Reason may be employed in two ways to establish a point: firstly, for the purpose of furnishing sufficient proof of some principle, as in natural science, where sufficient proof can be brought to show that the movement of the heavens is always of uniform velocity. Reason is employed in another way, not as furnishing a sufficient proof of a principle, but as confirming an already established principle, by showing the congruity of its results, as in astrology the theory of eccentrics and epicycles is considered as established, because thereby the sensible appearances of the heavenly movements can be explained; not, however, as if this proof were sufficient, forasmuch as some other theory might explain them.
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.
Reason cannot remain a bare intellectual faculty; it must become a faculty of judgment dealing with the question of values.
Margaret Benson, The Venture of Rational Faith (London: Macmillan and Co., 1908), p. 224.
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.
Pagan philosophers set up reason as the sole guide of life, of wisdom and conduct; but Christian philosophy demands of us that we surrender our reason to the Holy Spirit; and this means that we no longer live for ourselves, but that Christ lives and reigns within us (Rom 12:1; Eph 4:23; Gal 2:20).
John CalvinGolden Booklet of the True Christian Life, Page 27
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.
A rational, moral being cannot, without infinite wrong, be converted into a mere instrument of others’ gratification. He is necessarily an end, not a means. A mind, in which are sown the seeds of wisdom, disinterestedness, firmness of purpose, and piety, is worth more than all the outward material interests of a world. It exists for itself, for its own perfection, and must not be enslaved to its own or others’ animal wants.
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.
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.
I want now to glance for a moment at the development of the theoretical method, and while doing so especially to observe the relation of pure theory to the totality of the data of experience. Here is the eternal antithesis of the two inseparable constituents of human knowledge, Experience and Reason, within the sphere of physics. We honour ancient Greece as the cradle of western science. She for the first time created the intellectual miracle of a logical system, the assertions of which followed one from another with such rigor that not one of the demonstrated propositions admitted of the slightest doubt—Euclid's geometry. This marvellous accomplishment of reason gave to the human spirit the confidence it needed for its future achievements. ...But yet the time was not ripe for a science that could comprehend reality, was not ripe until a second elementary truth had been realized, which only became the common property of philosophers after Kepler and Galileo. Pure logical thinking can give us no knowledge whatsoever of the world of experience; all knowledge about reality begins with experience and terminates in it.
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.
Auctoritas siquidem ex vera ratione processit, ratio vero nequaquam ex auctoritate. Omnis enim auctoritas, quae vera ratione non approbatur, infirma videtur esse. Vera autem ratio, quum virtutibus suis rata atque immutabilis munitur, nullius auctoritatis adstipulatione roborari indigent.
For authority proceeds from true reason, but reason certainly does not proceed from authority. For every authority which is not upheld by true reason is seen to be weak, whereas true reason is kept firm and immutable by her own powers and does not require to be confirmed by the assent of any authority.
Johannes Scotus Eriugena (815 – c. 877) De Divisione Naturae, Bk. 1, ch. 69; translation by I. P. Sheldon-Williams, cited from Peter Dronke (ed.) A History of Twelfth-Century Western Philosophy (Cambridge: CUP, 1988) p. 2.
Copernicanism and other "rational" views exist today only because reason was overruled at some time in their past. (The opposite is also true: witchcraft and other "irrational" views had ceased to be influential only because reason was overruled at some time in their past.)
To say that madness is dazzlement is to say that the madman sees the day, the same day that rational men see, as both live in the same light, but that when looking at that very light, nothing else and nothing in it, he sees it as nothing but emptiness, night and nothingness. Darkness for him is another way of seeing the day. Which means that in looking at the night and the nothingness of the night, he does not see at all. And that in the belief that he sees, he allows the fantasies of his imagination and the people of his nights to come to him as realities. For that reason, delirium and dazzlement exist in a relation that is the essence of madness, just as truth and clarity, in their fundamental relation, are constitutive of classical reason.
