Thomas Reid.

The works of Thomas Reid, D.D.; now fully collected, with selections from his umpublished letters online

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in a clear and scientific light, from the
laws of the theory of man's mental life,
the relation of Knowledge to Belief, of the
natural and ideal aspect of the world, as
well as the important relation between the
feeling and the conception of the truth. He
is the first philosopher in whose system
Feeling has won an independent and firmly
established position among the philoso-
phical convictions of the reason." * — Ed. J

Merits of the Scottish School.

Their proclaiming it as a rule, 1°, That
the province of a preliminary or general
Logic (Noology) — the ultimate laws, &c,
of the human mind — should be sought
out and established ; 2°, That once recog-
nised and given, they should be accept-
ed, to govern philosophy, as all other

With regard to the first, the Scottish
philosophers are not original. It is a
perennis philosophia, gravitated towards

* On the relation of the system of Fries to
that of Bcid, see below, Note A, p. 70S, No. 95 ;
and the rofercnees there given.— Ed,



even by those who revolted against it.
(See Note A. ) The merit of the Scottish
school is one only of degree, — that it 1b
more consistent, more catholic, and em-
bodies this permute philosophia more
purely. [Its writers, however,] are them-
selves peccant in details, and have not
always followed out the spirit of their
own doctrines.

[With regard to the second,] Dr Reid
and Mr Stewart not only denounce as
absurd the attempt to demonstrate that
the original data of Consciousness are for
us the rule of what we ought to believe,
that is, the criteria of a relative — human —
subjective truth; but interdict as unphi-
losophical all question in regard to their
validity, as the vehicles of an absolute
or objective truth.

M. Jouffroy,* of course, coincides with
the Scottish philosophers in regard to
the former; but, as to the latter, he
maintains, with Kant, that the doubt is
legitimate, and, though he admits it to be
insoluble, he thinks it ought to be enter-
tained. Nor, on the ground on which
they and he consider the question, am I
disposed to dissent from his conclusion.
But on that on which I have now placed
it, I cannot but view the inquiry as in-
competent. For what is the question in
plain terms ? Simply, — Whether what our
nature compels us to believe as true and
real, be true and real, or only a consistent
illusion ? Now this question cannot be
philosophically entertained, for two rea-
sons. 1°, Because there exists a pre-
sumption in favour of the veracity of
our nature, which either precludes or
peremptorily repels a gratuitous supposi-
tion of its mendacity. 2°, Because we
have no mean out of Consciousness of
testing Consciousness. If its data are
found concordant, they must be presumed
trustworthy; if repugnant, they are al-
ready proved unworthy of credit. Un-
less, therefore, the mutual collation of
the primary data of Consciousness be
held such an inquiry, it is, I think, mani-
festly incompetent. It is only in the case
of one or more of these original facts
being rejected as false, that the question
can emerge in regard to the truth of the
others. But, in reality, on this hypothesis,
the problem is already decided ; their
character for truth is gone ; and all sub-
sequent canvassing of their probability is
profitless speculation.

Kant started, like the philosophers in
general, with the non-acceptance of the

* (Earns do Reid, Preface, p. clxxxv.— Ed.

deliverance of Consciousness, — that wo
are immediately cognisant of extended
objects. This first step decided the des-
tiny of his philosophy. The external
world, as known, was, therefore, only a
phenomenon of the internal; and our
knowledge in general only of self; the
objective only subjective ; and truth only
the harmony of thought with thought, not
of thought with things; reality only a
necessary illusion.

It was quite in order, that Kant should
canvass the veracity of all our primary
beliefs, having founded his philosophy on
the presumed falsehood of one ; and an in-
quiry followed out with such consistency
and talent, could not, from such a com-
mencement, terminate in a different

Fiohte evolved this explicit idealism —
Nihilism, f

Following the phantom of the Absolute,
Schelling rejected the lawof Contradiction,
as Hegel that of Excluded Middle ; J with
the result that, as acknowledged by the
former, the worlds of common sense and
of philosophy are reciprocally the converso
of each other. Did the author not see
that this is a reductio ad absurdum of phi-
losophy itself ? For, ex hypothesi, philo-
sophy, the detection of the illusion of our
nature, shews the absurdity of nature;
but its instruments are only those of this
illusive nature. Why, then, is it not an
illusion itself?

The philosophy which relies on the data
of Consciousness may not fulfil the condi-
tions of what men conceit that a philo-
sophy should be : it makes no pretension
to any knowledge of the absolute — the
unconditioned — but it is the only philo-
sophy which is conceded to man below ;
and if we neglect it, we must either re-
nounce philosophy or pursue an ignis fa-
tuus which will only lead us into quag-
mires. §

[Defects of the Scottish School.]

