Your Area of Expertise
What do we know? And what do we know we don’t know? That is key to successful (yes, successful) judgment. The problem is we think we know more than we know. Do I know shoes? I am not a shoe maker so I can’t judge the excellence of shoes in a technical sense. However, I am a long time shoe wearer and a shoe looker so I feel competent to judge in those areas. The problem is that can easily spill over into judging the technical construction of shoes, of which I know nothing. Obviously, if my shoes fall apart or I have some shoe needle still sticking out of the sole I can judge the making of that pair of shoes as being faulty. But that doesn’t mean I actually know what goes into making an excellent pair of shoes. But I sure can sound like I know if I get going.
Painting the world with Judgment
So, I don’t like this one particular pair of shoes. That then can translate into recommending to a runner I coach that they avoid that brand. All of a sudden I have taken a specific issue with one specific pair of shoes and painted an entire company with that judgment. That is how it goes in many things, isn’t it. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Judgment can’t, and shouldn’t, be avoided. But it should be implemented when you have knowledge, not when you are ignorant. If I hear enough stories of bad shoes coming from this one company then perhaps I have some reason to judge the company. but to just have a single isolated pair? Not such a good reason to judge anything bigger than that pair of shoes.
One of the reasons I love going to museums is so that I keep up with my expertise. I can’t very well judge my own artwork, or others, if I am not practiced at viewing and exploring art work out in the world. If I want to be a helpful, competent judge for a fellow artist on whether a certain piece is up to snuff or not, don’t I have to have a good foundation AND a current, fresh understanding of art in the world? Otherwise what can I really offer?
Hip as Hip Can Be
It would be as if a man had never moved beyond his 1970s clothing style. Would you trust him to advise or help in judging your fashion choices? Probably not.
Or a woman who has never done her own make up and hair beyond the 80s style she used in High School and then felt competent to judge her friends attempt at contemporary hair or make up circa 2012. Would she be a trusted advisor and judge? No, she wouldn’t be.
Judgment requires both foundational knowledge and contemporary knowledge to be trustworthy.
Drawing and commentary by Marty Coleman
Quote by Apelles, 4th Century BCE, Greek painter