It seems odd to me, to reflect that things in the world are the way they are, but not some other way.

Maybe ‘reason’ tells us why things are a certain way.

By structuring thinking, ‘reason’ lets us form mental constructs, objects of form, and not exist in some sort of chaotic mush of formless experience.

But what justifies how it works? What does it derive from, what is its basis, and essentially, what is it?

(Specifically, I am interested in what thinkers similar to Hegel or Proclus thought on this issue.)

It is odd that logic could seem so arbitrary to me, yet it is at the basis of this topic, and is inescapable as an explanatory factor.

It seems that the role of logic is necessary, in explaining the world - despite the attitude of certain skeptical positions, and people who simply believe that everything is fallible.

There seems to be a form to formlessness - an inherent way the phenomena of the universe get coherently structured, in relation to each other.

It seems that in a chaotic and undetermined mess, we would have such a dizzying array of choices that it would be odd that we would have to say one set of them is absolutely necessary - even to allow this type of questioning I am engaging in now; since what I seek is an ultimate theory, which would account for quite possibly everything.

With this being the case, I am now realizing that to doubt even reason itself is a bit impossible. For logic and reason is what allows things to be constructed at all. The understanding of semantics and of things like this question itself, is based on something being logical and calculable.

To doubt even this, would be to not even not doubt doubt itself. It would just be this weird thing of which is not even predicable of much of anything. Is it simply negating things of conventional logic? Well, this seems to use teh descriptors of conventional logic to do so as well, so then, is it the same? Well, this can't really be either for then what would be the difference? Besides, 'same' and 'different' 'being' and 'nonbeing' cannot apply to it. And yet, this characterization itself is a type of negation.

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    If the words are a raft they get you to the place past the doubts into the certainty of unknowing and then into the play of possibilities. Commented Dec 25, 2023 at 23:38
  • I don't have time to write an answer today but there is an argument that reason comes from communication. There are many research articles that show humans almost-always make decisions based on emotion and intuition, and rationalise those decisions a posteriori; but when cooperating with others you have to communicate explicit reasons for your decision and cannot just tell others "my intuition says this, so believe me blindly please" without an explanation. So when communicating you need to turn your intuition into words, and that's the start of reasoning.
    – Stef
    Commented Dec 26, 2023 at 8:19
  • Can the OP summarize their post in a list of short, clear questions? For example, ‘What is reason?’ ‘How does the human mind organize the world into comprehensible parts?’ ‘To what extent is reason necessarily necessary? Commented Dec 26, 2023 at 14:30
  • I think this question is mainly about to what extent reason, logic, the laws of truth, etc., are necessarily necessary, I’ll try to find resources on that. Commented Dec 27, 2023 at 15:21
  • Can you put 'Reason lets us construct objects of form, and not be some sort of chaotic "mush"…' another way, please? As it stands, that passage itself seems 'sort of chaotic' and lacking at least one clause. Commented Dec 27, 2023 at 16:04

4 Answers 4


Reason can be considered as patterns of thinking that make sense to us because they reflect patterns that we see in the world. For example, suppose you see a rock that is clearly bigger than a second rock which in turn is clearly bigger than a third- you will see that the first rock is bigger than the third too. That pattern is true of all rocks that are clearly bigger or smaller than each other. The same is true of other objects. If a fish is much bigger than a second fish which in turn is bigger than a third, then the first fish is also bigger than the third. You might then notice that it is true of the height of trees, of the width of streams and so on. Eventually you can abstract the pattern and say if A>B and B>C then A>C. This is so ingrained in our thinking that I suspect you would find it difficult to imagine a world in which it was not true.

Now consider the concept of 'not'. It is a label that can be used in a very simplistic sense to denote certain type of difference. For example, you might see a butterfly on a flower one moment then see the flower by itself. You might see a bird flying then later see the bird perched. You might see water in a hollow and later notice that it had gone. You see a common pattern here, which you can represent with a label- the butterfly is not on the flower, the bird is not flying, the hollow is not full of water, the third rock is not bigger than the first, and so on.

Then you might notice that every time you put part of your body in water, you experience a particular sensation. You learn to abstract that pattern as 'If you go in water you get wet'. Likewise you learn that if you go too near a flame you get burned, and so on, which leads you to more abstract rules such as 'If A then B' etc.

I am sure that without too much effort you could compile a list of common building blocks of logic, and against each you could identify several patterns we experience in life that exemplify the abstracted essence in the logical building block. It seems at least possible, therefore, that our logic reflects our reality, and since reality has been around a lot longer than human logic, we might suppose that human logic evolved from our experience of reality.

