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Varieties of Reasoning: Assessing Adequacy

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Helmut Reich's theory of relational and contextual reasoning is a courageous initiative for the resolution of cognitive conflicts between apparently incompatible or incommensurable views. Built upon Piagetian logico-mathematical reasoning, cognitive complexity theory, and dialectical and analogical reasoning, it includes the development of a both/and logic inclusive of binary either/or logic. Reich provides philosophic, theoretical, and even initial empirical support for the development of this form of reasoning along with a heuristic for its application. A valuable step beyond the limits of binary, static, and formal reasoning, it takes relationship, context, and perspectival variations seriously in an explicitly reflective and iterative system. We can and do address conflicts not resolvable by conventional appeals to logic or evidence, including those at epistemic boundaries or produced by belief-commitment differences. Although this form of reasoning has real promise, including stepping beyond complementarity in the religion-science dialogue, it seems better directed to causally explanatory theories than to other forms of rendering meaning. Finally, its coextension requirement may render it problematic where functionally coherent explananda cannot be identified or are themselves produced or constituted by a belief system.

Keywords: complementarity; epistemology; explanandum; explanation; logic; meaning; rationality

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1Professor of Psychology, Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown,

Publication date: June 1, 2003


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