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This is a background artical. See Reasoning

History of reasoning[edit | edit source]

It is likely that humans have used reasoning to work out what they should believe or do for a very long time indeed. However, some researchers have tried to determine when, in the history of human development, humans moved from using myths to describe the world to attempting to reason about the world, and when humans first began to reason about their own reasoning.

Babylonian reasoning[edit | edit source]

In Mesopotamia, Esagil-kin-apli's medical Diagnostic Handbook written in the 11th century BC was based on a logical set of axioms and assumptions, including the modern view that through the examination and inspection of the symptoms of a patient, it is possible to determine the patient's disease, its aetiology and future development, and the chances of the patient's recovery.[1]

During the 8th and 7th centuries BC, Babylonian astronomers began employing an internal logic within their predictive planetary systems, which was an important contribution to logic and the philosophy of science.[2] Babylonian thought had a considerable influence on early Greek thought.[3]

Greek reasoning[edit | edit source]

The works of Homer, written in the eighth century BCE, contain mythic stories that use gods to explain the formation of the world. However, only two centuries later, late in the sixth century BCE, Xenophanes of Colophon began to question the Homeric accounts of the creation of nature and the gods. He wrote:

  • “Homer and Hesiod attribute all things to the gods that among men are shame and a disgrace” (frag. 11).
  • “God is one, greatest among gods and among men, in no way like men in form and thought” (frag. 23).
  • “If oxen and horses and lions had hands or could paint and make things with their hands like men, then they would paint the forms of gods and make their bodies each according to their own shapes, horses like horses, oxen like oxen” (frag. 15).

According to David Furley, "the basis of [Xenophanes'] criticism appears to have been that he saw an inconsistency between the concept of god as something different from man, and the stories told about the gods, which made them behave as men do."[4] In the same period, other Greek thinkers began to develop theories about the nature of the world that suggest that they believed that there were regularities in nature and that humans could use reasoning to develop a consistent story about the nature of the world. Thales of Miletus, c. 624 BCE – c. 546 BCE, proposed that all is water. Anaximenes of Miletus, c. 585 BCE – c. 525 BCE, claimed that air is the source of everything.[5]

Aristotle is, so far as we know, the first writer to give an extended, systematic treatment of the methods of human reasoning. He identified two major methods of reasoning, analysis and synthesis. In the first, we try to understand an object by looking at its component parts. In the second, we try to understand a class of objects by looking at the common properties of each object in that class.

Aristotle developed what is known as syllogistic logic, which makes it possible to analyse reasoning in a way that ignores the content of the argument and focuses on the form or structure of the argument.[6] In the Prior Analytics, Aristotle begins by pointing out that:

"[If] no pleasure is a good, neither will any good be a pleasure."[7]

He then argues that this argument is an example of a rule of reasoning of the following form:

Premise: "A belongs to none of the Bs"
Conclusion: "B [does not] belong to any of the As".[8]

Aristotle points out that by understanding the reasoning involved in this type of argument, we can know that whatever the As and Bs are, we can reach the same conclusion about the relationship between them. This is a simple and straightforward argument, but it is a sign of an amazing leap in understanding and research into reason and was the beginning of the development of formal logic.

Indian reasoning[edit | edit source]

Main article: Indian logic

Two of the six Indian schools of thought deal with logic: Nyaya and Vaisheshika. The Nyaya Sutras of Aksapada Gautama constitute the core texts of the Nyaya school, one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy. This realist school developed a rigid five-member schema of inference involving an initial premise, a reason, an example, an application and a conclusion. The idealist Buddhist philosophy became the chief opponent to the Naiyayikas. Nagarjuna, the founder of the Madhyamika "Middle Way" developed an analysis known as the "catuskoti" or tetralemma. This four-cornered argumentation systematically examined and rejected the affirmation of a proposition, its denial, the joint affirmation and denial, and finally, the rejection of its affirmation and denial. But it was with Dignaga and his successor Dharmakirti that Buddhist logic reached its height. Their analysis centered on the definition of necessary logical entailment, "vyapti", also known as invariable concomitance or pervasion. To this end a doctrine known as "apoha" or differentiation was developed. This involved what might be called inclusion and exclusion of defining properties. The difficulties involved in this enterprise, in part, stimulated the neo-scholastic school of Navya-Nyāya, which developed a formal analysis of inference in the 16th century.

