Nobody is an Active Man

In a delightful passage in Essay Six “Of Judgement” from the Essays on the Intellectual Powers, Thomas Reid makes an observation that shows he was also a father in addition to being a Philosopher. He has argued against David Hume’s notion that we cannot know cause and effect relationships, and in this passage he observes that no one could possibly accept Hume in the practical, every-day living of ordinary life:

In great families, there are so many bad things done by a certain personage, called Nobody, that it is proverbial that there is a Nobody about every house who does a great deal of mischief; and even where there is the exactest inspection and government, many events will happen of which no other author can be found; so that, if we trust merely to experience in this matter, Nobody will be found to be a very active person, and to have no inconsiderable share in the management of experience. But whatever countenance this system may have from experience, it is too shocking to common sense to impose upon the most ignorant. A child knows that, when his top, or any of his playthings, are taken away, it must be done by somebody. Perhaps it would not be difficult to persuade him that it was done by some invisible being, but that it should be done by Nobody he cannot believe…

I have a similar problem with Nobody leaving trash on my classroom floor.

thomas_reid