Theories of Judgment: Psychology, Logic, Phenomenology

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Wayne Martin traces attempts to develop theories of judgment in British Empiricism, the logical tradition stemming from Kant, nineteenth-century psychologism, recent experimental neuropsychology, and the phenomenological tradition associated with Brentano, Husserl and Heidegger. His reconstruction of vibrant but largely forgotten nineteenth-century debates links Kantian approaches to judgment with twentieth-century phenomenological accounts. He also shows that the psychological, logical and phenomenological dimensions of judgment are not only equally important, but fundamentally interlinked.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521840439
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2006
  • Series: Modern European Philosophy Series
  • Pages: 204
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Wayne Martin is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, San Diego. Since 2002 he has served as the General Editor of Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.

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Cambridge University Press
0521840430 - Theories of Judgment - Psychology, Logic, Phenomenology - by Wayne M. Martin


This is a book about judgment, and about the long history of attempts to understand it. It is said that one can learn something about a community by considering how it adjudicates disputes. Is judgment reached by majority vote? by contests of strength or the casting of runes? by deferral to elders or experts? In each case the procedure of judgment is revealing: revealing about the world of the judges and revealing about the sources of authority within the community. The same is true of individuals: we can hope to understand something important about ourselves (perhaps ultimately about the kind of beings we are) if we can understand what it is to judge. The task of judgment is everywhere in human life, whether in sorting the mail, casting a vote, or salting the soup. But what do we do when we judge? What process do we undergo? What stance do we adopt toward ourselves and others? What authority do we invoke and submit ourselves to?

To embark on an investigation of these matters we require some initial characterization of judgment. What range of phenomena is to be investigated under this rubric? I have no definition to offer, but rather begin with some tautologies and examples.

Judgment is what judges do. Obviously this is not a definition (it is blatantly circular and obviously incomplete), but it has the virtue of directing our attention from the outset to the idea that judgment is in some sense an activity of cognitive agents. To judge is to do something. Judges solicit evidence, which they weigh, interpret, and assess. In passing judgment a judge reaches a conclusion on the basis of such assessment. In wood-paneled courtrooms these activities are carried out with solemnity and ceremony, but they are at work in all manner of mundane judgment as well. When we judge we somehow reach a conclusion in response to evidence.

A judge is a figure of authority and responsibility. This is obvious when one thinks about black-robed judges: they are formally invested with the authority to decide certain questions. They incur various responsibilities in doing so: the responsibility to weigh evidence fairly, to support their judgments rationally, to reply to objections as they are raised. But it is no less true of mundane judgment. To pass a judgment is in some sense to occupy a position of responsibility - laying claim to the authority to reach a decision about some particular matter and thereby incurring the responsibility for having done so. Such claims to authority can, of course, be challenged, just as any particular judgment can be challenged; but the claim to authority is a central part of what is involved in passing judgment. To judge is thus to situate oneself (or to find oneself situated) in a framework of norms and ideals.

Some judgments are snap judgments. Emphasis on the responsibility and authority involved in judgment might suggest that judgment must be undertaken slowly and deliberately. But I follow ordinary language in resisting this view. Consider some examples: cycling at dusk I exercise judgment in adjusting my course as various obstacles appear in the light of my headlamp. I walk down the aisles of the library stacks looking for a call number, eyes flitting from book to book, deciding in each case whether to stop, to continue, or to back up. Playing speed chess I make my move without allowing myself time to think through its consequences. In each of these cases I make judgments - I reach a conclusion that is in some sense responsive to evidence - even though I don't undertake any conscious deliberation and I experience my judgment as issuing more-or-less instantaneously. This is not to say, of course, that my act of judgment takes up no time. As we shall see, issues about the timing of judgment are an important area of empirical research. The point here is simply that judging need not involve any experienced duration, nor does it require that I explicitly or deliberately review evidence in order to be responsive to it.

Judgment occupies a place in both theory and practice. The formation of judgments is involved both in deciding what to believe, and in deciding what to do. The baseball fan exercises theoretical judgment in reckoning the Yankees' chances against the Sox in the postseason. Here the outcome of deliberation is a belief, formed in response to evidence. The baseball manager employs practical judgment in deciding whether to send the runner or risk a double play; here the outcome of deliberation is an intentional action. As we shall see, these varieties of judgment have often been studied separately. But there is a level at which one can recognize a common phenomenon here. Indeed, according to one venerable tradition an intention simply is a judgment to act.

