How does one prove reason?

46


Discussion by: tjmapa

In order to figure out anything, we need reason. Where did reason come from though? How can we prove the existence of reason?
It seems we cannot prove reason with reason, which is circular reasoning, and therefore self-defeating.

My christian friend has argued that since reason cannot be explained by natural means, therefore there must be a supernatural force that allows it to function.

I argued that reason can simply just be, but I would like to know of any other things that I might be able to say.

46 COMMENTS

  1. “My christian friend has argued that since reason cannot be explained by natural means, therefore there must be a supernatural force that allows it to function”

    There are several problems with this statement. First of all, if reason doesn’t exist, then there’s no reason to listen to his self-defeating, poor attempt at reason. Secondly, his assumption that reason cannot be explained by natural means is unjustified. It is a logical fallacy called begging the question. Thirdly, he’s spinning you around with his false dichotomy. Even if reason cannot be proven, then it does not mean that the supernatural is the answer.

    Going back to the question where reason comes from, it comes from thousands of years of thinking & philosophy and is now the subject of inquiry in the field of logic. Reason is not given to us by anything or anyone. It is a discovery, like mathematics. Being human discoveries, mathematics & logic may seem to describe the world in such a structured elegance but that’s only because they are explained in human context and it is done in such way so that they can be meaningful and useful to future scholars.

    Reason is a post hoc description of of a thinking practice that works. Like science, it is useful because it works and has consistently proven to be the best solution to decision making. It is a strong proof of an objective truth. While there is the always the problem of inductive reasoning, ignoring reason is the same as dismantling every human knowledge that have ever existed and defeats his own argument.

    I say watch out for his logical fallacies. It looks like he’s trying to troll you using any dirty means rather making an honest argument.

    • In reply to #1 by adiroth:

      So my christian friend, who is actually my roommate, told me to go to a chatroom last night after I posted this question here. This chatroom was on a IRC site called mibbit and the channel was called choosing hats. I discussed this same question with the user there named Raz Lappie. He argued the whole existence of reason thing as well. He said that if one proves reason through reason, that is “viciously circular” and therefore self-defeating. I said that using the bible is also circular, but it is actually epistemologically circular, and therefore valid, because when dealing with ultimates, one must accept circularity. I argued that why can’t logic be epistemologically circular as well. The conclusion after much aggravating repetition led to the agreement that circular reasoning cannot be used as an objection. This was reached after I kept calling the arguments from the bible circular and he kept calling reason proving reason circular.
      I plan to discuss with the same person again in the same chatroom in the near future. After seeing all these answers, I plan to bring up the argument that reason does not have to be proven in order to be used.
      What are some possible rebuttals that Raz might use, and how may I refute them?

  2. Reasoning exists as an activity of our minds, and they are a result of evolution. You might be able to start there.

    Skepticism about whether we can know anything through reasoning is very old. Here again though I think a popular approach to solving this problem is evolution. What are the consequences for animals that rely on their minds for survival if those minds don’t grasp some basic facts about reality?

  3. I think there’s some confused questions here.

    Regarding the question “How can we prove the existence of reason?”, there is no controversy about its existence. It is not like the Loch Ness monster. “Reason” is just a word that describes a particular method of thinking, a method that uses known phenomena or laws of the universe to deduce the likely outcome of an event. Nobody doubts that people can think this way, and the effectiveness of any piece of reason can be tested by experiment.

    So I’m not really sure what you mean by “how does one prove reason?”

    Even if we are unable to explain something, it does not mean a supernatural force is involved. It just means that at this time we don’t know how to explain it. There are lots of things that we couldn’t explain in the past, that we can explain now.

    • In reply to #3 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee:

      I think there’s some confused questions here.

      Regarding the question “How can we prove the existence of reason?”, there is no controversy about its existence. It is not like the Loch Ness monster. “Reason” is just a word that describes a particular method of thinking, a method that uses known phenomena or laws of the universe to deduce the likely outcome of an event. Nobody doubts that people can think this way, and the effectiveness of any piece of reason can be tested by experiment.

      So I’m not really sure what you mean by “how does one prove reason?”

      Even if we are unable to explain something, it does not mean a supernatural force is involved. It just means that at this time we don’t know how to explain it. There are lots of things that we couldn’t explain in the past, that we can explain now.

      I agree. Lot’s good replies here but yes, the word reason isn’t about being a “proof” like some mathematical axiom. It’s a method, a cognitive tool.

      The results from using reason are what the religious can’t abide and consequently had to invent the term faith as their tool to justify theological biases. Come to think of it, Sam Harris said the same thing this way:

      “It is time that we admitted that faith is nothing more than the license religious people give one another to keep believing when reasons fail.”

      Mike

    • In reply to #3 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee:

      I think there’s some confused questions here.

      Regarding the question “How can we prove the existence of reason?”, there is no controversy about its existence. It is not like the Loch Ness monster. “Reason” is just a word that describes a particular method of thinking, a method that uses known phenomena or laws of the universe to deduce the likely outcome of an event. Nobody doubts that people can think this way, and the effectiveness of any piece of reason can be tested by experiment.

      So I’m not really sure what you mean by “how does one prove reason?”

      Even if we are unable to explain something, it does not mean a supernatural force is involved. It just means that at this time we don’t know how to explain it. There are lots of things that we couldn’t explain in the past, that we can explain now.

      To support and add to your sensible answer JuC: “How can we prove the existence of reason?” In my opinion it is a malformed question. Perhaps a better formulation might be, how can we explain the fact of the existence of reason; ie. “How can reason have arisen naturally?”

      The implication is that if reason cannot have arisen naturally, then it must have arisen supernaturally. But evolution is a sufficient answer to explain how reason can have arisen naturally. If we take the human brain as an agent of reason, then that brain evolved in increments, gradually taking on new and improved characteristics, in the direction of reasoning ability. The process was not planned, and not sudden – it began many millions of years ago, since all of life is supposed to have a common ancestry. Maybe the Christian fails to realise the gradual nature of evolution.

      To get a reasoning brain all of a sudden does seem highly unlikely. Of course if the Christian is a creationist, then that is how they do account for a reasoning brain – ” “God” did it in the creation, (and it took part of one day to accomplish)”.

      But as it is framed, the question has a self evident answer: namely we are asked to use reason to prove reason. The fact that we are using reason means that it exists; QED.

      • It seems we cannot prove reason with reason

        Ask him what he means by reason. Also proof. To begin with, make sure he understands the terms and that you are talking about the same thing. I’m guessing he’s being a parrot. Make sure that he is taking the question as seriously as you are taking it.

        My christian friend has argued that since reason cannot be explained by natural means, therefore there must be a supernatural force that allows it to function.

        Oh. Well then, he’s not taking the question as seriously as you are taking it. He’s parroting. What form does his argument take? How on earth does he get from “you can’t reason reason” to “therefore, god”?

        Frickin’ theology masquerading as genuine philosophy. It’s so desperate… and so dishonest.

        Ask him what he means. No matter what he replies (unless it’s not a lazy effort to invoke the supernatural out of nonsensical reasoning), answer “Horse”. (Thank you Ornicar.)

        See how that goes.

      • In reply to #25 by SurLaffaLot:

        But as it is framed, the question has a self evident answer: namely we are asked to use reason to prove reason. The fact that we are using reason means that it exists; QED.

        With the caveat – “Whatever it is”

  4. I see reason as a natural response to two main predicaments
    1) How to survive – reason makes us better able to survive and adapt in our environment
    2) Irationality & madness : since both can be physiologically damaging, reason is an evolved response to the need to preserve physical and mental health.

  5. Reason is a state of mind and a capacity of the human brain. Your friend is using reason to question the existence of reason.

    Reason is something you observe whenever someone says they believe in something and lists the evidence or beliefs they use to justify that belief. Reason is being displayed whenever someone uses induction or deduction to try to determine the rules governing nature.

  6. Reason is the capacity for consciously making sense of things, for establishing and verifying facts, and changing or justifying practices, institutions, and beliefs based on new or existing information.

