Informal Notes on Reasoning


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: a basis or cause, as for some belief, action, fact, event, etc.: the reason for declaring war. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines reasoning 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 evidence 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.

    As 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.

    Reasoning 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 reasoning.

   


The following is an excerpt from writing posted by Rick Garlikov, a interesting writer, but without formal credentials...
For 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 around 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.)

As 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)


Reasoned writing (or speech) does follow a simple structure and any declarative sentence does start a reasoned "train-of-thought" or linkage of related ideas, reasons and evidence.  A more formal presentation of a reasoned composition which aims to prove a claim/thesis is made of this pattern repeated as much as needed to accomplish the necessary conclusion: D.A.R.E.: Develop a thesis sentence, Add supporting ideas/reasons, Reject an argument for the other side, and End with a necessary conclusion. Each paragraph within such a composition will follow a similar pattern--topic sentence>reasons/support>evidence>conclusion leading to next paragraph. See the Position Paper Guide for more suggested specifics.


Copyright - Jane Thielsen ~ 2017-All rights reserved--All materials here are used under Fair Use Guidelines for students at COCC