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How do we know reason is right ?

  1. Jun 21, 2004 #1
    how do we know that reason is right ? to take an example from the ancient islamic philosopher al-ghazali (who used it to support a need for God and divine support (though I might not go the same route)), if we lacked reason, we would assume that the senses are correct and accurate; reason shows us otherwise (ie, senses can misrepresent the size of buildings in the distance, etc.). We think reason is accurate; what if some greater faculty exists which would prove reason wrong just as reason proved the senses wrong, yet we simply cannot see it because we lack it. Where would the ceiling to this kind of doubt be ? No system can confirm its own validity without arguing in a circle (though, of course, this is an assumption based on reason; if reason is wrong, this assertion might be also)
    any thoughts ?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 21, 2004 #2
    I think my reasons are never incorrect because of the retarded forces.
    That counts and perhaps clearifies everything. (smile)
    Sometimes, a strong belief in something can also help me go out of the dark...I believe in what I love to do,
    Some say I am blind and slow, so what matters in reality? (smile)

    -A FreelyBanned member
  4. Jun 22, 2004 #3
    The senses are never "wrong." I don't know what you are talking about ... Sense perception is axiomatic, I think you mean sensory evaluation may be flawed. However, your senses are perceiving whatever it is they are perceiving. Reason is based on logical axioms, they are self evident, you cannot justify it. Logic is essentially based on three very simple axioms including the law of identity, law of excluded middle, and law of non-contradiction. Logic is axiomatic, I mean sure you can deny axioms and be a nihilist but you would have no other option but to be comatose, lest you be a hypocrite.
  5. Jun 22, 2004 #4

    mehaps I need to clarify. Perhaps wrong was not the best word; how about instead saying, "the sense do not accurately represent reality". I don't think you can deny that when you eyes tell you that a 20 story building is smaller than your pinky finger (ie, you are standing far away) your eyes are wrong -- its obvious (or at least I hope it is; if I am wrong here then I am in really big trouble). Also, you are not answering the problem, only restating it; you say that logic is built on unquestionable axioms, but I am saying that if you lacked logic you would believe sight to be unquestionable. I am saying that axioms are only unquestionable until something greater and more powerful than logic comes along to unseat them; logic cannot prove itself to be ultimately true -- it offers no way to guarantee its correct understanding or ability to understand reality and it is very possible that tomorrow something above logic, as logic is above sight, will come along and unseat logic, proving that it, just as the senses can, is able to and does vastly misrepresent reality. How could you deny this (this is not a rhetorical question -- I really would like an answer, since I am stumped) ?
  6. Jun 22, 2004 #5
    Logic is ultimately about making judgements, including judgements about other judgements, and so on. How could we judge that some non-logical conception surpasses logic as we know it? Why wouldn't that just be an improved version of logic? How could we all agree that this new conception has transcended our old logic without in fact calling for judgement based on something or another?

    (I suppose we might all knuckle under to the intuitions of some mystic authority-- that's been done before.)
  7. Jun 22, 2004 #6
    first of all, I think you somewhat misunderstand the question. I am not saying that something exists which transcends logic -- I am only saying that logic cannot prove that that something does not exist, and so it cannot ever assure its own validity. As for how we would know that the new system transcends logic, I believe your confusion lies in sticking with logical principles; we would know that the new system transcends logic in the same way that we know that logic transcends the senses -- the new system would just leave no room for doubt and would prove that logic is simply incorrect without relying in any way on logic (note : this is not the same as relying on a mystical authority, since such reliance is not convincing to all people who come into contact with it -- mysticism leaves room, a great deal of room, for doubt. The system I am looking at leaves no such room for anyone, just as if an animal suddenly was able to think logically they would, invariably, have no doubt in the error of the senses). I think people could easily agree to this, again, just as people recognize that logic transcends the senses; if the new system is convincing, then it is and is to everyone -- but remember, it will not be convincing on logical grounds since logic is what is being disproven. Your error is in remaining stuck in the world of logic while trying to talk about something divorced from it, something above and encompassing it; the new system would simply be unrecognizable to us, since we could not conceive of it with or logical minds. It is this type of system that I want to, but seeming cannot disprove (note again, I am not saying it exists -- I am just saying that you can't say it doesn't exist, and so can't say that logic is fundamental or even reliable)

