From inevitable establishment to mutual exclusion: The challenge for liberal neutrality

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1 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-49
Number of pages21
JournalPublic Reason
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2017


  • Intrinsic value
  • Land-use
  • Language policy
  • Liberalism
  • Multiculturalism
  • Neutrality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science


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