From Hobson's Choice
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The mental labor and concomitant skill of separating out intuitions. It is used at this site in contradistinction to judgment, for several reasons: firstly, because the latter carries with it the connotation of passing judgment, or condemnation (in the King James Version of the Bible, this is the precise meaning of "judgment"). Second, setting aside this quibble over the moralizing implications of "judgment" (as opposed to the aesthetic implications of "discernment"), there is the vernacular connotation of discernment as an ongoing process, made repeatedly over time, with progressively greater accuracy.
We close with a brief discussion of the Kantian idea of "discernment" as a valuable idea in metaphysics.
Discernment is a seldom-used word that tends to call attention to the speaker. When used as a particular word choice, it carries the connotation of separating out one thing from another, as (for example) that which is authentic from that which is spurious. In the 20th century the term was mostly used in a religious context, to establish the will of God for one's own life.
A common confusion arises when people use the term "judgment" to refer to one's own moral and prudential deliberation; people are constantly obligated to make decisions about how others behave, whereas "judging others" is allegedly wrong, arrogant, or impious. A common self-defense is "Only God can judge me," used by worthies ranging from King Charles I of England to Tupac Shakur. In fact, judgment of this sort is essential to even decide if, indeed, parties besides God can or cannot judge anyone. So it appears another word is needed.
Discernment in Metaphysics
As a proposition in Kantian metaphysics, the idea of discernment is a useful one. Kant uses "judgment" in an Aristotelian sense (see judgment), by treating it as almost identical to discernment, but nevertheless focuses on judgment as a final evaluation of things for their hedonic value. This seems awfully like discernment, or aesthetic discrimination (as a term of praise), but Kant is actually using discernment as the instrument in the act of judgment: in order to fulfill the motive of making a judgment, whether of the agreeable, beautiful, sublime, or good, one needs to discern whether or not there is "finality of form," or a moral conception involved.
Discernment in metaphysics therefore refers to the abilities of conscious beings to form an impression of the actual universe that appears to them through through the often-unsatisfactory medium of the senses. It includes the detection of things that have some bearing, such as dim shapes in the mist, or the sound of snow falling on aspens, or the flavor of sesame seed oil in molé, or perhaps the connection of wholly dissimilar things by way of a conjoining pattern.
- ↑ 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."
- ↑ This was actually the title of a Tupac Shakur song; several other hip-pop musicians used lyrics in collections of songs that otherwise boasted of their numerous crimes. For an analysis of Tupac as an ethical touchstone, see Josh Nisker, "'Only God Can Judge Me': Tupac Shakur, the Legal System, and Lyrical Subversion" School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany (2007). Nisker, however, has little to say about the actual ethical universe of Tupac's lyrics. To see a really excellent essay organized around this faulty precept, see Auguste (?) "Whither
NihilismSelf-promotion?," The Liberal Avenger (9 August 2006). Finally, it must be noted that Christian theologian Karl Barth made this statement in Church Dogmatics (Vol. I), Continuum International Publishing Group (1956), "The Speech of God as the Act of God."
Charles I of England used the defense as a special case, arising from the doctrine of the divine right of kings.
- ↑ Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Judgment, I.3
James R MacLean (00:49, 21 February 2008 (PST))