Can Prejudice Enhance Morality?

Could prejudice be essential to good judgement?

We commonly consider an open mind essential to fair-minded moral, political and legal judgment. To have a closed mind is to resist the possibility of persuasion, to be dogmatic, recalcitrant, even bigoted. But what exactly is an open mind? 

According to one familiar conception, an open mind is an impartial one – free of particular interests, loyalties and preconceptions, capable of adopting the perspective of anyone anywhere.  We could call it the “prejudice-free” mind. It has stood as a prominent ideal ever since Immanuel Kant defined enlightenment as “the emancipation from prejudices generally.”

But I want to suggest that an “open mind” wholly unoccupied by preconceptions is a mistaken ideal. Not only is it unrealistic. It also overlooks the possibility that certain preconceptions can enable good judgment rather than hinder it. Consider two examples:

Take grading student papers. Some teachers and professors prefer to grade papers with

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