Tag Archives: Thomas Reid

Reid on Aesthetic Response and the Perception of Beauty

L. Jaffro (2015). Reid on Aesthetic Response and the Perception of Beauty. In R. Cophenhaver and T. Burras (eds), Thomas Reid on Mind, Knowledge, and Value. Mind Association Occasional Series, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 124-138. https://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198733676.001.0001/acprof-9780198733676-chapter-9

The chapter deals mainly with the ‘Essay on Taste’, situates Reid’s position in the debate opened up by Shaftesbury and Hutcheson, and makes three points: the first about the nature of aesthetic perception; the second about its object, ‘excellence’; and the third about the location of beauty in the forms of nature or works of art, where excellence is expressed. Taste should be viewed as a social operation of the mind. In some cases, it involves a communication from God to human beings. The psychological approach to aesthetic perception must be complemented by a metaphysical account of what makes us feel the beautiful or the grand.

Reid on Powers of the Mind and the Person behind the Curtain

L. Jaffro (2014). Reid on Powers of the Mind and the Person behind the Curtain. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 41, Supplement 1, 197-213. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00455091.2014.897480

According to Thomas Reid, powers of will and powers of understanding are distinguishable in thought, but conjoined in practice. This paper examines the claim that there is no inert intelligence, the operations of the understanding involving some degree of activity. The question is: whose activity? For it is clear that a great deal of our mental activity is not in our power. We need to distinguish between a weak and a strong sense of ‘power’, and consider our dependence ‘upon God and the laws of nature’ in our mental exertions.

Language and Thought

L. Jaffro (2013). Language and Thought. In J. Harris (ed.); The Oxford Handbook of British Philosophy in the Eighteenth Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 128-148.

This chapter set outs the variety of eighteenth-century approaches to the relations between language and thought, beginning with post-Lockean debates focused on the status of abstract general ideas, and ending with anti-empiricist Scottish philosophy at the end of the century (especially Thomas Reid). The empiricist theory of signs, notably in George Berkeley, is one important dimension of the discussions: ‘Ideas’ are centre stage, although they do not exhaust the empiricist furniture of the mind. There is also a different philosophical trend illustrated by neglected figures (James Harris, Lord Monboddo), which may be termed Platonic, and which affects eighteenth-century philosophical conceptions of language. The project of conjectural histories of language (Adam Smith) and views about the connections between linguistic skills and the social nature of human beings are also covered.

Common Sense, Pragmatic Inconsistency, and the Possibility of Scepticism. Contra Reid

L. Jaffro (2010). Rétorsion du sens commun et possibilité du scepticisme. Contre Reid. In M. Cohen-Halimi and H. L’Heuillet, Comment peut-on être sceptique ?. Paris: Honoré Champion, 93-116. https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-00264778v2/document

This essays aims at assessing the ad hominem argument from common sense used by Thomas Reid, particularly against David Hume, and claims that the argument does not prove that scepticism is impossible. Attention is drawn to two difficulties in Reid’s attack against the sceptic. The first difficulty lies in Reid’s joint use of two  different conceptions of common sense: an intuitionist conception that equates common sense with a set of primitive intuitions and ‘first principles’ evident by themselves; a pragmatic conception that sees in common sense a sensitivity to norms, most often implicit, of practice and communication. In the pragmatic conception, a second difficulty lies in the tacit identification between two dialectical arguments that can be called, following Perelman’s ‘new rhetoric’, the argument from direct inconsistency and the pragmatic argument (pointing out indirect inconsistency). The last section draws on John Mackie’s logical analysis of various forms of alleged self-refutation to criticise the ad hominem argument against the sceptic.

What is Wrong With Reid’s Criticism of Hume on Moral Appreciation

L. Jaffro (2006). What is Wrong With Reid’s Criticism of Hume on Moral Appreciation? European Journal of Analytic Philosophy, 2(2), 11-26. http://www.ffri.hr/phil/casopis/content/volume_2/EUJAP_4_jaffro.pdf

In his Essays on the Active Powers, Thomas Reid criticises Hume’s theory of moral judgment and argues that it is untenable. The aim of this paper is to show that Reid shares more with his target than is ordinarily acknowledged. The author suggests that the opposition between cognitivism and non-cognitivism concerning the role of feelings in moral judgment tends to obscure (disputable) assumptions held in common by both philosophers about the nature of feelings.

Shaftesbury on the Cogito. An Intermediary between Gassendism and the Common Sense School

L. Jaffro, Shaftesbury on the Cogito. An Intermediary between Gassendism and the Common Sense School. In G. Carabelli and P. Zanardi (eds.), Nuovi saggi su Shaftesbury. Padova: Il Poligrafo, 2003, 111-125.

Shaftesbury’ fourth Miscellany (1711) starts with a brief criticism of Descartes’ cogito. He rejects the modern metaphysical account of ‘egoity’ in the name of the ancient Stoic conception of a moral discipline of the self.  We do not need the metaphysical certitude of cogito sum as a foundation stone, nor any ‘wonderfully refined speculations’ on the nature of the ego; on the contrary, the ordinary and pre-philosophical experience of my own existence as a subject is ‘sufficient ground for a moralist’.