Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Second Proof that "Reason is Man's Means of Survival"

[Previous post in the series: "My Basic Proof that "Reason is Man's Basic Means of Survival"

A final “basic proof” of the principle that reason is man's basic means of survival.

Now that I've given a reduction of the principle, an attempt at proving it, observed literally weeks of examples, and listened to Dr. Peikoff's presentation of his induction, I'm more than ready to explain this principle.

The purpose of this essay is merely to show that reason is crucial and incredibly important to human survival. It's not to fully demonstrate why it is the “basic” means; this would involve contrasting it other means of survival in order to show why they are derivative.

An induction is a generalization that makes a causal connection, and this connection can be implicit or explicit. The form that this induction takes is “Every M is R (for whatever causal reason)”: every man's basic means of survival, for some causal reason, is reason. The induction itself can be broken up into three stages, which need to be validated in order to reach the proof.

(1): Certain things are required for survival. (2): Certain actions are necessary to gain these things (needed for survival). (3): Therefore, a certain thought process is required in order to take these actions.

In order to reach (1), it has to be assumed that there is such a thing as life and death, and observation confirms this for all living things. And one would also have to know that living things can face hardship and difficulties while alive, and overcome them, like when prey outruns and exhausts the predators chasing it. That's the basic knowledge needed for the idea of “survival,” that living things face this problem of survival. Assuming this then, all we need to know for (1) is that there are certain objects, goods, things that are required for survival, without which the relevant living thing will die. Immediately, three classes of things come to mind: food (including water), clothing, and shelter. These are non-controversial examples, and no knowledge of Objectivism is needed to know them: in fact, these three are the widely recognized basic human needs. These three (at the minimum) allow us to survive by giving us the physical fuel needed to continue living, and protect us from the environment, especially temperature changes and other animals.

While one is producing an endless list of foods, pieces of clothing, and shelters, and thinks of them when one considers “things required for survival,” a striking observation should be made and noted: our modern technological age. We have transportation-tools that make us much faster in traveling, such as bicycles, buses and cars, and medicinal-tools to aid us in combating and curing diseases, and healing our injuries. The technology of parachutes allow us to survive falls from heights that would otherwise be fatal, and that of airplanes and spaceships allow us to counteract the force of Earth's gravity with the force of lift. All of these have some relation to the basic needs, such as curing a patient's crippling disease in order for the patient to get back to living his life, which in part means consuming food under his own power. Here, we begin to connect basic needs with certain tools or things needed to acquire those needs. We use weapons to hunt animals for food; we create a water system with ducts, valves, and pumps to process and filter water so that's suitable for drinking; we use hammers, nails, precision-cut pieces of wood, and construction machines to build a house which shelters us from the environment; we use pins, needles, threads, and pieces of cloths produced from animal furs to create clothing to keep us warm or cool. Tools are indispensable to human survival, we come to realize. That's all we need for (1), the first induction that “certain things are required for survival.”

The next question, which (2) answers, is: how do we get (1), the very things we need to survive? Something or some process is involved, in order to reach these things required for survival. Here we know that these things are important, but we don't know where these things come from or what role reason plays, if any. What do we need to do in order to move forward?

This is when we explicitly use an essential element needed in any valid induction: the method of contrast, the method of discovering an important difference, and observing where things agree (have the same attributes/characteristics). (In theories of induction like that of John Stuart Mill, these are known as the method of agreement and the method of difference.) We need to know if there's some field or area where the things we're talking about do not apply. In other words: what is present when this technology is present and absent when this technology is absent? We have a large stock of physical tools and goods, and we know that humans are present when this technology is present and absent when it is absent, so the question is: is there another species that doesn't have technology—that isn't surrounded by boats, hammers, buildings, hospitals, factories, etc.? The contrast that highlights where the differences lie is between us and the other animals, who don't possess technology.

