The 3 esteemed Judges who yesterday put a spanner in the UK's vote for Brexit, were recently viewed slow handclapping (showng their disapproval) of a very senior UK politician (Michael Gove) because he had exspressed a pro Brexit view,
These three Judges are supposedly impartial on Brexit. So let us look at Impartiality
Impartiality is sometimes treated by philosophers as if it were equivalent to moral impartiality. Or, at the very least, the former word is often used, without the qualifying adjective ‘moral’, even when it is the particularly moral concept that is intended.
This is misleading, since impartiality in its broadest sense is best understood as a formal notion, while moral impartiality in particular is a substantive concept and one concerning which there is considerable dispute.
If you go for a job are the selection committee impartial. Well, not for the jobs I have gone for. One cannot simply ask of a given agent whether or not she is impartial. Rather, we must also specify with regard to whom she is impartial, and in what respect.
When a member, say of the Judiciary heralds their claim to impartiality, are we talking of moral (values) or epistemic (knowledge based) impartiality? Epistemic impartiality, is not essentially a moral concept at all. In a broad sense, impartiality is probably best characterized in a negative rather than positive manner:
One cannot simply ask of a given agent whether or not she is impartial. Rather, we must also specify with regard to whom she is impartial, and in what respect. It is in this unearthing we may uncover bias.
To say, for instance, that an impartial choice is one that is free of bias or prejudice is to presuppose that we are dealing with a certain sort of impartiality, that which is required or recommended by morality, or at least worthy of moral approbation. ‘Bias’ and ‘prejudice’ are loaded terms, suggesting not only that some consideration is being excluded, but also that the exclusion is appropriate and warranted.
There are various sorts of behaviour that may be described as ‘impartial,’ and some of these obviously have little or nothing to do with morality. A person who chooses an accountant on the basis of her friends' recommendations may be entirely impartial between the various candidates (members of the pool of local accountants) with respect to their gender, their age, or where they went to school. Yet if her choice is motivated solely by rational self-interested considerations then it is clear that the impartiality she manifests is in no way a form of moral impartiality.
It is also worth noting that some types of impartiality may in themselves be immoral or morally questionable. Suppose that I decide to pass along a treasured family heirloom to one of my two sons, Bill and Phil. Flipping a coin would constitute one type of impartial procedure for choosing between the two. But suppose that I have already promised the heirloom to Phil, on several occasions. In this case it would be quite wrong to allow a coin toss to determine whether he gets it. Deciding by means of a coin toss would be an impartial procedure, but it would be the wrong sort of impartiality here, for it would ignore the moral obligation created by my previous promises.