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Nov 16, 2011      `

GW: On reason, judgment and wisdom


  ...in the first place, I put for a general inclination of all mankind, a perpetual and restless desire of power after power, that ceaseth only in death.
  -- Hobbes, Leviathan

  "Words are wise men's counters, they do but reckon by them: but they are the money of fools, that value them by the authority of an Aristotle, a Cicero, or a Thomas, or any other doctor whatsoever, if but a man."
  -- Hobbes, Leviathan


The capacities the title refers to - that also relate to a Nederlog of yesterday - are possible but rare in humans. Here are three definitions of them, lifted from my Philosophical Dictionary:

Reason: (1) The ability to understand and explain cogently, based on evidence and according to logical principles; (2) the ability to treat others fairly and decently, unless one is harmed by them.

This is a fundamental human capacity, and based on the capacity to represent things symbolically. A cogent explanation is one that is based on true or probable premisses and deductively entails what it explains. Science is based on reason, and the test that something is a real science is that it has produced a real technology that works independent of belief in or understanding of the science that produced it. By contrast, faith - whether religious or political - is not based on reason but on wishful thinking, and has no technology at all, except violence and whatever can be based on superstition and groupthinking.

Judgment: Decision that something - usually an idea or statement - is true or false, or probable or improbable, or good or bad.

The reason to distinguish judgments is that there are - it seems - choices that something is true, probable or good, or any of its opposites, that differ from non-judgements that something is red, or sweet, or painful, that seem to be just given and unavoidable given one's sensations, and either need no judgement at all, or are judgments only in a weak and attenuated sense.

The reason there are judgments is precisely because what is judged is neither simple nor directly given or accessible in sensation, but requires comparison along several dimensions; weighing evidence; balancing desires, beliefs and knowledge; consulting diverse sources, both in oneself, in others and in books; and needs reference, for a sound decision (one that will probably turn out to have been correct later, and then often in the sense that one has not grievously erred through passion or prejudice), to what one has learned.

And indeed, skillful knowledge is recognized by sound judgment - decisions that such and such is true (or not), or a good option (or not), that later turn out to be mostly correct, and that either cannot be made at all by less skillful men, or are much less often correct when judged by less skillful men.

Also, it is noteworthy that much skilled judgment is required and involved in distinguishing one's own and each other's imaginations, fantasies and fictions, from real, possible or probable fact or desirable end.

Wisdom: The exercise of right judgment, where the latter may be provisionally characterized as being rational and reasonable; being more probably true than not, if not true outright; and tending to the decrease of especially human suffering where appropriate.

Etymologically, philosophy is the love of wisdom. As defined here, wisdom consists in exercising one's capacity for right judgment, and these terms are chosen to indicate that wisdom (and its lack) has at least two dimensions: A factual dimension and an evaluative dimension. In a factual sense, a judgment to be wise must be adequate, or probably so, and in an evaluative sense a judgment to be wise must be ethical, in furthering or upholding ethical ends.

The basic problem, of course, is: What are the standards of judgment? Someone who is wise in one society, group or civilization may not seem so in another society, group or civilization; someone may have little knowledge and yet use his lack of knowledge wisely (mostly by recognizing and admitting his ignorance); and what is ethical or moral may vary from one group to another, and usually does to some extent, in that different groups define themselves by different ends, and use these ends to measure what are good and bad, for the members of the group.

In the above definition, two general tendencies of what judgments that may be styled wise have been selected: That such judgments at least tend to be probably true - which includes many true answers of the form 'We don't truly know but guess...' - and that such judgments tend to help decrease suffering, especially human suffering, since we are talking about human judgments to human beings.


P.S. Corrections, if any are necessary, have to be made later.

Also, I am reformatting the Nederlogs of this year to have the blue background properly displayed and I am categorizing the entries, and indeed also rereading what I wrote, which is one reason to quote my Philosophical Dictionary today.

As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):

1.  Anthony Komaroff Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS (pdf)
3.  Hillary Johnson The Why
4.  Consensus of M.D.s Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf)
5.  Eleanor Stein Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)
6.  William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
7.  Paul Lutus

Is Psychology a Science?

8.  Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
 Maarten Maartensz
ME in Amsterdam - surviving in Amsterdam with ME (Dutch)
 Maarten Maartensz Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Short descriptions of the above:                

1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understands ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:

7. A space- and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
8. Malcolm Hooper puts things together status 2010.
9. I tell my story of surviving (so far) in Amsterdam/ with ME.
10. The directory on my site about ME.

See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources
The last has many files, all on my site to keep them accessible.

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