Introduction: “Justice Unveiled”

  • Lovalerie King
  • Richard Schur


The ancient Greeks imagined justice in the form of the goddess Themis. Artists typically depicted her holding a scale in one hand and a sword in the other, her eyes covered with a veil. Her veiled eyes suggested that she viewed controversies impartially. The identities of the parties involved did not affect her insight, knowledge, or judgment. Modern American democracy, with its putative emphasis on equality before the law, has adopted this image for its judicial system. It has become commonplace to assert that “justice is blind,” meaning that courts should not decide cases based on favoritism or bias. The veiled figure thus represents the highest ideals of neutrality. In contemporary Anglo-American social and political philosophy, John Rawls transformed this metaphor into a bedrock philosophical principle. In his A Theory of Justice (published after the height of the civil rights movement and during the early stages of the Black Arts Movement), Rawls reasserted the claim that society can only achieve consensus on society’s just founding principles if its members adopt a veil of ignorance. This veil allows people to select the best rules for structuring society rather than simply adopting those rules that will most enrich them.1 This blend of classical ideals and neo-Kantian ethics has led many to conclude that veiling legal decision makers creates the conditions for more just decisions.2


Affirmative Action Legal Discourse Critical Race Theory Legal Doctrine African American Culture 
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© Lovalerie King and Richard Schur 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lovalerie King
  • Richard Schur

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