Thomas Reid, born in the tiny village of Strachan, Kincardineshire in 1710, was a philosopher chiefly famous for founding of the Scottish School of Common Sense along with his compatriot David Hume. This group of philosophers had many celebrated members including John Locke, William Hamilton, and George Berkeley. Reid was key figure of the Scottish Enlightenment that birthed Adam Snith's The Wealth of Nations, Two Treatises of Government, and William Smellie, who was the editor of the first Encyclopedia Britannica.

By the mid-eighteenth century Scotland was deemed one of the most literate nations in Europe with a 75% literacy rate. It was in this climate of educational pursuit that Thomas Reid made a name for himself. He authored An Inquiry Into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense in which he outlined the Theory of Common Sense. These theories were of a similar vein as René Descartes' cogito ergo sum — "I think, therefore I am" — but many consider Reid's ideas to be more denial of the French philosopher's premise than an actual answer to it.

The six axioms that constitute Reid's basis for reasoning — and thus the School at large to which Carlyle refers — can be boiled down to a simple chain of logic, which can be states as follows, "I have thoughts, these thoughts belong to a being that I call myself, these thoughts and memories come from events that I distinctly remember, though I may not have total control of my circumstances I do have some degree of power over my actions and this holds true for other beings as well, therefore we as people exist and therefore our opinions and testimonies and actions matter."

Related Material

References


Victorian Web Overview Thomas Carlyle Thomas Carlyle's Works Discussion Questions

Last modified 26 March 2010