Cognition – Reason – Tools

Friday, November 20th, 2009 at 8:00 am.
by pre.

In the the first part of this lap we listed some basic reasoning skills which are used in various combinations to give human beings the underused power of reason.

Developing these is certainly a useful thing to do and it will help you to reason more quickly, better, faster, and more accurately. However these skills are just the beginning of reason. Their powers have enabled us, as a species, to invent yet more systems to help push reason further.

Mental Tools

For example, you have already been using the loki system and the peg system to help improve your memory. That, in turn, will help you to reason as you juggle more symbols around in your mind at once.

The meditation, hypnosis and auto-suggestion which you have been using to concentrate your mind’s own learning power on it’s own function are also useful tools to help you to think more clearly, to help you to bend your mind towards reason.

Reason draws on any metaphor and system it can to try and grasp the reality which your brain models. The more abstract reasoning systems you can study the better your reasoning ability will become.

Some of the best tools which can be learned include Boolean Logic, graphing and algebra. Mathematics in general has a whole host of techniques and statistical methods which will help you to understand an issue. All these things can help you to think more clearly.

As well giving your mind an understanding of plenty of different reasoning systems, it has to be worth spending some time studying common reasoning errors. A catalogue of logical fallacies exists, and reading it, understanding it, will certainly improve your reasoning.

The tools of science need not be confined to professional scientists. The reasoning power leveraged by the scientific method has produced stunning results for culture as a whole. It can provide similar benefits outside the lab. Empiricism, Scepticism, and Occam’s Razor are just three of the priceless mental tools which the Scientific Understanding can give and of course a grasp of the subject of science, the best scientific models of the world itself, will help keep your reason grounded in reality.

External Tools

Not all tools to help your reason are abstract thinking systems you need to practice enough to load into your brain. Some are literal, physical, items. The simplest perhaps being simply counting on your fingers.

Just above that, one of the first and still best developed is the good old fashioned pencil and notepad. Ah, how much easier a crossword is when you can write the answers down, now much easier an engineering design is with a few ideas literally sketched out.

Just the simple ability to write opens up more tools for improving reason. Lists alone will help you in many ways: checkists, todolists, pro-and-con lists. All good tools for thinking.

A pencil and paper also enable you to visualise data, draw graphs and charts and mind-maps to help to grasp a subject.

From this tool also grew books, libraries, the sharing of knowledge. If you want to better understand a topic there are likely a dozen different books you can read on that topic. Why waste that opportunity? Read, read, and read. The more you read, the better your reasoning will become.

As technology improves it brings with it yet more tools which can help the way we think. The common desktop calculator can do in mere seconds the kinds of calculations which took hours with a pen and paper or abacus and would have been literally impossible to manage in just a single brain without even literacy.

The calculator in turn is just a tiny hint of the power you can get by using computers to properly aid your thoughts, you reasoning. A spreadsheet program is like having a dozen calculators, most of them automatic. A database can help you store and retrieve millions of records at the push of a button. The internet puts essentially the entire world’s best (and worst) knowledge at your fingertips.

Surely yet more tools for enabling new ways of thinking will be produced as the march of technology continues apace, but the main thing is to not see “thinking” as something that just happens in your head. You can think on your fingers, in your notebook, on your computer screen. Expanding your mind skills is certainly a part of becoming more transcended, but teaching your brain how best to use all the tools available will make you better faster.

Two heads are better than one

More powerful even than the fastest computer, the other people in your life are one of the best tools for reasoning you will ever have. Just talking an issue over with a friend can help you both to understand it. Debate, dialogue and argument are some of the best tools humans have ever found for achieving consensus and striving to understand. Make good friends, canvas opinions when you’re unsure.

All these tools are helpful, do not try and restrict your thinking to just using a single brain, use all the tools you have available. Metal tools, yes, maths and science of course, but also physical tools, computing devices, friends and language and family. All these tools together will bring your clearest reason to the fore.