Intelligibility, Moral Loss and Injustice

The Journal of Applied Philosophy has published a Special Issue on Professor Cécile Laborde’s latest book Liberalism’s Religion. She responds to critics in a new article, Intelligibility, Moral Loss and Injustice.


In Liberalism's Religion, I analyse the specific conception of religion that liberalism relies upon. I argue that the concept of religion should be disaggregated into its normatively salient features. When deciding whether to avert undue impingements on religious observances, or to avoid any untoward support of such observances, liberal states should not deal with ‘religion’ as such but, rather, with relevant dimensions of religious phenomena. States should avoid religious entanglement when ‘religion’ is epistemically inaccessible, socially divisive and/or comprehensive in scope. In turn, states should show special deference to religious observances insofar as they exhibit what I call integrity – whether personal or collective. The upshot of this interpretive strategy is that liberal law need not recognise religion as such. As a result, there are gaps between the liberal construal of disaggregated religion and the lived experience of religion as a uniquely integrated experience. Are these gaps morally regrettable? Are they unjust?

Professor Cécile Laborde is Professor of Political Theory FBA, Nuffield Chair of Political Theory