After reading this article you will learn about Reasoning:- 1. Nature of Reasoning 2. Types of Reasoning 3. Motive 4. Psychology and Logic.
Nature of Reasoning:
(i) Reasoning is Typical Thinking:
It thinks out a new relationship among the facts previously observed and recalled at present. It is different from thinking of something, because it involves a series of symbolic activities. When you reason, you call up some images, ideas or symbols, which enable you to respond to absent stimuli. Thus reasoning involves a sequence of symbolic activities directed towards the solution of a problem, theoretical or practical.
(ii) Reasoning is Mental Exploration:
It finds a new relationship among the data perceived or recalled. It is a substitute for motor exploration. Suppose, you have lost your way in a new place. You may explore the different ways by actual movements. Or, you may sit down and think.
You may explore the novel situation mentally, and try to find out a clue. By following one clue after another you may at last find out the right way which will lead you to your destination.
(iii) Reasoning Resembles Trial and Error Behaviour:
It is like a trial and error process as it follows one clue after another. But it differs from trial and error process in that it does not actually explore clues by movements but follows them by thinking them through. It follows clues by recalling facts which were previously observed.
It economizes time and energy. It saves us from the labour of physical exertion involved in motor exploration. But it resembles a trial and error process like motor exploration. Reasoning shows the general pattern of trial and error behaviour. It is oriented towards a goal.
It reaches the goal by trying this mean and that means. It solves a problem by seeing the implications of the data observed or recalled, and grouping them together into new patterns.
(iv) Reasoning is Different from Trial and Error Behaviour:
First, it does not involve motor exploration. The present environment is not actually explored in reasoning. Secondly, the leads to the goal are not always actually observed. They are recalled from past experience. The clues are not actually manipulated, but thought out for the solution of the problem.
Thus reasoning resembles a trial and error process in its general pattern, but it is quite different from it in its nature. But sometimes reasoning cannot reach a solution. So it yields to actual motor exploration and observation of fresh facts. If you cannot find out your way in a new place by reasoning, you have to move hither and thither in search of fresh clues.
(v) Reasoning as a Conative Tendency:
McDougall holds that reasoning involves a conative tendency, a desire to know the answer to a question, which may spring from the instinct of curiosity. The desire selects the relevant material to facilitate the drawing of the right conclusion. This selectivity is an important factor of reasoning. It is the essence of intelligent adaptation.
In reasoning, the relevant data, furnished by observation, or recall, or both, are combined and examined in order to draw a new conclusion from the combination. Then the conclusion is tested or verified.
The process of reasoning contains the following parts:
(a) Gathering the data or facts or judgements.
(b) Combining the data or inter-relating them to one another.
(c) Seeing the implications of the combined data or drawing a new conclusion from the combined data.
(d) Testing the conclusion so reached.
The first step in reasoning is gathering the data from observation, or memory, or both, bearing on the problem. The second step consists in assembling the data, relating them to one another, and examining them to see what they mean or imply when combined.
The third is the crucial step in reasoning. It consists in seeing the implications of the combined data. It consists in finding out a new relationship among the data combined.
Then the conclusion is verified by fresh observation if possible. Reasoning mainly consists in mental exploration of the data and finding out a new relationship among them. Psychology mainly deals with the exploratory process which leads to inference. Logic mainly deals with the inference alone.
Types of Reasoning:
There are three types of reasoning from the standpoint of Logic: induction, analogy and deduction. Induction consists in deriving a general principal from particular acts observed. Analogy consists in in-erring a new particular fact from the particular facts observed. Deduction consists in applying a general principle to a particular act. Thus reasoning may be either inductive, analogical, or deductive.
From the standpoint of Psychology, reasoning may be either planning or understanding. In the first case, we have a desire or need which must be satisfied or supplied, and or which the data of perception are not sufficient.
Reasoning aims at invention and discovery. Invention is designing a new device. Discovery is drawing a new conclusion from the given judgements. Reasoning saves the time, energy and materials which might be wasted in hit and miss trial.
We try to understand natural phenomena as they happen. In this kind of reasoning, we do not aim at changing the course of the world directly, but at seeing how it works. Scientific reasoning aims at discovering new truths.
Pillsbury points out that both forms of reasoning arise from a thwarting of progress. They are motivated by a desire for change in a present situation. Both arise from a thwarted response. In active planning we try to effect a change in the present situation, which is desired. We reason out the desired change. In understanding a phenomenon, which appears strange, is explained.
(i) Correct and Incorrect Reasoning:
Fallacies in the process of reasoning occur owing to the violation of the rules of logical reasoning. They can be corrected by a study of logic.
All poets are men;
All novelists are men;
... All novelists are poets.
In this reasoning the middle term ‘men’ is undistributed, and so it is fallacious. The major term ‘poets’ and the minor term ‘novelists’ should be related to the same part of the middle term ‘men’.
But here the major term is related to one part of the middle term, and the minor term is related to another part of it. Sometimes fallacies of reasoning arise from the ambiguity of the major term, the minor term, or the middle term, For example;
Light travels fast;
Feather is light;
... Feather travels fast.
In this reasoning the middle term ‘light’ has been used in two senses. In the same reasoning a term should be used in the same sense. Hence this reasoning is incorrect.
Reasoning is correct if the conclusion follows from the data or premises in conformity with the logical rules. But the premises may be false and make a reasoning incorrect, even though it does not infringe any logical rule.
Falsity of premises may be due to ignorance, prejudice, acceptance of social tradition, and the like. Training in logic cannot remove this form of error. It is too deeply rooted in our mental constitution and can be removed by psychological methods.
Our ordinary reasoning seldom follows logical rules. The premises with which we start are seldom true. Our common reasoning is distorted by our illogical past experiences. False opinions, beliefs, and prejudices distort our reasoning. We cannot often discriminate logical from fallacious reasoning. Reasoning is distorted by love, hate, and other emotions.
(ii) Reasoning or Problem-Solving:
Reasoning is reflective thinking. It aims at the solution of a problem. There is a problem, simple or complex, theoretical or practical, which calls for a solution. The solution is not ready at hand. The data of sense—perception do not give a key to the solution of the problem.
So the perplexing situation initiates reflective thinking or reasoning. It investigates the data perceived and recalled in order to throw light on the solution of the problem.
Drever mentions four steps in reasoning as a mental process:
(i) The understanding of the problem,
(ii) The active following of the clues,
(iii) The suggested hypothetical solution, and
(iv) The deduction of the results and the verification of the thought out solution.
The problem should be clearly comprehended. Otherwise it cannot be solved. The problem intelligently understood is half solved. It should be completely understood in all its bearings. A crudely apprehended problem leads to unintelligent groping in the dark for a correct solution. It leads to hesitancy and doubt, faltering and bungling, and ineffective handling of the situation.
The more complete is the comprehension of the problem, the greater is the facility for its solution. Then the data given by perception and recalled in memory must be clearly followed. The clues should be logically followed and interconnected.
Then a solution is suggested to the mind. It is a hypothetical solution. Then results are deduced from the hypothesis. If the deduced results tally with facts of actual observation, the hypothesis is verified. These are the four steps in, reasoning.
In problem solving a guiding idea is necessary. It is suggested by the data observed and the clues followed carefully and intelligently. A detective makes a hypothesis after observing and collecting all data about a crime committed, and continues his investigation in the light of the hypothesis. He deduces consequences from it, and if they tally with observed, facts, his hypothesis is proved.
But if they do not tally with facts, he has to reject it and make another hypothesis and proceed in his investigation. At last he will solve the problem and detect the criminal. But even a provisional hypothesis may facilitate scientific investigation, because it explains certain facts and fails to account for other facts.
It may point to a better and more adequate hypothesis which may satisfactorily explain all the facts. Thus a hypothesis is an important aid to problem-solving.
Motive of Reasoning:
Woodworth States the Following Motives of Reasoning:
Reasoning solves a practical problem. Suppose, you have lost your way in a forest. You are confronted with a novel situation. You will have to find out the necessary data or premises and find a key to the novel situation. You will have to recall the facts of your past experience, select the relevant facts and reject irrelevant ones, and combine the data into one pattern after another until you find one that meets the situation.
Rationalization is a process of thinking which provides acceptable reasons for a wrong action done by a person while concealing the secret motive in order to escape from self-reproach and reproach from others.
The chief minister of a State appoints his own son as his secretary directly, and justifies his action by saying that he wants a reliable person to work under him, and that reliability is a better qualification than academic distinction. Thus he rationalizes his action.
Sometimes we reason in order to justify an action which has been done already. We have done an action. It conflicts with the standard generally accepted by the society. It meets with criticism from our-selves and other people.
So we reason to find out a reasonable motive of our action. We reason in order to justify our action. We try to find out some acceptable general principle which will explain our action. This is called rationalization.
We try to explain a fact or phenomenon by referring it to a general principle. And we try to explain a law of nature by deducing it from a higher law. When we succeed in explaining a phenomenon or law, we get rid of uncertainty and perplexity.
We may start from a general principle and hunt for particular cases to which it may apply. Here the motive of reasoning consists in seeing the application of the principle. This may lead to prediction. The general principle, applied to a particular situation, enables us to predict a future event. Thus the astronomer predicts solar and lunar eclipses.
A general principle may stimulate reasoning because we doubt its universal validity and wish to find out particular instances to which it does not apply. So reasoning may be motivated by doubt. Doubt is an unpleasant state of mind. We can get rid of it by reasoning.
Sometimes we start with a hypothesis and try to verify it by deducing consequences from it and comparing them with observed faults. Thus we may reason in order to verify a hypothesis.
Psychology and Logic of Reasoning:
Psychology and Logic both deal with reasoning. But they do not deal with the same aspect of reasoning.
(i) Psychology deals with the actual process of reasoning as attended with emotion and conation. But Logic deals with reasoning as devoid of its attendant emotion and conation.
(ii) Psychology studies the exploratory process of reasoning which culminates in inference. Inference consists in drawing a conclusion from two or more given premises. The premises and the conclusion are set out in a logical order.
The conclusion is inferred from the data or premises; it is seen to be implied in the premises taken together. From the standpoint of Logic, reasoning consists in inferring a new judgement from two or more given judgements or data through the medium of the common factor among them. It consists in putting together the data and grasping a new relation among them. For example;
(a) All cloven-footed animals are herbivorous; all camels are cloven-footed animals: ... all camels are herbivorous.
(b) All living beings are mortal; all animals are living beings; all men are animals, Socrates is a man: ... Socrates is mortal.
(iii) Psychology deals with both correct thinking and incorrect thinking and investigates their motives and other psychical determinants. Logic is not concerned with their motives and other mental antecedents, but with their validity or invalidity and its causes.
It is concerned with the rules of correct reasoning and finds out if a reasoning conforms to them or violates them. If it conforms to them, it is valid, and if it violates them it is invalid. Logic is interested in the truth or falsity of reasoning. But Psychology is not concerned with the validity or invalidity of reasoning. It investigates the laws of reasoning whether it be correct or incorrect.
Is Reasoning a Trial and Error Process?
Some psychologists maintain that reasoning is a trial and error process at the ideational level. Others hold that reasoning is the very antithesis of trial and error. In the trial and error behaviour we find that an animal is set for a certain goal (e.g., coming out of a cage and getting food), but that it does not clearly see the path to the goal.
It explores the situation, finds certain leads and tries them one after another, fails several times, and finally finds a good lead and reaches the goal.
The animal perceives the leads and tries to reach the goal by overt movements. Typical trial and error behaviour involves overt muscular movements in response to the leads actually perceived. Reasoning does not involve overt muscular movements; not does it always involve actual perception of the leads. Reasoning, like a trial and error process, is oriented towards a goal.
But it is different from the latter in that it does not involve motor exploration, and also because it gets some of its leads from memory instead of actual perception. It reaches its goal by thinking of its clues. Reasoning thinks of the clues given by perception or memory, and tries to draw a new conclusion by combining and recombining them in various ways and seeing their implications.
Though reasoning resembles a trial and error behaviour, since it involves a goal-set or orientation towards a goal, it is the very antithesis of trial and error behaviour since it involves thinking out the meaning of the clues observed or remembered and seeing the implications of the combination of the data and drawing a new conclusion. This is lacking in a trial and error behaviour.