Department or Program
Department of Classics, Philosophy, and Religion
College of Arts and Sciences
Faculty Mentor #1
History is often unkind to great thinkers. Often those with brilliant minds are misunderstood in later years by others. This may be the case with the Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid. Reid is the founder of Scottish common sense realism, a school of thought that aims to counter Enlightenment skepticism. However, Reid’s common sense realism was the subject of philosophical debate for years after his death. Many philosophers struggled to understand Reid’s arguments, and others discredited him altogether. While there has been an increase in research on Reid since the 1990s, the contemporary research on Reid is still lacking. Since critical research on Reid’s work is lacking, it is hard to understand the true meaning of his philosophical work. This paper will serve as a complete synthesis of Reid and common sense realism The analysis of Reid will be broken into four sections. The first section sets the stage for Reid’s work by discussing Enlightenment empiricism and rationalism, which Reid’s work was a direct reaction to. The second section will analyze Reid’s major work, An Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense, which contains the bulk of his philosophical theory. The third section will discuss the initial reaction to this work from Kant and Hume, two philosophers more famous than Reid that dismissed his work entirely. The fourth section will analyze four Scottish philosophers who lived after Reid and will use their commentaries on Reid to better understand his work, as well as the development of common sense realism as a whole. The goal of this research will be to create a better understanding of Reid’s work and common sense realism.