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Thomas Reid

Reid, Thomas (1710–1796). Philosopher, was the son of the minister of Strachan, Kincardineshire, where he was born His mother was one of the gifted family of the Gregorys. At the age of 12 he was sent to Marischal College, Aberdeen, where he graduated, and thereafter resided for some time as librarian, devoting himself to study, especially of mathematics and the Newtonian philosophy. He was in 1737 ordained minister of New Machar, Aberdeen, and in 1748 he communicated to the Royal Society an Essay on Quantity. Four years later he became one of the Prof. of Philosophy (including mathematics and natural philosophy) in King’s College, Aberdeen, and in 1763 he was chosen to succeed Adam Smith as Prof. of Moral Philosophy in Glasgow. In the following year he published his great work, Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense, directed against Hume’s Essay on Human Nature. Up to the appearance of the latter work in 1739 R. had been a follower of Berkeley, but the conclusions drawn therein from the idealistic philosophy led him to revise his theories, and to propound what is usually known as the “common sense” philosophy, by which term is meant the beliefs common to rational beings as such. In 1785 he published his Essay on the Intellectual Powers, which was followed in 1788 by that On the Active Powers. R., who, though below the middle size, was strong and fond of exercise, maintained his bodily and mental vigour until his death at 86. His writings, distinguished by logical rigour of method and clearness of style, exercised a profound influence in France as well as at home; but his attempted refutation of Berkeley is now generally considered to have failed.

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