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Compiled by Anthony Harrison-Barbet


MILL

(1806 — 1873)

 

EMPIRICISM / UTILITARIANISM

John Stuart Mill was born in London. He was educated at home from the age of three by his father, the political philosopher James Mill, the curriculum including Latin and Greek, mathematics, history, and later logic and political economy. When only fourteen he spent a year in France and followed courses in the sciences at Montpellier University, and on his return studied law, economics and philosophy. He joined the East India Company as a clerk in 1823 eventually becoming head of his department in 1856. He was elected a Member of Parliament in 1865. Throughout his life he devoted most of his leisure time to research and writing.

 

PHILOSOPHY OF LOGIC AND LANGUAGE/ METHODOLOGY

[1] [See System of Logic.] Logic for Mill is "the science which treats of the operations of the human mind in the pursuit of truth" [Introd. 3] and "the science of Proof or Evidence" [Introd. 4]. (He also on occasion goes so far as to regard logic as a branch of psychology [see Examination, XX] ). He is concerned therefore with the organization of data and rules, and with how we move from the known to the unknown rather than with examining the formal consistency of logical systems [see Introd. 7] [a]; and he also rejects 'conventionalist' accounts of logic. He uses logic particularly as a basis for his study of not only the natural sciences but also the moral sciences (namely, human or social sciences). His examination of inference is preceded by an analysis of language.

All words, Mill says [SL I ii], are either names or 'syncategorematic' terms such as 'if, 'or', which are used meaningfully only as part of a naming phrase, for example, 'if p, then q'. Names are (1) proper names (for example, 'Socrates'); (2) naming phrases ('the father of Socrates'); (3) concrete general names ('man'); (4) abstract general names ('whiteness'). He introduces the idea of a connotative term as one which both denotes (refers to) something and implies an attribute. Proper names and abstract general names refer but do not imply any attribute (Mill rejects 'abstract general ideas' in the Lockean sense), whereas concrete general names and naming phrases, which also refer to some entity, do and are therefore connotative. Adjectives, for example, 'white', are also connotative. ('God', Mill says, is not a proper name but connotes a set of attributes [b][b]. It is like the word 'man', but there is only one member of the class.) Names can be joined to make propositions (that is, judgements). However, Mill says that that judging involves more than just putting names together. Nor are they to be understood as a combining of ideas; for often there are acts of belief, and of assent or dissent, and beliefs are about actual things. Neither are propositions to be understood in terms of class inclusion and exclusion. Rather, a proposition asserts that an individual thing denoted by the subject has the attributes connoted by the predicate. Thus in 'All men are mortal' the attributes of man are always accompanied by the attribute mortality. Underpinning this is a regular association of phenomenal 'experiences' such that the occurrence of one set [manhood] gives us evidence to expect another set [mortality] [see I, v]. Propositions in turn are used to form inferences, and Mill goes on to introduce a distinction between 'real' and 'verbal' which he then applies to both propositions and inferences. A proposition such as 'Every man is rational' is verbal. We know men are rational as soon as we understand the word 'man'. They give us no information about things; if they give information at all it is only about names. Verbal propositions are therefore in a sense what were once called 'essential'. However, Mill rejects the notion of real essences, which he describes as "an unmeaning figment arising from the misapprehension of the essences of classes [that is, 'nominal essences' "] [I, vi, 3]. An important class of verbal propositions is that of nominal definitions, which give the meanings of words. ('Real' definitions are nominal together with some assumption about a matter of fact.) 'All men are mortal', however, is a real proposition, in that mortality is not contained within the connotation of man. Real propositions give us 'real' information about things [c]. Mathematical axioms or first principles are real propositions in that they are, according to Mill, generalizations from experience [d] — and from which other mathematical propositions are deducible. (Thus, through observation of groups of objects — Mill talks of pebbles — we come to see that, for example, 3 must be 2 and 1 [II, vi, 2ff.].) Similarly immediate inferences in logic, for example, 'from some S is P to some P is S', are verbal. But inferences from experience to general propositions are 'real', and are characterized by the move from what is known to the unknown. Mill makes use of this distinction to analyse the syllogism of traditional logic. Consider 'All men are mortal; Socrates is a man; therefore Socrates is mortal'. From one standpoint the syllogism is clearly a verbal inference; the universal premiss contains particulars deduced from it. And it is on account of this that he argues that there is a petitio principii in every syllogism [II iii 2]. However, Mill says it is also a real inference [e] in that we are relying on the evidence which justifies the assertion that all men are mortal (evidence about a set of particular men, A, B, C, ...) to affirm the conclusion that yet another man is mortal too. Mill therefore thinks of the universal premise as a formula which is the basis for a rule of inference. We are really moving from particulars to another particular via the general, the inference being an interpretation of the formula. In this way the rules of the syllogism in general can be seen as a means of ensuring the interpretations are consistent with the formulae; and this 'logic of consistency' is, for Mill, what was previously known as formal logic. Any 'necessity' the deductive sciences (and indeed verbal definitions and the propositions of mathematics) might be supposed to have lies only in the certainty we accord them as a consequence of being derived from first principles, that is axioms or definitions, which are themselves but generalizations from experience [II, v, 1] [f].