    First line of wikipedia..

    All your friend is doing is trying to undermine your argument in a very dishonest way and it seems as if they don’t actually care to understand the meaning of the word. Reason is a process of things we do. It obviously exists..

    A better question would be ‘How do you tell if your reasoning is accurate?’

  7. I don’t see how we can prove the existence of anything using only pure reason. Logic is abstract and only really exists subjectively. A = A because that is the only way we can make sense of the world.

  8. How’s his decision making working? Obviously not very well. How does one not use logic and reason and manages to get through life?

    How’s his Wishful-Thinking powered plane coming along?

    My christian friend has argued that since reason cannot be explained by natural means, therefore there must be a supernatural force that allows it to function.

    Argument from ignorance, if I ever saw one. How’s that for a reason for him to stop talking out of his arse.

  9. Proving or disproving something needs reasoning in the first place. It’s a non sequitur. Fallacies are the waste product of reason, so proving something illogical…

    Ooooh my brain, it’s spinning….!

    Basically, he’s either trolling you, or he is a complete idiot not worth arguing with. Let him run around in a circle till his brain falls off.

    • The OP: This is what’s known as Mental Masturbation. A poor substitute for the real thing, which is itself a poor substitute for the real thing, so it’s definitely way down on the list of interesting pastimes.

      Meanwhile back at reason, it’s a tool. Proof that it works is staring you in the face. Literally. How do you think this screen got here? Magic? Faith? A Miracle? No. It took a lot of careful reason-based work by a lot of people over a very long time to get all this in place.

      You’d do a lot better exercising your curiosity in finding out how, rather than getting into a (mental) circle jerk with morons.

  10. Reason is not up for debate. By entering the discussion he has already committed to reason. If not you may as well bark at each other like dogs. Actually, that’s basically what he’s doing.

  11. Hi tjmapa. They are still playing the same game. Just repeating it with different words.

    Reason exist through historical connectivity, as in we have historical record of it that links to its existence to this present day. We can also confirm its existence through the practice of it, which is exhibited by you, your friend and Raz Lappie. Despite their denial of reason’s existence, they are actually using reason to argue, no matter how twisted it is. There is a major hypocrisy there, where they are using reason, no matter how flawed to argue for the validity of the bible. It’s the good old, false dichotomy. X IS NOT A, THEREFORE B. it is logical fallacy, because, if X is not A, it could be anything else. What they’ve said is logical, however, if he were to reveal the implicit premise that X CAN ONLY BE A OR B. What makes the argument invalid is because of the absence of this premise. He can add that premise later, but then the argument will become not sound.

    In logic, validity refers to the mathematical like process of deriving conclusion from premises. For example:
    TOM IS A MONKEY
    IN ZOOS MONKEYS ARE KEPT IN CAGES


    So IN ZOOS TOM WOULD BE KEPT IN A CAGE

    The standard form of argument above is valid, but unsound if any of the premises are not true. If Tom is actually a zebra, then the argument is unsound even if the result is true. SO they need to know the the difference between validity & soundness.

    Their practice of flawed logic is proof enough that reason existed. If they want to wriggle out by denying that they’re using reason, then prove that what they are using reason by linking to an online article that explains what a logic is. If they still deny that, then it means that they do not only deny the existence of reason, they are denying history & physical reality (as in your last discussion). If they deny historical continuity, then just say that you’ve won and that they’d agreed that you have, since they have no authority over the description of reality since they’ve denied it.

    You can’t reason with people who doesn’t use reason. You need to know that you can’t convince everyone, because people, being irrational, often hold the idea that reason does not benefit their personal interest. However, even though you can’t convince them, you can legitimately brand them as not reasonable, as they don’t even believe in reason. So, record the conversation & use it for your future argument because it will invalidate every argument they will make in the future.

    These people are just poking holes all over to try to prove their points. They are like creationists, who are trying to prove a point by pointing out the perceived flaw of established knowledge and trick people into dichotomy. Like bullies, they will just keep trolling until you’re too tired to fight back. So, you have to strike back at them or they will eventually whittle you away.

    In conclusion, as Jumped Up Chimpanzee has pointed out, the real issue is not whether reason existed, but why should it be used at all and whether it is effective. That should’ve been the real question, because it is very simple to prove that reason does exist. We use reason because it provides us with an accurate problem solving method and to prove its accuracy, you can hold experiments and use other examples, to show that it works. Tell them to come back when they’ve evolved to reach the problem of inductive reasoning.

  12. Reason is a way of modeling the world in a predictive way. Ultimately all reason is based in the physical world. It comes from what we know to exist and inferring what is likely to be the case from there. So unless your friend is arguing nothing exists then he’s speaking crap. Additionally reason exists in our minds which are physical structures (you can remove the ability to reason by damaging parts of the brain). What animals are capable of reasoning in given situations this has been tested in numerous species and has given us a real sense that reason is only possible if you have sufficient brains to do it. This is clearly a naturalistic explanation. If it had nothing to do with nature then why would anyone be worried about brain damage?

  13. Your friend’s argument provides you with a good example of circular reasoning. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circular_reasoning

    Seems to me you’ve got to have all the world’s knowledge at the ready to counter every trivial obstacle they thrown up in your way. All they have to do is poke pins at you and say “you haven’t explained everything therefore god did it”.

    No matter what you can come up with, they just have to take one step back and throw down another one of their endless supply of get-out-of-jail-free, “God made it so” trump cards. You’ve gotta learn enough about their nonsense to debate them and what value does that have to you? Good training for debating them or being one of them. Chasing cockroaches is a less frustrating and more worthwhile pursuit.

  14. I’m going to take this carefully, as there are all kinds of mind-screw that get involved in this argument.

    The first point to be said here is that, if one is going to “discredit” reason, then one has already lost the argument because the very notions of validity, soundness, non-contradiction, personal consistency, reasonable assumptions, consilience, truthfulness, logic, proof, evidence, mathematical consistency, Ockham’s razor, and even observation and introspection become utterly unusable and cause no end of headaches to anyone trying to think through the implications. Neither side wins here, but then they’re probably so desperate at this point that they’ll say anything if it means it makes you lose too.

    The second point is that a circular argument is not automatically an unsound one. Technically, it would be a tautology to say that following reason is reasonable, so all it comes down to is the conviction of the skeptic that the basis of reason does not match reality, i.e. is false. However, since reason is about using methodologies to separate real-world truth claims from false ones, it becomes contradictory to say that it does not match reality (i.e. is false) because reason would either self-correct itself to better match reality akin to science – i.e. this particular bit of it would be false, not the whole thing, and even then it would only be not true in a fuzzy or partial sense – or would match reality and therefore be true. So the skeptic falls afoul of contradiction.

    The third point is that, if the skeptic wants to call attention to a particular bit or principle of reason – i.e. Ockham’s razor – then he or she must use another principle of reason to critique it – say, not making claims you can’t justify. This could be a legitimate argument, but then the accusation that reason is insufficient or wrong or whatever is bogus because the arguer is relying upon it as part of their criticism. The argument they put forwards might be legitimate against this particular bit of reason, but not against all of reason.

    The fourth point is that reason is about obtaining information from what we do know, i.e. it is epistemic, and is not about capturing for all places and for all time what is true, i.e. it is not alethic. The difference is between what one believes to be true and what is actually true, though what we believe to be true is itself something that is actually true, even if only in our minds. What is true is not the same as what we can reasonably discover is true, though, and criticizing what we know to be true through reason or reasons because of what might really be true is suspect, given that it can only be substantive if the critic knows it to be true through reason or reasons. In other words, criticizing what anybody currently knows through reason as not corresponding to what is really true is trivial and pointless unless the critic can use reason to justify their accusation and prove a rival fact. In effect, they are claiming to know something others don’t, and we are entitled to question whether they really used reason to come to that knowledge.

