Happy Birthday to Thomas Reid!

Thomas Reid is one of the greatest philosophers you’ve probably never heard of. A contemporary and harsh critique of David Hume, Reid represents the Scottish Common Sense School of Philosophy. Reid was highly critical of the likes of Descartes (and Hume), arguing that the entire Cartesian project of Methodological Doubt was irrational. Basically, Reid argued that there are certain first principles that we do not and cannot reason to, but rather are the conditions from which we reason. Reid was heavily influential for the modern “Reformed Epistemology” movement of Wolterstoff, Plantinga, et. al. Here’s a nice quote from Reid which typifies his sometimes satirical style:

Descartes, Malebranche, and Locke have all employed their genius and skill, to prove the existence of a material world; and with very bad success. Poor untaught mortals believe undoubtedly, that there is a sun, moon, and stars; an earth, which we inhabit; country, friends, and relations, which we enjoy; land, houses, and moveables, which we possess. But philosophers, pitying the credulity of the vulgar, resolve to have no faith but what is founded upon reason. They apply to philosophy to furnish them with reasons for the belief of those things, which all mankind have believed without being able to give any reason for it. And surely one would expect, that, in matters of such importance, the proof would not be difficult: but it is the most difficult thing in the world. For these three great men, with the best good will, have not been able, from all the treasures of philosophy, to draw one argument, that is fit to convince a man that can reason, of the existence of any one thing without him. Admired Philosophy! daughter of light! parent of wisdom and knowledge! if thou art she! surely thou hast not yet arisen upon the human mind, nor blessed us with more of thy rays, than are sufficient to shed a “darkness visible” upon the human faculties, and to disturb that repose and security which happier mortals enjoy, who never approached thine altar, nor felt thine influence! But if indeed thou hast not power to dispel those clouds and phantoms which thou hast discovered or created, withdraw this penurious and malignant ray: I despise Philosophy, and renounce its guidance: let my soul dwell with Common Sense.

~Thomas Reid (1711-1796)  An Inquiry Into the Human Mind On the Principles of Common Sense

thomas_reid

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s