The English Utilitarians, Volume 3: John Stuart Mill

by Leslie Stephen, 1900

The English Utilitarians
Volume Three: John Stuart Mill
by Leslie Stephen

Chapter One

John Stuart Mill's Life (1*)

I. Childhood

    When James Mill died, the spirit of his followers was
entering upon a new phase. A certain chill was creeping over the
confidence of previous years. The Reform Bill had been hailed as
inaugurating a new era; the Utilitarians thought that they had
made a solid lodgment in the fortress, and looked forwards to
complete occupation. The world was going their way; their
doctrines were triumphing; and if those who accepted their
conclusions claimed the credit of originating the movement, the
true faith was advancing. Triumph by other hands should be a
sufficient reward for preachers who preferred solid success to
personal glory. Opinions long regarded with horror might now be
openly avowed, and might be expected to spread when the incubus
of the old repressive system was removed. The position, to
compare small things with great, resembled that in which
Protestantism seemed to be definitely triumphing over the Papacy;
and, as in that case, the latent strength of the old order was as
yet underestimated. The party which had been so hopeful when
bound together by external pressure seemed to lose its energy at
the moment of its greatest triumph; its disciples became languid;
its cherished plans were rejected or emasculated; and many of the
little band of enthusiasts abandoned or materially modified their
doctrine. The change, indeed, meant that many of the principles
for which they contended had won general acceptance; but, for
that reason, they had no longer a common war cry. The
consequences are illustrated in the career of John Stuart Mill,
who succeeded to the leadership of the sect. In certain respects,
as we shall see, Mill's great aim was to soften and qualify the
teaching of his predecessors. At the same time he adhered, even
more strictly than he was himself conscious of adhering, to their
fundamental tenets; and as a philosopher he gained in the later
years of his life a far wider authority than had ever been
exercised by his predecessors. The early disciples of Bentham and
of James Mill were few, and felt even painfully their isolation.
But in his later years John Stuart Mill had emerged. He had
become the most prominent of English thinkers; the political
liberals referred to him as the soundest expounder of their
principles; and even in the English universities, the strongholds
in his youth of all ancient prejudices, he had probably more
followers than any other teacher. In the following chapters I
must trace the history of the intellectual change. I begin by
considering Mill's personal history. No complete biography has
appeared, nor were the external events of his career of special
interest. Mill, however, left an autobiography which was intended
to supply what is of most importance for us, the history of his
intellectual and moral development. In that respect the book is
eminently deserving of study. I must indicate what appear to me
to be the most important of the influences there described.
    John Stuart Mill, born 20th May 1806, was twenty-six at the
death of Bentham and thirty at the death of his father. He was
therefore old enough to be deeply affected by their personal
influence; and his precocity had made the relation to his elders
far more intimate than is often possible. James Mill and Bentham
looked upon him from early years as their spiritual heir. In 1812
his father writes to Bentham:(2*) 'Should I die,' says James
Mill, 'one thought that would pinch me most sorely' would be
leaving the poor boy's 'mind unmade.' Therefore, 'I take your
offer quite seriously' -- an offer apparently to be John's
guardian -- 'and then we may perhaps leave him a successor worthy
of both of us.' John lived till his manhood almost exclusively in
their little circle; and no child was ever more elaborately and
strenuously indoctrinated with the views of a sect. Had James
Mill adhered to his early creed his son would probably have
become a fit subject for one of those edifying tracts which deal
with infantile conversions. From the earliest dawn of intellect
until the age of fourteen he was the subject of one of the most
singular educational experiments on record.
    He gives in his Autobiography an account of his course of
study.(3*) His memory did not go back to the time at which he
began Greek; but he was told that he was then three years old. By
his eighth year (1814) he had read all Herodotus, Xenophon's
Cyropædia and Memorabilia, part of Lucian, and six dialogues of
Plato, including the Theætetus, which, he, ventures to think,'
might have been better omitted, as it, was totally impossible
that he could understand it.' In the next three years he had read
Homer, Thucydides, parts of the plays of Sophocles, Euripides,
and Aristophanes, Demosthenes, Æschines. and Lysias, Theocritus,
Anacreon, and the Anthology, and (in 1817) Aristotle's Rhetoric,
the first, scientific treatise on any moral or psychological
subject, which he carefully analysed and tabulated. He did not
begin Latin till his eighth year, when he read Cornelius Nepos
and Cæsar's Commentaries. By his twelfth year he had read much of
Virgil, Horace, Livy, Sallust, Ovid's Metamorphoses, Terence,
Lucretius, and a great deal of Cicero. He had learned a little
arithmetic by his eighth year, and had afterwards gone on to
conic actions and trigonometry, and had begun the differential
calculus. His father's ignorance of the higher mathematics left
him to struggle by himself with the difficulties of his later
studies; but he was far in advance of most boys of his age. He
read, too, some books upon the experimental sciences, especially
chemistry, but had no opportunity of seeing actual experiments.
In English he had read histories, making notes, and discussing
the results with his father in morning walks through the green
lanes near Hornsey. He had read Hume, Robertson, and Gibbon;
Watson's Philip II and III, which particularly charmed him by the
accounts of the revolts in the Netherlands; Rollin's Ancient
History, Hooke's History of Rome, Langhorne's Plutarch, Burnet's
Own Time, the Annual Register, and Millar's English Government,
besides Mosheim, M'Crie's Knox, and Sewell's Quakers. His father
liked, he says, to put into his hands books illustrative of the
struggles of energetic men. He read Anson and other voyages for
this purpose. In a purely imaginative direction he was allowed
more scanty fare. He was, however, devoted to Robinson Crusoe,
read the Arabian Nights and don Quixote, Miss Edgeworth, and
Brooke's Fool of Quality; admired joanna Baillie's plays, and was
fascinated by Pope's Homer. He was attracted by Scott's lays, and
some of Campbell's lyrics, but cared little for Shakespeare, and
could make nothing of Spenser's Faery Queen. He attempted little
Latin and no Greek composition; but he wrote a few childish
'histories,' and a little English verse. In purely literary
training he was hardly above the average of clever boys. This
gives his intellectual state at the age of twelve. During his
thirteenth and fourteenth years he was initiated in philosophical
studies. He continued to read classical literature, but was now
expected to understand the thought as well as the words. He began
logic by reading Aristotle, some of the scholastic treatises, and
especially Hobbes's Computatio sive Logica. His father lectured
him upon the utility of the syllogism. He made a careful study of
Demosthenes, Tacitus, Juvenal, and Quintilian, and then advanced
to Plato. To Plato, as he considered, he owed an especial debt,
being greatly impressed by the logical method, though caring
little for the more mystical or poetical doctrines congenial to
those who are generally called Platonists. His faculties were
also stimulated by helping his father in the proofs of the
History of India, with whom also in the year 1819 he 'went
through a complete course of political economy,' first reducing
to writing his father's oral expositions, and then carefully
reading Ricardo and Adam Smith.
    This, he says, ended what could properly be called his
lessons. The whole narrative is curiously characteristic of
father and son. No one could have devoted himself more
unreservedly to the education of a son. While working hard for
the support of himself and his family, James Mill spared no
trouble to do also the whole work of a schoolmaster. The boy
prepared his lessons in the room in which the father was writing,
and was constantly interrupting him for help. The father
submitted, but unfortunately could not submit good-humouredly. He
was 'the most impatient of men,' and the most rigorous of
martinets. He did not, it seems, employ the birch, but found an
equivalent in sarcastic reproaches. He was angry when his pupil
failed to understand him for want -- not of industry but -- of
knowledge, and guarded against cherishing conceit by humiliating
language. When John was to leave the family, the father thought
it necessary to explain that he would find himself to have
learned more than other lads. But, he said, you are not to be
proud of it; for it would be the deepest disgrace if you had not
profited by the unusual advantage of a father willing and able to
teach you. Education, like other things, was evidently a matter
of sanctions; and the one sanction upon which the teacher relied
was the dread of his disapproval. The child was driven, rather
than attracted by sympathetic encouragement. John Mill had also
to teach his younger brothers and sisters, both at this and till
a much later period. Mill records his conviction that their plan
(suggested probably by the Lancasterian system, in which the
father was so much interested) was both inefficient and a bad
moral discipline for teacher and taught. When Place went to visit
Bentham and the Mills at Ford Abbey in 1814, he found the system
at work. The children were regularly kept at their lessons from
six to nine, and from ten to one. Their dinner had been delayed
one day till six, because the girls had mistaken a word, and
John, their teacher, had not detected the mistake. Place thinks
that John is a 'prodigy,' but fears that he will grow up 'morose
and selfish.'(4*) That anticipation was happily not verified. The
health of the other children, however, appears to have suffered;
and, although John speaks with the warmest appreciation of his
father's character, it is evident that he felt more respect than
filial affection, and that, in spite of close intellectual
intercourse, there was a want of such personal confidence as
gives a charm to the relation in happier cases. If I cannot say
that I, like his younger children, 'loved him tenderly,' says
John, 'I was always loyally devoted to him.'(5*) That loyalty is
shown unmistakably by every reference, and the references are
very frequent, that Mill made to his father in his writings.
Mill's own estimate of the result of his education is noteworthy.
The experiment proves, he says, the possibility of instilling
into a child an amount of knowledge such as is rarely acquired
before manhood. He was, he considers, rather below than above par
in quickness of apprehension, retentiveness of memory, and energy
of character. What he did, therefore, could be done by any child
of average health and capacity. His later achievements, he
thinks, were due to the fact that, among other favourable
circumstances, his father's training had given him the start of
his contemporaries by 'a quarter of a century.'(6*) His opinion
is probably coloured by his tendency to set down all differences
between men as due to external circumstances. He and his father,
as Professor Bain notes, inclined to the doctrine of Helvétius
that children all start alike.(7*) Mill, by those who dissent
from this view, will probably be held to have been endowed by
nature with an extraordinary power of acquiring and assimilating
knowledge, and presumably had from infancy whatever intellectual
qualities are implied in that gift. His experience in teaching
his own family might have taught him that the gift is not shared
by the average child. So far, however, as Mill's judgment refers
to his own case, it asserts what I take to be a truth not always
admitted. He is sometimes noticed as an example of the evils done
by excessive instruction. Yet, after all, he certainly became one
of the leading men of his generation, and, if this strenuous
education was not the sole cause, it must be reckoned as having
been one main condition of his success. His father's teaching had
clearly one, and that the highest, merit. The son had been taught
really to use his mind; he had been trained to argue closely; to
test conclusions instead of receiving them passively, and to
systematise his knowledge as he acquired it. The course of
strenuous mental gymnastics qualified him to appear in early
youth as a vigorous controversialist, and to achieve an immense
quantity of valuable work before he passed middle age. It seems
improbable that more could have been made of his faculties by any
other system; and he gave a rarely approached instance of a life
in which the waste of energy is reduced to a minimum.
    Mill's verdict must, however, be qualified upon another
ground, which he might have been expected to recognise. No one
was more anxious to assert in general that an education is good
in proportion as it stimulates the faculties instead of simply
storing the mind with facts. Undoubtedly Mill's knowledge was of
use to him. He became widely read and interested in a large
circle of subjects. But we cannot hold that the mere knowledge
gave him a 'quarter of a century' start. The, knowledge, which
can be acquired by a child of fourteen is necessarily crude; the
Theaetetus or the history of Thucydides could not represent real
thought for him; and one would rather say that a year's activity
at twenty would have enabled him, if he had read only a quarter
as much by fourteen, to make up the deficiency. The knowledge was
no doubt a useful foundation; but, so far as it was acquired at
the cost of excessive strain, the loss would greatly overbalance
the gain. It seems clear that Mill's health did in fact suffer;
and a loss of energy was far more serious than any childish
knowledge could compensate. I cannot help thinking, with the
stalled 'Philistine,' that a little cricket would have been an
excellent substitute for half the ancient literature instilled
into a lad who was not prepared really to appreciate either the
thought or the literary charm.
    The system had further and permanent results. Mill saw little
of other boys. His father was afraid of his being corrupted or at
least vulgarised by association with the average schoolboy. He
had leisure enough, he declares, though he was never allowed a
holiday; but his leisure was dedicated to quiet and 'even
bookish' amusements. He was unready and awkward; untrained in the
ordinary accomplishments which come from the society of
contemporaries. The result was -- besides the trifling loss of
mere physical accomplishments -- that Mill was a recluse even in
childhood. There was another special reason for this isolation.
Mill himself says that he was brought up without any religious
instruction; and though Professor Bain tells us that the boy went
to church in his infancy, it must have been at so early a period
as to leave no mark upon his memory.(8*) Up to the age of
fourteen, therefore, Mill, while kept apart from the ordinary
influences, was imbibing with astonishing rapidity a vast amount
of knowledge, and inevitably taking for granted the general
opinions of his father's party.
    At the end of his fourteenth year Mill went to the south of
France, and stayed for a year with Sir Samuel, the brother of
Jeremy, Bentham. There he learned French, attended various
courses of lectures, and carried on his study of mathematics and
of political economy. His intellectual appetite was still
voracious and his hours of study were probably excessive. The
period, however, was chiefly remarkable for the awakening of
other tastes. The lessons of fencing and riding masters seem to
have been thrown away; but he learned something of botany from
George, the son of Sir Samuel, afterwards eminently distinguished
in the science. Mill's taste, though it did not develop into a
scientific study, made him a good field botanist, and provided
him with almost his only recreation. It encouraged the love of
walking, which he shared with his father; and in a tour in the
Pyrenees he learned to enjoy grand natural scenery. He appears,
too, to have lost some of his boyish awkwardness in the new
society. The greatest advantage, however, according to himself,
was his, having breathed for a whole year the free and genial
atmosphere of continental life.'(9*) His comments upon this are
remarkable. He could not then, as he remarks, know much of
English society. He did not know its 'low moral tone,' the
'absence of high feelings' and 'sneering depreciation of all
demonstrations of them,' nor, therefore, perceive the contrast
with the French, who cultivate sentiments elevated by comparison
at least, and who, by the habitual exercise of the feelings,
encourage also a culture of the understanding, descending to the
less educated classes.(10*) Still, he was impressed by French
amiability and sociability, and the English habit of 'acting as
if everybody else was either an enemy or a bore.'
    I do not venture to pronounce any opinion upon this estimate
of the contrast between English and French society. Whatever
truth it contains would be intensified for Mill by the fact that
a large class of Englishmen clearly regarded the Utilitarians as
'enemies,' and all men felt them to be bores. The, practical,
Briton no doubt treated the views of the philosophical Radical
with an application of what he meant for humour and Mill received
as brutality. But the estimate is characteristic. Mill's Spartan
discipline was already rousing him to a dumb sense of the value
of the emotions. Though he, with his school, was bound to
denounce 'sentimentalism,' he was beginning to see that there was
another side to the question. And, in the next place, Mill's
appreciation of French courtesy fell in with a marked tendency of
his thought. He had, of course, at this time only laid the
foundation of an acquaintance with France and Frenchmen, which,
however, became much closer in the following years. He acquired a
cordial sympathy with the French liberals; he grew to be
thoroughly familiar with French politics, and followed the later
history of his friends with sympathy and admiration. In his early
essays, he is constantly insisting upon the merits of French
writers and lamenting the scandalous ignorance of their
achievements prevalent in England; the French philosophes of the
eighteenth century became his model;(11*) and he pushed his zeal,
as he thinks, even to excess; while, as we shall afterwards see,
some contemporary French writers exercised an influence upon his
own views of the highest importance. He did not learn German till
some time later, and never became a profound student of German
literature and philosophy. But France was a kind of second
country to him; and excited what may almost be called a patriotic
sentiment. Patriotism, indeed, was scarcely held to be a virtue
by the Utilitarians. It meant for them the state of mind of the
country squire or his hanger-on the parson; and is generally
mentioned as giving a sufficient explanation of unreasoning
prejudice. Mill's development, I doubt not, was furthered by this
enthusiasm; it gave him a wider outlook, and stimulated many
impulses which had been hampered by the narrowness of his party.
For many years, however, it contributed to make him something of
an alien; and I do not think that incapacity to sympathise even
with the stupid prejudices of one's countrymen is an unmixed
    Mill returned to England in July 1821. He took up his old
studies, taught his brothers and sisters, read Condillac and a
history of the French revolution, of which, in spite of his
previous stay in France, he had known very little, and decided
that it would be, transcendent glory, to be 'a Girondist in an
English convention.' Meanwhile, a profession had to be chosen. He
was intended for the bar, and began to study Roman law under John
Austin. He set to work upon Bentham, and the reading of Dumont's
Traités de Législation formed an epoch in his life. His botanical
studies had fostered his early taste for classification, already
awaked by his early logical studies. He was now delighted to find
that human actions might be classified as well as plants, and,
moreover, classified by the principle of utility, that is to say,
by reference to a guiding rule for all known conduct. 'Utility'
took its place as 'the keystone which held together the detached
and fragmentary parts of his knowledge and beliefs.'(12*) He had
now a philosophy and even, 'in one of the best senses of the
word, a religion, the inculcation and diffusion of which could be
made the principal outward purpose of a life.' The very
moderation of the creed was among its claims. Mill was not
roused, like Shelley, to an enthusiastic vision of an abrupt
regeneration of man. His religion was strictly scientific; it
recognised the necessity of slow elaboration, but offered a
sufficiently wide vista of continuous improvement to be promoted
by unremitting labour. He now enlarged his philosophical reading;
he studied Locke, Helvétius, and Hartley, Berkeley, and Hume's
Essays, besides Reid, Dugald Stewart, and Brown's essay upon
Cause and Effect. These studies were carried on while he was
reading his father's analysis in manuscript, and no doubt
discussing with his father the points raised by the argument. The
last book which he mentions as affecting his early development is
'Philip Beauchamp's 'treatise upon the utility of religion. The
'searching character of its analysis,' he says, produced a great
effect upon him, of which some results will appear hereafter.


    In 1822 -- at the age, that is, of sixteen -- Mill began to
compose, argumentative, essays, which were apparently crude
enough, but which were profitable exercises. Already, too, he was
beginning to take a position in the Utilitarian circle. John
Austin (1790-1859), his tutor, a man of lofty, if over-fastidious
character, encouraged the boy by his kind interest. Another
important friend was George Grote, who, as I have said, had
already become a writer in the cause. To both these men, his
seniors by sixteen and twelve years respectively, a boy of
sixteen or seventeen would naturally look up with respectful
admiration. With Grote, as with John Austin, he held much
'sympathetic communion,' but his first ally among men whom he
could feel to be contemporaries was Austin's younger brother
Charles. He was a man who gave the impression, according to Mill,
of 'boundless strength,' with talents and will which seemed
capable of 'dominating the world.' Instead of being, like his
brother John, incapacitated for life by over-refinement, he made
a fortune at the bar; and his energy was, after a time, entirely
diverted from the Utilitarian propaganda For the present,
however, he was defending the true faith in an uncongenial
atmosphere. He was, says Mill, the 'really influential mind among
these intellectual gladiators' -- the young Cambridge orators.
James Mill, as I have said, had been encouraged by hearing that
the cause of Utilitarianism was being upheld even in one of the
universities, which he took to be the natural centres of
obscurantism. John Mill visited Austin at Cambridge in 1822, and
the boy of sixteen greatly impressed the undergraduates by his
conversational power The elder Mill was urged to send his son to
Trinity College. He would no doubt have feared to expose the
youth to such contagion.(13*) John Mill himself long held the
universities to be mere institutions for supporting the
established creed. 'We regard the system of these institutions,'
he said in 1836, 'as administered for two centuries past, with
sentiments little short of utter abhorrence.'(14*) It is idle to
ask whether closer contact with the average English youth would
or would not have been beneficial, but the sentiment marks the
degree in which Mill was an alien among men of his own class in
English society. Meanwhile, he formed, in the winter of 1822-23,
a little society of his own. He called it the Utilitarian
Society, adopting the title which had been cursorily used by
Bentham(15*) from Galt's Annals of the Parish. He mentions among
its members, which never amounted to ten, William Eyton Tooke,
son of Thomas Tooke, the economist, who died young; William Ellis
(1800-1881), known, says Mill, for his 'apostolic exertions for
the improvement of education,' chiefly in the direction of
promoting the study of political economy in schools; George John
Graham, afterwards an official in the Bankruptcy Court; and
Graham's special friend, John Arthur Roebuck (1801-1879), who was
to become one of the most thoroughgoing Radicals of the following
period, though in later years the faithful Abdiel became an
Ishmael, and finally a Tory. With these youths, all apparently
Mill's seniors by a few years, he discussed the principles of the
sect, and became, as he says,, a sort of leader.' He tried hard
to enlist recruits, and soon became an effective combatant in the
actual warfare of the time. The society was broken up in 1826.
    Mill had already received the appointment which decided the
future course of his life. He was appointed to a clerkship in the
India House, 21st May 1823, having just finished his seventeenth
year. He received successive promotions, till in 1856 he became
chief of the office with a salary of £2000 a year. Mill gives his
own view of the advantages of the position, Which to a man of his
extraordinary power of work were unmistakable. He was placed
beyond all anxiety as to bread-winning. He was not bound to make
a living by his pen, and could devote himself to writing of
permanent value. He was at the same time brought into close
relation with the conduct of actual affairs; forced to recognise
the necessity of compromise, and to study the art of instilling
his thoughts into minds not specially prepared for their
reception. Mill's books show how well he acquired this art.
Whatever their other merits or defects, they reconcile conditions
too often conflicting; they are the product of mature reflection,
and yet presented so as to be intelligible without special
initiation. He is unsurpassable as an interpreter between the
abstract philosopher and the man of common-sense. The duties were
not such as to absorb his powers. Though his holidays were
limited to a month, he could enjoy Sunday rambles in the country
and pedestrian tours at home and abroad; and though
conscientiously discharging his official duties, he managed to
turn out as much other work as might have occupied the whole time
of average men. The Utilitarians were beginning to make
themselves felt in the press. Mill's first printed writings were
some letters in the Traveller in 1822, defending Ricardo and
James Mill against some criticism by Torrens. He then contributed
three letters to the Morning Chronicle, denouncing the
prosecution of Carlisle, which then excited the rightful wrath of
the Utilitarians. Two letters in continuation were too outspoken
to be published.(16*) Mill contributed to the Westminster Review
from its start in the spring of 1824, helping his father's
assault upon the Edinburgh. He was, he says, the most frequent
writer of all, and between the second and eighteenth number
contributed thirteen reviews. They show that he was reading
widely. An article upon Scott's Napoleon in 1828 shows that he
had fully made up his deficiencies as to the history of the
French revolution. He had not, however, as yet attained his full
powers of expression; and neither the style nor the arrangement
of the matter has the merits of his later work.(17*) The most
remarkable by far is the review of Whately's Logic in January
1828. It shows some touches of youthful arrogance, though
exceedingly complimentary to the author reviewed. But the
knowledge displayed and the vigour of the expression are
surprising in a youth of twenty-one; and it proves that Mill was
already reflecting to some purpose upon the questions treated in
his Logic.
    While thus serving an apprenticeship to journalism, Mill was
going through a remarkable mental training. About the beginning
of 1825 he undertook to edit Bentham's Rationale of Evidence. He
says that this work 'occupied nearly all his leisure for about a
year.' That such a task should have been accomplished by a youth
of twenty in a year would seem marvellous even if he had been
exclusively devoted to it. He had to condense large masses of
Bentham's crabbed manuscript into a continuous treatise; to
'unroll' his author's involved and parenthetic sentences; to read
the standard English textbooks upon evidence; to reply to
reviewers of previous works of Bentham, and to add comments
especially upon some logical points. Finally, he had to see, five
large volumes through the press.'(18*) That this was admirable
practice, and that Mill's style became afterwards, markedly
superior, to what it had been before, may be well believed. It is
impossible, however, not to connect the fact that Mill had gone
through this labour in 1825 with the singular mental convulsion
which followed in 1826.
    He was, he says, in a, dull state of nerves, in the autumn of
that year. It occurred to him to ask whether he would be happy
supposing that all his objects in life could be realised. 'An
irrepressible consciousness distinctly answered "No."' The cloud
would not pass away. He could think of no physician of the mind
who could 'raze out the rooted trouble of the brain.' His father
had no experience of such feeling, nor could he give the elder
man the pain of thinking that all the educational plans had
failed. The father's philosophy, indeed, both explained, and
showed the hopelessness of, the evil. Feelings depend upon
association. Analysis tends to destroy the associations, and
therefore to 'wear away the feelings.' Happiness has for its main
source the pleasure of sympathy with others. But the knowledge
that the feeling would give happiness could not suffice to
restore the feeling itself. It seemed to be impossible to set to
work again and create new associations. Mill dragged on
mechanically through the winter of 1826-27, and the gloom only
gathered. He made up his mind that he could not bear life for
more than a year. The first ray of hope came from a passage in
which Marmontel describes his father's death and his resolution
to make up the loss to his family. Gradually he recovered, though
he suffered several relapses. He learned, he says, two lessons:
first, that though happiness must be the end, it must not be the
immediate or conscious end, of life. Ask whether you are happy
and you will cease to be happy. Fix upon some end external to
happiness, and happiness will be 'inhaled with the air you
breathe.' And in the second place, he learned to make the
'cultivation of the feelings one of the cardinal points in his
ethical and philosophical creed.' He could not, however, for some
time apply his new doctrine to practice. He mentions as a quaint
illustration of this period one ingenious mode of self-torment.
He had from childhood taken pleasure in music. During the period
of depression even music had lost its charm. As he revived, the
charm gradually returned. Yet he teased himself by the reflection
that, as the number of musical notes is limited, there must come
a time when new Mozarts and Webers would no longer be possible.
This, he says, was like the fear of the Laputans that the sun
would in time be burnt out, a fear, it may be remarked, which
modern science has not diminished. He might have noticed that, as
the number of combinations of twenty-six letters is finite, new
Shakespeares and Dantes will become impossible. He observes,
however, that this was connected with the 'only good point in his
very unromantic and in no way honourable distress.' It showed an
interest in the fortunes of the race as well as in his own, and
therefore gave hopes that if he could see his way to better
prospects of human happiness his depression might be finally
removed. This state of mind made his reading of Wordsworth's
Excursion in the autumn of 1828 an important event in his life.
He could make nothing of Byron, whom he also studied for the
first time. But Wordsworth appealed to the love of scenery, which
was already one of his passions, and thus revealed to him the
pleasure of tranquil contemplation and of an interest in the
common feelings and destiny of human beings. From the famous Ode,
too, he inferred that Wordsworth had gone through an experience
like his own, had regretted the freshness of early life, and had
found compensation by the path along which he could guide his
    The effect upon Mill of Wordsworth's poetry is remarkable,
though I cannot here discuss the relation. Readers of the fourth
book of the Excursion (called 'despondency corrected') may note
how directly the poet applies his teaching to the philosopher. He
asks, for example, whether men of science and those who have,
analysed the thinking principle, are to become a 'degraded race',
and declares that it could never be intended by nature

    'That we should pore, and dwindle as we pore,
    Viewing al objects unremittingly
    In disconnexion dead and spiritless;
    And still dividing, and dividing still,
    Break down all grandeur, still unsatisfied
    With the perverse attempt, while littleness
    May yet become more little; waging thus
    An impious warfare with the very life
    Of our own souls!'

