Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of reason as a way of knowing.

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 Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of reason as a way of knowing.

         When William Drummond said   ‘He that will not reason is a bigot; he that cannot reason is a fool; and he that dares not reason is a slave’, he aptly underlined the importance of reason in a person’s life. Reason is the thinking, the justification or the explanation behind a thought or a belief in a person’s mind. If the word “reason” is removed from the dictionary the very existence of facts will lose all its verifications. Behind every thought every action of a human there better be a reason or the person may be considered a mad man.
            Reason can help us in many ways to acquire new knowledge. As every action or important decision has pro and cons, strengths and weaknesses so does reason as a way of knowing. We can go very deep and consider different aspects of reason and their role in helping or complicating the way we acquire the new knowledge in hand. When a child goes to school and learns science he uses logic or reason to understand the different laws of physics and other sciences. For example when I learnt about the theory of conservation of momentum, it was somewhat difficult for me to understand how momentum remains constant. But when we conducted experiments with two pendulums, we perceived what we had read and then calculated the momentum at the beginning and the end of the experiment. Then the theory made more sense and became ingrained in my mind.

Reason helps us in many ways and if we try and base our new knowledge on it, it sorts out a lot of our queries. When a person thinks and reasons everything it is easier to gain knowledge. Language, perception and intuition are great ways of knowing, but reason has always been given a higher place by philosophers.  Rene Descartes a famous rationalist stated ‘Cogito ergo sum’ which mean ‘I think therefore I am’. He did not say, ‘I feel or see and therefore I am’. The universe too has been understood only because scientists reasoned it out.
 I feel that reason has a lot of strengths but the weaknesses arise due to the way we reason. Often people use some very vague means to reason such as “Ad Ignorantiam”, when a person tries to justify that there were people on the planet before the big bang who were for far more superior to us scientifically. He supports this seemingly illogical fact by saying that this is true as there is no proof that this was not the case. Some other weaknesses of reason as a way of knowing would be hasty generalizations in which people assume things without proper knowledge and data. 
Ad hominem would be when you do not judge the argument but instead you end up attacking or supporting the person. As children we heard the story of the boy who cried wolf which is based on this weakness of reasoning. Even when the wolf actually arrived, people ignored the boy’s call for help because they based their judgment on the fact that the boy was a liar rather than trying to ferret out facts logically. Post hoc ergo propter hoc is a fallacy when a person may tend to reason and may just confuse the correlation. Levitt and Dubner analyzed the drop in crime rate in US in their book ‘Freakonomics’. When crime rate unexpectedly fell in 2000s, the experts came up with the logical theories of roaring economy of 1990s or the gun control laws. But nobody could draw the correlation that it was because abortion was legalized in 1973 which allowed unmarried, teenaged and drug addicted mothers to legally abort what would have grown up to be a whole generation of criminals. This illustrates quite clearly that we jump to obvious explanations and that constitutes a weakness of reason.

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            Some types of reasoning such as deductive, inductive and informal help us to an extent in our day-to-day lives. Deductive reasoning helps us to think and figure out facts from general to particular. My neighbor insists that his cat Meg attacks only when she is scared because this is the general behavior of all cats. All kids of the block know that they needn’t be scared of her, as long as they quietly pass by, without scaring her. Such deductive reasoning preserves truth but then it can gain strength only if the premises involved are true.  Most cats behave in a certain ...

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