Evaluate the Strengths and Weaknesses of Reason as a Way of Knowing

Topics: Scientific method, Emotion, Reason Pages: 5 (1652 words) Published: February 11, 2013
Theory of knowledge|


Reason is a priori. All humans are born with it. It is a way of knowing as it is used in every area of knowledge and in collaboration with the other ways of knowing. Unlike the implication of the prescribed essay topic, reason is not a distinctive way of knowing. To say that is an oversimplification of the complexity of knowing. Knowledge can only be obtained through the inextricably linked ways of knowing. Reason comes to us naturally. For example, we purposely choose to recall past experiences to apply it to new and similar experiences. Most people value reason over the other ways of knowing. For example, North Americans have the “be reasonable” and “think before you act” idioms, and the Chinese have the “do not use emotions to act” idiom. Whenever I get angry or sad, those around me would remind me of those sayings. As can be inferred from the Chinese saying, emotion as a way of knowing is interpreted, at least by the Chinese, as the most unreliable. Globally, emotion is largely seen as the opposite of reason. The importance of reason changes per person, depending on academic background, philosophical traditions, culture, gender, age and etcetera. However, this investigation will attempt to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of reason as a way of knowing in art and natural science, and compare it with emotion. In art, reason is a definite weakness. With art and literature, you use imagination and creativity. Maybe a bit of reason is used to choose which colour to use, but it does not allow us to understand beauty, intrigue and mystery, which are fundamental to our existence. The rich experience of art is lost. Without such things, progress would probably not occur, and the current human race might still be in pre-stone age times. Art cannot be understood with reason. “Artistic expression, when effective, often bypasses the human reason and appeals directly to emotion.”This is why in courses such as English, when given a piece of poetry and asked to write about for example, how the poet conveys meaning through images and sounds, the first step is to grasp its general tone. Reason is not used to define your first impression. Say that this poem has a feeling of sadness. Emotion is the first and instantaneous way of knowing that is employed. Even when going through the poem again, emotion is required to pin-point the specific effects of the literary devices. Reason cannot be used to feel; therefore as a way of knowing art, it is a weakness. Conversely, reasoning is essential to science. Processing information collected from an experiment requires a balanced approach of viewing the data from multiple angles, which reflects proper and educated reasoning. A general statement conclusion must be supported by current and reputable findings. The scientific method is based on this idea. Otherwise, the conclusion will not be accepted by the scientific community as scientific. In this case, reason enhances the quality of scientific work and helps us advance. In this case, reason serves as a regulatory standard, which acts as the backbone for science and of which most within the community agree to. Nevertheless, there is always a small chance that accepted theories are wrong. Take climate change as an example. The majority, for clear reasons, say that it is occurring, but there are a few that disagree. To be purely reasonable is to not accept that climate change is a fact, even if investigation after investigation proves it to exist. It is true that reason is essential and central for human discourse and enquiry, but we have monitor it, or else nothing in science would advance. This idea of reason being a stumbling block to progress can be reinforced. Intuitive approach can accelerate progress, but to prove or to disprove the result by reason is a long process. Science would never accept conclusions that are...

Cited: Edwords, Frederick, “Humanism, Reason and the Arts,” Frederick Edwords,
[ 1 ]. Frederick Edwords, “Humanism, Reason, and the Arts,” Frederick Edwords, http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/fred_edwords/humart.html (accessed February 24, 2009).
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