This is the precise equivalent of Mill's doctrine about the
danger of the habit of analysis, and James Mill, if Wordsworth
had ever read him, would have made an admirable example for the
excellent pedlar.
    It is characteristic of Mill that he does not explicitly
attribute this mental crisis to the obvious physical cause. As
Professor Bain tells us, he would never admit that hard work
could injure anybody. Disbelief in that danger is only too common
with hard workers. Mill intimates that his dejection was
occasioned by a 'low state of nerves,' but adds that this was one
of the accidents to which every one is occasionally liable.(19*)
A man would at least be more liable to it who, like Mill, had
been kept in a state of severe intellectual tension from his
earliest infancy, and who had gone through such labours as the
editing Bentham's Rationale of Evidence. That his health was
permanently affected seems to be clear. Ten years later (1836) he
was 'seized with an obstinate derangement of the brain.' One
symptom was a, ceaseless spasmodic twitching over one eye,' which
never left him. In 1839 another illness forced him to take a
month's holiday, which he spent in Italy. It left permanent
weakness in the lungs and the stomach. An accident in 1848 led to
a long illness and prostration of the nervous system; and in 1854
another serious illness, which he met by an eight months' tour in
Italy, Sicily, and Greece, led to the, partial destruction of one
lung, and great 'general debility.'(20*) In spite of these
illnesses, Mill continued to labour as strenuously as before, and
until the illness of 1848 at least showed no signs of any decline
of intellectual energy. They must be remembered if we would do
full justice to his later career.
    It is, meanwhile, remarkable that his energetic course of
self-education seems hardy to have been interrupted by the period
of dejection. In the year 1825, while, one might have supposed,
fairly drowned in Bentham's manuscript, he contributed an article
upon Catholic Emancipation to a Parliamentary History, started by
Mr Marshall of Leeds. He wrote others upon the commercial crisis
and upon the currency and upon reciprocity in commerce for the
two subsequent annual issues. He thinks that his work had now
ceased to be 'juvenile,' and might be called original, so far as
it applied old ideas in a new connection. At the same time he
learned German, forming a class for the purpose. He also set up a
society which met two days a week at Grote's house in
Threadneedle Street and discussed various topics from half-past 8
till 10 A.M. These meetings lasted till 1830. The young men
discussed in succession political economy, logic, and psychology.
Their plan was to take some text-book, and to discuss every point
raised thoroughly -- sometimes keeping to a single question for
weeks -- until every one was satisfied with at least his own
solution of the question. Ricardo, James Mill, and their like
supplied the chief literature; but in logic they went further,
and, being disgusted with Aldrich, reprinted the Manuductio ad
Logicam of the Jesuit du Trieu. The result of these arguments
appears in the review of Whately. Mill, helped by Graham and
Ellis (his old allies in the Utilitarian Society), started 'most
of the novelties'; while Grote and the others formed a critical
tribunal. The results formed the materials of several of Mill's
writings. These occupations might have been enough for a youth of
twenty, but another field for discussion offered itself. The
followers of Owen were starting weekly public discussions in
1825. The Utilitarians, headed by Charles Austin, went in a body,
and a series of friendly but very energetic debates went on for
three months. This led to the foundation of a debating society,
upon the model of the, Speculative Society, of Edinburgh. After a
failure at starting, the society became active, and until 1829
Mill took part in nearly every debate. Besides the Utilitarians,
it included Macaulay, Thirlwall, Praed, the Bulwers, Fonblanque,
and others. Charles Buller and Cockburn came in as Radicals, and
the Tories, of whom there had been a lack in those days of
reforming zeal, were reinforced by Shee (afterwards Judge) and A.
Hayward. Maurice and Sterling were representatives of a
liberalism widely differing from Utilitarianism, and acceding
Coleridge in place of Bentham as intellectual guide. Mill learned
to speak fluently, if not gracefully, and improved his style by
preparing written speeches. It is not strange that, with all
these occupations, he felt it a relief when, in 1828, he was
released from contributing to the Westminster. Bowring, the
editor, had made arrangements with Perronet Thompson, and it was
no longer an organ of the orthodox Utilitarians. In 1829 Mill
gave up the Speculative Society and resolved to devote himself to
private studies and prepare for more elaborate work. New thoughts
were being suggested from various quarters. Macaulay's attack
upon his father's political theory led him to recognise the
inadequacy of the Utilitarian system, and forced him to consider
the logical problems involved. He came under the influence of the
St. Simonians at the same period. An enthusiastic disciple of the
school, Gustave d'Eichthal, two years senior to Mill, was taken
by young Tooke to the debating society in May 1828, and was
surprised by Mill's skilful and comprehensive summing up of a
discussion. He endeavoured to make proselytes of the pair, then
full of the enthusiasm and expecting the triumph of their party.
Tooke, apparently Mill's warmest friend at the time, committed
suicide early in 1830, in an access of excitement produced by
fever ascribed to overwork and tension of mind. Mill became a
half-convert. He was greatly impressed by the St. Simonian
doctrine of the alternation of, critical, and, constructive,
periods. He admitted the necessity of something better than the
negative or 'critical philosophy' of the eighteenth century.(21*)
He desired the formation of a spiritual power. He protested,
however, against the excessive spirit of system and against
premature attempts to organise such a power. Yet by degrees he
modified his objections, and on 30th November 1831 declares his
belief that the St. Simonian ideal will be the final state of the
human race. Were England ripe for an 'organic view,' which it
certainly is not, he might renounce everything in the world to
become -- not one of them, but -- like them. Mill kept, as he
says, a bureau of St. Simonianism for a time, and suggested to
d'Eichthal the names of many persons to whom the publications of
the party might be sent. Bulwer, Sterling, Whately, Blanco White,
W. J. Fox, and Dr Arnold were among them.(22*) Meanwhile, his
speculations caused him to be much troubled by the doctrine of
Philosophical Necessity; and he worked out a solution which was
ultimately published in the Logic. While his mind was thus
fermenting with many new thoughts, often, as he says,(23*) new
only to him, he was profoundly moved by the French revolution of
July 1830. He went at once to Paris with Roebuck and Graham; was
introduced to Lafayette, made friends with other popular leaders,
and came back prepared to take an active part as a writer on
behalf of the Reform agitation. For some years he was an active
journalist, contributing to the Examiner under Fonblanque. A
series of articles called, The Spirit of the Age, in this paper
led to his acquaintance with Carlyle, who took him to be a 'new
Mystic.'(24*) In 1830 and 1831 he wrote his essays on Some
Unsettled Questions of Political Economy, the fruit of the
discussions with Graham (not published till 1844), and in 1832
wrote articles upon foundations and upon the 'currency juggle,'
which are the first of his collected dissertations.
    I have now followed Mill's mental history until the period at
which the follower was fully competent to become the guide. It
would be difficult to mention any thinker who has gone through a
more strenuous and continuous discipline. From his earliest
infancy till the full development of his powers he had been going
through a kind of logical mill. No student in the old schools
employing every waking hour in, syllogising, could have been more
assiduously trained to the use of his weapons. If his boyish
years had been passed in a kind of intellectual gymnasium, he had
as a youth proved and perfected his skill ill the open arena. His
official position was making him familiar with business and with
the ordinary state of mind of the commonplace politician. He had
been interested in fresh lines of thought through the writings of
French Liberals, and especially the St. Simonians, and through
his arguments with the Socialists who followed Owen, and with the
young men who looked up to Coleridge as their great teacher. His
own experience had brought home to him the sense of a certain
narrowness and rigidity in the Utilitarians; his friendly
controversies had led him to regard opponents with more
toleration than his party generally displayed, and he was
sincerely anxious to widen the foundations of his creed, and to
assimilate whatever was valuable in conflicting doctrines.
Meanwhile his practice as a writer had by this time enabled him
to express himself with great clearness and vigour; and young as
he still was, he was better qualified than any of his
contemporaries to expound the views of his party.
    One point, however, must be marked. Mill's training left
nothing to be desired as a system of intellectual gymnastics. It
was by no means so well calculated to widen the mental horizon.
His philosophical reading was not to be compared to that, for
example, of Sir William Hamilton, who was at this time
accumulating his great stores of knowledge. He learned German, as
people were beginning to learn it, but he did not make himself
familiar with German thought. On 13th March 1843, having just
sent a copy of his Logic to Comte, he observes that he owes much
to German philosophy as a corrective to his exclusive Benthamism.
He has not, he adds, read Kant, Hegel, or any chief of the
school, but knows of them from their French and English
interpreters -- presumably Cousin, Coleridge, and Sir W.
Hamilton. He tried some of the originals afterwards, but found
that he had got all that was useful in them, and the remainder
was so fastidieux that he could not go on reading.(25*)
Considering all his occupations, his official duties, his editing
of Bentham, his many contributions to journalism, and the time
taken up by the little societies of congenial minds, the
wonderful thing is that he read so much else. He kept himself
well informed on the intellectual movement of France; he had made
a special study of the French revolution; and was fairly familiar
with many other provinces of historical inquiry. It was
impossible, however, that he should become learned in the strict
sense. His studies, that is, were more remarkable for intensity
than for extent. The vigorous discussions with his friends upon
political economy, logic, and psychology, while implying an
admirable training, implied also a limitation of study; they did
not get beyond the school of Ricardo in political economy, nor
beyond the school of James Mill in psychology, nor beyond a few
textbooks in formal logic. They argued the questions raised
thoroughly, and until they had fully settled their own doubts.
But it would be an inevitable result that they would generally be
satisfied when they had discovered not so much a thorough
solution as the best solution which could be given from the
Utilitarian point of view. The more fundamental questions as to
the tenability of that view would hardly be raised. Therefore,
though Mill deserves all the credit which he has received for
candour, and was, in fact, most anxious to receive light from
outside, it is not surprising that he will sometimes appear to
have been blind to arguments familiar to thinkers of a different
school. The fault is certainly not peculiar to Mill; indeed, it
is his genuine desire to escape from it which makes it necessary
to ask why the escape was not more complete. Briefly, at any,
rate, Mill, like most other people, continued through life to be
penetrated by the convictions instilled in early youth.


    The period which followed the Reform Bill showed a great
change in Mill's personal position. The Utilitarians had taken
their part in the agitation, and expected to share in the fruits
of victory. Several of them were members of the first reformed
parliament, especially Grote and Roebuck, who now entered the
House for the first time. Charles Buller (1806-1848) and Sir
William Molesworth (1810-1855) were also new members, and both
were among the youngest recruits of the Utilitarian party Buller
had been a pupil of Carlyle, and afterwards one of the Cambridge
orators. He was evidently a man of very attractive nature, though
he seems to have been too fond of a joke -- the only Utilitarian,
probably, liable to that imputation -- and was gaining a high
reputation by the time of his early death. Molesworth, after a
desultory education, which included a brief stay at Cambridge
about Buller's time, and some study on the continent, became a
friend of Grote upon entering parliament. He was a man of many
intellectual interests, and an ardent Utilitarian. These and a
few more formed the party known as 'the philosophical Radicals.'
Mill, whose position was incompatible with parliamentary
ambition, was to be the exponent of their principles in the
press. Whatever their failings, they certainly formed an
important section of the most intelligent politicians of the
time. Mill became their chief exponent in the press, and began
operations by articles in the Examiner and the Monthly Repository
(edited by W. J. Fox). He says(26*) that his writings between
1832 and 1834 would fill a large volume. Molesworth then proposed
to start a new quarterly, to be called the London Review, which
should represent the true creed more faithfully than the recreant
Westminster. He stipulated that Mill should be the virtual,
though he could not, on account of his official position, be the
ostensible, editor. The first number of the London accordingly
appeared in April 1835. A year later Molesworth bought the
Westminster, and the review was now called the London and
Westminster. Molesworth, having become tired of carrying on a
review which did not pay, handed it over to Mill in 1837, who
continued it till 1840, when he transferred it to Mr
Hickson.(27*) The vitality of unprofitable reviews is one of the
mysteries of literature. Mill lost money and spent much time in
this discouraging work; but he would doubtless have grudged
neither had he succeeded in doing a real service to his party.
    The 'philosophical' Radicals, however, were doomed to
failure. One among many obvious reasons is suggested by the name.
Philosophical in English is synonymous with visionary,
unpractical, or perhaps, simply foolish. The philosophers seemed
to be men of crotchets, fitter for the study than the platform.
They had, as Mill says, little enterprise or activity, and left
the lead to the 'old hands,' Hume and O'Connell. About 1838,
indeed, Mill appears to have become quite alienated from them. He
thought them 'craven,' and they thought him 'mad.'(28*) He
admits, indeed, that the men were less to blame than the times.
Mill, however, held then, and seems to have always believed, that
what was wanting was mainly a worthy leader. His father, he
thinks, might have forced the Whigs to accept the Radical policy
had he been in parliament. For want of such a leader, the
philosophical Radicals became a mere left wing of the Whigs. For
a time, Mill had some hopes of Lord Durham, who represented
Radical leanings in the upper sphere. Durham's death in 1840 put
an end to any such hopes; and the philosophical Radicals had
pretty well ceased by that time to represent any real political
force. In truth, however, it is difficult to believe that any
leader could have made much out of the materials at his disposal.
The Reform Bill had transferred power to the middle classes. They
had resented their own exclusion from influence, and it had been
impossible to prevent the great towns from acquiring a share in
the representation without risk of violent revolution. But it did
not at all follow that the majority of the new constituents
accepted the programme of the extreme reformers. They had forced
the doors for themselves, but had no desire to admit the crowd
still left outside. Only a small minority desired the measures
which the Radicals had contemplated, which involved organic
constitutional changes, and would possibly lead to confiscation.
When the Chartists proposed a sweeping reform the middle classes
were frightened by the prospect of revolution. They were quite
willing to leave the old aristocratic families in power, if only
the policy were modified so as to be more congenial to the
industrial interests. Statesmen brought up under the old system
were still the office holders, and were only anxious to steer a
middle course. All this is now obvious enough; and it meant at
the time that the philosophical Radicals found themselves, to
their surprise, without any great force behind them, and were
only able to complain of the half-hearted policy of the Whigs,
and to weaken the administration until the Conservatives under
Peel could take advantage of a situation which had become
intolerable. The favourite measure of the philosophical Radicals
was the ballot. They attributed the slackening of zeal for
Radicalism to the fact that the aristocracy were trying to
maintain their old power by bribery and intimidation. The ballot
would be the most obvious check to this policy.
    Under these conditions Mill's position is characteristic. He
wrote much and forcibly. Some of his articles of this period in
the Westminster are collected in the first volume of the
dissertations. He omitted others which refer to matters of more
ephemeral interest. They show great power, but they also indicate
the real difficulty. Mill writes as a philosopher and an
expounder of general ideas. But he also writes as a partisan --
insisting, for example, upon the ballot of which he afterwards
came to disapprove -- and it is always a very difficult matter to
reconcile the requirements imposed by these different points of
view. Mill was scarcely immersed enough in the current of
political agitation to plant telling personal blows; and, on the
other hand, his theories seem to be cramped by the necessity of
supporting a platform. He aimed, he says, at two points. He
tried, and, he thinks, with partial success, to supply a
philosophy of Radicalism, wider than Bentham's, and yet including
what was permanently valuable in Bentham. He tried also, and this
aim was, from the first chimerical,' to rouse the Radicals to the
formation of a powerful party. The articles upon Durham were
partly prompted by this purpose; and, though unsuccessful in that
respect, he spoke, he thinks, the 'word in season,' which at a
critical moment directed public opinion towards the concession of
self-government to the Colonies.(29*)
    The articles in the Westminster show, now that we can see
later developments, how clearly he saw the real difficulty, and
yet how far he was from estimating its full significance. They
are of essential importance to an understanding of his whole
career.(30*) In the article which was his farewell to politics
for the time, he elaborately states the problem. He considers
what are a man's, natural, politics. He claims more than the
usual faith in the influence of reason and virtue over men's
minds; but then it is in the influence 'of the reason and virtue
upon their own side of the question.' A man is made a Liberal or
a Conservative on the average by his position; he is made a
Liberal or a Conservative of a particular kind by his 'intellect
and heart.' In other words, parties, in the main, represent
classes; and the fundamental opposition is between the,
privileged, and the, disqualified, classes. The line, then, as
with the old Radicals, is drawn between the privileged, who are
chiefly the landowners and their adherents, clerical, legal, and
military, and the, disqualified,' who are chiefly the lower
middle classes and the working classes. Now, the Radical party
ought to combine the whole strength of the disqualified against
the privileged. Why do they not? Among the superficial reasons is
that want of a leader, which Mill hoped to supply by Durham.
Another personal reason is that, as he complains rather
bitterly,(31*) the Radicals never spoke so as to secure the
sympathy of the working classes. This points to the real
difficulty. There was a gulf between the middle and the working
classes, as well as between the, privileged, and the
'disqualified.' The real aim of Mill's articles is to show how
this gulf could be surmounted. All the, disqualified, might be
brought into line if only the philosophical Radicals could be got
to attract the working classes, and the working classes to follow
the Radicals. Mill therefore endeavours to prove that the Radical
measures were in fact intended for the benefit of the working
classes, and might consequently be made attractive. The position
was in fact precisely this. The Chartist agitation was becoming
conspicuous, and the Chartists had broken off from the Radicals.
Mill had to persuade them that they did not know their true
friends. His sincerity and the warmth of his sympathy are
unmistakable, but so is the difficulty of the task.
    In the first place, he repudiates universal suffrage (one of
the six points). He thinks it bad in point of policy, because to
propose it would alienate the whole middle class at once, who
would see in it a direct attack upon property. But universal
suffrage was also bad in itself, because the mass of the very
lowest class was ignorant, degraded, and utterly unfit for power.
The intelligent working man ought to recognise the fact, and
therefore not to grant the suffrage to the lowest class. What,
then, was to be done? The answer, given emphatically in his last
article, is that we should govern for the working classes by
means of the middle classes. That, he says, should be the motto
of every Radical. The ideal is a government which should adopt
such a policy as would be adopted under universal suffrage in a
country where the masses were educated so as to be fit for it. In
other words, the great aim of Radicals should be to redress
practical grievances.
    Did, then, the Radical platform aim at such redress? Mill's
proof that it did is significant. The Radicals were unanimous
against the Corn-laws; and the Corn-laws, as he argues,(32*)
injure the poor man because they lower the rate of profit, and
are ruining the small capitalist and destroying our trade. The
philosophical Radicals were supporters of the new Poor-law. It
had often been said that the sinecurists were in fact rich
paupers living on other men's labours. Mill inverts the argument
by saying that the paupers under the old system were poor
sinecurists, equally living upon other men's labours. To say
nothing of some smaller grievances, such as taxes on articles
consumed by the poor, logging in the army, and enclosure of
commons, which were attacked by the Radicals, the Radicals also
wished to discharge, one of the highest duties of government, by
setting up a system of national education. It is now easy to see
why these proposals failed to satisfy the class to whom the
Radicals were to appeal. A great part of them, he says, were,
Owenites, or, in other words, inclined to Socialism. They had, as
Mill regretfully admits, crude views upon political economy.
Thus, the Chartists were not hearty, even in the anti-Corn-law
agitation. They did not see that a rise of profits was at all for
their benefit. They held, as Mill observes, that whatever profit
was gained would go to their masters. On the other hand, they did
not admire the new Poor-law. They thought that, as Cobbett had
told them, it robbed them of their rights, and did not object to
having small sinecures. National education, however desirable,
did not seem worth a struggle till they had got higher wages.
Then, as Mill again admits, they would not see that the
competition which injured them was their own competition, and due
to their disregard of Malthus. They objected to competition in
general, which meant, as they thought, the grinding down of their
class by the wicked capitalist. Mill remarks that Owen was not
really opposed to rights of property; and one of his
recommendations is that the law of partnership should be reformed
so as to facilitate the growth of cooperative societies. Even if
this failed, it would tend to educate the poor in sound economic
principles. Meanwhile, however, the principles of their actual
leaders were anything but 'sound.' Mill incidentally speaks of
the, Oastlers and Stephenses, as representing only the worst
class of the 'operative Radicals.' Oastler was at this time
conspicuous for his support of the factory legislation. He was
allied with Lord Ashley, and represented the alliance of
Socialism with Toryism or 'New Englandism.' Now the factory
legislation, which naturally seemed to the working classes the
greatest step towards a recognition of their interest, is not
mentioned by Mill, and for the good reason that he and his school
were opposed to it on principle. He refers incidentally to
measures such as the Eight Hours Bill as belonging to the quack
schemes of reform.(33*) Briefly, the difficulty was that the
working classes were already looking in the direction of
Socialism, and that Mill remained a thorough individualist. With
his sanguine belief in the power of education, he thought, with a
certain simplicity, that the Owenites, with whose ultimate views
he fully sympathised, might be taught to give up their crude
political economy. Their education required more time and labour
than he imagined.
    This indicates a critical point. The classes which had been
disappointed by the Reform Bill, and had hoped for great social
changes, were discontented, but looked for remedies of a very
different kind from Mill's. They could not see a philanthropy
which was hidden behind Malthus and Ricardo, and which proposed
to improve their position by removing privileges, indeed, but not
by diminishing competition. If this applied to Mill, it applied
still more to his friends. They represented rather intellectual
scorn for old prejudices and clumsy administration than any keen
sympathy with the sufferings of the poor. The harsher side of the
old Utilitarianism was, therefore, emphasised by them, and Mill's
attempts to enlarge and soften its teaching were regarded by his
allies with a certain suspicion. They thought that his sympathy
with the Socialist ends implied a tendency to look too favourably
upon its means. The articles upon Bentham and Coleridge,(34*) in
which he tried to inculcate a wider sympathy with his opponents,
scandalised such friends as Grote, and he ceased to represent
even his own allies. Philosophical Radicalism died out. Its
adherents became Whigs, or joined the Cobden form of Radicalism,
which was the very antithesis of Socialism. Their philosophy
suited neither party. To the class which still retained the
leading position in politics, they appeared as destructives; and
to the classes which were turning towards Chartism, they appeared
as the most chilling critics of popular aspiration. The
Free-trade movement, which was gathering strength as the
manufacturing interest grew stronger, had no doubt an affinity
for one important part of their teaching. But such men as Cobden
and Bright, though they accepted the political economy of the
Utilitarians, could not be counted as products or adherents of
the Utilitarian philosophy. The agreement was superficial in
other respects, though complete in regard to one important group
of measures. This marks an essential point in Mill's political
and social doctrine. For the present, it is enough to note that
the philosophical Radicals who had expected to lead the van had
been left on one side in the political warfare, and by 1840 were
almost disbanded. Grote, the ablest of Mill's friends, retired
from parliament to devote himself to his History of Greece about
the same time as Mill set to work upon the completion of his
    One characteristic of Mill as an editor may be noted before
proceeding. Under his management, a large number of distinguished
contributors were enlisted. Professor Bain mentions Bulwer,
Charles Buller, Roebuck, James and Harriet Martineau, W. J. Fox,
Mazzini, and others. The independent authorship of many articles
was indicated by appending letters, although Mill could not
introduce the more modern plan of full signatures. He
occasionally attaches notes to express his personal dissent from
some of the opinions advocated, and aims at representing various
shades of thought. He was especially anxious to help rising men
of genius. In the London Review in 1835 he wrote one of the first
appreciations of Tennyson, and answered some depreciatory
criticisms of the Quarterly Review and Blackwood.(35*) On the
publication of Carlyle's French Revolution he called attention to
its merits in an article (July 1837), which, though rather clumsy
in form, shows no want of generous appreciation of Carlyle's
historical powers; and in a later number (October 1839) admitted,
with a note to explain his personal reservations, an exposition
of Carlyle by Sterling. To his review of Carlyle's book, as to
the Durham article, he attributes considerable success.(36*) It
set people right, he thinks, in regard to a writer who had set
commonplace critics at defiance. From a letter quoted by
Professor Bain,(37*) he reckoned at the time as a third success
the result of his constant, dinning into people's ears, that
Guizot was, a great thinker and writer.' His opinion of Guizot
was to change; but the article republished in the dissertations
from the Edinburgh Review of 1845 shows that he retained a high
admiration for Guizot's work. Other articles upon Carrel, A. De
Vigny, and Michelet in the same collection show his constant
desire to rouse Englishmen to an appreciation of French
literature. Tocqueville's Democracy in America was twice reviewed
by him, and had an important influence upon his thought.(38*) The
rigid Utilitarianism of Grote was a little scandalised by the
width of Mill's sympathies even with his opponents. The orthodoxy
of a man who could see and even insist upon the good side of
Coleridge and Carlyle was precarious. In any case, we may admit
that Mill showed the generous desire to meet and encourage
whatever seemed good in others, which is one of his strong claims
upon our personal respect.
    For many years Mill's relation to Carlyle, who represented a
Radicalism of a very different type, was significant. The first
personal acquaintance began in 1831, when Carlyle came to London,
and desired to see the author of the articles upon the 'Spirit of
the Age.' For a time there was a warm liking on both sides. Mill
appeared as a candid and eager disciple, and Carlyle hoped that
he would become a 'mystic.' During Carlyle's subsequent
retirement at Craigenputtock, they carried on an intimate
correspondence.(39*) Mill's letters, of which Froude gives an
interesting summary, show Mill's characteristic candour and
desire to profit by a new light. Though he speaks with the
deference becoming to the younger man, and to one who admits his
senior's superiority as a poet, if not as a mere logician, he
confesses with a certain shyness to a radical dissent upon very
vital points. But the most remarkable characteristic is Mill's
conviction that he has emerged from the old dry Benthamism into
some higher creed. What precisely that may be is not so obvious.
When in 1834 Carlyle finally settled in London, the intercourse
became frequent. Mill supplied Carlyle with books on the French
revolution, and was responsible for the famous destruction of the
manuscript of the first volume. The review in the Westminster was
perhaps prompted partly by remorse for this catastrophe, though
mainly, no doubt, by a generous desire to help his friend. At one
time Carlyle hoped to be under-editor to the newly started London
Review; and, as the old tutor of Charles Buller, he was naturally
acquainted with the Utilitarian circle. The divergence of the
whole creed and ways of thought of the men was certain to cool
the alliance. Carlyle expresses respect for the honesty of the
Utilitarians, and considered them as allies in the war against
cant. But his 'mysticism' implied the conviction that their
negative attitude in regard to religion was altogether
detestable; while. in political theories, he was at the very
opposite pole. Mill sympathised with his Chartism (1839) and Past
and Present (1843), published at this period, as remonstrances
against the sins of the governing classes; but altogether rejects
what he took to be the reactionary tendency of the Carlylese
gospel. Ultimately. when Carlyle attacked the anti-slavery
agitators in 1849, Mill made an indignant reply,(40*) and all
intercourse ceased.(41*) Mill's judgment of Carlyle, as given in
his Autobiography, shows the vital difference. Carlyle was a
poet, he says, and a man of intuitions; and Mill was neither.
Carlyle saw at once many things which Mill could only, hobble
after and prove, when pointed out. 'I knew that I could not see
round him, and could never be certain that I saw over him, and I
never presumed to judge him with any definiteness until he was
interpreted to me by one greatly superior to us both, who was
more a poet than he and more a thinker than I 'whose own mind and
nature included his and infinitely more';(42*) in short, by Mrs
Taylor, of whom I shall speak directly. Carlyle's aversion to
scepticism (in some sense), to Utilitarianism, to logic, and to
political economy -- the 'dismal science, -- was indeed too
inveterate to allow of any real alliance; and though Mill did his
best to appreciate Carlyle, he learned from him only what one
learns from an antagonist, that is, to be more confident in one's
own opinions.


