A Defence of Scottish Common Sense



I provide a reading of Reid as an ‘encyclopaedist’, in Alasdair MacIntyre's sense, that is, as a scientist who conceives of himself as part of a broader scientific community, and who aims to make a contribution through work in a particular field. Reid's field is pneumatology. On this conception, Reid's recourse to ‘common sense’ is of a piece with the postulation, by any scientist, of a natural endowment for members of the same ostensible kind. Reid should therefore be understood as rejecting the classical tradition of epistemology and any conception of epistemology as first philosophy. His view resembles, rather, the modern position of ‘natural epistemology’, though admittedly, on account of his doctrine of active power, he is not committed to ‘naturalism’ in the contemporary sense.