Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 549–564 | Cite as

Value Pluralism, Diversity and Liberalism

  • George Crowder

Few would disagree that contemporary society is characterized by ‘pluralism’, but what this means is widely disputed. Among the many senses of pluralism current in contemporary political theory, ‘value pluralism’ is one of the most keenly contested. The classic account is found in Isaiah Berlin, who sees basic human values as irreducibly multiple, often conflicting, and sometimes incommensurable with one another.1 Berlin seems in general to have believed that the pluralist outlook has an affinity of some sort with liberalism, although he does not make it clear what this affinity is.

Other value pluralists, such as John Gray and John Kekes, have tried to sever pluralism from liberalism, instead proposing connections between pluralism and forms of conservatism or modus vivendi. In Kekes’s view, the true message of pluralism is that choice among rival incommensurable goods can be resolved rationally only by appeal to the relevant society’s established traditions (Kekes 1993, 1997). A...


Isaiah Berlin Value pluralism Diversity Liberalism 



I am grateful to the editor and two anonymous readers for their stimulating and helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social and Policy StudiesFlinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia

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