From Hobson's Choice
The mental labor and concomitant skill of assigning value; closely related, the act of moral condemnation, or (archaic) sentencing a prisoner to death. We distinguish this word, with its sense of irreversibility and discreteness in time and occasion, from discernment, which carries an aesthetic and practical sense.
Judgment refers to the final evaluation of a thing, including a person or that person's soul. Aristotle defined judgment as "right discrimination of the equitable," which was central to his ideal of virtue as moderation; this is, of course, extremely close in meaning to the concept of discernment. And indeed, translations of his works tend to use "judgment" and "discernment" interchangeably. However, Aristotle was attempting to argue the interrelatedness of ethics and aesthetics: moderation, or balance, was the benchmark of both hedonic goodness (as, for example, between heat and cold) and moral virtue (as between rashness and courage). Philosophers have long argued in favor of some unity between the just, or the moral (on the one hand) and beauty (on the other). Such a unity would most likely lead to equating judgment and discernment.
Immanuel Kant did not claim a strong link between beauty and the just; he argued that there was a distinction between the agreeable, the beautiful, the sublime, and the good. Each of these subjects represented different judgments, or (so to speak) different acts of judgment; however, please note they lie on a continuum of judgment, from the agreeable (with neither ethical nor conceptual content) , to the good (having metaphysically moral and conceptual content). The beautiful and the sublime lie in between, with the beautiful being distinguished by its "finality" (intuitive perfection) of form, and the sublime by its ability to inspire profound awe. Kant further makes a point about the role of aesthetic discernment in judging other people: those who are adjudged to have excellent discernment of the beautiful from the merely agreeable, are adjudged to belong to a "community of taste" (sensus communis); whether by peculiar talent, or adequate moral education.
While Kant's view of the matter is not at all the same as Aristotle's, it needs to be acknowledged that he regards judgment as a capacity, or endowment, of sentient beings; it is a component of pure reason, in so far as it enables one to form cognitions of objective reality. In other words, Kant treated judgment as the ability to form understandings about the environment using the often-unsatisfactory medium of one's senses.
When we say someone "exercises poor judgment" we are acknowledging an ethical dilemma posed by freedom: everyone has to make decisions about the moral worthiness of action, quickly, and reliably. "Judgment" (in this vernacular sense) requires celerity and accuracy; ex post facto, judgment is merely "experience." In the case of common usage, "judgment" carries the sense of an actual specialized ability to transform one's mental powers, such as knowledge and insight, into correct decisions. The correctness of those decisions, like Kant's beauty, may not be recognized by everyone, but when we say of a person, "she has excellent judgment," we find it disappointing if others do not agree. We believe that a track record of good judgment can be perceived by a properly trained, or perceptive eye, as the optimal outcome given the circumstances. Those lacking skill in judgment cannot commend or blame its lack in others, because they cannot give due weight to conditions beyond the control of the person being evaluated.
In this sense, the vernacular sense of practical judgment accords with Kant's formal description of correct discernment of the beautiful.
- ↑ C.f. Matthew 7:1, "Judge not, that ye be not judged" with Luke 6:37, " Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven" and Romans 14:10, "But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ."
- ↑ Nicomachaen Ethics, VI.xi
- ↑ Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Judgment, VIII.40
James R MacLean (02:53, 20 February 2008 (PST))