University of Kansas, Spring 2004
Philosophy 555: Justice and Economic Systems

name: ______________________________

Getting Behind the Veil of Ignorance


Each person in your group is responsible for creating a profile of an individual with a distinctive personality and set of traits. In other words, you need to determine certain essential features that tend to contribute significantly to the sort of life a person can expect to lead. To do this, you must choose specific features for your individual: sex, race, marital status, sexual preference, religion, education level as an adult, socio-economic class, profession, political viewpoint, special talents, and other characteristics you deem relevant. (Age is not a factor to be considered, because we are concerned about the person’s overall life prospects, not the sort of life they can expect to lead right now or in, say, the next year.)

Within the set of individuals whose profiles are created by the people in your group, there are certain requirements and limitations you must observe. You are encouraged to be creative in defining your individual, but the following must be true of the individuals whose profiles are created by the people in your group:

category requirement
sex There are at least 2 males and at least 2 females
race There is some variety.
marital status There is some variety (see options below).
sexual preference There is some variety (see options below).
religion There is some variety.
education level as an adult At least one individual did not finish high school or anything beyond. No more than one individual has an advanced degree (e.g., J.D., M.D., Ph.D.).
socio-economic class At least one individual is poor. No more than one individual is rich.
profession At least one individual has a badly-paying job. No more than one individual has a well-paying job.
political viewpoint There is some variety (see options below).
special talents could be an opera buff, or a cigar aficionado, or a devotee of monster-truck rallies
other could have a disease, or a disability, or a special talent





Character Profile

Now create your individual’s profile by choosing among the options, or filling in the blanks, for each category.

category options/blanks
sex male     female
race ____________________
marital status single     married     divorced     widowed
sexual preference straight     gay     bisexual
religion ____________________
education level as an adult ____________________________________________________________
socio-economic class ____________________________________________________________
profession ____________________________________________________________
political viewpoint far left     left     middle of the road     right     far right
special talents ____________________________________________________________
other ____________________________________________________________









(This activity is based on Deborah Heikes, “Teaching the Veil of Ignorance,” APA Newsletter on Teaching Philosophy vol. 99, no. 2 [Spring 2000], pp. 268–269.)