state take a stance of impartiality.7 Alternatively, neutrality can be understood as a requirement of a theory justice rather than state action.8 There are also differences about whether neutral states (or theories..

Download options


    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 72,743

External links

  • This entry has no external links. Add one.
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

  • Only published works are available at libraries.


Added to PP

64 (#182,459)

6 months
1 (#387,390)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Gerald Gaus
Last affiliation: University of Arizona

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work

Justification, Coercion, and the Place of Public Reason.Chad Van Schoelandt - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (4):1031-1050.
Public Justification and the Limits of State Action.Andrew Lister - 2010 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 9 (2):151-175.
Perfectionism in Moral and Political Philosophy.Steven Wall - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Coercion and Public Justification.Colin Bird - 2014 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 13 (3):189-214.

View all 20 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles