Bertrand Russell was a British philosopher and a mathematician who is generally recognized as one of the founders of analytic philosophy. He, like many other people was searching for proof and evidence of us- people being rational animals, whose thoughts and actions are reasonable and sensible. Reason is a way of knowing in which we build up explanations by refining independent ideas and theories in order to reach a logical conclusion or in other words we use reason to decide whether something is correct or wrong.
Through observations and experiments we can prove by reason if our hypothesis was right, and by this broaden our knowledge horizons. Reason is present as much as in everyday choice making, as it is present in science, mathematics and other areas of knowledge. However reason is not always the most useful way of knowledge, for example in music and arts, as we are not robots and we also rely on our emotions and perception. So how can we gain truth by reason, when there are so many different opinions and emotions involved?
Reason can help us gain knowledge, but only to a certain extent and therefore it has its strengths and weaknesses, which I am going to discuss in my essay. In science logic and reason are said to be the core element to get a valid conclusion, but there are some contradictions and exceptions to this general judgment. For example in biology, we use reason and logic to make a hypothesis, and then through several experiments or observations, we can obtain a valid and logical conclusion, which will support our hypothesis.
As an example, a biology class, had to run an experiment to find out the presence of glucose and starch in two different food solutions. In two test tubes A and B, two different food solutions, which are unknown to the students, are found. The class divided into four different groups and each group had to add chemicals such as iodine for starch and benedicts solution for glucose to find out, in which test tube was each solution. If starch was present the solution had to turn from blue to black, and for glucose it had to change from blue to orange.
Group 1, was successful and their one solution turned to black, proving that it has starch in it and the other turned orange demonstrating that it has glucose. Group 2 however, had a negative outcome, as both of their solutions did not change color, therefore showing that it has none of the solutions present. One of the solutions of group 3 turned green, instead of orange, therefore contradicting the hypothesis and the whole theory. By this example we see that logic and reason, has its own uncertainties and doubts.
Reason can sometimes obscure our knowledge if we see something, which contradicts our initial theory. This logic is quite similar to perception, as we need to use our five senses- see, hear, touch, taste and smell to acquire a rational verdict. In music and art, I think that reason as a way of knowing has both advantages and disadvantages. We cannot express our opinion on a piece of music or a piece of art without bringing up emotion and perception.
A composer cannot write music without any feelings, same as an artist cannot paint without inspiration through his senses. A piece of music however requires some basic reason. For example if a composer needs to write a concerto for a violin, he will not write a concerto for a piano, and no other instrument than a violin can replace it. This is very basic reason, but we can see that it is present in creative arts. I am an IB Art student and I know that reason has little to do with it.
Making art is based mostly on emotion and on the way we feel or what we think at a certain moment. Art comes from the heart, and reason is only present when we need to know which two colors for example make purple or what do we need to do to make a canvas. Add reason Another demonstration of advantages and disadvantages of reason is present the case of superstitions. In many cultures superstitions make up a lot of beliefs that are carried throughout generations. For example it is said that it is bad luck to go forward of a black cat has passed your way.
Even though I have never heard anyone claim that he or she has bad luck because of a cat passing his or her way, I would still rather prefer to avoid it, as I was brought up with this and I actually started to believe in it. Even though there is no scientific prove of this superstition and common logic experience says that this is not true, most people would still avoid it. Therefore reason can be very objective, in a way that it can differ from different cultures and dissimilar beliefs. Mathematics is the one area where reason plays a fundamental part.
Reason is the basis on which mathematics is founded. Before any mathematical theorem can be taken as true, it must be backed by a reasonable mathematical proof that shows, that the answer got is correct. This type of empirical, reasonable verification shows that of all the areas of knowledge, mathematics uses reason the most. In mathematics, an answer is either wrong or right. There is no midpoint in mathematics. Without reason, all mathematical arguments would naturally fail, and so if a mathematical statement cannot be fortified with reason, the statement should be rejected.
Mathematics is the only area of knowledge where every statement must be backed up by reason. Reason itself is not enough to explain such things as the origins of the universe, or right and wrong, and so reason can and should be complemented by other sources of knowledge. Reason can be used when the sense misinformed us. For example when you put a straw in water senses tell us that the straw is bent, because it looks like it, but through reason we deduce that the straw is straight. Therefore reason is more reliable than our senses and is used more effectively.
For the conclusion, I should discuss whether in the end our knowledge can be obtained purely by logic and reason, or it needs the support of human emotion and perception to give us reasonable comprehension of our existence. “Man is a rational animal who always loses his temper when called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason,”- this is a quote by Oscar Wilde. I agree with him as I think that emotions and feelings often overtake reason, as we are more driven by our desires, fears and passion than logic and rationality.
I think that pure reason cannot exist without other ways of knowledge, and has its strengths and weaknesses. Reason is valid when it is not contradicted by anyone, but can we call something rational knowledge when someone disputes it? Reason within its domain is very reliable, as for example in mathematics, you can be almost one hundred percent certain that something is true, and this is the main strength of reason. I think that in all the other areas of knowledge, reason has many weaknesses.
Reason always needs input from another source and therefore can only be reliable as its source of data. In the arts, in the absence of inspiration, no great work can be done, however reason is present in the mixing of colors and proportion and so on. Science without any data has no use of reason, and is therefore unreliable. My conclusion to this essay is that reason always needs input from another source and therefore can only be reliable as its source of data.