What Is It To Inquire Into Something By Thinking And Reasoning

Updated: Nov 25, 2020


Do Our Answers Kill Our Questions?


How do we inquire into something? Is it by thinking or reasoning? Is it by learning from experience? If we already knew everything, we wouldn’t seek for more knowledge. Mostly we think we know, and this is because we reached the point in our search where we stop searching. Satisfied, our answers have killed our questions.

It's not just me, or you. It seems everyone knows everything. And this gives us a shared-world where we know what we know, and know what we don’t know, and are cognitively blind to anything outside those boundaries.


The past. It’s everywhere and it is nowhere!  This aspect of the time keeps giving us a self-calming sense of knowing. However, the past is only a memory. It doesn't actually exist in the here and now.


The future. We’re safe inside the boundaries of what our knowledge predicts. So why inquire into anything at all?  After all, we think we know everything that is worth knowing. Is it a cure our boredom at the monotonic experience of life? Is it the occasional terror that we feel when actual reality turns our knowledge inside-out.


Thinking and Reasoning


If we inquire into knowing we mostly come to our thinking about what we know.   Like Werner Erhard once said, "Thinking is about terrible things"Day-to-day, we think by forms; either subjectively, categorically, or analytically. Things for us are recognized by being the same or different than what we know. This is formatory thinking,


The other way of thinking is by reasoning. It is objective thinking, and it is conditional in nature. Rational thought is based on symbolic language which logically tests for validity. It is different from the form-based thought which is merely an association that passes for thought but really isn’t.  Form-based thinking is mechanical and passive. Essentially, it is pattern matching. In contrast, the reasoning is active mentation. Reasoning gives rise to new categories, can synthesis, and generates distinctions.  We need and use both kinds of thought. (This conversation was developed by G.I. Gurdjieff)


The question is what is it to inquire into the nature of something?   We can think and we can reason using all of our capacities.  But speaking and writing are perhaps a more effective way to reflect on something. Perhaps the answer to a question like this is actually found in the method of inquiry itself.


Painting: Jan Brueghel the Younger, "Allegory of Sight (Venus and Cupid in a Picture Gallery)" (1660). The Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia PA.


© Copyright 2014 Robert Fertman, All Rights Reserved

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