    P.S. : you may try to dismiss this as a useless question, but I think that would be incorrect. I believe that the absoluteness of logic is a fundamental question, something that goes a long way towards advancing skepticism among other positions and so in shaping the most correct (though not necessarily the correct) view of the universe that is presently possible.
  8. Jun 22, 2004 #7
    Well this is not a useless question but I think you have some misconceptions and misunderstanding about logic, axioms, sense perception, and epistemic limitations. Your sense perceptions are not wrong. You keep using this example of some "20 story building" or some such and while I realize your point, this is certainly not a case of sense perception being wrong. Your sense perception is never "wrong," your senses are perceiving whatever it is they are perceiving. Sense perception is axiomatic. Now your evaluations of your perception may be erroneous but this is not necessarily an aspect of logic, in fact logic is not really meant to answer these sorts of problems. Of course we have epistemic limitations but logic is much simpler than what you are alluding to, as stated logic is based one three axioms, which are of course self evident, and most notably, to put in very simple elementary terms, "a thing is whatever it is and isn't whatever it is not." Obviously, there is more to it but it is not this grandiose thing you seem to be alluding to. As far as something more powerful than logic, I don't know what that means. This transcendental system you are dicussing is essentially meaningless. Logic is well suited to answer all the questions which may be answered by logic. Yes, we have epistemic limitations, but logic is a priori and self evident, you may deny logic but you would simply be a nihilist. Logic is self evident, any attempt at justifying logic would be a fool's errand.
  9. Jun 22, 2004 #8
    When a topic turns into a dreary session of reading and characterizing the other participants, then I quit.
  10. Jun 23, 2004 #9
    Quart, here is my wish--it may be slightly the same as your decision....(smile)
    I wish my friend will give a real CUT to the place I have said in another thread
    Quitting is a really good decision you Quart has made !
  11. Jun 23, 2004 #10
    "No reason, just stopped by to say hello"

    Reason is a mental mechanism that is used to process a set of conditions that produces an answer. There are levels and types of reasoning that range from personal to academic. i.e. “ I love my mate because she is compassionate and caring”. So was Mother Teresa but I didn’t marry her.” Yet, I love MT because she had the two attributes that I find appealing in my mate. So to define the reasoning behind my selection of a mate will require more parameters. I also suppose the requisite for this example should have been why I selected my mate. It was a personal choice and the reasoning used in affairs of the heart encompasses this type of thinking and is viewed by certain circles, as thoroughly subjective and unqualified as reasoning. However succinctly, Reasoning is the methodology by which we derive an answer. If the answer is reproducible by another and is upheld by what we hold as necessary and true for the conditions, then our reasoning is correct. A meat grinder grinds meat. In goes the pieces out comes uniform bits of meat. A vehicle traverses what ever terrain it was designed to traverse. Like these mechanisms so goes reasoning, each set of circumstance requires reasoning that is applicable to it.
  12. Jun 23, 2004 #11
    Bottom line, there is no reason to assume reason is absolutely correct, any more than there is a reason to assume our senses are correct. Nor does it matter in my opinion. What matters is that we find them useful and even pleasent.

    There are actually many distinct types of logic. Some are particularly useful in situations where the others are useless and vice versa. The very idea that there is just one kind of reasoning or logic is just a byproduct of thousands of years of western bias towards Aristotelian logic. Your example of someone attempting to prove God exists is an excellent case in point. When Aristotle first formulated his logic people everywhere were quick to jump on the bandwagon and embrace the new kind of reasoning, including not least of all the early christians and Muslims.

    Although scholars have prefered alternative forms of logic and refinements to Aristotelian logic, the lay public still overwhelmingly uses the original Aristotlian version. It seems it is somehow intimately related to how western culture is organized and, possibly, even how the human brain itself is organized.
  13. Jun 24, 2004 #12


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    You don't think there is any reason to assume that our senses are correct? Do you ever stand up and walk? Isn't the fact that you don't run into the wall reason to believe that your senses are correct?
  14. Jun 24, 2004 #13
    Once I dreamed I was a butterfly, or am I really a butterfly dreaming I am a man?
    Chuang tzu

