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THOMAS REID QUOTES

Scottish philosopher (1710-1796)

Every man feels that perception gives him an invincible belief of the existence of that which he perceives; and that this belief is not the effect of reasoning, but the immediate consequence of perception. When philosophers have wearied themselves and their readers with their speculations upon this subject, they can neither strengthen this belief, nor weaken it; nor can they shew how it is produced. It puts the philosopher and the peasant upon a level; and neither of them can give any other reason for believing his senses, than that he finds it impossible for him to do otherwise.

THOMAS REID, Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man

There is no greater impediment to the advancement of knowledge than the ambiguity of words.

THOMAS REID, Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man

A definition is nothing else but an explication of the meaning of a word, by words whose meaning is already known. Hence it is evident that every word cannot be defined; for the definition must consist of words; and there could be no definition, if there were not words previously understood without definition.

THOMAS REID, Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man

For, until the wisdom of men bear some proportion to the wisdom of God, their attempts to find out the structure of his works, by the force of their wit and genius, will be vain.

THOMAS REID, Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man

We find sects and parties in most branches of science; and disputes which are carried on from age to age, without being brought to an issue. Sophistry has been more effectually excluded from mathematics and natural philosophy than from other sciences. In mathematics it had no place from the beginning; mathematicians having had the wisdom to define accurately the terms they use, and to lay down, as axioms, the first principles on which their reasoning is grounded. Accordingly, we find no parties among mathematicians, and hardly any disputes.

THOMAS REID, Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man

The wisdom of philosophy is set in opposition to the common sense of mankind. The first pretends to demonstrate, a priori, that there can be no such thing as a material world; that sun, moon, stars, and earth, vegetable and animal bodies, are, and can be nothing else, but sensations in the mind, or images of those sensations in the memory and imagination; that, like pain and joy, they can have no existence when they are not thought of. The last can conceive no otherwise of this opinion, than as a kind of metaphysical lunacy, and concludes that too much learning is apt to make men mad; and that the man who seriously entertains this belief, though in other respects he may be a very good man, as a man may be who believes that he is made of glass; yet, surely he hath a soft place in his understanding, and hath been hurt by much thinking.

THOMAS REID, Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man

The wisdom of God exceeds that of the wisest man, more than his wisdom exceeds that of a child. If a child were to conjecture how an army is to be formed in the day of battle--how a city is to be fortified, or a state governed--what chance has he to guess right? As little chance has the wisest man when he pretends to conjecture how the planets move in their courses, how the sea ebbs and flows, and how our minds act upon our bodies.

THOMAS REID, Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man

The finest productions of human art are immensely short of the meanest work of Nature. The nicest artist cannot make a feather or the leaf of a tree.

THOMAS REID, Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man

The want of faith, as well as faith itself, is best shewn by works. If a sceptic avoid the fire as much as those who believe it dangerous to go into it, we can hardly avoid thinking his scepticism to be feigned, and not real.

THOMAS REID, Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man

It is natural to men to judge of things less known, by some similitude they observe, or think they observe, between them and things more familiar or better known. In many cases, we have no better way of judging. And, where the things compared have really a great similitude in their nature, when there is reason to think that they are subject to the same laws, there may be a considerable degree of probability in conclusions drawn from analogy.

THOMAS REID, Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man

I conceive the skeptical writers to be a set of men whose business it is to pick holes in the fabric of knowledge wherever it is weak and faulty; and when these places are properly repaired, the whole building becomes more firm and solid than it was formerly.

THOMAS REID, The Works of Thomas Reid

The behavior of parents toward their children gives sufficient evidence even to those who never had children, that the parental affection is common to mankind.

THOMAS REID, The Works of Thomas Reid

When we contemplate the world of Epicurus, and conceive the universe to be a fortuitous jumble of atoms, there is nothing grand in this idea. The clashing of atoms by blind chance has nothing in it fit to raise our conceptions, or to elevate the mind. But the regular structure of a vast system of beings, produced by creating power, and governed by the best laws which perfect wisdom and goodness could contrive, is a spectacle which elevates the understanding, and fills the soul with devout admiration.

THOMAS REID, Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man


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