Three views of political philosophizing and the idea of state neutrality
This thesis is an attempt to understand the Neutrality Debate, in the light of two basic distinctions: a distinction between political philosophy and politics, and a distinction between three different views of political philosophizing, which I call foundationalism, explanationism and interpretivism. According to foundationalism, the political philosopher starts with an account of what is essentially human and deduces from it moral/political principles, which should govern every human society. According to explanationism, the political philosopher seeks to understand a particular society (e.g. the Western state) sub specie aeternitatis, i.e. as an immutable, autonomous, self-sufficient world of ideas. Similarly, interpretivism focuses on a particular society (e.g. the Western state), but understands it as an ever-changing world of shared conceptions, understandings and self-perceptions, which are unearthed by the political philosopher. Of the three meta-theories only foundationalism and interpretivism are normative (regulative), whereas explanationism is an intellectual exercise. What is commonly known as "state neutrality" is actually three different philosophical positions each corresponding to a different one of the three meta-theories. Given that each one of these three state neutralities makes different epistemological assumptions, their combination into a single (meta-theoretically mixed) argument with the intention of making state neutrality more attractive to a wider audience is flawed from a philosophical point of view. Such an argument is "political" in that it seeks to persuade rather than to demonstrate philosophical truth.