Reason

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Search out the ground of your opinions, the for and the against. Know why you believe, understand what you believe, and possess a reason for the faith that is in you… ~ Frances Wright

Reason involves the ability to think, understand and draw conclusions in an abstract way, as in human thinking. The meanings of the word "reason" overlap to a large extent those of "rationality."

Quotes[edit]

Reason is Life's sole arbiter, the magic Laby'rinth's single clue... ~ Richard Francis Burton
The sleep of reason produces monsters ~ Goya
  • I think I am justified — though where so many hours have been spent in convincing myself that I am right, is there not some reason to fear I may be wrong?
  • Reason is like a runner who doesn't know that the race is over, or, like Penelope, constantly undoing what it creates.... It is better suited to pulling things down than to building them up, and better at discovering what things are not, than what they are.
    • Pierre Bayle, Reply to the Questions of a Provincial (Réponse aux questions d'un provincial, 1703). Quoted in Elisabeth Labrousse, Bayle, trans. Denys Potts (Oxford University Press, 1983), p. 61.
  • Il n'est pas nécessaire de tenir les choses pour en raisonner.
    • It is not necessary to retain facts that we may reason concerning them.
    • Pierre de Beaumarchais, Barbier de Séville (1773), V. 4.
  • Example has more followers than reason. We unconsciously imitate what pleases us, and insensibly approximate to the characters we most admire. In this way, a generous habit of thought and of action carries with it an incalculable influence.
  • Pure Reason left to herself
    relieth on axioms and essential premises
    which she can neither question nor resolve.
  • We should not in the field of Reason look to find
    less vary and veer than elsewhere in the flux of Life.
  • In our modern world we have seen inaugurated the reign of a dull bourgeois rationalism, which finds some inadequate reason for all things in heaven and earth and makes a god of its own infallibility.
    • John Buchan, A Lodge in the Wilderness (1906), Chapter III, p. 69.
  • All great men are gifted with intuition. They know without reasoning or analysis, what they need to know.
    • Alexis Carrel, quoted in M. B. Raja Rao, Nava-Vēda: God and Man (Nara and Narayan) (1968‎) p. 229.
  • Man has been endowed with reason, with the power to create, so that he can add to what he's been given. But up to now he hasn't been a creator, only a destroyer. Forests keep disappearing, rivers dry up, wild life's become extinct, the climate's ruined and the land grows poorer and uglier every day.
  • True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting; it summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrongdoing by its prohibitions.
    • Cicero, De Re Publica, Book 3, Chapter 22.
  • To me the entire uselessness of such rules as practical guides lies in the inherent vagueness of the word "reasonable," the absolute impossibility of finding a definite standard, to be expressed in language, for the fairness and the reason of mankind, even of Judges. The reason and fairness of one man is manifestly no rule for the reason and fairness of another, and it is an awkward, but as far as I see, an inevitable consequence of the rule, that in every case where the decision of a Judge is overruled, who does or does not stop a case on the ground that there is, or is not, reasonable evidence for reasonable |men, those who overrule him say, by implication, that in the case before them, the Judge who is overruled is out of the pale of reasonable men.
    • John Duke Coleridge, Dublin, &c. Rail. Co. v. Slattery (1878), L. R. 3 App. Ca. 1197; reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 218.
  • Water cannot rise higher than its source, neither can human reason. Now, all reasoning respecting transcendent truths must have its source where the truths or ideas themselves originate.
    • Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Notes appended to the third edition of Southey's Life of Wesley, reported in Charles Prest, The Witness of the Holy Spirit (1867), p. 18.
  • Religion passes out of the ken of reason only where the eye of reason has reached its own horizon; faith is then but its continuation, even as the day softens away into the sweet twilight; and twilight, hushed and breathless, steals into the darkness.
    • Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographia Literaria: Or, Biographical Sketches of My Literary Life and Opinions (1817), p. 302.
  • We think only through the medium of words.—Languages are true analytical methods.—Algebra, which is adapted to its purpose in every species of expression, in the most simple, most exact, and best manner possible, is at the same time a language and an analytical method.—The art of reasoning is nothing more than a language well arranged.
