Motives that address themselves to our reason are fittest to be employed upon reasonable creatures: it is no ways congruous that God should be always frightening men into an acknowledgment of the truth.
We ought not to attempt to draw down or submit the mysteries of God to our reason; but, on the contrary, to raise and advance our reason to the divine truth. In this part of knowledge, touching divine philosophy, I am so far from noting any deficiency, that I rather note an excess; whereto I have digressed because of the extreme prejudice which both religion and philosophy have received from being commixed together, as that which undoubtedly will make an heretical religion and a fabulous philosophy.
In the language of English philosophy, the terms reason and understanding are nearly identical, and are so used by Stewart; but in the critical philosophy, of Kant a broad distinction has been drawn between them. Reason is the principle of principles;[it] either speculatively verifies every special principle, or practically determines the proper ends of human action . There are unquestionably in the human mind certain necessary and universal principles, which, shining with an intrinsic light of evidence, are themselves above proof, but the authority for all mediate and contingent principles. That which is thus above reasoning is the reason.
As there is a pleasure in the right exercise of any faculty, so especially in that of right reasoning; which is still the greater by how much the consequences are more clear and the chains of them more long.
Understanding is discursive, and in all its judgments refers to some other faculty as its ultimate authority. It is the faculty of reflection. Reason is fixed, and in all its decisions appeals to itself as the ground and substance of their truth. It is the faculty of contemplation. It is indeed far nearer to sense than to understanding.
All reasoning is retrospect; it consists in the application of facts and principles previously known. This will show the very great importance of knowledge, especially that kind which is called Experience.
In reasoning we recede as far as possible from sensible impressions; and the more general and comprehensive our conclusions and the larger our abstractions, provided they are sustained by sufficient evidence, the more knowledge is extended and the intellect improved. Sensibility is excited, the affections are awakened, on the contrary, on those occasions in which we tread back our steps, and, descending from generalities, direct the attention to individual objects and particular events. We all acknowledge, for example, our constant exposure to death; but it is seldom we experience the practical impression of that weighty truth, except when we witness the stroke of mortality actually inflicted. We universally acknowledge the uncertainty of human prospects, and the instability of earthly distinctions; but it is when we behold them signally destroyed and confounded that we feel our presumption checked and our hearts appalled.
Robert Hall: Funeral Sermon for the Princess Charlotte.
It is not the province of reason to awaken new passions, or open new sources of sensibility; but to direct us in the attainment of those objects which nature has already rendered pleasing, or to determine among the interfering inclinations and passions which sway the mind, which are the fittest to be preferred.
Touching the law of reason, there are in it some things which stand as principles, universally agreed upon; and out of those principles, which are in themselves evident, the greatest moral duties we owe towards God or man may, without any great difficulty, be concluded.
In a creature whose thoughts are more than the sands, and wider than the ocean, fancy and passion must needs run him into strange courses, if reason, which is his only star and compass, be not that he steers by.
It is a passive, not an active, power . It is not acquirable, and it can no otherwise be assisted than by the suggestions sought for or presented. In some degree it is inherent in every man not being entirely an idiot . In itself, as an ultimate principle of our nature, it is never erroneous; what we call wrong conclusions being conclusions obtained by some artificial process taking the place of reason, or they are conclusions just in themselves, and wrong only as regards the assumptions or suggestions out of which they arise. It is a power which may, however, be lost.
The word reason itself is far from being precise in its meaning. In common and popular discourse it denotes the power by which we distinguish truth from falsehood, and right from wrong, and by which we are enabled to combine means for the attainment of particular ends . Reason is sometimes used to express the whole of those powers which elevate man above the brutes, and constitute his rational nature, more especially, perhaps, his intellectual powers; sometimes to express the power of deduction or argumentation.
It is an old and true distinction, that things may be above our reason without being contrary to it. Of this kind are the power, the nature, and the universal presence of God, with innumerable other points.
Child, said my father to me, when I was young, you think to carry everything by dint of argument. But you will find, by and by, how very little is ever done in the world by clear reason. Very little indeed!
The unwise and incautious are always prone to rush from an error on one side into an opposite error. And a reaction accordingly took place, from the abuse of reasoning, to the undue neglect of it, and from the fault of not sufficiently observing facts, to that of trusting to a mere accumulation of ill-arranged knowledge. It is as if men had formerly spent vain labour in threshing over and over again the same straw and winnowing the same chaff, and then their successors had resolved to discard these processes altogether, and to bring home and use wheat and weeds, straw, chaff, and grain, just as they grew, and without any preparation at all.