Harry Binswanger's “genus” method would certainly help here: about what regarding people and animals are we making a contrast? We've reached the point where we can discuss different species with different means of survival—the question is where, which “genus” proposition, should we start with? We could start with “every living thing has a means of survival” or “every conscious being has a means of survival.” Plants use chemical assimilation to survive; animals use consciousness and motion. And by contrast, other animals are guided by their senses, whereas we are guided by our thinking. And this last becomes our point of reference, of the contrast between other conscious beings and ourselves. There's something distinctive about our mode of consciousness and about our sole possession of technology, of artificial or “man-made” objects. There is a connection between our consciousness and technology that explains why animals, who possess a different kind of consciousness, cannot understand or create what we can. They simply take and use what's around them, whether from nature or from the results of human action (like a cat playing with a ball of yarn, something that we made). We, on the other hand, can't just take from nature because the things needed for our survival are not just here, like lamps, syringes, and apple juice.

So, what do we do to get these things needed for survival, in contrast to the animals? If we want food in the form of meat, we have to hunt living animals. We create tools like bows and arrows, spears, traps, and guns to capture, harm, and kill animals. And we use other tools to prepare them for our consumption, like fire, pots, pans, and seasonings we've mixed together. So the fields of weaponry and cooking comprise the kinds of actions we need to get our basic needs. To get food in the form of vegetables and fruits, we use tools to create the conditions required to grow the plants. The right seeds, a shovel to dig up the earth and bury the seed, a hoe, a till, an irrigation system, fertilizer, pesticides designed to successfully grow crops and to allow trees to bear fruit. Thus, the field of agriculture is necessary for survival, as well. To get clothing, we have to capture or breed animals and skin them, tan the furs, or grow crops and harvest their produce, like cotton, and process the material, such as with the sewing, pressing, and dyeing methods, trimming the cloth to fit particular sizes of people, and so on; this means that tailoring is a more technical field involving hunting and agriculture that we nonetheless require. And if we want shelters or homes, we need to build tools to cut down trees into precise pieces of wood, tools to mix sand, gravel and limestone into cement, and water to turn that into concrete, bulldozers, cranes and other caterpillar-track tractors to push material, drill holes, position the material that will become the shelter, and all of this happening according to the design plans of a lead engineer or architect; therefore, the fields of civil engineering and architecture are also required to acquire our basic needs.

So we begin with what the animals begin with, the raw materials of nature, but we combine and separate and reposition them in order to create new things that we require for our survival. There's a process of cause-and-effect occurring here, and at this stage we now know that a process of production is involved whenever we do the kinds of things needed to acquire the things needed for survival. Production is any process of turning raw natural materials into some sort of artificial object, and it integrates all the human objects we are now considering. Therefore, production is our answer to the question: how do we get these things? This is the end of stage 2, and while we haven't finished the induction, we are getting close: we've proved that certain things are needed for survival, including tools, and we've just proved that the field of production is required for us to make those essential things, or to produce tools necessary for their acquisition (or tools to make other tools, and so forth).

The third, and final, question is: what allows us to engage in production, what enables us to create tools and provide for our needs? We again turn to the method of contrast: what is present when a process of production is present, and absent when production is absent? A mental process of thought is always involved in any act of production; in other words, reason is the root of production. And the only way to reach this idea is by observation and inferences made thereby.

Let's take the example of a major productive action in human history: the production of fire. To artificially produce fire, rather than use it only when it's naturally produced (like from a lightning strike), someone had to understand the importance of friction, that friction is the cause, and fire is the effect, such as quickly rotating a stick on a wooden base and blowing on the resulting charcoal. And someone would have had to grasp that all sorts of woods can produce fire when used properly, and that the materials for a fire should be kept away from excessive winds, or things that could smother it like dirt, rocks, or water. This means that a certain amount of generalizing and abstraction was needed to produce fire: every fire, every body of water, every piece of wood, every trail of wind, and every occurrence of friction may be different, but we can strip away or abstract out the differences and discover the key similarities which unite them. This is how we can produce fire not just by accident, but practically at will, in a variety of conditions and environments. So even very primitive productive achievements like fire require the faculty of reason. And the same kinds of mental activity are needed to cook, to mix and administer medicine, cure a disease, plot out a course and reach a destination with artificial transportation, and all other productive courses of action that we engage in. Reason, we learn from these sort of thoughts (or already know), is the mental power that allows our mind to understand cause-and-effect relationships, form generalizations and abstractions, draw inferences, and make judgments.

