Reid, Thomas (1710–1796)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DB059-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 04, 2022, from

1. Life

Thomas Reid, the founder of the Scottish school of Common Sense Philosophy, was born in Strachan near Aberdeen, Scotland. His mother, Margaret Gregory, was a member of a very scientifically gifted Scottish family. Her brother, David Gregory, was Savilian professor of Astronomy at Oxford and close friend of Sir Isaac Newton. After a formative period in the grammar school and Marischal College, Aberdeen, where George Turnbull was his regent, marrying, and a period as minister at New Machar, Reid was appointed a regent at King’s College, Aberdeen, in 1751. While there he co-founded the Aberdeen Philosophical Society or ‘Wise Club’ whose members included George Campbell, John Stewart, Alexander Gerard and James Beattie. He also produced his Latin ‘Philosophical Orations’ and wrote his first major work ‘An Inquiry into the Human mind on the Principles of Common Sense’, published in 1764. Hume found it challenging and it secured Reid the professorship of Moral Philosophy in Glasgow College that year, as successor to Adam Smith. Here his activities culminated in two major works after his retirement from teaching in 1780, ‘Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man’, published in 1785, and ‘Essays on the Active Powers of the Human Mind’, published in 1788, a controversy with Joseph Priestly and a fascinating correspondence, particularly with Lord Kames and James Gregory. He died in 1796, survived by one daughter from nine children.

Citing this article:
Gallie, Roger. Life. Reid, Thomas (1710–1796), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DB059-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2022 Routledge.

Related Articles