The Last Judgment  

Matjaž Potrč, University of Ljubljana,


After a century of Fregean partying, let judgment fall its word. – Matjaž Potrč



Abstract: The Last Judgment

Before the advent of propositions there was the judgment. Propositions are entrenched in our ways of thinking, together with the Fregean logic from which their descent may be traced. Propositional lingo is to be found everywhere: in philosophy of mind, ethics, and aesthetics. Despite being ubiquitous, the propositional approach is utterly misguided as the basis of philosophical inquiry. It is lead by concerns of tractability and atomism. In this, it is in discord with the intractable nature of cognition and of the world. The Aristotelian and Brentanian inspired teaching involving judgment needs to be revived in order that a new sense can be breath into philosophical foundations. Contrary to propositions, which feed themselves upon the desert landscapes, judgment is fallen upon the jungle-like richness. As cognition and the world are rich, propositions are wrong in most areas of philosophical inquiry, and judgments must be right. Atomistic and tractable approaches have to give way to the intrinsically intertwined wholes containing phenomenology, of which the Brentanian intentional act may serve as a model.

Key words: judgment, proposition, cognition, world, atomism, tractability, normativity, intentionality, Brentano.



Povzetek: Poslednja sodba

Pred propozicijami je bila sodba. Propozicije so zasidrane v našem načinu mišljenja, skupaj s fregejevsko logiko, kamor sega njihov izvor. Propozicionalni način izražanja lahko najdemo vsepovsod: v filozofiji duha, v etiki in v estetiki. Kljub temu, da je čezinčez prisoten pa je propozicionalni pristop zgrešen kot podlaga filozofskega raziskovanja. Vodita ga namreč skrb za slednost in atomizem. Glede tega je v nesoglasju z nesledno naravo spoznavanja in sveta. Če hočemo filozofsko utemeljitev na novo osmisliti, moramo obuditi aristoteljansko in brentanovsko navdahnjeni nauk o sodbi. V nasprotju s propozicijami, ki jih hranijo puščavske pokrajine, vznika sodba iz pragozdu podobnega ozadnega bogastva. Ker sta tako spoznavanje kot tudi sam svet bogata, morajo biti propozicije na večini področij filozofske raziskave zgrešene, sodbe pa primerne. Atomistični in sledni pristopi morajo napraviti prostor notranje prepletenim celotam, ki vsebujejo fenomenologijo. Za model nam lahko služi brentanovski intencionalni dej.

Ključne besede: sodba, propozicija, spoznavanje, svet, atomizem, slednost, normativnost, intencionalnost, Brentano.


Propositional logic

The need of articulating a plausible theory pertaining to the basis of philosophical inquiry, including cognition that is linked to it, requires judgment. Thus it requires something else as the propositional logic that now customary serves as the basis of philosophical inquiry in several areas, from philosophy of mind, towards the ethics and also including ontology.

            The term propositional logic as used here covers many things, from the classical propositions, to predicative forms of propositions, in short the Fregean program understood in its widest sense, including also the alternative, many valued and other kinds of logics that all grew as branches from the Fregean tree. Propositional logic is mentioned here as an adversary to the judgmental program.

            There are several presuppositions to the propositional logic as understood in the above mentioned wide sense, articulated here as action guiding principles:


(1) Go atomistic: separate parts (such as propositional content, different to the psychological attitude; thereby separate the ontological from the epistemic).

(2) By going atomistic, secure the basis for tractability (you can build a system of propositions governed by rules).

(3) Expel the qualitative from the propositional (there is no phenomenology proper to the propositions, in whatever way they are construed, say as Platonist objects).


            Fregean program dominated the preceding century. In its foundations is the widely characterized propositional logic with its three manners of zooming onto the propositional structure:


            (a) Propositional constants: p, q, r.

            (b) Predicative structure of propositions: Fa, Gb.

            (c) Quantificational structure of propositions: ExFx, Vx (Fx→Gx).


Observe now that all of (a), (b), (c) accord to the above-mentioned presuppositions. (1) They are atomistic, there is clear separation between propositions such as p, q, r in (a). Then, (b) and (c) just zoom into the structure of these propositions. It is also clear that no psychological ingredient is directly or necessarily involved into the nature of propositions. But this should be tackled further on. By assuring atomistic basis, propositions also are apt for tractability (2): Fregean system is governed by rules that compute over propositions. There is no doubt that phenomenology (3) or qualitative experiences are not included in any of the propositional structures as shortly characterized above.

            Actually, the presuppositions (1)-(3) are deeply entrenched by another basic propositional presupposition, that may be articulated in the following way


            (PP) Reject judgment!


(PP) is the propositional presupposition in the right and deep sense. It underlies what the Fregean program amounts to.


