Judgment Day; or, Why Everyone but Me Sucks  

rm_connor696 61M
944 posts
7/30/2006 9:40 am

Last Read:
8/3/2006 7:34 am

Judgment Day; or, Why Everyone but Me Sucks


Jesus is said to have remarked, "Judge not, lest you be judged" (Mt 5:1). The usual Christian understanding of this rests on the idea that only God may judge. Humans who judge thus arrogate to themselves a power reserved for the big guy, and to do that is to sin. After all, the pooch allegedly was screwed when Eve accepted the serpent's words "You shall be as gods." But I wonder whether Jesus' claim doesn't speak to a more existential point: when you accept the project of judging, you automatically enable the possiblity--and given human nature, the inevitablity--of judging yourself. And that's a court from which few escape unscathed.

I see a lot of judgments on this site. I myself make many. And I'm not sure how I feel about that.

In one sense judgment can be a pretty bloodless thing. I judge one tree to be taller than another, or one shade of red to be more saturated than another. The only notion of value in play here is the one we use in mathematics when we talk about the value of a variable.

But usually judgments engage our desires. In fact, we usually, and maybe always, make judgments in order to satisfy some desire. Why do we judge that one car has a more powerful engine than its alternatives? Why judge her lips to be kissable or her sense of humor to be wicked, his abs to be rock hard or his manner to be easy? We make the judgments because either we desire those things or they are means to other things that we desire.

And here is where it gets tricky. Most of us at least give lip service to the idea that desires are typically value neutral. You have a taste for beets or you don't. The desire says little about you and even less about beets. De gustibus non est disputandum and all that. But of course that's not how it feels inside. We all too often change what is a two-place predicate, a statement about one's relation to an object or quality ("I like something" ), to a one-place predicate--namely, the claim that the thing itself is good or bad.

And in some cases that kind of thinking seems acceptable even when explicitly articulated. Most people view moral judgments in this light. For example, to say that pedophilia is bad is not, most think, merely to say that people don't like it; rather, it is to say that the act itself has some inherently objectionable quality. We don't say that it's bad because we don't like it; we say that we don't like it because it's bad. As a corollary, we then infer that those who engage in pedophilia are themselves bad or at least are acting badly.

People sometimes view aesthetic judgments in the same light. Quite often a person will reject, say, Lawrence Welk's music as bad in itself, with that badness serving to explain the person's dislike of it: I hate it because it's crap. Here, though, we often don't reject the Welk fan as bad in him- or herself (although that does happen).

For the rest? Well, I think the danger is that even here we attribute our likes and dislikes to the thing itself. And of course we can always point to some objective feature to which we object. But does that make the feature objectionable in itself? If so, then all those who like the thing must themselves be defective in some sense. At least that's how it can feel.

Me, I don't think much of rimming. It's just not my cup of tea. I certainly would never do it to anyone else, and were a woman to do it to me, I really would want her to brush her teeth before kissing me. Nevertheless, when I hear of a man who feels compelled to brush his teeth after oral sex with his wife/girlfriend/partner, I often think, "What a doofuss." And yet, what's the difference? I mean, I know the difference--I know, that is, "which end's up"--but where does a difference in value come into play? Only in divergent desires, obviously, and it's difficult to see that as anything more than a matter of taste--in this case, literally.

Me, I prefer longer hair to short, fuller lips to thin, smarter women to less smart ones, and women who are noisy and talkative while fucking to those who stay quiet. I also hate bad grammar. But I recognize that these are simply my tastes--and in fact I've had pleasant and fulfilling relationships where one or more of these preferences were not met. I also feel very uncomfortable regarding people who want to "cheat" on their spouses--to play around without their spouses' knowledge and against their spouses' wishes. And here I move toward the other pole. Is dishonesty a moral failing? I guess I think it is. I realize that there may be all sorts of extenuating circumstances, but I take dishonesty to be prima facie wrong. Even when I'm not being asked to to play that game, I tend to judge the person who does, even though I recognize that there may be many, many mitigating factors.

This still leaves a troublingly large gray area. I've been seeing a woman over the last few weeks. I like many things about her, but some give me pause. In particular, she's a bit . . . well, the word "passive" might leave the wrong impression, but she is not active. She lacks spunk, at least in nonsexual mattrers. She doesn't dance; she doesn't really do any physical activity other than yoga. She doesn't get drunk and whoop it up or ever get in your face. All her amusements are still, quite ones. And although I'm missing intimacy almost more than I bear, this life in a minor key may be a deal breaker for us. Do I think that speaks to her intrinsic worth? No, of course not--there's nothing wrong with yoga or reading, and I've done both myself--and yet it sometimes feels that way (which is in itself probably a sign that I should not pursue the relation).

But even in those cases where you do feel inclined to judge the other person not just as falling outside your preferences but as somehow "wrong," insults seem needlessly mean. A simple "No, thanks" is all you need. Of course, insults may be appropriate when responding to prior insults directed toward you. But otherwise, why not just walk away?

Sheesh, I just don't know. I can be elitist. And going back to the beginning of this line of thought, I can judge myself pretty harshly, sometimes more harshly than I judge others. But in so many cases the judgments continue to seem valid--even while those of others' don't. I was really surprised to see that a certain "vanilla" dating site allows you to list "brainiacs" among the types you dislike. What, I thought, how can being smart ever be a bad thing? And yet people clearly took it to be so. And then too, the very term seemed insulting. Why not put the matter in more neutral terms?

