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The Reasoning Process And Scientific Method

1. The Scientific Method

The Reasoning Process is the only valid source of sensory knowledge, knowledge of reality. However, most people tend to be more familiar with the Scientific Method since it’s more commonly taught in public schools. The Scientific Method is similar to the Reasoning Process, but broken up into more steps and geared towards writing scientific research papers. It goes as follows:

  1. Define a question.
  2. Gather information and resources (observe).
  3. Form an explanatory hypothesis.
  4. Test the hypothesis by performing an experiment and collecting data in a reproducible manner.
  5. Analyze the data.
  6. Interpret the data and draw conclusions that serve as a starting point for a new hypothesis.
  7. Publish results.
  8. Retest (frequently done by other scientists).

The last step of the Scientific Method is to repeat the steps, because a proper theory of knowledge must be inductive, not deductive. Although forms of deductive reasoning exist, people are always bound to make mistakes. Making mistakes and understanding how they were made is part of learning, hence why both the Scientific Method and Reasoning Process are done recursively in a repetitive cycle.

At some point, all the Laws of Nature were originally deemed hypotheses. Until that point, people continue building confidence in them, or they lose confidence in it until they reject it.

In every field, one learns the basics, and if they go further then they can start to do research in that field. But there are some fields where doing the basics is truly much different than what an expert would be expected to do:

  • In mathematics, one first learns how to do math, then they move on to proving theorems and the like.
  • In computer science, one first learns how to program, then they move on to learning what computers are doing and how they work.
  • In linguistics, one first learns languages and the basics, then they start doing research and maybe they might even document languages.

Note: I haven’t finished writing this file yet. It takes time to write stuff.

1.1. Differential Versus Correlational Hypotheses

2. The Reasoning Process

2.1. Step #1: Sensory Input And Observation

  • Senses provide the input data to the reasoning process. Without sensory input, it would be impossible to use reason because there would be no data to reason about.
  • Since reason can never be separated from sensory input, then there is no meaningful such thing as “pure reason”.
  • Although the senses can bring invalid data (e.g. they are manipulated by a hallucinogen, the limits of using light for vision), this is not a problem as long as the mind can use reason to correct the sensory input errors.
  • Fallibilism: The principle that propositions concerning empirical knowledge can be accepted even though they cannot be proved with certainty.

Note: We have to establish reasoning first before we can later proclaim that the senses are the input for the reasoning process.1

2.2. Step #2: Concept Formation

Pre-Reading: The Nature of Concepts.

When false concepts are formed, this either occurs when sensory knowledge is gained through invalid means like emotion or faith, through intellectual dishonesty (rationalizing instead of reasoning), or due to the nature of being a subject with limited knowledge and sensory experience of reality. When the latter happens, the resulting reasoning, ideas, actions can be considered rational since they follow the reasoning process, even if the results are contrary to reality, since reason has the potential to be wrong.

2.3. Step #3: Assertion Of Premises

A rational mind doesn’t merely recognize facts, it knows which facts are relevant.

  • The assertion of premises in an argument is the assertion of propositions that the arguer believes to be true, according to their model of experience.
  • Although emotions and instincts can also count as knowledge in their appropriate contexts, they can only establish true propositions.
  • Reason is different from emotions and instincts because reason also includes the logic step, which is when logical operations are performed to connect propositions together and form new propositions (conclusions) that are true if all the premises are true.
  • Hence, any propositions generated by emotions and instincts would be included in Step #3 of the reasoning process, following Step #2 concept formation and before Step #4 logic.

See: Properties of Premises for more details on premises.


Implicit / suppressed premises are premises that aren’t explicitly stated since they are obviously understood. If we could only choose between keeping premises implicit or making them explicit, it is better to make them explicit, especially if they would reveal invalid premises or contradictions.

It is beneficial to keep premises implicit when four conditions are satisfied:

  1. The premises are already obvious to begin with, and
  2. The premises can be verified using sound arguments, and
  3. Making the premises explicit would make the argument harder to follow, and
  4. The argument would remain valid even if the premises were made explicit.