    As philosophical Radicalism sank into impotence, Mill's
occupation as its advocate was gone. He now again became a
recluse. For many years he withdrew altogether from London
society. This was obviously due in part to the connection to
which he ascribed the greatest possible importance. The 'most
valuable friendship of his life,' as he calls it, had been formed
in 1830 with Mrs Taylor, who was two years his junior. Her
husband was a man in business,(43*) a 'most upright, brave, and
honourable man,' according to Mill, and regarded by her with the,
strongest affection, through life.(44*) Taylor was, however,
without the tastes which would have qualified him to be a worthy
intellectual companion for his wife. In this respect Mill was
greatly his superior; and his intimacy with Mrs Taylor rapidly
developed. He dined with her twice a week, her husband dining
elsewhere. She was an invalid for many years, and had to live in
country lodgings apart from her husband. He travelled with her on
the Continent during his illness of 1836. Although Taylor himself
behaved with singular generosity, and Mill himself states that
his own relation to Mrs Taylor was one of 'strong affection and
confidential intimacy only,' the connection naturally provoked
censure. His father bluntly condemned him for being in love with
another man's wife. His mother and sisters disapproved, and were
finally estranged by his marriage in later years.(45*) Mrs Grote
gave him up, apparently upon this ground, although he continued
his intercourse with Grote. Roebuck states that a remonstrance
which he imprudently made to Mill led to the cessation of their
friendship, which Mill attributes (with less probability) to
differences of opinion as to Byron and Wordsworth.(46*) Mill, who
worshipped Mrs Taylor as an embodiment of all that was excellent
in human nature, resented such disapproval bitterly; any
reference to Mrs Taylor produced excitement, and he avoided
collisions with possible censors by retiring from the world
altogether. On giving up the Westminster Review, he could, as he
put it,(47*) indulge the inclination, 'natural to thinking
persons when the age of boyish vanity is once past, for limiting
his own society to very few persons.' Englishmen, as he says in
his customary tone of disapproval, consider serious discussion as
'ill-bred,' and have not the French art of talking agreeably on
trifles. Men of mental superiority are, almost without exception
greatly deteriorated, if they condescend to join in such society.
The 'tone of the feelings is lowered,' and they adopt the low
modes of judgment which alone can meet with sympathy. When the
character, moreover, is once formed, agreement on cardinal points
is felt to be a necessary condition of 'anything worthy the name
of friendship.' Mill accordingly shut himself up in his office,
and except occasional intercourse with Grote, Professor Bain. and
a few others, lived as a solitary or sat at the feet of his
Egeria. His admirers, who were soon to be a rapidly increasing
class, heard generally that a sight of him was a rare privilege,
scarcely to be enjoyed except at meetings of the Political
Economy Club. There the conversation turned upon sufficiently
solid topics. Whether a life of seclusion be really wise is a
topic for an essay. Mill's unequivocal condemnation of the
society of which he had so little experience may appear to be
censorious. A philosopher may be as austere as a religious
Puritan; and Mill might have been a wiser man had he been able to
drop his dignity, indulge in a few amusements, and interpret a
little more generously the British contempt for high-flown
sentiment. His incapacity for play, as he admitted to Comte, was
a weak side of his character. Sydney Smith was for a short time
(1841-43) a member of the Political Economy Club, and there met
Mill on two or three occasions. One would like to know what
impression they made upon each other, and especially what Mill
thought of the jovial, life-enjoying, and sociable parson.
Probably, one fears, he would have taken the superabundant fun of
the canon as one more proof of the frivolity of British society,
and set his colleague down as a mere sycophant and buffoon. I
will not compare the merits of such opposite types. If Mill's
retirement is indicative of some weakness, it must also be
admitted that it was also dictated by a devotion to great tasks
requiring and displaying remarkable strength. He now set to work
vigorously, and in the course of the next few years produced his
most elaborate and important works.
    Both of them were the outcome of his early training. The
discussions at Grote's house had suggested to him the plan of a
book upon logic. The end, speaking roughly, was to set forth
articulately the theory of knowledge implicitly assumed in the
writings of his school. Fully accepting the main principles of
Bentham and James Mill, and regarding them as satisfactory, after
close investigation, he had yet become aware of certain
difficulties which might be solved by a more thorough inquiry. He
was afterwards stimulated by the controversy between his father
and Macaulay; and this led him, as he thought, to perceiving the
true logical method of political philosophy. About 1832 he took
up the subject again, and tried to solve the 'great paradox of
the discovery of new truths by general reasoning.' This led to
his theory of the syllogism, given in the second book of his
Logic. He now felt that he could produce a valuable work, and
wrote the first book. He was stopped by fresh difficulties, and
made a halt which lasted for five years. He, could make nothing
satisfactory of induction.' In 1837, while weighted by the
Review, he received a fresh impulse. Whewell's History of the
Inductive Sciences and Herschel's Discourse on the Study of
Natural Philosophy provided him with materials which had before
been lacking. In two months, during intervals snatched from other
works, he had written a third, 'the most difficult third,' of the
book. This included the remainder, of the doctrine of reasoning,
and the greater part of the book upon induction. He had now
'untied all the really hard knots,' and completion was only a
question of time. Comte's Philosophie Positive now became known
to him and greatly stimulated him, though he owed little of
definite result to it. In July and August 1838 he managed to
finish his third book; and his doctrine of, real kinds, enabled
him to turn the difficulty which had caused the five years' halt.
Other chapters on, language and classification, and upon
fallacies were added in the same autumn, and the remainder of the
work in the summer and autumn of 1840. Finally, the whole book
was rewritten between April 1841 and the end of the year, much
matter being introduced in the process which had been suggested
by Whewell's Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences and by Comte's
treatise.(48*) He offered the finished book to Murray, who
declined it; and it was finally accepted by Parker, who published
it in the spring of 1843.
    The significance of these dates will appear hereafter. It is
here enough to say that the book was the product of strenuous,
long-continued thought, and of influences from various quarters.
The success greatly exceeded his anticipations. No one since
Locke had approached him in the power of making the problems of
philosophy interesting to the laity. One remark which he makes is
important. He held that the philosophy which he assailed was the
great support of all deep-seated and antiquated prejudice. He was
therefore attacking false philosophy in its stronghold; and so
far as he succeeded, not merely exposing philosophic fallacies,
but essentially contributing to the triumph of reason. Though
retiring from active politics, he was elucidating the principles
which underlie all political theory.
    The Logic, in short, was intended not merely as a discussion
of abstruse problems, but as indirectly bearing upon the purposes
to which his life was devoted. He was led by the course of his
speculation to propose the formation of a new science to be
called 'ethology.' This ethology (of which I shall have to speak
in its place) is described by Mill as the Science which
corresponds to the Art of Education.(49*) Education is to be
taken in the widest sense of the word: as the training given by
the whole system of institutions which mould the character and
the thought of mankind. Mill had recognised the immense
difficulties in the way of all his schemes of reform which
resulted from the ignorance and stupidity of the classes to whom
power was inevitably passing. Whether that transition would be
beneficial or the reverse depended essentially upon the degree in
which men could be prepared for their new duties. Believing that
such a preparation was possible, he desired to determine the
general principles applicable; to give, as he says, the science
corresponding to the art.
    This scheme is noticed in the remarkable correspondence with
Comte, which began in 1841 during the final stage of the
composition of the Logic, and lasted until 1846. Some knowledge
of Comte's doctrines was spreading in England.(50*) Mill had read
an early work of Comte's (the Traité de Politique Positive,
1822), and criticised it sharply in his letters to d'Eichthal in
1828, though preferring it to other works of the St. Simonians.
On taking up in 1837 the two first volumes of Comte's Philosophie
Positive (all then published), he had been deeply impressed; he
read their successors, and in November 1841 he wrote to Comte as
an unknown admirer, and indeed in the tone of an ardent disciple.
He has, as he says, definitively left the 'Benthamist section of
the revolutionary school,' though he regards it as the best
preparation for true positivist doctrine. He accepts Comte's main
positions, though on some, secondary, questions he has doubts
which may disappear.(51*) He had even thought of postponing the
publication of his Logic until he had seen the completion of
Comte's treatise; and, had he been able to see the whole in time,
would perhaps have translated it instead of writing a new
book.(52*) Two-thirds, however, of the Logic was substantially
finished before he had read Comte, and it is adapted to the
backward state of English opinion. Mill holds, as he held when
writing to d'Eichthal, that a constructive should succeed to a
critical philosophy, and sees the realisation of his hopes in the
new doctrine. He holds with Comte that a 'spiritual power' should
be constituted, which cannot be reached through simple liberty of
discussion;(53*) and believes in a religion of humanity, destined
to replace theology.(54*) It is not surprising that Comte took
Mill for a thorough convert. A discord presently showed itself.
'You frighten me,' Mill said to Comte,'by the unity and
completeness of your convictions,' which seem to need no
confirmation from any other intelligence. Comte, in fact, had a
rounded and definitive scheme. He had ceased to read other
speculations as a mathematician might decline to read the
vagaries of circle-squarers. His whole system was demonstrated,
once for all. In 1843 Mill began an argument as to the equality
of the sexes, which lasted for some months, and ended
characteristically. Comte said(55*) that further argument would
be useless, as Mill was not yet prepared to accept 'fundamental
truths.' Mill agreed to drop the discussion, and added that his
own opinions had only been confirmed. The supposed convert
announced himself as an independent, though respectful, junior
colleague, with a right to differ. Mill, according to Bain,
became 'dissatisfied with the concessions which he had made.' In
truth, the divergence was hopeless, and implied a difference of
first principles. Meanwhile, the misunderstanding had further
consequences. When Comte was expecting to be dismissed from his
post, Mill generously declared (June 1843) that, so long as he
lived, he would share his last sou with his friend.(56*) Mill was
at this time in anxiety caused by the repudiation of American
bonds, in which he had invested some of his own money and some of
his father's, for which he was responsible. Comte declined to
take money from a fellow-thinker, but afterwards, when he
actually lost his post in July 1844, accepted help from Mill's
richer friends, Grote, Molesworth, and Raikes Currie. Comte took
their gift to be a tribute from disciples, and was offended when,
after the first year, they declined to continue the subsidy.
Instead of being disciples, they were simply persons interested
in a philosopher, many of whose tenets they utterly repudiated,
and thought that they had done quite enough to show their
respect. Mill, as the mediator in an awkward position, acted with
all possible frankness and delicacy, but the divergence was
growing. When, in 1845, Comte proposed to start a review to
propagate his doctrine, Mill had to point out that he and his
friends were partial allies, not subjects, and that positivism
was not yet sufficiently established to set up as a school.(57*)
Gradually the discord developed, and the correspondence dropped.
Comte's last letter is dated 3rd September 1846, and a letter
from Mill of 17th May 1847, speaking of the Irish famine,
produced no reply. Mill recognised the hopeless differences, and
came to think that Comte's doctrine of the spiritual power
implied a despotism of the worst kind. He expressed his
disapproval in his final criticism of Comte, and in the later
editions of the Logic considerably modified some of his early
    On 3rd April 1844 Mill informs Comte that he has put aside
the Ethology, his ideas being not yet ripe, and has resolved to
write a treatise upon Political Economy. He is aware of Comte's
low opinion of this study, and ex plains that he only attaches a
provisional value to its sociological bearing. The book, he
explains, will only take a few months to write. The subject,
indeed, had been never far from his thoughts since his father had
in early days expounded to him the principles of Ricardo. He had
discussed economic questions with the meetings at Grote's house;
he had written his Essays upon Unsettled Questions; and had been
taking a part by his reviews and articles in controversies upon
such topics as the Corn-laws, the currency, and the Poor-law. He
thus had only to expound opinions already formed, and the book
was written far more rapidly than the Logic. Begun in the autumn
of 1845, it was finished by the end of 1847. Six months out of
this were spent in writing an elaborate series of articles in the
Morning Chronicle during the disastrous winter of 1846-47, urging
the formation of peasant properties on the waste lands of
Ireland.(59*) The articles, of which four or five often appeared
in a week, were remarkable in the journalism of the day; but his
proposals failed to attract attention from English stupidity and
prejudice. He tells Comte in his last letter that the English
wish to help Ireland; but, from their total ignorance of
Continental systems, can only think of enabling the population to
live as paupers, instead of introducing the one obvious remedy.
His friend and colleague in the India House, W. T. Thornton, was
writing about the same time his Plea for Peasant
Proprietors.(60*) Thornton was one of the few who from this
period saw much of Mill; and his influence at a later time was
remarkable. The Political Economy represents essentially a
development of the Ricardo doctrine. One point requires notice
here. Mill tells us that he had turned back from his 'reaction
against Benthamism.'(61*) At the height of that reaction he had
become more tolerant of compromise with current opinions. By
degrees, however, he had become more than ever opposed to the
established principles. He was less of a democrat, indeed,
because more convinced of the incapacity of the masses; but more
of a Socialist, in the sense that he looked forward to a
complete, though distant, revolution in the whole structure of
society. In the first edition of the Political Economy he had
spoken decidedly against the possibility of Socialism. The events
of 1848 seemed to open new possibilities for the propagation of
novel doctrines. He accordingly modified this part of his book,
and the second edition (1849) represented a 'more advanced
opinion.'(62*) How far Mill could be called a Socialist will have
to be considered hereafter. This tendency, at any rate, marks one
characteristic. Mill points out, as one condition of its very
remarkable success, that he regarded political economy, not as a
'thing by itself, but as part of a greater whole.' Its
conclusions, he held, were valid only as conditioned by
principles of, social philosophy, in general;(63*) and the book,
instead of being ostensibly a compendium of abstract scientific
principles, is therefore written with constant reference to wider
topics and to the application of the doctrines to concrete facts.
How far Mill succeeded in giving satisfactory theories is another
question, but one thing at least he achieved. The Political
Economy became popular in a sense in which no work upon the same
topic had been popular since the Wealth of Nations; and it owed
its success in a great degree to the constant endeavour to trace
the bearings of merely abstract formulae upon the general
questions of social progress. He stimulated the rising interest
in those important problems, and even if his solutions did not
carry general conviction, they brought to him in later years a
following of reverent disciples.
    These two books, the Logic and the Political Economy, contain
in fact a nearly complete statement of Mill's leading position.
Although in later years he was to treat of political, ethical,
and philosophical topics, his leading doctrines were now
sufficiently expounded; and the later writings were rather
deductions or applications than a breaking of new ground. None of
them involved so strenuous and long-continued a process of mental
elaboration. The success of these two books gave him a position
at the time unrivalled. He was accepted as the Liberal
philosopher; and could speak as one of unquestioned authority.
    Professor Bain thinks that Mill's energy was henceforth less
than it had been. The various attacks from which he had suffered
had probably weakened his constitution. It must be noticed,
however, as Professor Bain also remarks, that there were
sufficient causes for some decline of literary activity, and he
certainly did an amount of work in the remaining twenty-five
years of his life which would have been enough to absorb the
powers of most men even of high ability. The publication of new
editions of his great books, which involved revision and replies
to criticism, and the composition of occasional review articles,
occupied some of the leisure from his official duties. The severe
illness of 1854 made necessary a long foreign tour. In 1856 he
became head of his department, and more work was thrown upon him.
On the extinction of the East India Company in 1857, he drafted a
petition to parliament on their behalf. It is remarkable that,
like his father in 1833, he became the apologist of a system
generally condemned by the Liberals of the day. His belief --
whatever its value -- was that the government of India could not
be efficiently carried on by the English parliament; that Indian
appointments would become prizes to be won by jobbery; and that
the direct rule of English public opinion would imply a disregard
of native opinions and feelings. The company, however, came to an
end; and Mill, refusing to accept a place on the new councils,
retired at the beginning of 1858 on a pension of £1500 a year.


    A great change was now to take place in his life. Mr Taylor
had died in July 1849; and in April 1851 his widow became Mill's
wife. They co-operated in one remarkable work, which is to be
connected with the development of his opinions at the time. Mill
had welcomed the French revolution of 1848 with enthusiasm. He
saw in it the victory of the party to which he had been most
attached from his youth; and in 1849 he wrote a vigorous
vindication of its leaders against the criticisms of
Brougham.(64*) He spoke with much sympathy even of the Socialism
of Louis Blanc, though, of course, admitting that it contained
many grave errors. The, success of an unprincipled adventurer in
December 1851, put an end to his hopes for the immediate future.
He felt painfully that even the recognition of many opinions for
which he had contended in his youth had brought less benefit than
he had anticipated. He became convinced that a great change in
the 'fundamental conditions of (men's) modes of thought' was
essential to any great improvement in their lot.(65*) During 1854
he had planned an essay upon Liberty, which was essentially an
attempt to point out certain conditions of such improvements.
During the last two years of his official life, he went over this
elaborately with his wife. After being twice written, he tells
us, every sentence was carefully weighed and criticised by them
both. He intended to make a final revision during the winter of
1858-59. That was not to be given. The book, however, is not only
characteristic, but is, from a purely literary point of view, the
best of Mill's writings. Mrs Mill died at Avignon from a sudden
attack of congestion of the lungs. The blow was crushing. Mill
felt that 'the spring of his life was broken.' He withdrew for a
time into complete isolation, though he soon found some solace in
work. He bought a house at Avignon, and spent half his time there
to be near his wife's grave. The rest of his time was spent at
Blackheath. His stepdaughter, Miss Taylor, lived with him, and he
expresses his gratitude for having drawn two such prizes in 'the
lottery of life.' Other friends and disciples were to gather
round him in later years.
    It is necessary to say something of the woman to whom Mill
was thus devoted. Yet it is very difficult to speak without
conveying some false impression. It is impossible, on the one
hand, to speak too respectfully of so deep and enduring a
passion. Mill's love of his wife is a conclusive answer to any
one who can doubt the tenderness of his nature. A man who could
love so deeply must have been lovable himself. On the other hand,
it is necessary to point out plainly certain peculiarities which
it reveals. Mill speaks of his wife's excellences in language so
extravagant as almost to challenge antagonism.(66*) I have
already quoted the passage in which he says that her qualities
included Carlyle's and his own and 'infinitely more.' In other
passages, he seems to be endeavouring to outdo this statement:
her judgment, he declares, was 'next to infallible'; 'the highest
poetry, philosophy, oratory, and art seemed trivial by the side
of her, and equal only to expressing some part of her mind'; and
he prophesies that, if mankind continue to improve, their
spiritual history for ages to come will be the progressive
working out of her thoughts and realisation of her conceptions.'
'Only John Mill's reputation,' said Grote, 'could survive such
displays.'(67*) The truth seems to be that in Mill's grief one
exquisite pang came from the thought that his wife had left
nothing by which her excellence could be made manifest to others.
The only article which he could call hers was that upon the
'enfranchisement of women,' the prefatory note to which includes
the phrases cited. He feels that it would hardly justify his
words; and has to add that she would, had she pleased, have
excelled it in eloquence and profundity. Even that has to be
qualified by saying that she could have written nothing on a
single subject which would have adequately shown 'the depth and
compass of her mind.' His readers, therefore, have to take his
statements on faith, and he tries to make up for the want of
proof by vehemence of asseveration. The only way of accepting
such utterances fairly. is to regard them as a cry of poignant
anguish, not as a set of statements to be logically criticised.
The accumulation of superlatives, meanwhile, has the disadvantage
that it leaves us without any distinctive characteristic. The
figure invested with such a blaze of light has neither distinct
form nor colouring. Mill was, I think, always at his feeblest in
describing character, and that was a natural weakness of one who,
with all his perspicacity, was essentially a bad judge of men.
    Apart from the revelation of Mill's character, the only
question is whether any intellectual influence is to be
attributed to Mrs Mill. It is easy to suggest that he admired her
because she was skilful in echoing his own opinions. To this
Professor Bain replies that Mill generally liked intelligent
opposition, and holds that in fact Mrs Mill did set his mind to
work by stimulating conversation.(68*) This may be true within
limits. Mill, however, himself assigns coincidence on cardinal
points of opinion as a necessary condition of friendship.(69*) It
is plain that such an agreement existed between himself and his
wife. That he could detect no error in her proves simply that she
held what he thought to be true, that is, his own opinions. He
has indeed said enough to explain the general relation. She had
nothing to do with the Logic, except as to the minuter matters of
composition; he had already come to believe in woman's rights
before he knew her; she did not affect the logical framework of
the Political Economy, but she suggested the chapter to which he
attributes most influence upon the future of the labouring
classes; and gave to the book, the general tone by which it is
distinguished from previous treatises.' 'What was abstract and
purely scientific,' he says by way of summary, 'was generally
mine; the properly human element came from her.'(70*) In other
words, her influence was rather upon his emotions than upon his
intellect, and led him to apply his abstract principles to the
actual state of society and to estimate their bearing upon human
interests and sympathies more clearly and widely than he would
otherwise have done. Undoubtedly we may gladly admit the
importance of this element in Mill's life; we can fully believe
that this, the one great affection of his life, had enabled him
to breathe a more genial atmosphere and helped to save him from
the rigidity and dryness of some of his allies. It is, however,
impossible to attribute to Mrs Mill any real share in framing his
philosophical doctrines; and the impossibility will be the more
evident when we have noticed to what an extent they were simply
the development of the creed which he had been imbibing from his
earliest years. Mill was essentially formed by Bentham, James
Mill, and Ricardo; while the relation to Mrs Mill encouraged him
to a more human version of the old Utilitarian gospel. The
attribution of all conceivable excellences to his wife shows that
he loved, if I may say so, with his brain. The love was perfectly
genuine and of most unusual strength; but he interpreted it into
terms of reason, and speaks of an invaluable sympathy as if it
implied a kind of philosophical inspiration.
    Mill, now released from his official labours, settled down as
he expected, for the remainder of his existence into a purely
literary life.'(71*) For six or seven years (end of 1858 to
summer of 1865) he carried out this design, and wrote much both
on political and philosophical topics. He first published the
Liberty, in which, after the death of his wife, he resolved to
make no further alterations. He gave the weight of his approval
to the congenial work of his friend, Professor Bain, by a review
in the Edinburgh of October 1859. He put together, from
previously written papers, his short treatise upon
Utilitarianism.(72*) In October 1863 he reviewed in the Edinburgh
the recently published lectures of his old friend, John Austin,
the representative Utilitarian jurist. Two articles upon
Comte(73*) in 1864 gave his final judgment of one of the thinkers
to whom he owed most outside of the Utilitarian circle. His most
elaborate performance, however, was his examination of Sir
William Hamilton's philosophy. This was suggested by the recent
publication of Hamilton's Lectures, which he at first intended
only to review. The work swelled upon his hands; he read all
Hamilton's writings three times over, and much other literature;
he completed the book in the autumn of 1864, and published it in
the following spring. It involved him in some very sharp
controversies, and contained his final and most elaborate protest
against the Intuitionist school. This, too, with the three
posthumous essays,(74*) gives his position upon the general
philosophical questions which were not treated in the Logic. In
his earlier books he had been systematically reticent to a degree
of which he afterwards disapproved.(75*) The intelligent reader,
indeed, could perceive to what conclusions his principles led;
but the intelligent reader is a rarity. When, in 1865, his
political opponents tried to turn his unpopular opinions to
account, the only phrase upon which they could fix was the really
very orthodox sentiment (in the examination of Hamilton) that he
would go to hell rather than worship an unjust God. He had
intended, it may be noticed, to publish the essay Upon Nature
himself; but the others were to be still held back. These last
utterances, however, taken together, give a sufficient account of
Mill's final position in philosophy.