In attempting to develop a theoretical understanding of judgment, or even in trying to articulate a more-or-less reflective account of what judgment is, one encounters a persistent difficulty. It is this difficulty which structures the investigations which follow. Judgment, as I would like to put the point, shows three different faces (is there a tertiary form of Janus-faced?) and because of this, the theory of judgment must navigate three sets of theoretical commitments. Much of the history of the theory of judgment is the history of the entanglement of these various competing commitments.

A first face of judgment is psychological. Judgments figure in the explanation of the behavior of intelligent organisms, and accordingly the notion of judgment figures in psychological theory. The sense of psychology can here be taken quite broadly. Whether one is investigating ordinary or extraordinary voluntary actions, patterns of consumer or voting or mating behavior, capacities for perceptual discrimination, or the framing of alternatives in deliberative calculations, appeals to judgment frequently play a role in psychological explanation. Accordingly, judgment has been a topic of psychological investigation from Plato and Aristotle to neuroscience and market research.

A second face of judgment is logical. In judgment a responsible cognitive agent reaches a conclusion in response to reasons and evidence. In this sense at least, judgment is an activity of rational beings, guided by inferential structure somehow manifest in a body of evidence. Taken very broadly, logic is the study of inferential structure. Accordingly, judgment has been investigated in logic, and the activity of judgment must in some sense be governed by logical principles. The theory of judgment has in fact played a prominent role in the history of logic, and logicians from Aristotle to Frege made important contributions in this area. Indeed, until recent times the so-called "Doctrine of Judgment" formed one of the major subdivisions in logic textbooks. The reason for this is not far to seek. It is of the essence of judgments that they are party to logical relations: some pairs of judgment contradict one another; some, taken together, entail others. Logic investigates these inferential features of judgments. The centrality of the theory of judgment has been somewhat submerged in modern mathematical logic, but we shall see that debates in the logical theory of judgment were at the heart of the revolution that gave rise to the modern logical tradition.

The studies which follow take up aspects of both the psychological and logical theory of judgment, and selectively investigate the history of these two bodies of theory. But I am also concerned here with a third face of judgment: its phenomenological face. Judgments figure in the course of human experience - sometimes seamlessly and in the background, on other occasions in ways that utterly grip our attention. Any adequate phenomenology of experience must accordingly come to terms with the phenomenology of judgment. What is it like to judge? How do judgments manifest themselves as such in our experience?

Everything associated with the idea of phenomenology is a matter of controversy - from the meaning of the term to the coherence of the theoretical enterprise to particular purported phenomenological methods and results. In steering a course through these controversies, let me begin with a dogmatic definition. As I shall use the term, phenomenology is the study of the structure of experience, particularly of the ways in which things (entities, objects) manifest themselves in experience. The word "things" is here to be understood in the broadest possible sense: objects, actions, events, relations, persons, numbers, ideals, mistakes, character defects, desires, and fears all manifest themselves in my experience, and phenomenology as I understand it has a legitimate concern with all these things and many more beside. What is characteristic of the phenomenologist's investigation, however, is a concern not so much with the objective nature as with the subjective appearance of such things. In this sense, phenomenology seeks to investigate and articulate the ways in which things manifest themselves for subjects; it investigates the seeming of things in contrast to their being.

Already with such a characterization I will have stepped on toes. On one side, there will be those who object to the idea of building the notion of the subjective into the basic characterization of phenomenology. Particularly since Heidegger, one branch of phenomenology has set itself in opposition to the very notion of the subject, and accordingly finds objectionable any characterization of phenomenology which definitionally assures a place for subjects. At another extreme, there are those who pursue phenomenology as a distinctive strategy of investigation into the objective biological workings of conscious organisms, proposing a conception of phenomenology according to which its ultimate object of investigation is the functioning of brains. On my characterization, by contrast, brains are just one of the many things which manifest themselves in experience (and in this case only in rather specialized experience). Phenomenology's concern with them is strictly with their subjective manifestation; it takes no particular interest in their objective nature. It is beyond my purposes here to enter into debates with these other conceptions of phenomenology. (For an illuminating discussion of the alternatives see Cerbone 2003; we shall return in due course both to the neuroscience of judgment and to Heidegger's phenomenological investigations.) At this point I simply want to be clear about how I shall be using the term. Accordingly, it is perhaps worthwhile to emphasize some negative corollaries of my dogmatic definition.

