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Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy, Volume 1$
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David Sobel, Peter Vallentyne, and Steven Wall

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199669530

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199669530.001.0001

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Value-freeness and Value-neutrality in the Analysis of Political Concepts

Value-freeness and Value-neutrality in the Analysis of Political Concepts

(p.278) (p.279) 11 Value-freeness and Value-neutrality in the Analysis of Political Concepts
Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy, Volume 1

Ian Carter

Oxford University Press

This chapter defends the use of value-free and value-neutral concepts in political philosophy. A concept is value-free if it is defined without using evaluative terms, whereas a concept is value-neutral if its use does not imply the superiority of any of a range of divergent ethical positions. Each of these two features is a methodological desideratum in the case of certain concepts in certain theoretical contexts. For example, freedom can be fruitfully defined in a value-free way, whereas justice cannot. On the other hand, either of these concepts might have a high degree of value-neutrality. Those who are skeptical about value-freeness or value-neutrality have often conflated the two. They have also sometimes conflated the notions of value-freeness and value-neutrality with the more demanding idea of “value-independence”—that is, the complete independence of a definition from all ethical concerns. Neither value-freeness nor value-neutrality entails value-independence.

Keywords:   concepts, conceptual analysis, evaluation, value-freedom, value-freeness, neutrality, value-neutrality, grounding, supervenience

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