Reason can be viewed as a golden crown atop humanity. “Look at us. We’re so smart. We can reeeasooon.” But reasoning has its flaws.
Deductive reasoning is starting with a set of premises to form a conclusion.
- Premise 1: All chocolate bars are tasty.
- Premise 2: A Snicker’s is a chocolate bar.
- Conclusion: Therefore a Snicker’s is tasty.
The potential flaw is in the case of the premises: The conclusion holds if and only if the premises are true.
- Premise 1: I am a purple person.
- Premise 2: Purple people are geniuses.
- Conclusion: Therefore I am a genius.
I am not a purple person, so Premise 1 is not true. It doesn’t matter if Premise 2 is correct, because all the premises need to be true to reach a sound conclusion.
People can often start with a set of preconceived premises that (a) are not true or (b) others don’t agree with (when premises are opinions (e.g. Premise 1 of the chocolate bar example)). This can lead to false conclusions.
To reason inductively, one starts with a specific observation and forms a general conclusion.
- Observation: Every strawberry I’ve seen has been red.
- Conclusion: All strawberries are red.
This can certainly lead to incorrect conclusions and even prejudice. It can feed into cognitive bias and further reinforce it.
- Observation: All cats that I’ve come across have attempted to murder me.
- Cats are murderers who want to murder me.
It seems that the conclusions from inductive reasoning could be used to form the premises of deductive reasoning. Take the inductive conclusion that all strawberries are red and use it as a deductive premise:
- Premise 1 (inductive conclusion): All strawberries are red.
- Premise 2: That thing over there is a strawberry.
- Conclusion: Therefore that thing over there is red.
Because the conclusions of inductive reasoning can be false, this further supports the idea that deductive premises can be false, and that a false or unfounded conclusion can be drawn.
Abductive reasoning is choosing a possible cause for an effect.
- Effect: My car broke down.
- Possible cause 1: I ran out of gas.
- Possible cause 2: My battery died.
- Possible cause 3: There’s an invisible fairy that goes around screwing up people’s cars.
Inductive reasoning can be related to abductive reasoning as there could be a number of possible explanations (abductive reasoning) for a specific observation (inductive reasoning).
In the case of abductive reasoning, Occam’s razor comes into play here. Occam’s razor states that the simplest answer is usually the correct one. But how do you really know if you’ve come up with the simplest explanation? And, outside of Occam’s razor, there could be a plethora of explanations. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to know if you’ve thought of the correct one.
All of this was just to say that reason isn’t everything, especially when emotions and cognitive biases can influence it, along with limited experience. It seems much in life is impossible to know for certain. There is often lack of feedback of whether something is truth or not.
Some see religion and spirituality as a crutch and hold reason above all else, but reason can be seen as the same when it is used as a tool to devise answers and explanations for what otherwise may seem nonsensical or not understandable. Religion/spirituality and reason may be different, but they can also be the same when viewed as attempts to make sense of the world, to explain to oneself occurrences and the way things are.