  • Reason has built the modern world. It is a precious but also a fragile thing, which can be corroded by apparently harmless irrationality. We must favor verifiable evidence over private feeling. Otherwise we leave ourselves vulnerable to those who would obscure the truth.
  • Two angels guide
    The path of man, both aged and yet young,
    As angels are, ripening through endless years,
    On one he leans: some call her Memory,
    And some Tradition; and her voice is sweet,
    With deep mysterious accords: the other,
    Floating above, holds down a lamp which streams
    A light divine and searching on the earth,
    Compelling eyes and footsteps. Memory yields,
    Yet clings with loving check, and shines anew,
    Reflecting all the rays of that bright lamp
    Our angel Reason holds. We had not walked
    But for Tradition; we walk evermore
    To higher paths by brightening Reason's lamp.
  • Knowest thou what kind of speck you art in comparison with the Universe?—That is, with respect to the body; since with respect to Reason, thou art not inferior to the Gods, nor less than they. For the greatness of Reason is not measured by length or height, but by the resolves of the mind. Place then thy happiness in that wherein thou art equal to the Gods.
    • Epictetus, (ca. 55-135 AD) Golden Sayings of Epictetus #33.
  • One who knows not who he is and to what end he was born; what kind of world this is and with whom he is associated therein; one who cannot distinguish Good and Evil, Beauty and Foulness,... Truth and Falsehood, will never follow Reason in shaping his desires and impulses and repulsions, nor yet in assent, denial, or suspension of judgment; but will in one word go about deaf and blind, thinking himself to be somewhat, when he is in truth of no account. Is there anything new in all this? Is not this ignorance the cause of all the mistakes and mischances of men since the human race began?
    • Epictetus, (ca. 55-135 AD) Golden Sayings of Epictetus #81.
  • Study how to give as one that is sick: that thou mayest hereafter give as one that is whole. Fast; drink water only; abstain altogether from desire, that thou mayest hereafter confirm thy desire to Reason.
    • Epictetus, (ca. 55-135 AD) Golden Sayings of Epictetus #101.
  • The Way to see by Faith, is to shut the Eye of Reason:
    The Morning Daylight appears plainer when you put out your Candle.
  • The language of reason unaccompanied by kindness will often fail of making an impression. It has no effect on the understanding, because i touches not the heart. The language of kindness unassociated with reason will frequently be unable to persuade: because though it may gain upon the affections, it wants that which is necessary to convince the judgement. But let reason and kindness be united in your discourse; and seldom will even pride or prejudice find it easy to resist.
    • Thomas Gisborne, Sermons, Vol. I (London: T. Cadell and W. Davies, 1802), Sermon XI. On the Character of Naaman, pp. 240–1.
  • A reasonable fine is such as the law will judge to be so . . . but what a reasonable fine is, and who shall be the judge of it, the law has established no rule.
    • Lord Hardwicke, Moore's Case (1736), 17 How. St. Tr. 914; reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 218.
  • Reason is a religious duty and quality of the mind; and exercise of the judgment upon all occasions and subjects is true and most divine worship.
    • Cora Hatch, “The Religion of Life,” Discourses on Religion, Morals, Philosophy and Metaphysics (1858).
  • Those may justly be reckoned void of understanding that do not bless and praise God; nor do men ever rightly use their reason till they begin to be religious, nor live as men till they live to the glory of God. As reason is the substratum or subject of religion (so that creatures which have no reason are not capable of religion), so religion is the crown and glory of reason, and we have our reason in vain, and shall one day wish we had never had it, if we do not glorify God with it.
    • Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. IV. Isaiah to Malachi, Section on Daniel 4:34-37.
  • We must ...cultivate true metaphysics with some care, in order to destroy the false and adulterate. ...Accurate and just reasoning... is alone able to subvert that abstruse philosophy and metaphysical jargon, which being mixed up with popular superstition, renders it in a manner impenetrable to careless reasoners, and gives it the air of science and wisdom.
  • While we [philosophers] study with attention the vanity of life... we are, perhaps, all the while flattering our natural indolence, which, hating the bustle of the world, and drudgery of business, seeks a pretense of reason to give itself a full and uncontrolled indulgence.
