TOK Essay - Can we trust reason in the pursuit of knowledge? Consider 2 areas of knowledge

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Can we trust reason in the pursuit of knowledge? Consider 2 areas of knowledge.

Every day, millions trust reason to arrive at important decision like whether they should invest in a hedge fund rather than a property to trivial ones like whether they should drink tea or coffee. Reason has so intrinsic a part of one’s thought process, that life without reason, seems too chaotic to even imagine. Over the course of human civilization, reason has garnered such infallible notion of trustworthiness that Italian Scientist Galileo Galilei said, “When the senses fail us, reason must step in” and famous Philosopher Immanuel Kant paid highest homage by proclaiming, “All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason’.

After careful examination, taking into consideration the subjective nature of ‘trust’ and ‘pursuit of knowledge’, the multi-faceted personality of ‘reason’ itself and, at a philosophical level, the ambiguity in trying to define ‘correct knowledge’ at all, it is safe to say that the knower, is at liberty without judgment in whether he/she can or should trust reason, to arrive at an understanding, which he/she is comfortable with. Having said that though, in a specific sense of resolution of the knowledge question, in Ethics, rather than assuming a purely reason based moral foundation, it is more trustworthy to couple reason along with intuition to arrive at a more holistic ethical compass, while in Arts, depending on the which art-form is considered, the trustworthiness and relevance of reason will vary in such a way that in some cases reason might have to be coupled with sense-perception, while in other cases, especially performing arts and literature, imagination, faith, emotion, language and intuition might have heavier parts to play.

In Ethics, some knowers are more inclined to Emotivism whereby, they would deem a certain conduct as right/wrong based on their emotional response while Others are bound to employ a utilitarian approach, in which they would weigh the greater good over their individual interests. Deontologists would act more out of duty irrespective of consequences of their actions while Super-naturalists, base their code of conduct as thought to be dictated by God.

Famous Deontologist Immanuel Kant, maintained that one’s ethics should purely be based on reason and not on human inclinations, emotions and consequences of one’s actions. He argued that Man is the only living being with a propensity towards reasoned thought and action, and thus should use such a faculty to determine one’s moral code.

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In the ‘Rationalist’ school of thought, the ‘Innate knowledge and concept thesis’, ‘Indispensability’ of reason thesis’ and the ‘Superiority of reason thesis’, render reason and innate intuition superior to sense perception or experience as a source of knowledge. Aristotle, in Nichomachean Ethics, states that, “Acting according to reason means acting virtuously” and, “Strictly speaking, only human beings with full use of reason can be considered happy because happiness is action in accordance with reason”.

The aforementioned schools of thought attribute reason the highest role in pursuing an accurate ethical knowledge system.

But, what exactly is reason? Reason ...

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