Concept of reason in philosophy
Concept of reason in philosophy
Reason, in philosophy, is the faculty of the intellect by means of which rational thought is exercised, that is, the one directed to abstract arguments typical of reasoning, as opposed to the sphere of irrationality. Function of human thought whose activity establishes the necessary and universal connections between concepts, realizing a mediated and progressive knowledge, able to offer man an instrument of understanding of reality and guidance of conduct. This concept is referred to the thinkers of classical antiquity, Greek and Latin, who generally distinguish, in the context of thought, the function properly rational from the intuitive. In a second meaning, again in classical thought, reason is understood as the metaphysical principle of universal order. This conception can be seen in Stoic and Neoplatonic thought.
Medieval Christian Scholasticism takes up the classical concept of discursive reason, distinguishing it from the intellect, still understood as the organ of intuitive knowledge. The power of reason, however, is subordinated to faith, considered the only true source of truth. Renaissance thought, on the other hand, asserts the autonomy of reason as an instrument for formalizing experience and as the foundation of true knowledge: scientific knowledge (Leonardo, Galileo).
In the modern age (XVII-XVIII centuries) two interpretations of the concept of reason prevail: the rationalist one that tends to affirm the self-foundation of reason on itself and the empiricist one that recognizes instead as the foundation of reason the experience. The problem of the foundation of reason was explicitly addressed in a critical way by I. Kant at the end of the eighteenth century. He distinguishes in the activity of reason an a priori and universal component (the forms or categories) and an a posteriori component (the data of experience).
On the combination of the two components is based the dual character of rational knowledge: empirical and universal. Nineteenth-century idealistic romanticism insisted instead on the aprioristic and foundational character of reason, which, however, is given a real ontological status and not only formal. This leads to the well-known formulation of Hegel: “What is rational is real, what is real is rational”, which expresses the identity between reality and reason. To the ontological rationalism of idealism are opposed the conceptions of reason expressed by contemporary thought: the pure rationalism of logical neoempiricism considers reasoning as a formal deductive and tautological system.
From phenomenology, reason is seen as the place where the essences of real objects manifest themselves. Similarly, American neorealism (Santayana, Whitehead) distinguishes reason as an organ of knowledge of essences or permanent and universal forms from “animal faith” which is knowledge of the sensitive, material. On the provisionality of the knowledge of reason insists instead Whitehead. In a less theoretical perspective, reason, for pragmatism, is a function that is operationally realized in the transformation and improvement of the environment.
Finally, the latest forms of positive existentialism consider reason as the instrument that man has to manage his own freedom, identifying for it possible spaces of intervention and realization.
Average and extreme reason, in knowledge is the relationship that reason establishes between the concepts considered, so that having realized that the first derives from the second, it does not need to dwell on the average one, but goes straight to the extreme. Spinoza gives this explanation: in a numerical progression when we suddenly see the relationship between the first number and the second we can go immediately to the last without dwelling on the intermediate one.
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