Consider that it's our tool of reason that allows us to plan long-range. Another difference between us and the other animals is that they don't have this capacity (except in special cases, like bears preparing for hibernation, and even this is a form of non-productive activity). Reason, which makes us aware of cause-and-effect, also makes aware of a future that may come to pass, and allows us to connect our present to it: this allows us to carry out long-range actions with an ultimate goal or object in mind, an expectation. Cooks may take hours preparing their ingredients to be processed into tasty food; hunters may spend weeks preparing weapons and tracking their prey; construction workers, engineers, and architects may spend months or years planning and physically constructing a new building. Animals can't do any of these, because they act on their perceptions and respond to their environment, and often the benefits of productive activity aren't immediately perceived or understood. We use reason to predict the future, or consider future consequences, and guide our actions accordingly, and this ability has a lot of survival value: without it, production would be impossible, or a useless exercise at best.

Language is also an important result of reason. Not only do we think, but we create means to make our thoughts physically perceivable (whether by sight, hearing, or touch), both to improve and retain our own thinking and to communicate with others. To build even the simplest tool, like a pencil or a cup, we need a set of instructions to make it effectively, and for that we need to be able to read, and before that we would have needed someone to have been engaged in thought and wrote down the set of instructions we want to follow. It's language that makes it possible for us to carry out a vast range of productive activities, like a team of hunters communicating and thereby flanking their prey, a head chef teaching his less-experienced cooking students, and a group of construction workers and engineers coordinating in order to build a wastewater system.

Lastly, there's the most obvious field which demonstrates the relation between reason and survival: the field of science. It took centuries of scientific discoveries made by many scientists to produce the motor, the engine, the car, the airplane, the skyscraper, the T.V., and the internet. Science opened completely new paths to production that would have been impossible without it, such as modern air travel, and the machines used in mass production. Reason allows us to produce theories about the world, and create practical inventions to conform to these theories. Where would modern medicine be if the field hadn't accepted William Harvey's theory that the purpose of the heart is to pump and circulate blood? And without James Lind's initial proof that citrus fruits treat and cure the disease known as scurvy? Where would the modern practice of projectile warfare be without the theories of motion produced by Galileo Galilei? Once one begins to trace out the history of science leading to our technological age, the relation between reason and survival becomes impossible to honestly ignore. Upon a survey of all sorts of fields, one can reach the general conclusion that reason is a practical faculty; it isn't just the power to gain knowledge and satisfy our curiosity and wonder (as the philosophers of ancient Greece contended), but also to amply sustain and vastly improve our survival. This is how we reach the end of stage 3, the final induction. Reason is the faculty that makes production possible, which makes the things needed for our survival possible.

To summarize the argument: Induction #1: We require certain physical objects to survive (ex. Food, water, clothing, shelter). Induction #2: We perform acts of production to gain these objects (ex. transportation, weaponry, agriculture). Induction #3: We engage in various processes of reason unique to us that allow us to produce (ex. thinking, inferring, long-range planning, isolating a problem, grasping cause-and-effect, generalizing, abstracting).

The summation or combination of these generalizations is the induction we set out to prove: reason is man's means of survival. A valid induction must state or imply the cause of why something is the way it is or carries out the actions it does, so to state the relationship explicitly: reason is man's means of survival because production is the application of reason to the problem of survival. The proof for this being the cause is contained in reaching induction #3 above, but it's also contained in understanding any given act of production.

[Next post in the series: "Reduction of the Principle of Egoism"]

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My Basic Proof that "Reason is Man's Basic Means of Survival"

[Previous post in the series: "Reason as Man's Basic Means of Survival--A Reduction Attempt"]

Reason as man's basic means of survival— The first thing to say about this is that a child or an animal would not reach this principle—the principle isn't on the level of percepts, thus it wouldn't be obvious from using the five senses. So something else is needed. It will likely be helpful to start with definitions of these terms.

"Reason": the power of comprehending, inferring, or thinking especially in orderly, rational ways.

"Man": first-level concept, so only an ostensive definition. (You can point to people, and you don't need to know that man is the “rational animal” to reach this principle--in some sense, this principle is a precondition of that definition.)

"Means": how an aim is achieved.

"Basic": something that acts as a base or starting point from which higher-level things are constructed upon.