This leads on [Bk III] to the question of induction, which traditionally had been supposed to be inference from particular instances to general laws. If the general law comprises the sum of all possible particulars, it is perfect induction: but Mill says this is a verbal inference. The move from particulars to a general law which includes instances as yet unknown is imperfect inference ("induction by simple enumeration") [III, iii, 2] [g]. Especially important are the general truths of mathematics and principles comprehended under "the principle of the uniformity of Nature", which Mill regards as non-verbal yet to all intents and purposes as necessary, in the sense that in our experience we have found no exceptions. Nevertheless it is an empirical generalization, though 'justified' (albeit through circular reasoning) by the specific generalizations it establishes itself [III, iv, 1-2] [h]. There is clearly a problem here with causal relationships (these for Mill involving physical and not efficient causes); for while we define 'cause' as an "invariable and unconditional antecedent", this seems often not to be supported by experience. (A may not always be followed by B or B be preceded by A.) Mill's approach is to bring the move from particular A to particular B into his 'logic of consistency', the universal law of causality being a formula in which a rule for scientific induction is implicit [i]. This raises two difficulties. (1) How can we be sure that the universal law of cause and effect is universal? (2) How can we show that there are actual antecedents and consequents of phenomena, given that we are assuming there is a causal connection? As to the first point, Mill admits that it is after all only probable (albeit highly and "for all practical purposes complete" [III, xxi, 4]). On the second point, we work on the assumption that causes of effects can be found (though we may often mistake them) [III, vii, 4]. It was to deal with this problem that Mill developed his four experimental methods: of Agreement, Disagreement, Residues, and Concomitant Variations, which are concerned respectively with the identification of common, differing, residual, and variable factors between phenomena [III, viii]. According to Mill, by using these experimental methods the scientist establishes laws and explanatory hypotheses (as against descriptive, non-causal hypotheses). The laws can then be combined to predict (causal) behaviour of physical objects, and the predictions can be checked by observation, measurement, and calculation [j]. If the scientist discovers a discrepancy he will then look for further laws.

Mill also devotes space to a consideration of the 'moral', (that is, the human sciences — he is not thinking here of ethics) [See Book VI]. Although he maintains that human behaviour and social life must be understood in terms of causation and natural laws, and proposes to treat human sciences in exactly the same way as he does the physical sciences, he says that the various moral sciences have their own appropriate methods. Both psychology and ethology are required [k]. Psychology (as the study of the laws accounting for relations between states of mind) is primarily a science of observation (of association of ideas) and experiment [ch. iv]. Ethology, the science of character, on the other hand, is essentially deductive, the general laws being provided by psychology [ch. v]. (In the event Mill failed to provide an ethology.) Social science, however, involves too many variable factors (including individual human choices, will, and actions, which must be included as causal factors) to be deduced from one principle without possible error. So Mill uses an 'inverse-deductive' or historical method. This involves deriving generalizations from observations and then presupposing a priori that there are principles and explanatory laws of human nature from which such generalizations could have been deduced. This constitutes 'verification' [ch. x] [l]. The deductive method nevertheless remains Mill's ideal, though it assumes that human complexity can be reduced to simplicity. The interaction between human nature and the historical process is the concern of social statics and dynamics [VI, x, 5 & 6] [m]. The former studies 'uniformities of co-existence' (order), the latter is concerned with those of succession (change). While he accepts the idea of the historical process as subject to fixed laws he rejects the 'cyclical' theory of historical inevitability [VI, x, 3] [n].

