Thomas Reid's theory of agency
The Essays on the Active Powers of Man are Thomas Reid's last major work, where the Scottish philosopher presents an original theory of human agency. This thesis is a critical reconstruction of Reid's theory, showing how it completes his earlier Essays on the Intellectual Powers. It is argued that Reid's theory of agency must be understood as uncovering the essential aspects of the actions of human persons, and therefore that it provides an understanding of the nature of personality and of the agency proper to persons. If Reid's arguments often appear as negative responses to philosophers that have preceded him, Locke and Hume in particular, what underlies these criticisms is in fact a positive and coherent conception of man. The metaphysics of personal identity and agency thus constitutes the framework in which Reid develops a moral psychology in a naturalistic spirit, as well as an analysis and defence of the possibility of free agency, what he calls man's "moral liberty". By virtue of their natural constitution, human beings are able to exert their voluntary abilities according to particular reasons. They are thereby free from necessity and capable of self-government, as moral and responsible agents. Reid's theory of action and morality reveals important aspects of human nature, and especially the irreducibility of human agency and personality. The Essays on the Active Powers then constitute an essential part of his philosophy, whether it be understood as a "science of man" or as a "philosophy of common sense".