intellectual honesty

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""Intellectual rigour is an important part, though not the whole, of intellectual honesty - which means keeping one's convictions in proportion to one's valid evidence.[2] For the latter, one should be questioning one's own assumptions, not merely applying them relentlessly if precisely. It is possible to doubt whether complete intellectual honesty exists - on the grounds that no one can entirely master his or her own presuppositions - without doubting that certain kinds of intellectual rigour are potentially available."" -- Source: Wikipedia contributors, ""Rigour,"" Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed March 30, 2008).

Justice Harlan and Plessy -- Source: Rivkin, Dave B and Lee A. Casey, Mr. Constitution, The Wall Street Journal, March 22, 2008, A25, an interview with Clarence Thomas

""The perfect example is Brown v. Board of Education (1954), where the Supreme Court overruled the racist ""separate but equal"" rule of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which permitted legally enforced segregation and had been settled precedent for nearly 60 years.

It is the Plessy dissent of Justice John Marshall Harlan to which Mr. Thomas points for an example of a Justice putting his personal predilections aside to keep faith with the Constitution. Harlan was a Kentucky aristocrat and former slaveowner, although he was also a Unionist who fought for the North during the Civil War. A man of his time, he believed in white superiority, if not supremacy, and wrote in Plessy that the ""white race"" would continue to be dominant in the United States ""in prestige, in achievements, in education, in wealth and in power . . . for all time, if it remains true to its great heritage and holds fast to the principles of constitutional liberty.""

""But,"" Harlan continued, ""in view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among its citizens.""

That, for Mr. Thomas, is the ""great 'But,'"" where Harlan's intellectual honesty trumped his personal prejudice, causing Mr. Thomas to describe Harlan as his favorite justice and even a role model. For both of them, justice is truly blind to everything but the law.""

Being blind to everything but the law can open your eyes to new insights, possibilities, and truths.