An Interesting Insight on Kant and Reid

G.A. Johnson on Kant’s critique of Scottish common sense realism, back in 1915:

Much less favourable was the judgment that Kant passed on Reid. In the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysic, Kant declares that Reid entirely missed the point of Hume’s problem. What Reid ought to have done, says Kant, was to “probe more deeply into the nature of reason.” But, instead of doing this, he “discovered a more convenient means of putting on a bold face without any proper insight into the question, by appealing to the common sense of mankind.” Such an appeal to common sense, Kant continues, had the effect of enabling the emptiest babbler without an atom of insight to attack with some show of success a thinker of Hume’s calibre. Now, it seems inconceivable that, if Kant had really read Reid, he could have written about him in such a strain. And it has been suggested that in all probability Kant had no first – hand knowledge of Reid. In the Prolegomena he mentions Reid along with Oswald, Beattie, and Priestley, making no distinction between them. But if Kant had himself read the writings of these men, he could hardly have bracketed them, for Reid is altogether in a different class from the other three. Hence the very plausible suggestion, supported by the way in which Kant mentions the names (“Reid, Oswald, Beattie, and even Priestley”), that Kant’s knowledge of Reid was derived solely from the criticisms in Priestley’s Examination.

 

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