Thomas Reid's Theory of Perception

Oxford University Press, 2007

Thomas Reid is clearly one of the most important philosophers from the 18th century, as the great renewal of interest in his philosophical writings partially testifies. Reid’s impact has been felt most keenly in the contemporary analyses of the structure of knowledge, the nature of freedom and agent causation, and in specialized topics in the philosophy of perception. My aim writing this book was to provide a thorough, unified account of Thomas Reid’s work on the mind in its historical context, and to assess his theory's philosophical significance. 

If you want to read just one chapter, I recommend reading Chapter 9, a standalone chapter, about the Molyneux problem. Suppose someone was born blind but as an adult is given sight through a surgical procedure. Just before the bandages are removed and she takes a first look at the world, imagine someone has placed in the room a cube and a sphere for her to look at. The Molyneux problem refers to the conflict that natural philosophers of the 18th century had in anticipating whether or not this person would be able to tell, without touching them, which is the cube and which is the sphere. I recommend dipping into this chapter because it illustrates the subtle differences of philosophical methodology between empiricists and rationalists emerging in the 17th and 18th centuries. 

Read the chapter about the Molyneux problem (PDF) →