Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Cause and Reason

Cause and reason are very similar terms and are often utilised as synonyms and both have noun and verb forms. This is understandable since “cause” came from the Latin word “causa” which translates to “reason” or “sake”. Likewise, “reason” can be traced back to the Latin word “rationem” which means “cause” or “understanding”. Hence, “cause” and “reason” are usually employed in answering “why” questions.

However, strict grammarians maintain that these are two different words which should not be always used interchangeably. Generally, a cause produces an effect whereas a reason supports a decision or an opinion. The following concepts further delve into such differences.

What is Cause?

A cause is largely understood as something that makes something happen. For instance, Buddha’s quote, “You are the cause of your own suffering”, means that individuals themselves do things that lead to their own misery. As a noun, it is an act, person, thing, or any element which gives rise to a condition. Some of its common synonyms are “origin, source, and root”. Connectedly, several of its usual synonyms as a verb are “lead to, produce, and prompt”.

Moreover, it may be defined as principle or aim which is essentially supported. For example, the statement, “Robin Hood robs from the wealthy for a noble cause”, denotes that Robin Hood’s behaviour is motivated by an honourable goal. This definition refers to a significant commitment which an individual is willing to advocate or fight for. Some of its synonyms are “conviction, belief, and ideal”.


What is Reason?

A reason is often understood as a justification for a certain act. For instance, when somebody says, “Please give me a good reason for your behaviour”, it indicates that a decent explanation must be given to justify the conduct. Some of its synonyms are “basis, rationale, and cause”.

Another definition focuses on mental abilities such as understanding, formulating opinions, and thinking. Voltaire’s “Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe” reflects that having faith goes beyond what can be normally understood by the human intellectual faculty. Its synonyms are “common sense, sagacity, and wise judgement”.

Furthermore, Nietzsche’s “There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness” implies that sanity is involved in love since it is likewise present in madness. A couple of its synonyms are “wits and mind”.

As a verb, “reason” means to logically argue. For example, “I tried to reason with her but it was no use”. Some of its synonyms are “convince and persuade”. In addition, “reason out” pertains to figuring out a puzzle or confusing concept. For instance, “The scientists finally reasoned out the missing link”.

Difference between Cause and Reason

  1. Application in the Field of Philosophy

As compared to the word “cause”, the term “reason” has a unique relevance to philosophy as it pertains to the intellectual ability of the human mind as compared to lower forms of animals. This definition equates reason with processes such as judging and conception. On the other hand, cause is not that related to such mental processes.

  1. Variety of Meanings for Cause and Reason

Reason has more various definitions than cause since the former may refer to justification, understanding, or common sense while the latter pertains to an origin or a principle. For instance, we can compare “His reason is an evidence of exceptional reasoning which demonstrates much reason” with “Poverty caused his life’s cause”.

  1. Relevance with Experiments

“Cause” is much more often related to experimental procedures as compared to “reason”. Since scientific methods usually assess cause and effect relationships, they are generally linked to factors that lead to a certain situation or conduct. For example, it would be more appropriate for a researcher to state that “This study seeks to determine the most probable cause of the illness” instead of saying “…. reason of the illness”.

  1. Intelligence

As compared to “cause”, “reason” is closely linked to the concept of intelligence. For instance, the Enlightenment Period which is characterised by the intellectual movement in the 18th century is also known as the “Age of Reason”.

  1. Purpose

Generally, cause has an instrumental purpose since it is meant to produce a distinct effect. On the other hand, reason has a mental purpose since it involves cognitive processes such as making decisions, coming up with explanations, and being in sync with reality.

  1. Preposition

Cause is usually followed by the preposition, “of” while reason is trailed by the preposition, “for”. For example, “The cause of his illness is stress” and “It is his reason for leaving”.

  1. Idioms

“Cause” is employed in the idiom, “make common cause”. As for “reason”, it is utilised in the idioms: “bring to reason”, “by reason of”, “within reason”, “stand to reason”, and “with reason”.

Cause vs Reason : Comparison Chart


Summary of Cause verses Reason

  • Both “cause” and “reason” are employed to answer “why” questions.
  • A cause is largely understood as something that makes something happen.
  • A cause is also a principle or aim which is essentially supported.
  • A reason is often understood as a justification for a certain act.
  • Other definitions of reason pertain to sanity, justification, and argument.
  • As compared to “cause”, the term “reason” has a unique relevance to philosophy.
  • Reason has more various definitions than cause.
  • “Cause” is much more often related to experimental procedures as compared to “reason”.
  • As compared to “cause”, “reason” is closely linked to the concept of intelligence.
  • While “cause” has an instrumental purpose, “reason” has a mental or philosophical purpose.
  • “Cause” is followed by the preposition “of” while “reason” is followed by “for”.
  • “Reason” has more idioms than “cause”.

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1 Comment

  1. How can we apply in the case of God..
    The reason I worship God. Or the cause of worship.

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References :

[0]Image credit: http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com/handwriting/images/cause.jpg

[1]Image credit: https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=249147&picture=wander-withouth-reason

[2]Barnhart, Robert. Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology. New York: Harper Collins, 1995. Print.

[3]Swick, Ed. English Grammar for ESL Learners. New York: McGraw Hill, 2013. Print. 

[4]Thurman, Susan and Shea, Larry. The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need: A One-Stop Source for Every Writing Assignment. Massachusetts: Adams Media, 2003. Print. 

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