Stephen Matthews Stephen.Matthews at acu.edu.au
Thu Feb 27 11:35:18 AEDT 2014

“On Secular Neutrality: The Irony of Secular Self-Understanding”

FRIDAY March 7

Philip Quadrio
School of History and Philosophy
University of New South Wales

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This paper considers some of the metaphysical and religious presuppositions of secular political theory. It does not argue that contemporary secular views explicitly draw on religious ideas, indeed it acknowledges that secular political theory has attempted to avoid this. What it does argue is that the understanding of religion and what is proper to religious commitment found within secular political philosophy is an understanding that has itself emerged out of the Christian understanding of religion. Further that, for the most part, political philosophers do not understand this and have not taken any care to consider it. Thus because secular discourse employs concepts that are themselves religiously loaded and conceptually parochial the secular call to neutrality is, ironically, one made from a perspective whose neutrality is itself questionable. There is both a historical and a conceptual element to this problem. Historically there is a failure to understand how secular discourse itself emerges out of a theological tradition; conceptually there is a failure to appreciate the theological content of the concepts that it uses.

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