I imagine the reader skipping my manifesto of good judgement with that old feeling of «I know, I know!" that of course, to have a good judgement you have a good logic.
Well, not so! Whoever reduces good judgement to good logic did not understand a thing from what I am trying to do.
Certainly, good logic - sound, coherent fact-based statements that follow and notions that make sense - are the very back-bone of Reason, of Rationality, that man-made tool which produces and maintains justified beliefs. This is the proven creed of our modern world and also the warrant of mental sanity we all accept; no need of particular wisdom for this, it is sufficient to be simply normal*.
Beyond this prise of Rationality which goes without saying, what I understand by "good judgement" is quite different and particular in the object of judgement and the means used. The object of good judgement is the sphere of human interest, the real-life context of persons. It is practised with the actual psychological means of the human mind which we call "faute de mieux" common sense.
Good judgement is thus the use of the entirety of the mental functioning we all share, to reason about the world and people in human terms - when it is successful. The same rich functioning when failing is bad judgement or stupidity.
Common sense is still less than studied, it was shunned by scientific research in the 20th Century; neglect which does not make it less real, vital and omnipresent. Looking down at "folk psychology" which is one of the major components of common sense will not eliminate it from our functioning as human beings. The first to rediscover common sense thinking are, recently, the creators of Artificial Intelligence; simply because they need to build machines that work, not dogmatically correct logical devices.
Judgement is wise when it applies the cluster of our live thought processes in awareness of the human life-world as rich as it actually is: flowing, fuzzy, contextual, socially interactive, guided by culture and directed by common sense. Good judgement achieves to take into account this complexity without reducing it and also succeeds to conclude in forms simple enough to make sense to people and to be useful for action.
This flow of reasoning, which we mainly access through our commonsense awareness that we think and of how we think, combines more than one (logical and verbal) mode. As much as I learned, this complicated, comprehensive movement of lived representation and thought was never described by research scientists. It is easier to deny its very existence and declare it to be “folk psychology", delusion or introspective rationalisation without solid measurable grounds.
If this is mere phenomenological belief, then let me dream and let you judge and understand otherwise. Inevitably, with your own conscious common sense. There is nothing else to rely on in our personal mind, ultimately, for all of us human knowers.
What "good judgement" does
It is the accounting of situation and opportunity, the nuance and of the human point of view and interest which make judgement eventually wise.
I understand good judgement as a thought activity of the living mind which accepts as significant and which achieves to integrate in its reasoning a large number of components vital for the real-life efficiency of practical judgement:
Good judgement involves and draws on the active presence of clusters of ideas readily received, of thought habits implied by language structure and grammar, of inborn and learned forms, entire memory and life-experience continuously present. The more the thinker is aware of these sources and short-cuts, the higher the quality and freedom of the judgement.
Good judgement is situated by being of a thinker who has an identity and presence, about other people with identities that count, in specific situations and with an orientation towards specific human goals.
Good judgement requires awareness of our and other people’s inevitable trust in long chains of witnessing and mediated informing, the inclusion and consequential taking into account of values, feelings, beliefs unquestioned, incorrigible convictions, ignorances, diverging interests and interpersonal or group transactions. Good judgement has regard for biases and limits which need to be taken into account as facts.
All these - which I do not deplore but on the contrary account as unavoidable factors - are determining together the way judgement advances in our mind, to result in human-friendly predictions and wise practical conclusions.
The manner of such reasoning and its purposeful expression are thus significantly modified by complexity, imprecision and impermanence. Such complication –which additionally keeps changing - can only be considered intuitively, with the means of our common sense representation. This mode of judgement will appear imprecise and less than respectful of linear logical treatment of artificially isolated issues, quite different from the way a logical device or a trained logician would be able to "process" data.
Thanks heavens, we are still living, feeling selves, conscious and complicated to a degree of appearing unruly, unexpected, "free", able to start something new, our psyche is still not entirely reproducible by standard algorithms and micro-manageable by ultimate tyrannies.
Without including interpretations based on precedent, local knowledge and personal experience - culture and psychological functioning, given equal value and notice, good logic is no good in the real life of people and nations.
Good logic which, with a respectful bow, I can only admire and try to absorb into my common sense, is mandatory at the core of good thought and decision, particularly of justification of decisions, as a public watchdog of realism and consistency; but it cannot replace the seamless connection, the immersion of the thinker in the informality of actual human reality.
Clean propositional logic cannot supplant the richness and finesse of judging with "good sense", nor its effectiveness. The internal core of (somewhat informal) proper logic so useful to educate, is surrounded, wrapped, assimilated, into awareness of the human side of our life-world, able to understand human reality as people live it or as they conceive to live it. Accordingly, people will tend to accept it as making sense to them.
