- common sense
- Among the most influential philosophical approaches in 19th- and 20th-century Protestant theology has been the common sense realism of Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid (1710-96). Reid, who taught at both King's College in Aberdeen and the University of Glasgow, developed his philosophical, ethical, and religious ideas in reaction to the views of philosophers David Hume and George Berkeley. Both men believed that humans related to the world via perceptions, ideas, and the mind. Reid championed common sense, that ordinary people (as well as intellectuals) could gain a reliable perception of the world through the use of their senses. Individuals, he posited, also have an innate moral sense. Theologically, Reid's approach suggested that anyone could grasp the meaning of the Bible by a simple and somewhat literal reading. Reid published his view in several books, the most important being An Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense (1764), Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man (1785), and Essays on the Active Powers of Man (1788).Reid found an early champion in the United States in John Witherspoon (1723-94), long-term president of the College of New Jersey (Princeton University). The ideas were incorporated into what is called Princeton Theology, with its emphasis on the literal reading of the biblical text.While Reid remains popular in some Fundamentalist and Evangelical circles, common sense philosophy suffered in modern times from the apparent failure of anthropologists to document a common moral sense in their observation of different cultures, and as subatomic physics revealed a world not previously available to sensory perception or understandable through common sense.Further reading:■ Melvin Dalgarno, The Philosophy of Thomas Reid (Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1989)■ Norman Daniels, Thomas Reid's Inquiry: The Geometry of Visibles and the Case for Realism (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1989)■ John Haldane, The Philosophy of Thomas Reid: A Collection of Essays (oxford: Blackwell, 2003)■ Thomas Reid, The Works of Thomas Reid, 4 vols. (Charlestown, U.K.: Samuel Etheridge, 1813) Various editions.
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.