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Thomas Reid's Notion of Exertion

From: Journal of the History of Philosophy
Volume 44, Number 3, July 2006
pp. 431-447 | 10.1353/hph.2006.0041


Thomas Reid uses the notion of exertion in various ways that have not been distinguished in the secondary literature. Sometimes he uses it to refer to the exercise of a capacity or power, sometimes to the turning on or activitating of a capacity or power, and still other times to the attempt to activate a capacity or power. Getting clear on Reid's different uses of the term 'exertion' is essential to understanding his account of the sequence of events in human action. It is also helpful in defending Reid against the objection that his account of action is subject to an infinite regress.

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