Who is Thomas Reid?June 26, 2021
Thomas Reid (1710-1796) was born in Strachan, Scotland. Beginning as a child, he spent most of his life in Aberdeen.
After graduating from the University of Aberdeen, he was appointed to a post at King’s College, where he taught between 1751 and 1764, and was later appointed professor of ethics at Glasgow University, succeeding Adam Smith. His main works are; Research on the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense (1764), Essays on Man’s Intellectual Powers (1785), Essays on Man’s Active Powers (1788).
He is the founder of the common sense school in Scottish philosophy. Just as Hume brought empiricism to a skepticism, he also brought empiricism to a common sense approach. His primary concern was to react to Hume’s skeptical conclusions. However, he also opposed Berkeley’s idealism and Locke’s basic approach to ideas. While agreeing with Hume’s criticism of his predecessors, he found the denial of conclusions unacceptable.
Reid tries to show that the idea that “ideas are direct objects of perception”, which appears as the first principle of empiricism, is wrong. For this, he first looks at what the word ide means in everyday language. According to him, in everyday language this word signifies comprehension or discernment. To carry a thought or idea of anything is to have grasped it; To not have any of his thoughts is to have not grasped it. When the word thought/idea is taken in this common-sense sense, no one doubts whether they have thoughts. But when philosophers take the word, they give it a different meaning; it is no longer a thought or concept, but an “object of thought.” Thus, according to Locke, thoughts/ideas become the immediate objects of the thinking mind. Moving on this path, Berkeley easily abolished the world of bodies, leaving spirits and thoughts of spirits, on the basis of the argument that we can only know thoughts/ideas. However, Hume acts more consistently in this way, eliminating both the spiritual and material worlds of substance. In this case, there are only impressions and ideas, and as a result, according to Reid, there is no room left for an “I” to claim the ownership of these impressions and ideas.
According to Reid, to carry an idea or idea of something is to have grasped it.
However, Reid opposes this approach and argues that there are no thoughts or ideas that are objects of perception in the sense that philosophers understand: According to him, perception already includes judgment in relation to the object; it is not a simple grasp of the ideas in the mind of the perceiver. In short, when we perceive something, we are not perceiving some ideas or impressions, but directly perceiving the thing itself. According to Reid, Locke’s mistake here is that he believes that simple ideas are elementary knowledge data. The first operation of the mind is to distinguish. By comparing the ideas perceived in the mind, we perceive the agreement or disagreement between them, and a judgment is made in this way. This is how knowledge or belief comes to us. According to Locke and Hume, knowledge is formed in this way: in Hume, simple ideas are replaced by impressions; there is no other difference between them. However, according to Reid, this elemental information is a result of analyzing data. First come the original basic judgments; Every time we perceive objects through the senses, a judgment or belief involving simple discrimination is also formed. Moreover, perception itself is nothing but this judgment. “In perceiving a tree in front of me, we have not only a concept of the tree but a belief in the form, size, and distance of its existence. These ideas of judgment and belief are contained in the nature of perception. According to Reid, these original and natural judgments are part of the equipment that nature has given to the human mind. All of these make up what is called the common sense of humanity. These common sense principles are self-evident principles; therefore, they do not need to be introduced.
They are the basis of all reasoning and all science. These principles are expressed by Reid as opposites as impossible necessary realities and opposites as possible contingent realities. These include logical axioms, mathematical axioms, morals, and the first principles of metaphysics. An example of moral first principles Reid gives: “No man should be condemned for what he is not able to prevent.” Among the metaphysical principles are principles such as “the body is the subject of the qualities we perceive through our senses,” “the mind is the subject of the thoughts we are conscious of,” “everything that begins to exist must have a cause.” Reid particularly emphasizes Hume’s destructive critique of the principles of identity and causality. He argues that Hume’s way of explaining these principles as expressions of imaginary ascriptions based on passive habits, going beyond the generally accepted expositions, is not acceptable. According to him, these principles are much more firmly grounded in that certain arguments cast doubt on them. According to him, “qualities are inherent in substance,” “every event has a cause,” and “senses, memory, and induction