Judgment and Action: Fragments Toward a History

Vivisvan Soni and Thomas Pfau (editors)
Northwestern University Press
2018

Written by theologians, literary scholars, political theorists, classicists, and philosophers, the essays address the growing sense that certain key concepts in humanistic scholarship have become suspect, if not downright unintelligible, amid the current plethora of critical methods. These essays aim to reassert the normative force of judgment and action, two concepts at the very core of literary analysis, systematic theology, philosophy, ethics, aesthetics, and other disciplines.

Interpretation is essential to every humanistic discipline, and every interpretation is an act of judgment. Yet the work of interpretation and judgment has been called into question by contemporary methods in the humanities, which incline either toward contextual determination of meaning or toward the suspension of judgment altogether. Action is closely related to judgment and interpretation and like them, it has been rendered questionable. An action is not simply the performance of a deed but requires the deed’s intelligibility, which can be secured only through interpretation and judgment.

Organized into four broad themes—interiority/contemplation, ethics, politics/community, and aesthetics/image—the aim of this broad-ranging and insightful collection is to illuminate the histories of judgment and action, identify critical sites from which rethinking them may begin, clarify how they came to be challenged, and relocate them within a broader intellectual-historical trajectory that renders them intelligible. 

Judgment and Action: Fragments Toward a History