Thursday, August 03, 2006

Make your judgements

We're often told we're wrong to make judgements about other people, or that we're wrong to make judgements about a culture, or wrong to 'take sides' in an argument. "It's wrong to judge," admonish teachers, ministers, and journalists. Yet at the same time all around us are cries that we need 'a just society.' Yet how on earth do you get one without the other?

"It's wrong to judge"? Well, says philosopher Tara Smith (left), no it isn't. Anyone who says that is wrong. Moral judgement is good:
Adopting a policy of being non-judgmental--" who am I to judge?"--or fence-sitting as an agnostic is incompatible with the demands of justice... That policy would be dishonest insofar as it ignores the reality that individuals are different from one another and that those differences matter to your life.

...to retreat into a "judge not" posture "is an abdication of moral responsibility; it is a moral blank check one gives to others in exchange for a moral blank check one expects for oneself." ....The fact is, we need to be discriminating. We need to judge others objectively, to be sure, but emphatically: we need to judge...

Failing to condemn those who deserve it is counterfeiting insofar as it pretends that these people are better than they are, that they offer value--just as a person passing out counterfeit currency pretends that it has value. Correlatively, to withhold admiration from men's virtues is embezzlement. It is taking something for nothing, without paying: you benefit from their virtues, but you offer nothing in exchange--not even your acknowledgment of their virtue. That is what a moocher does--a sponge, a freeloader; not a trader, who gives value for value.

The reason I think it's useful to see the issue in these stark terms is that, when a person is tempted to that neutral posture, he doesn't normally think that what he's considering is anything like counterfeiting or embezzling; these are felonies, after all! The person simply thinks, "This guy isn't really so impressive, he's not so hot"; or: "I'm just being lenient, I'm cutting somebody a little slack." Yet in fact, this is what's going on. When you don't judge and treat others objectively, you are engaging in a fraud.
Who wants to make the first judgement call on that?

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RELATED: Ethics, Philosophy, Objectivism, Books, Political Correctness

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