    • David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748) Ch.V, Part I.
  • Nature will always maintain her rights, and prevail in the end over any abstract reasoning whatsoever.
    • David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748) Ch.V, Part I.
  • All inferences from experience... are effects of custom, not of reasoning.
    • David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748) Ch.V, Part I.
  • No conclusions can be more agreeable to scepticism than such as make discoveries concerning the weakness and narrow limits of human reason and capacity.
    • David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748) Ch.VII, Part II.
  • There is no method of reasoning more common, and yet none more blamable, than, in philosophical disputes, to endeavor the refutation of any hypothesis, by a pretense of its dangerous consequences to religion and morality.
    • David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748) Ch.VIII, Part II.
  • Nature must have provided some other principle, of more ready, and more general use and application; nor can an operation of such immense consequence in life, as that of inferring effects from causes, be trusted to the uncertain process of reasoning and argumentation.
  • The experimental reasoning itself, which we possess in common with beasts, and on which the whole conduct of life depends, is nothing but a species of instinct or mechanical power, that acts in us unknown to ourselves.
    • David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748) Ch.IX.
  • Besides that the ordinary course of nature may convince us, that almost everything is regulated by principles and maxims very different from ours; besides this, I say, it must evidently appear contrary to all rules of analogy, to reason from the intentions and projects of men, to those of a Being so different and so much superior.
    • David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748) Ch.XI.
  • The Cartesian doubt... were it ever possible to be attained by any human creature (as it plainly is not) would be entirely incurable; and no reasoning could ever bring us to a state of assurance and conviction upon any subject.
    • David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748) Ch.XII, Part I.
  • There is a degree of doubt, and caution, and modesty, which, in all kinds of scrutiny and decision, ought for ever to accompany a just reasoner.
    • David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748) Ch.XII, Part III.
  • If we reason a priori, anything may appear able to produce anything.
    • David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748) Ch.XII, Part III.
  • If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.
  • I beheld with reverent dread, and highly marvelling in the sight and in the feeling of the sweet accord, that our Reason is in God; understanding that it is the highest gift that we have received; and it is grounded in nature.
  • There is a gossipy reasoning which in its endlessness bears about the same relation to the result as the interminable line of Egyptian monarchs bears to the historical value of their reigns.
  • Ask whatever questions you please, but do not ask me for reasons. A young woman may be forgiven for not being able to give reasons, since they say she lives in her feelings. Not so with me. I generally have so many reasons, and most often such mutually contradictory reasons, that for this reason it is impossible for me to give reasons. There seems to be something wrong with cause and effect also, that they do not rightly hang together. Tremendous and powerful causes sometimes produce small and unimpressive effects, sometimes none at all; then again it happens that a brisk little cause produces a colossal effect.
    • Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or, Part I, Swenson p. 25.
  • We must trust to nothing but facts: These are presented to us by Nature, and cannot deceive. We ought, in every instance, to submit our reasoning to the test of experiment, and never to search for truth but by the natural road of experiment and observation.
  • I take it that reasonable human conduct is part of the ordinary course of things.
    • Nathaniel Lindley, Baron Lindley, L.J., "The City of Lincoln" (1889), L. R. 15 P. D. 18; reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 218.
  • Ratio omnia vincit.
  • But all was false and hollow; though his tongue
    Dropt manna, and could make the worse appear
    The better reason, to perplex and dash
    Maturest counsels.
  • Subdue
    By force, who reason for their law refuse,
    Right reason for their law.
  • Mais la raison n'est pas ce qui règle l'amour.
    • But it is not reason that governs love.
    • Molière, Le Misanthrope (1666), I, 1.
  • La parfaite raison fuit toute extremité,
    Et veut que l'on soit sage avec sobriètè.
    • All extremes does perfect reason flee,
      And wishes to be wise quite soberly.
    • Molière, Le Misanthrope (1666), I, 1.
  • A man always has two reasons for what he does—a good one, and the real one.
    • Attributed to J. Pierpont Morgan in Owen Wister, Roosevelt: The Story of a Friendship (1930), p. 280.
  • A long habit of not thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficial appearance of being RIGHT, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.
