COMMON SENSE PHILOSOPHY

“This tradition of *philosophy dates to the eighteenth century and begins with the work of the Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid (1710-1796). In its initial phase, the work of Reid was primarily a reaction to the empirical and skeptical philosophy of *Hume. Common Sense philosophy was the dominant tradition within American circles throughout the nineteenth century until it was replaced by *pragmatism and *positivism in the twentieth century. Twentieth-century philosophers influenced by this tradition include G. E. Moore, W. P. Alston, Alvin Plantinga, and Nicholas Wolterstorff. Common Sense philosophy was also important for early Princeton theologians such as B. B. Warfield and Charles Hodge, particularly in their accounts of the nature of *apologetics. Reid’s philosophical work was motivated by the conviction that Hume’s skepticism arose from a flawed notion of the human *mind and unrealistic standards for human knowledge. Hume believed that people only had immediate access to sensory experiences that imprinted themselves on their mind. The resulting set of impressions provided a picture or representation of the world. Hume claimed that these pictures could never provide certainty with respect to claims about the external world, about *God, or about the *self because these beliefs extend beyond the world of sensory appearances and so cannot be justified by them. On the contrary, Reid believed that the mind does not merely possess representations of the world, but actually knows the world itself. There is no mediating “picture” between the mind and the world; rather, the mind has immediate access to the world. Though we rarely achieve certainty in our beliefs, Reid argued that knowledge of the external world is nonetheless possible. He thus rejected Hume’s skeptical conclusions. Common sense is to be trusted, though it is not infallible. As a result, Reid’s thought is sometimes called “common sense *realism.” Common sense *epistemology is often optimistic about the capacity of the individual to know the world. Its defenders tend to see sin as affecting the will with little or no impact on the intellect. Thus an individual could have fairly direct epistemic access to the facts of nature even if one’s moral beliefs are affected by bias or prejudice. This epistemological optimism is criticized for its apparent failure to account for the influence of sin, history, and culture on knowledge claims.”

Taken From: Kelly James Clark;Richard Lints;James K. A. Smith. 101 Key Terms in Philosophy and Their Importance for Theology (Kindle Locations 354-368). Kindle Edition.

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