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 dwelling. but the tale of common sense philosophy isn't really renowned at the present time. In "America and the Political Philosophy of universal Sense", Scott Segrest lines the background and explores the private and social that means of logic as understood particularly in American notion and as mirrored particularly within the writings of 3 paradigmatic thinkers: John Witherspoon, James McCosh, and William James. the 1st symbolize Scottish good judgment and the 3rd, Pragmatism, the colleges that jointly ruled American larger inspiration for almost centuries. informed american citizens of the founding interval warmly obtained Scottish logic, Segrest writes, since it mirrored so good what they already concept, and he uncovers the fundamental components of yank good judgment in analyzing the idea of Witherspoon, who brought that philosophy to them. With McCosh, he indicates the furthest improvement and boundaries of the philosophy, and with it of yankee logic in its Scottish realist part. With James, he exhibits different dimensions of good judgment american citizens had lengthy embraced yet that had by no means been tested philosophically. essentially, Segrest's paintings is way greater than an highbrow background. it's a learn of the yank brain and of good judgment itself - its crucial personality and its human importance, either ethical and political. It used to be logic, he affirms, that underlay the announcement of Independence and the founders' rules of correct and legal responsibility which are nonetheless with us this day. Segrest means that realizing this origin and James' clean of it may be the foremost to conserving America's very important ethical middle opposed to a growing to be alienation from good judgment around the Western international. Stressing the urgency of knowing and holding logic, Segrest's paintings sheds new mild on an undervalued element of yank concept and adventure, assisting us to understand the ramifications of common-sense philosophy for dignified dwelling.

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His account of what he learned in the process is illuminating: I discovered English and American common sense philosophy. More immediately, the impact came through Dewey’s recent book, Human Nature and Conduct, which was based on the English common sense tradition. From there, I worked back to Thomas Reid and Sir William Hamilton. This English and Scottish conception of common sense as a human attitude that incorporates a philosopher’s attitude toward life without the philosopher’s technical apparatus, and inversely the understanding of Classic and Stoic philosophy as the technical, analytical elaboration of the common sense attitude, has remained a lasting influence in my understanding both of common sense and [of] Classic philosophy.

But as long as a particle of insight remains, no one would think of having recourse to this subterfuge. Seen in a clear light, it is but an appeal to the opinion of the multitude, of whose applause the philosopher is ashamed, while the popular charlatan 36 America and the Political Philosophy of Common Sense glories and confides in it. I should think Hume might fairly have laid as much claim to common sense as Beattie and, in addition, to a critical reason (such as the latter did not possess), which keeps common sense in check and prevents it from speculating, or, if speculations are under discussion, restrains the desire to decide because it cannot satisfy itself concerning its own principles.

But, I believe, whoever looks narrowly [closely] into the affairs of it will find that passion, humour, caprice, zeal, faction and a thousand other springs, which are counter to self-interest, have as considerable a part in the movements of this machine. ” Shaftesbury rejects the forced simplicity of Hobbesian and Lockean conceptions of society. Such artificial schemes do not do justice to the complexities of human nature. At the root of the modern tendency to proffer reductionistic accounts of human affairs, Shaftesbury thinks, is modern philosophy’s departure from common sense.

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