Thomas Reid.

The works of Thomas Reid, D.D.; now fully collected, with selections from his umpublished letters online

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the like may be said of memory, and of
consciousness. Whether judgment ought
to be called a necessary concomitant of
these operations, or rather a part or in-
gredient of them, I do not dispute ; but it
is certain that all of them are accompanied
with a determination that something is
true or false, and a consequent belief. If
this determination be not judgment, it is
an operation that has got no name ; for it
is not simple apprehension, neither is it
reasoning; it is a mental affirmation or
negation ; it may be expressed by a propo-
sition affirmative or negative, and it is
accompanied with the firmest belief. These
are the characteristics of judgment ; and I
must call it judgment, till I can find another
name to it.

The judgments we form are either of
things necessary, or of things contingent-
That three times three is nine, that the
whole is greater than a part, are judg-
ments about things necessary. [502] Our
assent to such necessary propositions is not
grounded upon any operation of sense, of
memory, or of consciousness, nor does it
require their concurrence ; it is unaccom-
panied by any other operation but that of
conception, which must accompany all judg-
ment ; we may therefore call this judgment
of things necessary pure judgment. Our
judgment of things contingent must always
rest upon some other operation of the mind,
such as sense, or memory, or consciousness,
or credit in testimony, which is itself
grounded upon sense.

That I now write upon a table covered
with green cloth, is a contingent event,
which I judge to be most undoubtedly true.
My judgment is grounded upon my percep-
tion, and is a necessary concomitant or in-
gredient of my perception. That I dined

* In so far as there can be Consciousness, there
must bo Judgment,— H.





with such a company yesterday, I judge to
be true, because I remember it ;. and my
judgment necessarily goes along with this
remembrance, or makes a part of it.

There are many forms of speech in com-
mon language which shew that the senses,
memory and consciousness, are considered
as judging faculties. We say that a man
judges of colours by his eye, of sounds by
h'is ear. We speak of the evidence of sense,
the evidence of memory, the evidence of
consciousness. Evidence is the ground of
judgment ; and when we see evidence, it is
impossible not to judge.

When we speak of seeing or remember-
ing anything, we, indeed, hardly ever add
that we judge it to be true. But the rea-
son of this appears to be, that such an
addition would be mere superfluity of
speech, because every one knows that
what I see or remember, I must judge to
be true, and cannot do otherwise.

And, for the same reason, in speaking of
anything that is self-evident or strictly de-
monstrated, we do not say that we judge
it to be true. This would be superfluity
of speech, because every man knows th^t we
must judge that to be true which we hold
self-evident or demonstrated. [503]

When you say you saw such a thing, or
that you distinctly remember it, or when
you say of any proposition that it is self-
• evident, or strictly demonstrated, it would
be ridiculous after this to ask whether you
judge it to be true ; nor would it be less
ridiculous in you to inform us that you do.
It would be a superfluity of speech of the
same kind as if, not content with saying
that you saw such an object, you should
add that you saw it with your eyes.

There is, therefore, good reason why, in
speaking or writing, judgment should not
be expressly mentioned, when all men know
it to be necessarily implied ; that is, when
there can be no doubt. In such cases, we
barely mention the evidence. But when
the evidence mentioned leaves room for
doubt, then, without any superfluity or tau-
tology, we say we judge the thing to be so,
because this is not implied in what was said
before. A woman with child never says,
that, going such a journey, she carried her
child along with her. We know that, while
it is in her womb, she must carry it along
with her. There are some operations of
mind that may be said to carry judgment
in their womb, and can no more leave it
behind them than the pregnant woman can
leave her child. Therefore, in speaking of
such operations, it is not expressed.

