Reasoning as a way of knowing is critically important in our daily lives. To begin with, we live through reasoning and it is rarely left out of our thoughts (Elliot). Secondly, the reasoning is influenced by other ways of knowing such as emotions. In addition, if we leave out other ways of knowing, reason enables us to look at things in a neutral way (Johnson-Laird & Oatley 2000).
The reasoning is used in all areas of knowledge (Thagard and Barnes 1996). This applies to all disciplines be the sciences, social, humanities, arts, languages, or others. In everything we do, we involve reason. It is influenced, however, by other ways of knowing. The reasoning may always be correct. It uses other ways of knowing. Ways and methods of reasoning are varied from situation to situation and person to person.
The reasoning is important as a way of knowing.
Importance of reasoning as a way of knowing
The reasoning is important in our lives because it characterizes the very lives we lead. We involve reasoning in every part of our thoughts at all times. We rarely separate reasoning from our thinking every day. The reasoning is used when we need to induce, deduce, make generalizations, categorize, infer, specify among other things (Johnson-Laird & Oatley 2000).
It is therefore basically impossible to say that we did or acted without reasoning.
One may argue against this and say that it is always necessary to reason when we make decisions on things we need to do. This argument may be based on the fact that sometimes our emotions dictate what we do more than reason. For instance, when one finds that their television set has been smashed and the only person around is their ten–year–old son, they are likely to strike that child without stopping to inquire what happened. The ten-year-old might be innocent after all. This will be an act of emotion rather than reason. However, this argument may not hold any water. Before the person struck their child, they looked at the situation. The television set had been smashed. The child was within the location of the set. It is, therefore, logical to conclude that since children are playful, the child is responsible for the mess. This does not mean that the adult did not reason. It only means that the reasoning was wrong.
Consider another case where a tourist comments on a particular venture. He says that the Mara Park has no lions. His induction is based on the fact that he did not see any lion on his visit to the park. However, another tourist visited a different site within the same park and saw lions. The former observed that he did not see any lion and yet moved around the entire park, then concluded that there are no lions. That was not just use of observation but reason as well. It is wrong reasoning though. Lions are mobile and they might have moved to a different location.
Reasoning is also important because it is influenced by other ways of knowing. It is linked closely with emotion and sense perception ((Johnson-Laird & Oatley, 2000).
Emotions drive people to search for answers. Emotions can be manipulated to accept a certain claim as being true (Reasoning resources). Some reasoning involves replacing means of producing strong emotions in the place of proof for a certain claim. An example is if one knows a particular person to be good, then even if that person commits a crime, one will not believe that he actually did since he is not capable of the same in the eyes of this admirer. It is therefore the liking for that person that leads us to believe he is not capable of crime (Reasoning Resources 2008). This reasoning is fallacious and can be used to persuade.
However, we would say that emotion does not have to be tied with reason. Consider the case of the man who strikes his child for smashing the television set. Then we could say that the man acted out of anger. Anger is an emotion and if we do not tie that act with the man’s wrong reasoning, then we are justified to say that only emotion was involved.
The other importance of reasoning is that if we leave out other ways of knowing, then we can look at things in a neutral way (Johnson-Laird & Oatley, 2000).
This means that emotion or sense of perception will not influence the decisions, conclusions or inferences that wee make. If we consider the case of favoring a person in judgment on the grounds that we like that person, then if our emotions are not put into play, we will be more at ease to administer justice. We may however, not be in a position to put away other ways of knowing in all that we do. This is considering that all these ways go hand in hand and where reasoning is involved, it is likely that emotion or sense of perception, or both are put into play.
Areas of reasoning
Reasoning as a way of knowing is elementary in our daily thinking (Thagard and Barnes 1996). We cannot indicate specific areas and state that reasoning only applies to these areas of life. It is applicable in all disciplines. All areas of knowledge require reasoning. This is regardless of whether the areas are in the category of sciences, languages, art or even humanities. Mathematics for instance uses deductive reasoning. If we have the multiplication of 2 and 3 being 6, then all the multiples of 6 will be divisible by 2 and 3 without a remainder.
We use reason in considering abstract ideas and manipulating them to what we want to attain (Johnson-Laird & Oatley 2000). We use it to write essays, compose narratives or even come up with formulae. We use reason not only to make decisions but also to set goals and move towards the goals. Reasoning is essential in solving problems, arguing and judging. It is reason that enables us to select and make choices (Johnson-Laird & Oatley 2000).