The reason why assertion of premises is a separate step from concept formation are that:

  1. Premises can be real or hypothetical,
  2. Stating premises should be the first step of making an argument,
  3. Implicit premises should be stated explicitly,
  4. Not all the concepts that one knows will be used in an argument, so stating the concepts that are relevant to an argument as premises helps other people understand arguments more clearly.

2.4. Step #4: The Logic Sub-Process

Logic is a presupposition of human thought. It is built into how we think, although people can make mistakes. As a formal system, it’s something we created by induction from observations of thought and argumentation.

Rationality is more than just the absence of contradiction. It is conformance to norms of judgment/decision-making.

Although the Logic step of the Reasoning Process is being listed here as following the Assertion of Premises step, there is usually a lot of back and forth between these two steps because conclusions made from prior logic can be used as premises for later arguments.

The Frame Problem

See: Wikipedia: Logical Reasoning Methods And Argumentation.

See: Wikipedia: Inductive vs Deductive Reasoning.

Arguments can be deductive or inductive, valid or invalid, strong or week, sound or unsound, or cogent and uncogent.

Figure 1: Argument Terminology Used In Logic (en), CC BY-SA 4.0, by Nyq.

2.4.1. Deductive Logic

The more common term is “Deductive Reasoning”, but I prefer to say “Deductive Logic” instead because Induction and Deduction both occur within the Logic sub-process of the Reasoning Process.

It’s possible to make mistakes when doing deductive logic. You might have to try several attempts before you finally prove what you’re trying to prove, the process for proving things is inductive.

Sound and Unsound Arguments

Valid Argument
An argument such that any substitution of values for variables in it which makes the premises true also makes the conclusion true.
  • In other words, for a valid argument, it is impossible for the premises to be true while the conclusion is false.
  • Validity is the relationship between the premises and the conclusion.
Sound Argument
A valid argument with true premises.
  • It is possible for arguments to be valid, and have false premises.
  • In order to determine if an argument’s premises are true, you have to do some research.
  • If any assignments of values to variables appearing in the argument makes all the premises true, then it also makes the conclusion true.

2.4.2. Inductive Logic

The more common term is “Inductive Reasoning”, but I prefer to say “Inductive Logic” instead for the same reason why I prefer “Deductive Logic” over “Deductive Reasoning”.

Statistical Reasoning Skills

See: Philosophical Razors for more details on the Philosophical Razors.

See: Heuristics for Problem-Solving for more details on heuristics oriented towards problem solving.

The Puzzle of Grue - Wireless Philosophy

2.4.2.1. Cogent and Uncogent Arguments

Examples of Ampliative Arguments:

  • Although we know that it took evolution X billion years to go from eukaryotic life and multi-cellular life, and we also know that it only took X hundred million years after the Earth and the solar system formed for life to appear on Earth, this is technically only an ampliative argument that the first life on a celestial body is probably easier to form than multi-cellular life.
  • The reason why is this argument is not a deductive one is because it doesn’t account for the possibility that this timeline actually could have been an extremely unlikely event that just happened instead of one of the more likely events.
  • If we wanted to know the truth regarding which event truly takes less time to occur than the other, we would need more data points.
  • But for now, our knowledge of life on Earth as the only known, proven life to exist in the universe is the only data point in our dataset.
  • That said, and based on our current evidence (everything that we currently know about the universe), the most reasonable and most statistically likely proposition to conclude until we have more data is that it takes significantly longer for unicellular life to become multi-cellular life, than it does for single-celled life to ever appear in the first place.

3. The Importance Of Explanatory And Predictive Power

The Science of Thinking - Veritasium: Veritasium explains how our brains automate much of thinking by using heuristics and long-term memory, and the key to getting smarter is to force ourselves to think through things methodically step-by-step.

