Emanuele Levi Mortera

Associazione delle idee e senso comune

  • Abstract

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Since the publication of John Locke's "Essay concerning Human Understanding", many philosophers began to show an increasing interest towards the phenomenon of the association of ideas. Throughout the 18th century, especially in Britain, association was deemed a powerful principle able to explain a great whole of mental states and events. Scholars are used to identify the associationist tradition with some leading figures, such as David Hume and David Hartley, and, later, James Mill and Alexander Bain, who made it possible the eventual establishment of the associationist psychology in the 19th century. In this paper I wish to focus on a group of authors who belonged to the so-called "Scottish common sense school", i.e., Thomas Reid, Dugald Stewart and Thomas Brown. They dealt, as well, with association of ideas, though in a rather different philosophical perspective. My aim is to show, on the one hand, how this main topic played a fundamentale role in their inquiry and, on the other, its importance for a better understanding of both the general goal of the 18th- and 19th-century construction of a science of mind, and the internal development of the Scottish common sense tradition.

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