Suspension of judgment

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Suspended judgment is a cognitive process and a rational state of mind in which one withholds judgments, particularly on the drawing of moral or ethical conclusions. The opposite of suspension of judgment is premature judgment, usually shortened to prejudice. While prejudgment involves drawing a conclusion or making a judgment before having the information relevant to such a judgment, suspension of judgment involves waiting for all the facts before making a decision.

Suspension of judgment is a cornerstone of standard research methodology. Much of the scientific method is designed to encourage the suspension of judgments until observations can be made, tested, and verified through peer review. The advance of social science often depends on excluding cognitive bias, of which many forms are known.

Within philosophy, the suspension of judgment is typically associated with skepticism and positivism, but it is not limited to these areas. The 17th century rationalist René Descartes, for example, used it as the cornerstone of his epistemology. In a process that he called methodological skepticism, he asserted that in order to gain a solid foundation when building one's system of knowledge and belief, one must first doubt everything. Only by eliminating preconceptions and prejudgments can one come to know what is true.

Suspension of judgment is also a term used in civil law to indicate a court's decision to nullify a civil judgment. More generally in jurisprudence, the ideal juror is expected to presume innocence of the person tried in court. And in the case of conviction, a suspended sentence is one of the possible sentences available to the court.

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