    The fifth point is that we should not get confused between practicality in discovering truth claims and the truth claims themselves. It might not be true that you get the correct answer solely from applying reason – you could just as easily strike lucky or trust someone else’s judgement – but in this case, you have to look at the results of a practical policy. The results would show whether or not applying Ockham’s razor produces better results more reliably than making stuff up, but you can’t argue over a practical policy (i.e. not something you believe but something you use) and in the same way, you can’t argue that a hammer or a tool is “true” as opposed to “useful”. There are two different requirements for each claim: saying “reason is practically useless” is different from saying “the beliefs or claims that inform reason or that result from it are true/false”.

    The sixth point is that faith – which is what is opposed to reason in the first place – is essentially them arbitrarily setting great store on guesswork. Even those who claim to get facts and truths about the world “from within” are essentially claiming they can make real world claims without reference to the real world, which is contradictory. They also tacitly endorse non-epistemic reasons to believe in certain claims, such as how it makes them feel, what they perceive its moral consequences would be, and whether it’s useful or beneficial to believe in such things, which is another way of admitting that they think they can get truths about the real world by not actually paying attention to it, in part or totally. Even if they give up any pretence of arguing for real world claims and concentrate solely on the benefits of believing such claims – as good a confession as any that they don’t care about the truth here – this has to be corroborated with real-world evidence of results, and in any case can be disputed on the very same grounds they invoke: moral, emotional, and pragmatic. For instance, it can be questioned whether letting people believe in something in which they invest huge emotional or ethical concern is really good for them and for others, in the short-term or in the long-term.

    It would be best to confirm with your disputant which of these points they are getting at when they start questioning reason, and consider carefully the consequences and implications of what they claim.

  15. “Where did reason come from though?”

    If you utter a coherent sentence then it is an expression of reason, at a most elementary level you simply would not be able to converse without it, you communicate to persuade, explain or command, persuasion and explanation are in the form of argument, sentences contain at least one premise and a conclusion (apart from commands, which are not arguments), for instance, “OK, it is rather dark and grey outside, I should take my umbrella with me”

    Premise, it is dark and grey outside

    Unstated premise, every time it has been dark and grey outside it has rained

    Therefore (conclusion) Take umbrella

    That is all reason is, the answer to your friends silly assertion is that, if his sentence makes sense it is “only” because it is an expression of reason, it is simply the way the human mind constructs and organises its cognition and is demonstrated (proven) in the how we communicate as a species.

  16. “Reason” is vague. “Logic” is a better defined concept. A proof is a logical argument. (Unless it is a purely formal proof – like/including mathematical proofs – it will also involve empirical evidence.) Logic is ultimately not provable. It depends on a small set of axioms or postulates which are very simple, for example “not both p and not-p”. Anyone wishing to deny the validity of logic must therefore deny the truth of one or more of its axioms. Advise your friend to read the first few pages of – say – Russell and Whitehead’s “Principia Mathematica”, and then to let you know which axiom(s) he denies. He will find it difficult.

  17. Every time someone tells me that not everything is rational, I answer “horse”.
    In a debate, every thing is rational, or there is no debate.
    Reason evolved, from very simple thoughts, randomly altered, non-randomly selected.

  18. Can I first say ‘lol’ at almost all of the comments above me, arrogant that I am?

    This website is ‘Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science’, so the truth and uses of reason should really be an ostensible and conspicuous conversation, don’t let fools tell you that it’s not up for discussion.

    Modern western philosophy is full of absolutely hideous dogmas regarding reason, many of which have fallen out of the mouths of the posters above like so much half-chewed pineapple. The catch is that these same dogmas also feed your Christian friend’s assertion that reason is supernaturally based, and that’s because the dogmas of reason apprehend it as something immaterial – as a formal essence. This got systematised by Descartes most notably, and eschewing the Cartesian theory of mind is one of the very basic things that today’s universities have had to do (in the UK for the last century, and on the continent for at least a century more). This is very very very crude and very very very basic, but science and philosophy have both had to dig their way out from under ‘dualism’ (mind and body are two irreconcilable substances, and rather than partaking in one reality, are instead two realities) – they are still deciding the best ways to do this. That said, it is also true that science continues without a philosophical basis because, well, science works damnit! So the science link to philosophies of logic and reason are really not that evident – but the philosophical struggle is pretty much laid bare if you look in that direction instead.

    Here’s a couple of examples of what you should watch out for!

    1) The nasty common belief that ‘we can learn to reason logically about evidence’ is a complete misappropriation of logic and the nature of reasoning. You cannot, CANNOT think logically about evidence. You CAN determine formal categories for things and use logic to be clear about the logical functions of those categories. The only thing logic communicates with is logic itself, never evidence, never the world. Even Dawkins often falls foul of this phrase!

    2) Nobody is ‘illogical’ or ‘doesn’t use logic’. It’s no more or less logical to act well than badly, and logic does not care for whether anything is true or false – logic is about the internal relationships of the structure of thinking. If someone is reasoning abysmally and even failing to make their claim or their case coherently, for all that they are not at all illogical. You can treat the knowledge claim as logically faulty – circular, etc., but that is the knowledge claim and not the person, and the logical falsity of the claim should convince you that you have not yet got to a clear thought about the matter, and NOT that you have arrived at a clear thought of exclusion (whether of the person, or of the purpose or meaning of the conversation).

    3) Reason and Logic are not interchangeable! Reason is about judgement and fitting cases to rules. Logic is the philosophical study of structure and nothing else. Roughly and readily, reason is down and dirty and logic is pure.

    I can go on and on about this, because people really don’t get it, so I’ll leave it at these and see if it makes sense to you? I’ll check back later to see if anyone replied to this.

    • In reply to #21 by Stardroid:

      Can I first say ‘lol’ at almost all of the comments above me, arrogant that I am?

      Frankly, I don’t see why you should get so excited or upset over what look, at best, like the honest errors of other posters. I dare say many would admit their mistakes or concede the point to someone better-versed on the subject, but laughing at other posters’ contributions is both rude and unhelpful. Your post would have improved if you’d left such sentences and asides out of it.

      This website is ‘Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science’, so the truth and uses of reason should really be an ostensible and conspicuous conversation, don’t let fools tell you that it’s not up for discussion.

      Of course it’s up for discussion, but the point is that you don’t get much out of trying to target reason for errors and inconsistencies, if only because undermining reason is essentially the intellectual equivalent of unleashing nuclear Armageddon: nobody ends up the better off for it.

      Modern western philosophy is full of absolutely hideous dogmas regarding reason, many of which have fallen out of the mouths of the posters above like so much half-chewed pineapple.

      Since you neglect to provide examples of such “hideous dogmas” – the few examples you give look at best like errors or mistaken misuses of terms – it’s difficult to treat your claim here as anything other than misguided hyperbole.

      The catch is that these same dogmas also feed your Christian friend’s assertion that reason is supernaturally based, and that’s because the dogmas of reason apprehend it as something immaterial – as a formal essence.

      So who on this thread has made such a claim? You can’t make an accusation lightly.

      This got systematised by Descartes most notably, and eschewing the Cartesian theory of mind is one of the very basic things that today’s universities have had to do (in the UK for the last century, and on the continent for at least a century more). This is very very very crude and very very very basic, but science and philosophy have both had to dig their way out from under ‘dualism’ (mind and body are two irreconcilable substances, and rather than partaking in one reality, are instead two realities) – they are still deciding the best ways to do this.

      In the context of reason, it might be more insightful to describe such an attitude not as dualistic – which as far as I’m aware, refers to beliefs in consciousness – and replace the term with the Plato’s Cave thought experiment, and to describe the philosophical notion of Platonic Realms. Certainly, I’ve heard that mathematicians sometimes wonder if mathematical truths have an independent existence beyond the material world, but there’s neither any call to take them seriously nor to think that anyone here has explicitly espoused such claims. As far as I’m concerned, such “dualistic” thinking is a non-starter anyway. The evidence supports monism, and even if the brain was not the mechanism of consciousness, we’d have to look for a mechanism anyway because any investigation of reality must pick its components apart to see how it all works.

