Philosophers such as Aristotle, Kant, and Mill dedicated a lot of their time in understanding reason and its role in day-to-day life. The reason is commonly understood as the power to think about using the human mind. People believe that it is the power to think that sets humans apart from other animals. While most people only take reason simply as how the mind works, philosophers have delved into understanding the common mechanism behind reason.
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Some philosophers have associated reasoning with morality while many others dispute this relationship (McCloskey, 2015). For instance, Kant was opposed to the British empiricists who argued that reason and ethics were independent aspects. As the paper argues, various philosophers maintained different views regarding the concept of reason. However, in my opinion, the reason is a central pillar that informs what society considers ethical or immoral.
Views about Reason
Different philosophers have diverse standpoints of what reasoning is exactly. Kolodny (2005) describes reasoning as sensibly conducted judgment where the theorist goes by his or her appraisal to derive a well-supported response to a particular question. As a counterargument, this definition has a shortcoming since reason cannot possibly be “responsibly conducted.” Such a definition of reason leaves out the concept of inference.
Nevertheless, the same definition will suffice if one expands reasoning to accommodate morality as suggested by Kant (Schönecker & Wood, 2015). Furthermore, it becomes clear that reason involves thinking patterns that people often fail to appreciate.
The concept of moral reasoning has risen from the argument by philosophers that reason cannot be divorced from morality. Therefore, the moral reason is the individual or collective real-life interpretation regarding what is decently right or wrong. Philosophical evaluation of moral reasoning encounters challenges concerning how human beings should recognize moral considerations when addressing conflicts that arise.
Additionally, there is also a puzzle concerning how these conflicts are supposed to move people into action. When faced with moral questions in day-to-day life, people may sometimes act out of impulse. However, many times they pause to ask themselves not only what to do but also what ought to be done. This situation brings up the concept of moral reasoning.
What is ethics then? Ethics can be defined as a systematic and critical analysis of morality, taking into account the honorable aspects that control human behavior in a given society. Therefore, ethical codes denote a set of guidelines, written or otherwise, that human beings are obliged by society to observe. Such standards exist for the benefit of society. Individuals who contravene ethics in society are often scorned in the least.
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Sometimes ethical values find their way into the law of society. Hence, breaking them can attract legal sanctions. Therefore, it makes sense to argue that ethical practices are influenced by reasoning. An individual would wish to think carefully before performing an act that may attract sanctions upon him or her. Deciding what constitutes right and wrong is the process of reasoning.
When moral duties and values are submitted to ethical analysis, their relation to fundamental human interests becomes particularly essential. Hence, ethical values are premised on what constitutes good at that particular moment, as commonly agreed by people in society. In utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill argued that what is right in society depends on what brings happiness (Mill, 2001). Similarly, people avoid acts that do not bring them happiness. This argument by utilitarian theorists supports the basic argument that reason and morals are intertwined (Mill, 2001). Simply put, people will often reason in the line of what is right or brings happiness for them to follow. There is overwhelming evidence that morality, and hence ethics, is dependent on reason.
Aristotle asserts that the decisions of a wise person are influenced by reasoning and not intuition. Through reason, a wise person makes decisions that can be emulated by others. He or she becomes a reference point to the extent that he or she is revered by his or her peers. He further explains that reasoning is accompanied by a major premise whose work is to identify the good (Westphal, 2016). The minor premise then works to locate the good.
He further asserts that reasoning has a starting point that is not justified by further reasoning. The starting point forms a basis for the conclusion. Practical reasoning entails trying to accomplish a goal and finding ways of achieving the intended goal. However, for practical reasoning to be effective, a premise has to be identified. The premise should be selected according to the circumstances at hand. Aristotle argues that the correctness of a starting point is influenced by the application of virtue and practical wisdom to the goal. Goals need to be within reach to enable the application of reason in its achievement (Westphal, 2016). The application of reason is also achievable to people who possess defective character. In this regard, Aristotle claims that people apply cleverness to achieve reason.
