Thomas Reid, lived from 26 April 1710 to 7 October 1796. He was a philosopher who played an important part in the Scottish Enlightenment. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Thomas Reid was born in Strachan, a small village three miles south-west of Banchory on Deeside. He studied philosophy at King's College, Aberdeen, where he founded the "Wise Club", a philosophical association. In 1737 Reid became a minister in the Church of Scotland. He returned to the academic world when he was awarded a professorship at King's College, Aberdeen, in 1752. In 1764 he published his best known work, An Inquiry Into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense. This established Reid as one of the leading philosophers of his day and as a result he was appointed to the post of Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Glasgow.
Reid resigned his post in Glasgow in 1781 to allow himself more time to work on his own ideas and to write. Two important works were published as a result: Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man in 1785 and Essays on the Active Powers of Man in 1788.
Reid believed that common sense was, or ought to be, the starting point for all philosophical inquiry. He disagreed with David Hume, who asserted that we can never know what an external world consists of, as our knowledge is limited to the ideas in the mind, and George Berkeley, who asserted that the external world is merely ideas in the mind. By contrast, Reid claimed that the foundations upon which our common sense is built justify our belief that there is an external world.
Until well into the 1800s, Reid was generally viewed as a more important philosopher than David Hume, and in life the two apparently had considerable respect for one another despite their opposing views. Thomas Reid died in 1796.