America and the political philosophy of common sense by Scott Philip Segrest

By Scott Philip Segrest

From Aristotle to Thomas Jefferson, seminal thinkers have declared 'common experience' crucial for ethical discernment and civilized residing. but the tale of common sense philosophy isn't popular this day. In "America and the Political Philosophy of universal Sense", Scott Segrest strains the historical past and explores the non-public and social which means of good judgment as understood specifically in American notion and as mirrored particularly within the writings of 3 paradigmatic thinkers: John Witherspoon, James McCosh, and William James. the 1st signify Scottish logic and the 3rd, Pragmatism, the universities that jointly ruled American greater concept for almost centuries. trained americans of the founding interval warmly obtained Scottish logic, Segrest writes, since it mirrored so good what they already proposal, and he uncovers the elemental components of yankee good judgment in studying the concept of Witherspoon, who brought that philosophy to them. With McCosh, he indicates the furthest improvement and bounds of the philosophy, and with it of yank logic in its Scottish realist part. With James, he indicates different dimensions of logic americans had lengthy embraced yet that had by no means been tested philosophically. essentially, Segrest's paintings is way greater than an highbrow heritage. it's a examine of the yankee brain and of logic itself - its crucial personality and its human value, either ethical and political. It was once good judgment, he affirms, that underlay the assertion of Independence and the founders' principles of correct and legal responsibility which are nonetheless with us at the present time. Segrest means that realizing this beginning and James' clean of it may be the most important to keeping America's very important ethical center opposed to a starting to be alienation from logic around the Western global. Stressing the urgency of figuring out and conserving logic, Segrest's paintings sheds new gentle on an undervalued element of yankee proposal and adventure, supporting us to understand the ramifications of common sense philosophy for dignified dwelling.

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Virtue is the right answer not because honor, wealth, and pleasure have no value but because they are of comparatively 26 America and the Political Philosophy of Common Sense less value than virtue. ) Further, Aristotle’s understanding of intellection as the intuitive grasp of first principles and prudence, enabled by phronesis, or practical wisdom, as the application of these principles in action to the circumstances in which one is placed corresponds exactly to the intellectual and practical dimensions of common sense as elaborated by arguably the greatest modern common sense philosopher, certainly the greatest associated with the term “common sense philosophy,” Thomas Reid, though Reid like other Scottish realists was not quite able to capture the dynamic of phronesis.

Thomas Reid made the connection between common sense and natural law principles, but his analysis of the link was underdeveloped and lacked historical sense. 31 Most of Reid’s followers lacked his analytical precision and his deep sense of the empirical problems. Hume and Kant had an equally keen awareness of the empirical problems but were not able to come to terms with the larger implications of the common sense rationality they understood, in some ways, very well. This was partly because they were hampered, as James points out (ERE 23), by an atomistic, discontinuous model of consciousness deriving from Locke, and a kind of Cartesian obsession with certainty as the criterion of all knowledge.

32 It opts for richness over logical tidiness. The modern rejection or neglect of common sense entails serious moral consequences. “As notions stand now in the world with respect to morals,” Shaftesbury laments, “honesty is like to gain little by philosophy or deep speculations of any kind. ” He continues: Men’s first thoughts in this matter [of morals] are generally better than their second, their natural notions better than those refined by study or consultation with casuists. —Such, it seems, are the wise and such the wisdom of this world!

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