Chinese reasoning[edit | edit source]

Main article: Logic in China

In China, a contemporary of Confucius, Mozi, "Master Mo", is credited with founding the Mohist school, whose canons dealt with issues relating to valid inference and the conditions of correct conclusions. In particular, one of the schools that grew out of Mohism, the Logicians, are credited by some scholars for their early investigation of formal logic. Unfortunately, due to the harsh rule of Legalism in the subsequent Qin Dynasty, this line of investigation disappeared in China until the introduction of Indian philosophy by Buddhists.

Islamic reasoning[edit | edit source]

Main article: Logic in Islamic philosophy

For a time after Muhammad's death, Islamic law placed importance on formulating standards of argument, which gave rise to a novel approach to logic in Kalam, but this approach was later influenced by ideas from Greek philosophy and Hellenistic philosophy with the rise of the Mu'tazili philosophers, who highly valued Aristotle's Organon. The works of Hellenistic-influenced Islamic philosophers were crucial in the reception of Aristotelian logic in medieval Europe, along with the commentaries on the Organon by Averroes. The works of al-Farabi, Avicenna, al-Ghazali and other Muslim logicians who often criticized and corrected Aristotelian logic and introduced their own forms of logic, also played a central role in the subsequent development of medieval European logic.

Islamic logic not only included the study of formal patterns of inference and their validity but also elements of the philosophy of language and elements of epistemology and metaphysics. Due to disputes with Arabic grammarians, Islamic philosophers were very interested in working out the relationship between logic and language, and they devoted much discussion to the question of the subject matter and aims of logic in relation to reasoning and speech. In the area of formal logical analysis, they elaborated upon the theory of terms, propositions and syllogisms. They considered the syllogism to be the form to which all rational argumentation could be reduced, and they regarded syllogistic theory as the focal point of logic. Even poetics was considered as a syllogistic art in some fashion by many major Islamic logicians.

Important developments made by Muslim logicians included the development of "Avicennian logic" as a replacement of Aristotelian logic. Avicenna's system of logic was responsible for the introduction of hypothetical syllogism,[9] temporal modal logic,[10][11] and inductive logic.[12][13] Other important developments in Islamic philosophy include the development of a strict science of citation, the isnad or "backing", and the development of a scientific method of open inquiry to disprove claims, the ijtihad, which could be generally applied to many types of questions.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. H. F. J. Horstmanshoff, Marten Stol, Cornelis Tilburg (2004), Magic and Rationality in Ancient Near Eastern and Graeco-Roman Medicine, p. 99, Brill Publishers, ISBN 9004136665.
  2. D. Brown (2000), Mesopotamian Planetary Astronomy-Astrology , Styx Publications, ISBN 9056930362.
  3. Giorgio Buccellati (1981), "Wisdom and Not: The Case of Mesopotamia", Journal of the American Oriental Society 101 (1), p. 35-47 [43].
  4. Furley, David. 2003. 'Rationality among the Greeks and Romans'. In The Gale Group, Dictionary of the history of ideas. University of Virginia Library. [1]
  5. Furley, David. 2003. 'Rationality among the Greeks and Romans'. In The Gale Group, Dictionary of the history of ideas. University of Virginia Library. [2]
  6. Aristotle. 350 B.C.E. Robin Smith (transl.). 1989. Prior Analytics. Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett Publishing.
  7. Aristotle. 350 B.C.E. Robin Smith (transl.). 1989. Prior Analytics. Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett Publishing: A2:7
  8. Aristotle. 350 B.C.E. Robin Smith (transl.). 1989. Prior Analytics. Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett Publishing: A2:14-26
  9. Lenn Evan Goodman (2003), Islamic Humanism, p. 155, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0195135806.
  10. History of logic: Arabic logic, Encyclopædia Britannica.
  11. Dr. Lotfollah Nabavi, Sohrevardi's Theory of Decisive Necessity and kripke's QSS System, Journal of Faculty of Literature and Human Sciences.
  12. Science and Muslim Scientists, Islam Herald.
  13. Wael B. Hallaq (1993), Ibn Taymiyya Against the Greek Logicians, p. 48. Oxford University Press, ISBN 0198240430.
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