Sunday, 16 October 2011

The Non-Judgemental Fallacy

The much vaunted 'virtue' of being Non-Judgemental is of course fallacious and self-contradictory. To adopt a non-judgemental approach (say to counselling) is to make a judgement that such an approach is appropriate, is likely to be helpful, is probably better than a judgemental approach.

Further, it is nearly always, in practice, a pretence. People are happy being non-judgemental about the issues they do not feel strongly about. But if someone were proposing murder, re-introducing slavery, setting up racially discriminating schools, canonising Hitler... would a non-judgemental approach be sustained? I suspect not. So what one really says in adopting a non-judemental approach is that in this case, by my values, the stakes are not very high.
Moreover it rests on unproven, and potentially flawed premises: that the free and autonomous choice of an individual is the best in any situation. But who can say that a woman considering aborting her child (for example) is acting free from external pressures? Or even that she is, in the truest sense, 'of sound mind' when she is in shock at discovering she is unexpectedly pregnant? There is plenty of research on the impact of such shocks on people's ability to think clearly. And even if she is free from any pressure, and of completely sound mind, if her decision involves taking the life of someone else, how can one, morally, refrain from passing a judgement on that decision, and (in most circumstances) communicating that judgement to her. Such silence is complicit and a failure of charity.

Finally, it is probably a lie. It implies that all outcomes are of equal merit; and that an individual has the right - and indeed the ability - to take decisions individually regardless of the impact on others.

The Christian approach has always been different. Of course we listen with charity to people in distress. We may well help them to express and think about their crisis through questions and paraphrasing, and the other tools of the skilled listener. We strive not to judge them, their motivations or the state of their soul. But we do make judgements on actions, proposed and real, and those judgements are based not on our preferences and prejudices, but on the teachings of Christ and His Church. And in most cases, if we are in conversation about such issues, we have a moral duty to help the other party understand those judgements.


Chris (Longmont, CO) said...

I love your writing style. You have a way of speaking in charity and making your point.


Ben Trovato said...

Thanks Chris - it's always reassuring to know there are people our there reading my outpourings... and even enjoying them!