Strengths and weaknesses of reasoning
Reasoning has its strengths and weaknesses though (Thagard and Barnes 1996). One of the strengths is that it allows an individual to rise above our senses. When one observes something, they are able to make inductions. This means that from particular fact, one is able to make a general hypothesis through the use of reason.
On the other hand, reasoning will ultimately enable one to make justifications on issues. Through observation of available evidence, judges for instance are able to administer justice. This is done by putting evidence together and making the most logical conclusion on issues. This also puts personal opinion at bay. Since decisions are made based on observable evidence, then assumptions are inapplicable, just as are cultural restrains.
Reasoning is a science that is useful in every day life (Johnson-Laird & Oatley, 2000).
It is reason for instance that tells not to step into fire. Reasoning tells us that if we do, then we are bound to be burnt and burns are painful. Hence, because pain is not desirable, then we can avoid it by staying away from fire. It is reason that tells us to use a bridge when crossing a river.
Deductive reasoning allows one to sort out abstract concepts. This is beneficial because it gives some form of certainty. In calculations for instance, reason convinces us that we have made correct deductions. In addition, sometimes conclusions are made from assumptions and this is made possible by deductive reasoning (Thagard and Barnes 1996).When reasoning is used together with perception, we are able to see patterns of behavior An example is the calving of a cow. If a certain cow gives birth to a male calf four consecutive times, then we can conclude that even the fifth calf will be male. Our observation of the past trend gives us the pattern that the cow follows.
Reasoning helps us to distinguish between right and wrong. This is dictated by our understanding of acceptable behavior. Not everything will be said about what is acceptable and what is not. If for instance employees are told that eating in the office is prohibited, then reason should tell them that drinking is also not allowed. On the other hand, a newly employed person may observe that the old employees do answer their phone calls in the office. Reason will prevail and they will not answer their phone calls in the office either.
Finally, we survive through reasoning, be it deductive or inductive (Johnson-Laird & Oatley, 2000). Most of the things we do are made possible because we have the power to reason unlike other creatures. It is reason together with the use of our emotions that drives us to make choices and be enthusiastic about what we do.
Reasoning however has its weaknesses as well. Induction does not give as much certainty as deduction. Induction is at times based on assumption but deduction is based on prove. While we are required not to involve our emotions on certain decisions, exclusion of emotion hinders the making of basic decisions.
In addition to these, sometimes we reason in a wrong way. This is often influenced by a number of factors such as pride, ignorance, laziness and prejudice. If we reason in the wrong way, then we are bound to make wrong decisions. Reasoning may suppress creativity (Thagard and Barnes, 1996). This is because we reason by applying theories that are consistent in the world and do not allow for new possibilities. Moreover, in some life situations, we require emotion more than reason and therefore reason loses meaning in such instances. Reason might also lead us to make decisions in a hurry because evidence is not enough.
Reasoning may not always be correct. This depends on the way that it is used. If reasoning is used independent of other ways of knowing, then is regularly correct. However, reasoning often requires that other ways such as emotion and perception be used and this makes it weak. Besides, inductive reasoning is not certain unlike deductive reasoning and it may lead us to make wrong choices and conclusions. It would therefore, it would be wrong to assert that reasoning is always correct. Additionally, the way that a particular person reasons is not the same as the way another will apply reason to the same situation. Hence, the method of reasoning and the circumstances surrounding the time of reasoning will influence reason to a big extent.
From the observations made, our every-day lives are dictated mainly but not entirely by reason. Like other of ways of knowing, reasoning has its strengths and weaknesses. We can move from the particular to the general through induction. Deduction on the other hand gives us some certainty. However, deduction is not in any way a source of truth and induction is not certain. Reasoning is correct only when other ways of knowing are not included such as emotion and perception. Nevertheless, we find that reasoning is not really separable from these other ways of knowing and we often need to incorporate them. This is despite the fact that it is a way of knowing that is independent. When reasoning has to use this other ways of knowing, then it becomes a weakness. This does not however write it off. Since it is an integral part of life and the strengths override the weaknesses, then reasoning is an important aspect of life.
- Johnson-Laird, P & Oatley, K, 2000, Cognitive and social construction in emotions: handbook of emotions. New York: Guilford press.
- Reasoning resources, 2008, “A guide to reasoning from Dr. Mike LaBossiere”.
- Appeal to Emotion
- Thagard, Paul & Barnes, Allison, 1996, “Emotional decisions”. Web.