Evaluate the Strengths and Weaknesses of Reason as a Way of Knowing

1484 Words Nov 14th, 2012 6 Pages
There are four main ways of knowing – reason, perception, language and emotion. However each one of them have their own strengths and weaknesses and only by knowing them will we be able to better use these ways of knowing to gain knowledge. This essay will seek to examine the strengths and weaknesses of reason as a way of knowing.

Reason is often seen as one of the most powerful ways of knowing – for it ‘seems to give us certainty’ (Lagemaat, 112). Reason uses logic to form arguments and conclusions. A benefit of reason using logic in reason is that it allows us access to innate or a priori knowledge – knowledge we cannot access any other way. One definition of A priori knowledge is innate knowledge that is not derived from experience
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The example above uses induction, a method of reason that involves going from the specific to generate a general conclusion. This is how laws of the abstract are formed in science – we are unable to use sense perception or empirical knowledge, since we cannot see dipoles, to formulate these laws, we use reason to arrive at these conclusions.

However, this is where the weakness of reason comes in as well. The problem with using induction is that these conclusions could have been arrived at in an incorrect way. The fact that these conclusions drawn are that of something abstract, how do we prove for sure that it is not another variable that affects it? Furthermore, what happens when in the future, when something that is not a halogen is discovered to form a temporary dipole. What happens to our definition of what can form temporary dipoles then? This is the weakness of reason in the natural sciences. Many times, Science applies inductive reasoning and even if a hypothesis is subject to uncountable experiments and stands irrefutable at this present time, it might not be true in the future. Since the natural sciences are a combination of the math and empirical, we cannot solely rely on our a priori knowledge. Science’s discoveries are often based on observations and this flout’s the rules of rationalism. When our senses are involved, our ability to reason might be compromised and lead to false premises and thus false conclusions.