      That said, it is also true that science continues without a philosophical basis because, well, science works damnit! So the science link to philosophies of logic and reason are really not that evident – but the philosophical struggle is pretty much laid bare if you look in that direction instead.

      I’m not entirely sure what you mean by the claim that science has no philosophical basis. Quite apart from the fact that science arose out of natural philosophy and is buoyed up by, and feeds back into, secular philosophy, it’s clear enough that some philosophical claims, axioms, or whatevers stand behind the methodologies of science. Ockham’s razor is just such an example. In any case, scientific hypotheses rely strongly on logic and, from what I understand, science is essentially applied reason.

      Here’s a couple of examples of what you should watch out for!

      1) The nasty common belief

      What a bizarre choice of epithet. The belief could be “wrong” or “misguided” or even “stupid”, but “nasty” seems needlessly histrionic.

      that ‘we can learn to reason logically about evidence’ is a complete misappropriation of logic and the nature of reasoning. You cannot, CANNOT think logically about evidence. You CAN determine formal categories for things and use logic to be clear about the logical functions of those categories. The only thing logic communicates with is logic itself, never evidence, never the world. Even Dawkins often falls foul of this phrase!

      I’m afraid you’ve lost me here. Logic is not just about the validity of the train of thought, but about the truthfulness of the premises. Yes, it’s possible to make existential assumptions and apply logic to any crazy ideas, however bizarre or improbable we consider them, but these are always for hypothetical scenarios, and a chain of logic requires true premises for it to be sound. I admit the phrase would be better if it had said that we can reason logically from evidence, since logic accommodates induction, but to call such a belief “nasty” is to confuse a simple and mistaken misuse of terms with… well, I have no idea. With religious fanaticism?

      2) Nobody is ‘illogical’ or ‘doesn’t use logic’.

      This is simply over-literalism. The terms you isolate specifically refer to cases where people commit logical fallacies or make questionable moves such as existential assumptions. When a standard set of logical trains of thought are isolated as valid, it follows that those who use invalid alternatives and fallacies can therefore be described as “illogical”, at least in a vernacular sense. As I mentioned above, I’m not sure logic is purely about whether an argument is merely valid. The truthfulness of the premises also have to be taken into account before an argument is declared sound or unsound. The worst I could have committed here is simply a blundering misuse of words, but there’s a real phenomenon we’re referring to under all this juggling of terms and phrases, and all you have to do is hash out how best to use the terms to address the phenomena.

      3) Reason and Logic are not interchangeable! Reason is about judgement and fitting cases to rules. Logic is the philosophical study of structure and nothing else. Roughly and readily, reason is down and dirty and logic is pure.

      I’m not sure if you’re making a serious claim here or not. In vernacular use, people do treat reason and logic as interchangeable, true, but it seems more accurate to me to describe reason as encompassing a wide variety of ideas – such as those of consistency, proof, mathematics, science, and secular philosophy – of which logic is simply another subset. On these grounds, treating logic and reason as interchangeable is a bit like treating “bird” and “animal” as interchangeable; it would be false to act like all animals are birds, but otherwise no real harm done.

      Of course, I could be wrong. If you disagree with my claims, then simply point me to the term that more accurately covers this idea I’m trying to get at that covers all the bases one can espouse as “rational” or “reasonable”.

      I can go on and on about this, because people really don’t get it, so I’ll leave it at these and see if it makes sense to you? I’ll check back later to see if anyone replied to this.

      If people don’t understand something, then simply explaining it to them in a civil manner will work wonders. For instance, I regard reason as that which encompasses science, logic, secular philosophy and ethics, critical thinking, mathematics, and other such “rational” or “reasonable” topics, as opposed to things like religion, faith, superstition, dogma, and dualism. If this is a misuse of the word, by all means correct my error, but don’t equate me or anyone else with dualistic dogmatists just because we misuse a few terms or make similar muddled errors.

      • In reply to #22 by Zeuglodon:

        In reply to #21 by Stardroid:

        Can I first say ‘lol’ at almost all of the comments above me, arrogant that I am?

        Frankly, I don’t see why you should get so excited or upset over what look, at best, like the honest errors of other posters. I dare say many would admit their mistakes or concede the point to someone better-versed on the subject, but laughing at other posters’ contributions is both rude and unhelpful. Your post would have improved if you’d left such sentences and asides out of it.

        Well no I think people that count on extolling rationality should first have a clue what they’re talking about. Please see your comments below.

        This website is ‘Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science’, so the truth and uses of reason should really be an ostensible and conspicuous conversation, don’t let fools tell you that it’s not up for discussion.

        Of course it’s up for discussion, but the point is that you don’t get much out of trying to target reason for errors and inconsistencies, if only because undermining reason is essentially the intellectual equivalent of unleashing nuclear Armageddon: nobody ends up the better off for it.

        But what if what reason stands for is a bunch of value judgements instead of actual reason? Then Armageddon is the least of your problems.

        Modern western philosophy is full of absolutely hideous dogmas regarding reason, many of which have fallen out of the mouths of the posters above like so much half-chewed pineapple.

        Since you neglect to provide examples of such “hideous dogmas” – the few examples you give look at best like errors or mistaken misuses of terms – it’s difficult to treat your claim here as anything other than misguided hyperbole.

        I don’t want to go through the implications of what other posters wrote, especially since I could have been wrong and jumped the gun. Examples of dogmas best left to the 3 comments I made at the end of my post, and I’ll let you have the ‘misguided hyperbole’ point – we’ll see whether it was misguided, though, when we see what you write!

        The catch is that these same dogmas also feed your Christian friend’s assertion that reason is supernaturally based, and that’s because the dogmas of reason apprehend it as something immaterial – as a formal essence.

        So who on this thread has made such a claim? You can’t make an accusation lightly.

        I’m wondering whether you will, in some way or another.

        This got systematised by Descartes most notably, and eschewing the Cartesian theory of mind is one of the very basic things that today’s universities have had to do (in the UK for the last century, and on the continent for at least a century more). This is very very very crude and very very very basic, but science and philosophy have both had to dig their way out from under ‘dualism’ (mind and body are two irreconcilable substances, and rather than partaking in one reality, are instead two realities) – they are still deciding the best ways to do this.

        In the context of reason, it might be more insightful to describe such an attitude not as dualistic – which as far as I’m aware, refers to beliefs in consciousness – and replace the term with the Plato’s Cave thought experiment, and to describe the philosophical notion of Platonic Realms.

        Dualism doesn’t refer to consciousness but to the necessary existence of mental structure (yes much like Platonic Forms), that are in turn not sufficiently accounted for by physical existence.

        Certainly, I’ve heard that mathematicians sometimes wonder if mathematical truths have an independent existence beyond the material world, but there’s neither any call to take them seriously nor to think that anyone here has explicitly espoused such claims. As far as I’m concerned, such “dualistic” thinking is a non-starter anyway. The evidence supports monism, and even if the brain was not the mechanism of consciousness, we’d have to look for a mechanism anyway because any investigation of reality must pick its components apart to see how it all works.

        Monism yes, although there are severe problems with classical monism with regard to diversity. Scientific monism is just kind of nominal, whereas Dualism is certainly not a ‘non-starter’, it is the general mode of thought of human existence so far. The standard model (of quantim physics) is really a great hope for a thoroughgoing monism in the 21st century.

        That said, it is also true that science continues without a philosophical basis because, well, science works damnit! So the science link to philosophies of logic and reason are really not that evident – but the philosophical struggle is pretty much laid bare if you look in that direction instead.

        I’m not entirely sure what you mean by the claim that science has no philosophical basis.

        Simply that scientists don’t have to give one, unlike in Descartes’ day when it seemed possible and in a strong sense a formal requirement of proof (achieving certainty).

        Quite apart from the fact that science arose out of natural philosophy and is buoyed up by, and feeds back into, secular philosophy,

        Historical causality, not a metaphysical ground (which is what philosophically grounded science is).

        it’s clear enough that some philosophical claims, axioms, or whatevers stand behind the methodologies of science.