What is wrong with propositional logic as the basis for philosophical inquiry?

In the fifties at the times as the program of analytical inquiry was flourishing, the following was an usual attitude. Show me some area in philosophy, such as philosophy of law, or some sub-area of this larger area, and I will establish a propositional and tractable account of it: I will axiomatize it, by using a propositional system and the rules appropriate for it. We may be away from the axiomatizing spree, but deep presuppositions remain in our daily practices.

            First of all, we do not care about judgments as foundations of our philosophical inquiry. Thereby we respect the propositional presupposition (PP). Just one small illustration should suffice here. Philosophers choose their basic positions by the usage of their intuition. And intuitions are naturally accountable for by judgments. But the close linkage to judgments is expelled from the foundations of philosophical inquiry. Propositions are established as starting points of the philosophical inquiry, rather than judgments.

            A brief indicatory survey of the other three mentioned propositional presuppositions should be provided now, as far as the topics of securing foundations of philosophy is concerned.


            (1) There is atomistic requirement respected in that the basic claims are separated from each other, and are preferably presented in this manner.

(2) Basic claims are themselves thought about as being governed by rules, and so as being tractable.

(3) There is no place for the qualitative at all in the basis of the philosophical inquiry that is governed by propositional form.



Judgment is another kind of beast as are its propositional impoverished derivatives. By its very existence, judgment goes against the (PP) principle, for judgment is affirmed. It also goes against all three of the rest of propositional presuppositions.


(1) Judgment is not atomistic: it does not harbor or display separate parts. It rather respects an intertwined holistic structure from which the parts cannot be separated in any other manner as the merely distinctional one (just as an example, there is no propositional content existing that would be different from the psychological attitude: they are in the same boat and cannot be effectively separated in the judgment).

(2) Judgment does not care about tractability. It is fallen in a unique, particularist manner. (Even if you can build a system based upon judgments, each judgment will retain its particularist unique power and will supervene on the non-projectible unique contextually determinable circumstances).

(3) The qualitative is intrinsically integrated into the judgment. Falling judgment has a particular qualitative feeling about it, and falling various different judgments will bring different qualitative experiences. There is different quality linked to the judgment that the ice is good from the judgment that the lecture is good. One just cannot think about the judgment without that it would have the qualitative feeling integrated into it. This is in stark contrast with the propositions that do not harbor any phenomenology as being intrinsic into them.


            How does one come to the judgment? On the basis of richness. We tend to fall judgments in rich circumstances that cannot be tractably surveyed. If we just follow universal exceptionless rules, there is no big need to fall judgments. But as rules get looser, the need for judgment is more strongly felt. An illustration from the meta-ethics should bring home this point. Ethical monism relies on tractable exceptionless rules. Ethical pluralism allows for plurality of principles, for contextualism, and thereby for judgments. But pluralism retains normative authority of the general for each of plurality of principles, which is disputed by particularism. Particularism now observes even the normative authority as being on the side of particular judgment.

            It seems to be a sound presupposition to conceive cognition and world as being intractably rich, complex and dynamic. If this is the case, then judgment is a much more appropriate candidate for the basis of philosophical inquiry as is the proposition.


Judgment and normativity

Several characteristics of judgment will be reviewed now, in order to shed more light on judgment, in its difference with the proposition. The first of these characteristics is normativity.

            Consider propositions. There is no sense to talk about normativity in the case of propositions. One explanation is that propositions do not include any psychological ingredients. Propositions may be presented linguistically. But they tend not to contain any normative sides or factors even in this case because of their Platonist inklings. There is not much sense anyway to talk about the normativity linked with propositions.

            It goes differently with the case of judgments. Whereas it does not make much sense to talk about propositions as being weaker or stronger, this is a usual way of behavior with judgments. Judgments have a natural tendency of being close to normativity. One reason is that judgments are in vicinity to psychology, which does not necessarily come with propositions. And judgments also contain phenomenology or qualitative experiences that naturally fit into the contextual circumstances where the judgment is fallen. Judgments depend on the context in which they are fallen, and on the various rich parameters that govern normativity in these contexts.

            In short, whereas judgment fits to normativity in a natural way, normativity is expelled by propositions. Or, if propositions adopt normativity, they would just allow it in a tractable and rule governed manner, whereas the normativity of judgment steams from intractable richness.


Judgment and phenomenology

Once you have propositions, the treatment of these is completely separated from phenomenology, whatever the treatment of propositions.

            The situation is different with judgments. It is a natural thing to claim that judgments are intertwined with phenomenology or with qualitative experiences. It feels in some way to judge that there is a cat there. And it is quite a different qualitative feeling related to the judgment that there is a spider here. Whereas phenomenology is expelled by propositions, it is the intrinsic basis of judgment.


