Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 16, No. 332.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Submit to: firstname.lastname@example.org
 From: Willard McCarty <email@example.com> (142)
 From: Norman Hinton <firstname.lastname@example.org> (2)
Subject: Re: 16.328 physical reasoning
 From: Matthew Stephens <email@example.com> (39)
Subject: Re: 16.326 thinking physically
Date: Tue, 19 Nov 2002 06:39:41 +0000
From: Willard McCarty <firstname.lastname@example.org>
With regards to the title of a recent book on modelling, Model-Based
Reasoning: Science, Technology, Values, Francois Lachance asks why I said I
was bothered by the word "reasoning" in the title, esp. in light of the
physicality in perceptual simulations that one article in this book
discusses. Good question.
Elijah Millgram, in his article on "practical reasoning" in the online
Dictionary of Philosophy of Mind,
<http://artsci.wustl.edu/~philos/MindDict/practicalreasoning.html>, asks a
series of questions that seem to me a better response than I could give. In
other words, I think I'm bothered because we need to ask precisely what we
mean by "reasoning" when used to describe what happens in modelling. I
quote below a somewhat edited version of the entry on "reason" from the
Oxford English Dictionary to indicate that the semantic field of
possibilities is vast. It is also useful to consider what happens to the
idea when it is automated, for which see Frederic Portoraro's article on
"automated reasoning" in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,
>[a. OF. reisun, -on, raisun, -on, reson, etc. (mod.F. raison):---L.
>ration-em reckoning, account, relation, understanding, motive, cause,
>etc., vbl. n. f. rat-, ppl. stem of reri to think, reckon: see ratio n.
>I. 1. a. A statement of some fact (real or alleged) employed as an
>argument to justify or condemn some act, prove or disprove some assertion,
>idea, or belief.
>In common use down to c 1600; after that date somewhat rare, except as
>elliptical for sense 5.
>b. a woman's (or the ladies') reason: (see quots.).
>c. Logic. One of the premises in an argument; esp. the minor premise when
>placed after the conclusion.
>2. a. to give, yield or render (a) reason: to give an account (of one's
>acts or conduct). Now arch.
>b. to do, put, or set to reason (tr. OF. mettre a raison): to bring or
>call to account. Obs.
>c. Monetary reckoning; pl. accounts, moneys. Obs.
>3. a. A statement, narrative, or speech; a saying, observation, or remark;
>an account or explanation of, or answer to, something. Also, without
>article, talk or discourse.
>In common use throughout the 14th c. after OF. raison; in later examples
>perh. a fresh development of sense 1.
>b. A fact, event, or incident, as a subject of discourse. Obs. rare.
>c. part of reason: a part of speech. Obs. rare.
>4. a. A sentence. Obs.
>b. A motto, posy. Obs.
>II. 5. a. A fact or circumstance forming, or alleged as forming, a ground
>or motive leading, or sufficient to lead, a person to adopt or reject some
>course of action or procedure, belief, etc. Const. why, wherefore, that;
>of, for preps.; to with inf.
>b. reason of state, a purely political ground of action on the part of a
>ruler or government, esp. as involving some departure from strict justice,
>honesty, or open dealing. Freq. without article, as a principle of
>political action. So _ public reason.
>A rendering of F. raison d'tat or It. ragione di stato, the latter used
>or cited by Scarlett Estate Eng. Fugitives (1595) R iij, Ben Jonson
>Cynthia's Rev. (1599) i. i, Volpone (1605) iv. i, and Bacon Adv. Learn.
>(1605) i. ii. _3.
>6. A ground or cause of, or for, something:
>a. of a fact, procedure, or state of things, in some way dependent upon
>human action or feeling.
>c. In phr. by the reason of or that. (Cf. 7.)
>7. (Without article.)
>a. by (_or for) reason of, on account of.
>Very common in the Bible of 1611.
>b. by reason (that), for the reason that, because. (Freq. _ 1560 to 1720;
>8. (Without article, and sometimes with adj., as good, great, little, small.)
>a. there is (was, etc.) reason. Also with omission of verb (sometimes not
>clearly distinct from 14).
>b. to have reason for, or to do, something. Also ellipt. without
>construction (cf. 17).
>c. to see reason (to do something).
>d. with or without reason.
>9. Rationale, fundamental principle, basis. Obs.
>III. 10. a. That intellectual power or faculty (usually regarded as
>characteristic of mankind, but sometimes also attributed in a certain
>degree to the lower animals) which is ordinarily employed in adapting
>thought or action to some end; the guiding principle of the human mind in
>the process of thinking. (Freq. more or less personified.)
>b. So (good or) right reason. Now rare.
>Perhaps sometimes understood as in sense 11.
>c. In the Kantian transcendental philosophy: The power (Vernunft) by which
>first principles are grasped a priori, as distinguished from understanding
>d. In various mystic or transcendental uses: (see quots.).
