Theism and the justification of first principles in Thomas Reid’s epistemology.




Poore, Gregory S.

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The role of theism in Thomas Reid’s epistemology remains an unresolved question. Opinions range from outright denials that theism has any relevance to Reid’s epistemology to claims that Reid’s epistemology depends upon theism in a dogmatic or a viciously circular manner. This dissertation attempts to bring some order to this interpretive fray by answering the following question: What role or roles does theism play in Reid’s epistemology, particularly in relation to the epistemic justification of first principles? Chapters 2-4 lay the foundation for answering this question and clarify some terminology. Chapter 2 distinguishes key senses in which Reid uses the terms “principle” and “first principle.” Chapter 3 argues for a novel interpretation of common sense and the principles of common sense. This interpretation avoids a number of objections to Reid’s principles of common sense. Chapter 4 considers the initial externalist justification of Reid’s first principles. It shows Reid has a surprisingly well-developed proper-functionalism and brings to light several overlooked elements of his epistemology. Chapters 5-8 argue theism can and does play various important and philosophically respectable roles in Reid’s epistemology, particularly in relation to the justification of first principles. Chapter 5 argues that even on the standard foundationalist interpretation of Reid’s epistemology, theism can and does boost the justification of first principles. Chapter 6 shows Reid’s epistemology is not a form of simple foundationalism but contains coherentist elements. This enables theism further to boost the justification of first principles. Chapter 7 reveals that Reid’s epistemology contains different kinds or levels of knowledge, and shows that theism enables the highest form of knowledge, which I call scientia. Chapter 8 argues that within Reid’s epistemology theism helps protect and preserve the justification of first principles.