    Meanwhile. he had been again drawn to politics. After
indifference which followed the final the long period of decay of
the philosophical Radicals, the English democracy was showing
many symptoms of revived animation. The new Reform Bill was
becoming the object of practical political agitation; and it
seemed that the hopes entertained of the Reform Bill of 1832 had
now at last a prospect of realisation. Mill thought in 1861 that
there was 'a more encouraging prospect of the mental emancipation
of England,' and that things were looking better for the general
advance of Europe.(76*) The surviving Utilitarians had declined
from the true faith. John Austin before his death had become
distinctly Conservative; and the sacred fire of Benthamism was
nearly extinct. Mill himself had changed in some respects. While
more awake to certain dangers of democracy, he was the more
strongly convinced of the possibility of meeting them by
appropriate remedies. Meanwhile Radicalism in various forms was
raising its head, and willing to accept Mill, now a writer of the
first celebrity, as its authorised interpreter. He wrote much at
this period, which defines his position and shows his relation to
the new parties. His first publication was a pamphlet on
Parliamentary Reform, suggested by the futile Reform Bill of Lord
Derby and Disraeli in 1859. He now objected to the ballot, the
favourite nostrum of the philosophical Radicals to which Grote
still adhered, but his main suggestions were in harmony with the
scheme proposed by Mr Hare. After the publication of his own
pamphlet, he became acquainted with this scheme, of which he
immediately became an ardent proselyte. In 1860 and 1861 he wrote
two treatises. He expounded his whole political doctrine in his
Considerations on Parliamentary Government (1861), and he wrote
for future publication -- 'at the time when it should seem most
likely to be useful' -- his Subjection of Women.(77*) In this, as
he intimates, 'all that is most striking and profound belongs to
his wife'; while it appears that his stepdaughter had also some
share in the composition. The outbreak of the civil war in
America led him to pronounce himself strongly in support of
Bright and other sympathisers with the cause of union.(78*)
Although his opinions were opposed to those commonest among the
English upper classes, they fell in with those of the Radicals,
and made him at once a representative of a great current of
opinion. His occupation with Hamilton now withdrew him for a time
to another department of thought.
    In the beginning of 1865 Mill published popular editions of
his Political Economy, his Liberty, and his Representative
Government. At the general election of that year he was invited
to stand for Westminster. Mill accepted the invitation, though
upon terms which showed emphatically that he would make no
sacrifice of his principles. He declined to incur any expense. He
would not canvass, although he attended a few public meetings in
the week preceding the nomination. He declared that he would
answer no questions about his religious beliefs, but upon all
other topics would answer frankly and briefly. 'Did you,' he was
asked at one meeting, 'declare that the English working classes,
though differing from some other countries in being ashamed of
lying, were yet "generally liars"?' His answer, 'I did,'
produced, he says, 'vehement applause.' It certainly deserved the
applause. Upon some points, too, of the Radical creed, Mill's
views were not acceptable. His condemnation of the ballot, and
his adherence to women's suffrage and to minority representation
marked his opposition to some democratic tendencies. These
opinions, however, referred to questions not prominent enough at
the time to be important as disqualifications in a candidate. His
election by a considerable majority roused great interest. He
came in upon a wave of enthusiasm, which accompanied the
beginning of a new political era. The Radicalism which was to
succeed was, indeed, very unlike the old Radicalism of 1832; but,
for the time at least, it believed itself to be simply continuing
the old movement, and was willing to accept the most
distinguished representative of the creed for one of its leaders.
    In his Autobiography Mill shows a certain self-complacency in
describing his proceedings in the new parliament, which is not
unnatural in a man called from his study by the strong demand
from practical politicians. The voice which had been crying in
the wilderness was now to be heard in the senate, and philosophy
to be married to practice. Mill took up his duties with his usual
assiduity; he watched business as closely as the most diligent of
partisans, and was as regular in the House as he had been in his
office. The scenes in which he appeared as an orator were
remarkable. His figure was spare and slight, his voice weak; a
constant twitching of the eyebrow betrayed his nervous
irritability; he spoke with excessive rapidity, and at times lost
the thread of his remarks, and paused deliberately to regain
self-possession.(79*) But he poured out continuous and thoroughly
well-arranged essays -- lucid, full of thought, and frequently
touching the point epigrammatically. His old practice at debating
societies and the Political Economy Club had qualified him to
give full expression to his thoughts. A general curiosity to see
so strange a phenomenon as a philosopher in parliament was
manifest, and Mill undoubtedly introduced an order of
considerations far higher than those of the average politician.
The tone of the debates, as was said by competent witnesses, was
perceptibly raised by his speeches. The accepted leaders, such as
Bright and Gladstone, welcomed him cordially, and were doubtless
pleased to find that they had been talking so much philosophy
without knowing it. The young mell who were then entering public
life looked up to him with reverence; and, for a time, even the
squires, the embodiments of Tory prejudice, were favourably
impressed. That could not be for long. One of the hits to which
Mill refers with some glee in the Autobiography(80*) gave the
nickname of the 'stupid party' to the Conservatives. It expressed
his real view a little too clearly. Between him and the typical
'John Bull' a great gulf was fixed. He could never contrive,
though he honestly tried, to see anything in the class which most
fully represents that ideal, except the embodiment of selfish
stupidity generated by class prejudice, And the country-gentlemen
naturally looked upon him as their ancestors would have looked
upon Sieyes, could the Frenchman have been substituted for
Charles Fox. They could dimly understand Whiggism, embodied in a
genial, hearty member of their own class; but the flavour of the
French philosophy, or its English correlative, was thin, acid,
and calculated to set their teeth on edge. They showed the
feeling after a time, and Mill retorted by some irritability as
well as scorn, He did-not, I fancy, obtain that kind of personal
weight which is sometimes acquired by a man who, though he
preaches equally offensive doctrines, is more obviously made of
the same flesh and blood as his adversaries.(81*)
    Mill took a part in various parliamentary proceedings. He
helped to pass the Reform Bill of 1867; he acted as a mediator
between the ministers and the Radicals who were responsible for
the famous meeting in Hyde Park; and he made a weighty protest on
behalf of a generous and thoroughgoing Irish policy. He thought
that a separation would be mischievous to both parties; but he
advocated a scheme for giving a permanent tenure to existing
tenants, with a due regard to vested interests.(82*) He obtained
little support for a policy which, at least, went to the root of
the great difficulty; but the wisdom of his view, whatever its
shortcomings, is more likely to be recognised now. The main
peculiarity of Mill's position, however, is all that I am able to
notice. In spite of his philosophy, he appeared to be a thorough
party man. He fully adopted, that is to say, the platform of the
Radical wing, and voted systematically with them on all points.
His philosophy led him, as he says,(83*) to advocate some
measures not popular with the bulk of the Liberal party. Of these
the most important were the extension of the suffrage to women
and the provision of representation for minorities. Many people,
he observes, took these to be 'whims of his own.' Mill, in fact,
was contributing to the advance of democracy. In his eyes, these
measures were of vital importance as safeguards against
democratic tyranny. The democrat was, of course, content to
accept his alliance, and to allow him to amuse himself with
fanciful schemes, which for the time could make no difference.
Mill, on the other hand, thought that by helping the democrat's
immediate purposes, he was also gaining ground for the
popularisation of these subsidiary though essential changes. The
relation is significant; for, whatever may be the value of Mill's
proposals, there can be no doubt that in many ways the democratic
changes which he advocated have led to results which he would
have thoroughly disapproved. The alliance, that is, for the time,
covered very deep differences, and Mill was virtually helping
Demos to get into power, in the expectation that, when in power,
Demos would consent to submit to restrictions, not yet, if they
ever will be, realised. There is the further question, not here
debatable, whether, if realised, they would act as Mill supposed.
Anyhow, for the present, the philosopher was really the follower
of the partisan. Mill made himself unpopular with a class wider
than that which constituted the 'stupid party.' He took a very
active part in the agitation provoked by Governor Eyre's action
in the Jamaica insurrection. That he was right in demanding a
thorough investigation seems to be undeniable. It seems also that
a more judicial frame of mind would have restrained him from
apparently assuming that such an investigation could have but one
result. People of a high moral tone are too apt to show their
virtue by assuming that a concrete case comes under a simple
moral law when in fact most such cases are exceedingly complex.
Mill, at any rate, and his committee impressed many people
besides their strongest opponents as allowing their indignation
to swamp their sense of fair play. Governor Eyre appeared to be a
victim of persecution instead of a criminal, and there was,
though Mill could not see it, a generous element in the feeling
that allowance should be made for a man placed in a terribly
critical position.
    After the dissolution of parliament, Mill incurred further
odium by subscribing to the election expenses of Bradlaugh.
Nothing could be more in harmony with his principles than the
support of an honest and straightforward man, attacked by the
bitterest theological prejudice. His seat, however, for
Westminster was lost (1868), and, refusing some other offers, he
was glad to retire once more to private life, and to literary and
philosophical pursuits. His strength was apparently failing, and
he achieved little more. His parliamentary activity had enlarged
his circle of acquaintance, and during these years he became far
more sociable. Admiring friends gathered round him; his old
allies, such as Hare and W. T. Thornton, the economist Cairnes,
and such rising politicians as Henry Fawcett, Mr Courtney, and Mr
Worley, looked up to him, and had frequent meetings with him. One
characteristic point must be noticed, his withdrawal of the, wage
fund, theory when impugned by W. T. Thornton in 1869. The candour
which he showed on this occasion, and his generous appreciation
of his friend, was eminently characteristic. In the same year
appeared his edition of his father's Analysis, which, he
says,(84*) 'ought now to stand at the head of the systematic
works on Analytic Psychology.' He was preparing for other
writings, but his task was done. He died at Avignon, 8th May
1873, of a sudden attack, having three days before walked fifteen
miles on a botanical excursion.
    The impression made upon T. H. Green(85*) by some of Mill's
letters was that he must have been an 'extraordinarily good man.'
The remark came from a philosophical opponent, and might be
echoed by many admirers and generous adversaries. The reverence
of his personal friends is sufficiently indicated by the articles
of Mr John Morley,(86*) written at the time of their loss. Mill's
moral excellence, indeed, is in some directions beyond all
dispute. No human being ever devoted himself more unreservedly to
a worthy end from his earliest to his latest years; the end was
the propagation of truths of the highest importance to mankind,
and the devotion implied entire freedom from all meaner or
subsidiary ambitions. A man of whom that can be said without fear
of contradiction has certainly extraordinary goodness. When we
add that he was singularly candid, fair in argument, most willing
to recognise merits in others, and a staunch enemy of oppression
in every form, we may say that Mill possessed in an almost
unsurpassable degree the virtues peculiarly appropriate to a
philosopher. A complete judgment, however, must take other
characteristics into account. One remark is obvious. Mill
observes(87*) that the description of a Benthamite as 'a mere
reasoning machine,' though untrue of many of his friends, was
true of himself during 'two or three years' -- before, that is,
he had learned to appreciate the value of the emotions. Many
readers thought it true of him to the last. Though the phrase may
be understood so as to imply the very contradictory of the truth,
I take it to imply one aspect of his character which cannot be
neglected. The Autobiography, though a very interesting, is to
many readers far from an attractive, work; and its want of charm
is, I think, significant of the weakness which is caricatured by
the epithet 'reasoning machine.' Omitting the pages about his
wife, there is a singular absence of the qualities which make so
many autobiographies interesting: there is no tender dwelling
upon early days and associations; his father is incidentally
revealed as an object of profound respect, but without illusion
as to his harsher qualities; hardly any reference is made to his
mother or his brothers and sisters; his friends are briefly
noticed and their intellectual merits duly set forth, but there
is no warm expression of personal feeling towards any one of
them; his remarks upon his countrymen in general are
contemptuous; and, though he is desirous of the welfare of the
species, he is as fully convinced as Carlyle, that men are
'mostly fools.' Old institutions awake no thrill; they are simply
embodiments of prejudice; and the nation is divided between those
who have a 'sinister interest' in abuses, and the masses who are
still too brutalised to be trusted. At the bottom of his heart he
seems to prefer a prig, a man of rigid formula, to the vivid and
emotional character, whose merits he recognises in theory. He
complains frequently of the general decay of energy, and yet his
ideal would seem to be the thoroughly drilled thinker, who is the
slave of abstract theories. His 'zeal for the good of mankind'
was really to the last what he admits it to have been at the
early period, a 'zeal for speculative opinions.' The startling
phrases about his wife are in contrast to this coolness, but they
are so hysterical as to check full sympathy. From such remarks,
some people have inferred that Mill was really a frigid thinker,
a worthy prophet of the dismal science, which leaves out of
account all that is deepest and most truly valuable in human
    A reply even to an unjust estimate should admit what there is
of truth in it. In the first place, of course, Mill was not, and
never took himself to be, a poet. He had no vivid pictures of
concrete facts; he was not, as he puts it in contrasting himself
with Carlyle, a man of intuitions, and he formed his judgments of
affairs by analysing and reflecting and expressing the result in
abstract formula. That is only to say that his predominant
faculty was logical, and that the imagination was comparatively
feeble. He was sensitive to some poetry, to Shelley as well as to
Wordsworth; but he is more impressed by its philosophical than
its direct asthetical value. He was certainly less deficient than
James Mill in this direction; but in another quality the contrast
with his father is significant. James Mill, whatever his faults,
was a man, and born to be a leader of men. He was rigid,
imperative, and capable of controlling and dominating. John
Stuart Mill was far weaker in that sense, and weaker because he
had less virility. Mill never seems fully to appreciate the force
of human passions; he fancies that the emotions which stir men to
their depths can be controlled by instilling a few moral maxims
or pointing out considerations of utility. He has in that respect
less, human nature, in him than most human beings; and has not,
like Carlyle's favourite Ram Dass, fire enough in his inside to
burn up the sins of the world. One effect is obvious even in his
philosophy. A philosopher, I think, owes more than is generally
perceived to the moral quality which goes into masculine vigour.
To accept, as well as to announce, a doctrine which clashes with
the opinions accepted in his class requires an amount of vigour
and self-reliance which is only possessed by the few. Mill held
very unpopular opinions, but they had been instilled into him
from childhood; they were those of the whole world in which he
lived, and it would have required more vigour to abandon than to
maintain them. It is impossible to read the Autobiography without
wondering whether a different education might not have made him a
Coleridgean instead of a Benthamite. If he disbelieved in innate
principles and in the boundless power of 'association,' it was
partly because the influence of his own idiosyncrasy was so
slightly marked in his intellectual development. He was one of
the most remarkable instances of the power of education to mould
the intellect, because few intellects so powerful have been so
    The want of the qualities which make a man self-assertive and
original implies, however, no coldness of the affections. Mill
was a man of great emotional sensibility, and of very unusual
tenderness. Besides his great attachment, he was deeply devoted
to a few friends, and, in certain cases, greatly overestimated
their qualities. His devotion to speculative pursuits made most
of his attachments the product of intellectual sympathy; and he
either did not form, or could not keep up, intimacies formed with
persons incapable of such sympathy. Unless he could talk upon
serious matters with man or woman, he would have no common bond
with them; and he was too sincere to express it. His feelings,
however, were, I take it, as tender as a woman's. They were
wanting, not in keenness, but in the massiveness which implies
more masculine fibre. And this, indeed, is what seems to indicate
the truth. Mill could never admit any fundamental difference
between the sexes. That is, I believe, a great but a natural
misconception for one who was in character as much feminine as
masculine. He had some of the amiable weaknesses which we at
present -- perhaps on account of the debased state of society --
regard as especially feminine. The most eminent women, hitherto
at least, are remarkable rather for docility than originality.
Mill was especially remarkable, as I have said, for his powers of
assimilation. No more receptive pupil could ever be desired by a
teacher. Like a woman, he took things -- even philosophers --
with excessive seriousness; and shows the complete want of humour
often -- unjustly perhaps -- attributed to women. Prejudices
provoke him, but he does not see the comic side of prejudice or
of life in general. When Carlyle, in his hasty wrath, denounces,
shams, with a huge guffaw, Mill patiently unravels the sophistry,
and tries to discover the secret of their plausibility. Mill's
method no doubt leads as a rule to safer and more sober results.
The real candour, too, and desire of light from all sides is most
genuine and admirable. It may lead him rather to develop and
widen the philosophy in which he was immersed than to strike out
new paths. One misses at times the flashes of intuition of keener
philosophers, and still more the downright protests of rough
common-sense, which can sweep away cobwebs without trying
elaborately to pick them to pieces.
    On the other hand, he has in the highest degree the power of
single-minded devotion, which is pre-eminently, though not
exclusively, a feminine quality. His intellect fitted him for
abstract speculation, rather than for immediate practical
applications. But he was from his youth upwards devoted to the
spread of principles which he held to be essential to human
happiness. No philanthropist or religious teacher could labour
more energetically and unremittingly for the good of mankind. He
never forgets the bearing of his speculations upon this ultimate
end. Whatever his limitations, he brought the whole energy of a
singularly clear, comprehensive, and candid intellect to bear
upon the greatest problems of his time; and worked at them with
unflagging industry for many years. He was eminently qualified to
bring out the really strong points of his creed; while his
perfect intellectual honesty forced him frankly to display its
weaker side. Through Mill English Utilitarianism gave the fullest
account of its method and its presuppositions. In summarising his
work, I must dwell less than I have hitherto done upon
surrounding conditions; and take his books, nearly in the order
of publication, as representing the final outcome of
Utilitarianism. He virtually answers in the Logic the question,
what are the ultimate principles by which the Utilitarians had
more or less unconsciously been guided. I shall first deal with
this. I shall then take his Political Economy, as showing how
these principles applied to sociology, which ought, upon his
showing, to be the crowning science. Then I shall take the
political speculations, which are a further application of the
same principles; and, finally, deal with his views in ethics and
in philosophy generally.


1. Mill's Autobiography (1873) is the main authority. Professor
Bain's John Stuart Mill: a Criticism with Personal Recollections
(1882), is a necessary supplement, and gives an excellent
summary. The most interesting later publications are the
correspondence with Gustave d'Eichthal (1898) and the
correspondence with Comte. Comte's letters were published by the
Positivist Society in 1877, and the whole edited by M. Lévy-Bruhl
in 1899. The Memories of Old Friends, by Caroline Fox (1882),
gives some interesting accounts of Mill's conversation in 1840,

2. Bentham's Works, x, 472.

3. Cf. letter of 30th July, 1819 in Bain's J.S. Mill, pp. 6 to 9.

4. Given in Dictionary of National Biography.

5. Autobiography, p. 52.

6. Autobiography, p. 30.

7. Bain's J.S. Mill, p. 84.

8. Mill's Autobiography, p. 43; Bain's James Mill, p. 90.

9. Autobiography, p. 58.

10. Mill does not here make especial reference to his father, of
whom, however, he had said before that he shared the ordinary
English weakness of starving the feelings from dislike of
expressing them. One would be inclined to guess that James Mill
exaggerated rather than shared that feeling.

11.  Autobiography, p. 108.

12. Autobiography, p. 66.

13. It was not necessary at this time for an undergraduate to
sign the Thirty-nine Articles as Bain supposes. From 1773 a
graduate had to make the declaration that he was a 'bona fide
member of the church of England,' whatever that may mean, but any
one might be a member of the University and pass the
examinations. Sylvester, for example, though a Jew, was second
wrangler in 1837.

14. Dissertations, i. 193.

15. The name soon became popular. Southey, writing to Henry
Taylor (12th April, 1827), call them 'Futilitarians' (Life and
Correspondence). Taylor was on friendly terms with the set,and
gives some account of them and the later debating society. See
Autobiography, i. 77-95; and Correspondence, pp. 30, 72.

16. About this period, Mill, then aged seventeen or eighteen,
took part with some friends in distributing a pamphlet called
'What is Love?' advocating what are now called Neo-Malthusian
principles. The police interferred, and some scandal was caused.
An allusion to this performance -- which shows Mill's enthusiasm
and honesty, if not his discretion -- appeared in an article by
Abraham Hayward upon Mill's death. Hayward was attacked by W.D.
Christie in an indignant pamphlet, which gives a sufficient
statement of the facts. See Cobden's Political Works, vi, 421
(August 1824), for a reference to this affair.

17. Bain thinks that J.S. Mill wrote the article in the Review
upon the Carlile prosecution in July 1824. I cannot admit this
opinion. If so, Mill was a more capable journalist than the other
articles would imply. But -- apart from questions of style -- I
cannot thing that Mill would have gone out of his way to avow a
belief in Christianity, as is done by the writer of the article.

18. In the collective edition of Bentham's Works the treatise
occupies about 900 double-column pages of some 500 words to a
column. If 500 days were given to the task, this would mean an
average output of 1500 words a day.

19. Autobiography, p. 133.

20. Bain's J.S. Mill, pp. 43, 45, 90, 95.

21. D'Eichthal, Correspondence, p. 30.

22. D'Eichthal, Correspondence, p. 147. The St Simonians excited
some interest in England at the time, See, e.g., Carlyle's Sartor
Resartus, book ii, ch. 12. Carlyle's Correspondence with Goethe,
214, 226, 258; Tennyson's Life, i. 99. Todhunter's Whewell, i.
240; Holder's Shaftesbury, i. 126. Shaftesbury's notice was
called to St Simonianism by Southey, who wrote an article upon it
in the Quarterly for July 1831 -- a mere shriek of alarm.

23. Autobiography, p. 168.

24. Seven articles appeared from January to May 1831. As Mill
says in his Autobiography, (p. 175) they are 'lumbering in style'
and of no great interest in substance, except as showing the St
Simonian influence.

25. Correspondence with Comte, p. 169-70.

26. Autobiography, p. 198.

27. Autobiography, pp. 199, 206, 220; Bain's J.S. Mill, p. 58.
Mill at first supervised rather than edited the Review. His
sub-editors were Thomas Falconer and afterwards John Robertson.

28. Bain's J.S. Mill, p. 160 (quotation from Fonblanque). See
also pp. 56, 82.

29. Autobiography, pp. 114-17.

30. See articles in Westminster Review, Oct. 1837, 'Parties and
the Ministry'; Jan. 1838, 'Radicalism in Canada'; April 1839,
'Reorganisation of the Radical party.'

31. 'Parties and the Ministry'.

32. 'Ministers and Parties'.

33. 'Claims of Labour' in Dissertations ii. 192.

34. August 1838, and March 1840.

35. Browning believed that he had written in 1833 a review of
Pauline for Tait's Magazine, where, however, it was supplanted by
a less favourable notice. -- Mrs Orr's Life of Browning, p. 59.

36. Autobiography, p. 217.

37. Bain's J.S. Mill, p. 59.

38. Autobiography, p. 191.

39. Froude's Carlyle, First Forty Years, ii. 360. The letters are
in existence but have not been published. Mr A. Carlyle has
kindly allowed me to read them.

40. 'Negro Question' in Fraser's Magazine, Feb. 1849.

41. A friendly message, as the Carlyle letters show, passed
between them in 1869.

42. Autobiography, pp. 175-76.

43. A 'drysalter' or 'wholesale druggist in Mark Lane', according
to Bain, 164 n.

44. Autobiography, p. 185.

45. Bain's J.S. Mill, p. 172.

46. Leader's Roebuck, p. 39; and Mill's Autobiography, p. 150.

47. Autobiography, p. 227.

48. Autobiography, pp. 122, 159, 181, 209, 221.

49. Logic, bk. vi. ch. v. sec. 4.

50. Bain's J.S. Mill, p. 70. There was a review of Comte by
Brewster in the Edinburgh Review for August 1838. G.H. Lewes
spoke favourably of Comte (to whom he had been personally
introduced by Mill) in an article upon 'Modern French Philosophy'
in the Foreign Quarterly in 1843. His later accounts of Comte in
the Biographical History of Philosophy (1st edition, 1845-46),
and in letters published in the Leader in 1852, and afterwards
collected as Comte's Philosophy of the Sciences are also
noticeable. Miss Martineau's abridged translation appeared in

51. Correspondence, pp. 2, 3.

52. Ibid., p. 29, cf. 414.

53. Ibid., p. 77.

54. Ibid. p. 135.

55. Correspondence, p. 273.

56. Ibid., p. 206.

57. Correspondence, p. 402.

58. See Bain's J.S. Mill, p. 72, for an account of the changes.

59. Autobiography, p. 235. Mil, as we have seen, spoke of the
Political Economy to Comte in April 1844. Possibly, therefore,
some preparation may have been made for it in the interval before
the autumn of 1845.

60. Published in 1848 before the appearance of Mill's Political
Economy. Mill read the proofs of his friend's book. Bain's J.S.
Mill, p. 86 n.

61. Autobiography, p. 231. The dates of these changes are rather
vaguely indicated.

62. Autobiography, p. 235.

63. Ibid. p. 236.

64. Article in Dissertations, ii, republished from Westminster
Review of April 1849.

65. Autobiography, p. 238.

66. See reference to Mrs Mill in the suppressed dedication of the
Political Economy given in Bain's J.S. Mill, p. 175; the
dedication of the Liberty; the note in Dissertation, ii, 412; and
Autobiography, pp. 184-90 and 240-45.

67. Bain's J.S. Mill, p. 167.

68. Bain's J.S. Mill, p. 173.

69. Autobiography, p. 229.

70. Autobiography, p. 244-47.

71. Autobiography, p. 262.

72. First in Fraser's Magazine in 1861; republished in 1863.

73. First in the Westminster for 1864, reprinted separately in

74. The essays upon Nature and The Utility of Religion are stated
to have been written between 1850 and 1858; that upon Theism
between 1868 and 1870.

75. Autobiography, p. 230. He defends this reticence in a letter
to Comte of 18th December 1841 -- Correspondence, p. 12.

76. Autobiography, p. 240.

77. Published in 1869.

78. Article in Fraser's Magazine, January 1861.

79. I heard some his first speeches from the press gallery of the
House of Commons.

80. Autobiography, p. 289.

81. Disraeli is said to have summed up the impression made upon
practical politicians by calling him a 'political finishing