        No it actually isn’t.

        Ockham’s razor is just such an example. In any case, scientific hypotheses rely strongly on logic and, from what I understand, science is essentially applied reason.

        Oh well I’m glad that’s all cleared up then :D
        1) Okham’s razor is a great rule of thumb not an axiom for scientific methodology
        2) Scientific hypotheses rely upon educated guesswork, logic doesn’t require experiment and doesn’t provide new ideas
        3) It is one very excellent way to use applied reasoning. That it is applied reason in a wholesale sense requires, well, some philosophical reason yes? (i.e. you’re begging the question)

        Here’s a couple of examples of what you should watch out for!

        1) The nasty common belief

        What a bizarre choice of epithet. The belief could be “wrong” or “misguided” or even “stupid”, but “nasty” seems needlessly histrionic.

        It’s nasty because people are sure they’re right without knowing the first thing of what they’re talking about.

        that ‘we can learn to reason logically about evidence’ is a complete misappropriation of logic and the nature of reasoning. You cannot, CANNOT think logically about evidence. You CAN determine formal categories for things and use logic to be clear about the logical functions of those categories. The only thing logic communicates with is logic itself, never evidence, never the world. Even Dawkins often falls foul of this phrase!

        I’m afraid you’ve lost me here.

        I can tell:

        Logic is not just about the validity of the train of thought, but about the truthfulness of the premises.

        No it isn’t. Logic is about the validity of a structure (for example, of an argument). Read any book on it.

        Yes, it’s possible to make existential assumptions and apply logic to any crazy ideas, however bizarre or improbable we consider them, but these are always for hypothetical scenarios, and a chain of logic requires true premises for it to be sound.

        Soundness requires truthful premises and as such is an additional quality of a valid argument. False arguments are as logical as true ones.

        I admit the phrase would be better if it had said that we can reason logically from evidence, since logic accommodates induction, but to call such a belief “nasty” is to confuse a simple and mistaken misuse of terms with… well, I have no idea. With religious fanaticism?

        Induction isn’t logical. That’s one of the biggest issues in the whole of philosophy – see Hume or whatever, but really this shouldn’t be passing you by.

        2) Nobody is ‘illogical’ or ‘doesn’t use logic’.

        This is simply over-literalism. The terms you isolate specifically refer to cases where people commit logical fallacies or make questionable moves such as existential assumptions. When a standard set of logical trains of thought are isolated as valid, it follows that those who use invalid alternatives and fallacies can therefore be described as “illogical”, at least in a vernacular sense.

        No, only in a vernacular sense, and that sense is pernicious and unhelpful.

        As I mentioned above, I’m not sure logic is purely about whether an argument is merely valid.

        Get sure. Seriously. You told me off for telling people off (yes presumptuously!), and then go on to deserve my scorn in the first place!

        The truthfulness of the premises also have to be taken into account before an argument is declared sound or unsound. The worst I could have committed here is simply a blundering misuse of words

        No you’re wrong on a number of points. Try applying modesty in liberal amounts.

        , but there’s a real phenomenon we’re referring to under all this juggling of terms and phrases, and all you have to do is hash out how best to use the terms to address the phenomena.

        What is it? how does it work? does it tend to do some things rather than others when it should treat them equally? etc. Such questions exist but are for another day, far far in your future, if you get there at all.

        3) Reason and Logic are not interchangeable! Reason is about judgement and fitting cases to rules. Logic is the philosophical study of structure and nothing else. Roughly and readily, reason is down and dirty and logic is pure.

        I’m not sure if you’re making a serious claim here or not.

        I’m serious.

        In vernacular use, people do treat reason and logic as interchangeable, true, but it seems more accurate to me to describe reason as encompassing a wide variety of ideas – such as those of consistency, proof, mathematics, science, and secular philosophy – of which logic is simply another subset.
        On these grounds, treating logic and reason as interchangeable is a bit like treating “bird” and “animal” as interchangeable; it would be false to act like all animals are birds, but otherwise no real harm done.

        I think the question of whether logic is a kind of reasoning like other kinds of reasoning is a massive issue, as is the idea that all reasoning can be reduced to logic (i.e. Russell) It’s not quite what the OP had in mind though, he wants to know whether the immaterial nature of rational thinking necessitates the divine.

        Of course, I could be wrong. If you disagree with my claims, then simply point me to the term that more accurately covers this idea I’m trying to get at that covers all the bases one can espouse as “rational” or “reasonable”.

        You’ve just said it: it’s stuff that you think is ‘reasonable’ to you. You aren’t accurate in what you think, as I’ve pointed out, but I don’t think you’ll let that stop you.

        I can go on and on about this, because people really don’t get it, so I’ll leave it at these and see if it makes sense to you? I’ll check back later to see if anyone replied to this.

        If people don’t understand something, then simply explaining it to them in a civil manner will work wonders.

        Done and double done.

        For instance, I regard reason as that which encompasses science, logic, secular philosophy and ethics, critical thinking, mathematics, and other such “rational” or “reasonable” topics, as opposed to things like religion, faith, superstition, dogma, and dualism.

        At the moment I think you’d have a hard time separating them yourself.

        If this is a misuse of the word, by all means correct my error, but don’t equate me or anyone else with dualistic dogmatists just because we misuse a few terms or make similar muddled errors.

        You’re a dogmatist if you continue to bang on about reason and logic without knowing what you’re on about, that’s just abusive thinking. Someone who was religious and confused, consulting you, would exchange one abusive intellectual circumstance with another. I don’t think you’re muddled, I think you’re happy, and that is worrying.

        • In reply to #31 by Stardroid:

          Well Stardroid, I have to say your “arrogance” is somewhat ill-founded, Zeuglodon’s responses on this thread were very well thought out and he has been extremely charitable, comprehensive and courteous in his posts, a trait you might consider emulating.

          Anyways, I doubt I can match Zeuglodon, but I do have some observations and comments.

          “Dualism doesn’t refer to consciousness but to the necessary existence of mental structure (yes much like Platonic Forms), that are in turn not sufficiently accounted for by physical existence.”

          You have I believe, referred to “Cartesian Dualism” in your posts, which is also known as “Substance Dualism”, that is the suggestion that there were two forms of substance the material (physical) and immaterial (mind), the mind therefore is metaphysical, it has no “structure” that can be determined by instrumentality or introspection, so the “only” issue addressed is that of “mind” or consciousness if you prefer, you seem to suggest that Dualism was somehow adopted unquestionably by Philosophy and for some peculiar reason you also seem to believe it forms the basis of scientific reasoning, the first is historically inaccurate and the latter a somewhat bizarre assertion.

          Cartesian Dualism was challenged almost immediately, most notably by Elisabeth of Bohemia (1643) who first highlighted the problem of causation as a fundamental weakness in Descartes reasoning, so to suggest that Dualism has had free reign in western philosophy is not entirely accurate in my opinion, in relation to scientific methodology, you do understand Stardroid, that science is primarily an exercise in empirical enquiry and that metaphysical claims are of little or no importance, how do you link science then, with Cartesian Dualism? What is your reasoning in relation to this?

          “It’s nasty because people are sure they’re right without knowing the first thing of what they’re talking about.”

          But you of course, have the definitive answers, truly a model of modesty…

          “Logic is about the validity of a structure (for example, of an argument).”

          So, therefore logic need not produce a true conclusion?

          Do explain, to us lesser mortals, what is the utility of any system of logic that regards the veracity of premises as irrelevant and produces conclusions that need not be true?

          “No you’re wrong on a number of points. Try applying modesty in liberal amounts.”

          Classic!

          End of transmission…..

    • In reply to #21 by Stardroid:

      Can I first say ‘lol’ at almost all of the comments above me, arrogant that I am?

      This website is ‘Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science’, so the truth and uses of reason should really be an ostensible and conspicuous conversation, don’t let fools tell you that it’s not up for discussion.

