Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Hume, Neo, and Reid
Today in Early Modern class I'm finishing Hume and transitioning to Thomas Reid. I want to get a handle on Reid's attack on Cartesian notions of mental representation, and hopefully read through some of the Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense (1764). I found a really cool-looking edition from Edinburgh University Press (Derek Brooks, ed., 1997) at the APA book fair a couple of years ago. Painters and plumber both coming this week, unfortunately. Reid correctly diagnoses Locke, Berkeley, Hume and the gang as in the grip of what he called "the ideal system," what I mean mostly when I use the adjective "Cartesian," that is the view that we do not experience the external world directly, rather our experiences are experiences of our mind's own representation of the world; or one might say that our experience of the world is mediated by our mental representations. Thus skepticism, thus The Matrix, thus one branch in the bush of relativist arguments (or is it wool?), thus Kant. There are a lot of things to think about here, I'm thinking about how to interpret Hume, and Wittgensteinian responses to the "ideal system." A central programmatic view of mine is that the Cartesian, representational framework cannot possibly be right. So if Reid lives up to his reputation of someone who makes a sporting critique of representationalism, his are depths that need be plumbed. (But I'll have to get back to this later today, I need to prep my class on Stoic treatments of causation and freedom for Ancient in thirty minutes, text Terence Irwin, Classical Philosophy).