Thomas Reid and the Story of Epistemology

Thomas Reid and the Story of Epistemology

Thomas Reid and the Story of Epistemology

Thomas Reid and the Story of Epistemology

Synopsis

Nicholas Wolterstorff's comparative analysis of Thomas Reid's epistemology relates Reid's philosophy to present-day epistemological discussions. This timely and relevant volume will be of great interest to historians of philosophy as well as philosophers concerned with epistemology and the philosophy of mind. Hb ISBN (2000): 0-521-79013-1

Excerpt

There are signs today of a renaissance of interest in the philosophy of Thomas Reid; whether those signs are a portent remains to be seen. If so, it will indeed be a renaissance. Reid has almost disappeared from the canon used for teaching modern philosophy in the universities of the West. Yet from the last decade or two of the eighteenth century, on through most of the nineteenth, he was probably the most popular of all philosophers in Great Britain and North America and enjoyed considerable popularity on the continent of Europe as well. I myself judge him to have been one of the two great philosophers of the latter part of the eighteenth century, the other being of course Immanuel Kant.

Why has Reid almost disappeared from the canon? No doubt for a number of reasons; let me mention just three. For one thing, the reception of Reid's philosophy both trivialized and misunderstood him. It trivialized him by giving looming importance to his doctrine of Common Sense; it misunderstood him by failing to see the radicality of his rejection of the prior tradition of modern philosophy and treating him as if he justified us in forgetting about Hume and returning to Locke.

Second, scholarship in the history of philosophy lives and thrives on challenges to the interpretive skills of the scholar and on the controversies that ensue from different ways of meeting such challenges: Is there or is there not a vicious “Cartesian circle, ” and so forth. Reid provides relatively little by way of such challenges. Certainly he's been misunderstood. Nonetheless, he is one of the most lucid writers in the history of philosophy; and never does he suggest that he is revealing to us astonishing, hitherto undreamt of, realms of truth. in short, he's not a very rewarding subject for the historian of philosophy. a great many people, upon reading Reid, have become “Reidian” in one or another . . .

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