82. See his pamphlet, England and Ireland, 1869.

83. Autobiography, p. 286.

84. Autobiography, p. 308.

85. Green's Miscellaneous Works, iii, cxliv.

86. Miscellanies (second series).

87. Autobiography, p. 109.

Chapter II

Mill's Logic

I. Intuitionism and Empiricism

    Mill's System of Logic may be regarded as the most important
manifesto of Utilitarian philosophy. It lays down explicitly and
in their ripest form the principles implicitly assumed by Bentham
and the elder Mill. It modifies as well as expounds. It
represents the process by which J. S. Mill, on becoming aware of
certain defects in the Utilitarians' philosophy, endeavoured to
restate the first principles so as to avoid the erroneous
conclusions. The coincidence with his predecessors remains far
closer than the divergence. The fundamental tenets are developed
rather than withdrawn. The Logic thus most distinctly raises the
ultimate issues. It has the impressiveness which belongs in some
degree to every genuine exertion of a powerful mind. Mill is
struggling with real difficulties; not trying to bolster up a
theory commended to him by extraneous considerations. He is doing
his best to give an answer to his problem; not to hide an
evasion. His honourable candour incidentally reveals the weakness
as frankly as the strength of his position. He neither shirks nor
hides difficulties, and if we are forced to admit that some of
his reasoning is fallacious, the admission scarcely adds to the
statement that he is writing a treatise upon philosophical
problems. His frankness has made the task of critics
comparatively easy. It takes so many volumes to settle what some
philosophers have meant that we scarcely reach the question
whether their meaning, or rather any of their many possible
meanings, was right. In the case of Mill, that preparatory labour
is not required. His book, too, has been sufficiently tested by
time to enable us to mark the points at which his structure has
failed to stand the wear and tear of general discussion. I must
try to bring out the vital points of the doctrine.
    Mill, I have said, had a very definite purpose beyond the
purely philosophical. 'Bad institutions,' he says,(1*) are
supported by false philosophy. The false philosophy to which he
refers is that of the so-called 'intuitionist school.' Its
'stronghold,' he thought, lay in appeals to the mathematical and
physical sciences. To drive it from this position was to deprive
it of 'speculative support'; and, though it could still appeal to
prejudice, the destruction of this support was an indispenSable
step to complete victory. Mill wished to provide a logical
armoury for all assailants of established dogmatism, and his
success as a propagandist surprised him. The book was read, to
his astonishment, even in the universities. Indeed, I can testify
from personal observation that it became a kind of sacred book
for students who claimed to be genuine Liberals. It gave the
philosophical creed of an important section of the rising
generation, partly biassed, it may be, by the application to 'bad
institutions.' Mill's logic, that is, fell in with the one main
current of political opinion. His readings in logic with Grote
and other friends enabled him to fashion the weapons needed for
the assault. Thus in its origin and by its execution the task was
in fact an attempt to give an organised statement of sound
philosophy in a form applicable to social and political
    Mill considered that the school of metaphysicians which he
attacked had long predominated in this country.(2*) When Taine
called his view specially English, Mill protested. The Scottish
reaction against Hume, he said, which 'assumed long ago the
German form,' had ended by 'prevailing universally' in this
country. When he first wrote he was almost alone in his opinions,
and there were still 'twenty a priori and spiritualist
philosophers for every partisan of the doctrine of
Experience.'(3*) The philosophical world, he says elsewhere,(4*)
is 'bisected' by the line between the 'Intuitional' and the
'Experiential' schools. Mill's conviction that a majority of
Englishmen were really 'intuitionists' in any shape is
significant, I think, of his isolated position. Undoubtedly most
Englishmen disliked Utilitarians, and respectable professors of
philosophy were anxious to disavow sympathy with covert atheism.
Yet the general tendency of thought was, I suspect, far more
congenial to Mill's doctrine than he admitted. Englishmen were
practically, if not avowedly, predisposed to empiricism. In any
case, he was carrying on the tradition which Taine rightly, as I
should say, regarded as specifically English. Its adherents
traced its origin back through James Mill to Hartley, Hume,
Locke, Hobbes, and Francis Bacon, and perhaps it might even count
among its remoter ancestors such men as William of Ockham and
Roger Bacon. The series of names suggests some permanent
congeniality to the national character.(5*) Although, more over,
this tradition had in later times been broken by Reid and his
followers, their condemnation did not really imply so fundamental
an antithesis of thought as Mill supposed. They and the
empiricists had, in their own opinion at least, a common ancestor
in Bacon, if not in Locke. But, however this may be, the Scottish
school had maintained the positions which Mill thought himself
concerned to attack; and for him represented the rejection of
    Experience is a word which requires exposition; but in a
general way the aim of the Utilitarians is abundantly clear. They
attacked 'intuitions' as Locke had attacked 'innate ideas.' The
great error of philosophy, according to them, as according to
Locke, has been the attempt to transcend the limits of human
intelligence, and so to wander into the regions of mysticism; to
seek knowledge by spinning logical structures which, having no
base in fact, ended in mere scholastic logomachy; or to override
experience by claiming absolute authority for theories which
dispense with further proof for the simple reason that no proof
of them can be given. To limit speculation and to make it
fruitful by forcing it from the first to deal with facts; to
trace all its evidence to experience or the observation of facts;
and to insist upon its verification by comparison with facts, is
the main and surely the legitimate purpose of the Utilitarians as
of all their philosophical congeners. The gulf between the world
of speculation and the world of fact is the great opprobrium of
philosophy. The necessity for finding a basis of fact was
emphasised at this time by the rapid development of the sciences
which may be called purely empirical, and which had sprung, in
any case, from methods of direct observation. This development
suggested the elaborate treatise written from a different point
of view by Whewell. The great ambition of the Benthamites had
been to apply scientific methods to all the problems of
legislation, jurisprudence, economics, ethics, and philosophy.
Mill could now show, with the involuntary help of Whewell, what
those methods really implied The questions remain: What are
facts? and, What is experience? and, What are the consequent
conditions of reasoning about facts? Admitting that, somehow or
other, a vast and rapidly growing body of knowledge has been
attained in the physical sciences, we may ask how it has been
gained, and proceed to apply the methods in what have been called
the moral sciences. Kant's famous problem was, How is a priori
synthetic knowledge possible? Mill denies that any such knowledge
exists. His problem is therefore, How can knowledge be explained
without a priori elements? When this can be satisfactorily done,
we shall be able to show how both moral and physical science can
be fairly based upon experience.
    Mill's view of the proper limits of his inquiry is
characteristic. He accepts Bacon's account of logic. It, is the
ars artium, the science of science itself.'(6*) It implies an
investigation into the processes of inference generally. It is
not limited to the old formal logic, but includes every operation
by which knowledge is extended. It is thus, as he afterwards puts
it, the 'theory of proof.'(7*) The book, indeed, owes its
interest to the width of the field covered. It has not the
repulsive dryness of formal logic, but would lead to a natural
history of the whole growth of knowledge, and makes constant
reference to the actual development of thought. On the other
hand, Mill gives notice that he has no more to do with
metaphysics than with any of the special sciences. Logic, he
declares, is common ground for all schools of philosophy. It is,
he says, the office of metaphysics to decide what are ultimate
facts, but for the logician it is needless to go into this
analysis.(8*) Accordingly, he often in the course of the book
considers himself entitled to hand over various problems to the
metaphysicians.(9*) The possibility of really keeping to this
distinction is doubtful. Since Mill's very aim is to show that
all knowledge comes from observation of 'facts,' it is apparently
relevant to inquire what are these 'ultimate facts.' Indeed, his
statement, though made in all sincerity, almost suggests a
controversial artifice. Logic, as Mill of course admits, affects
metaphysics as it affects all sciences; but in one way it affects
them very differently. It justifies astronomy, but it apparently
makes metaphysics superfluous. Inquiry into the 'ultimate facts'
turns out to be either hopeless or meaningless. Mill does not
directly assert that all 'ontological' speculations are merely
cobwebs of the brain. But he tries to show that, whatever they
may be, they are strictly irrelevant in reasoning. All
metaphysicians are expected to grant him certain postulates.
These once granted, he will be able to account for the whole
structure of knowledge. 'Intuitions,' transcendental
speculations, and ontology will then be deprived of the whole
conditions under which they thrive. I do not now assert, he
virtually says, that your doctrine is wrong, but I shall show
that it is thrown away. It is a pretence of explaining something
which lies altogether beyond the limits of real knowledge, and
therefore admits of no explanation.
    Mill starts from the classification given in old logical
textbooks, to which, different as are his conclusions, he
attached a very high value.(10*) The schoolmen had by their
elaborate acuteness established a whole system of logical
distinctions and definitions which are both important and
accurate, however sterile the inquiries in which they were used.
The machinery was excellent, though its contrivers forgot that a
mill cannot grind out flour if you put in no grain. Mill begins
accordingly by classifying the various kinds of words in the
light afforded by previous logical systems.
    He is to give a theory of proof. That which is to be proved
is a proposition; and a proposition deals with names, and
moreover with the names of 'things,' not merely with the names
'of our ideas of things.'(11*) That, in some sense, reasoning has
to do with things is of course his essential principle; and the
problem consequently arises, What are empirical 'things'?(12*)
Though we cannot ask what are 'ultimate things,' the logician
must enumerate the various kinds of things to which reference may
be made in predication. Mill makes out a classification which he
proposes to substitute, provisionally at any rate, for the
Aristotelian categories.(13*) The first and simplest class of
nameable things corresponds to things 'in the mind,' that is,
'feelings,' or 'states of consciousness,' sensations, emotions,
thoughts, and volitions. The second class corresponds to things
'external to the mind'.(14*) and these are either 'substances' or
'attributes.' Here our task is lightened by a welcome discovery.
All philosophers, it appears, are now agreed upon one point. Sir
W. Hamilton, Cousin, Kant, nay, according to Hamilton -- though
that is too good to be true -- nearly all previous philosophers
admit one truth.(15*) We know, as they agree, nothing about
'objects' except the sensations which they give us and the order
of those sensations. Hence the two 'substances,' body and mind,
remain unknowable 'in themselves.' Body is the 'hidden external
cause' to which we refer our sensations;(16*) and as body is the
'mysterious something which excites the mind to feel, so mind is
the mysterious something which feels and thinks.' The mind is, as
he says in language quoted from his father, 'a thread of
consciousness,' a series of 'feelings': it is the 'myself' which
is conceived as distinct from the feelings but of which I can yet
know nothing except that it has the feelings.
    Thus, although we know nothing of minds and of bodies 'in
themselves,' we do know their existence. That is essential to his
position. The 'thread of consciousness' is a 'final
inexplicability' with him, but it corresponds to some real
entity. And, on the other side, we must believe, in some sense,
in things. The thing, though known only through the sensations
which it excites, must be something more than a mere sensation,
for the whole of his logic defends the thesis that in some way or
other thought has to conform to facts or to the relations between
'things.' Knowledge, however, is confined entirely to the
sensations and the attributes; and the two are at bottom one. The
'verbal' distinction between a property of things and the
sensation which we receive from it, is made, he says, for
convenience of discourse rather than from any difference in the
nature of the thing denoted.(17*) This brings us to a critical
point. Attributes, he says, following the old distribution, are
of Quality, Quantity, and Relation. Now Quality and Quantity mean
simply the sensations excited by bodies. To say that snow is
white, or that there is a gallon of water, means simply that
certain sensations of colour or size are excited in us by snow or
a volume of water. The attribute called 'Relation' introduces a
different order of feelings. A 'relation' supposes that two
things are involved in some one fact or series of facts.(18*) But
it is still an 'attribute' or a 'state of consciousness.' It is a
feeling different from other feelings by the circumstance that
two 'things' instead of one are involved. This is the explanation
which, as we have seen, he praises so warmly in his father's
Analysis, and now adopts for his own purposes. It enables him to
classify predications. All predication is either an assertion of
simple existence or an assertion of 'relations.' By classifying
the possible relations, therefore, we obtain the possible forms
of predication. It turns out accordingly that we can make five
possible predications: we can predicate, first, simple existence;
or secondly, 'coexistence'; or thirdly, 'sequence' (these two
being equivalent, as he adds, to 'order in place' and 'order in
time'); or fourthly, we may predicate 'resemblance'; or fifthly,
and this is only to be stated provisionally, we may predicate
    So far, Mill's view corresponds to the psychology of the
Analysis, which gives a similar account of the various terms
employed. J. S. Mill has now the standing ground from which he
can explain the whole development of knowledge. At this point,
however, he has to diverge from his father's extreme nominalism.
Predication, according to the elder, is a process of naming. A
predicate is a name of the same thing of which the subject is a
name; and to predicate is simply to assert this identity of
names. This doctrine, as Mill thinks, is equally implied in the
dictum de omni et nullo which is taken as the explanation of the
syllogism. We have arbitrarily put a number of things in a class,
and to 'reason' is simply to repeat of each what we have said of
all. This is to put the cart before the horse, or to assume that
the classification precedes the reason for classification, though
probably the theory, thus nakedly stated, would not be granted by
any one.(20*) What, then, is the true theory? That is explained
by the distinction between 'connotation' and 'denotation,' which
Mill accepted (though inverting the use of the words) from his
father. A general name such as 'man' denotes John, Thomas, and
other individuals. It connotes certain 'attributes,' such as
rationality and a certain shape. When, therefore, I say that John
is a man, I say that he has the attributes 'connoted'; and when I
say that all men are mortal, I assert that along with the other
attributes of man goes the attribute of mortality.(21*)
Predication, then, in general, involves the attribute of
'relation.' We may assert the simple existence of a 'quality,'
or, which is the same thing, of a 'sensation'; but to say that
John is a man. or that men are mortal, or to make any of the
general propositions which constitute knowledge, is to assert
some of those 'relations' which are perceived when we consider
two or more things together.
    'Things,' then, so far as knowable are clusters (in Hartley's
language) of 'attributes'; and the attributes may be equally
regarded as 'feelings.' To predicate is to refer a thing to one
of the clusters, and therefore to assert its possession of the
attributes connoted. I will only note in passing that by
declining to go into the metaphysical question as to the
difference between 'attributes' and 'sensations,' or thoughts and
things, Mill leaves an obscurity at the foundation of his
philosophy. But leaving this for the present, it is enough to say
that we have our five possible types of predication.(22*) All
propositions may be reduced to one of the forms. Things exist or
coexist or follow or resemble or are cause or effect.(23*) The
next problem, therefore, is, How are these propositions to be
proved? or, by what tests is our belief to be justified.
    What may be the nature of belief itself is a question which
Mill leaves to the analytical psychologist,(24*) who, as he
admits, will probably find it puzzling, if not hopeless. But as
we all agree that somehow or other we attain knowledge, we may
inquire what is implied in the process. Now, some part of our
knowledge obviously depends upon 'experience.' We know of any
particular fact from the testimony of our senses. We know that
London Bridge exists because we have seen and touched it; and it
would be obviously hopeless to try to deduce ts existence from
the principle of the excluded middle. London Bridge would then be
something independent of time and place. But do we not want
something more than bare experience when we lay down a general
rule is a law of nature? Then we not only say 'is,' but 'must
be'; and this, according to the Intuitionist, marks the
introduction of something more than an appeal to 'experience.'
There are truths, he says, which represent 'laws of thought';
which are self-evident, or perceived by 'intuition'; or the
contrary of which is 'inconceivable.' Without some such laws, we
could not bind together the shifting data of experience, or
advance from 'is' to 'must be,' or even to 'will be.' We lose all
certainty, and fall into the scepticism of Hume, which makes
belief a mere 'custom,' regards all things as distinct atoms
conjoined but not connected, and holds that 'anything may be the
cause of anything.' Mill's aim is to explode the intuitions
without falling into the scepticism. Necessary truths, he holds,
are mere figments. All knowledge whatever is of the empirical
type. 'This has been' justifies 'this will be.' Empirical truths
clearly exist, and are held undoubtingly, although they have no
foundation except experience. Nobody ever doubted that all men
die; yet no 'proof' of the fact could be ever suggested, before
physiology was created, except the bare fact that all men have
died. If physiology has made the necessity more evident, it has
not appreciably strengthened the conviction. We all believe even
now that thunder will follow lightning, though nobody has been
able to show why it should follow. The ultimate proof in
countless cases, if not in all, is simply that some connection
has been observed, and, in many such cases, the belief reaches a
pitch which excludes all perceptible doubt. As a fact, then,
belief of the strongest kind can be generated from simple
experience. The burthen of proof is upon those who assume
different origins for different classes of truth.(25*)


    This main thesis leads to two lines of argument. First of
all, Mill seeks to show that the methods of proof expounded by
his adversaries do not really take us beyond experience; and,
secondly, he seeks to show that experience gives us a sufficient
basis of knowledge. Let us first notice, then, how the ground is
cleared by examining previous accounts of the process of
inference. The old theory of reasoning depends upon the
syllogism. That gives the type of the whole process by which
knowledge is extended. All men are mortal; Socrates is a man,
therefore Socrates is mortal. Stewart and Brown had both attacked
the syllogism on the familiar ground that it is tautologous. The
major has already asserted the minor. To say that one man is
mortal when you have already said that all men are mortal, is
merely to repeat yourself. There can be no real inference, and no
advance to new knowledge. So long as the syllogism is to be
explained on the old terms, Mill thinks this criticism fatal; but
he holds, too, that by a different interpretation we may assign a
real and vitally important meaning to this venerable form of
argument. In several places(26*) he gives a view which seems to
be much to the purpose. The syllogism, it would seem, corresponds
really, not to a mode of reasoning, but to a system of arguing.
When a disputant bases some statement upon an inference, we may
challenge either the truth of the rule or the statement of fact.
The cogency of the argument depends upon the applicability of the
rule to the fact. If men be not mortal, or, again, if Socrates be
not a man, the inference is not valid; and these two distinct
issues, the issue of law and the issue of fact, may be raised in
any case.(27*) The value of the syllogism is that it raises these
issues distinctly. The argument is thus put in such a form as to
be absolutely conclusive if the premises be themselves granted.
It therefore provides a test of the validity of the logic.
Granting the premises, a denial of the inference must involve a
contradiction. That is the only test in pure logic. The syllogism
must, therefore, be in a sense tautologous, for otherwise it
could not be conclusive. Acceptance o£ the premises must be shown
from the form of statement to necessitate the admission of the
inference. This follows, and the logical link is complete and
irrefragable, if the middle term be identical in both premises,
and not otherwise. This is what Mill indicates by saying that
'the rules of the syllogism are rules for compelling a person to
be aware of the whole of what he must undertake to defend if he
persists in maintaining his conclusion.'(28*) Ratiocination, as
he sums up his view elsewhere, 'does not consist of syllogisms';
but the syllogism is a useful formula into which it can
'translate its reasonings,' and so guarantee their
correctness.(29*) If this be granted, we must consider the
essential step of inference to be embodied in, but not created
by, the syllogism. Correct reasoning can always be thrown into
this form. The syllogism emerges when the reasoning is complete.
'The use of the syllogism is no other,' says Mill, 'than the use
of general propositions in reasoning.' It is a security for
correct generalisation.(30*) We have, then, still to ask what is
the reasoning process for which the syllogism provides a test.
Generalisation implies classification. Our general rule or major
premise states some property of a class to which the individual
belongs. The question is how this reference to a class enables us
to draw inferences which we could not draw from the individual
case. To this Mill gives a simple answer, which is already
implied in his theory of predication. When I say that Socrates is
a man, I say that he has the attributes connoted by the name. He
is a rational, featherless biped, for example. But I already know
by observation that with these attributes goes the attribute of
mortality. The essence of the reasoning process is therefore
that, from the possession of certain attributes, I infer the
possession of another attribute which has coexisted with them
previously. That I do, in fact, reason in this way in countless
cases is undeniable. I know that a certain quality, say
malleability, goes along with other qualities of colour, shape,
and so forth, by which I recognise a substance as gold. I can, it
may be, give no other reason for believing the future conjunction
of those qualities than the fact of their previous conjunction.
The belief, that is, is as a matter of fact generated simply by
the previous coincidence or corresponds to constant association.
Whether this exhausts the whole logical significance may still be
disputed; but, at any rate, upon these terms we can escape from
the charge of tautology. The rule in the major premise registers
a number of previous experiences of coexistence. When we notice
some of the attributes in a given case, we make an addition to
our knowledge by applying the rule, that is, by inferring that
another attribute may be added to the observed attributes. This,
then, gives a rational account of the advance in knowledge made
through the syllogism in the case where the class can be defined
as a simple sum of attributes.
    But is this an adequate account of the reasoning process in
general? There is another view which suggested difficulties to
Mill. His solution of these difficulties, marked, as we learn
from the Autobiography, an essential stage in the development of
his doctrine. Reference to a class is, upon his interpretation,
implied in the syllogism; and classification implies definition.
A class means all things which have a certain list of attributes
stated in the definition. May we not then infer other properties
from the definition? May not mortality, for example, be deducible
from the other attributes of man? The assumption that we can do
so is connected with the fallacy most characteristic of the
misuse of the syllogism. It is plain that we may create as many
classes as we please, and make names for combinations of
attributes which have no actual, or even no possible, existence.
Any inferences which we make on the strength of such
classification must be nugatory or simply tautologous. I show
that a certain proposition follows from my definition; but that
gives no guarantee for its conformity to the realities behind the
definition. Your 'proof' that a man is mortal means simply that
if he is not mortal you don't call him a man. The syllogism
treated on that system becomes simply an elaborate series of
devices for begging the question. From such methods arise all the
futilities of scholasticism, and the doctrine of essences which,
though Locke confuted it,(31*) has 'never ceased to poison
philosophy.'(32*) It may, I suppose, be taken for granted that
the syllogism was constantly applied to cover such fallacies, and
so far Mill is on safe ground. The theory, however, leads him to
a characteristic point. Already in the early review (January
1828), he had criticised Whately's account of definition. A 'real
definition,' as Whately had said, 'explains and unfolds "the
nature" of the thing defined, whereas a "nominal definition" only
explains the name.' Whately goes on to point out that the only
real definitions in this sense are the mathematical definitions.
It is impossible to discover the properties of a thing, a man, or
a plant from the definition. If it were possible, we might
proceed to 'evolve a camel from the depths of our consciousness,'
and nobody now professes to be equal to that feat. When, however,
we 'define' a circle or a line and so forth, we make assertions
from which we can deduce the whole theory of geometry. A
geometrical figure represents a vast complex of truths, mutually
implying each other, and all deducible from a few simple
definitions. The middle term is not the name of a simple thing,
or of a thing which has a certain set of coexisting attributes,
but a word expressive of a whole system of reciprocal relations.
If one property entitles me to say that a certain figure is a
circle, I am virtually declaring that it has innumerable other
properties, and I am thus able to make inferences which, although
implicitly given, are not perceived till explicitly stated. By
assigning a thing to a class, I say in this case that I may make
any one of an indefinite number of propositions about it, all
mutually implying each other, and requiring the highest faculties
for combining and evolving. Pure mathematics give the one great
example of a vast body of truths reached by purely deductive
processes. They appear to be evolved from certain simple and
self-evident truths. Can they, then, be explained as simply
empirical? Do we know the properties of a circle as we know the
properties of gold, simply by combining records of previous
experience? Or can we admit that this great system of truth is
all evolved out of 'definitions'?
    Mill scents in Whately's doctrine a taint of a priori
assumption, and accordingly meets it by a direct contradiction. A
geometrical definition, he says, is no more a 'real' definition
than the definition of a camel. No definition whatever can
'unfold the nature' of a thing. He states this in his review,
though it was at a later period,(33*) when meditating upon a
passage of Dugald Stewart, that he perceived the full
consequences of his own position. In answering Whately, he had
said that all definitions were 'nominal.' A 'real definition'
means that to the definition proper we add the statement that
there is a thing corresponding to the name.(34*) The definition
itself is a 'mere identical proposition,' from which we can learn
nothing as to facts. But it may be accompanied by a postulate
which 'covertly asserts a fact,' and from the fact may follow
consequences of any degree of importance. This distinction
between the definition and the postulate may be exhibited, as he
remarks, by substituting 'means' for 'is.' If we say: a centaur
'means' a being half man and half horse, we give a pure
definition. If we say: a man 'is' a featherless biped, our
statement includes the definition -- man 'means' featherless
biped; but if we said no more, no inference could be made as to
facts. If we are really to increase our knowledge by using this
definition, we must add the 'covert' assertion that such
featherless bipeds exist. The mathematical case is identical,
Stewart had argued that geometrical propositions followed, not
from the axioms but, from the definitions. From the bare axiom
that if equals be added to equals the wholes are equal, you can
infer nothing. You must also perceive the particular figures
which are compared. Of course the truth of the axioms must be
admitted; but they do not specify the first principles from which
geometry is evolved. In other words, geometry implies
'intuition,' not the a priori 'intuitions' to which Mill
objected, but the direct perception of the spatial relations. We
must see the figure as well as admit the self-evident axiom.
Mill, on considering this argument, thought that Stewart had
stopped at a half truth.(35*) He ought to have got rid of the
definitions as well as the axioms. Every demonstration in Euclid,
says Mill, might be carried on without them. When we argue from a
diagram in which there is a circle, we do not really refer to
circles in general, but only to the particular circle before us.
If its radii be equal or approximately equal, the conclusions are
true. We afterwards extend our reasoning to similar cases; but
only one instance is demonstrated. The definition is merely a
'notice to ourselves and others,' stating what assumptions we
think ourselves entitled to make; and in this way it resembles
the major in the syllogism. The demonstration does not 'depend
upon' it, though if we deny it, the demonstration fails. By this
argument, Mill conceives that the case of mathematics is put on a
level with other cases. We always argue from facts, and moreover
from 'particular facts,' not from definitions. We start from an
observation of this particular circle -- a sensible 'thing' or
object, as in arguing about natural history we start from
observation of the camel. Hence we may lay down the general
proposition, applicable to geometry as well as to all ordinary
observation, that, all inference is from particulars to
particulars.'(36*) This is the 'foundation' both of Induction,
which is 'popularly said' to reason from particulars to generals,
and of Deduction, which is supposed to reason from generals to
particulars.(37*) This sums up Mill's characteristic position.


    This attempt to bring all reasoning to the same type forces
Mill to ignore what to others seems to be of the essence of the
case. There are, he says, two statements: 'There may exist a
figure bounded by three straight lines'; that is the fruitful
statement of facts. 'This figure is called a triangle'; that is
the merely nominal definition or explanation of words. Moreover,
as he says, we may drop the definition by substituting the
equivalent words or simply looking at the thing. It does not
follow that we can dispense with the mode of apprehension implied
by the definition. Whether we use the word triangle, or the
words, 'three lines enclosing a space,' or no words at all, we
must equally have the conceptions or intuitions of lines and
space. All demonstration in geometry consists in mentally
rearranging a combination of lines and angles so as to show that
one figure may be made to coincide absolutely with another
figure. The original fact remains unaltered, but the ways of
apprehending the fact are innumerable. Newton and his dog Diamond
might both see the same circular thing; but to Diamond the circle
was a simple round object; to Newton it was also a complex system
of related lines, capable of being so regarded as to embody a
vast variety of elaborate formulae.(38*) Geometry, as Mill
undeniably says, deals with facts. Newton and Diamond have
precisely the same fact before them. It remains the same, whether
we stop at the simplest stage or proceed to the most complex
evolution of geometry. The difference between the observers is
not that Newton has seen new facts, but that he sees more in the
same fact. The change is not in the things but in the mind,
which, by grouping the things in the way pointed out by the
definitions, is able to discover countless new relations involved
in the same perception. This again may suggest that even the fact
revealed to simple perception is not a bare 'fact,' something, as
Mill puts it, 'external to the mind,' but is in some sense itself
constituted by the faculty of perception. It contains already the
germ of the whole intellectual evolution. The change is not in
the thing perceived, but in the mode of perceiving. And,
therefore, again, we do not acquire new knowledge, as we acquire
it in the physical sciences, by observing new facts, discovering
resemblances and differences, and generalising from the
properties common to all; but by contemplating the same fact. All
geometry is in any particular space -- if only we can find it. We
do not proceed by comparing a number of different regions of
spaces, and inquire whether French triangles have the same
properties as English triangles. To Mill, however, the statement
that geometry deals with fact leads to another conclusion. We
must deal with these facts as with other facts, and follow the
method of other natural sciences. We really proceed in the same
way whether we are investigating the properties of an ellipse or
a camel. In either case we must discover truth by experience.
    What, then, is really implied in the doctrine that all
knowledge rests upon experience? One of Mill's intellectual
ancestors lays down the fundamental principle. It is absurd, says
Hume,(39*) to try to demonstrate matter of fact by a priori
arguments. 'Nothing is demonstrable unless the contrary implies a
contradiction. Nothing that is distinctly conceivable implies a
contradiction. Whatever we conceive as existent we can also
conceive as non-existent. There is no being, therefore, whoa
non-existence implies a contradiction.' 'Matter of fact,' then,
must be proved by experience; but, given a 'fact' we may deduce
necessary consequences. All necessity may be hypothetical; there
is an 'if' to every 'must,' but remembering the 'if' the 'must'
will be harmless. It can never take us beyond experience. The
existence of space itself cannot be called necessary; but space
once given, all geometry may 'necessarily' follow, and imply
relations running through the whole fabric of scientific
knowledge. Mill agrees that a 'hypothetical' necessity of this
kind belongs to geometry; and adds, that in any science whatever,
we might, by making hypotheses, arrive at an equal
necessity.(40*) But then, he goes on to urge, the hypotheses of
geometry are not 'absolute truths,' but 'generalisations from
observation,' or 'inductions from the evidence of our
senses,'(41*) which, therefore, are not necessarily true. This
led to his keenest controversies, and, in my opinion, to his
least successful answers. He especially claims credit in his
Autobiography for having attacked the 'stronghold' of the
intuitionists by upsetting belief in the a priori certainty of
mathematical aphorisms. In fact, his opponents constantly
appealed to the case of mathematics, and Mill assumes that they
can be met only by reducing such truths to the case of purely
empirical truths. He argues boldly that the 'character of
necessity ascribed to the truths of mathematics' is 'an
illusion.'(42*) Geometry and arithmetic are both founded upon
experience or observation. He goes indeed still further at times.
At one place he even holds that the principle of contradiction
itself is simply, one of our first and most familiar
generalisations from experience.' We know, 'by the simplest
observation of our own minds,' that belief and disbelief exclude
each other, and that when light is present darkness is
absent.(43*) Mill thought himself bound, we see, to refer to
experience not only our knowledge of facts, but even the
capacities, which are said by another school to be the conditions
of perceiving and thus acquiring experience. If he had studied
Kant, he might have reached a better version of his own view. As
it was, he was led to accepting paradoxes which he was not really
concerned to maintain. He had to choose between a theory of
'intuitions' -- so understood as to entitle us to assert matter
of fact independently of experience -- and a theory which seems
to make even the primary intellectual operations mere statements
of empirical fact. Since necessary statements about matters of
fact must be impossible, he argues that we cannot even draw
necessary inferences from observed fact. Not content with saying
that all necessity is hypothetical, he argues that all necessity,
even the logical necessity of contradiction, is a figment. If he
does not carry out a theory which would seem to make all
reasoning unsatisfactory, he maintains, at least, that the
hypotheses or assumptions involved in geometry, and even in
arithmetic, are generalised from experience, and 'seldom, if
ever, exactly true.' If the assumptions are inaccurate or
uncertain, the whole superstructure of science must also be
    The nature of his argument follows from his previous
positions. He treats space and number as somehow qualities of the
'things,' or as attributes which we observe without in any sense
supplying them. His argument upon geometry begins by asserting
that there are no such 'real things' as points or lines or
circles. Nay, they are not even possible, so far as we can see,
consistently with the actual constitution of the universe. It is
'customary' to answer that such lines only exist in our minds,
and have therefore nothing to do with outward experience.(44*)
This, however, is incorrect psychologically, because our ideas
are copies of the realities. A line without breadth is
'inconceivable,' and therefore does not exist even in the mind.
Hence we must suppose that geometry deals either with
'non-entities' or with 'natural objects.'(45*) Arithmetic fares
little better. When we say that two and one make three, we assert
that the same pebbles may, 'by an alteration of place and
arrangement' -- that is, by being formed into one parcel or two
-- be made to produce either set of sensations.(46*) Each of the
numbers, 2, 3, 4, etc., he says elsewhere, 'denotes physical
phenomena and connotes a physical property of those
phenomena.'(47*) Arithmetic owes its position to the 'fortunate
applicability' to it of the 'inductive truth' that the sums of
equals 'are equal.'(48*) It is obvious to remark that this is
only true of certain applications of arithmetic. When we speak of
the numbers of a population, we imply, as Mill admits, no
equality except that each person is a unit.(49*) We may speak
with equal propriety of a number of syllogisms or of metaphors,
in which we have nothing to do with 'equality' or 'physical
properties' at all. Further, as he observes,(50*) it is the
peculiarity of the case that counting one thing is to count all
things. When I see that four pebbles are two pairs of pebbles, I
see the same truth for all cases, including, for example,
syllogisms. Mill admits, accordingly, that 'in questions of pure
number' -- though only in such questions -- the assumptions are
'exactly true,' and apparently holds that we may deduce exactly
true conclusions. That ought to have been enough for him. He had
really no sufficient reason for depriving us of our arithmetical
faith. He can himself point out its harmlessness. As he truly
says, 'from laws of spare and number alone nothing can be deduced
but laws of spare and number.'(51*) We ran never get outside of
the world of experience and observation by applying them. If we
count, we do not say that there must be four things, but that
wherever there are four things there are also two pairs of
things. The unlucky 'pebble' argument illustrates one confusion.
'Two and two are four' is changed into 'two and two make four.'
The statement of a constant relation is made into a statement of
an event. Two pebbles added to two might produce a fifth, but the
original two pairs would still be four. The space-problem
suggests greater difficulties. Space, he argues, must either be a
property of things or an idea in our minds, and therefore a
'non-entity.' If we consider it, however, to be a form of
perception, the disjunction ceases to be valid. The
space-perceptions mark the border-line between 'object' and
'subject,' and we cannot place its product in either sphere
exclusively. The space-relations are 'subjective,' because they
imply perception by the mind, but objective because they imply
the action of the mind as mind, and do not vary from one person
or 'subject' to another. To say whether they were objective or
subjective absolutely we should have to get outside of our minds
altogether -- which is an impossible feat. Therefore, again, it
is not really to the purpose to allege that such a 'thing' as a
straight line or a perfect circle never exists. Whether we say
that a curve deviates from or conforms to perfect circularity, we
equally admit the existence of a perfect circle. We may be unable
to mark it with finger or micrometer, but it is there. If no two
lines are exactly equal, that must be because one has more spare
than the other. Mill's argument seems to involve the confusion
between the statement that things differ in space and the
statement, which would be surely nonsense, that the spare itself
differs. It is to transfer the difference from the things
measured to the measure itself. It is just the peculiarity of
space that it can only be measured by space; and that to say one
space is greater than another, is simply to say, 'there is more
space.' As in the case of number, he is really making an
illegitimate transfer from one sphere to another. A straight line
is a symmetrical division of space, which must be taken to exist,
though we cannot make a perfectly straight line. Our inability
does not tend to prove that the 'space' itself is variable. In
applying a measure we necessarily assume its constancy; and it is
difficult even to understand what 'variability' means, unless it
is variability in reference to some assumed standard. If, as Mill
seems to think, space is a property of things, varying like other
properties, we have to ask, In what, then, does it vary? All
other properties vary in respect of their space-relations; but,
if space itself be variable, we seem to be reduced to hopeless
    Thus, to ascribe necessity to geometry as well as to
arithmetic is not to ascribe 'necessity' to propositions (to use
Hume's language again) about 'matters of fact.' The 'necessity'
is implied in a peculiarity which Mill himself puts very
forcibly,(52*) and which seems to be all that is wanted. An
arithmetical formula of the simplest or most complex kind is an
assertion that two ways of considering a fact are identical. When
I say that two and two make four, or lay down some algebraical
formula, such as Taylor's theorem, I am asserting the precise
equivalence of two processes. I do not even say that two and two
must make four, but that, if they make four, they cannot also or
ever make five. The number is the same in whatever order we
count, so long as we count all the units, and count them
correctly. So much is implied in Mill's observation that counting
one set of things is counting all things. The concrete
circumstances make no difference. The same is true of geometry.
The complex figure may be also regarded as a combination of
simpler figures. It remains precisely the same, though we
perceive that besides being one figure it is also a combination
of figures. This runs through all mathematical truths, and, I
think, indicates Mill's precise difficulty. He says quite truly
that to know the existence of a fact you must always have
something given by observation or experience. The most complex
mathematical formulae may still be regarded as equating different
statements of the same experience. The difference is only that
the experience is evolved into more complex forms, not by any
change in the data supplied, but by an intellectual operation
which consists essentially in organising the data in various
ways. The reasoner does not for an instant desert fact; he only
perceives that it may be contemplated in different ways, and that
very different statements assert the very same fact or facts. Our
experience may be increased, either by the entrance of new
objects into our field of observation, or by the different
methods of contemplation. The mathematician deals with
propositions which remain equally true if we suppose no change
whatever to take place in the world, or, as Mill puts it, 'if all
the objects of the universe were unchangeably fixed.'(53*) His
theories, in short, construct a map on which he can afterwards
lay down the changes which involve time. The filling up of the
map depends entirely upon observation and experience; but to make
the map itself a mere bundle of accidental coexistences is to
destroy the conditions of experience. The map is our own faculty
of perception.
    'There is something which seems to require explanation,' says
Mill,(54*) 'in the fact that an immense multitude of mathematical
truths... can be elicited from so small a number of elementary
laws.' It is puzzling when you identify Newton with Diamond on
the ground that they both see the same 'fact.' But it is no more
puzzling than anything else, as indeed Mill proceeds to show,
when we observe the method by which in arithmetic, for example,
an indefinite number of relations is implied by the simple
process of counting. The fact is the same for all observers, in
so far as they have the same data; but to perceive the data
already implies the germ of thought from which all the
demonstrative sciences are evolved. The knowledge can be
transformed and complicated to an indefinite degree by simply
identifying different ways of combining the data. Mill, in his
anxiety to adhere to facts and experience, fails to recognise
adequately the process by which simple observation is evolved
into countless modifications. The difficulty appears in its
extreme form in the curious suggestion that even the principle of
contradiction is a product of experience. Mill is so resolved to
leave nothing for the mind to do, that he supposes a primitive
mind which is not even able to distinguish 'is not' from 'is.' It
is hard to understand how such a 'mind,' if it were a 'mind,'
could ever acquire any 'experience' at all. So when Mill says
that the burthen of proof rests with the intuitionist, he is, no
doubt, quite right in throwing the burthen of proof upon thinkers
who suppose particular doctrines to have been somehow inserted
into the fabric of knowledge without any relation to other
truths; but it is surely not a gratuitous assumption that the
mind which combines experience must have some kind of properties
as well as the things combined. If it knows no 'truths' except
from experience, it is at least possible that it may in some way
react upon the given experience. This, at any rate, should be
Mill's view, who takes 'mind' and 'body' to be unknowable, and
all knowledge of fact to be a combination of 'sensations.' He
only requires to admit that knowledge may be increased either by
varying the data or by varying the mind's action upon fixed data.
In neither case do we get beyond 'experience.' In many places,
Mill seems to interpret his view in consistency with this
doctrine. His invariable candour leads him to make admissions,
some of which I have noticed. Yet his prepossessions lead him to
the superfluous paradoxes which, for the rest, he maintains with
remarkable vigour and ingenuity.
    One other device of the enemy raised the troublesome question
of inconceivability as a test of truth, which brought Mill into
conflict not only with Whewell and Hamilton, but with Mr Herbert
Spencer. I will only notice the curious illustration which it
affords of Mill's tendency to confound statements of fact with
the purely logical assertion that two modes of stating a fact are
precisely equivalent. The existence of Antipodeans, in his
favourite illustration,(55*) was declared to be 'inconceivable.'
Disbelief in their existence involved the statement of fact:
gravity acts here and at the Antipodes in the same direction.
That statement could of course be disproved by evidence; and
there is no reason to suppose that the truth, once suggested,
would be less 'conceivable' to Augustine or, say, to Archimedes,
than to Newton. It also involved the assertion: men (if the
direction of gravity were constant) would drop off the earth at
the Antipodes as they here drop off the ceiling. The denial of
that statement is still 'inconceivable,' though the statement
ceases to be applicable. Mill, however, infers that, as an
'inconceivability' has been surmounted, 'inconceivability' in
general is no test of truth. 'There is,' he says,(56*) 'no
proposition of which it can be asserted that every human mind
must eternally and irrevocably believe it,' and he tries, as I
have said, to apply this even to the principle of contradiction.
In other words, because our logic requires a basis in fact, and
the fact must be given by experience, the logic is itself
dependent upon experience. If 'inconceivable' be limited, as I
think it should be limited in logic, to the contradictory, an
inconceivable proposition is incredible because it is really no
proposition at all. We may, no doubt, believe statements which
are implicitly contradictory. but when the contradiction is made
explicit, the belief becomes impossible. Similarly we may
disbelieve statements which appear to be contradictory; and when
the error is exposed, we may believe what was once
'inconceivable.' That only shows that our thoughts are often in a
great muddle, and in great need of logical unification. It does
not prove any incoherence in the logical process itself.


