Thomas Reid on Freedom and Morality | National Humanities Center

Work of the Fellows: Monographs

Thomas Reid on Freedom and Morality

By William L. Rowe (NHC Fellow, 1984–85)

Liberty; Ethics; Morality; Agency; Philosophers; Intellectual History; Thomas Reid

Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991

From the publisher’s description:

In this succinct and well-written book, one of our most eminent philosophers provides a fresh reading of the view of freedom and morality developed by Thomas Reid (1710-1796). Although contemporary theorists have written extensively about the Scottish philosopher's contributions to the theory of knowledge, this is the first book-length study of his contributions to the controversy over freedom and necessity.

William L. Rowe argues that Reid developed a subtle, systematic theory of moral freedom based on the idea of the human being as a free and morally responsible agent. He carefully reconstructs the theory and explores the intellectual background to Reid's views in the work of John Locke, Samuel Clarke, and Anthony Collins. Rowe develops a novel account of Reid's conception of free action and relates it to contemporary arguments that moral responsibility for an action implies the power to have done otherwise. Distilling from Reid's work a viable version of the agency theory of freedom and responsibility, he suggests how Reid's theory can be defended against the major objections—both historical and contemporary—that have been advanced against it.

Blending to good effect historical and philosophical analysis, Thomas Reid on Freedom and Morality should interest philosophers, political theorists, and intellectual historians.

Philosophy / Liberty / Ethics / Morality / Agency / Philosophers / Intellectual History / Thomas Reid /

Rowe, William L. (NHC Fellow, 1984–85). Thomas Reid on Freedom and Morality. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991.