Friday, July 01, 2022

The Myth of Liberal Neutrality

My first article for The Critic magazine is online now. It begins:

Beleaguered liberal academics often appeal to the idea that universities should be neutral on substantive issues: they should teach the scientific or philosophical method, or the method of literary criticism, or whatever, but not enforce a single view of the correct answers. This kind of argument is also used in relation to schools, and in general to all the activities of the state. It is not just a bad argument, but a strategically disastrous one.

Classical liberals claim that what they want is simply a framework within which free enquiry can take place. The only limit to the debate which a classical liberal can accept is the defence of free enquiry itself. The only voices which are excluded are those which would silence other voices. But — they say — this is not a real limitation, a limit on what substantive results are allowable, because it is merely the limit imposed by rationality itself. Those who would silence other voices are rejecting rationality, in rejecting the value of the free debate which those voices would stimulate.

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