Phenomenology is not the proper name of a particular philosophical tradition. Starting in the late nineteenth century, a series of philosophers and psychologists embraced the term "phenomenology" as the name for a distinctive philosophical approach and at times for a specific theoretical agenda. Brentano, Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and Levinas were the most prominent representatives of this tradition, although many others (Twardowski, Ingarden, Chisholm, Føllesdal, Dreyfus, etc.) have played a role in its development. Some of the work of these self-described phenomenologists will concern us in this study, but phenomenology as I understand it extends far beyond the members of this particular philosophical tradition, and it includes these figures only insofar as their work falls within the definition just proposed. Much of the history of phenomenology with which I shall be concerned lies outside this tradition - whether prior to it (e.g., phenomenological claims found in British Empiricism and German Idealism), or otherwise independent of it (e.g., in phenomenological lessons from Northern Renaissance painting or neuroanatomical research).

Phenomenology does not necessarily privilege the first person point of view. Phenomenology as I define it is characterized by a particular theoretical ambition - to understand and articulate the ways in which things manifest themselves in subjective experience. This definition leaves entirely open the question of how to achieve that goal. In particular, phenomenology has no defining commitment to a method of introspection or self-reflective intuition. Phenomenology is certainly concerned with the first person perspective - that is, after all, a perspective that we characteristically occupy as subjects - but it makes no particular claims about the authority of such a perspective or the epistemic status of results obtained from it.

Phenomenology is not committed to a foundationalist agenda. At various times in its development, the pursuit of phenomenological theory has coincided with a strong foundationalist conception of philosophy, and in particular with the idea that a theory of subjective experience is needed to provide proper foundations for other scientific endeavors. The argument, roughly, was that since all scientific investigation ultimately relies on subjective experience, no science can be properly grounded unless one begins with a theory of subjective experience. My own view is that this bit of reasoning is fallacious; certainly the definition of phenomenology I propose here is not in any way committed to it. Phenomenology, as I understand it, is one investigation among many - albeit a rather unusual one in a number of respects that will concern us.

Phenomenology is not to be understood as the investigation of qualia or "subjective feels." In recent work in the philosophy of mind, much of the discussion of subjective experience has been focused around (indeed, one might well say: obsessed by) the problem of understanding qualia. Qualia are typically defined as the so-called "raw feels" of conscious life - the itches and tickles, the "blueness of the blue": the sensory qualities which manifest themselves in consciousness and are arguably exhausted by their being so manifest. The obsession with qualia is in large part an accident of the particular history of the mind-body problem in twentieth-century philosophy of mind. I shall not try to recount that history here, but content myself to say that phenomenology as I define it has no particular commitment to or indeed interest in qualia. In part this is because the very idea of qualia is part of a particular theory of experience - a theory according to which non-intentional sensory atoms occupy a fundamental place in our conscious lives. I do not myself subscribe to that theory, but more importantly, I see the characteristic concern of phenomenology as lying with the structure of experience, rather than with its particular content. Qualia, if indeed there are any, are not themselves part of the structure of experience; they are (or would be if they existed) part of its filling. In interrogating the structural features of experience, the appeal to or study of qualia simply doesn't get us anywhere. As I wait at the bus stop, it is part of the structure of my experience that I expect the bus to come. But neither the waiting nor the expectation is in any way captured by an attempt to somehow describe the ineffable "subjective qualitative feel" of my experience.

