Cogitations from Jacques Barzun

Give a man a rating on a scale, call him something-or-other, and no amount of direct evidence will erase the suspicion that he is what he has “scientifically” been called. Hence the modern abdication of direct, responsible judgment by human beings. Judgment, to be sure, depends on comparison, but rarely on mechanical, point-for-point comparison. Rather, it requires the bringing together into one view of many elements differing in kind, probability, and importance; and this comprehensive, eagle-eyed assessment, the highest and most valuable, cannot be done by an inarticulate mind. Only words in their right order and sense can present to the judgment the manifold reality in which objects, memories, immediate ideas, principles, and future purposes commingle. After this presentment, the intuition of the talented and experienced plays its part to produce the decision which the event declares just or true. To dismiss this as “subjective” and always to prefer the inexactitude of crude and pretentious measurements is simply to repudiate tailoring and, as in Gulliver, have one’s clothes made by trigonometry.
(The House of Intellect)


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