In its basic sense, reasoning is the exploration of the unknown. The judgments attached to concepts that are known are transferred or extrapolated upon concepts that are assessed to be similar. In reasoning, judgments are based not on observation, but on other judgments and beliefs in the absence of evidence.
In its simplest form, reasoning is performed by directly comparing two judgments - and no more than two - to form a third judgment. This is called "immediate reasoning."
It is by this method that we arrive at basic hypotheses: if we see a creature that flies, and we know that all birds fly, they we reason that the creature we are observing might be a bird. We then make further observations and test them against other properties of the concept to confirm or revise that hypothesis until we are satisfied that the judgment we have made is accurate.
The problem with immediate reasoning is its superficiality. If we are too soon satisfied, we may make an incorrect judgment because we have not applied sufficient reasoning: we have noticed only that it flies, and so it is a bird, and we consider the matter no further, overlooking other properties that might qualify it as another flying creature.
(EN: This is where the filtration of perception also becomes problematic, in that if we have accepted an immature judgment we tend to ignore evidence to the contrary and defend the original judgment.)
A common flaw in immediate reasoning is it tends to overgeneralize. Reasoning is done on the assumption of "all" or "none" and often fails to qualify itself by using "most" or "few" or "some." Particularly where one cannot immediately identify an exception to the rule, there is the potential for serious errors in judgment.
That is, we base immediate reasoning on the premise that "all fish swim" and refuse to acknowledge the possibility of a fish that does not swim because there is not an example in our personal experience of a fish that does not swim. For that reason it is best to ensure that we permit for the existence of exceptions and avoid the notion of absolute statements of all, every, always, none, never, etc.
Analogous reason is done by comparison among things that do not precisely match, but which resemble one another in a sufficient number of ways for us to assume that their unknown properties are also similar.
In its broadest degree, analogous reasoning becomes a generalization. If we assume that because a mammal has four legs, all four-legged creatures are mammals, than our analogy is too vague and we may make erroneous judgments. As such, significant consideration must be given to the degree of similarity, or the degree to which the qualities we recognize support the conclusion, before an analogy may be accepted.
Loose analogies are particularly dangerous because we are caused to accept something that is false and behave accordingly. In nature, we find many poisonous berries that resemble edible berries, and if we are not specific enough in our identification of the qualities of an edible berry, we may suffer the consequences.
Loose analogies are also common in our mischaracterization of other people. Racism is a loose analogy that suggests that certain characteristics are evident in a person because others who have the same physical characteristics evidenced those characteristics. Or suggesting that anyone with a red nose is a drunkard because we have noticed that characteristic in known drunkards also leads us astray.
False analogies are pervasive, and many people tend to swallow them without much analysis. It is for this reason that we must be very cautious as accepting the truth of analogous reasoning, both our own and that which is presented to us for consumption by other people.
And of course, there is the opposite extreme, where all analogous reasoning is dismissed and an individual must undertake the specific investigation of anything he encounters. While this is more certain to grant him valid knowledge, the necessity of doing so with all things at all times is impractical and tedious. To be expedient and efficient requires us to rely on analogous thinking
Higher Forms of Reasoning
Atkinson identifies two forms of higher reasoning:
- Inductive Reasoning - Inferring particular facts from general laws
- Deductive Reasoning - Developing general laws from particular facts
(EN: Abductive reasoning was not often considered or well understood until a few decades after this book was written, hence its exclusion.)
He means to explore these two forms of reasoning in the next two chapters.