Generally, a value judgment is a bad thing. It means saying that a person's actions are inherently good or (more commonly) inherently bad--especially when this is not true (or at least, not certain, or not necessarily so). It is closely related to a stereotype, although stereotypes are usually caused by ignorance or lack of thought; value judgments tend to have at least some thought put into them.

The only people really qualified to make value judgments are judges and lawmakers (gods also fall into this category), but their jurisdiction in these matters is not universally recognized.

A value judgement can be a wonderful thing. When we see somebody setting our neighbor's house on fire, we scratch our chin and we say, "Golly. That's bad." Over time, we may make such a habit of it that we hire some people to throw the arsonist in jail.

But what about the arsonist? He's making a value judgement too. In this particular case (I happen to know the guy), he's doing the best he can in view of the fact that the house is inhabited by evil spirits from the planet Blooglat. He's making a value judgement about those waves they're transmitting into his head. He knows it's wrong to crucify his dog (that's another value judgement), but he won't be able to help himself if the transmissions don't stop.

Personally, I think he's a little bit confused, but what's he to do? The aluminum foil on the windows just didn't help. And what are the men in white coats to do when they come to take him away? Wouldn't it be terrible if they made a negative value judgement about that poor guy? How unfair. On the other hand, a positive value judgement might raise an eyebrow or two among the neighbors -- and a few more in the homeowner's insurance industry.

None of these people are qualified to make value judgements, and neither are the judges and lawmakers, and neither are we. We're blind. We're mortal. We don't know what the hell we're doing. We do it anyway, in spite of our fallibility, for the same reason we go ahead and vote and raise kids in spite of our fallibility: You can't just lie down and die, so you do the best you can.

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