Give us a break!

"For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus..." 1 Timothy 2.5


Thomas Reid was an 18th century Scottish philosopher, who taught at Aberdeen and Glasgow Universities. He stands more in the tradition of Aristotle than Plato, yet operated apart from both as an independent thinker, in similar fashion to his better known predecessor Rene Descartes. Reid is best known for his pragmatic attitude so that, rather than playing around with ideas as if they necessarily undermine what they represent just because some are detached from reality, Reid distinguishes. Some ideas are just that - thoughts - which is how most people conceive of ideas. But in their philosophical sense they can represent actual facts, objects, experiences. In this case they may simply be what we perceive and not some dreamed up figment of our imagination, or the product of our faulty memory, or the pondering of a future which might never arise.


Such clarity of thought challenged the Lockes and Humes of Reid's day, whose preoccupation with the detachment of ideas from reality fostered scepticism. In our day, that same clarity of thought can shine a light on the confusion sown by agnosticism and the abandonment of organised religion in the West. Without a moral compass, how can we know right from wrong? Without a divine arbiter, to whom shall we be accountable?


The insistence of philosophers like Descartes and Reid that we be allowed to encounter life as we find it, frees us from the straight-jacket of sceptics who want to undermine everything and re-opens the possibility - reality even - of faith. If it's real I don't have to prove it. I can know that it's true instinctively, just like I don't have to prove the reality of this computer I am typing on, or the worldwide web through which you will receive what I am writing... Praise God!

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