I am curious whether there have been philosophers arguing that there are contexts in which we can use reason, but not logic. For example, some authors might say that logic cannot be used in the very context of justifying logic. Others might provide religion as an example.

I would like to know if there's a philosophical position associated to this idea and who are their main proponentes.

  • With "logic" do you mean formal logic? Commented Apr 2 at 9:42
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    "Reason" is much wider: argumentation, experiment are all based on rationality. Commented Apr 2 at 9:43
  • According to Toulmin, such cases are predominant in practice:"Toulmin pointed out that absolutism (represented by theoretical or analytic arguments) has limited practical value. Absolutism is derived from Plato's idealized formal logic, which advocates universal truth... By contrast, Toulmin contends that many of these so-called standard principles are irrelevant to real situations encountered by human beings in daily life."
    – Conifold
    Commented Apr 2 at 9:49
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    Every episode ever of Star Trek, where the man of reason, Kirk, finds solutions that the man of logic, Spock, can not understand.
    – user4894
    Commented Apr 4 at 23:56

2 Answers 2


Reason is a broader concept that includes different forms of thinking, including thinking logically and draw conclusions based on evidence, experience, and principles. It involves the broader process of thinking and understanding, including both logical and intuitive elements, while logic is more specific and deals with the formal rules of inference and deduction.

So, if you’re looking to use reason without the logical aspect, then I think that would be a focus on the aspect of using intuition without the support of logic.

Immanuel Kant's wrote "Critique of Pure Reason" (1781) where he distinguishes between sensible intuition and intellectual intuition. Sensible intuition is related to empirical perception, while intellectual intuition is a direct intellectual understanding without needing sensory experience. However, Kant believed that we needed the use of concepts and logic in order to make sense of intuitions.

Henri Bergson wrote "An Introduction to Metaphysics" (1903) in which he argues that logic and analysis fails to capture the basic nature of reality, which can only be understood and interpreted through intuition.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, who wrote “Phenomenology of Spirit” (1807) in which he suggests that intuition provides us with immediate awareness of reality, while logic, which he calls dialectics, is important for understanding the rational structure that builds our reality.

I don’t know if there’s an argument that intuition can be linked to instinct, but it often is expressed as an insight into something without the need for conscious analysis or explicit reasoning. Another way of thinking of it is that intuition is a form of knowledge or understanding that is gained without conscious reasoning. Considering that unconscious form of reasoning, does it count toward the OP’s question?

And, if so, then I’d have to question whether or not the process of insight and the use of implicit knowledge subconsciously could be considered using reason without logic, or if it is instead a system of rapid processing of logic that bypasses the slower conscious method.


I am curious whether there have been philosophers arguing that there are contexts in which we can use reason, but not logic. For example, some authors might say that logic cannot be used in the very context of justifying logic.

L E J Brouwer rejected the notion that mathematics is based on logic, proposing instead that constructive mathematical reasoning precedes logic, and the latter is dependent on the former. You can read more about it in SEP's articles here and here

  • Note that Brouwer's original programme has been formalized and is today included in topos theory as the study of models of higher-order intuitionistic logic.
    – Corbin
    Commented Apr 2 at 19:17
  • now imagine the man were alive to see homotopy type theory and stuff: he would either disown the whole thing or would have the last laugh
    – ac15
    Commented Apr 2 at 19:20
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    I think that, in general, mathematicians don't know the full extent of their propositions. Brouwer's bar induction ended up being critical to reverse maths, a reversal of his intuitionism. (Remember: Cantor's theorem and Gödel's Incompleteness theorem are the same statement in two different models! Would Cantor have been horrified or chuffed? We'll never know.)
    – Corbin
    Commented Apr 2 at 19:25

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