Neutrality is the tendency not to side in a conflict (physical or ideological), which may not suggest neutral parties do not have a side or are not a side themselves. In colloquial use "neutral" can be synonymous with "unbiased." However, bias is a favoritism for some side, distinct of the tendency to act on that favoratism.
Neutrality is distinct (though not exclusive) from apathy, ignorance, indifference, doublethink, equality, agreement, and objectivity. Double think being a potential antonym defending multiple (contradictory) views. Objectivity siding with the more reasonable position (except journalistic objectivity), where reasonableness is judged by some common basis between the sides, such as logic (thereby avoiding the problem of incommensurability). Neutrality implies tolerance regardless of how disagreeable, deplorable, or unusual a perspective might be. Tolerance here must be defined as personal inaction, or, if defined as a social philosophy requiring a proactive advocacy for the inaction of others, it ceases to be neutral, because it begins to act and engage the issues.
In moderation/mediation neutrality is often expected to make judgments or facilitate dialog independent of any bias, putting emphasis on the process rather than the outcome. For example, a neutral-party is seen as a party with no (or a fully disclosed) conflict of interest in a conflict, and is expected to operate as-if it has no bias. Neutral Parties are often perceived as more trustworthy, reliable, and safe.
Alternative to acting without a bias, the bias of neutrality itself is the expectation upon the Swiss government (in Armed Neutrality), and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (in Non-interventionism).
Criticisms and views
Neutrality implies not judging the validity of an opinion. Thus, a neutral person will provide a platform for all opinions, including irrational or malicious opinions. This approach may be critiqued by arguing that inaction is action (providing platforms to bad philosophies in an action, not inaction), in that the allowance of a platform to harmful opinions equals somehow a reckless and active support of that harm. It is a reasonable argument whether neutrality can be anything more than a decision to refrain from involvement in a particular scenario, for when it evolves to a life philosophy the choice of activity or inactivity based on the philosophy is so similar to any other moral philosophy so as to become indistinguishable, except in that the neutralist philosopher may be more blind to his own inneutrality than one who does not aspire to call it such.
In classical periods of enlightenment, neutrality has been looked down upon as a character vice, an escape from one's duty to think and to act, as opposed to the modern trend of esteeming neutrality as a virtue.
It has been argued that the primary beneficiary of a philosophy of neutrality is the bad opinions of the world, which suddenly attain equal status and treatment with the best—society being the sufferer, because the best opinions are hindered in the quicker progress they might have enjoyed if allowed to grow naturally and because neutral philosophies reallocate resources to the unnatural growth of the worst opinions.
Other Views include:
- Woodrow Wilson: "Neutrality is a negative word. It does not express what America ought to feel. We are not trying to keep out of trouble; we are trying to preserve the foundations on which peace may be rebuilt."
- In the Supreme Court decision "Southworth v. The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System" based on the United State's First Amendment, the court decided some funding decisions should be made through a neutral viewpoint.
In popular culture
- Dictionary.com, neutral
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Neutrality
- IFRC.org, Our Vision and Mission, The Seven Fundamental Principles, Neutrality
- Dictionary.com, bias"
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary, bias
- Associated Students of Madison, Viewpoint Neutrality in Funding Decisions
- Business Dictionary, neutral party
- Investopedia, Emotional Neutrality
- Swissinfo, Armed Neutrality
- Brainy Quote