Tuesday, October 11, 2011


“It won’t last. She’ll dump him in a month.”.....
Prediction is one of the pleasures of life. Conversation would wither without it. If you’re wrong, no one will call you on it, because being right or wrong isn’t really the point. The point is that you think he’s not worthy of her, and the prediction is just a way of enhancing your judgment with a pleasant prevision of doom. Unless you’re putting money on it, nothing is at stake except your reputation for wisdom in matters of the heart. If a month goes by and they’re still together, the deadline can be extended without penalty.
“She’ll leave him, trust me. It’s only a matter of time.” They get married: “Funny things happen. You never know.” You still weren’t wrong. The marriage is a bad one—you erred in the right direction—or you got beaten by a low-probability outcome.
(Louis Menand at newyorker.com)
Wrong judgment exists everywhere, and within every culture. It would be far better to leave the money in the pockets of those who had earned it, than to waste money on wrong judgment. We are all the same, and that no one has a right to judge another publicly.
Millions upon millions of people, work for money which is being spent to invade people's privacy and judge such basic privacy as who we may or may not have had sex with. Millions has been spent attempting to hide who we have had sex with. The simple reality is that if we were not judged, we would not be vulnerable, and we would not attempt to cover the truth, and others, for a variety of reasons, would not seek to uncover the truth.
If there was no judgment, hiding or uncovering the truth would be unnecessary and millions of dollars would be saved. All judgment is based upon fear, whilst we continue to live in a fear based environment, and whilst we continue to feed such an environment with our political and moral judgment, our fear based environment will never change.
The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) has several reasons for thinking that human judgment is unreliable, and needs to be guided by science. Our judgments tend to be distorted by self-interest or by the pleasures and pains of the moment. We may share the same basic passions, but the various things of the world affect us all very differently; and we are inclined to use our feelings as measures for others. It becomes dogmatic through vanity and morality, as with “men vehemently in love with their own new opinions…and obstinately bent to maintain them, (who give) their opinions also that reverenced name of conscience” (Leviathan, vii.4). When we use words which lack any real objects of reference, or are unclear about the meaning of the words we use, the danger is not only that our thoughts will be meaningless, but also that we will fall into violent dispute. (Hobbes has scholastic philosophy in mind, but he also makes related points about the dangerous effects of faulty political ideas and ideologies.)
We form beliefs about supernatural entities, fairies and spirits and so on, and fear follows where belief has gone, further distorting our judgment. Judgment can be swayed this way and that by rhetoric that is, by the persuasive and “colored” speech of others, who can deliberately deceive us and may well have purposes that go against the common good or indeed our own good. Not least, much judgment is concerned with what we should do now, that is, with future events, “the future being but a fiction of the mind” (Leviathan, iii.7) and therefore not reliably known to us.
(Garrath Williams at iep.utm.edu)
We cannot blame governments or politicians for the wrong judgments, because our governments reflect our choice to exist within a fear based environment. All that we can do is each of us can choose not to live in a fear based environment. Our governments will always continue to reflect our chosen environment, and the only way for us to change our collective environment, is for each of us to change our individual environment. Why do we waste our time judging others when the result is always the same? We are not bad, we are not foolish, we do not lack judgment, and we do not lack moral fiber. All judgment results in the truth that we are human. Regardless of how the media or anyone else chooses to describe their judgment, the result is the same. We are human.
Good judgment is no less of a concern for lay people. Today, as in years past, citizens have demanded it of their public officials, as fates and fortunes depend on leaders making prudent assessments and wise decisions in diplomatic, economic, ecological, legal, moral, military, and political affairs. Indeed, citizens consistently deem good judgment one of the most important and essential traits for elected officials and heads of state. Napoleon Bonaparte was half right to insist that “Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide.” The real difficulty, of course, is to decide well.
Empirical studies demonstrate something we all know: people tend to exhibit self-serving biases when exercising judgment. That should give us pause whenever we contemplate bending or breaking rules. But the same brush can be used to tar principles and law. Certainly the history of moral and political philosophy no less than the history of legal institutions demonstrates that bias is no stranger to systems of thought and law. People exhibit partiality in the construction of “just” rules and the conceptualization of “fair” institutions no less than in their exercise of practical judgments. 
The French novelist Anatole France once observed that “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.” People gravitate toward standards of justice that best serve their own interests. For all its impartiality, law is not above prejudice and preference.
Notwithstanding great success in thwarting our own biases, we will not become good judges if we operate on the assumption that others are bias-free, are purged of common sources of error, or act out of straightforward, one-dimensional interests. That is to say, the good judge understands that the world is not populated by rational people, but by people who selectively employ rationality. In such a world, good judgment makes use of much more than reason.
Consider the story of the village idiot who preferred dimes to dollars. Offered the choice by neighbor or passerby, the lad would always select the shiny coin to the paper money. It appeared a blatant bit of bad judgment on the youth’s part. Clearly, he had lost his reason. As everyone likes to make fun, the lad’s reputation grew. Soon he was visited by peasants and princes from far and wide, each offering him a dime and a dollar, and each leaving with the dollar bill in hand and a good laugh to boot. Day after day, the misguided youth suffered the ridicule of scores of acquaintances and strangers. And at the end of each day, the lad wandered home with a large sack of coins. He reputedly died a very rich man.
The moral of the story is that good judgment is grounded on the insight that others often misjudge. To judge well, one must comprehend the subtle interplay of motivations and calculations, aversions and desires, passions and prejudices, beliefs and misbelieves that inform human thought and action. Practical judgment requires a thorough “knowledge of the human soul.” Such knowledge develops less from perusing books than from participating in worldly life. Good judgment is not so much gained in the classroom as in the school of hard knocks. Here, reason is but one of many players.
(The Heart of Judgment by Leslie Paul Thiele, University of Florida at cambridge.org)

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