To Reid, our sensations not only accurately reflect reality but also do so immediately. The belief that the world is as we immediately experience it is called direct realism (sometimes also called naive realism; see Henle, 1986). Although, as we see next, Reid was clearly a rationalist; he did not believe that the rational mind needed to be employed in experiencing the environment accurately, nor did he believe that the associationistic principles of the empiricists were required. In other words, Reid did not believe that our conscious awareness of the world was formed by one sensation being added to another. Rather, we experience objects imme- diately as objects because of our innate power of perception. We perceive the world directly in terms of meaningful units, not as isolated sensations that are then combined via associative principles. We will see this belief again in Kant’s philosophy and most clearly in the work of J. J. Gibson and later in Gestalt psychology.
Reid (1785/1969) explained:
The Supreme Being intended, that we should have such knowledge of the mate- rial objects that surround us, as is neces- sary in order to our supplying the wants of nature, and avoiding the dangers to which we are constantly exposed; and he has admirably fitted our powers of percep- tion to this purpose. [If] the intelligence we have of external objects were to be got by reasoning only, the greatest part of men would be destitute of it; for the greatest part of men hardly ever learn to reason; and in infancy and childhood no man can reason. Therefore, as this intelligence of the objects that surround us, and from which we may receive so much benefit or harm, is equally necessary to children and to men, to the ignorant and to the learned, God in his wisdom conveys it to us in a way that puts all upon a level. The information of the senses is as perfect, and gives as full conviction to the most igno- rant, as to the most learned.
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