    Often our senses are incorrect, amputees feel fantom pains, psychotic people hear voices, etc.
  15. Jun 24, 2004 #14
    Um,Our senses are connected to the brain right?Logic and Reasoning both co-encides with one another due to the fact that when we ram into a wall, we feel pain(ouch).This reasoning automatically becomes a lesson learnt inside your brain telling you that "dont be stupid and ram into the wall" and lucky enough, our brains can immediately recognise similar risks of experiencing pain.Well,in this case when you talk about logic,there are different kinds of it,so we cannot just focus on on just one particular area.Oh and to answer to Wuli, the reason why the amputees feel the pain,is because the brain pictures the process of their limbs being lost,an example of power of suggestion.Psychotic people can exist in different sorts too,like the Holy men who think that God is speaking to them,is by their own choice.Therefore the brain is also the slave of what we want to believe.
  16. Jun 24, 2004 #15
    The Holy men subject did not target any religion of any race and it was an example,if it affected anyone i apologise for it.
  17. Jun 25, 2004 #16
    Again sense-perception is axiomatic, it is not incorrect. Your evaluations thereof may be erroneous but sense-perception is not wrong. Your senses are actually perceiving whatever it is they are perceiving.
  18. Jun 25, 2004 #17
    I believe reason to be a contradiction in itself, as is life. For every logic there is an illogic. That's my 2 pennies' worth.
  19. Jun 25, 2004 #18
    idontknow, that sounds like bad poetry. I don't even understand your point; it seems like you are trying to find duality everywhere for some strange reason. Sure it sounds insightful ... hm ...
  20. Jun 28, 2004 #19
    I understand what you mean with your questioning our belief in logic. However, logic has taken us pretty far, so it would be strange if it could be proven wrong. I guess it could be "proven" more limited than necessary. It is "strange" that logic works so well, that our universe is logical and so your question is, "is there something out there that is true, but not logical?" (I think, am I wrong?)

    That's a very philosophical question, which cannot be answered logically (he he he) but only by happenstance. It would take us finding a true paradox and even then we could not be sure, because we would be looking for an enlarged set of axioms in whatever description to set it right (get rid of the paradox).

    To perceive such a thing in the real world would require god-like insight.
  21. Jul 13, 2004 #20
    Reason is what you used to form your argument. Knowldege is your basis. You may not move beyond what you know or will know. It seems you infer that you can. This itself is circular. You stand at the limit of what you know now and say, what if there is something that violates everything I know. Then you'd know it, and it would be nothing new. But you could stand again at the edge of that new basis and say the same thing. The basis of what you know causes this circularity and the addition of knowledge cause you to think things are violated, because they bring new perspective.
  22. Jul 13, 2004 #21
    Thou Shall Not Think Nothing

    Last edited: Jul 13, 2004
  23. Jul 14, 2004 #22
    I have two points you might find somewhat helpful (I hope): let's say that this reasoning were correct, and just as reason transcends the senses, something must transcend reason...well, 1) We can only partake of reason and logic through our senses; without our senses we would have no concept of reason (or anything else, for that matter) so reason (which you've placed one step higher than sensory perception) is only seen through that which is a step below it. From this, it follows that we should be able to percieve the next higher thing through that which is one step below it: reason. 2) If you have reasoned on the matter to arrive at the conclusion that reason is subject to flaw, and that there is a higher level to which one can appeal, then you are trusting in reason to be able to deduce this. It's circular.

    Basically, since I can use your reasoning to detect that a higher level of perception may exist, then I should (logically) be able to percieve that level by virtue of my reasoning ability (just as I percieve reasoning by virtue of my sensory ability). Since I cannot, it stands to reason that this next stage does not exist.

    I think you may be missing the fact that the senses extend beyond the organs receptive to external stimuli, into the brain. You see, the "judging" of external stimuli takes place in the brain, and you are separating that process from the "perception" that you imply takes place prior to the "judging". However, the perception also takes place in the mind, and so it is not such a clear-cut distinction (if there is one at all). Thus, our sensory perceptions are no more axiomatic than our judgements that we make about them.
  24. Jul 14, 2004 #23
    Reason is a relation eternally eslaved by its own very nature! To be is to relate.....including when anything stands in relation to its own self. This is a big blow to those who believe in points, singularity, ..and some spooky forms of solipsism. Hence, LOGIC depends entirely on the total and absolute enslavement of Reason by its very nature. Reason, i don't mean to be rude...'I think you're eternally damned'.
  25. Jul 14, 2004 #24


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    What the hell are you people talking about? Reason is what allows us to move beyond the subjective impressions formed in our own psyche. Without reason, we'd have no mathematics, no science, no philosophy. Reason does not enslave us; reason expands our horizons.
  26. Jul 15, 2004 #25
    And mrcmisfire is asking if we need yet further expansion of our horizons. If subjective impressions were not enough, so that reason had to evolve, then what if reason is not enough? At least, I think that's what s/he's asking.
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