    We can now proceed to what may be called the constructive
part of the logic. We have got rid of proofs from intuitions,
from definitions, and from inconceivabilities, and the question
remains how we can prove anything. All knowledge is inductive. It
is all derived from facts; it proceeds from particulars to
particulars; the previous coexistence of sequences which have
been observed constitute our whole raw material. What, then,
serves to bind facts together? or how are we to know that facts
are bound together, or that any two given facts have this
relation? The fundamental postulate of science is the so-called
'uniformity of nature.' But Nature, as it is seen by the
unscientific mind, is anything but uniform. There are, it is
true, certain simple uniformities which frequently recur. Fire
burns, water drowns, stones thrown up fall down; and such
observations are the germs of what we afterwards call scientific
'laws.' But things are constantly happening of which we can give
no account. Catastrophes occur without any assignable
'antecedent'; storm and sunshine seem to come at random; and the
same combination of events never recurs in all its details.
Variety is as manifest as uniformity. How can cosmos be made out
of chaos? How do we come to trace regularity in this bewildering
world of irregularities? From any fact taken by itself, as Hume
had fully shown, we can deduce no necessity for any other fact.
The question is, whether we are to account for the belief in
uniformity by an 'intuition' or by James Mill's universal solvent
of 'association of ideas.' J. S. Mill was fully convinced of the
efficacy of this panacea, but he sees difficulties over which his
father had passed. If association explains everything, the tie
between ideas ought to be stronger, it might be supposed, in
proportion to the frequency of their association. The oftener two
facts have been joined, the more confidently we should expect a
junction hereafter. But this does not hold true universally. A
chemist, as Mill observes, analyses a substance; and assuming the
accuracy of his results, we at once infer a general law of nature
from 'a single instance.' But if any one from the beginning of
the world has seen that crows are black, and a single credible
witness says that he has seen a grey crow, we abandon at once a
conjunction which seemed to rest upon invariable and
superabundant evidence. Why is a 'single instance' sufficient in
one case, and any number of instances insufficient in the other?
'Whoever can answer this question,' says Mill, 'knows more of the
philosophy of logic than the wisest of the ancients, and has
solved the problem of induction.'(57*)
    Here Mill again professes to set metaphysics aside. He has
nothing to do with 'ontology.' He deals with 'physical,' not
'efficient,' causes. He does not ask whether there be or be not a
'mysterious' tie lying behind the phenomena and actually
producing them.(58*) He is content to lay down as his statement
of the 'law of causation' that there is an invariable succession
between 'every fact in nature' and 'some other fact which has
preceded it.' This, he assumes, is a truth, whatever be the
nature of things in themselves. The true account is rather that
he will show that 'ontology' is a set of meaningless phrases. He
can answer his problem without it. Causation is, in fact,
conceived by him as it was conceived by all the psychologists,
including Brown; and he has simply to show that Brown's supposed
'intuition' is a superfluity. His treatment of the question gives
the really critical part of his philosophy. It leads to some of
the results which have been most highly and, as I think, most
deservedly praised. It also leads to some of his greatest errors,
and shows the weak point of his method.
    Mathematical knowledge, as Mill remarks, has nothing to do
with causation. Every geometrical or arithmetical formula is true
without supposing change. One theorem does not 'cause' the
others; it 'implies' them. The most complex and the most simple
are mutually involved in the single perception, though our
knowledge of one may be the cause of our knowing the others.
Their necessity is another way of stating this implication. We
can show that to deny one theorem while admitting another is to
be contradictory. The whole of physical science, however, from
first to last, is a process of stating the changes of phenomena
in terms of time and place, and therefore brings them all within
the range of mathematical methods. Science is not fully
constituted till it becomes quantitative or can speak in terms of
definite relations of magnitudes. How, then, are its laws
necessary? It is contradictory to say that the same thing has
different space-relations at the same time; but there is no
contradiction in saying that it is here now and somewhere else
to-morrow. The formula of the 'uniformity of nature,' whatever
may be its warrant, transfers the necessity of the geometrical
theorem to the laws of phenomena. We assume that things are
continuous or retain identity in change. We are no more permitted
to say that the combination of the same elements may produce a
compound of different properties, than to say that the product of
two numbers may sometimes give one result and sometimes another.
Every change is regarded as regular, or as having a 'sufficient
reason.' The same series of changes therefore must take place
under the same conditions, or every difference implies a
difference in the conditions. So far as we carry out this
assumption, we resolve the shifting and apparently irregular
panorama into a system of uniform laws. Each law may be, and if
it be really a law must be, absolutely true, not in the sense
that it states a fact unconditionally, but that it is stated so
that the conditions under. which it is absolutely true are fully
specified. If we could reach a complete science of all physical
phenomena, we should have a system of connected laws as
infallible and mutually consistent as those of geometry or
arithmetic. But in order thus to organise our knowledge, we have
to alter -- not the facts -- but the order of grouping and
conceiving them. We have to see identities where there were
apparent differences, and differences in apparent identities, and
to regard the whole order of nature from a fresh point of view.
The fact remains just as it was; but the laws -- that is, the
formulae which express them -- are grouped upon a new system. The
questions remain, What is the precise nature of the scientific
view? and What is our guarantee for a postulate which it
everywhere implies?
    The chapter upon causation(59*) is a vigorous assertion of
Mill's position. He accepts the traditional view of his school,
that cause means invariable sequence; but he makes two very
important amendments to the previous statements. A simple
sequence of two events is not a sufficient indication, however
often repeated, that they are cause and effect. We speak, he
says, of a particular dish 'causing' death; but to be accurate we
must also include, as part of the cause, all the other phenomena
present, the man as well as the food, the man's state of health
at the time, and possibly even the state of the atmosphere or the
planet. The real cause must include all the relevant phenomena.
The cause, therefore, is, 'philosophically speaking,' the 'sum
total of the conditions,' positive and negative, 'taken together,
the whole of the contingencies of every description, which, being
realised, the consequent invariably follows.'(60*) Mill's second
amendment is made by saying that the cause does not signify
simply 'invariable antecedence,' but also 'unconditional'
sequence. There may be 'invariable' sequences, such as day and
night -- a case often alleged by Reid and others, which are not
'unconditional.' The sun, for anything we can say, might not
rise, and then day would not follow night. The real condition,
therefore, is the presence of a luminous body without the
interposition of an opaque screen.(61*) These are undoubtedly
material improvements upon previous statements; and this view
being admitted, it follows, as Mill says, that the state of the
whole universe is the consequence of its state at the previous
instant. Knowing all the facts and all the laws at any time we
could predict all the future history of the universe.(62*) Some
curious confusions, it must be noticed, result apparently from
Mill's use of popular language. The most singular is implied in
his discussion of the question whether cause and effect can ever
be simultaneous. Some 'causes,' he says, leave permanent effects;
a sword runs a man through, but it need not remain in his body in
order that he may 'continue dead.'(63*) The 'cause' here is taken
to mean the 'thing' which was once a part of a set of things, and
has clearly ceased to mean the sum of all the conditions. 'Most
things,' he continues, once produced, remain as they are till
something changes them. Other things require the continual
presence of the agencies which produced them. But since all
change, according to him, supposes a cause, it is clear that not
only 'most things' but all things must remain as they are till
something changes them. Persistence is implied in causation as
much as change, for it is merely the other side of the same
principle. Inertia is as much assumed in mechanics as mobility;
for it is the same thing to say that a body remains in one place
when there is no moving force, as to say that whenever it ceases
to remain there is a moving force. The difference which Mill
means to point out is that some changes alter permanent
conditions of other changes, as when a man cuts his throat and
all vital processes cease; while sometimes the change leaves
permanent conditions unaffected, as when a man shaves himself,
and his vital processes continue. But in no case is the effect
produced, as he says, after the cause has ceased; it is always
produced through the actually present conditions, which may have
come into their present state through a change at some more or
less remote period. Each link in a chain, according to the common
metaphor, depends upon all the previous links and may be said to
hang from them; but the distant link can only act through the
intermediate links.
    These slips imply a vagueness which leads to more serious
results. Mill's aim is to construct a kind of logical machinery
-- a sieve, if I may say so, through which we pass all the
phenomenal of the universe in order to find out which are really
loose and which are connected by the ties of causation. We are
unweaving the complex web of nature by discovering what is the
hidden system of connections in virtue of which one event or
thing is somehow fastened to another. Everything, we may say,
which appears is called up by something else -- the thunder by
the lightning, the death by the poison, and so forth. In every
case we can reduce a statement of causation to the form of an
assertion of sequence or coexistence. Here, as he observes, we
meet one difficulty. Everything is connected with some other
thing. But then it may or must be also connected with a third.
The two connections may interfere, and we have to consider how
they can be disentangled. This leads to a distinction to which he
attaches, very rightly, I think, the highest importance. In some
cases, the correct version of the facts can be obtained by simply
superposing the laws of simpler cases. A body moves to the north
under certain conditions; but other conditions force it to move
also east or south. We then have only to combine the two 'laws,'
and to say that it is moving both north and east, that is,
north-east, or perhaps to interpret rest as an equal movement to
both north and south. This, as he remarks, represents the general
case in regard to mechanical phenomena. We have simply to combine
two rules to get what is called in dynamics 'the composition of
forces'; and, in accordance with this phase, he uses the general
phrase, 'the composition of causes.'(64*) But, as he observes,
this principle is in many cases not applicable. In chemical
combinations, in particular, we cannot infer the properties of
the compound from the properties of the components. The laws of
simple substances will not give us the laws of the product, and
we can only learn these derivative laws by experiment. This
holds, still more conspicuously, of organised bodies. From
considering the properties of its chemical constituents
separately you cannot deduce the properties of the human body. We
thus come to a kind of knot in the web; we are at a deadlock,
because the laws from which we start are superseded by an
entirely different set of laws. Mill marks this by speaking of
'heteropathic laws.'(65*) Such laws are not analysable into
simple laws. He thinks, indeed, that 'heteropathic laws' are --
at least 'in some cases may be derived from the separate laws,
according to a fixed principle.' The fact to which he calls
attention is undeniable. We discover countless laws as to the
properties of bodies which it is impossible at present either to
resolve into simpler laws, or to deduce from the laws of the
constituent elements. Such laws are properly 'empirical.' The
observation of the facts asserted is the sole guarantee for our
belief in their truth; and they can he reduced under no more
general formula. Is this, however, simply a challenge to the man
of science to inquire further, or does it oppose an insuperable
obstacle to further scientific researches? Mill avowedly limits
himself to 'our present state of knowledge.' He recognised that
Grove, in his Correlation of Forces,(66*) made out a strong,
though still only a probable, case for believing that a
'heteropathic law' may represent a complete transformation of one
set of forces into another. Heat, light, and magnetism may be all
different manifestations of a single force -- not so much causes
of one another as 'convertible into one another.'(67*) Grove, as
Mill adds, is not, as might be supposed, deviating into ontology,
but giving a strictly philosophical statement. Mill is here
speaking of a great principle, imperfectly known at the time,
which has been accepted by modern science, and he is quite ready
to welcome it. It is, however, noticeable that he still guards
himself against admitting any intrusion of 'necessity.' He will
not allow that the dependence of the properties of compounds upon
these elements must result in all cases 'according to a fixed
principle.' The meaning of this may appear from his later assault
upon the doctrine that 'like produces like.' This he reckons
among the fallacies which he discovers in all manner of pestilent
a priori philosophising. Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, and
Coleridge have all been guilty of it in various forms.(68*) We
are therefore under no obligation to go further when we come to
totally disparate phenomena in our series. We have unravelled our
web sufficiently when we find laws disappearing and being
superseded by a totally different set of laws, not describable
even in the same language. That we may be forced to be content
with such a result is undeniable. But it is equally true that one
main end of scientific theorists is to get round this difficulty.
Without inquiring in what sense the axiom that 'like produces
like' may be fallacious, we must at least admit that to give a
scientific law -- that is, a rule by which one set of events is
deducible from another -- we must be able to express it in terms
of some single measure. Til I we can get such a statement, we
have not the complete formula. There is a breach of continuity in
our theories, which we try to remove by reducing all the forces
to measures assignable in terms of space and number. The
hypothesis of an ether and vibrating atoms enables us to regard
phenomena as corresponding in some way to the laws which, as Mill
says, can be compounded by simple superposition, without
introducing heterogeneous terms. Though he does not condemn this
hypothesis, Mill regards it with a certain suspicion as an
attempt to wander into ontology, and the search for what is in
its nature inaccessible.(69*) At any rate, it does not appear to
him that further inquiry is necessary when we come to an
irreducible breach of continuity. to a case in which one set of
phenomena is simply superseded by another, instead of being
transformable into it. If a compound is made of certain elements
exclusively, a physicist would clearly infer that its properties
must be a result of the properties of the elements according to
'some fixed principle.' Mill is only prepared to admit that this
may be the case. The physicist, again, seeks for a mode of
stating the principle in theorems capable of being combined and
superposed, whereas Mill holds that our knowledge may have come
to an ultimate insuperable end.


    It is in the applications of this view that we come to what
must be regarded as downright fallacies. If, as Mill holds, an
effect may be something absolutely disparate from the cause -- a
new thing which starts into existence when its antecedent occurs
-- we are led to another result. There is, then, no apparent
reason why the same thing should not spring up in answer to
different summonses. Not only is this possible, but, as Mill
thinks, it constantly occurs. This is his doctrine of the
'Plurality of Causes.' A given cause, he holds, can only produce
one effect. But a given effect may follow various causes. So long
as the relation is merely one of arbitrary succession, not of
continuity, this is obviously possible. The fully scientific
view, I take it, would be that when we speak of 'cause and
effect' we are really thinking of a single process regarded in
different ways. We may analyse the process differently for
different purposes, and infer the past from the future or the
future from the past; but we assume that, if we could perfectly
understand the whole process, there would be thorough continuity,
and no abrupt supersession of one thing or one set of 'laws' by
another. This continuity is precisely what Mill systematically
denies. A cause, he holds, means an absolute beginning of a new
effect.(70*) The process becomes a series of distinct terms -- a
set of 'links' in a chain, not a flow of a stream. One remarkable
case is enough to illustrate the point. When Bacon's claims to
have founded a truly scientific theory are considered, it is
generally said that his guess as to the nature of heat is a point
in his favour.(71*) Mill, however, takes this particular case as
an instance of Bacon's errors. Bacon, he says,(72*) 'entirely
overlooked the Plurality of Causes. All his rules imply the
assumption, so contrary to what we now know of nature, that a
phenomenon cannot have more than one cause.' Bacon was misguided
enough to apply this to heat. Now, as Mill had already argued,
heat may have several causes: the 'sun,' or 'friction,' or
'percussion,' or 'electricity,' or 'chemical action.'(73*)
Consequently, the attempt to find a single cause is doomed to
failure. We shall find, not that one antecedent but, that one of
several antecedents is always present. Clearly the 'sun' is not
'friction,' nor is 'percussion' 'electricity.' Each of those
phrases indicates concrete facts involving various processes.
Heat, as a 'mode of motion,' occurs in them all, because all
involve particular phases of movement. From the 'raw' fact, as it
presents itself -- 'This body is hot' -- I cannot say which of
various laws represents the true antecedents in that case. The
heat may have been caused by exposure to fire or by friction. In
that sense, undoubtedly, one effect may really have any number of
'causes.' But replace all the conditions, and it is evident that
there can be only one true analysis of the whole process.
    Mill's insistence upon this imaginary 'plurality of causes'
is significant. It indicates the precise stage in the development
of the idea of cause to which his doctrine corresponds. Taking
what we may call the popular sense of causation, the 'plurality'
expresses an obvious truth; and we can understand its
plausibility. We take, in fact, two concrete events which follow
each other, and call them cause and effect. We use a tool -- a
knife to cut bread, for example; we are forced to attend to the
fact that every difference in the knife will have an effect on
the result. The work is better or worse, as the knife is sharper
or blunter. If we did not recognise this in every purposeful
action, all action would be intrinsically uncertain. We are,
therefore, impressed with the necessity of admitting that the
effect is determined by the cause. But, on the other hand, the
knife is there. It may have been made by fifty different methods,
and yet be the same. The handle may have been first made and then
the blade, or vice versa, and so forth. therefore we believe, and
in this sense of cause believe correctly, that one effect may be
the product of any number of different 'causes.' In order to
reach the more scientific sense of causation, we have to take
into account all that we have neglected. The knife is one product
of an indefinite multitude of processes, and is therefore not the
total 'effect' of the concrete antecedent, but only a part of it
arbitrarily singled out. We do not attend to all these collateral
results, because for us at the moment they have no interest; but
when we systematically carry out the 'uniformity of nature'
principle, it is obvious that they must be taken into account. We
then see that although precisely similar products appear in an
infinite variety of concrete processes, they correspond only to a
part of those processes, and may always be analysed into
identical elements. The effect can no more have two causes than a
cause two effects, for cause and effect are distinguished by
observing the same process in a different order. It was just
because men of science held that the one effect must have one
cause that they could make a coherent theory of heat. Mill,
however goes a step further. Bacon's error was the assumption
that there was only one 'form' of heat. Now it is specially
futile, says Mill, to seek for the causes of 'sensible qualities
of objects.... In regard to scarcely any of them has it been
found possible to trace any unity of cause.' Bacon, therefore,
was seeking for 'what did not exist,' and to this Mill adds the
surprising statement that 'the phenomenon of which he sought for
the one cause has oftenest no cause at all, and, when it has,
depends (as far as hitherto ascertained) on an unassignable
variety of causes.'(74*)
    To explain this rather startling assertion we must take one
more of Mill's theories. How from the doctrine, which he fully
admits, that every event has a cause can he reach the conclusion
that some things have 'no cause at all'? Once more we have, I
think, the misapplication of an undeniable truth. A 'law' of
causation, taken by itself, will obviously not fully account for
a single fact. It cannot lead to the conclusion: 'this fact must
exist,' but only to the conclusion: this fact must exist if
certain previous facts existed. We somewhere assume an initial
stage. However far back we can go, we may still repeat the
question. Given a single state of facts and the 'laws of
causation,' we can go indefinitely backwards or forwards in time.
Given the sun, the planets, and gravitation, we can trace the
whole past and future history of the solar system; but the facts
at some period must be 'given.' We cannot say that they must, but
only that they do exist. Mill himself puts this(75*) with all
desirable clearness. He expresses it by saying that besides
'causation' there is 'collocation,' a word, he says, suggested by
Chalmers.(76*) To know the 'collocation,' therefore, is
essential. A 'law' does not tell us that there 'must' be plums
and suet, but only that if there are such things in certain
'collocations' a plum pudding 'must' be the result. All
statements of fact have thus an empirical basis. This, however,
takes a peculiar turn in his exposition, and one which is
characteristic of a Utilitarian failing. He makes the distinction
of relations correspond to a distinction of things. Instead of
saying that both causation and collocation are implied in all
phenomena, he speaks of some 'uniformities' as dependent upon
causation and others as dependent upon collocation. He therefore
writes a chapter on 'uniformities of coexistence not dependent on
causation.'(77*) This, however, is closely connected with, and
must be explained by, another doctrine to which he attached the
highest importance. After telling us how he was started afresh by
Stewart's account of axioms, he adds that he came to
'inextricable difficulties' in regard to induction. He had come
to the 'end of his tether,' and 'could make nothing satisfactory
of the subject.' When, after five years' halt, he again set to
work, he introduced his 'theory of kinds,' which, as he
intimates, got round the difficulty. He felt, as we may
conjecture, that he had now reduced all the facts to such purely
empirical conjunctions that he did not see how to get any tie
between them. Any cause, so far as we have gone, might lead to
any effect. and even when we have seen a case of conjunction, we
can give no reason for its recurrence. Induction enables us to
predicate attributes of a class; but a logical class is itself
merely a bundle of attributes arbitrarily selected, and it
remains to see why, from a thing's possession of some of the
class attributes, we can infer that it has the others. Why should
not the same set of attributes form part of different bundles?
and if so, what is the justification for the primary logical
procedure? From featherless bipedism we infer mortality. But why
may not some class of featherless bipeds be immortal? If we admit
the possibility, all induction becomes precarious. The 'theory of
kinds' was, it seems, intended as an answer to these obvious


