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THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE REASONING POWER






From: Common Sense How To Exercise It

When reading certain passages in the manuscripts of Yoritomo, one is
forcibly reminded of the familiar phrase: "Nothing is definitely finished
among men, for each thing stops only to begin again."

He says, "That many centuries before the great minds constructed altars
to the goddess of Reason, they were in search of a divinity to replace
the one they had just destroyed.

"If it were proposed to me to build temples which would synthesize my
devotion with certain sentiments, my desire would be that those dedicated
to the Will and to Reason should dominate all others, for then they would
be under the protection of powers for good."

In a few pages further on he insists again and again upon the necessity
of developing the worship of reason.

"Reasoning," he continues, "is a divinity, around which gravitate a whole
world of gods, important but inferior to it.

"Among this people of these idols, so justly revered, there is one god
which occupies a place apart from the others.

"This god is Common Sense, which gave birth to Reason, and has always
been its faithful companion.

"It is, in reality, the controlling force exercising its power to guard
reason against the predominating character and nefarious tendencies
created by self-interest.

"Common sense compels reason to admit principles whose justice it has
already recognized, and, at the same time, incites reason to reject those
whose absurdity it has demonstrated.

"Common sense allies itself with reason, in order to make that selection
of ideas which personal interest can either set aside entirely or modify
by illogical inference.

"Reason obeys certain laws, all of which can be united in one
sentiment--common sense."

This statement could be illustrated symbolically by comparing its truth
to a fan, whose blades converge toward a central point where they
remain fixt.

Applying the precept to the picture, the old Shogun gives the design
which we are faithfully copying.

"In this ideal fan," explains Yoritomo, "not only the true reproduction
of the qualities directing the progress of knowledge must be perceived,
but the symbol of their development must be traced.

"All of these qualities are born of common sense, to which they are
closely allied, unfolding and disclosing a luminous radiance.

"Altho each one may have its autonomy, they never separate, and, even as
a fan from which one blade has disappeared can only remain an imperfect
object little to be desired, even so, the symbolic fan of reasoning, when
it does not unite all the required qualities, becomes a mutilated power,
which can only betray the destiny originally attributed to it.

"Consequently, starting from common sense as the central point of
reasoning, we find, first, perception.

"This is the action by which exterior things are brought near to us.

"Perception is essentially visual and auditory, altho it influences all
our senses.

"For example, the fact of tasting a fruit is a perception.

"The seeing of a landscape is equally one.

"The hearing of a song is also a perception.

"In a word, everything which presents itself to us, coming in
contact with one of our senses, is a perception; otherwise, the
inception of an idea.

"This is the first degree of reasoning.

"Immediately following is memory, without which nothing could be proved.

"It is memory, which, by renewing the motive power of reason, allows us
to judge of the proportion of things, grasped by the senses in the
present as related to those which come to us from the past.

"Without memory it would be impossible to make a mental comparison.

"It would be most difficult to determine the true nature of an event,
announced by perception, if an analogous sensation, previously
experienced, had not just permitted us to classify it by close
examination or by differentiating it.

"Memory is a partial resurrection of a past life, whose reconstruction
has just permitted us to attribute a true value to the phases of
existence.

"It is in preserving the memory of things that we are called upon to
compare them and then to judge of them.

"Thought is produced immediately after perception, and the recollection,
very often automatic, that it creates within us.

"It is the inception of the idea which it engenders by a series of
results.

"Thought permits the mind to exercise its judgment without allowing
itself to be influenced by the greatness or humility of the idea.

"By virtue of corresponding recollections, it will associate the present
perception with the past representations, and will take an extension,
more or less pronounced, according to the degree of intellectuality of
the thinker, and according to the importance of the object of its
reflections.

"But rarely does the idea present itself alone.

"One thought almost always produces the manifestation of similar
thoughts, which group themselves around the first idea as birds of the
same race direct their flight toward the same country.

"Thought is the manifestation of the intellectual life; it palpitates in
the brain of men as does the heart in the breast.

"It is thought which distinguishes men from animals, who have only
instinct to guide them.

"It can be admitted, however, that this instinct is a kind of obscure
thought for these inferior beings, from which reflection is eliminated,
or, at least, reveals itself only as a vassal of material appetite.

"But with creatures who have intelligence, thought is a superior faculty,
which aids the soul to free itself from the bondage of vulgar and limited
impressions.

