Ferrier, Common Sense and Consciousness

Journal of Scottish Philosophy 5 (2):169-185 (2007)

James Frederick Ferrier developed his philosophy from a common sense background. However, his rejection of common sense philosophy in particular and Enlightenment philosophy in general results in the development of a system of idealism. In his series of lectures ‘An Introduction to the Philosophy of Consciousness - Parts I to VII’, which appeared in Blackwoods Magazine (1838–39), he outlines the problem with modern philosophy and argues that philosophy should follow a new direction. In his view, the most peculiar and interesting aspect of humanity is consciousness. He contends that the attempt to develop a ‘science of man’ is impossible because it transforms a person into an object of study and thereby fails to capture the most distinctive aspect of humanity, namely, consciousness. According to Ferrier, philosophy should be an extension of consciousness itself; it is: ‘consciousness sublimed’. This paper will outline the central arguments in ‘An Introduction to the Philosophy of Consciousness’ and show that an early example of British idealism was not only developed out of the common sense tradition but shares with common sense philosophy a focus on the immediate evidence of consciousness, placing the relationship between thought and world at the centre of philosophical inquiry.
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DOI 10.3366/jsp.2007.5.2.169
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