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Andrea Siroki
October 12, 2010
Ways of Knowing Essay:
Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of reason as a way of knowing.
Reason is defined as the capacity for rational thought or inference or discrimination. The doctrine that knowledge is acquired by reason without resort to experience is known as Rationalism, according to which reason is the most important source of knowledge. WilliamDrummond once said, “He that will not reason is a bigot; he that cannot reason is a fool; and he that dares not reason is a slave.” Reasoning is the conclusion in which a human develops based on other ways of knowing such as emotion or language. Through other ways of knowing, the human mind is able to acquire the reason in which conclusion are then created through rational thinking. In otherwords, reasoning cannot stand as an individual way of knowing as well as it can become exceedingly subjective. If reasoning cannot withstand individually and cannot be solely depended on in order to reach a valid conclusion, then how powerful is reasoning as a way of reason? Do humans overestimate the power of reasoning and what it concludes? Or can reason be, in fact, used as a way of knowing andtrusted upon for rational thinking?
Three ways of reasoning are known as deductive and inductive reasoning. Deductive being any form of reasoning that moves from the general to the particular and inductive being any form of reasoning that goes from general to particular. Based on their definitions they are completely different types of reasoning that can be used in order to acquire a rationalconclusion. But to what extent can they be relied upon? A common error in reasoning is known as generalization where the mind takes one case and believes that all cases are the same if and only they contain similarities. For example, “All dogs are mammals. Fido is a dog. Therefore Fido is a mammal.” In this case, Fido is taken as the generalized subject just because he is a dog. Obviously, this exampleis considered to be valid because all dogs are in fact mammals, but what happens when the subject that is being generalized is used upon an incorrect conclusion? For example, there is an amusing video called “Philosophy Topic: Bad Reasoning” where a group of men characterize a woman of being a witch by the mere assumption that she looks like one. However, what do witches look like? What reasoningdid these men develop in order to be convinced of this unreasonable conclusion? The answers to these questions aren’t simple because it involves other ways of knowing such as emotion and language; thus supporting the claim that reasoning cannot be present alone. The men in this video placed a carrot as the lady’s nose, a cone shaped hat as well as an oversized coat because that’s how they portraywitches to be. Language and emotion were influencing factors that helped these men reach the conclusion that the lady was a witch. However, this is an example of bad reasoning; one of the many weaknesses found in reasoning.
The other way of reasoning is known as Inductive reasoning which is the complete opposite from deductive reasoning. For example, “Metal A expands when heated; metal Bexpands when heated; metal C expands when heated. Therefore, all metals expand when heated.” This is an example of reasoning from a particular case, to the general overview. Although Induction reasoning is more informative than deductive reasoning, it is considered to be less certain because of the generalization being taken. Inductive reasoning goes beyond the immediate evidence of our senses and thuswe cannot always rely on it. This is why humans create hasty generalizations, one of the ten deadly fallacies produced by reasoning. However, there are several examples in which generalizations can be relied upon and considered to be trustworthy. For example, if you see observe a person falling from a chair when he or she tips the chair back it is most likely that that will always occur. In this...