So far, this preliminary discussion of phenomenology has sought to avoid controversies more-or-less by fiat. But a further area of controversy concerning phenomenology is of direct relevance to the project as a whole. The question here: is any such thing as phenomenology possible at all? Can subjective experience ever be objectively investigated? I am cognizant of this problem, and I am deeply concerned with it. Indeed one of the purposes of the book is to find out whether there can be a body of phenomenological results. But while I am interested in this question, I am not going to tackle it directly. Phenomenology has often been beset by what we might call a problem of infinite deferral. Phenomenological writings seem forever to be at work on establishing the proper methodology of their undertaking or specifying its exact significance. Actual phenomenological results can seem always to lie over the horizon of some anticipated but never published second volume. This is perhaps more a problem of reputation than reality, but it is, at any rate, a vice to be avoided. Accordingly my approach here is to look at cases where phenomenology has already been at work - in particular at the work of developing a phenomenological account of judgment. My hope is that by assessing some actual phenomenological undertakings and concrete phenomenological successes and failures we shall find ourselves in a better position to assess the question of its possibility.

In what follows I approach the problem of judgment by focusing on these three faces of judgment and the theoretical entanglements they have spawned. My method is historical. The four central chapters of the book present a series of case studies, each undertaking detailed examinations of episodes in the history of the theoretical treatment of judgment. In choosing the cases to study I have adopted the prospector's strategy of mining where plates collide - focusing on moments in the history of the judgment problem where these three bodies of theory come into contact and conflict with one another. The argument is thus at once historical and philosophical. I show that the problem of judgment runs as a continuous thread through much of the history of modern philosophy, often uniting traditions and specializations that are otherwise seen as sharing little in common. In large part, however, the history I recount is a history of philosophical failure. In each study I show how seemingly promising approaches to the problem of judgment led more-or-less directly to theoretical impasse. The problem of judgment, it turns out, proves remarkably resistant to solution - even across a diverse range of disciplines and methodologies. But the philosophical lessons are not entirely negative, and in each case I argue that the failed approaches exhibit substantive leads and constraints for an adequate theory of judgment.

In marking out this terrain I have been speaking of judgment as a problem, and this locution requires some explanation. In philosophy as in many other domains, research gets going when large-scale issues can be tackled in the form of more-or-less well-defined puzzles. In orienting ourselves it will be useful to have at hand some of these smaller-scale problems that have provided theoretical leverage in this history of the investigation of judgment. By way of anticipation, I should perhaps add that research sometimes progresses by solving such puzzles, but in other cases gains ground by exposing problematic assumptions at work in the posing of the puzzles themselves.

Perhaps the most ancient and notorious problem concerning judgment is the so-called problem of the copula. The copula is that little grammatical device which makes all the difference between saying "Socrates, wisdom," and saying that Socrates is wise. In the latter case I have expressed a judgment, while in the former I have simply named a person and a property. Moreover the latter constitutes a truth-evaluable unity, while the former is nothing but a list. How should we understand the work of the judgment-making copula? Whence the peculiar unity that it marks? The problem of the copula is one of the venerable problems in the history of logic, and an adequate account of judgment requires that it be either solved or dissolved.

Closely related to the problem of the copula is the problem of affirmation. To make a judgment is to affirm the truth of some claim or content. Hence in order to understand judgment it is necessary to explain the difference between the mere occurrence of some psychological or semantic content and the affirmation of that content as true. As we shall see, the problem of affirmation has figured in all three domains of theory that will concern us in this study. A correlate of the problem of affirmation is the problem of negation. In thinking about the function of the copula it is natural to think of judging as an act of combination or synthesis. In judging that Socrates is wise I seem to forge a judgmental unity by combining the idea of "Socrates" and the idea of "wisdom" in a way that somehow reflects the unity of the person and the property. But if we go this route then what are we to say about negative judgment? Is negation to be understood as an act of separation? But what kind of unity can be effected through separation?

A fourth problem might be dubbed the problem of agreement and disagreement. If you feel pain from your gallstones and I don't, this difference between our psychological states does not amount to any kind of agreement or disagreement between us. But when the difference between our psychological states is one of judgment we have the makings of disagreement. What is it about identity and difference of judgment that amounts to (and allows for) agreement and disagreement? We will find that all these problems open up on to a broader set of problems about truth and intentionality. A judgment, after all, is always a judgment about something, and is evaluable as true or false.