Scottish school too exclusive — intoler-
ant, not in spirit and intention, for Reid

* Reprinted from Lectures on Metaphysics, vol.
i. p. 399. From the reference below, p. 746 a,
n. *, it appears that this question was intended
to be discussed in the Preface. — En.

t See below, p. 129, n. * and 796 b.— Ed.

X See Lectures on Logic, vol. i. p. 90. — Ed.

§ In the MS. follow references to the two
Scaligers, to Grotius, and to Cusa ; the last being,
through Bruno, the father of the modern Philo-
sophy of the Absolute. All these references are
given in fall, Discussions, pp. 638-041, — Ed.



and Stewart wore liberal — but from not
taking high enough ground, and studying
opinions with sufficient accuracy, and from
a sufficiently lofty point of view.

On the nature and domain of the philo-
sophy of mind.

Reid and Stewart do not lay it out pro-
perly, though their practice is better than
their precept. They do not take notice
of the difference between mental and phy-
sical inquiry — that the latter is mere induc-
tive classification, the former more specula-
tive, secerning necessary from contingent.
But an element of thought being found
necessary, there remains a further process
— to ascertain whether it be, 1°, by nature
or by education ; 2°, ultimately or deriva-
tively necessary ; 3°, positive or negative.
. . . . A law of nature is only got by
general induction ; a law of mind is got by
experiment — whether we can not think it;
e. g. cause in objective and subjective phi-
losophy. The progress of the two sciences
not parallel — error of Stewart (Essays, p.

An experimental analysis, but of differ-
ent kinds, is competent to physical and
mental science, besides the observation
common to both. To mental, the trying
what parts of a concrete thought or cog-
nition can be thought away, what cannot.

[Further developments supplementary to
the philosophy of the Scottish school, as re-
I by Reid and Stewart.]

[A. On the Principle of Oom/mon Sense.]

I would, with Leibnitz, t distinguish
truths or cognitions into those of Fact, or
of Perception, (external and internal), and
those of Reason. The truths or cognitions
of both classes rest on an ultimate and
common ground of a primary and inexpli-
cable belief. This ground may be called
by the names of Common Sense, of Fun-
damental or Transcendental Consciousness,

* Coll. Works, vol. v. p. IS. " The order
established in the intellectual world seems to be
regulated by laws perfectly analogous to those
which we trace among the phenomena of the
material system; and in all our philosophical
inquiries, (to whatever subject they may relate,)
the progress of the mind is liable to be affected
by the same tendency to a premature generalisa-
tion." On this passage, there is the following
marginal note in Sir W. Hamilton's copy: " Shew
how this analogy is vitiated by the fact that the
most general faots, being necessities of thought, are
among the first established. Existence, the last
in the order of induction, is the first in the order
of ."—Ed.

f Nouveanx Essais, L. iv. ch. 2 — Ed.

of Feeling of Truth or Knowledge, of Na-
tural or Instinctive Belief. This, in itself,
is simply a fact, simply an experience, and
is purely subjective and purely negative.
It supports the validity of a proposition,
only on the fact that I find that it is im-
possible for me not to hold it for true, to
suppose it therefore not true — without
denying, in the one case, the veracity of
consciousness ; and, in the other, the pos-
sibility of thought; [without presuming]
that I am necessitated to hold the false
for the true, the unreal for the real, and
therefore that my intelligent nature is
radically mendacious. But this is not to
be gratuitously presumed ; therefore the
proposition must be admitted. But to
apply it to the two classes of truths.

