Review: Theories of Judgment, by Wayne M. Martin

Theories of Judgment: Psychology, Logic, Phenomenology, by Wayne M. Martin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
This review appeared in Mind, October 2007.

This book deals with a primary and perennial issue in the philosophy of mind and of knowledge: the nature of judgment. The author’s announced aim is to come to an understanding of what it is to judge. To this end he lays across his subject matter a twofold grid. The first-level grid consists of the demands imposed upon any analysis of the nature of judgment by three separate areas of inquiry, with their distinctive sets of theoretical commitments. These three are psychology, logic, and phenomenology. The demands from these three perspectives on what judgment must be—he calls them the three ‘faces’ of judgment—operate very much, though not entirely, in the manner of an inconsistent triad, where two of three requirements, at most, can be satisfied. Indeed, that they cannot all be satisfied seems to be an outcome of the inquiry, so that the final chapter really amounts to putting an entirely new ‘face’ on phenomenology—he explicitly calls it a fourth ‘face’, the ‘political’ (p. 173)—and to not raising the question of how the new face intersects with the demands of psychology or logic. In the end the first-level grid seems to be abandoned, or at least not brought into play.

Nevertheless, up to the last chapter, at least, that grid serves very well, superimposed as it is over the second-level grid of currents of historical interpretations of the judgment. Thus, each current examined—Hume’s, Kant’s, Frege’s, Heidegger’s, and those of a number of extremely interesting, but now almost totally forgotten, Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century thinkers—must pass inspection from each of the three points of view. I found this to be an extremely illuminating way of studying these thinkers and their theories of the judgment: one that highlights some of their deepest internal tensions and inadequacies, as well as resolutely inching us toward a better understanding of what the nature of the judgment could and could not be. (See helpful summaries of results on p. 106 and pp. 170-171)

At least one enduring, if not overriding, theme must be mentioned in giving an adequate indication of the overall character of the work. That is the theme of existence or being, necessarily worked out in tandem with accounts of the existential judgment or belief, and the truth and logical relations thereof. From Hume on, at least—and really, I think, from Locke’s analysis of ‘knowledge’ in Book IV, Chapter 1 of his Essay—problems with belief in or judgments about existence destabilize the much-favored analysis of judgment in terms of a ‘synthesis’ of representations. Professor Martin’s expositions of the historical struggles with this theme (from Hume and Kant, through Herbart and Lotze, Brentano and Frege, up to Heidegger) constitute a unique and valuable contribution to philosophical research. For want of something very like it—developed, no doubt, in much greater detail than his limited project could allow—currently standard accounts of the history of logic, such as those by I. M. Bochenski and by Kneale and Kneale, are sorely lacking. They were written in a spirit of triumphalism in the perceived glories of "symbolic" logic that allowed them to ignore much from one of the richest periods of philosophical logic on record. It is to the author’s great credit that he opens to us crucial aspects of this period before the various dogmatisms of the Twentieth Century took over. You will rarely find a philosophical monograph so clearly written as this one is, and especially not one that, though limited in scope, also touches upon such profound issues, with such a depth and breadth of historical sophistication.

Now a few worries:

First, the problems with the ‘synthesis’ model of judgment, holding it to be a matter of bringing representations together, run very deep, and its inability to deal with judgments that involve only one representation (‘God exists’, ‘It´s raining.’) is only one of its failures. (p. 62) The jig-saw puzzle picture of the mind, with representations which do or do not ‘fit’ together, never has made any detailed sense. What these ‘representations’ are—their exact properties—and exactly what it is for the mind to do something to them and with them, or even for them to be ‘in’ the mind, are matters that the ‘synthesis’ view never fleshes out satisfactorily. This lack is greatly intensified when, in the Kantian manner, synthesis also goes transcendental or objective. Furthermore, the introduction of a different kind of ‘act’ of mind (call it ‘positing’), does not really help if one is still stuck with anything like representations as historically understood. That is why Husserl in one way, and Heidegger in another, and Wittgenstein in yet another, entirely abandons them. The problem that remains is how, if not through them, the mind achieves a world. Heidegger’s adoption of comportment (Verhalten), so creatively utilized by the author in his last chapter, is a brilliant attempt to solve this problem, but, arguably, an attempt that loses the mind altogether. He, quite intentionally, offers no account of the act of consciousness, whether the judgment or otherwise.

Second, it is practically impossible to avoid theoretical ‘entanglements’, as Martin calls them, between the ‘three faces’ if logic is treated as the theory of valid inference. Frege’s life-long struggle with his ‘judgment stroke,’ brilliantly discussed in this book, is a natural result. For inference is surely a matter of coming to a conclusion: of arriving at a judgment in the sense of a belief. For that, it is plausible to imagine, we must begin from a judgment or belief we already have, and not just from a thought or proposition. Hence the necessity of a judgment stroke or something like it. In Frege’s day, logic was commonly taken up in relationship to the advancement of knowledge. Thus on page one of Ernst Schröder’s Vorlesungen Űber Die Albebra der Logik (1890) we read: ‘Logic…concerns itself with all of those rules the following of which furthers knowledge of the truth.’ He then restricts his study to deductive logic and ‘the laws of valid thinking.’ Slightly later authors, such as Husserl, Bertrand Russell, and W. E. Johnson, saw the necessity of holding implication (entailment) and inference in clear distinction from one another, and distinguishing what some came to call ‘epistemic logic’ from formal logic. (There is an excellent discussion of all this, with some of its literature, in Chapter XII, on ‘Inference and Implication’, of L. Susan Stebbing’s, A Modern Introduction to Logic.)

