The Dilemmas of the Dual Channel: Reid on Consciousness and Reflection

Journal of Scottish Philosophy 1 (2):141-155 (2003)
As an advocate of the empirical method in both science and philosophy, Reid believed that the central method for studying the mind should be internal observation, whose evidence he believed to be the most reliable in comparison with all other mental operations. The fact that his contemporary “science of mind” was not as highly developed as the natural sciences was explained by Reid to be the fault of philosophers, such as John Locke, who “confounded” two completely different powers of the mind: consciousness and reflection. In this paper I will present Reid's criticism of Locke, as well as Reid's own attempt to distinguish between consciousness and reflection, and the difficulties he is facing in this process. The paper concludes that Reid failed to depart from the essential Lockean characterizations of inner awareness, because of his failure to dissociate from premises he shares with Locke – such as the belief that we are conscious of all our thoughts, and the primacy of the introspective method in studying the mind. Therefore, while narrowing his concept of consciousness to an internal-sense, perceiving only present mental operations, he broadens respectively his concept of reflection.
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DOI 10.3366/jsp.2003.1.2.141
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