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From the lexicon, here is the definition of reason: Reason is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses.

The definition, at the outset, seems a little vague. For example, other animals have a faculty that integrates materials provided by their senses. Does that mean, that faculty of theirs is also reason? What I am driving at, I guess, is where is the differentia? A proper definition should have both genus and differentia. Am I missing something?

asked Oct 18 '11 at 14:45

rational_vision's gravatar image


edited Oct 18 '11 at 15:54

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

In case anyone would like a reference in the Objectivist literature reinforcing the claim that the statement in question really was meant as a definition, not just a description, refer to the second paragraph in OPAR, Chapter 5.

(Oct 19 '11 at 16:10) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

The definition is accurate.

Genus: "faculty". Differentia: "which identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses."

Man has other faculties, such as the faculty of vision, the faculty of hearing, and even the faculty of balance. Implicit in this definition is that reason is a faculty of man. It identifies a human faculty which identifies and integrates sense data. There is only one: reason.

A definition need not be an exhaustive description. A definition's responsibility is to guide your awareness to examples of a concept, given the context of knowledge you have.

Reason is the human ability to identify and integrate sense data. As for how reason operates, that's a huge topic, which is not properly addressed in the definition.

Do other animals possess reason? To answer this question, you cannot just look at Ayn Rand's definition, omit the word "man's" and see if the definition applies to animals. Instead, you look at reason, as humans practice it, and then observe animals and see if they practice it too.

That "man's" is in Ayn Rand's definition is not to nip in the bud the possibility that alien life forms might possess reason. It's there simply to guide one's awareness to a specific phenomenon, which man is the only species known to possess.

If you follow her definition, you'll find the phenomenon of reason. The next task is to describe it fully, so you might be able to find the phenomenon elsewhere if it shows up. And if you do find it elsewhere, then the definition would have to be amended.

answered Oct 19 '11 at 12:23

John%20Paquette's gravatar image

John Paquette ♦

edited Oct 20 '11 at 11:12

I didn't realize the meaning of 'identifies' as containing conceptualization. I thought that what animals perceive are also referred to as identification(identified as some entity, though in a perceptual sense).

(Oct 19 '11 at 21:37) rational_vision rational_vision's gravatar image

Actually, rational_vision, I think the claim that identification requires concepts is false. I made a mistake and I'll correct that.

(Oct 20 '11 at 11:02) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

Here is the text that Ideas for Life referred to (thanks!), from Leonard Peikoff's book Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, page 152:

"Reason," in Ayn Rand's definition, is "the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses." Or, as we may now expand it: reason is the faculty that enables man to discover the nature of existents -- by virtue of its power to condense sensory information in accordance with the requirements of an objective mode of cognition. Or: reason is the faculty that organizes perceptual units in conceptual terms by following the principles of logic. This formulation highlights the three elements essential to the faculty: its data, percepts; its form, concepts; its method, logic.

answered Oct 19 '11 at 16:26

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

edited Oct 19 '11 at 16:27

I like this definition, since it properly mentions all the essential elements, especially logic.

(Oct 19 '11 at 21:40) rational_vision rational_vision's gravatar image

Peikoff's expanded definition is excellent, but it's only appropriate for a consciousness which knows about the nature of concepts, and of logic, and of percepts.

Expanding a definition makes it more effective for a consciousness which has greater knowledge. For instance "something which walks and talks" is a fine definition of "man" for a toddler. But for an adult, it is inadequate. Likewise, Peikoff's expanded definition is great for an Objectivist, but not so good for a layman. Ayn Rand's is for the layman.

(Oct 20 '11 at 11:18) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

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Asked: Oct 18 '11 at 14:45

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Last updated: Oct 20 '11 at 11:18