Professor Martin is certainly aware of these issues, and briefly surfaces them in his discussion of Frege on pp. 83-84. Still, I think a good deal more needs to be made of their significance than he does. If one takes the logical content of a judgment to turn upon the inferences that can be validly drawn from it, as Frege (pp. 81-82) and others apparently do, it is difficult to keep one’s concept of logical form or logical relation free of essential reference to possible acts of thought. (The tensions here are instructively illustrated by various ‘Ordinary Language’ analyses of logical relations in the recent past.) But then the distinction between valid and invalid inferences is conceptually imperiled. If, on the other hand, the intentionality or ‘meaning’ of thoughts or propositions is given sufficient substance, one can analyze their logical relations in terms of their formal (not just ‘symbolic’) or categorical structure. This was the route of traditional formal logic, and Husserl and Russell tried to carry it forward. Contradiction, implication, etc. can then be analyzed without any reference at all to judgments or other acts of consciousness. That done, we can turn to epistemic issues as needed. Logical relations are essential to them, but not conversely. The major problem here has always been one of how to give sufficient, plausible ‘substance’ to meanings or intentionalities, and to account for how they are related—as they surely are—to acts of thought and language. These issues are connected with the next worry.

Third, what is to be made of phenomenology? This surely must be taken as the underlying issue of the book and of the research it represents. Martin seems relatively untroubled about the ‘faces’ of psychology and logic—much less so, I would think, than is warranted. Psychology, he says, is concerned with how judgment figures "in the explanation of the behavior of intelligent organisms’, and ‘…logic is the study of the inferential structures…’ (p. 3) through which a rational being is responsible to evidence in judging. But clearly there must be more to a judgment than its causal and its logical relations. "What is it like to judge?" he asks, and holds that "Phenomenology is the study of the structure of experience, particularly of the ways in which things (entities, objects) manifest themselves in experience." (p. 4) Much of his critique on various theories of judgment rests upon very plausible claims as to what actually is or is not ‘before the mind’ in judgment. Still, ‘experience’ is a troublesome word, to say the least, and he has quite an uneasy relationship to phenomenology. He remarks, with considerable justification, that "Everything associated with the idea of phenomenology is a matter of controversy’ (p. 4), and he gives an extensive treatment, under four headings, of what phenomenology (as he regards it) is not. (pp. 5-7) His misgivings about phenomenology center upon two points: the idea that phenomenology "must report on some secretive, entirely inner experience" (p. 146; cp. 73) which runs into the ineffable or inexpressible (p. 73), and the idea that it is sometimes possible in phenomenological description to discover "the things themselves"—to grasp experiences (such as that of judging) and their objects as they are independently of any conceptualizations we may have of them. (p. 29) These ideas have been something of a scandal to phenomenology, and both are roundly rejected by Martin. It is here that one sees most clearly the intrinsic sympathy of his investigations with the "hermeneutical" phenomenology of Heidegger, Ricoeur, Gadamer, and, by further extension, even of Foucault and Derrida.

I will venture only two comments: First, it may be possible to understand intentionality (‘meaning’) is such a way that the inner (or secretive)/outer (or public) distinction, as it has lain like a plague upon the traditions of Modern thought, is entirely overthrown. Husserl, I think, works this out pretty thoroughly, and others, like Adolf Reinach, and Jean-P. Sartre in some of his better moments, ‘got’ it. Obviously those who ‘got’ it—if they really did—have not effectively communicated what they ‘got’ to others, including most of those regarded as in some sympathy with them: those in the particular philosophical tradition which Professor Martin says phenomenology is not. (p. 5) Second, and not unrelated to the first comment, the theory that the ideas and beliefs we have prevent us from ever finding out, in some special cases at least, how it is with the "things themselves" obviously cannot present itself as a claim about how it really is and must be with our ideas and their objects in general. Anecdotal evidence that our ideas and beliefs sometimes do distort or mislead our perceptions does not entail that they always do, and phenomenologists, so far as I know, have never claimed that they never did. Indeed, the ‘theory ladenness’ of perception, in the cases where it is found and argued from, is surely a phenomenological finding: a finding about the nature of certain types of experiences and their objects. ‘Okay,’ one might say. ‘We can just accept life in the hermeneutical circle.’ But it is not clear to me that anyone really does that. The necessity of living in the hermeneutical circle looks awfully like an essentialist analysis of how things really are, as if someone, for a brief moment, got outside of it.

Fourth and finally, in his delightful last chapter, Professor Martin studies judgment as a way of ‘comporting oneself’ in a world. (This is Heidegger’s language, interestingly shown to be an extension of ideas from the mature Theodor Lipps. (pp.136-145)) He does this through the medium of painting: in particular, through various well-known paintings of Paris, of Trojan War fame, in the act of passing judgment under divine edict concerning which of three goddesses is most beautiful. That is, in general, quite appropriate to phenomenology, since one unique way objects and events present themselves to us is through artistic works. Phenomenologists have had a great deal to say about this mode of presentation or way of being conscious of objects. Admitting that his analysis of judgment as a public act is "anything but the last word"—of course there are no last words in hermeneutical explorations—the author finds essential elements of judgment (now a public act) expressed in the behavior and settings of Paris as portrayed. (Summarized on p. 147) His discussion of how the various paintings of this event (mainly those by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553)) show forth essential aspects of judgment is illuminating both of what is being done by the artists and of what Paris’s judgment (the event portrayed in this particular case) may have essentially involved. But it is also interesting that the three-fold grid employed in the previous chapters seems to have completely fallen away—which would not have alarmed Heidegger! And the thought occurs that we may have simply changed the subject matter and are now dealing with judgment in a totally different sense from the concerns of Kant, Brentano, Frege, etc.

I discovered only one possible typo that may be sense-threatening. In the next to last line of page 102, the word ‘inferential’ should most likely be replaced by ‘inference.’

Related Resources

You may also like...