    Mill's account of 'real kinds' corresponds, as he tells us,
to the old logicians' distinction between genus and species.
Though our classification may be arbitrary and nothing properly
deducible from it, except the mere fact that we have chosen to
give names to certain clusters of attributes, there is also a
real difference. Some of our classes do not correspond to 'real
kinds,' and are mistaken for them. Others, however, correspond to
a real or natural kind. The difference is this: a 'real kind' has
an 'indeterminate multitude of properties, not derivable from
each other,' whereas an arbitrary or merely logical 'kind' may
only differ in respect of the particular attribute assigned.
Thus, to say that Newton is a man is to attribute to him the
'unknown multitude of properties' connoted by 'man.' To say that
Newton is a Christian is only to attribute to him a particular
belief and whatever consequences may follow from having that
belief.(78*) One classification, as he says, 'answers to a much
more radical distinction in the things themselves, than the other
does'; and a man may thus fairly say, if he chooses, that one
classification is made 'by Nature' and one 'by ourselves,'
provided that he means no more than to express the distinction
just drawn. Now, it is easy to understand why Mill felt that this
assertion entitled him to a 'real' bond which would keep
phenomena together in a more satisfactory way. All things had
become so loose and disconnected that it was difficult to explain
any extension of knowledge even by induction. Yet, whatever the
reason, things do stick together in coherent and many-propertied
clusters. The bond seems to be real when it is stated
'objectively,' not 'subjectively' -- as a property of the things
observed, not of the classes made by the mind itself. I take the
remark to be both true and important; and, moreover, that Mill
deserves credit for perceiving so clearly this weak joint in his
armour. His application, however, suggests, when he had hit upon
an apparent escape from his 'inextricable' difficulties, he was
too much relieved to work out its full effect upon his general
theory. The 'theory of kinds' is inserted rather than embodied in
his philosophy, and makes rents in the attempt to fill a gap. It
plays, however, so important a part in the doctrine that it
requires some further consideration.
    A real kind, we see, has two characteristics; it has
innumerable properties, and those properties are not 'derivable'
from the others. In fact, a derivative property would be merely a
modification of a primitive property. A geometrical 'kind,' a
curve of the second order, for example, has innumerable
properties, but they are all derivative from the simple
properties expressed in the axioms and definitions. They
reciprocally imply each other. But can we say the same of the
properties of a thing -- of a plant or of water or of an atom?
Here we have the distinction already noticed. The so-called
'thing' may be merely a collection of separate things, and we can
discover the 'laws' applicable to all by combining the laws
applicable to each. From a given 'collocation' we can infer past
or future 'collocations,' and one set of results can be added to
or superposed upon the other. But when we proceed to chemical or
organic compounds, we have 'heteropathic' laws. The compound may
be analysed into elements, but we cannot derive the properties of
the compounds from the properties of the elements. Hydrogen and
oxygen can be combined into the form of water; but we could not
infer the properties of water from the properties of the hydrogen
and oxygen taken apart. In organic compounds, the problem is
still more intricate. We have to consider a series of
inter-related changes taking place within the organism, and
dependent partly upon the 'environment' and partly upon the
complex constitution of the organism itself. It is a unit in so
far as all its properties manifest an organic law or a system of
organic laws. Individuals may differ from external causes as
plants, for example, in different soils, and in that case we may
regard the differences as simply derivative. Differences which
belong to the organic law itself indicate differences of kind;
and these are ultimate for us, so long as we cannot trace the way
in which they are dependent upon differences of constitution.
These, roughly stated, are the facts which Mill recognises. Now,
in any case whatever, we can only 'explain' a fact by assuming
both 'collocation' and 'causation'; or, in other words, we must
have a statement of facts and of laws. Our analysis of the
phenomena will in all cases come to showing how a given state
results from, or results in, a previous or succeeding state. If
new properties appear from the combination of simpler elements,
we should infer that they result, though we may be quite unable
in the existing state of knowledge to show how they result, from
the properties of those elements. The properties do not manifest
themselves, and are therefore not discoverable, till the
combination is formed; and are thus only known to us
'empirically.' No process of reasoning, that is, can be adduced
to show that they must result from the combination. But, in the
case supposed, we do not doubt that they do result, and we assume
that the elements had certain latent properties not previously
discoverable. This, however, is the point upon which Mill
diverges, owing, as I think, to his imperfect view of causation.
    The doctrine of 'kinds,' in fact, gives the answer to Mill's
old problem, why a single instance is sometimes conclusive,
whereas any number of instances may sometimes fail to give
certainty. It is this reciprocal connection between the
properties of a 'kind' which justifies the inference from one set
of attributes to another attribute -- the inference implied in
all induction. But Mill's interpretation of the fact seems
strangely inconsistent. His favourite instance is the black crow.
I have seen a million black crows. Can I say that the million and
oneth crow will be black? To answer this we must ask whether
blackness is a property of 'kind.'(79*) If the blackness be, 'as
it were, an accident,' or not a property of kind, it must, he
says, be a case of causation. If not a case of causation, it must
be a property of kind. Hence we have the singular result, that if
the coexistence be casual, it is caused, and if invariable, not
caused. As 'causation' means according to him simply
unconditional connection, the statement seems to be especially
paradoxical. It is, however, explicable.
    The blackness of the crow may be regarded as 'accidental,' if
it is due to the external cause. The crow, perhaps, has fallen
into a paint-pot. The blackness is 'caused,' then, by the
properties of paint and by the 'accidental' collocation. It is an
'accident' in the crow, though caused in respect of the general
arrangements of the universe. But why, if a property of 'kind,'
should it be called 'not caused'? Here we have a curious result
of Mill's view of causation. Our natural reply would be that the
colour is still caused as everything else is caused.(80*) We
assume, that is, that 'crow' implies such a constitution that
under a given environment crows will be black. Change something
outside the crow and he may turn white. Or find a white crow in
the same 'environment,' and we infer some difference in his
constitution. There is a relation, we assume, though we cannot
specify its nature, which determines the colour, and as in all
cases we have at once collocation and causation. Here is Mill's
peculiar difficulty. Causation, as he is profoundly convinced,
always means a beginning. It is only, as we have seen, concerned
with changes, not with persistence. Therefore, if two things,
like blackness and crowness, exist side by side, it is a case of
collocation, and consequently, as he supposes, not a case of
causation. He cannot recognise a reciprocal relation, although it
is clear that if one thing is found always to accompany another,
the argument is the same as though one always followed another.
Indeed, his whole theory of induction implies the possibility of
reasoning from one property or attribute to another. Make a
change in one and the other must be changed. He sees this clearly
in the case of organised bodies.(81*) In that case, he says,
there is a 'presumption' that the properties are 'derivable' and
therefore 'caused,' because there we have sequences or one
process following another. He thus seems to limit his 'natural
kinds' chiefly to chemical compounds. There we have properties
lying side by side and not 'derivable,' that is, not to be
inferred by us from the properties of the elementary
constituents. The very attempt to derive them is idle. As any
event may cause any other, however unlike, so any set of
properties may be simply stuck together. Bacon is again
reproved(82*) for assuming that 'every object has an invariable
coexistent.' The ultimate properties, so far as we can
conjecture, are 'inherently properties of many different kinds of
things, not allied in any other respect.' They simply lie side by
side, without reference to each other. Thus Mill pushes his
empiricism to assuming not only that our knowledge of properties
must rest upon direct observation, but that there is absolutely
no connection or 'cause' to be known. The 'kind' after all, which
was meant to be an essential bond, turns out to be itself a
purely arbitrary collection of attributes, and we have to ask
whether it does not lose all the significance which he attached
to it. The 'collocation' means that the attributes simply lie
side by side, and yet are always conjoined. The tie which
combines them is undiscoverable, and therefore for us
non-existent. It is, as he rightly insists, important that our
classification should correspond to natural kinds. 'Kinds,' he
says, are classes 'between which there is an impassable barrier';
the logical class is arbitrary, but the real class is an
essential fact, His illustration is remarkable. He holds that the
'species of plants are not only real kinds, but are probably all
of them real lowest kinds, infimae species,' and that further
subdivision would lead to no valuable results.(83*) The doctrine
that the species of botany must correspond to 'real kinds ' is
curious in a writer who was himself a botanist and familiar with
the difficulty of making absolute divisions between kinds. The
conflict with the conceptions implied in Darwinism is of the
highest importance.(84*) The distinction between 'kinds,'
according to Darwin, is not absolute, for it is the product of
gradual divergence from a single form. But, on the other hand,
the kinds existing at a given time are discrete. There are gaps
between them, as Mill remarks; though, in so far as they have a
common origin, not absolutely insuperable gaps. This implies that
the organism does not correspond to a mere aggregate of
disconnected attributes, so that the difference of kinds would be
simply a difference of more or less, and each type pass into the
other by imperceptible gradations. We are obliged to suppose a
system of reciprocal relations, so that any change in one organ
involves correlated changes in others; and thus species diverge
along different lines instead of remaining constant or simply
adding on new properties. Mill, it seems, has to admit of kinds
in order to account for the possibility of inference; but then,
as he wishes to avoid 'mystical bonds,' and inferences from
'definitions,' and the scholastic beggings of the question, he
declares the relation between the attributes to be 'accidental'
or 'uncaused.' Hence, though he sees the difficulty and
recognises the probability of 'causation' in organised bodies, he
really reduces the 'kind' to be a mere aggregate, and destroys
the very organic bond of which he is in need.


    The effect of thus contra-distinguishing 'collocation' from
causation, and admitting that 'uncaused coexistences' cover a
large part of all observable phenomena, is to make the uniformity
of nature exceedingly precarious. Indeed, Mill denies it to be
conclusively proved. The chapter in which he sums up 'the
evidence of the law of universal causation' leads to remarkable
results. No one, he thinks, with a properly trained imagination
will find any difficulty in conceiving that in remote parts of
the universe 'events may succeed one another at random without
any fixed law'. He concludes by asserting that it would be 'folly
to affirm confidently' that the law does prevail in 'distant
parts of the stellar regions.'(85*) A truth which depends upon
locality might, for anything one sees, break down in Australia
and even at Paris as easily as at Sirius. Mill, accordingly,
reaches a thoroughly sceptical conclusion,(86*) and reduces the
evidence for universal causation to an induction per
enumerationem simplicem. The wider the generalisation, the
greater the efficacy of such induction, upon which depends not
only the law of causation but the principles of number and
geometry. If the 'subject-matter of any generalisation' be so
widely diffused that it can be tested at every time and place,
and if it 'be never found otherwise than true' its truth cannot
depend on any collocations, unless such as exist at all times and
places, nor can it be frustrated by any counteracting agencies
except such as never actually occur.'(87*) Now no exception to
the 'law of causation' has ever been found, and apparent
exceptions have only confirmed it. It is no doubt true that if a
law be universal, it will be confirmed by all our experiments;
but it hardly follows that, because all our experiments have
failed to detect an exception, it is true universally. All our
experiments have covered but a small fragment of nature, and they
do not justify us, as he expressly asserts, in reasoning about
the stellar regions. It is difficult, moreover, to see how an
'exception' could ever be proved, since, wherever we do not see a
'cause,' we can always suppose, and do in fact suppose, an
invisible cause. Finally, the theory of 'natural kinds,' as it
has now been interpreted, seems to fail us in our need. He takes
it to indicate, indeed, that there are connections in nature,
which, if known, would justify certain general inferences; but it
does not appear that we can know what are these connections, and
as, moreover, we have been carefully told that they are ultimate
or not 'derivative,' we have no right to be certain that they
will recur. We do not know, for example, whether blackness be a
property of kind. If we found a black crow among white ones, the
property would be casual, and therefore 'caused.' If we found a
race of white crows in Australia, we should simply say that there
was a kind hitherto overlooked.(88*) Such a discovery, he says,
is not at all incredible. It might be proved by the evidence of a
single credible witness. It merely supposes that there is a kind
with a different set of attributes, and as the attributes are in
no way 'derivative,' there is no improbability in this. The more
general the rule, however, the greater the probability of its
holding, because the greater the improbability of the exception
being overlooked. We should easily believe in white crows, but
not so easily in crows with a property 'at variance with any
generally recognised universal property of birds,' and still
less, if it were 'at variance with such a property of
animals.'(89*) We could hardly, that is, believe in crows with
the stomachs of wolves, or in crows without stomachs at all. But
the difficulty appears to depend upon nothing else than the
improbability that such animals, had they existed, would have
been unnoticed.
    Without trying fully to unravel this logic, we may notice one
characteristic. Mill, trying to refer everything to 'experience,'
has gone far to make experience impossible. What has dropped out
of this theory of knowledge is the constructive part. He
substitutes for organisation combinations of disparate 'things.'
He will admit of no logic, except that. of an external connection
of radically different objects. Attributes must be stuck together
without any reciprocal relations. All causation becomes in his
phrase 'collocation,' though he declares causation and
collocation to be not only different but mutually exclusive. His
one logical formula is the nota notae est nota rei ipsius.(90*)
Things are marks of each other, not implied by each other. He
forces this language even upon mathematics. Even a geometrical
'kind,' if we may use the word, an ellipse, or a curve of the
second order, is treated by the formula applicable to purely
empirical conjunctions. The equality of two straight lines, it
seems, is simply a 'mark' that if applied to each other they
would coincide; the fact that two things are sums of equals is a
'mark' that they are equal, and so forth.(91*) He would
apparently be inclined to say that a thing's existence is a mark
of its not being nothing. Thus, even the 'natural kind' becomes
merely a permanent combination. When the properties of a curve
are merely connected by 'marks,' it is no wonder that the
properties of crows should be mere bundles. If it is only on such
terms that we can thoroughly get rid of 'intuitions,' the
advantage is doubtful.
    I will venture to say another word upon the uniformity of
Nature difficulty. It is easy, says Mill, to conceive of things
happening at random. It is, indeed, in one sense perfectly easy.
'Raw' things, or unanalysed concrete events, do happen at random,
that is, without uniform antecedents. Nothing is easier than to
think of things without thinking of their causes. The primitive
mind, and even the cultivated mind, may simply watch the series
of events without trying to find any connection or indulging in
any reasoning. But this is quite different from thinking of
things as positively uncaused. A phenomenon suddenly intrudes
without warning. I may accept it without asking whence it comes,
or why. But there is no really positive meaning in the statement
that it is caused by 'nothing.' It does not imply a
contradiction, such as occurs when I put together the words
crooked and straight, round and square; but it represents no
intelligible meaning. It corresponds to a simple absence of
thought. When I speak of the uniformity of Nature, I mean simply
to indicate a condition of thinking about Nature at all. I may
cease to reason or to think; but if I think, I must think
coherently, and assume what has been called the 'Universal
Postulate.'(92*) The phrase seems to me to be inadequate; and at
any rate it is a postulate with this peculiarity, that we cannot
make any other. To deny it is to allow contradictory statements
on the most intimate tissue of our reasoning. It is as impossible
to do without it as to do without the principle of contradiction
in pure logic. It helps us to no positive statement; but it is a
warning that our statements must be coherent. Hence, we must
allow the mind to have this modest capacity for working up its
experience. If it starts from so unprejudiced a point of view as
to admit contradictions, or allow of inconsistent statements
about things, it will never be able to get anywhere, and when
Mill has reduced all our knowledge to the relations between ideas
in the mind, it is really quite inconsistent to allow the mind no
power of putting ideas together. Without such a power it is
difficult to say what is even meant by the perception of
'coexistences' and 'sequences.' The progress of knowledge, then,
must be understood as corresponding to the process by which the
chaos of impressions and ideas is gradually reduced to cosmos;
and as starting from a position in which no cause has been yet
discovered for great masses of facts, not from a position in
which 'no cause' is an equally probable alternative with 'some
cause.' To reason at all about facts is to arrange them in order
of causation, and to suppose them as having certain time- and
space-relations. To get behind that primitive germ of reasoning
is really to make logic impossible from the start. Mill's dread
of a priori intuitions and necessary results thus led him into
perfectly gratuitous difficulties. Granting the 'necessity' of
arithmetic or geometry, it is still a hypothetical necessity. It
can never take us beyond experience. Such theorems cannot tell us
of the existence of a single thing or of its nature. They can
only say that if we see things in space they will have certain
relations which are deducible from the special confirmation.
Without that power the universe would be undecipherable, but with
it our knowledge still has throughout a completely empirical
base. Not a single statement of fact can be made which is not
derived from, and justified by, experience; nor can our
experience ever get beyond saying that any given section of the
whole is developed out of, and develops into, preceding and
succeeding sections.


    I have dwelt upon these misconceptions to show why Mill was
driven in defence of experience to assume the burthen of proving
paradoxes which would be destructive to our very capacity for
obtaining experience. Mill prided himself with some reason on his
'four methods.' Although they have been severely criticised,(93*)
they have, I take it, a genuine value; and, if we ask how they
can be valuable in spite of his errors, a satisfactory answer may
perhaps be given. In the first place, his assumptions represent
one genuine 'moment' in all reasoning about facts. The primitive
intellect may be supposed to regard facts as simply conjoined,
and to be guided by 'association of ideas.' The early
generalisations of which Mill speaks -- 'fire burns,' 'water
drowns,' and so forth are really of this kind, and are apparently
formed even by dogs and monkeys. Mill is quite right, moreover,
in holding that a purely empirical element runs through the whole
fabric of knowledge. The error, I think, is in his failure to
allow for the way in which it is modified in scientific
construction. The ultimate element out of which that construction
is developed is always an observation of fact, but the fact means
a definite relation of time and space. We start from a 'fact,'
but it is not as a simple unanalysable unit, but as something
which already is the base of a relation. The unit which
corresponds to the final cell out of which tissue is composed is
not properly a fact, but a 'truth.' We do not say simply 'this
is,' but this is so and so, and has a certain order and
configuration. This is gradually elaborated into physical science
by the help of the geometrical and numerical relations already
implied. Thus, causation, or the connection between phenomena, is
not simple collocation, but supposes continuity. The
unconditional sequence which Mill identifies with 'causation'
does not, and cannot, give the 'cause,' though it does indicate
'causal connection.' So long as two things are entirely separate
and distinguishable, we cannot say, in the full sense, that one
is the cause of the other; but the connection, if proved, proves
that there is a cause which may or may not be discoverable. Brown
was right in thinking that something was still wanting, though
his mode of filling the gap by an intuition was erroneous. Mill's
answer that the 'intuition' was needless left the difficulty
where Hume had put it. Two facts are supposed to be unrelated and
yet always combined. That states a difficulty, and only
pronounces it to be insoluble. It has, in fact, to be surmounted
by scientific hypotheses. Thunder and lightning, for example, are
causally connected, but not so that lightning can be properly
called the cause of thunder. They are regarded as due to a common
cause to the processes which we call electric disturbance, and so
forth. We cannot give the 'law' or state the casual connection
adequately, but we regard them as indicating some common element,
which is continuous and capable of being described in terms of
pure number and geometry. Hence any observation, as soon as we
begin to reason, may be regarded as a particular case of some
general law, or rather, as being conceivably a case of an
indefinite number of laws. Not only so, but any law under which
it may be arranged is 'necessary' if all the conditions be
restored. The process by which we select one of the possible
formula, therefore, comes to eliminating all the formula which
are incorrect when various conditions are altered. We all along
assume that some coherent system of 'laws' is possible, or that
the rule is there if only we can discover it. If lightning goes
once with thunder, we are entitled to say not only that it may go
with thunder hereafter, but that it must go with thunder under
the same conditions. Therefore the simple inference from an
empirical conjunction is justified by the 'law of causation' or
the 'uniformity of nature.'
    Now, Mill's 'four methods' are applicable to the merely
empirical conjunctions, which form a large part of our knowledge,
and are implied in every stage. The methods do, in fact, I take
it, form an approximately accurate mode of dealing with such
knowledge. His cases are, for the most part, selected from the
sciences, chemistry in particular, where in point of fact our
knowledge is still purely empirical, and we can only assert a
collocation, or sequence, without bringing it under a more
general rule. He also observes, and the remark must be
remembered, that he is trying to give a method of proof, rather
than of discovery.(94*) If the scientific theory be true, these
purely empirical truths will hold good, although from them alone
the theory might not have been discoverable. The phenomenon which
we call the fall of a stone will be presented when an unsupported
stone is near the earth, although the law of gravitation requires
an application of methods not summed up by simple observation of
conjoined phenomena. The most unsatisfactory part of the 'four
methods' results from this view.(95*) The process of discovery is
not sufficiently represented by the case of A occurring with or
without B. The sciences which have risen to be quantitative
advance by showing how a variety of cases can be brought within
some general and precise formula, and every approximation to, or
deviation from, the law be exactly measured. Mill pays too little
attention to this essential characteristic, partly, perhaps,
because he considers mathematics as simply one part of the
'inductive' or empirical sciences.
    The final position may be shortly illustrated by Mill's
relation to his contemporaries. It will show briefly what were
the alternatives between which he had to choose, and that, if
that which he chose leads to error, there were at least equal
errors on the other side. Mill frankly states in his preface that
but for Whewell's History of the Inductive Sciences the
corresponding part of his own book 'would probably not have been
written.' He remarks with equal candour that Sir John Herschel,
in his Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy,(96*) had
recognised the four methods. Herschel, however, was his only
predecessor, and a more distinct and articulate exhibition of
their nature was desirable. Herschel and Whewell had graduated at
Cambridge in 1813 and 1816. Both of them were able
mathematicians, and, with their contemporary Babbage, had done
much to introduce at their university the methods of analysis
developed on the Continent. The university was gradually roused;
Herschel won a great name in astronomy, and Whewell took in
earlier life a very active part in promoting scientific studies
in England.(97*) Both of them had much closer acquaintance with
the physical sciences than Mill, for whom they provided a useful
store of materials. Herschel, though a friend of Whewell,
approximates to Mill. A 'famous' review of Whewell's two books in
the Quarterly of June 1841(98*) gives his position; but although
he seems to perceive the source of Whewell's weakness, he
scarcely comes to close quarters. It is enough for my purpose to
speak briefly of the points at issue between Mill and Whewell.
Whewell, like his most eminent contemporaries at Cambridge, was
becoming aware that German speculation could no longer be
overlooked. Herschel was son of a German; and Whewell's friends,
Julius Hare (1795-1855) and Connop Thirlwall (1797-1875) were
taking up the study of German. Their translation of Niebuhr's
History of Rome (1828-1832) marked an epoch in English
scholarship. Whewell meanwhile had read Kant, and been greatly
impressed. Especially, as he says, he accepted Kant's theories of
space, time, and, in some degree, causation, although he differed
from Kant's doctrine as to other so-called 'fundamental
ideas.'(99*) He 'gladly acknowledges,' too, his obligations to
the Scottish school.(100*) In fact, it may be said that, like Sir
W. Hamilton, he made a compromise between two modes of thought
which very rapidly diverge from each other. Whewell begins his
Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences by considering the
fundamental antithesis of philosophy, which corresponds to the
distinction between thoughts and things, necessity and
experience, object and subject, and so forth. Time and space are,
in his phrase, 'fundamental ideas,' upon which are founded the
mathematical sciences. But there are other 'fundamental ideas' --
'cause,' 'media,' 'polarity,' 'chemical affinity resemblance,'
'excitability,' and 'final cause' -- which in succession become
the foundation of various sciences.
    These fundamental ideas are, as he admits, something like
'innate ideas,' except that they can be 'developed.' They can
somehow be 'superinduced upon facts,' and are not 'generated by
experience.' I shall not attempt to explain a theory which seems
to be radically incoherent, and which made no converts. It will
be quite enough to notice two of the points of collision with
Mill. Mill and Whewell agree(101*) that the 'first law of motion'
which asserts the uniform rectilinear motion of a body not acted
upon by a force was unknown till the time of Galileo. Whewell
admits further that, 'historically speaking,' it was made 'by
means of experiment.' We have, however, attained a point of view
in which we ae that it might have been certainly known to be
true, independently of experience, Mill naturally ridicules this
doctrine, according to which we burden ourselves with 'truths
independent of experience' and yet admit that they were proved
'by (or 'by means of') experiment.' The history is admitted on
both sides. It had been observed that the motion of all bodies
ceases unless they receive a new impulse. The statement was true,
though vague, for all bodies upon the earth. But the progress of
astronomy and exact sciences required a more precise statement.
Science has not simply to recognise that motion declines, but to
show at what rate, and under what conditions it declines. Then,
as we cannot measure 'absolute motion,' or assign any fixed point
in space, we can obtain no rule as to absolute motion. If we
assume, however, that we have to account not for motion but for
change of motion, we can get a consistent 'law' which at once
gives a sufficient account of many observed phenomena. We proceed
to define force as the cause of change in motion. Then it becomes
an identical proposition that all change of motion implies force,
or that bodies not acted upon continue to move uniformly. Thus
the definition of force takes the shape of an a priori axiom as
to force. We imagine that instead of simply co-ordinating our
experience we are 'applying a fundamental idea' to it, the idea,
namely, of a 'cause' or 'force.'(102*) The axiom is not
'independent of experience.' Rightly understood, the whole
process is one of interpreting experience. Mill, however, is
hardly correct in saying that the law was proved by experiment.
We cannot observe a 'force' apart from the moving body. Force is
one of Bentham's 'fictitious entities,' a word which enables us
to state the relations of moving bodies accurately. It harmonises
our conceptions. The old belief that all motions stop is not
disproved by discovering cases in which force is absent, but by
postulating the presence of force wherever we find change of
motion. The real proof is not in direct experiment but in the
harmonising of an indefinite number of complex statements when
once the principle is systematically applied. It can reveal no
fact to us, for nothing but experience can show that there are
such things as the planets fortunately are, bodies moving freely,
so as to illustrate the law continuously. Mill puts the first law
of motion on a level with the law that the period of the earth's
rotation is uniform. Both 'inductions,' he says, are accurately
true.(103*) In fact, however, the earth's motion is not
absolutely uniform, a truth which we discover by applying the
laws of motion, though no direct experiment could exhibit the
fact. The law of motion has the authority derived from its
rendering possible a consistent interpretation of experiences,
whereas the earth's rotation is simply a particular fact which
might change if the conditions were altered. The 'law' implies,
therefore, a reconstruction of experience not given by simple
    This applies to a controversy between Mill and Whewell as to
Kepler's great discoveries. They both accept the familiar facts.
Kepler's problem was to show how a simple configuration of the
solar system would present the complex appearances which we
directly observe. The old observations gave approximately correct
statements of the movements of the planets, assuming the earth to
be fixed, or, as we may say, neglecting the consideration of its
motion. His theory shows how the apparent movements must result
if we suppose the sun to be fixed, or rather (as the sun is not
really fixed) if we measure from it as fixed. Whewell treats this
as a case of 'induction.' It illustrates what he calls the
'colligation of facts' -- a happy phrase, accepted by Mill, for
the arrangement of facts in a new order, and the application to
the facts of the appropriate conceptions; in this case, of the
theorems of conic sections and solid geometry. The argument takes
the form of a discussion as to whether this should be called
induction or an operation subsidiary to induction.(104*) Kepler,
as Mill urges, was simply describing facts. He discovered a fact
in which all the positions of the planet agreed -- namely, that
they were in an ellipse. If he had been somewhere in space, or
the planet had left a visible track, he might have actually seen
it to be an ellipse. He had only to 'piece together' his
observations, as a man who sails round an island discovers its
insularity. The only induction, then, was that as Mars had been
in an ellipse he would stay in an ellipse. Apart from the verbal
question whether the process be rightly called induction or
subsidiary to induction, the real issue is in Mill's complaint
that Whewell supposed a 'conception to be something added to the
facts.' The conception, Mill admits, is in the mind, but it must
be a conception of 'something in the facts.' The ellipse was in
the facts before Kepler saw it. He did not put it, but found it
there. Whether Kepler's process was inductive or deductive or
subsidiary, it was an essential part of scientific investigation.
The man of science must, as Mill truly says, interpret the facts,
and nothing but the facts; he must also, as Whewell truly
replies, 'colligate' or arrange the facts in a new order. The
constructive process which justifies me in saying this is an
island, or this is an ellipse, is precisely what makes scientific
knowledge possible, and involves something more than a mere
putting together of raw fact. Every fact, as Whewell sees, may be
regarded as a case of countless laws, each of which may be true
under appropriate conditions. To eliminate the irrelevant, to
organise the whole system of truths, so as to make the order of
nature (as Mill forcibly says (105*)) deducible from the smallest
possible number of general propositions, is the aim of science;
and Mill obscures this so far as he regards such operations as
Kepler's as mere observations of fact, in such a sense as to omit
the necessity of a new organisation of the data.
    I have gone into some detail in order to show what was the
essential characteristic of Mill's doctrine, which was itself, as
I have said, an explicit statement of the principles implicitly
assumed by his predecessors in the same school. To do him full
justice, it would be necessary to show what was the alternative
presented by his opponents. The Scottish writers and Whewell
brought back 'innate ideas,' or endeavoured to connect knowledge
by beliefs and intuitions arbitrarily inserted into the fabric as
a kind of supernatural revelation. To explain these intuitive
dogmas into effects of 'association' was the natural retort.
Meanwhile the transcendental school was taking the bolder line of
rejecting experience altogether, treating it with contempt as a
mere rope of sand, and inferring that the universe itself is
incarnate logic -- a complex web woven out of dialectic, and
capable of being evolved from mixing 'is' and 'is not.' To Mill
this appeared rightly, as I should say, to be mysticism and
ontology, or a chimerical attempt to get rid of the inevitable
conditions of all knowledge of reality. The real problem of
metaphysics appears to be the discovery of the right method of
statement, which will explain what appeared to be the insoluble
antithesis between empiricism and intuitionism (to take Mill's
phrase), and show that they are attempts to formulate correlative
and essential truths.