I. Truths of Fact or of Perception (Ex-
ternal and Internal.)

Am I asked, for example, how I know
that the series of phaenomena called the
external world or the non-ego exists —
I answer, that I know it by external Per-
ception. But if further asked, how I
know that this Perception is not an il-
lusion — that what I perceive as the ex-
ternal world, is not merely a particular
order of phaenoniena pertaining to the in-
ternal — that what I am conscious of as
something different from me, is not merely
self representing a not-self — I can only
answer, that I know this solely inasmuch
as I find that I cannot but feel, hold, or
believe that what I perceive as not-self, is
really presented in consciousness as not-
self. I can, indeed, in this, as in the case
of every other truth of Pact, imagine the
possibility of the converse — imagine that
what is given as a mode of not- self, may
be in reality only a mode of self. But this
only in imagining that my primary con-
sciousness deceives me ; which is not to
be supposed without a ground. Now, the
conviction here cannot in propriety be
called Reason, because the truth avouched
by it is one only of Fact, and because the
conviction avouching it is itself only ma-
nifested as a Pact. It may, however, he
well denominated Common Sense, Funda-
mental or Transcendental Consciousness.
Other examples may be taken from Me-
mory and its reality, Personal Identity, &c,
II. Truths of Reason.
Again, if I am asked, how I know that
every change must have its cause, that
every quality must have its substance,
that there is no mean between two contra-
dictories, &c, I answer, that I know it by
Reason, vovs — Reason or vovs being a name
for the mind considered as the source, or as
the complement, of first principles, axioms,
native notions, kowoi or tprnmaX Zvvoiai.



But if further asked, how I know that Rea-
son ib not illusive — that this, or that first
principle may not be false — I can only an-
swer, that I know it to be true, solely inas-
much as I am conscious that I cannot but
feel, hold, believe it to be true, seeing that
I cannot even realise in imagination the
possibility of the converse. Now, this last
ground of conviction, in the conscious im-
potence of conceiving the converse, is not,
I think, so properly styled Reason, which
is more of a positive character, as Common
Sense, Fundamental Consciousness, &c.
This is shewn in the quotations from
Locke and Price. Note A, Testimonies,
Nos. 51, 78.

[The substance of these remarks on the
Principle of Common Sense, has been
already printed, in an abbreviated form,
in Note A, p. 754. The present fragment,
which has the appearance of being an
earlier sketch of the same note, has been
inserted in this place, as containing a
somewhat fuller statement of an import-
ant distinction, which is perhaps liable to
be overlooked in the brief form in which
it was previously published. Though not
apparently designed for this Preface, it is
sufficiently cognate in matter to the pre-
ceding fragments, to be entitled to a place
with them. The following fragment, which
is marked " Preface," may be regarded as a
continuation of the same subject, being a
step towards that further analysis of the
Truths of Reason, in relation to the Phi-
losophy of the Conditioned, which the
Author regarded as his peculiar addition
to the philosophy of his predecessors. This
analysis will be found further pursued
in Notes H and T, and especially in the
Philosophical Appendix to the Discussions.

[B. Stages m the method of Mental

Three degrees or stages in the method
of mental science.

1°, When the mind is treated as matter,
and the mere Baconian observation and
induction applied.

2°, When the quality of Necessity is in-
vestigated, and the empirical and neces-
sary elements thus discriminated. (Here
Reid is honourably distinguished even
from Stewart, not to say Brown and other
British philosophers. )

3°, When the necessity is distinguished
into two classes — the one being founded
on a power or potency, the other upon an
impoten ce of mind. Hence the Philosophy
of the Conditioned.

[Testimonies to the merits of the Scottish
Philosophy, and of Seid as its founder.']

1. — Poret. — Manuel de Philosophie par
Auguste Henri Matthias, traduit de 1' Alle-
mand sur la troisieme Edition, par M. II.
Poret, Professeur suppleant a la Faculte
des Lettres, et Professeur de Philosophie
au College Rollin. Paris, 1837.

Preface du Traducteur. — 'II suffit d'a-
voir une idee de l'e'tat des §tudes en Prance
pour reconnaitre que la philosophie e"cos-
saise y est aujourd'hui naturalised. Nous
la voyons defrayer a peu pres seule l'en-
seignement de nos colleges; sa langue
et ses doctrines ont passe" dans la plu-
part des ouvrages elementaires qui se
publient sur les matieres philosophiques ;
sa me'thode severe et circonspecte a
satisfait les plus difficiles et rassure' les
plus de'fiants, et en meme temps Bon
profond respect pour les croyances mo-
rales et religieuses lui a concilia ceux
qui reconnaissent la verity surtout a ses
fruits. Les penseurs prevoyants qui so
donnerent tant de soins pour l'introduire
parmi nous ont eu a se f inciter du succes
de lcur efforts. La seule apparition do
cette philosophie si peu fastueuse suffit
pour mettre a terre le sensualisme ; une
doctrine artiflcielle dut s'evanouir devaut
la simple exposition des faits ; le sens in-
time fut re'tabli dans sa prerogative ; les
elements a priori de l'intelligence, si ridi-
culement honnis par Locke et son dcole,
rentrerent dans la science dont on avait
pretendu les bannir, et y reprirent leur
place legitime. Cette espece de restaura-
tion philosophique devait avoir ses conse-
quences : des questions assoupies, mais
non pas mortes, se re"veillerent ; les limites
arbitrairement posees a la connaissanco
disparurent ; la philosophie retrouva son
domaine, et de nouveau les esprits s'effor-
cerent de le conquerir. En general, le
bienfait des doctrines ecoBsaises importdes
en France, 9'a &i& d'affranchir les intelli-
gences de tout prejuge' d'e"cole et de les
remettre en presence de la re'alite'. Nul
doute que ce ne fut la l'indispensable con-
dition de tout progres ulterieur, et cette
condition indispensable, elles l'ont remplie
dans toute son e'tendue. Aujourd'hui
meme qu'elles ont porte ces premiers
fruits, les bons efl'ets de ces doctrines ne
sont pas, nous le croyons, prSs de s'epuiser,
et nous regarderions comme un echec a la
prospeVitS des Etudes philosophiques tout
ce qui tendrait a en contrarier l'influence.'
2. — Garnier. — Critique de la Philoso-
phie de Thomas Reid, Paris, 1840.