Of course, there are other ways to consider logic and reason, and you might ask why we live in a world which has all these common patterns, but the idea of reason being a learned model of reality shows that it is possible to put forward an explanation for the existence of logic purely from practical considerations.

  • I think one would be hard-pressed to argue that reason was derived from abstracted induction. There seem to be at least some things that have just as strong inductive grounding (e.g. non-existence of infinite quantities) yet we do not hold them to be absolute as we (generally) do logic. Formal logic, be it conditional or syllogistic, is a function of language, given rules and precepts. The rules themselves do not seem to be grounded in induction, but rather their primitiveness and self-evidence (which may partly be due to induction); a seemingly innate psychological phenomenon found in humans.
    – Max Maxman
    Commented Dec 27, 2023 at 17:04

we would have such a dizzying array of choices that it would be odd that we would have to say one set of them is absolutely necessary

That's not how it goes though. Plenty of people do bad science, and poor reasoning. The tools to evaluate that exist to help us quickly identify that we should ignore them. Consider the typologies of fallacies; they can be pursuasive, that's exactly the problem, but by identifying them quickly and recognising that whatever their rhetorical appeal they lack merit, we can have better more productive discussions.

The status of mathematics, and logic, is about what our human experiences share, about intersubjectivity. See: The Unreasonable Ineffectiveness of Mathematics in most sciences

Intersubjectivity is the basis of communication, and abstraction: According to the major theories of concepts, where do meanings come from?

Dialectic thinking has fallen out of favour for good reasons, it tells a great story after the fact but it's pretty useless generally for addressing the future. See: Relation of dialectics, as of Hegel and Marx, toward Enlightenment liberalism Mathematical Platonism like Neoplationism generally, is just unfalsifiabile math-mysticism. Break the cycle, rise above; focus on science.

There are many kinds of logic. They are just tools for organising experiences. They don't let you access a special magic realm of the true-true. Don't look to imaginary perfect language, look to what we actual convey, mind to mind.

"In this sort of predicament, always ask yourself: How did we learn the meaning of this word ("good", for instance)? From what sort of examples? In what language-games? Then it will be easier for you to see that the word must have a family of meanings."

-Wittgenstein, in Philosophical Investigations


It is odd that something like logic could seem so arbitrary to me and yet it covers all of this and is something that I'm not sure I can even escape.

We cannot escape logic because it is a fundamental cognitive capacity of the human brain. We can thus no more escape logic than we can escape seeing the world only in the colours of the rainbow.

It is best to see logic as on a par with other cognitive capacities, such as vision, memory, imagination, or language. It just happens that we can normally do all those things, and then, none other.

We have these capacities because each constitute a selective advantage, which only means that the organism which have them is more likely to survive than if it didn't have them. Thus, we inherit these capacities with our DNA, which means that this is our nature. Hence, the idea that we cannot seem to be able to escape the necessariness of logic.

Logic is a cognitive capacity of the individual human. Each human normally has it, and its utility is that it increases the likelihood that this individual will survive, prosper and reproduce. In other words, we use logic (consciously or not) to do what we want. We use logic to achieve our personal objectives, just like we use vision to navigate the world, not to help other people navigate the world.

This means that logic has to be agnostic as to whether the premises we start from in our logical thinking are true or not. We will just arrive at the conclusion which follows whatever premises we somehow decided are true. And different people arrive at different conclusions because they start from different premises.

Thus, logic applies to any set of circumstances, broadly in the same sense as vision does for example. The thing is, once we settle for some premises, then the conclusion follows necessarily. If we think that A implies B and that A is true, then we are forced to accept that B has to be true, too.

We cannot coherently doubt logic itself, because doing so would require using the same logic that we would mean to doubt, but we can doubt the reasons of others as well as our own reasons, which are essentially our premises, our assumptions, our presuppositions etc. We can always doubt them, switch to some others, or justify them by relying on some more basic premises. However, ultimately, we have to invoke some premises, and only we can decide for ourselves which ones we take to be the truth.


Where does reason come from?

Reason, in the sense of mind, is a mental capability. Like all other capabilities of living beings reason originated and developed in millions of years during the evolution of species. Like all other biological functions also the capability of our mind developed in interaction with the characteristics of our living environment.

Reason is a useful capability of living beings to orientate themselves in their ecological niche. And the mind of humans has even developed so far that we can simulate the future consequences of different actions. As a result of the simulation eventually we decide for one specific action.

Possibly, the capability of reason is the main advantage of humans over other species.

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