Intellectual Excellences of the Judge

  • Tommi Ralli
Part of the Ius Gentium: Comparative Perspectives on Law and Justice book series (IUSGENT, volume 23)


Aspects of legal cases hinge on understanding the situation of the disputants. While categories such as feeling, empathy, law and politics have limited discriminating capacity here, I propose to draw upon the Aristotelian scheme of intellectual virtues. Specifically, I look at how the judge exercises discernment (gnômê) and the comprehension of what others say (synesis). In the context of practical wisdom, Hursthouse has argued that discernment requires experience of exceptions. I add that the judge exercises her discernment by suspending the application of principles to an individual, while listening. Furthermore, I add that the exceptions include experiences lived through, which Hursthouse’s technical view neglects. When using her comprehension to absorb the details of the situation based upon testimony, the judge will have to be open to different perspectives, able to move between them, and yet courageous enough to stand by what she deems right. I conclude with a hypothetical about the judge’s involvement in the process contributing to a better understanding of the other in a global environment.


Scientific Knowledge Practical Wisdom Virtuous Person Legal Process Intellectual Virtue 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre of European Law and PoliticsUniversity of BremenBremenGermany

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