Perhaps this manner of speaking may
have led philosophers into the opinion that,
in perception by the senses, in memory,
and in consciousness, there is no judgment
at all. Because it is not mentioned in

speaking of these faculties, they conclude
that it does not accompany them ; that they
are only different modes of simple appre-
hension, or of acquiring ideas ; and that it
is no part of their office to judge. [504]

I apprehend the same cause has led Mr
Locke into a notion of judgment which I
take to be peculiar to him. He thinks that
the mind has two faculties conversant about
truth and falsehood. First, knowledge;
and, secondly, judgment. In the first, the
perception of the agreement or disagree-
ment of the ideas is certain. In the second,
it is not certain, but probable only.

According to this notion of judgment, it
is not by judgment that I perceive that two
and three make five ; it is by the faculty of
knowledge. I apprehend there can be no
kuowledge without judgment, though there
may be judgment without that certainty
which we commonly call knowledge.

Mr Locke, in another place of hi3 Essay,
tells us, " That the notice we have by our
senses of the existence of things without us,
though not altogether so certain as our in-
tuitive knowledge, or the deductions of our
reason about abstract ideas, yet is an as-
surance that deserves the name of know-
ledge." I think, by this account of it, and
by his definitions before given of knowledge
and judgment, it deserves as well the name
of judgment.

That I may avoid disputes about the
meaning of words, I wish the reader to un-
derstand, that I give the name of judgment
to every determination of the mind con-
cerning what is true or what is false. This,
I think, is what logicians, from the days of
Aristotle, have called judgment. Whether
it be called one faculty, as I think it has
always been, or whether a philosopher
chooses to split it into two, seems not very
material. And, if it be granted that, by our
senses, our memory, and consciousness, we
not only have ideas or simple apprehen-
sions, but form determinations concerning
what is true and what is false — whether
these determinations ought to be called
knowledge or judgment, is of small moment.

The judgments grounded upon the evi-
dence of sense, of memory, and of conscious-
ness, put all men upon a level. The phi-
losopher, with regard to these, has no pre-
rogative above the illiterate, or even abovG
the savage.

Their reliance upon the testimony of
these faculties is as firm and as well
grounded as his. His superiority is in
judgments of another kind — in judgments
about things abstract and necessary. And
he is unwilling to give the name of judg-
ment to that wherein the most ignorant
and unimproved of the species are hia



[essay n

But philosophers have never been able
to give any definition of judgment which
does not apply to the determinations of
our senses, our memory, and conscious-
ness, nor any definition of simple appre-
hension which can comprehend those deter-

Our judgments of this kind are purely
the gift of Nature, nor do they admit of
improvement by culture. The memory of
one man may be more tenacious than that
of another ; but both rely with equal assur-
ance upon what they distinctly remember.
One man's sight may be more acute, or his
feeling more delicate, than that of another;
but both give equal credit to the distinct
testimony of their sight and touch.

And, as we have this belief by the con-
stitution of our nature, without any effort
of our own, so no effort of ours can over-
turn it.

The sceptic may perhaps persuade him-
self, in general, that he has no. ground to
believe his senses or his memory : but, in
particular cases that are interesting, his
disbelief vanishes, and he finds himself
under a necessity of believing both. [506^]

These judgments may, in the strictest
sense, be called judgments of nature. Na-
ture has subjected us to them, whether we
will or not. They are neither got, nor can
they be lost by any use or abuse of our
faculties ; and it is evidently necessary for
our preservation that it should be so. For,
if belief in our senses and in our memory
were to be learned by culture, the race of
men would perish before they learned this
lesson. It is necessary to all men for their
being and preservation, and therefore is
unconditionally given to all men by the
Author of Nature.

I acknowledge that, if we were to rest
in those judgments of Nature of which we
now speak, without building others upon
them, they would not entitle us to the deno-
mination of reasonable beings. But yet
they ought not to be despised, for they are
the foundation upon which the grand super-
structure of human knowledge must be
raised. And, as in other superstructures
the foundation is commonly overlooked, so
it has been in this. The more sublime
attainments of the human mind have at-
tracted the attention of philosophers, while
they have bestowed but a careless glance
upon the humble foundation on which the
whole fabric rests.

