Reid, Thomas

born April 26, 1710, Kincardineshire, Scot.
died Oct. 7, 1796, Glasgow

Scottish philosopher.

He served as a Presbyterian pastor from 1737 to 1751. His lengthy studies of David Hume convinced him that Hume's skepticism was false, because it was incompatible with common sense. According to Reid, both human behaviour and ordinary language provide overwhelming evidence to support the reality of a material world and the existence of an enduring self as the subject of continuously changing mental experience. His works include An Inquiry into the Human Mind (1764), Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man (1785), and Essays on the Active Power of Man (1788).

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▪ Scottish philosopher
born April 26, 1710, Strachan, Kincardineshire, Scot.
died Oct. 7, 1796, Glasgow
 Scottish philosopher who rejected the skeptical Empiricism of David Hume (Hume, David) in favour of a “philosophy of common sense,” later espoused by the Scottish School.

      Reid studied philosophy at Marischal College, Aberdeen, before serving as Presbyterian pastor at New Machar (1737–51). A lifelong interest in Hume dated from this period. His first critique of Hume, An Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense (1764), written during his tenure (1751–64) at King's College, Aberdeen, was an amplification of four previous graduation addresses (first edited by W.R. Humphries as Philosophical Orations, 1937).

      Lengthy studies convinced Reid that Hume's Skepticism was incompatible with common sense, for both human behaviour and the use of language provide overwhelming evidence to support such truths as the existence of a material world and the retention of personal identity in the midst of continuous change. Unable to find fault with Hume's argumentation, Reid settled on Hume's “theory of ideas” as the prime source of error. Rejecting the notion that ideas are the direct object of the mind's awareness, Reid substituted a view of perception in which sensations “suggest” material objects. For him, this ambiguous assertion solved the problem.

      Reid's Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man (1785) further extended his criticism of Hume's epistemology, and his Essays on the Active Power of Man (1788) defended rationalistic ethics against a current of subjectivism. Both these books influenced British philosophers of the 20th century. The Works of Thomas Reid, 2 vol., edited by William Hamilton, were published in 1846 (8th ed., 1895).

Additional Reading
Alexander Campbell Fraser, Thomas Reid (1898, reissued 1993); Keith Lehrer, Thomas Reid (1989).

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