Thomas Reid

Thomas
Reid
1710
1796

Scottish Philosopher, Founder of the Scottish School of Common Sense, played an integral role in the Scottish Enlightenment

Author Quotes

A definition is nothing else but an explication of the meaning of a word, by words whose meaning is already known. Hence it is evident that every word cannot be defined; for the definition must consist of words; and there could be no definition, if there were not words previously understood without definition.

For, until the wisdom of men bear some proportion to the wisdom of God, their attempts to find out the structure of his works, by the force of their wit and genius, will be vain.

It is natural to men to judge of things less known, by some similitude they observe, or think they observe, between them and things more familiar or better known. In many cases, we have no better way of judging. And, where the things compared have really a great similitude in their nature, when there is reason to think that they are subject to the same laws, there may be a considerable degree of probability in conclusions drawn from analogy.

The finest productions of human art are immensely short of the meanest work of Nature. The nicest artist cannot make a feather or the leaf of a tree.

The rules of navigation never navigated a ship. The rules of architecture never built a house.

The want of faith, as well as faith itself, is best shewn by works. If a sceptic avoid the fire as much as those who believe it dangerous to go into it, we can hardly avoid thinking his scepticism to be feigned, and not real.

The wisdom of God exceeds that of the wisest man, more than his wisdom exceeds that of a child. If a child were to conjecture how an army is to be formed in the day of battle--how a city is to be fortified, or a state governed--what chance has he to guess right? As little chance has the wisest man when he pretends to conjecture how the planets move in their courses, how the sea ebbs and flows, and how our minds act upon our bodies.

The wisdom of philosophy is set in opposition to the common sense of mankind. The first pretends to demonstrate, a priori, that there can be no such thing as a material world; that sun, moon, stars, and earth, vegetable and animal bodies, are, and can be nothing else, but sensations in the mind, or images of those sensations in the memory and imagination; that, like pain and joy, they can have no existence when they are not thought of. The last can conceive no otherwise of this opinion, than as a kind of metaphysical lunacy, and concludes that too much learning is apt to make men mad; and that the man who seriously entertains this belief, though in other respects he may be a very good man, as a man may be who believes that he is made of glass; yet, surely he hath a soft place in his understanding, and hath been hurt by much thinking.

We find sects and parties in most branches of science; and disputes which are carried on from age to age, without being brought to an issue. Sophistry has been more effectually excluded from mathematics and natural philosophy than from other sciences. In mathematics it had no place from the beginning; mathematicians having had the wisdom to define accurately the terms they use, and to lay down, as axioms, the first principles on which their reasoning is grounded. Accordingly, we find no parties among mathematicians, and hardly any disputes.

When we contemplate the world of Epicurus, and conceive the universe to be a fortuitous jumble of atoms, there is nothing grand in this idea. The clashing of atoms by blind chance has nothing in it fit to raise our conceptions, or to elevate the mind. But the regular structure of a vast system of beings, produced by creating power, and governed by the best laws which perfect wisdom and goodness could contrive, is a spectacle which elevates the understanding, and fills the soul with devout admiration.

Every man is conscious of a power to determine in things which he conceives to depend upon his determination. To this power we give the name of will.

For the perception of the beautiful we have the term taste,—a metaphor taken from that which is passive in the body and transferred to that which is active in the mind.

I cannot remember a thing that happened a year ago, without a conviction, as strong as memory can give, that I, the same identical person who now remember that event, did then exist.

I know of no ideas or notions that have a better claim to be accounted simple and original, than those of space and time.

It is a question of fact, whether the influence of motives be fixed by laws of nature, so that they shall always have the same effect in the same circumstances.

It may happen, that when appetite draws one way, it may be opposed, not by any appetite or passion, but by some cool principle of action, which has authority without any impulsive force.

Logicians distinguish two kinds of operations of the mind: the first kind produces no effect without the mind; the last does. The first they call immanent acts, the second transitive. Conceiving, as well as projecting or resolving, are what the schoolmen called immanent acts of the mind, which produce nothing beyond themselves. But painting is a transitive act, which produces an effect distinct from the operation, and this effect is the picture.

One of the most important distinctions of our judgments is, that some of them are intuitive, others grounded on argument.

The laws of nature are the rules according to which effects are produced; but there must be a lawgiver—a cause which operates according to these rules. The laws of navigation never steered a ship, and the law of gravity never moved a planet. The rules of architecture never built a house.

A philosopher is, no doubt, entitled to examine even those distinctions that are to be found in the structure of all languages... in that case, such a distinction may be imputed to a vulgar error, which ought to be corrected in philosophy.

The skeptical writers are a set whose business it is to prick holes in the fabric of knowledge wherever it is weak and faulty; and when these places are properly repaired, the whole building becomes more firm and solid than it was before.

Acting is not being emotional, but being able to express emotion.

There is no greater impediment to the advancement of knowledge than the ambiguity of words.

And, if we have any evidence that the wisdom which formed the plan is in the man, we have the very same evidence that the power which executed it is in him also.

This, indeed, has always been the fate of the few that have professed skepticism, that, when they have done what they can to discredit their senses, they find themselves, after all, under a necessity of trusting to them. Mr. Hume has been so candid as to acknowledge this; and it is no less true of those who have shewn the same candor; for I never heard that any skeptic runs his head against a post, or stepped into a kennel, because he did not believe his eyes.

Author Picture
First Name
Thomas
Last Name
Reid
Birth Date
1710
Death Date
1796
Bio

Scottish Philosopher, Founder of the Scottish School of Common Sense, played an integral role in the Scottish Enlightenment