Sonia Sotomayor's Argumentative Analysis

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Sonia Sotomayor, a US Supreme Court Justice, gave a lecture titled “A Latina Judge’s Voice”; in this lecture she argues that social identities matter for knowledge of the social world. In the context of the lecture she is referring to the judicial system, and she insists that one’s heritage, upbringing, and many other things that make up one’s social identity absolutely influence not only the decisions one makes but also the facts of a case that he or she chooses, or is even able, to see. In this paper I will assess Sotomayor’s arguments alongside Linda Martín Alcoff’s essay on Sotomayor’s lecture and an idea from other feminist writers to show that Sotomayor’s argument about social identities influencing social knowledge is not only convincing,…show more content…
I feel that most would answer this question by saying that one can gain knowledge of the social world by merely existing in some type of social environment and by observing his or her surroundings. The information one collects from his or her surroundings then helps form social knowledge. Assuming that social knowledge is in fact generated from one’s surrounds, then it follows that his or her social knowledge would reflect personal experiences and the experiences of others in his or her immediate social surroundings. Social surroundings also help form one’s baseline knowledge, or “the sort of things one knows without having to look anything up” (Alcoff 123). It makes sense that surroundings and experiences would help form one’s baseline knowledge because those things can become ingrained in a person’s memories, and he or she can reflect upon or recall said memories in any given situation. In Sonia Sotomayor’s lecture “A Latina Judge’s Voice”, she asserts that the social knowledge one has acquired helps to shape that person’s social identity, and that social identity is a part of that person in so much as that it will be reflected in his or her decision…show more content…
It is expected that a judge’s decisions be unbiased, but by allowing social identities to be present in decision making would cause this to be not only implausible, but practically impossible. The major criticism seems to develop from her disagreement with the statement “a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases” (Alcoff 122). To me, this statement seems to imply that judges and justices are under the impression that they invoke the ideal version of John Rawl’s ‘veil of ignorance’, a thought experiment in which Rawls implores us to imagine we are in a rational, conscious state before we have any perception of what sort of circumstances we will be living in; among other things, this is to help make laws fair for everyone. Basically, judges and justices who agree with the statement above seem to think they are making decisions and coming to unbiased conclusions from behind a veil of ignorance. However, they are not exactly achieving this, in fact is seems that it is beyond the bounds of possibility. Obviously they are already aware of their circumstances, therefore applying an actual veil of ignorance is impossible, and to get anywhere close to what the veil of ignorance calls for they would be obligated to something akin to color-blindness, or race blindness among others to erase the idea of
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