 

KNOWLEDGE

[2] [See Examination of Sir Wiliam Hamilton's Philosophy.] We have a firm belief, tantamount to certain knowledge, in the existence of the material world and of our own and other minds. He rejects scepticism but also criticizes a priori idealist theories. He sets out to provide a psychological theory of our beliefs. Knowledge, he says, is grounded in experience; and this ensures the utility of our concepts. But there can be no final or absolute truth, as all claims to truth are always open to revision. But what is experience? How can we know? Experience, Mill says, consists in intuitive awareness of sensations and feelings. He proposes two postulates. (1) The mind can have expectations. (2) It can form associations [a]. Suppose we see and feel a table. We talk of having visual and tactile sensations. As a result of our experience we come to associate them as regularly occurring together. Moreover, when we have, say, only a visual sensation we think of the other, the tactile sensation — we expect it — as a possibility. Likewise, in the dark the tactile leads us to expect the visual. Mill thus comes to define physical objects, and matter in general in terms of "permanent possibilities of sensations succeeding one another according to laws" [b]. Thus if I went out of the room I should think of the table as still existing as this set of permanently possible sensations, and of other people as expecting similar but not identical sensations. As for mind, Mill allows that we have no direct knowledge of a self as such. Rather we have an intuition it, but only through our inner series of 'feelings'. Other minds are known by analogy [c].

 

ETHICS

[3] [Utilitarianism] Mill rejects both intuitionist (for example, moral sense) theories and theories which claim to know ultimate principles a priori [ch. I]. To apply Kant's categorical imperative is no more than to test a rule by references to its consequences [a]. But although Mill denies that ultimate ends are open to direct proof, he claims it is possible through the use of reason to discover "considerations equivalent to proof" which enable us to assess the utilitarian theory. What then is utilitarianism? Actions, he says, "are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure" [ch. II]. Pleasure does not mean 'voluptuousness'. Pleasures, he says, should be distinguished not only in terms of quantity but with reference to their quality. It is quite compatible with the principle of utility to recognise the fact that some kinds of pleasure are more desirable and more valuable than others [b]. Mill is here thinking of the contrast between "animal appetites" or bodily pleasures and the pleasures of the intellect, feelings and imagination, and of the moral sentiments as judged by people who are "highly endowed" and make the fullest use of their "higher faculties". Such people may have experience of suffering and may not easily achieve happiness, yet they may be content. "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied" [ch. II]. Mill goes on to argue that the utilitarian standard is not the individual agent's own greatest happiness, but the greatest amount of happiness altogether in society. He does not regard the individual as intrinsically selfish. Indeed, he goes further and makes the pursuit of general happiness the standard of morality [c] — even if this means that this requires the individual in certain circumstances to sacrifice his own happiness. He then answers a number of objections. (1) If by 'happiness' is meant a state of continuous rapture, then of course its attainment not possible. But most people are satisfied with the kind of happiness achieved in a life of moderation and tranquillity, with occasional 'excitement' counter-balancing pain. And nature, the arts, and so on can offer inexhaustible interest to the 'cultivated' mind. (2) What of the difficulties raised by self-sacrifice? This can only occur in an imperfect world, says Mill, but the readiness to make such a sacrifice is man's highest virtue. He recognises the so-called paradox of hedonism, that "the conscious ability to do without happiness gives the best prospect of realising such happiness as is attainable". And he adds that the sacrifice has value only if it increases or tends to increase the sum total of happiness. (3) He also argues against criticisms of utilitarianism as being either an atheistic doctrine or one which is 'expedient' and thus immoral. (4) In answer to the objection that there is no time prior to an action for calculating and weighing its effects he says mankind has throughout the duration of the species acquired sufficient experience to be able to experience and assess the tendencies of actions. (5) As for considerations of human weakness, all systems of ethics have to take account of this; it can therefore be no criticism of utilitarianism that it must temper the rigidity of its laws to allow for circumstances and conflicting obligations.