"When perception, memory, and thought unite to form judgment, activity of
mind will become necessary, in order to accelerate the production of
ideas in extending the field of imagination.

"Moral inertia is the most deplorable of all defects; it retards
intellectual growth and hinders the development of personality.

"It is, in this understanding, the enemy of common sense, for it will
admit voluntarily a reasoning power, existing per se, rather than make
the necessary effort which will set free the truth and constitute an
individual opinion.

"Vulgarity is, then, almost always the sign of mental sloth.

"It is not infrequent to see a mind of real capacity fall into error,
where an intelligence of mediocre caliber asserts its efficiency.
Indifference is the most serious obstacle to the attainment of judgment.

"Common sense demands a keen alertness of understanding, placed at the
disposal of a reflection which appears at times slow of action, but which
is long in being manifested only because of the desire to surround itself
by all the guaranties of truth concerning the object in question.

"The fifth blade of the fan is the quality of deduction--the most solid
basis for the judgments which are formed by common sense.

"By deduction we are able to solve all relative questions with
perfect accuracy.

"It is by abstracting reckless contingencies, and by relying only upon
the relativeness of facts, that we can succeed in discovering the truth
that there are too many representations as to these facts.

"Deduction is the great support of mental weakness. It helps in
discerning proportions, possibilities, even as it helps in skilfully
avoiding the fear of error."

We shall have occasion to speak more at length of deduction, for Yoritomo
devotes many pages to it. We shall, then, defer to a future chapter the
interesting developments that he discloses on this subject, and we shall
continue to study the fan of common sense with him.

"Foresight," he continues, "is rightly looked upon as one of the
indispensable elements in cultivating common sense.

"The faculty of foresight always accompanies common sense, in order to
strengthen its qualities of skill and observation.

"One must not confound, as many people are tempted to do, foresight and
conjecture.

"The first consists in taking great care to prevent the repetition of
unhappy facts which have already existed.

"Foresight will exert an influence on future events by establishing an
analogy between them and the actual incidents which, of necessity, will
lead to the adoption or rejection of present projects.

"It is to be observed that all these faculties are subordinate, one to
the other, and, in proportion to the unfolding of the fan, we can prove
that all the blades previously mentioned have concurred in the formation
of the blade of which we are now speaking.

"In order to foresee disasters it is necessary that the
perception--visual or auditory--of said disasters should already have
imprest us.

"We have kept intact the memory of them, since it is reconstructed
emotion which guides our thoughts.

"These same thoughts, in extending themselves, form groups of thoughts
harmonious in character, all relative to the one, which is the object of
the debate.

"Our mind becomes more active in recalling the incidents, the remembrance
of which marks the time which has elapsed between the old perception and
the present state of mental absorption.

"The faculty of deduction, which is born of these different mental
conflicts, permits me to foresee that circumstances of the same nature
will lead to others similar to those we have already mentioned.

"We have merely sketched rapidly the scale of sensations which follow
each other, in order to reach the explanation of how foresight is formed,
this faculty of which we are now speaking.

"By assimilating these present facts with those of the past, we are
permitted to draw a conclusion, relating to the same group of results,
because of the conformity of those past facts to the present questions.

"Foresight is passive; between it and precaution there is the same
difference as between theory and practise.

"Precaution is preeminently active, and it marks its first appearance by
means of foresight, but does not stop in this effort until it has
rendered foresight productive.

"It is well to foresee, but it is precious to preclude.

"The second part of the act of precaution can, however, only be
accomplished after having permitted the brain to register the thoughts
which determine the first part of this act."

In order to understand this very subtle difference, but very important
one, which classifies these two sentiments, the old sage gives us the
following example:

"Let us suppose," he says, "that, on a beautiful day in spring, a man
starts out for an excursion which will last until the dawn of the
following day.

"If he has common sense, he will say to himself that the sun will not be
shining at the time of his return, that the nights of spring are cold,
and that this one will be no exception to the rule.

"This is foresight.

"If common sense, with all its consequences, takes possession of him, it
will increase his power of reasoning. He will think that, in order to
avoid suffering from the change of temperature, it would be well to cover
himself with a cloak.

"And, even tho the sun shone, he would not hesitate to furnish himself
with this accessory, which in fact will render him the greatest service.

"This is precaution.

