Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

The limits of reason

  1. Apr 23, 2003 #1

    FZ+

    User Avatar

    Just idle wondering, but I think this is something that may need to be addressed.

    Why do we trust reason? What is reason? Is reason really limitless?

    On one hand, we can see reason as purely a notion we receive from observation. We see this pattern, and we store it in our minds. However, how can we then trust this reason, if it is only obtained from our restricted perspectives. What seems logically incorrect may simply be blocked from us, or not yet learned. Reason is hence limited, simply because we who made it are also limited.

    On the other hand, reason may be a thing that is intrinsic to this universe. Rather, the laws of logic and reason may be the structure that makes up the universe. But then, how does our person sense of reason fit in? How can we justify the idea of reasoned explanations?

    Ok, devil's advocate moment follows...
    So, it seems that a very plausible explanation is that we simply do not have credibility to trust reason, or at least human. Rather, our very belief in reason must be perhaps by definition unreasonable. Logic is an irrational notion.

    Who disagrees? And why?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 23, 2003 #2
    Do you believe the acknowledgment of truth is inborn? If not, then you will "never" know anything. Period.
     
  4. Apr 23, 2003 #3

    drag

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Greetings !
    How do you define unreasonable and irrational then ?

    What we think is everything for us. In this
    data input we see certain patterns. We build
    larger patterns and systems of patterns that
    seem to fit. As we do this - we say that
    it is probable for as yet not received data
    to conform to these patterns and systems of
    entities we already know. Other stuff is
    not probable.

    The difference we make between the concepts of
    a thought(about something) and a belief is that
    a thought should appear probable to us according
    to all the input data we ever recieved and a
    belief should be unprobable. Since we can form
    different patterns and systems and have different
    input data - the thoughts and beliefs may be
    different.

    What we should strive towards is to try to assume
    as little as possible and to do it in a way that
    is only a pure discription of reality rather than
    the addition of more data. Math, as the system that
    deals with patterns, does that for us
    (unfortunetly - 'cause it's so hard :frown: ).

    Live long and prosper.
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2003
  5. Apr 23, 2003 #4

    FZ+

    User Avatar

    What if I acknowledge the truth that the inborn acknowledgement of truth is untrue?
    Ok, in another note, why should the acknowledgement of truth be inborn?
     
  6. Apr 23, 2003 #5
    I think that you are misinterpreting what "reason" is. Reason is not just the pattern that we observe. Reason is really the ability to distinguish such patterns in the first place. So, while reason may be flawed (in that the patterns that we percieve do not really exist), it doesn't necessarily mean that logic is irrational.
     
  7. Apr 23, 2003 #6

    Tom Mattson

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    First, the prescriptive laws of reasoning (aka logic) cannot be proven "right" within the system of logic itself.
    Second, all arguments rely on unproven axioms (aka assumptions).

    I think that the only arguments whose conclusions can be said to be 'absolutely true' are those arguments pertaining to defined Platonic ideal forms. All arguments pertaining to real, concrete objects must have some element of inductive reasoning, and hence all conclusions reached about reality are tentative and contingent on observational confirmation/falsification
     
  8. Apr 23, 2003 #7
    How does one acknowledge anything? If in fact he can't see it for himself. How do you know 1 + 1 = 2? Does "flesh and blood" have to reveal it to you? Or, can you see it for yourself?
     
  9. Apr 23, 2003 #8

    FZ+

    User Avatar

    So, you mean the concept of logic is a function of the brain, and not a part of the universe? Then once again, I must ask, how can we assume that what is logical to one person is logical to others, and that this logic is always valid?
    Is there such a thing that is beyond logic and reason itself?
     
  10. Apr 23, 2003 #9

    FZ+

    User Avatar

    I agree completely.
     
  11. Apr 23, 2003 #10
    You have a point, FZ+. If knowledge is inborn, for all people, then what's to say that we will all arrive at the same knowledge? In fact, it is obvious that we do not always arrive at the same conclusions. Thus, it seems better to seek an external source, as such might help two people come to an agreement, based on what they have both seen.

    Of course, in the end, the only person one can convince is oneself, but the knowledge can still have been found externally.
     
  12. Apr 23, 2003 #11
    Maybe life is just a big assumption? Of course I would prefer not to say I assume that I exist, because then all I would need to do is say I assume, and I could make anything happen. Yeah right!
     
  13. Apr 23, 2003 #12
    Reason and logic are abstractions, rituals, habits. You don't necessarilly adopt habits out of trust. Thus, an even more pointed question when discussing such things is not why do I trust my habits, but why do I persist maintaining my habits when they are obviously counterproductive?
     
  14. Apr 23, 2003 #13

    drag

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Re: Re: The limits of reason

    Greetings !
    I'm sorry but I do not understand this.
    Could you explain what you mean, please.
    Indeed.
    What are Platonic ideal forms ? (Geometrical
    forms ?) And why are only they absolute ? (The
    rules of chess are also absolute for example.)

    I fully agree with this overall though.
    Habit does not clearly imply usefullness,
    and reason and logic are clearly usefull.
    They are not counterproductive if I also
    recognize other possible approaches, are they ?

    Live long and prosper.
     
  15. Apr 23, 2003 #14

    Tom Mattson

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Re: Re: Re: The limits of reason

    Geometry is part of it, but I would include all of mathematics and logic, as well as any abstract object.

    They are absolute because they are true by definition. For instance, it is absolutely true that there are 360o in a circle in Eucldean 3-space. This can be proven from the definition of a circle. When talking about real objects, events, and processes however, we cannot simply define things as we please. Our arguments will not correspond to reality to the extent that our definitions do not correspond to reality. Since we can not know reality a priori, we have to use inductive reasoning.

    In a sense, inductive logic is to natural philosophy (aka science) what definitions are to reasoning on abstract forms. They both determine the truth of propositions: the former relatively, the latter absolutely.
     
  16. Apr 23, 2003 #15

    drag

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Re: Re: Re: Re: The limits of reason

    Understood, that's what I meant. Thanks Tom.
    I agree with the rest.

    Live long and prosper.
     
  17. Apr 23, 2003 #16
    So what happens when you have an idea, which is totally abstract by the way (only in your mind), and then create a whole reality based upon that idea? Isn't this what we as people do? Whereas if the idea had never occurred, or was never implemented, then there would be nothing (materially) to reflect the "reality" behind the idea (which, was merely an abstraction in the first place).

    Therefore in this sense, would it be reasonable to say that everything which is man made, is merely an abstraction on "the outside" of man's existence?
     
  18. Apr 23, 2003 #17

    Tom Mattson

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    What do you mean? Like an architect who comes up with an idea for a building, and then builds it?
     
  19. Apr 23, 2003 #18
    Yes, anything that involves creating things through ideas.
     
  20. Apr 23, 2003 #19

    drag

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Greetings !
    Ideas are also the result of data input.
    Once we are aware of data we can also "play"
    with that data - create fantasies. So, ideas
    are usefull but only when their eventual result
    has some connection to affecting the data input
    (affecting the Universe). Otherwise, they are
    just that - fantasies.

    Peace and long life.
     
  21. Apr 23, 2003 #20
    I guess what I'm trying to get at is that so much of this whole thing we call "external reality" is man made, none of which would exist if it wasn't for an "abstract idea" that conceived of it in the first place.


    Do you mean a fantasy such as "the world is round?"
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2003
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?



Similar Discussions: The limits of reason
  1. Reasoning about reason (Replies: 3)

  2. Physical reasons (Replies: 10)

  3. Physics as reason? (Replies: 3)

Loading...