Now let us suppose that an individual does choose to behave in accordance with the moral standard — whatever it may be. Why should he? Why is he bound to promote the general happiness, perhaps at the expense of his own? Mill distinguishes [ch. III] between external and internal sanctions. By external sanctions he means "the hope of favour and the fear of External sanctions, such as the displeasure of our fellow-creatures or of God, and strengthened by the possibility of reward or punishment, will enforce the utilitarian morality once it is accepted by society. The internal sanction is then identified as a disinterested, subjective feeling in our minds, which arises when we violate our duty; and as such is the essence of conscience. For Mill this feeling of moral obligation is not innate but acquired, and susceptible of being "cultivated in almost any direction" [d]. And for its support Mill appeals to "the social feelings of mankind", which he regards as a "powerful natural sentiment", a necessary and habitual desire to be in unity with others. He is clearly an optimist; he believes in progress. As society evolves its members will increasingly come to recognise the inseparability of their respective interests [e].

What are Mill's "considerations equivalent to proof"? He attempts to show firstly that happiness is but one of the ends of morality:

The only proof capable of being given that an object is visible, is that people actually see it. The only proof that a sound is audible, is that people hear it: and so of the other sources of experience. In like manner, I apprehend, the sole evidence it is possible to produce that anything is desirable, is that people do actually desire it. [ch. IV]

He then tries to show that it is only happiness which is desirable. The initial problem is that people often desire other things, for example virtue. To counter this he notes that when people appear to desire virtue disinterestedly it is ultimately because it is conducive to happiness. Happiness, as qualified pleasure, is in reality not an abstract idea, but a "concrete whole", though it is made up of many elements. Virtue is one of these goods. But while it was not "naturally and originally" part of the 'end' which we might seek, we have come to feel it as a good in itself as a result of its association with the pleasure it gives rise to. Happiness is the only thing which is really desired for its own sake [f]; and this can be backed up, he thinks, by observing ourselves and others. This in effect constitutes a third stage in his proof.

Finally [ch. 5] Mill develops his account of justice and argues against the view that it is a human instinct. (Even if it were, he says, it would still need to be controlled and enlightened by reason as other instincts are.) So how do we account for the "subjective mental feeling" of justice? Mill lists a number of different kinds of unjust action or situations: for example, the deprivation of a person's liberty or property, failure to give a person what he 'deserves' by virtue of his right actions, and the like. (He does of course recognise that circumstances of different individuals vary considerably; and he attempts to allow for these in his analysis.) By comparing these examples he concludes that they appear to have little in common. So he now embarks on a short survey of the history of the concept, its etymology and its relationship with law and the general notion of moral obligation. His conclusion is that justice "implies something which it is not only right to do, and wrong not to do, but which some individual person can claim from us as his moral right". It is the name we give to "certain classes of moral rules, which concern the essentials of human well-being more nearly, and are therefore of more absolute obligation, than any other rules for the guidance of life" [ch. V]. Justice thus differs from virtues such as generosity and beneficence, which we are not morally bound to practise towards other individuals. The moral rules constituting justice are fundamental for the determining the social feelings of mankind (especially sympathy), and their observance preserves peace [g]. The consciously just man will feel resentment and thereby be urged to resistance — without regard for any implication of hurtful acts for himself. Moreover, Mill actually seems to assimilate the Categorical Imperative to his own utilitarian ethics [h]:

To give any meaning to Kant's principle, the sense put upon it must be, that we ought to shape our conduct by a rule which all rational beings might adopt with benefit to their collective interest [ch. V].

He concludes by saying that the idea of justice presupposes two things: (a) a rule of conduct common to mankind, and (b) a sentiment which sanctions the rule. This sentiment involves both one's desire for retribution (on behalf of others as well as oneself) and "intelligent self-interest" — from which elements the feeling derives its morality.

The remaining two sections of the chapter are devoted to (1) an examination of a number of particular cases which arouse disagreement as to what is just and unjust; (2) a presentation of his view that while justice is social expediency it also covers "social utilities" which are more absolute and imperative than other kinds and guarded by a sentiment different in both degree and kind.

 

POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY

[4] [See On Liberty.] Mill's account of happiness as the test of the rightness of actions and his view of society as one which should encourage self-development raise the problem of conflicting interests between individuals, and hence the problem of liberty. This is not just a question of how a person is to be freed from constraint or coercion ('negative' freedom), but of how and the extent to which there can and should be freedom. What are "the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual", as Mill puts it? He is in effect asking how 'positive' freedom can be promoted? His answer is a classical exposition of Individualism.

