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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Exercise of Reason Preceded the Philosophy of Reason

Brand Blanshard notes that mankind has been exercising reason for at least five hundred thousand years before men had any understanding of what being reasonable meant. Here’s an excerpt from Blanshard’s book Reason & Analysis (Page 52):
“Indeed men seem to have been exercising the reason we have just described for at least five hundred thousand years before they had anything like an adequate idea of what being reasonable meant. Aristotle, who struggled long to achieve such an idea, pointed out that what was first in order of nature may be last in order of recognition; and he would certainly have agreed with Locke’s remark that ‘God has not been so sparing to men, to make them barely two-legged animals, and left it to Aristotle to make them rational.’ But while rational practice may be developed independently of theory, the theory of reason does depend on a developed practice; it is only with instances of an accomplished use of reason before them that philosophers have ever succeeded in giving an account of that use. The great advances in understanding what reason means have accompanied or shortly followed bursts of reflective activity."
I am convinced by Blanshard's view of reason. I think reason is trait that human beings have developed during the course of evolution; it is not something that we have learned. In the next passage, Blanshard points out: "When man escaped from the animal mind, his use of reason seems to have been concentrated for some hundreds of millenniums on the connection of means to end.” (Page 52) This means that thought arose as the instrument of practical need.

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