  • All reasoning ends in an appeal to self-evidence.
  • Say first, of God above or man below,
    What can we reason but from what we know?
  • Reason, however able, cool at best,
    Cares not for service, or but serves when prest,
    Stays till we call, and then not often near.
  • Who reasons wisely is not therefore wise;
    His pride in reasoning, not in acting lies.
  • Man is a rational animal – so at least I have been told. Throughout a long life, I have looked diligently for evidence in favor of this statement, but so far I have not had the good fortune to come across it, though I have searched in many countries spread over three continents.
  • Were I (who to my cost already am
    One of those strange, prodigious creatures, man)
    A spirit free to choose, for my own share,
    What case of flesh and blood I pleased to wear,
    I'd be a dog, a monkey, or a bear,
    Or anything but that vain animal,
    Who is so proud of being rational.
    The senses are too gross; and he'll contrive
    A sixth to contradict the other five;
    And before certain instinct will prefer
    Reason, which fifty times for one does err;
    Reason, an ignis fatuus of the mind,
    Which, leaving light of nature, sense, behind,
    Pathless and dangerous wandering ways it takes,
    Through error's fenny bogs and thorny brakes;
    Whilst the misguided follower climbs with pain
    Mountains of whimseys, heaped in his own brain.
  • Then old age and experience, hand in hand,
    Lead him to death, make him to understand,
    After a search so painful and so long,
    That all his life he has been in the wrong.
    Huddled in dirt the reasoning engine lies,
    Who was so proud, so witty, and so wise.
  • Our sphere of action is life's happiness,
    And he that thinks beyond thinks like an ass.
    Thus, whilst against false reasoning I inveigh,
    I own right reason, which I would obey:
    That reason which distinguishes by sense
    And gives us rules of good and ill from thence,
    That bounds desires, with a reforming will
    To keep 'em more in vigour, not to kill.
    Your reason hinders, mine helps to enjoy,
    Renewing appetites yours would destroy.
  • There is no point on which a greater amount of decision is to be found in Courts of law and equity than as to what is reasonable; for instance, reasonable time, reasonable notice, and the like. It is impossible a priori to state what is reasonable in such cases. You must have the particular facts of each case established before you can ascertain what is meant by reasonable time, notice, and the like.
    • Lord Romilly, M.R., Labouchere v. Dawson (1872), L. R. 13 Eq. Ca. 325; reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 218.
  • Sure, he that made us with such large discourse,
    Looking before and after, gave us not
    That capability and god-like reason
    To fust in us unus'd.
  • Give you a reason on compulsion! if reasons were as plentiful as blackberries, I would give no man a reason upon compulsion, I.
  • But since the affairs of men rest still incertain,
    Let's reason with the worst that may befall.
  • His reasons are as two grains of wheat hid in two bushels of chaff; you shall seek all day ere you find them; and when you have them, they are not worth the search.
  • When even the brightest mind in our world has been trained up from childhood in a superstition of any kind, it will never be possible for that mind, in its maturity, to examine sincerely, dispassionately, and conscientiously any evidence or any circumstance which shall seem to cast a doubt upon the validity of that superstition. I doubt if I could do it myself.
  • Reason is the test of ridicule, and not ridicule the test of truth.
    • William Warburton, The Divine Legation of Moses Demonstrated, Volume I, Dedication to the Freethinkers (1738), 1765 edition, p. 15.
  • Reason is the glory of human nature, and one of the chief eminences whereby we are raised above our fellow-creatures, the brutes, in this lower world.
    • Isaac Watts, Logic: or The Right Use of Reason in the Inquiry after Truth (1724), Introduction.
  • When we affirm that philosophy begins with wonder, we are affirming in effect that sentiment is prior to reason.
  • I am not going to question your opinions. I am not going to meddle with your belief. I am not going to dictate to you mine. All that I say is, examine; enquire. Look into the nature of things. Search out the ground of your opinions, the for and the against. Know why you believe, understand what you believe, and possess a reason for the faith that is in you…
    But your spiritual teachers caution you against enquiry — tell you not to read certain books; not to listen to certain people; to beware of profane learning; to submit your reason, and to receive their doctrines for truths. Such advice renders them suspicious counsellors. By their own creed you hold your reason from their God. Go! ask them why he gave it.