He starts [ch. I] with an historical excursion which leads him to conclude that the will of the people in practice means the will of the (active) majority — a majority which can and often does coerce, indeed exercise tyranny over minorities by means of laws, enforceable by punishment, or through the force of public opinion. He then asserts his central principle: "[T]he sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection".

That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others... Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign [ch. I ].

'Liberty of action' as used by Mill includes liberty of thought, feeling, and tastes [ch. II], the freedom to hold, express and publish opinions on all subjects, and the liberty to unite with others — with the limitation that what we do does not harm others [a]. Any society which fails to respect these liberties is not free, and is not completely free unless they exist absolutely and unqualified. However, he recognises [ch. III] that actions should not be as free as opinions, as some actions can do harm to others and should therefore be controlled. Even opinions should lose their immunity if their expression is liable to encourage some mischievous act. As for Mill's 'individualism', this is a key notion; for it is only through the 'spontaneity' and originality of its members that society can be enriched, and progress in civilization and culture achieved [a]. Liberty of thought is thus clearly important; for unless individuals are free to pursue truth unhindered by repressive laws or prejudiced conventions, we can never know whether or not an opinion is true and must remain under the control of those claiming infallibility. Thus it is clear that Mill starts out by making an eloquent defence of negative freedom but with his emphasis on individuality he is arguably also implicitly promoting freedom in its positive aspect [b]. How are the precise limits to the authority of the state over the individual to be determined? While for Mill society is not founded on a contract [c], he nevertheless argues [ch. IV] that the acceptance of society's protection obligates the individual to observe two conditions, namely (a) that he should not injure those interests of others, which legally or "by tacit understanding", ought to be considered as rights; (b) that he should bear his share of "the labours and sacrifices" incurred in the exercise of this protection. Beyond these conditions the individual should have perfect legal and social freedom, to do the action and be reproved or punished if he harms another. Mill is, however, against paternalistic interference with the individual himself — even if it appears that the latter is harming his own interests. He encourages what he calls "experiments of living" so that individuals may discover for themselves their own forms of happiness. The Principle of Liberty thus takes precedence over all other considerations. (The prohibition of the sale of alcohol in many American states and legislation on Sunday observance in the United Kingdom are examples he cites of restrictions on freedom which have resulted in worse consequences for society than would have ensued had such supposedly 'immoral' behaviour been tolerated.)

Finally, in consideration of the application of his principles Mill proposes [ch. V] two maxims as a general guide.

(1) The individual is not accountable to society for his actions, in so far as they concern him alone. Society can of course express dislike of what he does, but the only measures others should employ are advice, instruction, persuasion, or avoidance if they suppose this necessary for their own good.

(2) The individual is accountable to others, however, if what he does is prejudicial to their interests; and they may then seek social or legal punishment if society thinks it necessary for its own protection (and also for the benefit of the offender himself, with a view to reforming him) [d]. [See also Utilitarianism, ch. V.]

 

PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION

[5] In his Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy Mill rejected the application of moral predicates to God in an equivocal sense [a]. If we call God good this term must have the same meaning as it does when we apply it to our fellow men; and God's acts must be judged by the same criteria as human actions are. In fact the only acceptable test of religious belief and morality is its social utility [Three Essays on Religion, II]. And judged by such a consideration a religion of humanity is more successful than a supernatural one in providing us with our ideals and in promoting unselfishness [b]. A humanist religion is also better able to deal with the problem of evil [Essay I]. Nature, especially human nature, is undoubtedly the source of much suffering and ugliness, Mill argues. This is clearly incompatible with the concept of an omnipotent deity. The solution lies in our own hands: to seek to improve Nature ourselves so as to make the world a safer and more civilized place [c]. He does not rule out the possibility of a God [Essay III], but he rejects all arguments to prove God's existence with the exception of the argument from design (by inductive analogy), though he thinks this shows only that there is a probability that a creator exists but one who is neither ominipotent nor omniscient [d]. Mill likewise argued that there is no evidence either for or against the immortality of the soul and the occurrence of miracles [e]. However, he says there is a place for religious 'hope' that immortality and miracles may in fact happen. And Christ can be accepted as a model for us to follow.

