The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.
§ 21. Reid, Campbell and Beattie
The most powerful reply to Hume—indeed, the only competent attempt to refute his philosophy as a whole—came from a group of scholars in Aberdeen who had formed themselves into a philosophical society. Of this group, Thomas Reid, a professor in King’s college, was the most notable member, and he was the founder of the school of Scottish philosophy known as the common-sense school. With him were associated George Campbell and James Beattie, professors (the former afterwards principal) in Marischal college, as well as other men of mark in their day. The earliest contribution to the controversy—Campbell’s Dissertation on Miracles (1763)—dealt with a side issue; but it is of interest for its examination of the place of testimony in knowledge; whereas experience (it is argued) leads to general truths and is the foundation of philosophy, testimony is the foundation of history, and it is capable of giving absolute certainty. Campbell’s later work, The Philosophy of Rhetoric (1776), contains much excellent psychology. Beattie’s Essay on the Nature and Immutability of Truth (1770) is not a work of originality or of distinction; but it is a vigorous polemic; it brought him great temporary fame, and he has been immortalised by the art of Reynolds as serenely clasping his book whilst Hume and other apostles of error are being hurled into limbo. About the same time, James Oswald, a Perthshire clergyman, published An Appeal to Common Sense in behalf of Religion (1766–72). Reid, Beattie and Oswald were placed together by Priestley for the purpose of his Examination; and the same collocation of names was repeated by Kant; but it is entirely unjust to Reid.