Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Neutrality 2008 : Call For Papers

Neutrality 2008: Call For Papers. Submission Deadline: 10/20/2007

The Centre for Research in Ethics at the University of Montreal (CRÉUM) is sponsoring an international conference on the ideal of neutrality which will take place in Montreal in May 2008 and will be followed by a workshop. Participants in the conference include: Arash Abizadeh (McGill University) ; Anthony Appiah (Princeton University) ; Richard Arneson (University of California, San Diego) ; George Crowder (Flinders University) ; Peter de Marneffe (Arizona State University) ; Charles Larmore (Brown University) ; Jacob Levy (McGill University) ; Stephen Macedo (Princeton University ); Ruwen Ogien (CNRS-Paris) ; Alan Patten (Princeton University) ; João Cardoso Rosas (Minho University) ; George Sher (Rice University) ; Christine Sypnowich (Queen’s University) ; Steven Wall (Bowling Green State University) ; Daniel Weinstock (CRÉUM, Université de Montréal).

This call for papers is addressed to graduate students and junior researchers interested in presenting their work on neutrality in this workshop.

The idea that the state should be neutral towards conceptions of the good life has been a constant topic of debate for the last thirty years amongst political theorists concerned with the legitimacy of the state. Although some have claimed the debate is passé, many recent works have proved them wrong (Wall and Klosko, 2003 ; Appiah, 2005 ; de Marneffe, 2006 ; Weinstock, 2006 ; Ogien, 2007) as the dialogue between communitarians and liberals has now opened an intense discussion between liberals themselves about the attractiveness or the scope of the neutrality principle, calling at times for a new perfectionism (Sher, 1997 ; Wall, 1998). This colloquium aims to present a diagnosis of the ongoing debate and offer new perspectives. It will be organized around three main topics:

First, the definition of the neutrality principle is open to discussion: even if there’s a broad agreement on its characterization as a constraint on justifications given by the government (justificatory neutrality, (Kymlicka, 1989)), the nature of this constraint and the scope of the principle are highly controversial. Alternative definitions (as equal concern or as neutrality of effects) may not have received appropriate attention (Goodin and Reeve, 1989 ; Wall, 2001 ; Appiah, 2005).

A second important issue questions the relation between neutrality and perfectionism. Some liberals refuse to take neutrality as the only legitimate understanding of liberal principles (Raz, 1986 ; Chan, 2000) and argue for liberal perfectionism. Is this claim valid or attractive? Different versions of perfectionism should be presented and they should answer diverse concerns related to its paternalistic aspect. Neutrality proponents also have to answer serious objections. Although some have argued for a neutralist foundation of neutrality (Larmore, 1993), this path has been criticized in light of the difficulties in building up a case for the neutrality principle without using substantive values such as respect or democratic equality.

A third bundle of questions will focus on practical issues where neutrality is an attractive ideal or, on the contrary, an undesirable principle. Important areas of investigation include education and religion, and, also, language and work. The colloquium hopes to elicit reflection on the possible application of the neutrality ideal to new practical spheres.

Guidelines for submission:
Proposals should address one of these issues and should be between 300 and 500 words in length. Submission deadline is October 20, 2007. Notification of acceptance will be provided by February 1, 2008. Preferred format for all submissions is RTF attachment submitted by electronic mail to Roberto Merrill ( ) and Geneviève Rousselière ( with “Neutrality 2008 Submission” in the subject line of the email.