P. 112. — ' Demandez a ce philosophe
une distribution mdthodique des materiaux


qu'il a recueillis, une adroite induction
qui des phenomenes nous conduise a un
petit nombre de causes, vous ne trou-
verez ni cette classification, ni cette ana-
lyse. Ce n'dtait pourtant pas la tache la
plus malaise'e ; et le de"pit de lui voir
negliger ce facilo travail est ce qui nous a
mis la plume a la main. Mais ces materi-
aux innombrables, ces milliers de phe-
nomenes si patiemment de"crits, faut-il les
oublier? N'est-ce pas Reid qui nous a
montre" a ne plus confondre les percep-
tions des diffe'rents sens, et en particulier,
celles de la vue et du toucher ? Malgre'
quelques contradictions, n'est-ce pas chez
lui seul qu'on peut recontrer une thebrie
raisonnable de la perception ? Ou trouver
une plus savante exposition de la memoire
et des merveilles si varices qui presente
la suite de nos conceptions? Ses essais
sur l'abstraction, le jugement, et le rai-
sonnement sont encore plus lumineux et
plus instructifs que les memes chapitres
dans l'admirable Logique de Port-Royal,
et les savants solitaires ont partage" la
faute de regard er ces operations de
l'esprit comme les actes d'autant de
facultes distinctes. Enfin, avec quel pro-
fit et quel inte>et ne lit-on pas les cha-
pitres sur le gout intellectuel, sur les affec-
tions si varices qui se partagent notre ame,
sur le sens du devoir et sur la morale?
Avec touB ses diSfauts, l'ouvrage de Reid
offrira longtemps encore la lecture la plus
instructive pour l'esprit, la plus delicieuse
pour le cosur, et la plus profitable pour la

P. 118 'En presence des constructions

fantastiques de l'Allemagne, j'aime mieux
les mate"riaux epars de l'Ecosse. Thomas
Reid est l'ouvrier laborieux, qui a peui-
bloment extrait les blocs de la carriere,
qui a faille" les mats et les charpentes : vi-
enne l'architecte, il en construira des villes
et des flottes. L'Allemand est l'entrepre-
neur audacieux qui dans la hate de batir se
contente de terre et de paille.'

3. — Remusat. — Essais de Philosophie,
Paris 1842, t. i. p. 250.—' La philosophie
de Reid nous parait un des plus beaux re"-
sultats de la methode psychologique. Plus
approf ondie, mieux ordonnfe, elle peut de-
venir plus syste"matique et plus complete ;
elle peut donuer a l'observation une forme
plus rationnelle. Sans doute elle n'est pas
tout la verite philosophique ; mais dans
son ensemble elle est vraie, et nous croyons
qu'elle doit dtre conside>ee par les ecoles
modernes comme la philosophie elemen-
taire de l'esprit humain. '

4. — Thdeot. — Introduction a l'Etade
du la Philosophie, Discours Preliminaire,
t. i. p. lxiv, Speaking of Reid's Essays —

' L'erudition choisie ct varieo qu il a su y
rgpandre, l'amour sincere de la verit6 qui
s'y montre partout, et la dignity calme de
l'expression en rendent la lecture extreme-
ment attachante.'

