Silence & Salience: On Being Judgmental

In Sebastian Schmidt & Ernst Gerhard (eds.), The Ethics of Belief and Beyond. Understanding Mental Normativity. Abingdon: Routledge. pp. 256-269 (2020)
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This chapter explores the concept of judgmentalism: what it is and why it’s morally problematic. After criticizing an account offered by Gary Watson, the paper argues for a broader understanding of what it is to be judgmental, encompassing not just the overall beliefs that we form about someone else, but also the very pattern of our thoughts about those with whom we are involved in interpersonal relationships. The thesis is that to care about someone is to be oriented toward them, or to see them through a particular mental lens, in a way that produces a particular pattern of salience and silence. That is: caring about someone (at least ideally) has the effect of making some features of that person particularly salient, and silencing or screening off other features from one’s consciousness. One is aptly described as judgmental when one’s thoughts do not display this sort of pattern, indicating a failure to fully adopt the orientation that constitutes properly caring about the person.
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