Reason
logic and rationality


The concept ‘reason’ and the use of reason (rationality) lie at the heart of analytic discourse. Hegel, for example, equates reason with the unfurling of reality. Immanuel Kant remarks:

‘All our knowledge begins with the sense, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.’
Critique of Pure Reason

Many Enlightenment thinkers viewed reason as the means of delivering universal scientific truths and absolute social and artistic values – what can be identified, in a cultural sense, as ‘modernism’. That view is questioned by many contemporary writers who have come to recognise both the error and the dangers in such conclusions. The American philosopher Richard Rorty argues that this ‘modern’ view has led us to reductive quasi-scientific practices, and worse to the pseudo-sciences of fascism and Soviet so-called communism. Rorty remarks:

‘In our century, the rationalist justification of the Enlightenment compromise has been discredited.’
Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature

We should, it would seem, approach the outcome of our rationality with caution.

In philosophy, reason appears in its strongest form in formal logic. W.D. Ross quotes Aristotle to give us an example:

‘It is impossible then that “being a man” should mean precisely “not being a man” if “man” not only signifies something about one subject but also has one significance’.
Metaphysics by Aristotle