Your Mind and How to Use It



We have seen the several steps of the mental process whereby simple sensations are transformed into percepts and then into concepts or general ideas. The formation of the concept is considered as the first great step in thinking. The second great step in thinking is that of the formation of the “judgment.” The definition of “judgment,” as the term is used in logic; is “the comparing together in the mind of two ideas of things, and determining whether they agree or disagree with each other, or that one of them does or does not belong to the other. Judgment is, therefore, (_a_) affirmative or (_b_) negative, as (_a_) ‘Snow is white,’ or (_b_) ‘All white men are not Europeans.'”

What in logic is called a “proposition” is the expression in words of a logical judgment. Hyslop defined the term “proposition” as follows: “Any affirmation or denial of an agreement between two conceptions.” For instance, we compare the concepts “sparrow” and “bird” and find that there is an agreement, and that the former belongs to the latter; this mental process is a _judgment_. We then announce the judgment in the _proposition_: “The sparrow is a bird.” In the same way we compare the concepts “bat” and “bird,” find that there is a disagreement, and form the judgment that neither belongs to the other, which we express in the proposition: “The bat is not a bird.” Or we may form the judgment that “sweetness” is a quality of “sugar,” which we express in the proposition: “Sugar is sweet.” Likewise, we may form the judgment which results in the proposition: “Vinegar is not sweet.”

While the process of judgment is generally considered as constituting the second great step of thinking, coming after the formation of the concept, and consisting of the comparing of concepts, it must be remembered that the act of judging is far more elementary than this, for it is found still farther back in the history of thought processes. By that peculiar law of paradox which we find everywhere operative in mind processes, the same process of forming judgments which is used in comparing concepts also has been used in forming the same concepts in the stage of comparison. In fact, the result of all comparison, high or low, must be _a judgment_.

Halleck says: “Judgment is necessary in forming concepts. When we decide that a quality is or is not common to a class, we are really judging. This is another evidence of the complexity and unified action of the mind.” Brooks says: “The power of judgment is of great value in its products. It is involved in or accompanies every act of the intellect, and thus lies at the foundation of all intellectual activity. It operates directly in every act of the understanding, and even aids the other faculties of the mind in completing their activities and products. * * * Strictly speaking, every intelligent act of the mind is accompanied with a judgment. To know is to discriminate and, therefore, to judge. Every sensation or cognition involves a knowledge and so a judgment that it exists. The mind cannot think at all without judging; to think is to judge. Even in forming the notions which judgment compares, the mind judges. Every notion or concept implies a previous act of judgment to form it; in forming a concept we compare the common attributes before we unite them, and comparison is judgment. It is thus true that ‘Every concept is a contracted judgment; every judgment an expanded concept.'”

It is needless to say that as judgments lie at the base of our thinking, and also appear in every part of its higher structure, the importance of correct judgment in thought cannot be overestimated. But it is often very difficult to form correct judgment even regarding the most familiar things around us. Halleck says: “In actual life things present themselves to us with their qualities disguised or obscured by other conflicting qualities. Men had for ages seen burning substances and had formed a concept of them. A certain hard, black, stony substance had often been noticed, and a concept had been formed of it. This concept was imperfect; but it is very seldom that we meet with perfect, sharply-defined concepts in actual life. So it happened that for ages the concept of burning substance was never linked by judgment to the concept of stone coal. The combustible quality in the coal was overshadowed by its stony attributes. ‘Of course stone will not burn,’ people said. One cannot tell how long the development of mankind was retarded for that very reason. England would not to-day be manufacturing products for the rest of the world had not some one judged coal to be a combustible substance. * * * Judgment is ever silently working and comparing things that to past ages seemed dissimilar; and it is constantly abstracting and leaving out of the field of view those qualities which have simply served to obscure the point at issue.”

Gordy says: “The credulity of children is proverbial; but if we get our facts at first hand, if we study ‘the living, learning, playing child,’ we shall see that he is quite as remarkable for incredulity as for credulity. The explanation is simple: _He tends to believe the first suggestion that comes into his mind, no matter from what source_; and since his belief is not the result of any rational process, he cannot be made to disbelieve it in any rational way. Hence it is that he is very credulous about any matter about which he has no ideas; but let the idea once get possession of his mind, and he is quite as remarkable for incredulity as before for credulity. * * * If we study the larger child,–the man with a child’s mind, an uneducated man,–we shall have the same truth forced upon us. If the beliefs of men were due to processes of reasoning, where they have not reasoned they would not believe. But do we find it so? Is it not true that the men who have the most positive opinions on the largest variety of subjects–so far as they have ever heard of them–are precisely those who have the least right to them? Socrates, we remember, was counted the wisest man in Athens because he alone resisted his natural tendency to believe in the absence of evidence; he alone would not delude himself with the conceit of knowledge without the reality; and it would scarcely be too much to say that the intellectual strength of men is in direct proportion to the number of things they are absolutely certain of. * * * I do not, of course, mean to intimate that we should have no opinions about matters that we have not personally investigated. We take, and ought to take, the opinion of some men about law, and others about medicine, and others about particular sciences, and so on. But we should clearly realize the difference between holding an opinion on trust and holding it as the result of our own investigations.”

Brooks says: “It should be one of the leading objects of the culture of young people to lead them to acquire the habit of forming judgments. They should not only be led to see things but to have opinions about things. They should be trained to see things in their relations and to put these relations into definite propositions. Their ideas of objects should be worked up into thoughts concerning the objects. Those methods of teaching are best which tend to excite a thoughtful habit of mind that notices the similitudes and diversities of objects and endeavors to read the thoughts which they embody and of which they are the symbols.”

The study of logic, geometry, and the natural sciences is recommended for exercise of the faculty of judgment and the development thereof. The study and practice of even the lower branches of mathematics are also helpful in this direction. The game of checkers or chess is recommended by many authorities. Some have advocated the practice of solving enigmas, problems, rebuses, etc., as giving exercise to this faculty of the mind. The cultivation of the “Why?” attitude of mind, and the answering of one’s own mental questions, is also helpful, if not carried to excess. “Doubting Thomas” is not always a term of reproach in these days of scientific habits of thought, and “the man from Missouri” has many warm admirers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *