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Common Sense Philosophy
Scottish Philosophy

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Some of the thinking in Natural Liberation Philosophy has similarities to some of the analysis in the Scottish, or Common Sense School of Philosophy. Since this branch of philosophy was eclipsed for some time by inferior schools, source materials on it are hard to come by. I present here two essays from The University Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century Knowledge of 1902. It should not be assumed that these essays correctly characterize or evaluate the philosophy.

Common Sense, the philosophy of the so-called Scotch school of philosophy founded by Thomas Reid (1710-1769), who aimed to establish a series of fundamental truths indisputatble as primitive facts of consciousness. He taught the that the general consent of mankind as to the existence of an external world, as to the difference between substance and qualities, between thought and mind that thinks, is sufficient to establish the reality of a permanent world apart from ourselves; and he maintains that sensations are not the objects of our perception, but signs which introduce us to the knowledge of real objects. [page 1583, volume three]

note: the first sentence of the following article does not refer to Common Sense philosophy, but the rest of the article does.

Scottish Philosophy, a form or school of philosophy taught by Scotchmen in Paris and other foreign universities during the Middle Ages and as late at the 16th century. The school may, for all practical purposes, be said to take its rise in the revulsion headed by Reid (1710-1796) against the conclusions of the great sceptic. Antiquarian research has sought to place the foundation of the school earlier, in the teaching, for example of Gershom Carmichael, who was professor in Glasgow from 1694 to 1729, or George Turnbull, Reid's teacher at Aberdeen, who lectured from 1721 to 1748. Francis Hutcheson, who succeeded Carmichael in Glasgow, and lectured from 1729 to 1746, is more frequently mentioned as the founder of the school, but he has a place rather among the succession of English moral philosophers, while the two other names are too obscure to be of any real account. Reid's answer to Hume appeared in 1764 under the title "An Enquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense." Hence the current but somewhat misleading desgination of Reid and his followers as the Common Sense school, which seems to imply an appear from philosophical conclusions to the unreasoned verdict of ordinary consciousness. No doubt a certain warrant for this view of the Scottish philosophers may be found in certain passages of Reid himself, and still more in the diatribes of the lesser men, like Beattie and Oswald, who joined in the outcry against Hume.

Common sense, however, meant to Reid simply the common reason of mankind, as constituted by certain fundamental judgements which are expressed in the very structure of human language, and which are intuitively recognized by the mind as true. Reid's answer to Hume thus consists in traversing his reduction of experience to unconnected ideas. He attempts to show by a deeper analysis of experience that the having of ideas, or rather of knowledge, implies certain primitive or fundamental judgements as irreducible elements. This constitutes his attack on wheat he calls "the ideal theory," that is to say, on the presuppositions which he fnds common to Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume; and in this, its most philosophical aspect, his theory may be compared with Kant's vindication of the catgeories as elements necessary to the constitution of the simplest experience. The weakness of Scottish philosophy has lain in its tendency to treat these rational elements as isolated intuitions. The reiterated appeal to "the testimony of consicousness" is a short and easy method of disposing of an opponent, but it is apt to leave the opponent unconvinced. The natural dualism or natural realism which forms such an oustanding feature of Scottish philosopy asserts, against subjective idealism, that the object or the non-ego is given in knowledge along with the subject. But this important epistemological position degeneates too often into a crude metaphysical dualism of mind and matter as two heterogeneous substances.

Scottish philosophy has not produced anything like a metaphysical system, but its inductive method of procedure has led to a large amount of valuable psychological observation both in the intellectual and moral sphere of mental activity. This is mainly what we find in Dugald Stewart (1753-1828), accompanied by a power of persuasive elogquence which made philosophy a force and tradition in the national life. Dr. Thomas Brown (1778-1820), his successor in the Edinburgh chair of moral philosophy, was led by his acute psychological analysis so far in the direction of English associationism that he can hardly be counted as a continuator of the school. The most eminent successor of Reid and Stewart was Sir William Hamilton (1788-1856), who endevored to combien the traditional Scottish doctrine with the neagtive results of the Kantian critique of knowledge. Apart from his contributions to psychology and logic, his philosophy is in the main an assertion of the relativity of human knowledge, and the impossibility, therefore, or reaching a coherent metaphysical view of the universe. This position, however, has been disclaimed by McCosh and others as savoring too much of agnosticism, and as inconsistent with the original position of Scottish philosophy in regard to our immediate knowledge of mind and matter. Scottish philosophy hs had a wide influence not only in Scotland and the United States, but also in France, through Cousin and his "spiritualistic" followers. [page 5504, volume eight]

Thomas Reid, a Scotch philosopher; born in Strachan, Scotland, April 26, 1710. He was educated at Marischal College, Aberdeen, and in 1737 was presented in the living of New Machar in Aberdeenshire. His first philosophical work was an "Essay on Quantity" [1748] in which he replied to Hutcheson, who had maintained that mathematical terms can be applied to measure moral qualities. In 1752 the professors of King's College, Aberdeen, elected Reid Professor of Moral Philosophy in that college; and in 1764 he published his well known work, "An Inquiry Into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense" The same year he succeeded Adam Smith as Professor of Moral Philosophy in Glasgow University, a position which he occupied till 1781. His other writings are "Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man" and "Essays on the Active Powers of the Human Mind." His philosophy was directed against the principles and doctrines of Berkeley and Hume, to which he oppposed the doctrine of common sense. He was the earliest expounder of what is know as the Scotch school of philosophy, in which he was followed by Dugald Stewart and Sir William Hamilton. His doctrines were adopted also by several eminent French philosophers. He died Oct. 7, 1796. [page 5032, volume seven]

An Inquiry Into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense at Google Books

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