      Modern western philosophy is full of absolutely hideous dogmas regarding reason, many of which have fallen out of the mouths of the posters above like so much half-chewed pineapple. The catch is that these same dogmas also feed your Christian friend’s assertion that reason is supernaturally based, and that’s because the dogmas of reason apprehend it as something immaterial – as a formal essence. This got systematised by Descartes most notably, and eschewing the Cartesian theory of mind is one of the very basic things that today’s universities have had to do (in the UK for the last century, and on the continent for at least a century more). This is very very very crude and very very very basic, but science and philosophy have both had to dig their way out from under ‘dualism’ (mind and body are two irreconcilable substances, and rather than partaking in one reality, are instead two realities) – they are still deciding the best ways to do this. That said, it is also true that science continues without a philosophical basis because, well, science works damnit! So the science link to philosophies of logic and reason are really not that evident – but the philosophical struggle is pretty much laid bare if you look in that direction instead.

      Here’s a couple of examples of what you should watch out for!

      1) The nasty common belief that ‘we can learn to reason logically about evidence’ is a complete misappropriation of logic and the nature of reasoning. You cannot, CANNOT think logically about evidence. You CAN determine formal categories for things and use logic to be clear about the logical functions of those categories. The only thing logic communicates with is logic itself, never evidence, never the world. Even Dawkins often falls foul of this phrase!

      2) Nobody is ‘illogical’ or ‘doesn’t use logic’. It’s no more or less logical to act well than badly, and logic does not care for whether anything is true or false – logic is about the internal relationships of the structure of thinking. If someone is reasoning abysmally and even failing to make their claim or their case coherently, for all that they are not at all illogical. You can treat the knowledge claim as logically faulty – circular, etc., but that is the knowledge claim and not the person, and the logical falsity of the claim should convince you that you have not yet got to a clear thought about the matter, and NOT that you have arrived at a clear thought of exclusion (whether of the person, or of the purpose or meaning of the conversation).

      3) Reason and Logic are not interchangeable! Reason is about judgement and fitting cases to rules. Logic is the philosophical study of structure and nothing else. Roughly and readily, reason is down and dirty and logic is pure.

      I can go on and on about this, because people really don’t get it, so I’ll leave it at these and see if it makes sense to you? I’ll check back later to see if anyone replied to this.

      Yeah and where did they get these pure laws of logic from? The link to reality is readily available in almost every case they use to prove their case. Same with maths you can do it without reference now, but it was formulated with reference to reality, its grounded in real life examples. Assessing the value of logic can only be done or so it seems to me ultimately with reference to reality if it didn’t it would be as useless as counting the angels on the head of a pin.

      • In reply to #27 by Reckless Monkey:

        In reply to #21 by Stardroid:

        Can I first say ‘lol’ at almost all of the comments above me, arrogant that I am?

        This website is ‘Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science’, so the truth and uses of reason should really be an ostensible and conspicuous conversation, don’t let fools tell you that it’s not up for discussion.

        Modern western philosophy is full of absolutely hideous dogmas regarding reason, many of which have fallen out of the mouths of the posters above like so much half-chewed pineapple. The catch is that these same dogmas also feed your Christian friend’s assertion that reason is supernaturally based, and that’s because the dogmas of reason apprehend it as something immaterial – as a formal essence. This got systematised by Descartes most notably, and eschewing the Cartesian theory of mind is one of the very basic things that today’s universities have had to do (in the UK for the last century, and on the continent for at least a century more). This is very very very crude and very very very basic, but science and philosophy have both had to dig their way out from under ‘dualism’ (mind and body are two irreconcilable substances, and rather than partaking in one reality, are instead two realities) – they are still deciding the best ways to do this. That said, it is also true that science continues without a philosophical basis because, well, science works damnit! So the science link to philosophies of logic and reason are really not that evident – but the philosophical struggle is pretty much laid bare if you look in that direction instead.

        Here’s a couple of examples of what you should watch out for!

        1) The nasty common belief that ‘we can learn to reason logically about evidence’ is a complete misappropriation of logic and the nature of reasoning. You cannot, CANNOT think logically about evidence. You CAN determine formal categories for things and use logic to be clear about the logical functions of those categories. The only thing logic communicates with is logic itself, never evidence, never the world. Even Dawkins often falls foul of this phrase!

        2) Nobody is ‘illogical’ or ‘doesn’t use logic’. It’s no more or less logical to act well than badly, and logic does not care for whether anything is true or false – logic is about the internal relationships of the structure of thinking. If someone is reasoning abysmally and even failing to make their claim or their case coherently, for all that they are not at all illogical. You can treat the knowledge claim as logically faulty – circular, etc., but that is the knowledge claim and not the person, and the logical falsity of the claim should convince you that you have not yet got to a clear thought about the matter, and NOT that you have arrived at a clear thought of exclusion (whether of the person, or of the purpose or meaning of the conversation).

        3) Reason and Logic are not interchangeable! Reason is about judgement and fitting cases to rules. Logic is the philosophical study of structure and nothing else. Roughly and readily, reason is down and dirty and logic is pure.

        I can go on and on about this, because people really don’t get it, so I’ll leave it at these and see if it makes sense to you? I’ll check back later to see if anyone replied to this.

        Yeah and where did they get these pure laws of logic from? The link to reality is readily available in almost every case they use to prove their case. Same with maths you can do it without reference now, but it was formulated with reference to reality, its grounded in real life examples. Assessing the value of logic can only be done or so it seems to me ultimately with reference to reality if it didn’t it would be as useless as counting the angels on the head of a pin.

        Maths changed from being provable in Geometry (Euclid) to not being provable, in the c19th.
        Algebraic descriptions were able to signify relationships between physical processes without being able to be cashed out empirically themselves.

        Where the laws of logic and mathematics ultimately ‘come from’ is precisely the issue. Almost the whole history of philosophy tries to deal with it (and actually the angels on the head of a pin argument was a little different an idea from how it gets cited today).

        • In reply to #29 by Stardroid:

          In reply to #27 by Reckless Monkey:

          Maths changed from being provable in Geometry (Euclid) to not being provable, in the c19th.
          Algebraic deTHISISNOTASCRIPTREALLYions were able to signify relationships between physical processes without being able to be cashed out empirically themselves.

          Where the laws of logic and mathematics ultimately ‘come from’ is precisely the issue. Almost the whole history of philosophy tries to deal with it (and actually the angels on the head of a pin argument was a little different an idea from how it gets cited today).

          Yes I’m aware that you can create a formula that is internally consistent and logical and use these to test internal consistency without a reference to nature. My point is these are never of any use to us until they are applied in the real world, and as far as I can tell have been developed with relation to the real world in-spite of many philosophers trying very hard to divorce themselves from reality trying to derive some sort of essence of pure logic out of their brains (natural objects again). Algebra is a good case in point you might be able to teach kids algebra without concrete examples but good luck, if you want anyone to understand it you need to ground it first in concrete examples then it mean something and the principle can be understood, typically you’ve spend 7 or 8 years grinding concrete examples of numbers into the kids head before you even attempt it. Latter you can set about setting a whole bunch of algebraic equations without first giving definitions (saying that a= a box of 100 apples for example) and it can be solved, the rules however have been established with reference to real things. Likewise all numbers are based in reference to real objects. If you don’t believe me then take a baby and try over its childhood to teach it maths and logic without reference to concrete objects.

          In that sense I believe (but am happy to be proved wrong) that all maths, logic and reason is based ultimately on reality. In addition it seems to me (although I haven’t studied philosophy in any particularly serious way) that exercises of logic seem only to be able to be tested in relation to real world examples you see this constantly, how do we establish if someone has made an error in logic you may refer to some formula and internal consistency by applying it to real situations even if fictitious. In this sense a philosopher may well spot the error by looking at the argument as a formula but would they ever be able to do this if there had first not been numerous real life examples? In terms of all maths are we not dealing with numbers? Are numbers not understood in terms of real world objects? Again I cannot imagine a way of teaching someone what a number is without reference to real objects. Once you have the idea or structure worked out you can be a playful as you like with the numbers, ideas etc. As I said happy to be wrong, but thus far yet to be convinced, my wife will tell you I’m a slow learner though ;) Cheers

  19. Reason is a formula like logic is. It is a tool It was not given to us by a god, it was arrived at through trial and error.

