THE PROCESS OF REASONING
|II.||The Process of Reasoning|
|III.||The Concept (coming soon)|
THE PROCESS OF REASONING
The processes of Reasoning may be said to comprise four general stages or steps, as follows:
|I. Abstraction, by which is meant the process of drawing off and setting aside from an object, person or thing, a quality or attribute, and making of it a distinct object of thought. For instance, if I perceive in a lion the quality of strength, and am able to think of this quality abstractly and independently of the animal—if the term strength has an actual mental meaning to me, independent of the lion—then I have abstracted that quality; the thinking thereof is an act of abstraction; and the thought-idea itself is an abstract idea. Some writers hold that these abstract ideas are realities, and “not mere figments of fancy.”|
As Brooks says: “The rose dies, but my idea of its color and fragrance remains.” Other authorities regard Abstraction as but an act of attention concentrated upon but the particular quality to the exclusion of others, and that the abstract idea has no existence apart from the general idea of the object in which it is included.
Sir William Hamilton says: “We can rivet our attention on some particular mode of a thing, as its smell, its color, its figure, its size, etc., and abstract it from the others.
This may be called Modal Abstraction. The abstraction we have now been considering is performed on individual objects, and is consequently particular. There is nothing necessarily connected with generalization in abstraction; generalization is indeed dependent on abstraction, which it supposes; but abstraction does not involve generalization.”
II. Generalization, by which is meant the process of forming Concepts or General Ideas. It acts in the direction of apprehending the common qualities of objects, persons and things, and combining and uniting them into a single notion or conception which will comprehend and include them all. A General Idea or Concept differs from a particular idea in that it includes within itself the qualities of the particular and other particulars, and accordingly may be applied to any one of these particulars as well as to the general class. For instance, one may have a particular idea of some particular horse, which applies only to that particular horse. He may also have a General Idea of horse, in the generic or class sense, which idea applies not only to the general class of horse but also to each and every horse which is included in that class. The expression of Generalization or Conception is called a Concept.
III. Judgment, by which is meant the process of comparing two objects, persons or things, one with another, and thus perceiving their agreement or disagreement. Thus we may compare the two concepts horse and animal, and perceiving a certain agreement between them we form the judgment that: “A horse is an animal;” or comparing horse and cow, and perceiving their disagreement, we form the judgment: “A horse is not a cow.” The expression of a judgment is called a Proposition.
IV. Reasoning, by which is meant the process of comparing two objects, persons or things, through their relation to a third object, person or thing. Thus we may reason (a) that all mammals are animals; (b) that a horse is a mammal; (c) that, therefore, a horse is an animal; the result of the reasoning being the statement that: “A horse is an animal.” The most fundamental principle of reasoning, therefore, consists in the comparing of two objects of thought through and by means of their relation to a third object. The natural form of expression of this process of Reasoning is called a Syllogism.
It will be seen that these four processes of reasoning necessitate the employment of the processes of Analysis and Synthesis, respectively. Analysis means a separating of an object of thought into its constituent parts, qualities or relations. Synthesis means the combining of the qualities, parts or relations of an object of thought into a composite whole. These two processes are found in all processes of Reasoning. Abstraction is principally analytic; Generalization or Conception chiefly synthetic; Judgment is either or both analytic or synthetic; Reasoning is either a synthesis of particulars in Induction, or an evolution of the particular from the general in Deduction.
There are two great classes of Reasoning; viz., Inductive Reasoning, or the inference of general truths from particular truths; and Deductive Reasoning, or the inference of particular truths from general truths.
Inductive Reasoning proceeds by discovering a general truth from particular truths. For instance, from the particular truths that individual men die we discover the general truth that “All men must die;” or from observing that in all observed instances ice melts at a certain temperature, we may infer that “All ice melts at a certain temperature.” Inductive Reasoning proceeds from the known to the unknown. It is essentially a synthetic process. It seeks to discover general laws from particular facts.
Deductive Reasoning proceeds by discovering particular truths from general truths. Thus we reason that as all men die, John Smith, being a man, must die; or, that as all ice melts at a certain temperature, it follows that the particular piece of ice under consideration will melt at that certain temperature. Deductive Reasoning is therefore seen to be essentially an analytical process.
Mills says of Inductive Reasoning: “The inductive method of the ancients consisted in ascribing the character of general truths to all propositions which are true in all the instances of which we have knowledge. Bacon exposed the insufficiency of this method, and physical investigation has now far outgrown the Baconian conception…. Induction, then, is that operation by which we infer that what we know to be true in a particular case or cases, will be true in all cases which resemble the former in certain assignable respects. In other words, induction is the process by which we conclude that what is true of certain individuals of a class is true of the whole class, or that what is true at certain times will be true in similar circumstances at all times.”
Regarding Deductive Reasoning, a writer says: “Deductive Reasoning is that process of reasoning by which we arrive at the necessary consequences, starting from admitted or established premises.” Brooks says: “The general truths from which we reason to particulars are derived from several distinct sources. Some are intuitive, as the axioms of mathematics or logic. Some of them are derived from induction…. Some of them are merely hypothetical, as in the investigation of the physical sciences. Many of the hypotheses and theories of the physical sciences are used as general truth for deductive reasoning; as the theory of gravitation, the theory of light; etc. Reasoning from the theory of universal gravitation, Leverrier discovered the position of a new planet in the heavens before it had been discovered by human eyes.”
Halleck points out the interdependence of Inductive and Deductive Reasoning in the following words: “Man has to find out through his own experience, or that of others, the major premises from which he argues or draws his conclusions. By induction we examine what seems to us a sufficient number of individual cases. We then conclude that the rest of these cases, which we have not examined, will obey the same general laws…. The premise, ‘All cows chew the cud,’ was laid down after a certain number of cows had been examined. If we were to see a cow twenty years hence, we should expect that she chewed her cud…. After Induction has classi fied certain phenomena and thus given us a major premise, we proceed deductively to apply the inference to any new specimen that can be shown to belong to that class.”
The several steps of Deductive Reasoning shall now be considered in turn as we proceed.
Next chapters coming soon…
By WILLIAM WALKER ATKINSON
L.N. FOWLER & COMPANY
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