Thursday, August 25, 2016

Judgmentalism and Making Judgments

The Mackinac Bridge, Michigan
A belief is a judgment that something is true, that a certain state of affairs obtains. Beliefs are expressed in statements. A statement is a sentence that is either true or false. A statement makes a claim that a certain state of affairs obtains, or does not obtain.

If a statement is true, it is true for everyone. In logic there is no such thing as subjective truth. To think that something is "true for you" but "false for me" is to fall into the rabbit hole of irrationality. 

Consider, e.g., the statement The lights in this room are now on. That is a belief, expressed in a statement. The statement is either true or false. If it is true (= the expressed state of affairs, viz. the lights being on, obtains) then it is true for everyone.

Of course there are things that are relative to persons. For example, John thinks sushi is good, but Jim thinks sushi is bad. But note this. When these two states of affairs are expressed in statements, the statements themselves, if true, are true for everyone.

Because everyone has beliefs, everyone makes judgments. This is unavoidable. Because every judgment is either T or F, every judgment (statement) marginalizes. If the statement The lights in this room are now on is true, then if I think the statement is false I am wrong. All statements make truth claims. All statements either embrace or exclude. 

Some people (many, I think) mistake the making of judgments with an attitude of judgmentalism. Let's say, for example, that X thinks There is nothing wrong with doing heroin. But I think It is wrong to do heroin. These two statements express beliefs X and I have. Both cannot be right. One of us is wrong. In fact, I think X is wrong about their belief. To say this is not to be "judgmental" or some kind of "judging person." It is only to make a judgment, and judgment-making is unavoidable and necessary and helpful in navigating through life.

Let's say X does heroin and asks me, "What do you think about doing heroin?"

I respond: I believe (here comes a statement) It is wrong to do heroin.

X feels angry and tells me, "Stop judging me! You are so judgmental!" 

No, that can't be right. I only expressed a belief, only made a judgment. X has committed the mistake of confusing the making of a judgment with a judgmental attitude. This now becomes a problem with X, and not me. In fact, when X says You are so judgmental they have made a judgment about me which, in this case, is false.

Judgment-making is unavoidable and necessary to live this life. But judgment-making is not equivalent to being judgmental. The first is a matter of logic, the second is a matter of attitude.

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My new book is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.