    For a formula to be useful it has to do something useful for you. It has to work. We know that if we do not pay the phone bill we get cut off. So reason dictates that if we do not want to get cut off we will pay the bill. Teenagers learn this the hard way. Experience being the best teacher of such reason.

    Reason evolves with us. It is the ability to discern truth from fiction, wrong from right. This is a wonderful survival tool. But even other animals have a sense of justice and fair play. It’s not a completely human thing.

    No god required.

    • I need to amend my reply. I didn’t finish the point. The point is that reason is exactly that: reasons. What are the reasons for what you do or think? It is a prioritizing of your reasons for acting or thinking. All actions and thoughts have a reason or goal.

      The best way to relieve hunger is to find food and eat. Weighing different ways to getting to that goal is the act of reasoning.

      • In reply to #24 by Ron Hooft:

        I need to amend my reply. I didn’t finish the point. The point is that reason is exactly that: reasons. What are the reasons for what you do or think? It is a prioritizing of your reasons for acting or thinking. All actions and thoughts have a reason or goal.

        The best way to relieve hunger is to find food and eat. Weighing different ways to getting to that goal is the act of reasoning.

        I liked this, excellent definition!

    • In reply to #32 by Alan4discussion:

      Reason when combined with objective observations, gives answers which work in the real world to give predicted results. Un-reason / irrationality does not!

      Sounds like a mantra to me!

  20. In reply to #34 by Stardroid:

    Terms and Conditions

    1. No abuse. Let’s try and stay polite to each other. Obviously no intimidation or bullying, and if it does get a bit frank and heated, our language should be no more than a normal civilised person would use in face-to-face encounters. If it is not something that would be accepted at a face-to-face social gathering or meeting, then it is not acceptable here. When disagreements occur we therefore expect you to 1) Focus on the ideas and argue against the individual(s) rationally, or 2) Report individuals if they are in breach of the Conditions of Use, or 3) Ignore rude comments and refuse to escalate the situation. Pseudonyms should not become a licence for gratuitous rudeness.

    2. No bores. Hard to define, but we all know them when we encounter them. The following list is not exhaustive. People who have one particular drum that they just keep on banging over and over again. People who persistently abuse and insult other users. People who treat the site as though it were their own personal blog or playground. People who seem to think a modicum of courtesy is a sign of weakness. People who snarl and spit as soon as anyone disagrees with them.

    3. No sock puppets. Bores and other offenders who have been banned often try to come back under another name. This is strictly forbidden. In order to guard against this, we have to forbid multiple user accounts. If you already have more than one account, perhaps because you used to use an alias but now post using your real name, please contact support@richarddawkins.net so that they can be amalgamated. Don’t forget to let us know which of your user names you want to keep.

    4. No identity-sharing. For the same kind of reason, please don’t let other people use your RichardDawkins.net name and please take care to keep your login details private.

    5. No chat-rooming. Please keep comments broadly relevant to the topic that heads the thread, or at least relevant to the subjects of reason and science. It’s a good idea (and it usually happens this way) for threads to begin by being strictly on the topic of the heading article. If interesting side issues naturally develop later, that’s fine too. But please don’t let threads become derailed into chat-room gossip. If that starts to happen, please remove the discussion to a more appropriate medium elsewhere, e.g. IM or email.

    6. No spam. That includes commercial advertising, anything posted multiple times on one or more threads, and the habitual posting of material that has simply been lifted from other sites in order to make a point.

    7. No crime. Obviously no promotion of illegal activity. No libellous comments. No uploads of or links to any material containing viruses, worms, trojans, spyware etc. No soliciting of personal information from or about underage users, and no unwanted sexual attention towards users of any age.

    8. No trolling. Trolling includes any activity intended to disrupt the site, derail discussion or inflame personal conflict. It doesn’t include controversial posts that challenge the prevailing philosophy of the majority of visitors to the site. These are welcome, if they are intelligently argued.

    I’m going to be perfectly frank. I’m convinced by your behaviour elsewhere on this site that you are perfectly capable of delivering your arguments without insulting or patronizing others. I will gladly respond to your posts, but can you please stop acting in this highly unpleasant manner as though you were on some personal and heroic crusade against incredible odds? We are not your sworn enemies.

    I had a brief look on Wikipedia to clarify the topics raised here, and I do think I can be convinced that I have made a few errors and would like to correct them. Furthermore, I am willing to discuss the matter with you, but not if you behave so atrociously towards your fellow users that you alienate potential sympathizers. It makes what could be an eye-opener for many of us here simply a trial, a bore, and an irritation.

    • In reply to #36 by Zeuglodon:

      > In reply to #34 by Stardroid:
      >
      > Terms and Conditions
      >
      > No abuse. Let’s try and stay polite to each other. Obviously no intimidation or bullying, and if it does get a bit frank and heated, our language should be no more than a normal civilised person would use in face-to-face encounters. If it is not something that would be accepted at a face-to-face social gathering or meeting, then it is not acceptable here. When disagreements occur we therefore expect you to 1) Focus on the ideas and argue against the individual(s) rationally, or 2) Report individuals if they are in breach of the Conditions of Use, or 3) Ignore rude comments and refuse to escalate the situation. Pseudonyms should not become a licence for gratuitous rudeness.
      > No bores. Hard to define, but we all know them when we encounter them. The following list is not exhaustive. People who have one particular drum that they just keep on banging over and over again. People who persistently abuse and insult other users. People who treat the site as though it were their own personal blog or playground. People who seem to think a modicum of courtesy is a sign of weakness. People who snarl and spit as soon as anyone disagrees with them.
      > No sock puppets. Bores and other offenders who have been banned often try to come back under another name. This is strictly forbidden. In order to guard against this, we have to forbid multiple user accounts. If you already have more than one account, perhaps because you used to use an alias but now post using your real name, please contact support@richarddawkins.net so that they can be amalgamated. Don’t forget to let us know which of your user names you want to keep.
      > No identity-sharing. For the same kind of reason, please don’t let other people use your RichardDawkins.net name and please take care to keep your login details private.
      > No chat-rooming. Please keep comments broadly relevant to the topic that heads the thread, or at least relevant to the subjects of reason and science. It’s a good idea (and it usually happens this way) for threads to begin by being strictly on the topic of the heading article. If interesting side issues naturally develop later, that’s fine too. But please don’t let threads become derailed into chat-room gossip. If that starts to happen, please remove the discussion to a more appropriate medium elsewhere, e.g. IM or email.
      > No spam. That includes commercial advertising, anything posted multiple times on one or more threads, and the habitual posting of material that has simply been lifted from other sites in order to make a point.
      > No crime. Obviously no promotion of illegal activity. No libellous comments. No uploads of or links to any material containing viruses, worms, trojans, spyware etc. No soliciting of personal information from or about underage users, and no unwanted sexual attention towards users of any age.
      > No trolling. Trolling includes any activity intended to disrupt the site, derail discussion or inflame personal conflict. It doesn’t include controversial posts that challenge the prevailing philosophy of the majority of visitors to the site. These are welcome, if they are intelligently argued.
      >
      > I’m going to be perfectly frank. I’m convinced by your behaviour elsewhere on this site that you are perfectly capable of delivering your arguments without insulting or patronizing others. I will gladly respond to your posts, but can you please stop acting in this highly unpleasant manner as though you were on some personal and heroic crusade against incredible odds? We are not your sworn enemies.
      >
      > I had a brief look on Wikipedia to clarify the topics raised here, and I do think I can be convinced that I have made a few errors and would like to correct them. Furthermore, I am willing to discuss the matter with you, but not if you behave so atrociously towards your fellow users that you alienate potential sympathizers. It makes what could be an eye-opener for many of us here simply a trial, a bore, and an irritation.