 

CRITICAL SUMMARY

Mill is the major figure in nineteenth century British philosophy, particularly for the stimulus his writings have given to debate in the theory of knowledge, the philosophy of logic and language, the philosophy of science, and, not least, in ethics and political philosophy. The principal characteristic of his thought is perhaps his 'psychologism'. He himself disliked the term 'empiricist' (he understood this to mean "bad or slovenly generalization"): but his philosophy is best described by this term as used in roughly the Humean sense. A number of key issues can be singled out for discussion.

(1) Language and logic. His view that proper names have denotation but no connotation has been much criticized since Frege. Likewise few philosophers today would accept that mathematical statements are 'non-verbal' (synthetic). Further, while Mill made important criticisms of the syllogistic arguments as being circular, it has been claimed that his objections were based on epistemological rather than logical considerations.

(2) Methodology. Understandably Mill placed great emphasis on induction as the only genuine source of knowledge. Most philosophers of science since his day, however, have tended to accept methodologies which utilize both inductive and deductive procedures (more in the tradition of Galileo and Newton). Mill's broadly Humean account of causation has also been subjected to close scrutiny in recent years, though it is certainly arguable that no alternative account has been universally accepted, and that a modified empiricist account has still much to commend it. As for Mill's four 'Methods', they tend to be useful as a starting-point for scientific investigation only in fairly simple or clear-cut situations; and they fail to take account of the theoretical presuppositions or framework usually accompanying empirical observations.

(3) Knowledge. In so far as it is limited to sensations and the association theory, Mill has a problem in accounting for our knowledge of the external world. His concept of the permanent possibility of sensations certainly influenced the later phenomenalists, but it has been criticized by many recent philosophers as being unworkable and grounded in incorrect assumptions about the way language is used as a 'pubic' medium of communication. There is also a problem with the concept of mind. Mill himself acknowledged the difficulty of accounting for either a mind or a self as a series of feelings aware of itself; and he had to profess his inability to provide an explanation.

(4) Ethics and political philosophy. (i) In saying that pleasures must be desirable because people actually desire them Mill has been accused of committing what Moore called the 'naturalistic fallacy' in that they have tried to define the good in terms of some other property (and indeed a non-moral one, in which case it would seem that Mill has also attempted to derive moral principles from non-moral factual judgements). However, quite apart from the fact that many philosophers do not accept that such reasoning is fallacious, it may reasonably be argued that what Mill is saying is that it is a matter of fact that most people do desire certain kinds of pleasures, and that it is therefore sensible to judge principles of action by reference to their success in maximizing satisfaction of desires. (ii) A more serious difficulty, however, concerns this notion of success. Can we be sure what the full consequences of an action will be? How long should we wait? To what extent can we rely inductively on past experience? It has been suggested by a number of critics (in particular Rawls) that a distinction should be made between act-utilitarianism (referring to particular actions) and rule-utilitarianism (which concerns possible or actual rules of action). On the basis of the latter it could be said that the keeping a rule might outweigh any consideration of the consequences applicable to a particular instance. However, Mill's actual position in relation to this distinction is equivocal; evidence for both approaches can be found in his writings. (iii) Mill accords primacy to the principle of liberty. But it has been objected that there is a difficulty in balancing the seemingly opposing claims of self-regarding and other-regarding actions. The problem again is one of application. Can we be sure of the effects? What constitutes 'harm' to other people? Can it be determined qualitatively or measured quantitatively'? Nevertheless with his political philosophy Mill made a significant contribution to the libertarian cause in democracy.

(5) As for Mill's views on God and religion, it can be argued that his concessions to religious hope will not be congenial to the sceptical atheist, while his concept of a limited God (as shown by the argument from design) is unlikely to satisfy the more traditional believer.

 

READING

Mill: System of Logic (1843); On Liberty (1859); Utilitarianism (1863); Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy (1865); Three Essays on Religion (1874). There are numerous readily available editions of Utilitarianism and On Liberty. There is a reprint of the System of Logic (Honolulu) and a Prometheus Books edition of the Three Essays.

