Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of reason as a way of knowing.
There are four central ways of knowing in which we obtain our information from on a daily basis; Emotion, Perception (senses), Language, and Reason. Each of the four ways is used in different ways depending on the situation, and each is associated with its strengths and weaknesses, which makes it most appropriate in a specific situation. Although using reason is a way of obtaining information is frequently used and has many advantages, there are also a variety of disadvantages that make this way of knowing not as reliable as we may think it is.
Logic is defined as synthesizing knowledge from existing knowledge and is a syllogism, consisting of three sections, two premises and a conclusion based on those premises. As reason is most frequently associated with logic, there are two different ways in which we base our logic on. Deductive knowledge is going from the general to the specific while inductive knowledge is going from the specific to the general. The biggest problem with logic is that your conclusion can be valid but not true.
For example, your syllogism could be: Socrates is a man- all men are mortal- therefore, Socrates is mortal. The conclusion “Socrates is mortal” is true and valid in this case. However, something like: When Paul plays football he is happy- Paul is happy- Paul is always playing football, is invalid as it is a poor conclusion. This is a weakness with reason as logic isn’t always reliable. Also, you can never be 100% sure about anything. Even though every extra example that you find that supports your theory makes you more certain that it’s correct, you can never hit 100% because you can’t try out an infinite number of possibilities that tests your theory.
Another weakness that is associated with reason is that it is often associated with ideas and opinions that you have that you base on your environment and what influences you. An example is when you base a reason around something that you feel strongly about, for example: I will not drink alcohol because it’s immoral. As different people have different views, this reasoning is based primarily on the person’s own views and ideas on what is moral and what isn’t.
Although reason as a way of knowing has many disadvantages associated with it, it also has many advantages, which is why it is widely used on a daily basis. One of its strengths is that it is not only based on our senses, which sometimes means that it is more reliable. Due to the fact that we can test our reasoning against literature values and laws, this can sometimes make it more reliable as we can know that we are not the only ones that think that way. For example, we know that Socrates is mortal because we have evidence that he is from other sources, which is our reason for believing that fact, and because that fact is backed up by other sources it makes it more reliable.
Reason is also a strong way of knowing as it is in a sense the way that is most based on “common sense”. Another advantage is that it allows for us to build upon previous information and back up our arguments or thoughts on something. It allows for extrapolation, which in some cases is very useful. For example, if someone asks you why you believe in something, you can go back and give reason to back up your belief, almost like tracing your steps. This therefore makes what you believe in more reliable in the other person’s opinion as it is justified based on other facts and knowledge.
In conclusion, reason, just like any other way of knowing has many advantages and disadvantages that are associated with it. Although it is frequently used on a daily basis, it is important for one to note the disadvantages and uncertainty that it comes with.