The Department of Philosophy is sponsoring a lecture, “Silence and Salience: The Ethics of Being Judgmental” by Neal Tognazzini, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Western Washington University. Here is an overview of the talk:
Abstract: Part of being adult is realizing that just because something is true doesn’t mean you should say it. But here’s a more controversial maxim: just because it’s true doesn’t mean you should think it. This is more controversial because although it’s reasonable to expect someone to have the self-control necessary to refrain from saying every little thing that crosses their mind, it’s unclear whether anyone has control over what crosses their mind in the first place. And yet we do criticize people for being judgmental, and it sure seems that sometimes such a criticism is warranted. In this talk, I plan to explore the way that our involvement in interpersonal relationships ought to structure our thoughts. My thesis will be that to care about someone is to be oriented toward them, or to see them through a particular mental lens, in a way that produces a particular pattern of salience and silence. That is: caring about someone (at least ideally) has the effect of making some features of that person particularly salient, and silencing or screening off other features from one’s consciousness. One is aptly described as judgmental when one’s thoughts do not display this sort of pattern, indicating a failure to fully adopt the orientation that constitutes properly caring about the person.