      What happened to my last post? Was it removed? I spent time writing it.

      Perhaps it was removed because I keep telling people they don’t know what they’re on about. Maybe that isn’t the best way to go about things, so I apologise for that for what it’s worth if I have caused anyone any offence. Still, I hope you can see that I am making and defending points.

      I don’t want to upset anyone but just to appear cajoling in an otherwise safe topic – and safe because everyone knows what reason is (they don’t). It’s nice of you to say that you might have gotten some things wrong, which is to your credit of course.

      I used to write on forums and stuff in my teens and got really fed up. I thought that now that I’m in my 30s with a good education I can be a bit more effective with my language, and I suppose I do have a kind of crusade, I just don’t get to express it in my personal life. Maybe I should stop writing on the internet, I don’t know, it doesn’t get anywhere. I started doing it again the past couple of months, it feels a bit more like me being me with the thoughts I have but keep to myself. A certain enthusiasm is also to blame I suppose, for trying to feel like an intellectual again. Maybe when I retire I can write my book, that will be a long time from now.

      As my last gesture toward this conversation can I just say that reason is very hijack-able, that it cares too much for perceived wisdom and familiar effects, and only under great difficulty does it even acknowledge anything vital and new. In the UK, where I live, we are a very judgmental people. We are set in our ways to the extent that when I take my daughter to the playground none of the other children will speak to her or indeed with each other. Part of me wants to say that isn’t natural (although that’s fallacious), but it certainly isn’t what children need in order to prolong their childhood into healthy states of mind. There’s no God, but the British character is so defensively constructed that even atheists are indistinguishable in their behaviour from puritans, and you’d be forgiven for thinking some kind of collective religious culture has them in its grasp. Surely it takes something specific to motivate healthy 2 year olds not to speak to each other and run with each other? What ‘reasoning’ is that? Because whatever it is, it works, it’s powerful enough to break a child’s place in nature (again with the fallacy), and that’s one of the things unreflective reason is doing, right now. It isn’t an emotion, it isn’t an affectation of character, such young children have hardly developed in these areas: there’s some spell of reasoning, some verbal infection, that is making its way round every family.

      For me the origin of reason is in religion as long as it isn’t conceived radically as apart from it. It has to be fought for as resisting to the common sense world of the religiously and ideologically motivated general public, and the poisoned (what would otherwise be called ‘cursed’) historical and actual landscapes we inhabit.

      Peace out

      • In reply to #38 by Stardroid:

        “For me the origin of reason is in religion”

        “Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but—more frequently than not—struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.” — Martin Luther, Table Talks in 1569.

        “Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed. Faith must trample underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees must be put out of sight and … know nothing but the word of God.” — Martin Luther.

        “Whoever wants to be a Christian should tear the eyes out of his Reason.” — Martin Luther
        “The opinion formulated by the Church has more value in my eyes than human reasons, whatever they may be.” — Desiderius Erasmus

        “We should always be disposed to believe that which appears to us to be white is really black, if the hierarchy of the church so decides.” — St. Ignatius Loyola

        The dark ages are so called, because the universal Church of Rome closed the academy and dispersed the remaining philosophers; it was actively hostile to all forms of reason and continued to be so, until its bloody teeth were pulled and its claws blunted by the reformation followed by the enlightenment.

        If this is of such great importance to you, then start a thread on it, the OP in this one was in relation to a rather more simple issue… how to deal with a specific challenge and I doubt a critique of western philosophy or debates relating to theory of mind is particularly helpful, but by all means stir the pot a little, we all might learn something new along the way.

  21. Moderators’ message

    A reminder that our Terms of Use require users to remain civil towards others on the site, and to argue their points without resorting to snide personal remarks or other forms of insulting behaviour towards other users.

    We will remove all further comments that breach our Terms of Use.

    The mods

  22. Surely God’s decision to create reason would itself presuppose reason itself? Otherwise the decision would be arbitrary, which is hardly what one would want or expect from a perfect being. Indeed, the whole concept of a perfect being would be redundant without reason, so one can’t very well fall back on the excuse that “reason is part of his definition or essence”, because for that to mean anything, there must already be a normative standard to which we can make such a meaningful ascription. For that to be the case reason must already exist.

    And what happens when God decides to create reason? How would he even be sure that he had done so? Wasn’t he, only a moment ago, in Wonderland, incapable of constructing even a simple syllogism? How does he know that this new scenario is not also delusional? What’s that? Because it all seems to fit together so well? Then how is he any different from us lowly humans?

    This is the same problem that comes up when apologists put forward the argument from morality.

    Perhaps I’ve misunderstood the question though. The Christian friend said that reason could not emerge through natural causes (which might be a point about human cognition, and is therefore distinct from the claim that reason must be created eh nihilo by God – an idea that was last defended, I believe, by Descartes); perhaps what we’re dealing with is some sort of rehash of Alvin Plantinga’s famous evolutionary argument against naturalism. If that’s the case then I would recommend a volume titled “Naturalism defeated?: Essays on Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism.” Also see his debate with Michael Tooley in a book titled “Knowledge of God.”

    • In reply to #40 by gottagetoutmore:

      “The Christian friend said that reason could not emerge through natural causes”

      He is wrong in this, reasoning is somewhat abstract, but the abstraction is based on reality, take for instance number, which has been touched on above, number theory is based on set, sets are simply collections of discrete objects, trees, pebbles or eggs, birds probably don’t count (who knows?), but they know when the set of eggs is wrong, which is why the cuckoo pushes out an egg before laying its own, so the ability to recognise sets is observed in nature in most animals.

      We can add to sets and they get bigger, take away and they get smaller, discrete objects of the same type can be named, this is the abstract concept of “number”, 1 and 1 = 2, two pebbles, but notice that “AND” is a logical operator, and we can continue, so my point here is, if you had to justify mathematics, logic or reason you could do so from very natural first principles, in fact you would not be able to construct theses basic concepts if you existed in a timeless homogeneous environment with no discrete attributes… how would you for instance conceptualise a set in the absence of discrete things?

  23. Stardroid: Reasoning is always logical, like computation. It also requires inputs, like computation. In the classical syllogistic form an argument like this (syllogism “in barbara” as I was taught almost 50 years ago) is purely formal:
    All men are mortal;
    Socrates is a man;
    Therefore Socrates is mortal.
    Its real-world truth depends on the truth of the premisses. But in more modern conditional form the link to the real world is explicit (if… then…)
    Also, in your go-and-read-a-book-on-logic mode, might I suggest
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/logic-inductive/

  24. There is an innate faculty that comes with the type of sentience enjoyed by homo sapiens. We can establish cause and effect by applying our propensity to “deduce” things It is hard-wired into our brains.

    Giving it a name such “reason” allows us to codify and elaborate on the automatic internal functions of our mind.
    Among the things that we can do with these functions is to calculate the likelihood of something happening in a particular way. We make these calculations based on the collective experiences of humankind over eons.

    Whether reason underpins method and discovery or vice versa is not particularly relevant. The sum total of what we know eventually “informs” reason by allowing us to test for veracity. If this process is the “gift” of a supernatural being then that “fact” also becomes an irrelevant consideration. A being of this kind wants to be discovered because the processes supposedly coming from it would have to have a “purpose”. If the purpose is that we should remain pliant and dumb why do we have the propensity for reason?

    Is your friend suggesting that “God made us intelligent so that we can deliberately stay stupid”?

  25. In my uninformed mind, reason is a function of the human mind, it is no different from processes such as perception and comprehension. In very simple terms, reason helps us decide to sit upon a chair instead of a table. Furthermore, there is no need to prove its existence, as long as the brain is able to function properly there will be a natural ability for reason. It is not supernatural, reason is to the mind as the lungs are for the intake of oxygen. I am not an expert in anatomy, biology, or medicine but I hope you get the idea behind the comparison.

Leave a Reply