- The Philosophical Orations of Thomas Reid Delivered at Graduation Ceremonies in King's College, Aberdeen, 1753, 1756, 1759, 1762 (review)
- Journal of the History of Philosophy
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 29, Number 3, July 1991
- pp. 499-500
- View Citation
- Additional Information
BOOK REVIV.WS 499 D. D. Todd, ed. The PhilosophicalOrationsof ThomasReid Deliveredat Graduation Ceremonies in King's College,Aberdeen, z753, i756, i759, I762. Translated from the Latin by Shirley Darcus Sullivan. Journal of the History of Philosophy Monographs. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1989. Pp. 86. Paper, NP. Thomas Reid was engaged as regent in King's College, Aberdeen, in 175~. Under the regenting system, Reid was responsible for instructing a group of students from their second through their fourth years. When this group of students graduated, their regent presented an oration at the ceremony. D. D. Todd presents in this volume the four orations given by Reid during his tenure at King's College. After a brief historical introduction, Todd indicates the importance of Reid's work, particularly for American thought. He follows this with an introduction to the philosophy of common sense, focusing on Reid's use of first principles and the criteria that distinguish them. Although necessarily brief, Todd's treatment of the fundamental framework of Reid's philosophy is well done. Todd then includes a fine analysis of the orations, followed by the orations themselves. Overall, Todd's introduction is good, but there are several aspects which are troubling . In speaking of Reid's influence on contemporary philosophy, Todd mentions only Noam Chomsky as "its most notable example" (3). It would seem almost imperative that one mention Roderick Chisholm in this context. The adverbial view of sensation presented by Chisholm and C. J. Ducasse has its roots in Reid, as does the theory of agency presented by Chisholm, Richard Taylor, and Keith Lehrer. Again, Todd writes that "by 'philosophy' Reid understood, primarily, 'the received principles' of philosophers from Descartes through Hume" (4). However, in the orations themselves, and certainly later in the Essayson the IntellectualPowersof Man, Reid spends a significant amount of time on Aristotle and traces the theory of ideas back to include him. Also Todd's mention of similarities between Reid and Wittgenstein is misleading. He writes: "In some ways, Reid's assertion of first principles of common sense as selfevident truths is comparable to Wittgenstein's 'this language-game is played' or 'what has to be accepted, the given, is--so one could say--f0rms of life' " (a 1). For Wittgenstein there are many language games (religious, scientific, etc.). From outside one is not able to criticize any other language game, which therefore leads to the possibility of skepticism. Reid spent much of his time arguing against any skeptical conclusion. If this is implied by Wittgenstein's language games, then it is antithetical to Reid's whole way of thinking. The orations themselves contain much that is of philosophical interest, although it must be kept in mind that Reid did not intend them for publication and did not always develop his points as he did in later works. Several interesting features of the orations mentioned by Todd are: l) historically they give us a picture of the regenting system; ~) they show Reid's later works were "not so much developments of his early views as amplifications and elaborations of them" (13-14); 3) they present a good critique of the theory of ideas; and 4) they introduce the philosophy of science of Reid, who Todd believes was "preeminently the philosopher of science of his time" (15)Oration 1, although of little philosophical importance, indicates some of Reid's likes 500 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 29:3 JULY 1991 and dislikes in the history of philosophy. Bacon and Newton are mentioned favorably, as is Socrates in the area of moral philosophy. There are also several passages commending Hippocrates of Cos. Oration 2 is of greater philosophical importance, as it deals with the nodon of common sense that is developed more fully in Reid's later work. Orations 3 and 4 deal with Reid's criticism of the theory of ideas. I concur with Todd's evaluation that they constitute "Reid's most concise statement of his objections" (2o). Even though this theory of ideas seemed to be almost universally adopted by philosophers, Reid argued that there was little evidence to support it. He wrote: "Although approval may be given to those who...