Yet, as I realized when I met French exchange students last month, this was, in fact, a hasty statement. Here, if reason as a way of knowing was taken as the standard, the conclusion seemed to be absolutely true; however, the truth was that the process of arriving at the conclusion was faulty. A similar example was seen in the case of the Singaporean government. A few years ago, after implementation of capital punishment, the government saw that the crime rate fell, and immediately deduced that the move was effective.
However, the truth remains that there could have been several other reasons for this drop, such as reduced poverty, or greater literacy, none of which were accounted for. In this case, one sees that the government’s mode of reasoning was not incorrect: but yet, there was a fallacy (post hoc ergo propter hoc),11 which severely obstructed the conclusion. Additionally, the subjective viewpoint of reasoning can cause confrontation. The fact that reasoning is individual-specific12 means that there is a possibility of it being influenced by personal ignorance, laziness or prejudice.
A perfect example would be the current Middle East scenario: each nation embroiled in the conflict, be it Palestine, Israel, Syria or Lebanon, defends their stand strongly using reason: be it the need for a Jewish homeland, the infringement of Palestinian sovereignty or the religious connection as the argument. Yet, the truth remains that all these stands are probably influenced by prejudice: the Israelis are Zionist13, the Palestinians angry at the loss of their homeland, and the Arabs driven by religious solidarity.
Although all their reasoning may be correct, here reasoning provokes confrontation – as it adds a prejudiced certainty and stubbornness to each viewpoint. Furthermore, it is often seen that people build on such prejudiced reasoning, and expand their knowledge claims on the basis of it14. These lead to a faulty knowledge spiral and a chain of ignorance. One also sees that reason can cause a complete lack of empathy and humanity in one’s approach. To elaborate on this, I have to refer to the ancient Indian epic Mahabharata15.
In the epic, the villainous Duryodhana won a gambling match against his cousins, and as per the rules set forth, reasoned that it would be suitable to send them for a 14-year exile period. Using this example, we see that it is definitely justifiable if merely reason is used in the deduction process. However, the fact remains that this comes across as a heartless and cruel act, one that is often condemned and can only be countered through use of emotion. In this way, it is often necessary to maintain a balance with other ways of knowing to eliminate these weaknesses of reason.
Reason definitely develops consistent beliefs, which provide several strengths to its nature. Furthermore, these justified true beliefs are the basis of rational languages, adding a sense of logic and clarity to thoughts. However, it has various doubts shrouded over its use as a way of knowing, resulting in a variety of weaknesses. Hence, it is ideal if balanced by other ways of knowing. For example, as the philosopher Edward De Bono said, reason may be a ‘prison of consistency16’, and needs to be merged with other ways of knowing. Reason is an excellent way of knowing, but it falls desperately short when not used with the others.
Bibliography: Books: Connors, Hamish , Reasoning with life, Colorado: Westview Press, 2005 Kim, Jaegwon, Philosophy of the Mind (Colorado: Westview Press, 2005 Kirkland, George, Knowledge and its aspects, New York: New York University Press, 2001 Lehrer, Keith, Theory of Knowledge. Colorado: Westview Press, 2000 Van de Lagemaat, Richard. Theory of Knowledge for the IB Diploma. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Websites: Nizkor. “The Nizkor Project: 42 fallacies” www. nizkor. org http://www. nizkor. org/features/fallacies/ (Accessed 8th February, 2009) Threes.
“The Book of Threes – Types of Reasoning” www. threes. com http://threes. com/cms/index. php? option=com_content&task=view&id=1849&Itemid=52 (accessed 28th February, 2009)(Accessed 10th February, 2009) 1 Richard van de Lagemaat, Theory of Knowledge for the IB Diploma (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 111 2 Threes. “The Book of Threes – Types of Reasoning” www. threes. com http://threes. com/cms/index. php? option=com_content&task=view&id=1849&Itemid=52 This source identifies three types of logic: deduction (Proof leading to answer), induction (answer first, the proof) and analogy (comparison).
3 A form of reasoning that moves from the general to the particular: it uses available information to come to a conclusion, by logically interpreting them 4 Hamish Connors, Reasoning with life, (Colorado: Westview Press, 2005), 95 5 George Kirkland, Knowledge and its aspects (New York: New York University Press, 2001), 102 6 A concept proposed by Rene Descartes as the only real way of attaining knowledge 7 For example, the Citi Group recently laid off 50000 workers, estimating the total fall in losses as $4mn. 8 Jaegwon Kim, Philosophy of the Mind (Colorado: Westview Press, 2005), 246
9 Nizkor. “The Nizkor Project: 42 fallacies” www. nizkor. org http://www. nizkor. org/features/fallacies/ 10 The concept whereby knowledge moves from specific information to vast generalizations. This is often known as a “bottom-up” approach 11 A fallacy that assumes that one thing is the cause of another, merely because it precedes the other 12 As shown before in the strengths 13 The section of the Jewish society who campaigned for an independent Jewish nation 14 Keith Lehrer, Theory of Knowledge (Colorado: Westview Press, 2000), 84.
15 Famous Indian epic, it forms an important part of Indian mythology. Today, it is a famous text in Hindu mythology. It focuses on the fights and wars between two groups of warring cousins: the Pandavas, and the Kauravas. 16 Richard van de Lagemaat, Theory of Knowledge for the IB Diploma (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 135.