5. — Cousin.— [Cours d'Histoire de la
Philosophie Morale au dix-huitieme Siecle,
seconde partie, publiee par MM. Danton
et Vacherot, Paris, 1840], p. 241 sq.*

' There is a final merit in the doctrine
of the Scottish philosopher, which it is
impossible too highly to extol. He has
done better than ruin the hypotheses
which had shaken all the bases of human
belief ; in fixing with precision the limits
of science, he has destroyed for ever the
spirit itself which had inspired them. The
philosophy which Reid combated had not
understood that there were facts inexpli-
cable, facts which carry with them their
own light ; and had therefore gone, in
quest of a principle of explanation, into a
foreign sphere. It is thus that to explain
the phsenomena of perception, of mem-
ory, of imagination, recourse was had to
images from the external world ; the pha>
nomena of the soul were represented as
the effects of sensible impressions, them-
selves resulting from a contact between
the mind and the body. Reid has laid
down the true criterium, in virtue of which
we can always recognise the point at which
an attempt at explanation ought to stop,
when he says : — Facts simple and primi-
tive are inexplicable. It is thus that he
has cut short those hypotheses, those pre-
sumptuous theories, which history has
consigned for ever to the romances of

' In the meanwhile, it remains for me
to consider, whether the remedy be not
excessive, and whether the philosophy of
Reid, in ruining the metaphysical hypo-
theses, has not proscribed the metaphysi-
cal spirit itself. But before enteriug
upon the question, it is requisite to pre-
mise, that even if this be done by Reid,
still there is nothing in the proceeding
at which criticism ought to take offence.
His mission was to proclaim the applica-
tion of the experimental method to the
philosophy of the human mind, on the
ruins of the hypotheses which had issued
from the Cartesian school ; this mission he
has completely fulfilled, for he has purged
philosophy, one after another, of the
theory of ideas, of the desolating scepticism

* This passage is given in a translation found
among Sir W. Hamilton's papers. The other
testimonies have been added from his extracts
and ivRtcuccs. — Ed.



of Hume, of the idealism of Berkeley, of
the demonstrations of Descartes ; he has
thus made a tabula rasa. Were it then
the fact, that the abuse of the metaphysical
spirit, and the spectacle of the aberrations
into which this spirit has betrayed the
human mind, had carried Reid to pro-
nounce its banishment from science, for
this we ought no more seriously to re-
proach him, than we should condemn
Bacon for his proscription of the Syllog-
ism, of which the Schoolmen had made so
flagrant an abuse. My intention, there-
fore, in touching on this delicate point, is,
far less to evince the too empirical char-
acter of the philosophy of Beid, than to
relieve a great and noble science from
the unjust contempt to which it has been
exposed from the philosophers both of the
school of Bacon and of the Scottish school.

' But let us first see, how far Reid's
neglect of Metaphysic has extended. — Ac-
cording to him, to explain a fact is to
carry it up into a fact more simple ; so
that the explanatory principle is of the
same nature as the fact explained, nor, in
our explanation of facts, is it ever neces-
sary for us to transcend experience. I
admit the truth of this definition for a
certain number of the sciences which
ought not to transgress the bounds of ob-
servation : thus in Physics, in Natural His-
tory, in Psychology even, the explanation
of the fact can possess no other character,
can propose no other aim. But I believe
the human mind goes farther ; the ex-
planation which consists in the connecting
one fact to another more simple does not
suffice for it, nor does it even recognise
this as a veritable explanation. To ex-
plain, to explicate, in the strict propriety
of language, is to reduce that which is to
that which ought to be, in other words,
to connect a fact to a principle. Reid,
therefore, in the view he takes of the
explanation of facts, has banished from
science the research of principles, of the
necessary causes and reasons of things, —
that is, precisely, metaphysical speculation.

' On the other hand, to distinguish
philosophy from the sciences which hare
nature for their object, he defines it — the
science of the human mind; he thus con-
siders philosophy as a science no less
special than the others, which is only dis-
criminated from them by the nature of
its object, and which, moreover, has with
them the same method and the same end.
The same method : for, like the natural
sciences, it observes ; only the facts which
it observes are immaterial. The same
end : for it proposes the discovery of laws,
like the sciences of nature ; the only dif-

ference lying in the nature of these laws.
As to that general and synthetic science,
which applies itself to all, and to which
no matter comes amiss, which is distin-
guished from other sciences, not by tho
character of its object but by the elevated
point of view from which it contemplates
the universe of things, which styles itself
philosophy of Nature, philosophy of Mind,
philosophy of History, according to the
limitation of the object which for the
moment it considers, — of such a science
Reid does not appear to have even sus-
pected the existence.

' In fine, we ought not to forget that
Reid is a partisan of the Baconian method,
which he has extended from the sciences
of nature to the science of mind. Now,

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