A fourth observation is, that some exer-
cise of judgment is necessary in the forma-
tion of all abstract and general conceptions,
whether more simple or more complex ; in
dividing, in defining, and, in general, in
forming all clear and distinct conceptions
of things, which are tlie only fit materials
of reasoning.

These operations are allied to each other,
and therefore I bring them under one ob-
servation. They are more allied to our
rational nature than those mentioned in the
last observation, and therefore are consi-
dered by themselves.

That I may not be mistaken, it may be
observed that I do not say that abstract
notions, or other accurate notions of things,
after they have been formed, cannot be
barely conceived without any exercise of
judgment about them. I doubt not that
they may : but what I say is, that, in their
formation in the mind at first, there must
be some exercise of judgment. [507]

It is impossible to distinguish the different
attributes belonging to the same subject,
without judging that they are really different
and distinguishable, and that they have that
relation to the subject which logicians ex-
press, by saying that they may be predicated
of it. We cannot generalise, without judg-
ing that the same attribute does or may be-
long to many individuals. It has been
shewn that our simplest general notions
are formed by these two operations of dis-
tinguishing and generalising ; judgment
therefore is exercised in forming the simplest
general notions.

In those that are more complex, and
which have been shewn to be formed by
combining the more simple, there is another
act of the judgment required; for such
combinations are not made at random, but
for an end ; and judgment is employed in
fitting them to that end. We form complex
general notions for conveniency of arrang-
ing our thoughts in discourse and reasoning ;
and, therefore, of an infinite number of com-
binations that might be formed, we choose
only those that are useful and necessary.

That judgment must be employed in
dividing as well as in distinguishing, ap-
pears evident. It is one thing to divide a
subject properly, another to cut it in pieces.
Hoc-non est dividere, sedfrangere rem, said
Cicero, when he censured an improper
division of Epicurus. Reason has discovered
rules of division, which have been known
to logicians more than two thousand years.

There are rules likewise of definition of
no less antiquity and authority. A man
may no doubt divide or define properly with-
out attending to the rules, or even without
knowing them. But this can only be when
he has judgment to perceive that to be right
in a particular case, which the rule de-
termines to be right in all cases.

I add in general, that, without some de-
gree of judgment, we can form no accurate
and distinct notions of things ; so that one
province of judgment is, to aid us in form-
ing clear and distinct conceptions of things,
which are the only fit materials for reason-
ing. [508]





Thig will probably appear to be a paradox
to philosophers, who have always considered
the formation of ideas of every kind as be-
longing to simple apprehension ; and that
the sole province of judgment is to put them
together in affirmative or negative proposi-
tions ; and therefore it requires some con-

Fint, I think it necessarily follows, from
what has been already said in this observa-
tion. For if, without some degree of judg-
ment, a man can neither distinguish, nor
divide, nor define, nor form any general
notion, simple or complex, he surely, with-
out some degree of judgment, cannot have
in his mind the materials necessary to

There cannot be any proposition in lan-
guage which does not involve some general
conception. The proposition, that I exist,
which Des Cartes thought the first of all
truths, and the foundation of all knowledge,
cannot be conceived without the conception
of existence, one of the most abstract general
conceptions- A man cannot believe his own
existence, or the existence of anything he
sees or remembers, until he has so much
judgment as to distinguish things that really
exist from things which are only coneeived.
He sees a man six feet high ; he conceives
a man sixty feet high : he judges the first
object to exist, because he sees it ; the
second he does not judge to exist, because
he only conceives it. Now, I would ask,
Whether he can attribute existence to the
first object, and not to the second, without
knowing what existence means ? It is im-

How early the notion of existence enters
into the mind, I cannot determine ; but it
must certainly be in the mind as soon as
we can affirm of anything, with understand-
ing, that it exists. [509]

In every other proposition, the predicate,
at least, must be a general notion — a pre-
dicable and an universal being one and the
same. Besides this, every proposition either
affirms or denies. And no man can have
a distinct conception of a proposition, who
. does not understand distinctly the meaning
of affirming or denying. But these are very
general conceptions, and, as was before
observed, are derived from judgment, as
their source and origin.