Kant’s moral philosophy was founded on the precincts of reason. Kant emphasized that for a clear understanding of metaphysics, it was important for the reason to be separated from the concept of understanding. According to Kant, knowledge cannot surpass human beings’ experience because the experience is limited to the natural world. The methods of reasoning adopted can misconstrue the concepts of God, cosmology, and the soul (Westphal, 2016).
Because of reason, there is the dilemma of whether to fulfill people’s desires to understand the truths of metaphysics or to reel in frustrations that lead to dialectical illusions. In a bid to settle the confusion, Kant supports the acceptance of cognitive ambitions to achieve cognitive discipline because pure reason is only used negatively and not a means to uncover the truth. Pure reason can only be achieved by developing the discipline of the mind. Kant then developed three claims for the discipline of reason. First, the reason is not a product of fundamental standards. Secondly, the reason affects the way people think and act. Lastly, reason derives its authority on its own.
Mill believes that the theory of enumerative induction is the fundamental principle of theoretical reasoning. He further asserts that reason is a product of ground observations that lead to the acquisition of knowledge formed from assumptions. Inferences from assumptions result from reason and not a predisposition to believe. He offers two reasons for the validation of induction. First, human beings are not new to the universe and that familiarity breeds reason.
Secondly, the universe has a higher degree of uniformity that explains why reason is such a familiar concept (Westphal, 2016). However, induction can only be a good way of reasoning if the past inductions qualify to be good inferences. Uniformities that exist in various phenomena are rarely constant, triggering involuntary observation, and recognition (Beall, 2015). Enumerative induction should not be the only principle in justifying unobserved world facts. The genuine inferential knowledge about the world can only be justified by using simple enumerative induction.
Hume, one of the famous British empiricists, claimed that there was a possibility of ethics that does not rely on the centrality of reason. He claimed that reason does not influence mortality. This assertion was strongly disputed by Kant who believed there is moral hand in the very decision that human beings make. Unlike Mill who believed that happiness, even in wrongful actions such as murder and theft is what guides human actions (McCloskey, 2015), Kant held that people only follow what is morally sound.
My Opinion concerning Reason
In my opinion, the reason must inform what people consider right wrong. Arguably, the reason is what helps the society to formulate the ethics to be observed by the members. Without reason, such a classification of right and wrong would not be possible. My argument is stronger compared to the above positions since reason is a justification for belief, just like faith. However, the reason is a methodological inquiry that touches on intellectual, religious, moral, and aesthetic values.
What might be reasonable to one person may not be reasonable to another. It all depends on the specific affiliations that one subscribes to. For ages, man has used reason to discern good from the bad. For a man to understand concepts, the application of reason is essential. The reason is fundamental in acquiring knowledge. Knowledge aids in creating a reference for future transactions.
Reason influences ethics by helping people to determine what is right or wrong. Ethical values denote social rules that guide people’s actions to guarantee a smooth existence. Without reason, morals would not exist. Different philosophers had varying views on the concept of reason. Aristotle argued that decisions are influenced by reasoning as opposed to intuition. Kant argued that metaphysics could only be understood after the separation of reason from understanding.
In my opinion, for a reason to be effective, clarity has to be established. Through clarity, reasoning becomes a systematic and purposeful concept. From experience, a person can use reason to conquer various situations in life because experience lays the foundation to tackle various obstacles.
Beall, J. (2015). Free of Detachment: Logic, Rationality, and Gluts. Nous, 49(2), 410-423.
Kolodny, N. (2005). Why be rational? Mind, 114(455), 509-563.
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McCloskey, H. J. (2015). John Stuart Mill: a critical study. New York, NY: Springer.
Mill, J. (2001). Utilitarianism. Ontario, Canada: Kitchener Publisher.
Schönecker, D., & Wood, A. W. (2015). Immanuel Kant’s Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals: A Commentary. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Westphal, K. R. (2016). Kant, Aristotle, and our fidelity to reason. Web.