The importance of (and difficulty with) reason

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Reason, irrespective of its origin, is essential in separating human beings from an estimated 7.77 million species of animals worldwide. Other animals make decisions based on instinct or trial-and-error learning. Human decision-making can be derived from the more sophisticated mental process of reasoning. Reason has enabled humans to gain an edge over other animals, and consequently we have an enormous host of freedoms. As a result, our lives are more valuable than the lives of other animals. People often care for their pets until the pet becomes too expensive or too sick. By contrast, humans will take care of one another while simultaneously disregarding extraordinary costs.

The extent to which we use our reason varies among individuals, a fairly obvious statement when you consider someone paying off a credit card debt with another credit card. Upon examination, the habit of overeating is also unreasonable. The effects of stuffing ourselves with a turkey dinner are almost always instantly gratifying, yet we feel uncomfortable minutes later. In addition, there may be possible health risks in the future if we make this practice a habit. We may want to go home, so we drive drunk to get there. Or, we discover that opioids make us feel euphoric, so we continuously indulge ourselves. Overeating or opioids provide instantaneous pleasure but both, in most cases, are irrational activities.

Fortunately, outcomes of irrational decisions can be avoided by using our human faculty of reason. Reason enables us to “see” how drug addiction can negatively influence our future. Of course, we are not always required to use our reason for events as extreme as the social and financial ruin due to a drug habit. There are numerous ways in which we can use our reason every day. Our reason is reflected in how we compose ourselves when we are alone or with friends, our choices of words, by being supercilious, or deceitful; we use or don’t use it for every choice we make.

The most rational choice is usually the hardest to follow through with. The decision-making process, however, is a skill, and like most skills it can be strengthened. For instance, spending time examining our thought process before, during, or after a decision can simplify our understanding of how we make our choices and how rational they may or may not have been. An easy way to do this examination is through meditation. This is a worthwhile activity, since our use of reason is what makes us superior to all other species. The extent and skill that we use it influences everything we do. We should then attempt to both develop our ability to reason, and use this ability as often as we can.

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