"Survival": continuing to live despite problems, hardships, adversity, etc.

To begin, we should consider what all living things do all the time. Dogs, cats, horses and men sleep, eat, breathe, run (gallop), respond to sounds, and a plethora of other actions. These (and many more) are first-level generalizations that we gain simply from observations of the relevant animals. And plants, in time, grow from seeds, sprout, spread, grow over and around surrounding objects, and engage in reproduction. These are first-level generalizations too, available in principle to sense-perception. The next logical step is to connect what you know about people and the other animals with what you know about plants (and bacteria, once one knows about them)--that living things as a whole engage in activities that inanimate matter and natural forces never do. This is a second-level or higher-level generalization, not validated by self-evident means such as the process of perception, but rather by reasoning based on the perceptual generalizations I've noted. This integration makes the claims about classes of animals like dogs and humans and about plants stronger, as it points us towards a (if not the) causal factor—the fact that they're alive.

Living dogs sleep, but rocks (upon observation) do not—more importantly, deceased dogs do not sleep, either. There's a causal connection between non-living things and inanimate objects that separates them from entities that are still alive. A piece of gravel or dirt remains motionless and doesn't change in any visible respect unless some outside force acts on it, but people, ants, and even flowers change and move with or without external interference. (Though this motion is much more limited in the flower's case.) Those things that aren't alive cannot carry out a vast number of actions that living things can—this unites dead things with the earlier generalization that inanimate objects cannot do a host of things that living things can, as both dead and inanimate things are classed under the phrase “not alive.” What idea connects the peculiarity of living things' actions with the difference between life and death and between life and non-living things? Self-initiated action and goal-directed action, two ideas which point towards the same actions in living things. Life gives organisms a capacity to self-initiate actions without recourse to external events: animals eat, drink, play, and heal whether the weather was windy, rainy, sunny, or balmy—within a certain range, the events that befall inanimate matter have no significant effect on living creatures. By the same token, these actions are all goal-directed, and the ultimate goal of all such actions are the continuation of life. We learn this generalization from both observation and reasoning. Starvation is what happens to living things when they are deprived of the food needed to make their energy and thus maintain their body; death by bleeding out is what happens when they are deprived of the blood needed for the delivery of substances to the body's cells. When something external injures a living thing, or something internal to the body fails to operate right or is damaged, the living thing can die.

Organisms self-initiate goal-directed actions in order to continue living, and this prevents their death. This explains their peculiarity when compared to the reactions of the dead and inanimate objects. Differences in the kinds of actions of living and non-living things brings us to a key generalization needed for this proof: All living things survive. (This is a necessary generalization needed for the proof, I think.) Life is an ongoing process of self-maintenance, and the world around us presents all sorts of difficulties and obstacles to overcome, whether in the form of natural disasters, other harmful living things, or sheer accidents. Such a realization allows us to connect our concept of “survival” to the forgoing points, particularly to the field of self-initiated, goal-directed actions. This connection allows me to restate a point: Organisms self-initiate goal-directed actions in order to continue living, and this prevents their death, i.e., they carry out this kind of action in order to survive.

This brings us to a generalization that is implicit in this point about survival: survival doesn't happen by chance or through accident, but through a certain means, a certain process. The flight of a bird is its means of survival; running after prey is a wild dog's means of survival; cooking our food before eating it is a means of survival for us. We already know the cause of why animals, plants, indeed, why all living things survive, and that this takes the form of definite courses of actions varying with the kind of living thing being observed: all we need for the next generalization is integration. Every living thing has a means of survival. This is a vast integration, covering all living things that I'm aware of, and all living things that I may ever become aware of.

