Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Wilfrid Waluchow


In recent years there has been growing concern in liberal democracies over the legitimacy of accommodating religious diversity. In particular, the issue of faithbased arbitration - ~s well as the whole of Islamic Sharia law - has come under public attention with regards to whether religious arbitration can be allowed in areas of family and personal law. The current project examines the possibility of faith-based arbitrati~n within liberal democracies. In attempting to do so, a critical examination of the relationship between culture and liberalism is examined. It is argued, alongside the works of Will Kymlicka and Joseph Raz that liberal theorists! have overlooked or at the very least underappreciated the contributing role of culture to individuals' pursuit of the good. More importantly, if culture is to be understood as playing a significant role in regards to individual ends, thenĀ· there will be a need to go further than just tolerating different cultures. What may be required is state support of different cultures within the liberal framework. However, given the importance of recognizing and supporting cultural practices, there still remains a need to ensure that the practices fall within liberal parameters. Hence, it is further argued that liberal checks and balances need to be met in order for cultural practices to be supported. In particular, both the harm principle and the principle of autonomy need to be met if practices are to be given the status of 'moral acceptability'. Along with examining the role of I culture within libera~ism, other areas of liberalism are examined. Most notably, the role of autonomy within liberalism is investigated as well as some of the difficulties associated with the principle of state neutrality.

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