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2007 | 10 | 171-190
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The neutrality of the state

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What does 'the neutrality of the state' mean and is it possible? There are two colliding concepts in political thought regarding the extent of the state's intervention in the life of an individual. The first of them is minimalist and the second is that of the common good. It is in this context that it is worthwhile analysing what neutrality means. The dispute between the advocates of the state's neutrality and its enemies is not only of a theoretical nature. The lack of agreement in this matter often leads to political conflicts, which antagonise not only politicians but also society in its entirety, as in the case of abortion or euthanasia. Neutrality is one of the main features of a contemporary, liberal state. In the liberal approach, the standpoint may be also put forth that compromise and toleration are the most important of liberal and democratic values. The essence of this is the separation of the sphere of the state from that of morality, which results in the creation of a space for discussion, polemics and dispute. Involvement on the part of the state raises controversy, most of all in the moral sphere related to one's philosophy of life. When we talk of the neutrality of the state, the issue which comes to the fore is that of religious toleration and an issue akin to this, the issue of relations between the state and the church. The contemporary understanding of this matter is more narrow. Neutrality of the state is associated with the latter's remaining distant from any philosophy of life, and not necessarily only that which is rooted in religion. The issue of religious toleration has, however, contributed to a large degree to the debates on the neutrality of the state which are being carried out at present and the very idea of the neutrality of the state is like a generalisation of the role of the concept of neutrality with regard to religion.
  • Z. Oczkowska, no address given, contact the journal editor
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