I am sensible that a strong objection may
be made to this reasoning, and that it may
seem to lead to an absurdity or a contra-
diction. It may be said, that every judg-
ment is a mental affirmation or negation.
If, therefore, some previous exercise of
judgment be necessary to understand what
is meant by affirmation or negation, the
exercise of judgment must go before any
judgment which is absurd.

In like manner, every judgment may be

expressed by a proposition, and a proposi-
tion must be conceived before we can judge
of it. If, therefore, we cannot conceive the
meaning of a proposition without a previous
exercise of judgment, it follows that judg-
ment must be previous to the conception of
any proposition, and at the same time that
the conception of a proposition must be pre-
vious to all judgment, which is a contra-

The reader may please to observe, that
I have limited what I have said to distinct
conception, and some degree of judgment ;
and it is by this means I hope to avoid this
labyrinth of absurdity and contradiction.
The faculties of conception and judgment
have an infancy and a maturity as man has.
What I have said is limited to their mature
state. I believe in their infant state they
are very weak and indistinct ; and that, by
imperceptible degrees, they grow to ma-
turity, each giving aid to the other, and
receiving aid from it. But which of them
first began this friendly intercourse, is be-
yond my ability to determine. It is like
the question concerning the bird and the
egg. [510]

In the present state of things, it is true
that every bird comes from an egg, and
every egg from a bird ; and each may be
said to be previous to the other. But, if
we go back to the origin of things, there
must have been some bird that did not
come from any egg, or some egg that did
not come from any bird.

In like manner, in the mature state of
man, distinct conception of a proposition
supposes some previous exercise of judg-
ment, and distinct judgment supposes dis-
tinct conception. Each may truly be said
to come from the other, as the bird from
the egg, and the egg from the bird. But,
if we. trace back this succession to its origin

that is, to the first proposition that was

ever conceived by the man, and the first
judgment he ever formed — I determine no-
thing about them, nor do I know in what
order, or how, they were produced, any
more than how the bones grow in the
womb of her that is with child.

The first exercise of these faculties of
conception and judgment is hid, like the
sources of the Nile, in an unknown region.

The necessity of some degree of judg-
ment to clear and distinct conceptions of
things, may, I think, be illustrated by this

An artist, suppose a carpenter, cannot
work in his art without tools, and these
tools must be made by art. The exercise
of the art, therefore, is necessary to make
the tools, and the tools are necessary to the
exercise of the art. There is the same
appearance of contradiction, as in what I
have advanced concerning the necessity of
2 E




some degree of judgment, in order to form
clear and distinct conceptions of things.
These are the tools we must use in judging
and in reasoning, and without them must
make very bungling work ; yet these tools
cannot be made without some exercise of
judgment. [511]

The necessity of some degree of judg-
ment in forming accurate and distinct no-
tions of things will farther appear, if we
consider attentively what notions we can
form, without any aid of judgment, of the
objects of sense, of the operations of our
own minds, or of the relations of things.

To begin with the objects of sense. It
is acknowledged, on all hands, that the first
notions we have of sensible objects are got
by the external senses only, and probably
before judgment is brought forth ; but these
first notions are neither simple, nor are
they accurate and distinct : they are gross
and indistinct, and, like the chaos, a ruiis
indigestaque moles. Before we can have
any distinct notion of this mass, it must be
analysed ; the heterogeneous parts must be
separated in our conception, and the simple
elements, which before lay hid in the com-
mon mass, must first be distinguished, and
then put together into one whole.

In this way it is that we form distinct
notions even of the objects of sense ; but
this process of analysis and composition, by
habit, becomes so easy, and is performed
so readily, that we are apt to overlook it,
and to impute the distinct notion we have
formed of the object to the senses alone ;
and this we are the more prone to do
because, when once we have distinguished
the sensible qualities of the object from
one another, the sense gives testimony to
each of them.

