One of the greatest moral buzzwords of our age is “inclusivity.” It has become a favorite on the lips of politicians, executives, celebrities, academics, and pastors alike. Like “fairness,” “peace,” “dignity,” or “diversity,” it has quickly achieved the coveted status of moral obviousness: What kind of person could be against inclusion?
But like most obvious concepts, what inclusivity enjoys in widespread acceptance it lacks in conceptual clarity. What does it mean, specifically, to be inclusive, and how should it fit within any hierarchy of values?
What’s in a Word? Boring, but Important
Let’s start by noting some of the basic features of the concept. First, “inclusion” necessarily implies a “here” and a “there.” To include someone presumes a space exists that is already inhabited by a group that seeks to invite outsiders in. If this were not the case, inclusion would be moot.
This, of course, brings up the question of what defines “space,” the arena in which inclusion takes place. Since inclusion is usually used in reference to groups, “community” could be substituted in this context, which would mean that to include means to open one’s community to those who are outside of it.
Whatever else “community” might mean, it at least implies the existence of a collection of individuals who share some constitutive set of features that define the group as one thing rather than another: churches, political parties, fantasy football leagues, universities, etc., are all kinds of communities because they have characteristics that define them as one thing and not as another (more on this below).
The definition of inclusion could thus take this form: “I practice the value of inclusion by inviting you, who are outside of my community, into my distinctive community, which is different than any other community of which you are currently a part.”
Let’s take one more step. If inclusion is not only a value but my highest value, and, moreover, a value that I universalize, then I am furthermore committed to saying: “All people, in everything that they do, must seek to include everyone into their distinctive community with the ultimate goal of total inclusion.” This may sound innocuous enough, perhaps even morally praiseworthy. But does it pass logical muster?
Read more at the Federalist.