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I understand that reason is crucially important to man's survival. We meet our needs by producing certain goods, and this requires using reason in various ways, eg by cause/effect reasoning, language, science etc. But why is it our "basic" means of survival? Sure, reason is the basic faculty that makes possible all the means of survival we have thy distinguish us from other animals or plants (cooking, building, learning at school, whatever) but we also survive because of things unrelated to reason; we automatically take in oxygen, our body automatically repairs itself and fights disease, etc. so wouldn't this challenge the claim that reason is basic?

asked Jan 10 '13 at 20:52

ttime's gravatar image


The fact that we breathe, digest our food, maintain blood circulation, heal wounds can be considered 'vegetative actions'. These actions are performed automatically without the need to consciously attend to them. This is what the identification of 'basic' means of survival seeks to circumvent.

The fact that we breathe is automatic. Understanding, via reason, that in mines pockets of poisonous gasses can exist allows us to discover ways to avoid inadvertently asphyxiating ourselves. While we automatically digest food, it is reason that lets us identify that we are hungry, and to discover the means of satiating that hunger. While our blood circulation and healing of wounds are automated, reason allows up to discover ways cure wounds and diseases that might otherwise overtax our mortality.

Identifying reason as our basic means of survival distinguishes it from being our sole means of survival. Breathing, digestion and circulation are given to man metaphysically. The ability to reason is given metaphysically as well. Breathing, digestion and circulation can only continue providing we discover the right air to breath, the proper foods to eat, and other basic criteria reason deems appropriate to our survival as man qua man.

answered Jan 10 '13 at 21:24

dream_weaver's gravatar image

dream_weaver ♦

Awesome, thanks Greg!

(Jan 12 '13 at 20:50) ttime ttime's gravatar image

Also remember that other beings come with many different tools for survival: bigger teeth, claws, wings, special kind of eyes, etc. We on the other hand arrive on earth with nothing more than reason to aid us into producing our means to sustain our lives. If a man doesn't use his mind, he can't produce. And if man can't produce, he will perish.

(Jan 22 '13 at 17:29) Juan Diego dAnconia Juan%20Diego%20dAnconia's gravatar image

"Identifying reason as our basic means of survival distinguishes it from being our sole means of survival."

I disagree. It distinguishes it from being one of a number of possible alternative means of survival (like, perhaps, faith).

To say reason is basic is to say that it is necessary, as opposed to only possible.

(Dec 07 '13 at 14:46) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image
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To identify reason as our basic means of survival means that it is our essential means of survival, as opposed to one of many possible means of survival.

In other words, though food and oxygen are means of survival, failing to think about what we eat and breathe means we will die. Though shelter is a means of survival, failing to think about how to find it or build it means we will die.

Reason is what allows us to find or make the things which are necessary for staying alive. If we dispense with reason, we either die, or we end up living because other people do not dispense with reason.

That's what is meant when we say that reason is basic when it comes to surviving -- it means you cannot live without it.

answered Dec 07 '13 at 14:43

John%20Paquette's gravatar image

John Paquette ♦

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Asked: Jan 10 '13 at 20:52

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Last updated: Dec 07 '13 at 14:46