You perceive, for instance, an object
white, round, and a foot in diameter. I
grant that you perceive all these attributes
of the object by sense ; but, if you had not
been able to distinguish the colour from
the figure, and both from the magnitude,
your senses would only have given you one
complex and confused notion of all these
mingled together.

A man who is able to say with under-
standing, or to determine in his own mind,
that this object is white, must have distin-
guished whiteness from other attributes.
If he has not made this distinction, he does
not understand what he says. [512]

Suppose a cube of brass to be presented
at the same time to a child of a year old
and to a man. The regularity of the figure
will attract the attention of both. Both
have the senses of sight and of touch in
equal perfection ; and, therefore, if any-
thing be discovered in this object by the
man, which cannot be discovered by the
child, it must be owing, not to the senses,

but to some other faculty which the child
has not yet attained.

First, then, the man can easily distin-
guish the body from the surface which
terminates it ; this the child cannot do.
Secondly, The man can perceive that this
surface is made up of six planes of the same
figure and magnitude ; the child cannot
discover this. Thirdly, The man perceives
that each of these planes has four equal
sides and four equal angles ; and that the
opposite sides of each plane and the oppo-
site planes are parallel.

It will surely be allowed, that a man of
ordinary judgment may observe all this in
a cube which he makes an object of con-
templation, and takes time to consider;
that he may give the name of a square to
a plane terminated by four equal sides and
four equal angles ; and the name of a cube
to a solid terminated by six equal squares :
all this is nothing else but analysing the
figure of the object presented to his senses
into its simplest elements, and again com-
pounding it of those elements.

By this analysis and composition two
effects are produced. First, From the one
complex object which his senses presented,
though one of the most simple the senses
can present, he educes many simple and
distinct notions of right lines, angles, plain
surface, solid, equality, parallelism ; notions
which the child has not yet faculties to
attain. Secondly, When he considers the
cube as compounded of these elements, put
together in a certain order, he has then,
and not before, a distinct and scientific
notion of a cube. The child neither con-
ceives those elements, nor in what order
they must be put together in order to make
a cube ; and, therefore, has no accurate
notion of a cube which can make it a sub-
ject of reasoning. [513]

Whence I think we may conclude, that
the notion which we have from the senses
alone, even of the simplest objects of sense,
is indistinct and incapable of being either
described or reasoned upon, until it is ana-
lysed into its simple elements, and con-
sidered as compounded of those elements.

If we should apply this reasoning to more
complex objects of sense, the conclusion
would be still more evident. A dog may be
taught to turn a jack, but he can never be
taught to have a distinct notion of ?. jack.
He sees every part as well as a man ; but
the relation of the parts to one another
and to the whole, he has not judgment to

A distinct notion of an object, even of
sense, is never got in an instant ; but the
sense performs its office in an instant. Time
is not required to see it better, but to analyse
it, to distinguish the different parts, and their
relation to one another and to the whole.




Hence it is that, when any vehement
passion or emotion hinders the cool applica-
tion of judgment, we get no distinct notion
of an object, even though the sense be long
directed to it. A man who is put into a
panic, by thinking he sees a ghost, may
stare at it long without having any distinct
notion of it ; it is his understanding, and
not his sense, that is disturbed by his horror.
If he can lay that aside, judgment immedi-
ately enters upon its office, and examines
the length and breadth, the colour, and
figure, and distance of the object. Of these,
while his panic lasted, he had no distinct
notion, though his eyes were open all the

When the eye of sense is open, but that
of judgment shut by a panic, or any violent
emotion that engrosses the mind, we see
things confusedly, and probably much in the
same manner that brutes and perfect idiots
do, and infants before the use of judgment.

There are, therefore, notions of the objects
of sense which are gross and indistinct, and
there are others that are distinct and scienti-
fic. The former may be got from the senses
alone, but the latter cannot be obtained with-
out some degree of judgment.

The clear and accurate notions which
geometry presents to us of a point, a right

Online LibraryThomas ReidThe works of Thomas Reid, D.D.; now fully collected, with selections from his umpublished letters → online text (page 94 of 114)