Reason is the faculty of conceptualizing and thinking is the process.
Reason is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses. It is a faculty that man has to exercise by choice. Thinking is not an automatic function. In any hour and issue of his life, man is free to think or to evade that effort. Thinking requires a state of full, focused awareness. The act of focusing one’s consciousness is volitional. Man can focus his mind to a full, active, purposefully directed awareness of reality – or he can unfocus it and let himself drift in a semiconscious daze, merely reacting to any chance stimulus of the immediate moment, at the mercy of his undirected sensory-perceptual mechanism and of any random, associational connections it might happen to make.
When man unfocuses his mind, he may be said to be conscious in a subhuman sense of the word, since he experiences sensations and perceptions. But in the sense of the word applicable to man – in the sense of a consciousness which is aware of reality and able to deal with it, a consciousness able to direct the actions and provide for survival of a human being – an unfocused mind is not conscious.
Psychologically, the choice of “to think or not” is the choice “to focus or not.” Existentially, the choice “to focus or not” is the choice “to be conscious or not.” Metaphysically, the choice “to be conscious or not” is the choice of life or death.
Consciousness – for those living organisms which possess it – is the basic means of survival. For man, the basic means of survival is reason.
But man’s responsibility goes still further: a process of thought is not automatic nor “instinctive” nor involuntary – nor infallible. Man has to initiate it. To sustain it and to bear responsibility for its results. He has to discover how to tell what is true or false and how to correct his own errors; he has to discover how to validate his concepts, his conclusions, his knowledge; he has to discover the rules of thought, the laws of logic, to direct his thinking. Nature gives him no automatic guarantee of the efficacy of his mental effort.
Man is not exempt from the laws of reality, he is a specific organism of a specific nature that requires specific actions to sustain his life.
Man is free to choose not to be conscious, but not free to escape the penalty of unconsciousness: destruction.