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Reasoning Is Everywhere in Human Life

The words thinking and reasoning are used in everyday life as virtual synonyms. Reasoning, however, has a more formal flavor. This is because it highlights the intellectual dimension of thinking.

Reasoning occurs whenever the mind draws conclusions on the basis of reasons. We draw conclusions whenever we make sense of things. The result is that whenever we think, we reason. Usually we are not aware of the full scope of reasoning in our lives.

We begin to reason from the moment we wake up in the morning. We reason when we figure out what to eat for breakfast, what to wear, whether to stop at the store on the way to school, whether to go with this or that friend to lunch. We reason as we interpret the oncoming flow of traffic, when we react to the decisions of other drivers, when we speed up or slow down. We reason when we figure out solutions to problems. We reason when we formulate problems. We reason when we argue.

One can draw conclusions, then, about everyday events or, really, about anything at all: about strategic planning, newspaper articles, poems, microbes, people, numbers, historical events, social settings, psychological states, character traits, the past, the present, or the future.

To reason well, we must scrutinize the process we are using. What are we trying to figure out? What information do we need? Do we have that information? How could we check it for accuracy? The less conscious we are of how we are thinking, the easier it is to make some mistake or error.

Test the Idea
Becoming More Aware of the Role of Reasoning in Your Life

Make a list of all the things you did today. Then, for each act, figure out the thinking that led you to do, or guided you while doing, the act. (Remember that most of your thinking is unconscious.) For example, when you left your house this morning, you may have stopped at the store for food. This act makes no sense unless you somehow had come to the conclusion that you needed some food. Then, while at the store, you bought a certain number of items. This action resulted from the tacit conclusion you came to that you needed some items and not others.

Realize that every time you make a decision, that decision represents a view or conclusion you reasoned to. For each action you identify, answer these two questions: 1) What exactly did I do? and 2) What thinking is presupposed in my behavior?

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