REIDBETWEENEXTERNALISMANDINTERNALISMJHP5.doc

3 there is some reason for thinking that reid held

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3 There is some reason for thinking that Reid held that PES comes in degrees. For he explicitly says that there are degrees of belief, the highest being certainty. See his Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man . Ed. Derek R. Brookes (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2002): 229. (This work is henceforth referred to as EIP.) It is natural to suppose that the higher a degree of belief, the higher a degree of PES is required. In my discussion, however, I shall write as if PES is an all or nothing affair; the reader must make her own adjustments if she is to draw degrees of PES into the picture. I have decided to write this way because it makes for easier formulations and because nothing in the argument of this paper hinges on it (the argument being that many conditions for PES that Reid adopts are internal). 3
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This paper is organized as follows. The next section discusses strands of thought in Reid that externalists find appealing. Sections 3, 4 and 5 draw attention to strands in Reid’s thought that internalists might find congenial. Section 6 states the conclusions. 2. Externalist Strands in Reid’s Epistemology Externalists have found inspiration in those places in Reid’s writings where Reid is dealing with scepticism. The sort of scepticism that Reid engaged with urges the believer to back up his belief by providing reasons for thinking that trust in the faculties that engender such beliefs is legitimate or justified. The sceptic urges furthermore that unless one can successfully provide such reasons, one should give up believing. The sceptic finally claims that no one can successfully provide such reasons, and hence holds that the subject’s beliefs are without PES. An oft quoted passage illustrates that Reid engaged with exactly this sort of scepticism: The sceptic asks me, Why do you believe the existence of the external object which you perceive? 4 Reid’s externalist inspiring response starts out as follows: This belief, Sir, is none of my manufacture; it came from the mint of Nature; it bears her image and superscription; and if it is not right, the fault is not mine: I even took it upon trust, and without suspicion. (IHM 169) Reid’s response to the sceptic’s why-question is that his belief that the object he, Reid, perceives is mind-external, is not backed up by reasons—he holds that belief not because he has reasons in favour of it. That belief, he says, is due to the work of Nature, 4 Thomas Reid, Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense. Ed. Derek R. Brookes (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1997): 168-9. Henceforth this work is referred to as IHM. 4
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and he took it upon trust. Or, as he says elsewhere, it is “an immediate effect of [my] constitution.” (EIP 467) This response indicates that Reid interprets the sceptic’s why- question as a request for reasons in favour of his belief; and after implying that he holds the belief in question not for any reason he has, he proceeds by specifying the cause of his belief, viz. Nature, or his constitution. This reply signals that Reid is aware of the fact
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  • Fall '19
  • Test, Belief, Internalism and externalism, Thomas Reid

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