“Every living thing has a means of survival,” is a broad proposition, and the proposition we're trying to prove is contained within: all that's needed now is to draw out some implications which are currently hidden. (Though I've pointed this out as an “implication,” I'm emphatically not using deduction. I'm still performing an inductive integration.) Observing all forms of life, we notice that not all living things act in the same basic ways—plants have no awareness and take in the substances needed for their survival, while animals direct their attention to the perceptual objects of their environment, and follow mechanisms like pleasure and pain, and people learn about facts far outstripping their limited perceptual field. One observes reeds, flowers, trees, algae, and other plant life, and reaches the generalization that assimilation of substances in the environment is not only a means of survival for plants: it is every plant's basic means of survival. Animals and people assimilate things too, but they survive by utilizing a whole field of new actions which exploit their awareness of their environment, like fish swimming, octopi spraying ink, chameleons camouflaging to elude predators, and wolves forming packs. Without consciousness, an animal would be lost in this world, unable to identify its allies or enemies, its source of food and water, and would be completely oblivious to the ubiquitous dangers confronting a living thing, including its feelings of pleasure and pain. Due to the importance of consciousness for animals, I can generalize that consciousness, for those organisms who possess it, is their basic means of survival. From this step, we could even tie together our knowledge of plants' means of survival and reach a further, more abstract generalization: “every living thing has a basic means of survival.”

Proving that “reason is man's basic means of survival” requires working through the vast generalization that “every living thing has a basic means of survival.” The assimilation inherent in plants takes different forms (e.g. compare an ordinary flower to a Venus fly-trap when it comes to eating); the same is true of conscious beings. Jellyfish are restricted to the sensory stage of consciousness, which they use to react to stimuli from both predators and prey. (This is due to their body-encompassing “nerve net” instead of the central nervous system and brain that we're accustomed to.) Biologically more complex animals like octopodes, cats, eagles, and lions possess the perceptual stage of consciousness. Like us, they aren't aware of mere stimuli, but of persisting things, of objects, of entities, of the environment in which they live. That perceptual animals can't live on the more limited sensations of, say, a jellyfish, is open to observation: just imagine if you had to live off of the impulse of sensations which you couldn't integrate into some kind of thing you could direct your attention to—you'd get nowhere and accomplish nothing, and without assistance you would quickly die. An important point towards the proof I'm reaching is: humans couldn't live on the perceptual stage of consciousness, let alone the sensory stage. What's the relevant difference between other animals and humans that justifies that negative generalization? There are many differences between us and the perceptual animals we study in biology, but we must focus on two fundamental differences that highlights the next step in my induction: (1) the natural endowments of animals compared to us and (2) the control mechanism of the consciousness of animals as opposed to our own.

(1) The other animals naturally have very dangerous weapons and other means of survival that we do not possess, or possess only to a limited extent. Panthers have ferocious claws: we do not; Cheetahs and other animals are blisteringly fast; we're pretty slow; Sharks have multiple sets of razor-sharp teeth, made for tearing flesh; ours are not suited for such a task. Birds can take flight and perform deadly aerial assaults, and fish have gills and fins and can quickly navigate bodies of water; without special instruments and inventions, we cannot do or possess any of these things. The method of survival for the other animals is primarily physical; they utilize their physical advantages to deal with reality to the best of their ability. Rather than relying on our perceptual field, or our fingernails, muscle strength, or agility, we principally rely on our minds. We learn how animals move in the water, and use our minds to develop carbon-fiber fins to mimic them; we discovered the connection between fire and our food, so we can improve the flavor, texture, and tenderness of what we eat, something that other animals haven't grasped. In this “information age,” a good deal of our lives isn't spent foraging for food or finding mates, like other animals, but using inventions of others' minds to interact with people across the world and impact not just our immediate environment, but a whole neighborhood, a town, a country, even the world (as inhabited by humans). And we can spend our time like this because the problems of survival have largely been solved by the minds of others, and this principle is more obvious in the more technological parts of the world; for instance, while other animals and prehistoric men had to hunt, I have the luxury of merely microwaving already hunted, skinned, and prepared/processed food. By contrast to other animals, then, the method of survival for humans is primarily intellectual.

