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Judgment








But in the building up of percepts and concepts, as well as in making
use of them after they are formed, another process of thinking enters;
namely, the process of judging.

NATURE OF JUDGMENT.--Judging enters more or less into all our thinking,
from the simplest to the most complex. The babe lies staring at his
bottle, and finally it dawns on his sluggish mind that this is the
object from which he gets his dinner. He has performed a judgment. That
is, he has alternately directed his attention to the object before him
and to his image of former nursing, discovered the relation existing
between the two, and affirmed to himself, This is what gives me my
dinner. Bottle and what-gives-me-my-dinner are essentially
identical to the child. Judgment is, then, the affirmation of the
essential identity of meaning of two objects of thought. Even if the
proposition in which we state our judgment has in it a negative, the
definition will still hold, for the mental process is the same in either
case. It is as much a judgment if we say, The day is not-cold, as if
we say, The day is cold.

JUDGMENT USED IN PERCEPTS AND CONCEPTS.--How judgment enters into the
forming of our percepts may be seen from the illustration just given.
The act by which the child perceived his bottle had in it a large
element of judging. He had to compare two objects of thought--the one
from past experience in the form of images, and the other from the
present object, in the form of sensations from the bottle--and then
affirm their essential identity. Of course it is not meant that what I
have described consciously takes place in the mind of the child; but
some such process lies at the bottom of every perception, whether of
the child or anyone else.

Likewise it may be seen that the forming of concepts depends on
judgment. Every time that we meet a new object which has to be assigned
its place in our classification, judgment is required. Suppose the
child, with his immature concept dog, sees for the first time a
greyhound. He must compare this new specimen with his concept dog, and
decide that this is or is not a dog. If he discovers the identity of
meaning in the essentials of the two objects of thought, his judgment
will be affirmative, and his concept will be modified in whatever extent
greyhound will affect it.

JUDGMENT LEADS TO GENERAL TRUTHS.--But judgment goes much farther than
to assist in building percepts and concepts. It takes our concepts after
they are formed and discovers and affirms relations between them, thus
enabling us finally to relate classes as well as individuals. It carries
our thinking over into the realm of the universal, where we are not
hampered by particulars. Let us see how this is done. Suppose we have
the concept man and the concept animal, and that we think of these
two concepts in their relation to each other. The mind analyzes each
into its elements, compares them, and finds the essential identity of
meaning in a sufficient number to warrant the judgment, man is an
animal. This judgment has given a new bit of knowledge, in that it has
discovered to us a new relation between two great classes, and hence
given both, in so far, a new meaning and a wider definition. And as this
new relation does not pertain to any particular man or any particular
animal, but includes all individuals in each class, it has carried us
over into universals, so that we have a general truth and will not
have to test each individual man henceforth to see whether he fits into
this relation.

Judgments also, as we will see later, constitute the material for our
reasoning. Hence upon their validity will depend the validity of our
reasoning.

THE VALIDITY OF JUDGMENTS.--Now, since every judgment is made up of an
affirmation of relation existing between two terms, it is evident that
the validity of the judgment will depend on the thoroughness of our
knowledge of the terms compared. If we know but few of the attributes of
either term of the judgment, the judgment is clearly unsafe. Imperfect
concepts lie at the basis of many of our wrong judgments. A young man
complained because his friend had been expelled from college for alleged
misbehavior. He said, Mr. A---- was the best boy in the institution.
It is very evident that someone had made a mistake in judgment. Surely
no college would want to expel the best boy in the institution. Either
my complainant or the authorities of the college had failed to
understand one of the terms in the judgment. Either Mr. A---- or the
best boy in the institution had been wrongly interpreted by someone.
Likewise, one person will say, Jones is a good man, while another will
say, Jones is a rascal. Such a discrepancy in judgment must come from
a lack of acquaintance with Jones or a lack of knowledge of what
constitutes a good man or a rascal.

No doubt most of us are prone to make judgments with too little
knowledge of the terms we are comparing, and it is usually those who
have the least reason for confidence in their judgments who are the most
certain that they cannot be mistaken. The remedy for faulty judgments
is, of course, in making ourselves more certain of the terms involved,
and this in turn sends us back for a review of our concepts or the
experience upon which the terms depend. It is evident that no two
persons can have just the same concepts, for all have not had the same
experience out of which their concepts came. The concepts may be named
the same, and may be nearly enough alike so that we can usually
understand each other; but, after all, I have mine and you have yours,
and if we could each see the other's in their true light, no doubt we
should save many misunderstandings and quarrels.





Next: Reasoning

Previous: The Concept



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