Moral Judgment Matjaž Potrč

Judgment: intuitive rendering

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Judgment: intuitive rendering.

We first ask what judgment is, providing an intuitive rendering of it as the intertwining of the intentional content and phenomenology, involving one’s commitment. Examples of judgment: aesthetic judgment, moral judgment, (probability) estimation judgment. A characteristic of judgment is that it is a concrete engagement by someone, not an abstraction. Yet we may talk about judgment in a detached, third person point of view manner.

It seems some time ago since judgment was accorded constitutive role in philosophy. Aristotelian logic used judgment in its subject-predicative form in order to account for various inferential forms. “All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. So, Socrates is mortal.” presents an example of this kind of reasoning. In respect to what we will propose in a moment as an intuitive sketch of genuine judgment, one can say that judgment according to the aristotelian treatment, which was still taken over by treatises in late middle ages (St. Paul of Venice, say), in fact experienced an inferential reductive rendering. Later, judgment was conceived as central philosophical topics in kantian work; some claim that Kant’s works deal with nothing but judgment. Reading actual interpretations of kantian judgments cashes in all available interpretations, from causal theories of reference to the possible worlds. The lesson to keep though is that kantian judgment is something consisting of several intertwined dimensions, trying to unify them, so that we may be dealing with synthetic judgmental power :
The power of judgment, while a non-basic faculty, is nevertheless the central cognitive faculty of the human mind. This is because judging brings together all the otherwise uncoordinated sub-acts and sub-contents of intuition, conceptualization, imagination, and reason, via apperception or rational self-consciousness, for the purpose of generating a single cognitive product, the judgment, under the overarching pure concepts of the understanding or categories, thereby fully integrating the several distinct cognitive faculties and their several distinct sorts of representational information, and thereby also constituting a single rational human animal.” (Hanna 2013)
We have sympathy with this account of judgment as a multi-dimensional cognitive ability, and we think that something along these lines should be elaborated again as one of the central philosophical engagements. Following the above hint, we propose a simpler intuitive rendering of judgment as a reflexive intertwining of intentional content and of the adjoined attitude, involving one’s reflexive commitment. Judgment, we propose as a first approach, is something reflexive, which means that it involves a specific person’s conscious engagement. There is a certain content involved into judgment, and a qualitative phenomenological attitude or coloring that goes along with it. The content and the phenomenology are intertwined in judgment, so that they cannot actually be separated. Judgment, understood in this manner, is someone’s cognitive act, which also includes emotional engagement, when there is an appropriate situation. In several cases, judgment displays commitment of the person engaged into it, and it may include motivation.

Here are some examples of judgment. As I observe a painting or listen to a symphony, I may judge that my experience encountered something beautiful. The judgment in question involves a certain content (pertaining to the painting, or to the performed symphony), and it also expresses my attitude or my qualitative feeling in respect to this content, valuing it as aesthetically beautiful case. In appropriate circumstances, I will be then disposed to express my judgment to the just mentioned effect, and I will also be ready to defend it as confronted with possibly different opinions, or explain the reasons why I engaged into such judgment. We will dedicate more space to moral judgment in what follows. So it should suffice just to give a quick illustrative example here. Encountering punks torturing a kitten for the fun of it prompts me to endorse the judgment that this situation exemplifies moral badness. The intentional content of judgment in such a case has to do with the scene that I encounter but also with my possibly emotionally underpinned valuation of it. I will be committed to defend my judgment if prompted, and I will also possibly be motivated to act in preventing this and similar acts to happen. There are several more cases of judgments, to be sure. But here is the last example provided here, the estimation or probability judgment. If you ask me how long that bed is, I may fall a judgment without measuring it, say that it is around two meters long. I have a certain feeling that I am right in my estimation, although I do not aim to be completely precise. My judgment is an approximation. The same may be also said about my former aesthetic and moral judgments. To some extent it is in their nature to be vague -- in respect to the involved content’s precisification. This does not however dismiss the force of their commitment.

A characteristic of judgment, as may be extracted from the just given examples, is that it involves a concrete engagement by a specific person, just like the engagement of myself in the above described cases. So genuine judgment that we talk about here is a specific act by some concrete person, involving this person’s conscious endorsement, which may but does not need to be measured by degrees of probabilities. Another way to see things here is to claim that judgment endorses one’s belief full stop, or that again one does not engage into it at all. (Compare Horgan Potrč Forthcoming) In this respect the judgment as understood here is not an abstraction, such as it was roughly dealt with in the mentioned aristotelian inferential reductionist tradition. Of course, judgment may be portrayed and assessed as an abstraction. But this will then not be the sense of it we deal with here. Genuine judgment as understood here is basically a first-person perspective engagement. But this does not exclude one’s talk about judgment in a detached, third-person point of view objectivist manner. Just that we follow the earlier mentioned and not this last approach.

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