(2) As we've learned from a study of biology and physiology, all bodily functions have control mechanisms. And in the case of humans and other higher animals, the most important functions are controlled by the brain of the organism. With the exceptions of humans, the control of a being's consciousness is also directed by the brain. Animals have an inbuilt capacity to act in certain ways, which the brain automatically makes use of when external conditions call for it, along with the faculty of memory which allows them to learn from the behavior of their parents or other nearby animals. So they learn from their parents (or their siblings or owners) how to stalk their prey (for instance), and then it becomes automatic with an environmental cue, or their instincts will make them act a certain way unerringly. (Like a mother duck's instinctive rejection of a duckling when it smells like a predator.) A significant difference here is that people have no instincts; we can override our biological drive of food or sex, and many of our automatic, subconscious reflexes. Rather than being dominated by instinct, human action, mental and physical, is under our control through the operation of our consciousness. We're able to choose between alternatives, like directing our attention to the outside world or inside our own mind, raising our right or left arm, assessing our own thinking or not. Human consciousness is volitional. But something to consider is that we still wouldn't be much better off if we were restricted to the mental faculties possessed by the other animals. The power of volition only gives us very limited control in the cognitive states we share with animals, and our control over our bodies doesn't create much of a survival advantage than if it were merely instinctive. But volition is the mode of operation for human reason.

The faculty of reason gives us a capacity to form concepts, to think, and to use a method of rational thinking known as “logic.” This allows us to form ideas about the world, to gain conceptual knowledge, and exploit conceptual thinking in ways that the other animals can't even fathom. We live principally by comprehending the world around us, by understanding it with our ideas, and acting in accordance with what we know. We use ideas to learn that certain things are magnets, that things fall because of gravity, that imperceptible germs lead to disease in the body, that we love people because of our values. (This is a lead into the principle that “reason is man's means of gaining knowledge,” but won't be pursued here, merely noted.) And we know all of this because one of the powers of reason is thought, the ability to direct one's cognitive focus on a particular subject or issue for a purpose. It's thinking that allows us to make connections between our ideas and the facts out there, in reality, and this point is obvious to introspection. It's my prior thinking as a small kid which allows me to tie my shoes everyday; it's my thinking over the past four years that allows me to write this essay; it's my prior thinking that allows me to know what will happen if I eat rotten food, or if I sit in cold weather without heat insulation, or if I try to get to know someone. We think and reach conclusions everyday, on myriad issues, such as clothing options, whether or not we want to take a swim, or whether and how much we want to sleep at night. We use reason to comprehend, for instance, that it takes time and energy to cover long distances, and thus to reach enough scientific knowledge to know that a car would make us more efficient in reaching destinations; we use reason to comprehend that germs cause disease, so we invent hand soap and sanitizers to cleanse our bodies of such harmful agents. We use reason to conclude that it's the unrestricted political power of certain individuals that leads to the oppression and suppression of individuals in society, and so we develop a system that limits the power of executive officials and the government. Such focus on the facts of reality explains the success of the science and technology of aviation, of automobiles, of manufacturing, of architecture, and many other fields. If we understand the relevant facts, then there is really nothing stopping us from accomplishing our goals, and not only surviving, but surviving in the way that we truly want to. This is how we reach the induction that “reason is man's basic means of survival.”

[As I wrote this before listening to Dr. Peikoff's presentation of the inductive proof, it doesn't represent the complete proof that was understood and presented by Ayn Rand. The point was to present what *I* think proves this principle, so it would have been counter-productive and rationalistic to simply read what she said, and write this with that understanding in mind. Now that I have listened to the lecture, I'm aware of what's missing in the proof, which I'll correct in a later post. I suggest that others try out this inductive method, too.]

[Next post in the series: "A second proof that 'Reason is Man's Means of Survival'"]

Reason as Man's Basic Means of Survival--A Reduction Attempt

In my unannounced hiatus from writing, I've been listening to Dr. Leonard Peikoff's "Objectivism Through Induction," and working through the main principles of Objectivism inductively, from the evidence in reality I see everyday. For the last two weeks, I've been on a "reason as a tool of survival" walk, observing all the ways that the faculty of reason is crucial to human life, and I'm ready to present some of my findings. The following is my attempt to reduce the basic principle of Objectivism that "reason is man's basic means of survival"--to show what identifications that principle depends on, and what these depend on, all the way down to sense-perception/observation.