The Four Things it Takes to be an Expert: Veritasium explains how repeated attempts, a valid consistent environment, timely feedback, and pushing the boundaries of our skills are the four steps to becoming an expert at anything.

4. List Of Reasoning Skills

  • Habitually Doing Research Before Attempting A Task.
  • Understanding That All Knowledge Is Ultimately Based On A Model Of Experience And The Limits Of Knowledge.
  • Questioning Everything, Including The Foundation And Underlying Assumptions Of One’s Own Knowledge.
  • Being Able To Detect And Identify Bias, Acknowledge Multiple Perspectives, And Think Without Biases.
  • Recognizing Unstated Assumptions And Values.
  • Understanding The Importance Of Evidence And The Levels Of Certainty/Skepticism.
  • Updating One’s Belief System On The Basis Of Wider Experience.
  • Reasoning Skills Continued.

4.1. Reasoning Process

  • Gathering and connecting pertinent (relevant) information.
  • Recognizing problems, and finding workable means for solving those problems.
  • Habitually figuring out the best way to do/learn/use something before doing that action.
  • Habitually starting with the basics and definitions before moving forward on a topic.
    • This is especially important because if the knowledge is wrong, then so is everything based upon it.
  • Understanding the relevant methods, techniques, and criteria for making judgments.
  • Understanding the reasoning process, its limits, and how it can be wrong.
  • Understanding formal logic and inference rules.
  • Understanding fallacies and how to avoid making them.
  • Being able to transfer intuition (subconscious reasoning) into conscious thinking.
  • Knowing how to form warranted conclusions, valid arguments, and sound arguments.
  • Testing the conclusions and generalizations at which one arrives.
  • Distinguishing between ’rational’ and ’rationalized’, AKA the “reason” versus “justification” dichotomy.
  • Using and comprehending language with accuracy, clarity, and discernment.

In sum, Critical Thinking is “a persistent effort to examine any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the evidence that supports or refutes it and the further conclusions to which it tends.” -Edward Glaser (1941)

5. Transferring Thoughts From The Subconsciousness Into The Consciousness

People would ask questions so much more often if they knew and mastered the reasoning skill for accessing the thoughts formed by one’s own intuition.

5.1. Mantras To Say To Invoke Using Reasoning Skills In Appropriate Situations

Note: These are situations where not saying the mantras would cause the person thinking/saying the mantras to be less likely to use the reasoning skill associated with that mantra.

  • Use reason.
  • Why am I feeling this way?
  • What is causing me to feel this way?
  • What am I subconsciously noticing?
  • What is leading me to speculate this?

The phrase “Use reason” for invoking the inclination to use reason to solve a problem might be considered a case where the habitual use of a mantra improves the brain’s intelligence by elevating its ability to solve problems (in this case by habitually reminding it to do something that it otherwise wouldn’t do)

Other similar cases that might not exactly count as mantras since their wordings can vary might be: “Why am I thinking this?” or “Why is mind noticing this conspicuous instance X?”

6. What It Means To Be Rational

Rationality is much more than avoiding contradictions and fallacies. True rationality also entails understanding that knowledge is formed according to belief networks in coherentism, that all knowledge is constrained by our sensory input, that beliefs do not magically come out reason, recognizing implicit assumptions and selective attention, distinguishing sensory knowledge from value knowledge, values are subjective, etc.

Even for the theorems that can be proven by performative contradictions, the brain technically doesn’t have to except the premises that lead to the contradictions, just as subjects don’t have to exist that their objective purpose is to survive, reproduce, and have children.

Honesty is part of intelligence and rationality. Truly intelligent people must be honest about all topics.

Footnotes:

1

Another advantage to establishing the validity of the senses and empiricism later on is that it makes this philosophy more general. Futuristic robots that use physics to create consciousnesses of their own would very conceivably have different senses than humans do, as would the hypothetical non-human life that exists on other planets do.

Last Modified: 2024 May 21, 05:46

Author: Zero Contradictions