Basically, to reason means to have a claim/position/opinion that is supported with specific
evidence--that which tends to prove or disprove something... (Dictionary.com). Dictionary.com also offers this definition of reason:
basis or cause, as for some belief, action, fact, event, etc.: the
reason for declaring war. The Oxford English Dictionary
as "1. The action of reason v.; esp. the process by which one judgement is deduced from another or others which are given."
So we can say that reasoning is based on
information that causes a particular response or conclusion.
In fact, in Western thought,
reasoning cannot consist of a single thought, e.g.,
The dog is gentle. That is a only a
claim--not supported with reasons
and evidence. .
A reasonable statement/claim ALWAYS includes a
reason to support
the statement/claim AND, if needed, some
to prove the statement/claim
However, whether or not the reason and evidence are
true (verified by believable, repeatable means) or accepted by the reader/listener is quite another matter.
humans, we have reasons for everything we think and do, whether we
fully realize them or not. Probably animals also function in a
cause/effect pattern of behavior as well, but to plan/construct a
pattern of claim, reasons and evidence may be uniquely human.
is virtually inescapable in creative problem solving, even in artistic
compositions (written, visual, musical, etc.), and clearly in
mathematics, philosophy and the sciences. If we analyze any situation, idea, etc.,
we can test the veracity of what is being considered by reasoned
observations and acceptable evidence. In many cases, it is the evidence
that is being tested against repeatable outcomes of the proposition
and/or what is known to be "true" by individual experience or
understanding. Unacceptable or questionable evidence is
usually the telling element for the soundness of any reasoning.
There are many kinds of reasoning, including
● Analogical reasoning: relating things to other situations.
● Cause-and-effect reasoning: showing causes and resulting effect.
● Conditional reasoning: using if...then...
Deductive reasoning: starting from the general rule and moving to
● Syllogistic reasoning: drawing conclusions from premises.
● Inductive reasoning: starting from specifics and
making a general rule. "Educated
Guesses" and a "scientific hypothesis" are kinds of inductive
The following is an excerpt from writing posted by Rick Garlikov, a
interesting writer, but without formal credentials...
more complete coverage of Garilikov's views on rational thinking see, [
http://www.akat.com/reasoning.htm#example ]. Consider how much of this
writing seems credible. Viewed critically, does this
writing/explanation "ring true?" and WHY?
Being reasonable means holding beliefs
and views for which (1) one can give true or probable evidence that (2)
actually (or sufficiently and relevantly) supports them. And it means
also (3) having true or probable evidence about what is wrong with
beliefs that oppose or challenge your conclusions or the truth or
sufficiency of your evidence.* For the only ways any views can be
reasonably challenged are by the supported claim that (1) the
conclusion is not true, (2) that the evidence is not true, or (3) that
the evidence is insufficient to justify the conclusion. The only ways
you can have mistaken beliefs of any sort is to have faulty evidence --
evidence that is not true or that, even if it is true, still does not
support your beliefs. (As an example of the latter point, the view that
the sun moves around the earth does not follow from the appearance that
it does, because that very same appearance can be explained by a
rotation of the earth instead. So even though the reason for believing
that the sun is revolving a. round
the earth is true -- that we see the sun going from east to west each
day -- that reason does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that the
sun is revolving around the earth.)
Showing evidence to be not
true or to be inconclusive does not, by itself, show a conclusion to be
false, but it shows it unreasonable or unwarranted to believe it on the
basis of that evidence.
Other people's evidence that your
conclusion is false must itself be faulty in some way if your
conclusion is true; otherwise your conclusion must be false and there
must be something wrong with YOUR evidence for it. Whenever there is
evidence that a belief or a conclusion is true, and other evidence that
it is false, there must be something wrong with at least one of those
sets of evidence.
As a corollary, this all means being able to
support your reasons or evidence itself, insofar as is necessary. So,
if someone challenges the truth of any of your reasons, you need to be
able to give the evidence you believe that reason itself is true, and
you then need to show why you think their challenge is itself faulty.
In other words, you will be looking at the reason under attack as a
conclusion itself -- a conclusion of a "prior" argument or of prior
evidence. In one episode of the television series "Law and Order", the
defense attorney challenged the eyewitness testimony of an elderly
woman who had positively identified his client as the perpetrator of a
crime. He asked her age and he asked her about failing vision. When she
denied any problem with her vision, he asked her to identify a mural on
a far wall in the courtroom. She said it was some part of Manhattan in
the seventeenth century. When he sarcastically asked her whether she
was familiar with 17th century Manhattan, her response annihilated his
attack on her credibility as an eyewitness from the standpoint of her
allegedly having impaired vision: "No, young man, but I can read the
legend at the bottom of the mural." (The legend was in small script.)
another corollary, it means having true or probable, relevant,
sufficient evidence against other people's conclusions you dispute, or
against the truth, probability, or sufficiency of their evidence.
(Whenever possible and feasible this may include expressing not only
what you think is untrue or irrelevant but what you think the correct
or relevant points are. Sometimes, however, this latter is not
possible, as when one knows, and can demonstrate, something is wrong,
but does not know what is right to replace it.) Evidence and
conclusions can be disputed as being either false, unproved,
improbable, unclear, or meaningless. (Garlikov)