>e. the age of reason, (a) (freq. with capital initials) the late
>seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Western Europe, during which
>cultural life was characterized by faith in human reason; the
>Enlightenment (cf. enlightenment 2); (b) R.C. Ch., the age at which a
>child is capable of discerning right from wrong and can be held
>responsible for his or her actions; also loosely.
>11. a. The ordinary thinking faculty of the human mind in a sound
>b. A reasonable or sensible view of a matter; chiefly in phr. to bring to
>12. In verbal phrases denoting the conformity of something to the dictates
>a. reason will or would. Obs.
>b. it stands (_with or) to reason.
>13. In prepositional phrases (chiefly Obs.), denoting agreement with, or
>opposition to, what reason directs or indicates:
>a. by reason (= OF. par raison). Also rarely by good (or right) reason, by
>no reason. Obs.
>b. in reason. Also in all or any reason; _ upon reason.
>c. of reason. Also with all, good. Obs.
>d. out of reason. Obs.
>e. through (good or right) reason. Obs.
>f. with (or to) reason. Also with no. Obs.
>g. without (right) reason. Obs.
>14. a. A matter, act, proceeding, etc., agreeable to reason; in phrases it
>is reason or reason is (also with good, great), it is no (or not) reason,
>to think (it) reason, etc. Freq. c 1400_1650; now rare.
>So OF. il est raison, c'est (bien) raison, c'est raison et droit, etc.
>b. In parenthetic phrases, as reason is (or was), as (it) is reason, etc.
>c. and reason, placed after a statement. Obs.
>d. Similarly and good reason, and (rarely as) reason good. Obs. (Cf. 8 a.)
>15. a. That treatment which may with reason be expected by, or required
>from, a person; justice; satisfaction; chiefly in phr. to do (one) reason
>(tr. F. faire raison). Obs.
>b. With reference to drinking. Obs. exc. arch.
>16. a. A reasonable quantity, amount, or degree. Also spec. the measure by
>which a miller took his toll. Obs.
>b. Moderation. Obs.1
>17. to have reason (tr. F. avoir raison): to be right (esp. in making a
>statement). Obs. (Cf. 8 b.)
>18. a. The fact or quality of being agreeable to the reason; such a
>(_procedure or) view of things as the reason can approve of.
>b. In phrases to hear, listen to, or speak reason.
>IV. 19. The exercise of reason; the act of reasoning or argumentation. Obs.
>20. Consideration, regard, respect. Obs.
>21. a. Way, manner, method; spec. the method of a science. Obs.
>b. Possibility of action or occurrence. Const. but. Obs. rare.
>22. Math. = ratio n. 2. Obs.
>V. 23. attrib. and Comb. (chiefly objective and obj. gen.), as
>reason-monger, -plating (after armour-plating), -poisoning, -renderer,
>-scanner, -worship; reason-contained, -derived, -giving, -proof, -wrought
>adjs.; reason-ring, a ring bearing a _reason' or motto.
Dr Willard McCarty | Senior Lecturer | Centre for Computing in the
Humanities | King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS || +44 (0)20
7848-2784 fax: -2980 || email@example.com
Date: Tue, 19 Nov 2002 06:40:00 +0000
From: Norman Hinton <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: 16.328 physical reasoning
What is "physical reasoning" ? I can't discern any meaning in the
Date: Tue, 19 Nov 2002 06:41:02 +0000
From: Matthew Stephens <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: 16.326 thinking physically
I have recently been alerted to an entire movement in psychology devoted to
this issue; what's known as 'ecological psychology' dates from the 60s
onward, and there's lots to choose from on the issue of perception, bodily
awareness, etc., and their relation to thought. One classic source is The
ecological approach to visual perception (1979) by James Gibson. There is
also a periodical entitled Ecological Psychology you might want to
peruse. I must express my indebtedness to Stan Ruecker here at the
University of Alberta (and a participant in our Humanities Computing
programme!) for this tip.
Not to plug the U of A too shamelessly, but there is some other business
here you might find interesting. Drs. David Miall and Don Kuiken are
pursuing some questions related to your issues (specifically, the physical
reaction to texts and the way meaning influences the physiology and
phenomenology of reading), and they have some material online. You can
visit their site by visiting
They are proceeding from a Husserlian tradition, which I trust is not too
far removed from your own point of departure.
Finally, I would recommend William James's Principles of Psychology (1890);
it is a classic source of what was then known as 'functional psychology',
and there and in his Pragmatism James tried to analyze knowing in terms of
the function knowledge plays in leading an organism to its desired
end. James wrote a psychology essay entitled "The Function of Cognition"
that I have found stimulating on these questions. Imagery and stimulation
of motor programmes played a major role in James's account of
knowledge. It's amazing to see how James anticipated many of the
techniques of phenomenologists, despite his rather different
background. James has had an (albeit subtle) influence on phenomenology
(Husserl was a fan), but also on a vibrant strand within neuroscience:
Gerald Edelman's Bright Air, Brilliant Fire (1993) is a wonderful read, and
very much in the vein you mentioned.
In any case, good luck with your research, and feel free to distribute this
letter to others as you see fit.
University of Alberta
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