Ever since Aristotle, the faculty of judgment has been deemed an essential component of what makes humans human. Other living entities can feel, perceive, and physically react to sensory information, but only humans can break this information into discrete units, assess their implications, and then form an idea or will an action in response to that information. This latter process is judgment, and it is central to some of the most foundational elements of human society, including participatory politics, secular law, and experimental science. Up to this point, the early modern period in England has been neglected in scholarly work on judgment. The focus, instead, has been on eighteenth-century philosophy and literature, sometimes with attention given to ancient or contemporary contexts as well.
The SNSF project “Theater and Judgment in Early Modern England” will address this gap for the first time, placing particular emphasis on the crucial role of theater in the development of judgment. The project’s working hypothesis is that plays and performances disseminated techniques of judgment among a broad audience of playgoers and readers. Understanding how this process worked will change received critical narratives about the history of judgment more broadly.