15 Déc Common Sense and First Principles : Dispelling an Ambiguity
In his discussion of scepticism, Reid often appeals to «original principles of belief» and «principles of common sense». He also refers to «first principles of truth» and more simply to «common sense». The terminology does not seem clearly fixed. Is it all the same? If not, shall we accuse him of a lack of coherence? My contention is that common sense is a power of knowledge and first principles are propositions taken for granted. The dispelling of this ambiguity sheds a new light on Reid’s position on the epistemic scene. Indeed, these two readings (the «faculty-line-of-thought» and the «basic propositions-line-of-thought») correspond to Reid’s different targets: while he sometimes considers the sceptical attitude, aiming at dissolving it, at other moments he is rather involved in the discussion of sceptical arguments, striving to raise an objection
to them. Finally, I claim that the question to know whether principles of common sense are natural psychological tendencies or rather first truths, on which the structure of knowledge is erected, is not adequate. If we usually separate these two threads, Reid’s epistemic finalism (according to which, by the original constitution of our nature, we are designed to truth) quite naturally weaves them. I propose a third line of
thought, drawing from Wittgenstein’s remarks on «hinge propositions».