The Psychology of Reasoning

The Psychology of Reasoning

The Psychology of Reasoning

The Psychology of Reasoning

Excerpt

This book owes its origin to the indefinable sense of uneasiness and discontent into which I was thrown by the perusal of some of the best treatises on Logic. These treatises had failed to explain the nature of the logical or reasoning faculty, though purporting to indicate the laws which govern its proper functioning. Even the work of John Stuart Mill, which still remains in my opinion the best, was no more convincing than the rest. And the more I read of such books the less satisfied I became and the stronger became my desire to understand clearly what constituted reasoning.

As for the psychologists I found to my surprise that they either omitted reasoning altogether, or alluded to it in a most superficial manner.

My desire to discover the nature of reasoning was due to an instinctive tendency to resolve complex psychical phenomena into more elementary processes; and until this was accomplished the complex phenomenon remained an enigma. At length one day, just when I least expected it, I saw suddenly and clearly what I had long been seeking. The true mechanism of reasoning was manifest to me, as the resultant of the interplay of a variety of mental activities.

But the psychical phenomena of which reasoning consists, far from being elementary, appeared to me also as complex. Attention and reflection which come into play as soon as reasoning begins; coherence and the critical attitude, the vigilant guardians of the laws of logic; imagination and abstraction which determine respectively the fecundity and the greatest technical output of reasoning; synthetic and analytic thought, to which reasoning owes its evolution to higher forms--all these phenomena or modalities of psychical attitude, the immediate factors of reasoning, are evidently not elementary phenomena, but are themselves complex. So that the solution of the problem led me, by a route opposite to that followed in the present book, from the most complex phenomena of all, to phenomena less and less complex. Finally I found that I had arrived on the one hand at sensorial mnemonic reproductions (evocations of past sensations), and on the other at affective tendencies. Either of these I might have regarded as the most elementary of all psychical phenomena on whose combination and interplay all the others depended, but I succeeded in relating both to a quite general and fundamental property of life, which I had already empha-

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