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Reid on Testimony and Perception

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2020

Keith Lehrer
Affiliation:
The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, U.S.A.
John-Christian Smith
Affiliation:
The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, U.S.A.
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Extract

Reid defended common sense against scepticism by appeal to the claim that our faculties should be considered trustworthy until some argument proves them to be untrustworthy. He believed, of course, that no such argument would be forthcoming. In this paper, we shall investigate Reid's defense of the faculty of perception and the evidence of the senses by analogy with the faculty of language and the evidence of testimony. Reid argued that the evidence of testimony should be trusted unless there is reason to think it untrustworthy and by analogy, that the evidence of the senses should be trusted unless there is reason to think it untrustworthy. He admitted the fallibility of such evidence but contended that such fallibility is characteristic of all our faculties. Moreover, and perhaps most important, Reid developed a psychological theory of the faculties of perception and language that showed the analogy between these two faculties to be very exact indeed.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Authors 1985

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References

1 All references to Reid in the text are from Lehrer, K. and Beanblossom, R., eds., Thomas Reid's Inquiry and Essays (Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill 1975).Google Scholar References to ‘CS’ are to An Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense, published in 1764, and references to ‘IP’ are to Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man, published in 1785.

2 Cf. Allan, K., ‘Classifiers,’ Language, 53 (1977) 285311,CrossRefGoogle Scholar esp. 298

3 Cf., e.g., Fodor, J.A., The Modularity of Mind, A Bradford Book (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press 1983)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

4 The senior author gratefully acknowledges support of this research by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

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