||Facing the situation of modern plural societies, one of the many characters of contemporary liberalisms is to show that we can derive a liberal theory from a ‘neutral’ standpoint without appealing to any conceptions of good. Since, if our values are different with each other, and the conflicts between them are often incommensurable, then we will lack any reliable way to cope with such conflicts without a liberal neutralism. Only by a neutral liberal theory that we can hope to treat everyone fairly, and everyone’s right to liberty is thereby protected. However, this neutrality approach which excludes the conception of good has arisen many critiques.|
Among many critics of liberalism, John Gray, an English political philosopher, is an extraordinary one. As a famous contemporary anti-liberalist, John Gray tried to defend J. S. Mill’s doctrine of liberty in his early academic life, and later became a supporter of the more classical liberalism provided by F. A. Hayek. However, until the end of the cold war, he suddenly became a value-pluralist, and began to criticize all kinds of liberalisms including previous two which he once tried to defend. Besides, he often claims that his understanding of value pluralism is indebted most particularly to the work of Isaiah Berlin. But in fact there are many differences between them. This makes Gray cannot agree with the species of liberalism which Berlin’s work embodies, and tries to develop his own political theory of ‘Modus Vivendi’.
The thesis aims to show that, first, although he is accustomed to hold a critical attitude toward liberalism, Gray never denies the value of traditional western liberal practices. What he rejects is liberal neutralism which is considered could be applied to all kinds of societies; second, his own version of value pluralism makes him reject the fashionable view that value pluralism is always consistent with liberalism. Under Gray’s view of value pluralism, the dilemma caused by conflicting values can be hoped to be coped with only by political reasoning, which is inherently and avowedly inconclusive, and which admits of compromises and provisional settlements that changeover time and which vary from place to place, rather than by any overarching theory.