Reid in Europe

Reid Studies 2 (2):p.19-30 (1999)

Daniel Schulthess
Université de Neuchâtel
Thomas Reid’s influence on continental and especially on French philosophy at the beginning of the 19th century has to be considered against the background of the crisis of the philosophical project of the moderns. This project, which is intimately related to the rise of the modern scientific world image, has one of its major tenets in the so called “theory of ideas” introduced by Descartes and developed further by Locke. By emphasizing the role of our active faculties in the formulation of judgements, Reid rejects this theory. One of the consequences of this rejection is the distinction Reid makes between sensations, which are passive, and perceptions, which are active. Maine de Biran picks up Reid’s emphasis on our active powers but reinterprets it on the light of his theory of the “primitive fact” that external objects resist our efforts to move them, thus providing a unifying principle for Reid’s “principles of common sense”.
Keywords Thomas Reid  Maine de Biran  modern philosophy  theory of ideas  active powers  sensations  perceptions
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