Reason

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Overview

Reason the mental faculty by which one determines the truth of any given piece of information.

Explaining what reason consists of, or how it works, is difficult without referring to other concepts which themselves are best defined in terms of "reason". This is partly because the basic idea of reasoning is innate in most humans, rather than being something we are taught, and how it works is something which we do not as yet understand completely (although rapid progress is being made; see htyp:artificial intelligence).

Reason is based in large part on logic, but logic itself was derived (and can be seen to "make sense") through the faculty of reason. Reason, then, would seem to be the foundation upon which logic – and all of the other tools with which we aid our innate ability to reason – is built.

It might be said that reason is, essentially, inductive logic applied to the most basic aspects of life. Some examples (not at all a comprehensive list) might include axiomatic facts such as:

  • If something exists in a certain place, it remains there until it moves or is changed into something else (or destroyed)
  • If something is true (exists as a fact), then it doesn't suddenly become untrue without some kind of change
  • If we perceive something and then can no longer perceive it, that doesn't necessarily mean it no longer exists (object persistence)
  • Just because we perceive something doesn't necessarily mean that others can perceive it or even that it really exists outside of our perception

Despite having an innate ability to reason, however, it is also very easy for people to get caught up in lines of thinking which lead to unreasonable conclusions. Philosophers, logicians, mathematicians, and other scientists have come up with a number of ways to provide checks on this sort of thing, so that unreasonable conclusions are more likely to stand out and get checked over carefully before being generally accepted as "true"; these form an essential part of the scientific method, which itself is an essential part of science.

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