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From Middle English unreson; equivalent to un- +‎ reason.


unreason (usually uncountable, plural unreasons)

  1. Lack of reason or rationality; unreasonableness; irrationality.
    • c. 1566, John Knox, The Historie of the Reformation of the Church of Scotland, Book I, London: 1644,[1]
      Another day the same Frier made another Sermon of the Abbot of Unreason, unto whom, and whose Laws, he compareth Prelats of that age; for they were subject to no Laws, no more than was the Abbot of Unreason.
    • 1820, Walter Scott, chapter 14, in The Abbot[2]:
      [] it was long ere these scandalous and immoral sports could be abrogated;—the rude multitude continued attached to their favourite pastimes, and, both in England and Scotland, the mitre of the Catholic—the rochet of the reformed bishop—and the cloak and band of the Calvinistic divine—were, in turn, compelled to give place to those jocular personages, the Pope of Fools, the Boy-Bishop, and the Abbot of Unreason.
    • 1864, James Russell Lowell, “Abraham Lincoln”, in My Study Windows[3], 4th edition, London: Sampson Low, Marston, Low, and Searle, published 1871, page 120:
      What is called the great popular heart was awakened, that indefinable something which may be, according to circumstances, the highest reason or the most brutish unreason.
    • 1937, Robert Byron, The Road to Oxiana, “Shiraz, 18 February,”[4]
      Of all the foreigners I have met in this country, diplomats, business men, and archaeologists of many nationalities and varying terms of residence, Christopher is the only one who likes its inhabitants, sympathizes with their nationalist growing-pains, and consistently upholds their virtues, sometimes to the point of unreason.
    • 1971 March 22, John T. Elson, “Doing the Thing You Do Best”, in Time:
      Traditionally, black American dance students have been consistently steered away from classical ballet and toward the supposedly more “suitable” fields of modern, ethnic or Broadway-chorus dancing. The Harlem Dance Theater performances showed beyond doubt that the practice was based not on rhyme but on prejudiced unreason.
    • 2014 April 22, Garry Wills, “Obamacare: The Hate Can’t Be Cured”, in New York Review of Books:
      The best preservative for unreason is to make a religion of it.
    • 2021 February 2, Katharine Murphy, The Guardian[5]:
      Kelly, who specialised in implacable unreason about climate change before his conversion to stubborn contrarianism about various Covid remedies [...] speaks to a constituency the Coalition wants to court: a group of voters tempted to vote for rightwing protest parties rather than the Liberals and the Nationals.
  2. Nonsense; folly; absurdity.



unreason (third-person singular simple present unreasons, present participle unreasoning, simple past and past participle unreasoned)

  1. (transitive, rare) To prove to be unreasonable; disprove by argument.
    • 1796, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (Tobias George Smollett: translator), The History and Adventures of the Renowned Don Quixote:
      The reason of the unreasonable usage my reason has met with, so unreasons my reason, that I have reason to complain of your beauty :" and how did he enjoy the following flower of composition ! "
    • 2013, Norman Bryson, Michael Ann Holly, Keith Moxey, Visual Culture: Images and Interpretations, →ISBN, page 191:
      The elenchus enables him to overturn the formerly secure reasoning of his interlocutors about the subjects they discourse on so confidently—until the Socratic elenchus gradually unreasons them (see especially Meno, 80A—B).
    • 2017, Adams Media, DAD: Hundreds of Awesome Quotes about the Guy Who Does It All, →ISBN:
      Being a father can “unreason” your worldview, or at least make it very flexible, and that can create all sorts of fun and insights.
  2. (rare) To apply false logic or think without logic.
    • 1889, The Homoeopathic World - Volume 24, page 251:
      After some trouble I have got the Programme, and now send it on to you ; I beg you to transcribe the first ten pages, in which he reasons, or rather unreasons, about homeopathy, and then send the Programme back to me, as I do not know how to procure another copy.
    • 1985, Reginald Gibbons, Susan Hahn, TQ 20: Twenty Years of the Best Contemporary Writing and Graphics from TriQuarterly Magazine, page 89:
      In other, happier times, the mind could unreason freely, as if it belonged to no age, emancipated as it was...
    • 2005, Andrew Cutrofello, Continental Philosophy: A Contemporary Introduction, →ISBN, page 88:
      Just as Heidegger's reflections on the imagination led him to think "The nothing nothings," so Foucault's reflections on madness led him, in effect, to think "Unreason unreasons."
  3. (rare) To make unreasonable; to deprive of reason.
    • 1646, Thomas Case, Deliverance-obstruction, page 12:
      Unbelief unreasons a man: so the Apostle joyns them, when he prays to be delivered from unreasonable men; for all men have not faith.
    • 2010, Tim Roux -, Shade+shadows: And Suddenly, Silently, They Simply Disappeared, →ISBN:
      My pathetic collapse provoked them. My unreasonableness unreasoned them.