In that sense, the Cartesian progression of doubt is clearly the great exorcism of madness. Descartes closes his eyes and ears the better to see the true light of the essential day, thereby ensuring that he will not suffer the dazzlement of the mad, who open their eyes and only see night, and not seeing at all, believe that they see things when they imagine them. In the uniform clarity of his closed senses, Descartes has broken with all possible fascination, and if he sees, he knows he really sees what he is seeing. Whereas in the madman’s gaze, drunk on the light that is night, images rise up and multiply, beyond any possible self-criticism, since the madman sees them, but irremediably separated from being, since the madman sees nothing. Unreason is to reason as dazzlement is to daylight.
Michel Foucault, History of Madness (1961), Part Two: 2. The Transcendence of Delirium
If you will not hear reason, she will surely rap your knuckles.
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).
Like other traditions, the tradition of reason is learnt, not innate. It too lies between instinct and reason; and the question of the real reasonableness and truth of this tradition of proclaimed reason and truth must now also scrupulously be examined.
Friedrich Hayek, The Fatal Conceit (1988), Ch. 4: The Revolt of Instinct and Reason
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.
When the dictators of today appeal to reason, they mean that they possess the most tanks. They were rational enough to build them; others should be rational enough to yield to them.
Max Horkheimer, “The End of Reason,” The Essential Frankfurt School Reader (1982), p. 28
The more the concept of reason becomes emasculated, the more easily it lends itself to ideological manipulation and to propagation of even the most blatant lies. … Subjective reason conforms to anything.
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.
Neither in deductive nor inductive reasoning can we add a tittle to our implicit knowledge, which is like that contained in an unread book or a sealed letter. ...Reasoning explicates or brings to conscious possession what was before unconscious. It does not create, nor does it destroy, but it transmutes and throws the same matter into a new form.
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.
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.
Rationality is very much connected with the tradition in science for the last 300 years, when you're going to end up with some sort of understandable explanation of something. And I would be disappointed if that were the case.
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.
Reason ... contradicts the established order of men and things on behalf of existing societal forces that reveal the irrational character of this order—for “rational” is a mode of thought and action which is geared to reduce ignorance, destruction, brutality, and oppression.
Now some of the scribes were there, sitting and reasoning in their hearts: “Why is this man talking this way? He is blaspheming. Who can forgive sins except one, God?” But immediately Jesus discerned by his spirit that they were reasoning that way among themselves, so he said to them: “Why are you reasoning these things in your hearts?
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.
As soon as an object is regarded as a dynamic entity, then analysis and definition become both difficult and unsatisfactory. Thinking is under such circumstances well-nigh impossible for most people. To think at all logically, no matter how concretistic the thought may be, there must be some static point. Where, now are we to look for this point? The man of action answers, in its effect. Then an object becomes completely separated... from all other objective elements as well as from the perceiving self. ...Reality, in other words, is pragmatic. ...Like all other philosophers, he [the thinker, as opposed to the man of action] is... aware of the movement and the shifting form of things. He is as much impressed by this as the man of action. But the world must first be static and objects must first take on a permanent or, at least, a stable form before one can deal with them systematically. ...The attempts of these primitive thinkers are embodied in numerous creation myths... the task is always the same—an original, moving, shapeless or undifferentiated world must be brought to rest and given stable form. ...There exist, however, many things that manifestly do not have permanence of form and do look different at different times. Philosophers have always given the same answer to this problem and predicated a unity behind these changing aspects and forms.
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.
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, sometimes, seems to me to be the faculty our soul possesses of understanding nothing about our body!
Paul Valéry, Dance and the Soul (1921), in Dialogues (Bollingen Series XLV 4/ Princeton University Press, 1989), translated by William McCausland Stewart, p. 46. The speaker is Eryximachus, a physician.
Most people in reasoning, dear Phaedrus, use notions that not only are "ready-made," but have actually been made by nobody. No one is responsible for them, and so they serve every one badly.
Paul Valéry, Eupalinos, or The Architect (1921), in Dialogues (Bollingen Series XLV 4/Princeton University Press, 1989), translated by William McCausland Stewart, p. 137. The speaker is Socrates.
It must have required enormous effort for man to overcome his natural tendency to live like the animals in a continual present. Moreover, the development of rational thought actually seems to have impeded man's appreciation for the significance of time. ...Belief that the ultimate reality is timeless is deeply rooted in human thinking, and the origin of rational investigation of the world was the search for permanent factors that lie behind the ever-changing pattern of events.
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 spiritualteachers 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.
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.
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?