Studies [from a large number]

Introductory

K. Britton, John Stuart Mill.

J. Plamenatz, The English Utilitarians.

More advanced

R. P. Anschutz, The Philosophy of J. S. Mill.

O. A. Kubitz, The Development of John Stuart Mill's System of Logic.

K. R. Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies, ch. 14.

A. Ryan, J. S. Mill.

J. Skorupski, Mill.

C. I. Ten, Mill on Liberty.

Collections of essays

J. B. Schneewind (ed.), Mill: A Collection of Critical Essays.

J. Skorupski (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Mill.

 

 

CONNECTIONS

Mill

 

Note: Other important influences on Mill's political philosophy and philosophy of the human sciences include Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835) and Marie-Jean Condorcet (1743-94).

 

Logic & Methodology
[1a] Logic concerned with operations of human mind (logic as psychology? ) not with examination of formal consistency of systems; rejection of 'conventionalism'

   Hobbes

Brentano

   Peirce

Bradley

Frege

Husserl

[1e]

[1d]

[1a]

[1a]

[1a]

[1a]

 

[1b; see also 5a] Words as names or as 'syncategorematic' terms; proper and abstract general names refer but no connotation; connotative terms (incl. concrete general names & phrases) have reference and imply attributes; rejection of abstract ideas; 'God'

   Hobbes

   Locke

   Peirce

Bradley

Frege

Russell

[1a]

[1a 1b]

[1a]

[1b]

[2c e]

[1c]

 

[1c] Propositions (judgements) built from names, but often involve mental acts as well as ideas; attributes predicated of subjects; real and verbal propositions; no 'real' essences; definitions as subclass of verbal propositions

   Hobbes

   Locke

   Hume

   Kant

Brentano

   Peirce

Bradley

Frege

[1b 1c e]

[1a b 2q]

[1g]

[1a]

[1a]

[1d f]

[1b]

[2a g]

 

[1d; cf. 1f] Mathematical propositions 'real' — give generalizations from experience

   Hume

   Kant

Frege

Russell

Ayer

[1g]

[1b]

[1a b]

[1a]

[1a]

 

[1e] The syllogism commits petitio principii; is both a verbal and real inference

   Aristotle

   Sextus

Bradley

Frege

[1b]

[1a]

[2a]

[2a]

 

[1f; cf. 1d] Necessity of inference lies in certainty — but this is grounded in generalization from experience

   Hobbes

   Hume

   Kant

Bradley

Frege

[1e]

[1g]

[1a]

[2a]

[1c]

 

[1g; cf. 1j] Induction as verbal inference; limitations of induction by simple enumeration

   Socrates

   Aristotle

   Bacon (Francis)

   Peirce

Bradley

   Carnap

[1c]

[6b 20b]

[2e]

[1b]

[2a b]

[5b]

 

[1h; cf. 1f] Principle of uniformity of nature non-verbal yet certain (because 'justified' as empirical generalization from specifics)

   Hume

   Spencer

Ayer

[2b]

[1f]

[4c]

 

[1i] Causal relationships (physical not efficient): particulars to particulars — his logic of consistency; scientific induction implicit in universal law of causality

   Bacon (Francis)

   Hume

   Kant

Ayer

[1a]

[1h]

[2c 3a e]

[4a]

 

[1j] The four experimental methods establish laws and explain hypo-theses → prediction of causal behaviour (checked by observation, measurement, etc.)

   Bacon (Francis)

Dilthey

   Peirce

[2e]

[2a]

[1b]

 

[1k] Human behaviour and social life (human/'moral' sciences) in terms of causation and natural laws; different moral sciences have their own appropriate methods

   Bacon (Francis)

   Hume

   Comte

Spencer

   Dilthey

Brentano

Husserl

   Dewey

[sec. 1]

[1a]

[1b 2a b 2c]

[2a]

[2b]

[1a]

[2a b]

[2d]

 

[1l] The 'inverse-deductive' historical method: empirical generalizations brought under putative laws of human nature — verification

   Comte

Dilthey

Bradley

[1b 2e]

[2b]

[2b]

 

[1m] Social statics and dynamics    Comte [2d]

 

[1n] Historical process a subject to fixed laws but not 'cyclical'

   Vico

   Comte

[2a]

[1a]

 

Knowledge
[2a] Rejection of scepticism and a priori idealist theories; we have firm belief/ knowledge in external world and mind; grounded in expectations and associations and intuitions of sensations and feelings; no attainable absolute truth — claims always revisable; empirical approach has utility

   Locke

   Hume

   Schelling [via

   Coleridge]