Good judgement takes place in an internal language of our mind which we share with all other humans, because our body structure, sensory functioning and neural processes are the same, of the same species. Thus we have and can understand in other minds the progress of common sense representations, notions and readily available short-hand reasoning procedures, guided by prevalent acquired beliefs, validated by socialisation; when shared with other people, the exchange takes the form of communication people can understand, with content they can use. To counterbalance the imprecision of such short-hand and of such known bias “good” judgement requires some talent, intellectual competence and self-critical sense vital to continuous correction in order to advance from incessant approximations and some falsities towards sound conclusions; allowing intuitive judgement to unfold unchecked, would probably produce inept rubbish.
I claim that good judgement cannot be reduced to processing precise, clean, granted data, tested empirical knowledge and proven propositions; it becomes "good" by achieving to consider the practical and artificial references, landmarks and informal procedures people use to position themselves, adjust, think and take everyday decisions, then to follow them in practice. This complicated process takes place imprecisely and quickly, in real time, on one's feet, on incomplete information, but it works quite well, better for the time being than the clean logic driven response of the best artificial intelligence, at least today. This was understood by the IT engineers faster than by the psychologists; now artificial intelligence works to imitate our "sloppy" efficiency in poorly defined fields.
The priority for good judgement is to connect, on time, relevant fact and action needed with that which counts and makes sense for people.
There is a willed bias in good judgement to advise and help the specific interest of specific people, like yourself, each with preferred values at work. Truth is not a matter of choice but the ways chosen to advance are voluntary, intelligent choices.
Good judgement is not meant to serve precision, perfection or truth above the human interest of living safe and better. The values taking precedence are usefulness, success, goodness, survival, life, peace, flourishing and the like.
What good judgement is definitely not is "pre-judgement", thought readily received or set in advance, to be forced upon local or new goals, circumstances and events. Reducing surprise to rigid past solutions, cutting down newness to the technically handy size and notions of dogma is contrary to good judgement. This is what all mechanization works to achieve; reduction to simple and cheap procedures, easy to deploy and control.
Forcing unruly, fuzzy reality-in-movement onto a Procustean bed of hard and slow thinking rules set in advance, can only be foolish, not wise. Generality imposed on the particular, dogma, utopias, are contrary to good judgement. They are usually absurd or stupid.
Good judgement is people-minded reasoning that functions in the actual Umwelt, the life-space of knowing and acting accessible to the human being. Judgement is good when it foresees usefully, without horses’ blinkers, a multiple choice of scenarios of that which may and will actually happen; it is good if it protects with prudence and it succeeds to help.
Good judgement is proven when it becomes a successful navigator of the everyday and also of the unexpected, of the exceptional, of the yet unknown.
If needed, good judgement provides means to create something new; new ways around obstacles, new interpretation and new names propitious to master things and events, instead of being dominated by them. If we are to build or create new reality it is by good judgement, certainly not by emaciated un-human utopia.
Moreover, by leaping on a higher orbit of n±1 thought when the given is not favourable, good judgement reframes and invents; it proposes unexpected action, not respecting the given rules, building new things non-existent yet but possible. To quote again my favourite from G.B.Shaw: "People see things and ask why. I dream of things that never where and ask Why not?"
Good judgement is watchful with the garbage-in garbage-out vulnerability of the formal procedures and processes of judgement. The wise thinker feels what to discard. It does not help at all to be precise and correct in processing and deciding, based on reality incompletely and poorly perceived or cluttered, poorly understood and misnamed; even less on dogmatic decisions ignoring the local the inconvenient, the human factor.
Good judgement starts with the quality of perception. It is false that all people perceive equally the same thing, that perception is passive; intelligent perception observes the relevant, the useful. The wise percievers attribute useful significance and propitious name to what they perceive. Wisdom of judgement starts at the entry point; interpreting one's own perception, mindful of the relevant at work, not reduced to habit, prejudice, to the politically correct or the scientifically correct pretence.
The miraculous, creative entry point of good judgement is to observe, with the adequate "granularity" with an open mind, to sense what counts and to name it or rename it in felicitous ways.
The "wise one" will understand better than other people what things mean here and now and also in the long term and a much wider view. This frame is higher or deeper, N+-1, thus freer that standard, precise but frozen definitions and propositions. I would say that often good judgement starts well indeed with a moment when the thinker exclaims "Aha!" when he suddenly sees falling into one meaningful picture the components of a Gestalt, a configuration where a useful itinerary makes sense. Observation limited by definitions and available instruments, presents choices often given to diminish choice or produced by disconnected stupidity.
If you want to read more about this second pillar of wisdom...
* Exception from this, for the wise one, is only when everybody around is taken by madness. Then it is wise to adapt and survive.