This is a follow-up to Miriam Solomon's statement describing philosophy: "Philosophy involves more than deductive logic--it involves the exercise of "good judgment" which in fact we do not understand very well." (june 5, 2014) Can someone tell me more about what this "good judgment" is, please? I studied philosophy in college and I can't recall any of my professors ever suggesting that there was some elusive guiding principle in philosophy beyond what could be articulated...Instead, I was taught that it was about starting with premises and then executing deductive reasoning. Are you now saying that there's something mystical in there that philosophers can't articulate but which guides their work? That seems counter the way I learned philosophy, where the professors seemed particularly intent on articulating things clearly.

Since I was the one that introduced the concept of "good judgment" I feel I should explain. I am not introducing a mystical concept; just one that we currently don't understand very well. Deductive reasoning is lovely but it doesn't get us very far, as Hume discovered. I am all in favor of articulating good judgment. Some have already begun the project e.g. Nelson Goodman in the "new" (now about 60 years old) problem of induction.

Another way of framing the issue is to say that the truth of the conclusion depends not only on the deductive logic used to get there but also on the premises. How do we know that our premises are true? The most we can do is exercise forms of good judgment in choosing them.

I can’t resist offering the follow-up to Miriam Solomon’s response, not because I’ll say what she would say, but precisely because I think I come at this question differently from her. So with any luck you’ll get a second perspective on the same fundamental thought.

Your professors were right to insist on the clear articulation of ideas and on the careful argumentation that takes us from premises to conclusions. Clarity and validity are two of the most important tools that philosophers work with. Some philosophers will agree with me that other tools or techniques are essential as well, such as the method of philosophical interpretation; but calling for more attention to philosophical interpretation does not have to mean neglecting argumentation.

But even if we stick to clear terms and valid arguments, there are going to be more fundamental questions that guide us. What terms are worth clarifying? The important ones, of course. What subjects do we make arguments about? Again, the important ones, the pressing ones, the elusive and rich and meaningful ones. And how do we know which issues are pressing, which questions most in need of answering, which concepts most meaningful to human life? Do we try to understand virtue, or should our powers of argumentation and clarification be directed toward the concept “pumpkin”?

When the questions of importance and priority come up, philosophers almost always have to rely on their good judgment. There is no need to call it mystical, as if everything not governed by the rules of logic were an unformed feeling. But we can say that judgment is not going to be governed by rules. This is how judgment is understood by that non-mystic Kant, whose third major work The Critique of Judgment devotes itself to understanding how one practices certain forms of judgment in the absence of the kinds of rules found in logic.

Professor Solomon may not put the answer in Kantian terms. Nevertheless I trust that her guiding thought is the same as mine, that rule-governed thinking cannot account for or amount to the entirety of philosophy.

I'll just add that, for similar reasons, "good judgement" is equally important in mathematics, and nothing is more deductive than mathematics.

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