Judgment’s revival of quasi-psychologism

Considering the difference between propositions and judgments, and particularly giving a more important weight to the psychology and to the qualitative in the case of judgments contrary to the case of propositions, may invite thoughts about the revival of psychologism. Indeed, we may recall that psychologism was rejected by various philosophical currents at the beginning of the twentieth century. Many times, although not exclusively (Husserl) the rejection of psychologism went along with the rejection of the judgment as the basis of philosophical inquiry. Surely this is in value for the characterization of Fregean movement in its broadest sense.

            As Fregean program is propositionalist, it rejected psychologism. But if the stress is put on the judgment now, psychologism becomes a more inviting alternative to embrace. Psychologism comes in different variants though. Some kinds of psychologism are Platonist (Jacquette), and are perhaps not so close to judgments. In the history of philosophy, Husserl and Meinong belong closer to Platonist psychologism, in difference to Brentano, who observed intentional act to consist of several integrated and just distinctionally separable ingredients. Then the integrating of phenomenology into intentional wholes becomes important. Anyway, as measured with the mainstream programs of psychologism, the title is better accepted just provisionally here, as quasi-psychologism. The claim is thus that quasi-psychologism comes along with judgment.


Assertions as a subclass of judgments

Before turning to Brentanian model of intentionality as the basis of judgment that should illustrate an overall approach promoting judgment as founding philosophical inquiry, it is an appropriate thing to shortly indicate the relation between assertions and judgments and then the relation between phenomenology and judgment.

            It is not the case that all judgments, which one entertains or falls, are transformed into their linguistic presentations. Each day, we fall several judgments in several areas, such as action guiding judgments or aesthetic judgments. Just a subclass of these judgments is articulated in assertory form. Another thing to note is that the assertion of judgments shows tendency to render them propositional. Once the judgment gets asserted, and is transmitted in community, it tends to loose its qualitative phenomenal ingredient. The richness of judgment is impoverished in this way.


Phenomenology and judgment

Phenomenology is richly variable and mostly it is not covered by judgment. Compare the rich variability of what-it’s-like feeling over time as you are feeling pain. This may then be expressed by propositional form “I am in pain”. It goes without saying that this rendition extremely impoverishes phenomenological richness of what you feel in real time as you feel pain. In linguistic rendition there is the tendency though to push towards propositional impoverishing in forming the judging about phenomenological experiences. Also, as one entertains phenomenological experiences, one does not fall any judgments while having them. Having qualitative phenomenological experiences is not judging.

            Phenomenology is thus different from judgment. But phenomenology has to figure as an integral part of judgment.


Brentanian model of intertwining

In order to understand the basis of judgment, and the main difference between judgment and between propositional approaches, one may serve oneself with the model of intentionality as used by Brentano.

            The first step consists in understanding that there is not just directedness of someone to content or to an object in an intentional act, but that there is also the reflexive directedness of this act at itself:



            x                                     y

reflexive            directedness            content/object


            This already lets us know that the qualitative consciousness is an integral part, or condition for possibility of intentional directedness. So we have an intertwining structure.

            Even more complex and intertwined is the entire holistic situation of intentional act as it is usually found in practice. It contains several ingredients: judging, presenting, qualitative feeling and many more, that cannot be separated in reality, but only in a distinctional way, by the use of conceptual analysis. So the intentional act is really an intertwined and complex phenomenal whole. This holistic and, first of all, intertwining element, is what really separates judgment from the propositional approach. Intentional act according to Brentano is a complex and only conceptually but not realistically distinguishable whole that has phenomenology intrinsically built into it.

Perhaps it should be mentioned that Brentano had a hierarchy of presentations, thoughts and judgments between which he affirmed the relations of one-sided dependency. There are no thoughts possible without representations being in their basis, and there are no judgments possible without thoughts supporting them as their basis.  But presentations can exist independently of any thoughts and thoughts can exist as independently of any judgments into which they may be involved. This is viewed here just as a didactical effort to bring the really intertwined elements in some tractable order for the sake of exposition and so as not being central to the whole project. The intertwining and holistic intractable overall view will be important.


Judgmental logic

It becomes kind of natural to think about how to construe a judgmental logic here, as opposed to the propositional logic, characterized for the purpose of this seminal paper in the broadly Fregean manner.

            Here are some hints. Fregean logic came on the scene by its rejection of the formerly existing Aristotelian logic, particularly of the S-P or the subject-predicate schema underlying this logic. The forms of this Aristotelian S-P schema included such revealings of the internal structure of judgments in their entirety as illustrated by examples of All S’s are P’s, No S is P. There was the intertwining of premises, in the forms abbreviated by the Medievals as darii, celarent, ferio for several kinds of reasoning. The Aristotelian approach thus built on the intertwining of several forms, and not on their atomistic fracturing into propositions. The rules also were more intertwined into the form of judgments and quite directly into their mutual relations.

            Some kind of logic along Aristotelian lines would be needed in order to suit the requirements of tasks that stand before the judgmental logic. But an indication in this direction should be sufficient here. It has to be developed once the judgment is positioned as the basis of philosophical inquiry.

            Here is a historical predecessor though. P.F. Strawson used to defend the merits of Aristotelian logic against the Fregean paradigm, such as defended by the extensionalists Russell and Quine. He insisted on the S-P schema. There may be something in this, but ultimately perhaps his project should be taken with precautions because of his Kantianism and other things that do not show the intrinsic intertwinedness of elements to be really basic.

Judgmental logic is a potential wide-ranging project whose direction may only be indicated here. It would be perhaps not wise to follow somebody like P.F. Strawson too closely before the holistic and phenomenological aspects of judgment are made clear. I presume that Strawson did not consider phenomenal qualities to be of importance for his project at all, and that he rather built on the meaning-intention project basis. The bottom line is that the elaboration of the judgmental project we are concerned with here may be inspired by Brentanian Aristotelian based logic, different from the Fregean propositional logic.


Propositional perversion

Once one changes the perspective from the propositional we are so much accustomed to, and once we try to switch to the judgmental, some things show themselves in a quite different way. Take the example of propositional attitudes. Usually these figure some content, abbreviated in a propositional manner as the proposition p. And they figure a psychological attitude expressed as that-clause, such as someone thinking that. Here is an example:


            Matjaž thinks that p


What is exercised therewith? First, there is this atomistic tendency, to isolate the component as proposition, and to isolate the psychological as an attitude. This is a Fregean way to reduce judgment to proposition, to make parts of the formerly existing whole of inseparable ingredients.

            Consider that a Brentanian would not deny the possible conceptual separability of parts, the distinctions between which one can exercise in thoughts, based upon the inseparable whole of the intentional phenomenon in question. But the propositionalist seems to be involved into separating various elements from the whole and to present them as ultimate and possibly independently existing ingredients.

From the perspective of judgment taken as the basis of philosophical inquiry, we have to do with the perverted treatment of judgments as propositional attitudes. The propositionalist’s idea is (a) to disintegrate the organic whole of judgment into its atomistic constituents, and (b) to expel phenomenology as intrinsic part from the judgment. As the propositional project is accomplished, you have propositions and attitudes separated. But this may only be considered as being utterly misguided if compared to the real intertwined and holistic nature of the intentional act. Perhaps the linguistic rendering based on an approach that stresses the importance of judgment would not be ultimately so different from the depiction of the intentional act above, with exclusion of the propositional abbreviation. But the underlying spirit of the enterprise would be different: not atomistic, not tractable, and intrinsically containing phenomenology as integrated into it.


Judgment as the basis of philosophical inquiry

One may ask now what the whole fuzz is really about. It is claimed that judgment is important as the basis of philosophical inquiry, in its difference to the propositional approach. There are several areas of philosophical inquiry – perhaps all of them – whose basis is judgmental. Ethics certainly builds on judgments (judgments about what is good or bad), as does aesthetics. Theory of truth may be construed as dealing with correct assertions or with correct affirmations, whose judgmental nature is patent then. Even ontological inquiry such as it is practiced turns out to be appropriately underpinned with judgmental basis. Classical propositional approach to the mind, our deeply entrenched intuitions about the nature of representations being propositional should be substituted by a more appropriate judgmental basis.


Functionalism: a case where judgment may be applied at the cost of propositions

Here should figure a first short indication or illustration about the direction that may be taken once we embrace the judgmental approach in the area of functionalism. Functionalist program is in stalemate. Propositional form underlying it is both too simple and it covers a too large area. Functionalist analyses are not necessarily false, but they are falsely used when they serve themselves with the propositional basis. Judgment, to start with, includes phenomenology in an intrinsic manner, and particularly phenomenology is the most troubling problem for treatments of functionalism. Starting inquiry with the judgment and not with the propositions may show a way out here.


Merits of judgment

As compared to the proposition-based undertaking, judgment displays several merits. An appropriate judging fits to varying circumstances to which it offers a normativity-based approach. Judgment also displays a wide potential by the very fact that it does not require any tractability and also not the secured tractable rule based procedures. Judgment fits the nature of cognitive and of the worldly richness, including the normative richness. Propositions cannot really treat adequately any of those because of its presuppositions (1), (2), (3) and (PP) all of which a judgment based analysis does not buy.



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