Spencer

   Peirce

James

[2a 2p]

[1b 1c d 2a]

[3b c]

   

[1a b]

[1h 2d]

[1c e f]

 

[2b] Physical objects defined as 'permanent possibilities of sensation'

   Locke

   Berkeley

   Hume

   Peirce

Bradley

Royce

Russell

Moore

Ayer

[2j]

[2b]

[2c]

[1f ]

[4b]

[1d]

[2b]

[2g]

[2a]

 

[2c] Knowledge of self/ mind only through series of feelings; other minds through analogy

   Locke

   Berkeley

   Hume

James

Bradley

Russell

Ayer

[2k]

[2f]

[2d]

[2a 2b]

[4a]

[2c]

[2d]

 

Ethics
[3a] Rejection of intuitionism, moral sense, and a priori theories; ethics concerned with consequences

   Aristotle

   Butler

   Hutcheson

   Hume

   Kant

   Bentham

Spencer

Russell

Moore

Ayer

Hare

[18a]

[1d]

[1a c]

[3g]

[6a b d]

[1c]

[3a c]

[4c]

[3b]

[5a]

[1f]

 

[3b] Utilitarian theory: happiness as intended pleasure or absence of pain; different qualities of pleasure

   Epicurus

   Hobbes

   Hume

   Bentham

Spencer

Bradley

Royce

Moore

Hare

Rawls

[1b]

[7a]

[4b]

[1a]

[3a c]

[7a]

[2a]

[3a]

[1a]

[1a 1c]

 

[3c] Standard of morality: pursuit of happiness (and for greatest amount in society, not individual's)

   Hutcheson

   Hume

   Bentham

Bradley

   Dewey

Moore

Hare

[1b]

[3a c]

[1b]

[7b c]

[3d]

[3a]

[1g]

 

[3d] Internal sanction: disinterested subjective feeling (not innate) when duty violated — essence of conscience    Hutcheson [1a d]

 

[3e] Interests of all members of society inseparable

   Hume

   Bentham

Rawls

[3c]

[1d]

[1d]

 

[3f] Happiness not abstract idea but concrete whole; the only end desired for its own sake

   Aristotle

   Epicurus

   Schlick

[18c]

[4a]

[3a]

 

[3g; cf. 4d] Justice in observance of fundamental moral rules (to determine social feelings, e.g., sympathy, and preserve peace)

   Hume

   Bentham

Rawls

Hampshire

[3b]

[1d]

[1b]

[2b d]

 

[3h] Rules and assimilation of categorical imperative

   Kant

   Ricoeur

Rawls

[6b-e]

[9d]

[1b]

 

Political Philosophy
[4a; also 4b] Liberty: self-protection as ground for non-interference (no harm principle); wide sense of 'liberty'

   Bentham

Spencer

Rawls

[1e]

[2b]

[1e]

 

[4b 4a] Individualism (and self-realization) compatible with and enriches society, leads to progress in civilization and culture; 'negative' freedom but 'positive' implicit

   Herder

   Bentham

   Schelling

   [Herder & Schelling both

   via von Humboldt?]

 

[2d]

[1e]

[4b]

 

 

[4c] Society not grounded in social contract

   Hume

   Bentham

Rawls

[4c]

[1c]

[1d]

 

[4d; cf. 3g] Punishment in interests of both society and the offender (reform)

   Stoics, e.g. Seneca

   Kant

   Bentham

[2d]

[6c]

[1f]

 

Philosophy of Religion
[5a 1b] 'God' not a proper name; connotes set of attributes — predicates apply univocally not analogically

   Berkeley

[3b]

 

[5b] Social utility as test of religious belief and morality; 'religion of humanity' more successful in this respect

   Comte

James

[2g]

[3c]

 

[5c] Problem of evil: nature (including human nature) source of suffering — and incompatible with omnipotence of deity; man can improve nature

   Hume

James

Russell

[5d]

[3b]

[5a]

 

[5d] Rejection of arguments for God's existence (except that of design — but this gives only probability, and God neither omnipotent nor omniscient)

   Descartes

   Hume

   Kant

   Spencer

[3c]

[5a]

[5d 10e]

[4b]

 

[5e] No evidence for or against immortality and miracles

   Hume

   Kant

[2d 5b]

[5b 8b]