The Three Operations of the Mind

Bill Abbate
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Many of my regular readers know I love words. Lately, one word that has been on my mind is reason, with two of its variants: reasoning and reasonable. What is there not to like about reason? We reason with others all the time, do we not? Doing what is reasonable is usually good for us. How much harm can reasoning do after all?

The word reason is full of meaning and power. Most of us have a reason to live and want to make a difference in our world. We need a reason to do more, be more, and become more than we are. In essence, we need fundamental reasons to live and grow. In addition to these basic needs, numerous other reasonable reasons need reasoning!

Let's first look at the root word, reason.


As we begin to examine reason and its variants, let's get clear on its definition. There are two primary definitions of the word reason. According to the Oxford Dictionary, they include:

  1. a cause, explanation, or justification for an action or event.
  2. the power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic.

There is a reason for everything in existence, including us. What would life be without a reason to live? It sounds unimaginable, yet how many people know their reason. According to one analysis, only 25% of people have a clear understanding of what makes life meaningful. I don't know about you but going through life without purpose seems unconscionable. As an ancient philosopher said:

"The unexamined life is not worth living." Socrates (470-299BC)

Our reason to live comes through self-examination and reasoning. Without doing these, life could indeed be meaningless. What a loss to the world for those who believe they live a meaningless life.

Have you found your reason to live? If not, why not? You can begin by asking yourself some simple questions:

  • Why am I alive?
  • For who and what am I living?
  • What makes living worthwhile and meaningful to me?
  • What more can I do to find meaning in my life?

I am sure you can come up with additional questions as you begin to examine your life. Why not start now?


"The mind has three operations: the formation of ideas, judgements and reasoning." Fulton J. Sheen (1895-1979)

You can think of having a reason as a single fundamental thing, while reasoning depends on multiple reasons, facts, logic, observations, and thoughts, among other things.

Several types of reasoning exist, but for our purposes, let's look at the two recognized most often – deductive and inductive reasoning. Without going into a lengthy discussion of what the two terms mean, let's go to Merriam-Webster:

Deductive reasoning is based on facts and premises, or "the deriving of a conclusion by reasoning."

Inductive reasoning is based on observations, often of a sample, or "a generalized conclusion from particular instances."

You can deduce you are among the living since you are breathing and have consciousness. You may induce through observation some people have a reason for living, and it may be worthwhile for you to have one too.

"All possible knowledge, then, depends on the validity of reasoning...Unless human reasoning is valid no science can be true." C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)


Life is full of choices every day of our lives. When we make a choice, it is usually based on at least one assumption. Thankfully reasonableness can help us sort through our assumptions and choices.

For example, after a trip to drop Jane, my wife, off at the airport, I noticed the car was getting low on fuel. By the time I arrived home, the low fuel light had turned on. Since I was going to Costco later that day, I decided to make the 15-mile trip to fuel up there rather than a few miles from the house. Costco's gas is less expensive, plus I get a nice discount by using their credit card.

I assumed I had enough fuel to make the trip since I had experienced something similar a few months back. Was that a reasonable choice based on a reasonable assumption? It appears so since I made it with no problem.

After topping off the tank, I had at least a gallon of fuel left, according to the total amount it is rated to hold. Should this happen again, I know for sure I can make such a trip. I also have a better idea of how far I can drive once the low fuel light comes on. Assuming the fuel gauge remains accurate, that is!

This simple decision-making process occurs many times a day. You could say much of our lives are run by assumptions, which form our choices based on their reasonableness. At least that is one simple view of the world!

Final thoughts

There is so much more to be written about the term reason. It truly contains a great deal of power and opportunity for each of us. While we have barely skimmed over the surface of reason, reasoning, and reasonableness in this article, I wanted to introduce it to spur your interest. I hope you will join me in exploring the vast depths of reason.

I would love to hear your take on this word in the comment section below. Please help all of us grow by adding your perspectives to the conversation!

I leave you with a bit of modern-day wisdom from one of the wealthiest men in the world:

"You're neither right nor wrong because other people agree with you. You're right because your facts are right and your reasoning is right - that's the only thing that makes you right. And if your facts and reasoning are right, you don't have to worry about anybody else." Warren Buffett (1930-present)

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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