I won't apologize for having certain tastes. That in part makes me who I am. I just wish I knew how to feel about those more potent judgments.

florallei 100F

7/30/2006 5:26 pm

Connor,

It seems clear how you feel about the more potent judgments...cheating partners even in extenuating circumstances you deem them dishonest...am confused...you began saying so many here judge...you included...and you don't know how you feel about that...well you dislike it and you judge those of us who are cheating...
You will see many on this site being it is freer here to act on our needs that are unfulfilled...Is it time for you to re-think which site you should be in? Does this mean you respect me less because I am a cheater?
I also make no excuses for my failings. I have needs that I am not willing to put on a shelf. I am still young and I love my partner deeply but he can't give me all that I need.
I suppose in the end you must make your stand and that is your choice...I am just glad that it is only God's judgment that matters most. I am a sinner! I don't like it! I don't want to hurt anyone! I do however believe that there are far worse sins than cheating on a partner. It is man's moral codes that has placed fornication side by side with murder.
If you do not want fornicators and adulterers visiting your blog, that will point the finger to most of us here if not all of us. I am sorry if you think me as dishonest.

flo


rm_connor696 61M
834 posts
7/30/2006 8:44 pm

Florallei--

This is a long response because yours deserves it--and more. I'm obviously conflicted about all this. But I can say a couple of things with certainty: (1) I'm clearly no Buddha or saint or whatever, so in that "physician, heal thyself" context, I'm going to need a lot of chicken soup. My own behavior has too often been far from exemplary, and if anyone wants to cast stones at me, I'm right there with them. (2) I write these posts, but that's it; I have absolutely no interest in trying to determine the people who visit or the things thay might say in response. Hell, I already know what I think (however confused I might be), so unless people who think differently respond, I won't learn anything new. I really do try to keep an open mind. And then, too, my friends sometimes act in less than honorable ways, but I don't turn away from them just because of that--although I might well talk to them about it. I hate to sound like a born-again Christian (I'm an atheist), but it is possible to "hate the sin, not the sinner." In fact, my post was a meditation partly on the unfortunate ease with which we forget just that (and partly on the tendency to see "sin" where there is only dislike).

But dishonesty . . . that's a tough one. I do think it's a big deal. One of the central aspects to personhood is the ability to set one's own projects and goals, to live the life one chooses to live. And for that we need information. So if I hold some project to be important, and someone withholds information relevant to it just because it's convenient to do so, that person has treated me not as a person but as a means to his or her own projects and goal. That person has made me less than a person by undermining my autonomy. And I guess I see dishonesty in a marriage along those lines (and marriage is usually the issue when speaking of "cheating"). If I am deeply invested in having a monogamous relationship and my wife decides that she does not want one but chooses to lie about her actions and emotions so that she can have what she wants, then yes, I believe she is simply ignoring my values to satisfy her own. She is treating me merely as means to her own ends. And that strikes me as something quite different from her not mentioning, say, a taste for smooth jazz even though I despise it. It strikes me as a moral issue, something that does speak not just to a difference of desires but to her as a person. She has done something immoral: she has made me a mere thing to be manipulatied, not a person to be considered. (And I'm pretty sure that everyone here has a moral picture of the world. Eevn slutty people like ourselves usually reject pedophilia--and generally for just this reason: the child can't truly consent.)

And if my hypothetical wife thinks that I ought not have the projects and goals I do have (and perhaps I shouldn't), then she should talk to me about them, not merely discount them.

Fornication? It depends on what you mean. Polyamory doesn't involve deception; neither does an open marriage. Sex enters into morality only as the object of deception. What troubles me, then, is dishonesty, not anything about sex per se.

Gak. I am truly sorry if I hurt your feelings. It was not my intent to insult anyone. But judgments always carry that danger, which is why we need to think about them so carefully. Beyond that, I swore to myself that I would be scrupulously honest in this blog, even if that meant opening myself to ridicule, contempt, or hostility. I don't seek those things, but I recognize the possibility. Above all, however, I'm not looking to injure or anger anyone. These thoughts were on my mind, is all. If you think I've gone wrong somewhere, tell me, please. I would really like to know.

After all, I'm just stumbling through the dark, exactly like everyone else. (Although in hindsight, I probably should have avoided the cutesy subtitle. It's an oblique reference to Nietzsche, who was never shy about judging others.)


rm_connor696 replies on 7/30/2006 8:47 pm:
Florallei--

Argh--that's not supposed to be an emoticon after the word "cheating." I keep forgetting that you get one of them unless you put a space before the closing parenthesis. Nothing in what I wrote strikes me as funny in the least.

florallei 100F

7/30/2006 11:08 pm

Connor,

I am an outspoken woman and at times I wonder especially in this site that there are those who strongly frown upon the attached or married ones.
I truly appreciate your kind explanation. I only wanted to know where I stood with you for I am also strong enough to accept that not everyone will accept my choices in life.
I like how you said it that we can hate the sin and not the sinner. It makes me glad that even when we disagree on even moral grounds we can still interact with no malicious intent. I respect your view and I apologize if I went on the defense of wondering what you were really saying. Communication is such a gift isn't it?
Your humility is admirable and again thank you kindly for the special consideration. Does this mean we are still friends? I consider you still and intend to build on this friendship.
flo


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