Brown, Thomas (1778–1820)


Thomas Brown was the last prominent figure in the Scottish philosophical tradition deriving from David Hume and Thomas Reid. Like Reid, he took the mind’s knowledge about itself to be a datum it is pointless to challenge or try to justify, since no other grounds can be more certain for us. But he defended Hume’s account of causation as nothing more than invariable succession. The mind, therefore, is a simple substance, whose successive states are affected by and affect the states of physical objects: the laws according to which these changes take place are no harder to grasp than the effects of gravitation. Brown’s lectures, published as delivered daily to Edinburgh students, seek to classify the laws of the mind so that we can conveniently understand ourselves, and direct our lives accordingly; the last quarter of his course draws conclusions for ethics and natural religion.

Citing this article:
Bryant, Christopher. 'Brown, Thomas (1778–1820)'. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy 1998: Accessed (August 27, 2016). doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DB008-1
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