Thoughts on Practical Reasoning…
In the simplest of terms, Practical Reasoning is a method by way a person determines how to act by weighing the merits of relative actions. The practicality of the method is contemplated by first a set of questions:
- If the action has yet to be performed, what is the best method to carry it out?
- What should be done, vs. what one desires to do?
- What is the value in doing what one wants to do vs. what one should do?
- What is the quantitate value of the action?
- What considerations have been made to discern if an alternate set of reasons can be determined as well as valued?
Then first-person determinations:
- Finding out for ourselves, either individually or collectively
- Examination of Intention vs. belief
- Couching reasons in evaluative terms, i.e. what would be the most beneficial to do vs. what makes practical sense.
To put it into perspective, here is a common Practical Reasoning exercise:
If you put a coin in an empty bottle and insert a cork into the neck of the bottle, how could you remove the coin without taking the cork out or breaking the bottle?
Common-sense would tell you that the most practical thing to do is to simply push the cork inside the bottle thereby freeing the opening to empty out the coin.
Common sense is prudent judgment based on your perception of the situation; it doesn’t necessarily involve facts or proven theory. It may very well be rooted in personal belief; such is the case when one replaces a moral code with a code of Honor.
We lend providence to consensus opinion and peer groups by putting ourselves under rational pressure that brings our beliefs and intentions into compliance. A set of standards of consistency and coherence within a given structure can certainly bring a god to his knees. In the case of moral laws, for example, it may be considered immoral to break the rules. People find comfort in acceptance and tend to affirm themselves by receiving admiration from others. In the cases of those that value peer-evaluation, they may examine a relative action by placing themselves in a peer’s shoes and then go on to mimic rather than test what they’re truly made of.
In the case of the corked bottle, context is everything. Maybe it’s unreasonable to break the rules for immediate gratification but the return serves a higher purpose.
Practical reasoning can often be boiled down to moral reasoning: A set of demands. In evaluative terms, when one internalizes weighing merits, it often consists of an internal moral dilemma. What would the Inquisitor think of my action? Would I be considered less than reasonable if I just do what I want? Is my reasoning flawed by the consensus opinion? Would my peers reject me? Would my actions be abhorrent to upholding a standard?
At best Ethical Consequentialism and at worst: Slave Morality.
Consider for a moment the norms of what is practical and impractical, valuable and invaluable as well as reasonable and unreasonable. The character traits you hold are the driving force to take action. While some may spend a great deal of time evaluating the best course of action to take, others have already carried out the Alexandrian Solution; coin in hand.
Autonomy is Prime. If I am to govern myself, I’m not going to spend a lot of time waxing philosophical. My past actions don’t dictate my future nor do they command my person as a Master does a Slave. There will be times when I take the less practical approach to endure the struggle and at others, the struggle doesn’t serve me at all.
I’ll not live my life as a martyr constantly making sacrifice on principal alone. Having reasons is often in flux with being reasonable. There’s a pay-off to being unreasonable. Sometimes a good thing isn’t good enough, a failure is just a failed imagination and being over-confident in my abilities can place me in a situation where I’m putting them to test. Practical reasoning is damned!