Let's start with “reason”: what would we have to know in order to grasp the concept “reason”? One would have to reach the step of self-consciousness, of introspection, not only to understand that one has consciousness or a power of awareness, but to reach the more advanced notion that it has different states or manifestations. These manifestations have different powers, and reason's power is to allow us to comprehend the world. We learn that certain things are magnets, that things fall because of gravity, that imperceptible germs lead to disease in the body, that we love people because of our values. (This is a lead into the principle that “reason is man's means of gaining knowledge,” but won't be pursued here, merely noted.) And we know all of this because one of the powers of reason is thought, the ability to direct one's cognitive focus on a particular subject or issue for a purpose. It's thinking that allows us to make connections between our ideas and the facts out there, in reality, and this point is obvious to introspection. It's my prior thinking as a small kid which allows me to tie my shoes everyday; it's my thinking over the past four years that allows me to write this essay; it's my prior thinking that allows me to know what will happen if I eat rotten food, or if I sit in cold weather without heat insulation, or if I try to get to know someone. We think and reach conclusions everyday, on myriad issues, such as clothing options, whether or not we want to take a swim, or whether and how much we want to sleep at night. Lastly, in some sense, one would need to grasp free will, volition, at the very least as the power to direct one's own life and be in control of oneself. This notion has a huge overlap with being rational, with using reason, because to a regular person being “in control” of his life means being able to carry out whatever rational thinking he has engaged in. (For instance, cutting off your own leg is within your volition, but your subconscious and conscious mind won't even entertain the idea unless an emergency situation called for it, such that you would be far worse off or dead if you didn't amputate it. Examples like this also lead to the induction that “the faculty of reason is the faculty of volition,” thus connecting rational, logical deliberation and decision-making with voluntary actions as a whole class, but this won't be pursued, either.)

Next comes “man”: We know that man is an animal, a living thing with consciousness and locomotion. Both are observable facts: we can observe the motions of ourselves and others in our perceptual field, and we can observe our own consciousness directly. (We infer the existence of consciousness in others, since we can't be in their heads.) We know all kinds of biological facts about man and how similar he is to the other animals. But we also know about crucial differences. We drive cars, keep busy on the internet, read books, develop machines, and do countless other things that animals never do. And even the things that other animals do by their nature, like living underwater and flying, are possible to us by making and using inventions, like scuba gear, submarines, (de)pressurization tanks, and aircrafts. What explains the difference, more than any other factor? The fact that man has the power of reason. We use reason to comprehend, for instance, that it takes time and energy to cover long distances, and thus to reach enough scientific knowledge to know that a car would make us more efficient in reaching destinations; we use reason to comprehend that germs cause disease, so we invent hand soap and sanitizers to cleanse our bodies of such harmful agents. So before reaching the induction that “all humans have reason as their basic tool of survival,” one must grasp that “all humans are rational; they possess reason by their nature.”

Lastly, “basic means of survival”: All living things can go out of existence—we know this from observations of various living things dying in all sorts of ways, and generalizing to all living things in all places and all times. To prevent death, living things need to act so as to sustain and maintain their lives across time: they need a way to survive. Plants need to utilize soil, water, and sunlight; animals need speed, keen awareness, and their claws, fangs, and hunting ability. The use of these abilities do achieve the end of sustaining life—if a lion successfully hunts a gazelle, then it was his means of survival. If a plant turns its leaves up towards the Sun and uses photosynthesis to create energy to live, then it was its means of survival. If a worm breaks down the material of corpses, then that is its means of survival. All of these actions result in the furtherance of the organism's life—all of them are means of survival to the relevant organisms. So, the next question is: what constitutes a “basic” means of survival? It would have to be an ability that gives rise to all the different varieties of ways that living things carry out the actions needed for their survival. Based on everything I know about plants, I would say that assimilation is their basic means of survival—simply taking root and taking in whatever they can use from the environment. And I would say that an animal's basic means of survival is consciousness, an awareness directed at its environment; even its other distinguishing characteristic, self-initiated motion in order to change location (i.e. locomotion), is only made meaningful by an awareness of locations, by their possession of consciousness. In other words, foraging for food, hunting, scaring off other predators, hiding, finding a mate, finding a safe place to sleep, protecting one's territory, leading a pack or group of similar animals, and a host of other actions would be impossible without an ability to be aware of the external world. So to know for certain that “reason is man's basic means of survival,” it would strengthen one's induction to generalize that “all living things have a basic means of survival.”

[Next post in the series: "My Basic Proof that 'Reason is Man's Basic Means of Survival'"]