    • Frances Wright, A Course of Popular Lectures (1829), Lecture III : Of the more Important Divisions and Essential Parts of Knowledge.
  • Reason deceives us more often than does nature.
  • Reason progressive, Instinct is complete;
    Swift Instinct leaps; slow reason feebly climbs.
    Brutes soon their zenith reach. * * * In ages they no more
    Could know, do, covet or enjoy.
    • Edward Young, Night Thoughts (1742-1745), Night VII, line 81.
  • And what is reason? Be she thus defined:
    Reason is upright stature in the soul.
    • Edward Young, Night Thoughts (1742-1745), Night VII, line 1,526.
  • That which exercises reason is more excellent than that which does not exercise reason; there is nothing more excellent than the universe, therefore the universe exercises reason.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 658-59.
  • Domina omnium et regina ratio.
    • Reason is the mistress and queen of all things.
    • Cicero, Tusculanarum Disputationum, II. 21.
  • Aristophanes turns Socrates into ridicule … as making the worse appear the better reason.
  • Reasons are not like garments, the worse for wearing.
    • Earl of Essex to Lord Willoughby (Jan. 4, 1598–9).
  • Setting themselves against reason, as often as reason is against them.
    • Thomas Hobbes, Works, III, p. 91. Ed. 1839. Also in Epistle Dedicatory to Tripos, IV, XIII.
  • Hoc volo, sic jubeo, sit pro ratione voluntas.
    • I will it, I so order, let my will stand for a reason.
    • Juvenal, Satires, VI. 223.
  • You have ravished me away by a Power I cannot resist; and yet I could resist till I saw you; and even since I have seen you I have endeavored often "to reason against the reasons of my Love."
  • La raison du plus fort est toujours la meilleure.
  • To be rational is so glorious a thing, that two-legged creatures generally content themselves with the title.
  • Omnia sunt risus, sunt pulvis, et omnia nil sunt:
    Res 'hominum cunctæ, nam ratione carent.
    • All is but a jest, all dust, all not worth two peason:
      For why in man's matters is neither rime nor reason.
    • George Puttenham, Arte of English Poesie, p. 125. Attributed by him to Democritus.
  • Nam et Socrati objiciunt comici, docere eum quomodo pejorem causam meliorem faciat.
    • For comic writers charge Socrates with making the worse appear the better reason.
    • Quintilian, De Institutione Oratoria, II. 17. 1.
  • On aime sans raison, et sans raison l'on hait.
  • Nihil potest esse diuturnum cui non subest ratio.
    • Nothing can be lasting when reason does not rule.
    • Quintus Curtius Rufus, De Rebus Gestis Alexandri Magni, IV, 14, 19.
  • Id nobis maxime nocet, quod non ad rationis lumen sed ad similitudinem aliorum vivimus.
    • This is our chief bane, that we live not according to the light of reason, but after the fashion of others.
    • Seneca the Younger, Octavia, Act II, 454.
  • While Reason drew the plan, the Heart inform'd
    The moral page and Fancy lent it grace.

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)[edit]

Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)
  • Polished steel will not shine in the dark. No more can reason, however refined or cultivated, shine efficaciously but as it reflects the light of Divine truth shed from heaven.
  • The light of reason ever gleams on the margin of an unmeasured and immeasurable ocean of mystery; and however far we push our discoveries, the line of light only moves on, and has infinite and unfathomable darkness beyond it.
  • Here is the manliness of manhood, that a man has a reason for what he does, and has a will in doing it.
  • Let reason count the stars, weigh the mountains, fathom the depths — the employment becomes her, and the success is glorious. But when the question is, " How shall man be just with God?" reason must be silent, revelation must speak; and he who will not hear it assimilates himself to the first deist, Cain; he may not kill a brother, he certainly destroys himself.
  • What a return do we make for those blessings we have received! How disrespectfully do we treat the gospel of Christ to which we owe that clear light both of reason and of nature, which we now enjoy, when we endeavor to set up reason and nature in opposition to it! Ought the withered hand which Christ has restored and made whole to be lifted up against Him?

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