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Common sense. The Philosophy Portal.











Common sense


Thomas Paine was a pamphleteer, controversialist and international revolutionary. His Common Sense (1776) was a central text behind the call for American independence from Britain; his Rights of Man (1791-2) was the most widely read pamphlet in the movement for reform in Britain in the 1790s and for the opening decades of the nineteenth century; he was active in the French Revolution and was a member of the French National Convention between 1792 and 1795; he is seen by many as a key figure in the emergence of claims for the state's responsibilities for welfare and educational provision, and his Age of Reason provided a popular deist text that remained influential throughout the 19th century. In his own lifetime, and subsequently, he has been extensively vilified and often dismissed. Yet many of his ideas still command wide interest and enthusiasm in readers throughout the world.

This article focuses on the philosophy of mind of Thomas Reid (1710-1796), as presented in An Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense (1764) and Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man (1785). Reid’s action theory and his views on what makes humans morally worthy agents, although connected to philosophy of mind, are not explored here.

Thomas Reid (1710–1796) is a Scottish philosopher best known for his philosophical method, his theory of perception and its wide implications on epistemology, and as the developer and defender of an agent-causal theory of free will. In these and other areas he offers perceptive and important criticisms of the philosophy of Locke, Berkeley and especially Hume. He is also well known for his criticisms of Locke's view of personal identity and Hume's view of causation. Reid also made influential contributions to philosophical topics including ethics, aesthetics and the philosophy of mind. The legacy of Thomas Reid's philosophical work is found in contemporary theories of perception, free will, philosophy of religion, and widely in epistemology.

This concise, thoughtful introduction to the work of Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense and Rights of Man, explores the impact of one of the most influential minds of the American and French Revolutions and the sources from which his thinking evolved.

Philosophy was at the core of the eighteenth century movement known as the Scottish Enlightenment. The movement included major figures, such as Francis Hutcheson, David Hume, Adam Smith, Thomas Reid and Adam Ferguson, and also many others who produced notable works, such as Gershom Carmichael, Archibald Campbell, George Turnbull, George Campbell, James Beattie, Alexander Gerard, Henry Home (Lord Kames) and Dugald Stewart. I discuss some of the leading ideas of these thinkers, though paying less attention than I otherwise would to Hume, Smith and Reid, who have separate Encyclopedia entries. Amongst the topics covered in this entry are aesthetics (particularly Hutcheson's), Moral philosophy (particularly Hutcheson's and Smith's), Turnbull's providential naturalism, Kames's doctrines on divine goodness and human freedom, Campbell's criticism of the Humean account of miracles, the philosophy of rhetoric, Ferguson's criticism of the idea of a state of nature, and finally the concept of conjectural history, a concept especially associated with Dugald Stewart.