"This quality is indispensable to the formation of the reasoning power;
for, in addition to the necessity of foreseeing certain results, it
permits also of directing their course, if it be impossible to exempt
them completely.

"Reasoning is the art of developing, to the highest degree, the
suppositions resulting from deduction.

"One is usually mistaken as to the exact meaning of the words 'to
reason,' and people seldom attach the importance to them which
they should.

"One is apt to think that the gift of reasoning is bestowed upon
every one.

"Perhaps; but to reason, following the principles of justice and truth,
is an operation which can only be performed by minds endowed with
common sense.

"In order to arrive at this result, it is essential to impress upon
oneself the value of the words, 'to deduct accurately,' after having
produced the radiation of thoughts which depend upon the object in
question, and to foresee the consequences of the facts that a resolution
could determine.

"Above all, to avoid contentment with the approximate, which conceals
many pitfalls under false appearances.

"Without permitting oneself to express useless trivialities, not to
neglect to become impregnated with those axioms which have been
rightfully baptized, 'wisdom of nations.'

"They are generally based on a secular observation, and are the product
of many generations.

"It would be puerile to attach vital importance to them, but one would
surely regret having entirely scorned their counsel.

"Too much erudition is at times detrimental to reason, based on common
sense. Altho fully appreciating science, and devoting serious study to
it, one would do well to introduce the human element into his knowledge.


"There are some essential truths which modify daily life without, for
this reason, lessening their importance.

"Some of them are of premature development; others are of
miniature growth.

"To reason without offending common sense, it is, therefore,
indispensable to consider time, place, environment, and all the
contingencies which could arise to undermine the importance of
reasoning."

After having reviewed all these phases, we shall then extend, in accord
with Yoritomo, the last blade of this rudimentary fan, and we shall
find judgment.

"This one is the index to that quality of mind called conviction.

"This mental operation consists in drawing together many ideas that their
relative characteristics may be determined.

"This operation takes the place contiguous to reasoning, of which it is
the result.

"Judgment determines its character after having registered the reasons
which ought to indicate its position; it deducts the conclusions imposed
by the explanatory principle, and classifies the idea by submitting it to
the valuation placed upon it by judgment.

"All judgment is either affirmative or negative.

"It can never be vascillating nor neutral.

"In this last case it will assume the title of opinion, and will
attribute to itself the definite qualities which characterize judgment.

"It is, however, at times subjected to certain conditions, where the
principles on which it is based are not sufficiently defined, and,
therefore, becomes susceptible to a change, either of form or of nature.

"It is possible, without violating the laws of common sense, to establish
a judgment whose terms will be modified by the mutation of causes.

"But common sense demands that these different influences should be
foreseen, and that these eventualities should be mentioned when
pronouncing the judgment."

We have reached the last blade of the symbolic fan, described by the
philosopher, for many secondary qualities may be placed between the
principle blades.

But faithful to his explanatory method, he wished to indicate to us the
broad lines first, and also to state the indispensable faculties
constituting common sense, by teaching us their progression and
development.

He desired to demonstrate to us also how much all these qualities would
be lessened in value if they were not united and bound together in the
order in which they ought to manifest themselves.

"We have all possest," said he, "some fans whose point of reunion was
destroyed in part or altogether lost.

"What becomes of it, then?

"During a certain length of time, always rather short, the blades, after
having remained bound together by the thread which holds them, separate,
when it is severed because of the lack of harmony and of equilibrium at
their base.

"Very soon, one blade among them detaches itself, and the mutilated fan
takes its place in the cemetery where sleep those things deteriorated
because of old age or disuse.

"It is the same with the qualities which we have just enumerated. As long
as they remain attached to their central point, which is common sense,
they stand erect, beautiful and strong, concurring in the fertilization
of our minds, and in creating peace in our lives.

"But if the point of contact ceases to maintain them, to bind them
together, to forbid their separating, we shall soon see them fall apart
after having escaped from the temporary protection of the secondary
qualities.

"For a while we seek to evoke them; but recognizing the ruse existing in
their commands, we shall soon be the first to abandon them, in order to
harmonize our favors with the deceptive mirage of the illusions; at
least, if we do not allow ourselves to be tempted by fallacious arguments
of vanity.

"In the one as in the other case, we shall become, then, the prey of
error and ignorance, for common sense is the intelligence of truth."





Next: COMMON SENSE AND IMPULSE

Previous: THE FIGHT AGAINST ILLUSION



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