But the ultimate stakes in this domain cannot be fully captured in the form of well-defined theoretical puzzles, for they concern our implicit and explicit self-understanding. How do we implicitly understand ourselves when we engage in judgment? How do we situate ourselves in the world? And what forms of recognition do we owe to the many other judges among whom we find ourselves judging? We will find, I hope, that pursuit of the various problems of judgment will allow us to gain some insight into these broader philosophical issues.

The book that follows is divided into five chapters. The first chapter deals with three attempts to tackle the problem of judgment experimentally. The three cases can all be classed very broadly as psychology, but the psychological approaches vary widely. Two of the experimental approaches are relatively recent cases from the field of neurophysiology: Benjamin Libet's much-discussed work on cerebral initiative and conscious intention and Michael Shadlen's work on the neural computations that implement decision in Macaque monkeys. I approach these experimental strategies by considering how they navigate a theoretical problem bequeathed by a much earlier set of psychological experiments concerning judgment - experiments reported by David Hume in his Treatise of Human Nature (1739). Hume famously approaches the problem of judgment by focusing on the problem of affirmation: what is the difference, Hume asks, betwixt merely entertaining an idea and actually believing it? Hume devises an experiment which is meant to settle the question, and proposes his theory of belief on the basis of his results. Hume's experiment is clearly a failure, but I argue that it exhibits a substantive constraint on any theory of judgment, a condition that I call the content identity condition: whatever the difference between merely entertaining some claim and judging it to be true, it must be possible for judgment to vary while the content of judgment remains the same. More broadly, Hume's investigation exhibits a form of dependence of psychological on logical questions about judgment, and I consider how the two bodies of modern experimental work have managed this dependency.

The chapters that follow turn to the history of logic, particularly in the period stretching roughly from the French Revolution to the outbreak of the First World War. This period (the nineteenth century, expansively construed) was one of intense unrest and experimentation in logic, and it was a period in which the proper characterization of judgment was fiercely debated among logicians. It is perhaps the most concrete contribution of this study to recover this largely forgotten history of the logical theory of judgment, and to show how some of its forgotten figures - Herbart, Drobisch, Lotze, Maier, Lipps - contributed to a new understanding of the logic, psychology, and ultimately the phenomenology of judgment. My survey of this tradition begins in the second chapter with a reconstruction of the main episodes in a century-long dispute about existential judgment, a debate spawned by Immanuel Kant. Kant very explicitly draws on the logical theory of judgment in developing his account of the role of judgment in human experience - what Kant calls "transcendental logic." My discussion focuses on Kant's characterization of judgment as a form of combination or synthesis, and on the problems created for that approach by Kant's own famous claim that "being" or "existence" (the "ist" in "Gott ist") is not a predicate. I show how this claim creates an anomaly for Kant's general logic, and I track four generations of nineteenth-century logicians as they resort to increasingly radical strategies for resolving it. This crisis created for the synthetic construal of judgment begins with Fichte, who complains that Kant had not applied his critical spirit to logic itself, and culminates in Brentano's revolutionary claim that synthesis or combination forms no part of the essence of judgment.

The third chapter considers the role of the theory of judgment in the revolution that gave rise to modern symbolic logic, particularly in the work of the seminal logician, Gottlob Frege. The focus of my analysis in this case is Frege's introduction of the so-called "judgment stroke" in his innovative logical calculus, Begriffsschrift. I argue that Frege's attempts to explicate the judgment stroke drive him to acknowledge a limit of the expressive capacity of logic. Frege's logical standard in the theory of judgment both requires and precludes a symbolic mark of judgment, and his attempts to define the judgment stroke accordingly end in paradox. I propose an interpretation of these limits drawing on two claims from Heidegger's philosophical logic - the claim that the copula is necessarily ambiguous between its truth-claiming and unity-marking functions; and the claim that logic presupposes an understanding of truth that it must borrow and cannot articulate. In the course of making

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Table of Contents

Introduction: the faces of judgement; 1. The psychology of judging: three experimental approaches; 2. Judgement as synthesis, judgement as thesis: existential judgement in Kantian logics; 3. The judgement stroke and the truth predicate: Frege and the logical representation of judgement; 4. Heidegger and the phenomeno-logic of judgement: methods of phenomenology in he dissertation of 1913; 5. Elements of a phenomenology of judgement: judgemental comportment in Cranach's Judgement of Paris; Bibliography; Index.

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