    Happily, philosophical theories are not really important
solely as giving tenable and definitive results, but as
indications of the intellectual temperament of different schools,
and of the methods of reasoning which they find congenial.
Without further disquisition, I shall conclude by indicating
briefly Mill's application of his principles to the 'Moral
Sciences.' This is the subject of the last book of his treatise,
and represents, as we have seen, the purpose of the whole. As,
however, the full application will appear hereafter, I may here
confine myself to certain critical points. Mill begins of course
by arguing that the 'Moral Sciences' are possible, and are to be
created by applying the method of the physical sciences. This
suggests the free will difficulty. The doctrine of 'philosophical
necessity' had 'weighed on his existence like an incubus' during
his early depression.(106*) He escaped by the solution which now
forms a chapter in the Logic. He discovered that the Hume and
Brown theory removed the misleading associations with the word
'necessity.' It would be truer, he thinks, to say that matter is
free than that mind is not free.(107*) The supposed external
'tie' which binds things together is a nonentity. In practice,
however, Owen and his like had become fatalists rather than
necessitarians. Holding that character is formed by
circumstances, they had forgotten that our own desires are part
of the 'circumstances,' and therefore that the mind has the power
to co-operate in the 'formation of its own character.' This, Mill
thinks, is the ennobling belief which is completely reconcilable
with the admission that human actions are caused, although the
two doctrines had been on both sides regarded as incompatible.
Upon this endless controversy I can only suggest one hint. Mill,
I think, was right in saying that the difficulty depends on the
confusion of 'determinism' with 'fatalism'. that is, with the
belief that the will is coerced by some external force. But he
does not see that his doctrine of causation always raises the
difficulty. He orders us to think of the succession of ideas as
due simply to association, as in the external world events are to
be regarded as simply following each other; and in either case it
is impossible to avoid the impression that there must be some
connecting link which binds together entirely disparate
phenomena. We cannot help asking why 'this' should always follow
'that,' and inferring that there is something more than a bare
sequence. The real line of escape is, I think, shown by an
improved view of causation. If we hold that the theory of cause
and effect simply arises from the analysis of a single process,
we need no external force to act upon the will. There is no
'coercion' involved. Given the effect, there must have been the
cause; as given the cause, the effect must follow. 'All the
universe must exist in order that I must exist' is as true as
that 'I must exist if all the universe exists.' There is not a
man plus a law, but the law is already implied in the man; or the
distinction of cause and effect corresponds to a difference in
our way of regarding the facts, and implies no addition to the
facts. I must not, however, launch into this inquiry. I only note
that Mill's view is connected with his favourite principle of the
indefinite modifiability of character.(108*) To Mill, as to his
father, this seemed to hold out hopes for the 'unlimited
possibility' of elevating the race. If J. S. Mill denied 'the
freedom of the will,' or, rather, the existence of 'will' itself
as a separate entity, actually originating active principles, he
admitted that the desires erroneously hypostatised as 'will'
could work wonders. As the causal link between events is a
figment, so, in the sphere of mind, we are bound by no fixed
mysterious tie. He thus escapes from the painful sense of
coercion by holding that an infinite variety of results is made
possible by the infinite combinations of materials, though, in
each case, there is a necessary sequence. Association, in fact,
is omnipotent. As it can make the so-called necessary truths, it
can transform the very essence of character. Accordingly the
foundation of the moral sciences is to be found in the
psychology, for an exposition of which he refers to his father,
to Mr Bain, and to Mr Herbert Spencer.(109*) He thus drops,
consciously or not, the claim of treating metaphysical doctrine
as common ground, and assumes the truth of the association
doctrine. To pass from these principles to questions of actual
conduct requires a science not hitherto constructed -- the
science, namely, of human character, for which he proposes the
name Ethology. This, as we have seen, occupied his thoughts for
some time, till it was ultimately dropped for political economy.
The difficulty of forming such a science upon his terms is
obvious. It holds an ambiguous place between 'psychology' and the
'sociology' which he afterwards accepts from Comte; and as
Professor Bain remarks, his doctrine would not fit easily to any
such science. He has got rid of 'necessity' only too completely.
In fact, his view of the indefinite power of association, and his
strong desire to explain all differences, even those between the
sexes, as due to outward circumstances, seem to make character
too evanescent a phenomenon to be subjected to any definite
laws.(110*) Ethology, however, is taken by him to be the science
which corresponds to the 'art of education,' taken in its widest
sense, and would, if constructed, be a 'deductive science,'
consisting of corollaries from psychology, the 'experimental
science.'(111*) The utility of such a science from his point of
view is obvious. It would be a statement of the way in which
society was actually to be built up out of the clusters of
associated ideas, held together by the unit Man.
    His method in 'moral science' follows the lines now laid
down. All inference, as he has urged, consists of 'inductions'
and 'the interpretation of inductions.'(112*) Deduction is the
application to new cases of the laws observed in previous cases.
As our knowledge of such laws multiplies, science tends to become
more deductive. But the deduction is still an induction; and the
true antithesis is not between deductive and inductive but
between 'deductive and experimental.'(113*) Deductive reasoning,
that is, simply applies a previous induction; but reasoning
becomes 'experimental' when we have to interrogate nature for a
fresh rule. This has an important bearing upon the next step.
Social phenomena of all kinds are so complex that we cannot apply
his four methods. They belong to the region (in his phraseology)
of the 'intermixture of laws' and 'plurality of causes';(114*)
and though the phrases be inaccurate, the example certainly
illustrates their plausibility. Experimental reasoning is thus
impossible. We have, therefore, to fall back upon the 'deductive'
method, which, indeed, would lead to mere 'conjecture' were it
not for the essential aid of Verification.(115*) The meaning of
this is explained in two chapters really directed against
Macaulay and James Mill, and giving the theory which had been
suggested by their controversy.(116*) Macaulay used the
'chemical' method. If men in society formed a new product
differing from the individual man, as water from oxygen and
hydrogen, or, in Mill's phrase, if the social union afforded
'heteropathic' laws, we should have to study social science apart
from the science of individual human nature. But as men even in
society are still men, the social law is derivable from the laws
of individual nature. It is a case of 'composition of causes.'
Now the purely empirical reasoner neglects this obvious fact. He
reasons from immediate experience without connecting his
conclusions with psychology. He argues offhand that because the
English have flourished under the old parliamentary system,
therefore the old parliamentary system was perfect. That gives
the crude empiricism preached by Macaulay in the name of Bacon.
James Mill, on the contrary, represents the 'geometrical method.'
He argued about politics as if all constitutional questions could
be settled like a geometrical problem by appeals to a single
axiom. Therefore a doctrine applicable to the immediate question
of parliamentary reform was put forward as a general theory of
government. Mill tells us in the Autobiography(117*) that his
reflection upon this controversy led to a critical point of his
doctrine. Science must be deductive, when the effects are simply
the sum of those due to the operating causes; inductive, when
they are not the sum, that is, when 'heteropathic' laws appear.
Hence, he inferred, politics must be treated deductively, though
not as his father had done, geometrically.
    Both the criticisms are much to the purpose. Here I need only
remark one point which affects Mill's later conclusions. Was
Mill's inference correct? Is it true that the social phenomena
represent simply the sum of the individual actions? Undoubtedly,
there is a good deal to be said for it. Society does not exist
apart from the individuals of which it is constructed. Moreover,
in a great many cases, if we know the average character of an
individual, we can deduce the character of a number of
individuals. The bulk of what is called knowledge of the world is
made up from more or less shrewd conjectures as to the motives of
the average man. If we know what the average man thinks, we can
guess what will be the opinion of a majority of the House of
Commons. There are, however, two points which are taken for
granted. In the first place, if we are to deduce the social
phenomena from the individual, we must know the individual, who
is already a tolerably complex product. In Mill's language, we
require an ethology. and the name already indicates a difficulty.
Can we consider the average man to be a constant? or must we not
take into account the fact that he is also a product of society,
and varies upon our hands as society develops? And beyond this
there is the further question, whether, in so far as society can
be properly regarded as an 'organism,' we can fully explain the
laws of social combination by considering the laws of individual
character. Are not the two sets of laws so intricately combined
and blended that the analysis of a society into separate
individuals becomes necessarily illusory? Can we explain the
reciprocal actions and reactions of a social body by simply
adding together the laws of individual conduct? These questions
will meet us in considering Mill's practical application of his
theories. They amount to asking whether 'sociology' can be
constituted from a purely 'individualist' basis, and Mill's view
of sociology is a vital point in his doctrine. The name had
already been invented by Comte, and Mill at this time was greatly
influenced by Comte, and especially was kindled to enthusiasm by
the last two volumes of the Philosophie Positive, containing a
connected view of history. Although Mill had, as he says, worked
out his theory of induction before reading Comte, he owed a great
deal, as he fully acknowledges, to Comte's philosophy. The two
lines of thought, however, could never completely coalesce, and
the result appears in this part of Mill's book.
    Admitting a deductive method to be necessary, Mill
distinguishes the 'direct' and the 'inverse methods.'(118*) The
direct method is that of reasoning from one 'law of human
nature,' considering, of course, the outward circumstances. This
justifies the system of political economy, which considers men as
acting solely from the desire of wealth. He points out that
fallacies may here arise from applying to one state of society
what is true of another; but he also holds that one who knows the
political economy of England, or even of Yorkshire, knows that of
all nations, if he have good sense enough to modify his
conclusions.(119*) Mill admits fully that this method can only
give us 'tendencies' -- results which are true if certain
conditions, never fully assignable, are actually secured; and
that it therefore requires to be constantly checked by
verification, that is, by showing that the results are confirmed
by direct observation. The admission, however, that such a method
is in any case admissible separates him from Comte, who held that
we must in all cases start from historical generalisations, not
from independent 'laws of human nature.'(120*) Comte, in fact,
rejected Mill's psychology and political economy as
pseudo-sciences, and the difference is really vital. Mill,
however, was prepared to accept much of Comte's teaching, and in
particular allows the legitimacy of the 'historical method.' Upon
this he writes a chapter,(121*) which shows no want of
appreciation of Comte or of the great French writers by whom, as
his Dissertations show, he had been deeply impressed.(122*) He
complains of the English want of interest in such matters. They
know nothing in French literature except the novels of Balzac and
Eugène Sue, and are not aware that the French historians greatly
surpass even the Germans.(123*) He points out the importance of
the conception of progress and of the great modifications of
human character. Still, he charges the French with a
misconception. History can never give us a 'law of nature,' only
'empirical laws,' which are not scientific till duly based upon
psychology and 'ethology.' Comte alone has seen the necessity of
a deeper foundation; and he proceeds to give an admiring account
of some of Comte's conclusions. Especially he insists upon the
necessity of connecting the social phenomena with the
intellectual development of mankind. This Comte alone has
attempted systematically, and he ends by emphatically adhering to
the doctrine of the three stages -- theological, metaphysical,
and positive. The essential difference, however, remains. Comte
held that we must not explain humanity by man, but man by
humanity.(124*) To Mill, of course, this savoured of mysticism.
In any case, it marks the divergence of the two: Mill is a
thorough individualist. He thinks it absolutely necessary to base
sociology upon 'ethology,' that is, a theory of the individual
character, and this again must be based upon psychology.
Sympathising with Comte's general purpose, and warmly admiring
some of his results, Mill adheres to a doctrine which was sure to
bring him into conflict with his master. To create the moral
sciences, we must start from a scientific psychology. This means
that we must work on the lines of Hartley, James Mill, and his
own younger contemporaries, Professor Bain and Mr Herbert
Spencer. The corollary from psychology is ethology, or the
science of character. This view does not conflict with the
admission of the great importance of some historical method. At
present, it needs only to be said that Mill accepts that method
very cordially, subject to two conditions. First, he holds that
some social sciences -- political economy being, in fact, the
only one to be clearly specified -- can be deduced from ethology
and psychology independently of history, though requiring
verification from history. Secondly, he holds that the historical
method cannot reveal true 'laws of nature' unless it is properly
connected with psychological data. How far Mill really
appreciated the significance of the historical method, or
perceived its true relation to other departments of thought, must
be left for consideration.


1. Autobiography, p. 226.

2. Logic, p. 389 (bk. iii. ch. xxi, section 1). I quote from the
popular edition of 1898. Book, chapter and section are generally
applicable to former edition.

3. See letter in note to chapter upon Mill in Taine's History of
English Literature.

4. James Mill's Analysis, i. 352 n.

5. See an interesting article in G. Croom Robertson's
Philosophical Remains (1894), pp. 28-45.

6. Logic, Introduction, section 5.

7. Ibid., p. 29 (bk i, ch. iii, section 1).

8. Ibid., p. 8 section 7.

9. See John Grote's Exploratio Philosophica (1865), p. 209 n.
This book is, I think, by far the most interesting comtemporary
discussion of Mill, Hamilton, and Whewell. It was, unfortunately,
desultory and unfinished, but it is full of acute criticism, and
charmingly candid and modest. Mill's Logic is especially
discussed in chapters viii and ix. Grote holds, and I think
truly, that Mill's attempt to divide metaphysics from logic leads
to real confusion, and especially to an untenable mode of
conceiving the relation between 'things' and thoughts. I cannot
discuss Grote's views; but the book is full of interesting
suggestions though the result are rather vague. See the excellent
account of Grote by the late Croom Robertson in the History of
National Biography.

10. Mill, in his review of Whately, refers to Du Trieu (whose
treatise had been privately printed by him and his friends),
Crakenthorpe and Burgersdyk; and in the Examination of Hamilton's
Philosophy (ch. xxii) quotes also Sanderson, Wallis, Aldrich,
Keckermann, Bartholinus, and Du Hamel as the 'authorities nearest
at hand'. There is nothing, as I am told by the learned,
exceptionally interesting in Du Trieu; and the selection was
probably accidental.

11. Logic, p. 13 (bk. i, ch. ii, section 1).

12. Ibid., p. 29 (bk. i, ch. iii, section 1).

13. Ibid., p. 49 (bk. i, ch. iii, section 15).

14. Ibid., p. 35 (bk. i, ch. iv, section 6).

15. Ibid., p. 38 (bk. i, ch. iv, section 7).

16. Logic, p. 40 (bk. i, ch. iv, section 8).

17. Ibid. p. 41 (bk. i, ch. iii, section 9).

18. Logic, p. 43 (bk. i, ch. iv, section 10).

19. Ibid., p. 68 (bk. i, ch. v, section 6).

20. Logic, p. 61 (bk. i, ch. v, section 3).

21. Ibid., p. 63 (bk. i, ch. v, section 4).

22. It would be interesting to compare this part of Mill with the
corresponding part of Hume's Treatise. Hume, like Mill, begins by
accepting causation as one of the relations involved, and then
explains it as merely derivative. His treatment of relations
generally, especially the division of relations into the two
classes, which do or do not depend upon the 'ideas' themselves,
has a bearing upon Mill's doctrine too intricate to be considered
here. [Treatise of Human Nature, pt. vi. sec. 1.] I do not think
that Mill was very familiar with Hume's writings. A note to the
concluding chapter of the Examination of Hamilton seems to imply
that he was not acquainted with the Treatise; nor does he appear
from his posthumous Essays to have studied Hume's writings upon
theology. Whether T.H. Green was right in holding that Hume had a
more distinct view than his successor of some metaphysical
difficulties, I need not inquire.

23. Logic, p. 70 (bk. i, ch. v, section 7).

24. Ibid. p. 434 (bk. iv, ch. iii, section 2 n.).

25. Logic, p. 132 (bk. ii. ch. v, section 4).

26. Especially the early review of Whately.

27. This suggests a parallel to the old English system of
pleading -- as a preparatory process for bringing out the issues
really involved in a dispute -- which is said to have been
thoroughly logical, though it became excessively cumbrous and

28. Logic, p. 327 (bk. v, ch. vi, section 3). So in Examination
of Hamilton, ch. xxii., 'The syllogism is not the form in which
we necessarily reason, but a test of reasoning.'

29. James Mill's Analysis, ii. 427.

30. Logic, p. 131. (bk. ii, ch. iii, section 5).

31. Logic, p. 72 (bk. i, ch. vi, section 2).

32. Ibid. p. 113 (bk. ii, ch. ii, section 5).

33. Autobiography, p. 181. The passage to which Mill refers is
apparently that in Stewart's Works, iii, 24-36 and 113-52.
Stewart quotes a passage from Dr Beddoes' Observations on the
Nature of Demonstrative Evidence (1793), which anticipates Mill's
view that the 'mathematical sciences are sciences of experiment
and observation, founded solely on the induction of particular
facts.' Stewart professes to follow Locke (see Locke's Essay, bk.
iv, ch. xii, section 15), and gives some references to other
discussions on the questions.

34. Logic, p. 94 (bk. i, ch. viii, section 5).

35. Logic, p. 125 (bk. ii, ch. iii, section 3).

36. Logic, p. 126 (bk. ii, ch. iii, section 4).

37. Ibid. p. 107 (bk. ii, ch. i, section 3).

38. Whiston (Memoirs, i, 35) reports that Newton saw by
intuition, or previously to formal demonstration, the equality of
all parallelograms described about the conjugate diameters of an
ellipse. Most of us can only learn the fact by painful

39. Hume's Works (Grose and Green), ii, 432 and iv, 134. Hume's
statement is criticised by G.H. Lewes in his Problems, etc. i,
391, but, I think, on an erroneous interpretation.

40. Logic, p. 149 (bk. ii, ch. v. section 1).

41. Ibid. p. 151 (bk. ii. ch. v. section 4).

42. Ibid. p. 147 (bk. ii. ch. v. section 1).

43. Ibid. p. 183 (bk. ii. ch. vii section 5). In the Examination
of Hamilton he is less confident. It is 'not only inconceivable
to us, but inconceivable that it should be mad conceivable' that
the same statement should be both true and false (ch. vi. p. 67).
Afterwards (ch. xxi. p. 418) he will only decide that such laws
are now 'invincibly' laws of thought, though they may or may not
be 'capable of alteration by experience.'

44. Logic, p. 148 (bk. ii. ch. v. section 1).

45. Ibid. p. 168 (bk. ii. ch. vi. section 2).

46. Ibid. p. 400 (bk. iii. ch. xxiv. section 5).

47. Ibid. p. 401 (bk. iii. ch. xxiv. section 5).

48. Ibid. p. 170 (bk. ii. ch. vi. section 3).

49. Ibid. p. 167 (bk. ii. ch. vi. section 2).

50. Logic, p. 212 (bk. iii. ch. v. section 1).

51. Logic, p. 401 (bk. iii. ch. xxiv. section 6).

52. Logic, fourth edition, i. 356 (bk. iii. ch. v. section 1).
This phase is omitted in the last edition (p. 211), but the
meaning is apparently not altered.

53. Ibid. p. 399 (bk. iii. ch. xxiv. section 5).

54. See Logic, p. 177 (bk. ii. ch. vii. section 3), and p. 493
(bk. v. ch. ii. section 3).

55. Ibid. p. 370 (bk. ii. ch. xxi. section 1).

56. Logic, p. 206 (bk. iii. ch. iii. section 3).

57. Ibid. p. 213 (bk. iii. ch. v. section 2).

58. Logic, bk. iii. ch. v.

59. Ibid. p. 217 (bk. iii. ch. v. section 3).

60. Logic, p. 221 (bk. iii. ch. v. section 5).

61. Ibid. p. 227 (bk. iii. ch. v. section 8).

62. Ibid. p. 224 (bk. iii. ch. v. section 7).

63. Logic, p. 243 (bk. iii. ch. vi. section 1).

64. Logic, p. 245 (bk. iii. ch. vi. section 2).

65. Grove's work was first published in 1846, i.e. after the
first edition of the Logic.

66. Logic, fourth edition, p. 477 (bk. iii. ch. x. section 4). In
the eighth edition this passage was suppressed, and Mill
discusses the theory of 'conservation or persistence of force,"
as he calls it, in an earlier section. -- Logic, p. 228 (bk. iii.
ch. v. section 10).

67. Logic, p. 501 (bk. v. ch. iii. section 8).

68. See, for example, his criticism of a 'luminiferous ether' in
answer to Whewell, Logic, p. 328 (bk. iii. ch. xiv. section 6).
He agrees here with Comte (Phil. Positive, ii. 639), whom he
perhaps follows.

69. See especially the chapter on causation in the Examination of

70. Tyndall, e.g., in his Heat as a Mode of Motion, quotes
Bacon's anticipation. It is summed up by Whewell (Phil. Ind. ii.,
Sciences, ii. 239) in the statement that the 'form of heat is an
expansive, restrained motion, modified in certain ways, and
exerted in the smaller particles of the body.'

71. Logic, p. 500 (bk. v. ch. iii. section 7).

72. Logic, p. 288 (bk. iii. ch. x. section 3).

73. Logic, p. 500 (bk. v. ch. iii section 7). It may be noted
that Whewell (in 1847) equally regards Bacon's theory as a
complete failure. He thinks more favourably of an 'imponderable
fluid.' Mill, therefore, had good authority as to the failure.
The modern doctrine, says Lord Kelvin (Encycl. Britannica), was
established about 1851. See Huxley on the 'Progress of Science'
(Essays, i. 86) for Whewell's treatment of Bacon's guess.

74. Logic, p. 226 (bk. iii. ch. v. section 7).

75. Logic, p. 306 (bk. iii. ch. xii. section 2). See Chalmer's
Natural Theology, bk. ii. ch. i.

76. Logic, pp. 377-85 (bk. iii. ch. xxii).

77. Logic, pp. 79-81 (bk. i. ch. vii. section 4).

78. Logic, pp. 377-86 (bk. iii. ch. xxii).

79. It has been suggested that upon Mill's principles the change
of a lobster's colour to red is 'caused' when he is boiled, but
the colour before boiling uncaused. A case in the South
Kensington Museum showing variously coloured crows is a tacit
comment on Mill's illustration. The colour of crows is obviously
considered by modern men of science as implying causal relations.

80. Logic, p. 382 (bk. iii. ch. xxii. section 6).

81. Ibid., p. 381 (bk. iii. ch. xxii. section 4).

82. Logic, p. 470 (bk. iv. ch. vii. section 4). It is curious
that this remains in the last edition, that is, after the first
Darwinian controversies.

83. See Sigwart's Logik (1889), ii. 456, etc.

84. Logic, pp. 370-76 (bk. iii. ch. xx. section 1, 4).

85. Ibid. p. 372 (bk. iii. ch. xxi. section 2).

86. Ibid. p. 373 (bk. iii. ch. xxi. section 3).

87. Logic, p. 382 (bk. iii. ch. xxii. section 5).

88. Ibid. p. 384 (bk. iii. ch. xxii. section 8).

89. As he says in the Examination of Hamilton, ch. xix.

90. Logic. p. 142 (bk. ii. ch. iv. section 4).

91. Some writers, especially G.H. Lewes, have tried to maintain
that the statement of the uniformity of Nature is an 'identical
proposition.' The attempt is unsatisfactory, and certainly does
not seem to have found favour with later writers; but, though I
am unable to discuss the question, I will suggest that it seems
to indicate the ideal result of reasoning. We assume that, if our
knowledge were complete, we could state all the laws of action
and reaction of any element as necessary consequences of its
primitive constitution, as we can deduce all the properties of
number and space from primary principles. Though we can never
attain such a consummation, we can reject any theory which
contradicts it, and, therefore, such doctrines as the 'plurality
of causes,' which come to supposing that an identical process may
be analysed in two inconsistent ways.

92. E.g., by Mr F.H. Bradley in his Principles of Logic (1883),
pp. 329-42. Dr Venn, who is much more favourable to Mill,
discusses them in his Empirical or Inductive Logic (1889), pp.
400-31, shows very clearly how they assume what he calls the
'popular', as distinguished from the 'rigidly scientific', view
of causation. Elsewhere (p. 58) he remarks that the popular might
be called the 'Brown-Herschel-Mill view,' as those writers
popularised the doctrine first clearly set forth by Hume. See
also Sigwart's Logik (1889), ii. 469-500.

93. Logic, p. 284 (bk. iii. ch. ix. section 6).

94. Sigwart's Logik (1889) ii. 461.

95. Herschel's Discourse first appeared in 1830 as the first
volume of Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopaedia. The 'four methods' are
noticed, as Mill states, though with comparative vagueness, in
chap. vi of the Discourse. Jevons prefers the statement to
Mill's. Whewell makes the obvious remark (Philosophy of
Discovery, p. 284) that the four methods resemble some of Bacon's
Praerogative Instantiarum.

96. For Whewell, see the Writing so described as to form a
biography by I. Todhunter (2 vols. 1876). The Life and
Correspondence, by Mrs Stair Douglas, appeared in 1888. Whewell's
chief philosophical works are: History of the Inductive Sciences
(3 vols. 8vo, 1837; section edition, 1840; third edition, 1857);
Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences (2 vols. 1840: second
edition, 1857). This book was afterwards divided into three: --
History of Scientific Ideas, 2 vols. 1858; Novum Organum
Renovatum, 1 vol. 1858; and Philosophy of Discovery, 1 vol. 1860.
Whewell also wrote a pamphlet Of Induction with special reference
to Mr J. Stuart Mill's 'System of Logic'. This is republished as
chap. xxii of his Philosophy of Discovery.

97. Republished in Herschel's Essays (1857), pp. 142-256.

98. Scientific Ideas, i. 88 (note added to this edition).

99. Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences (1847), ii. 311.

100. Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, i. 80.

101. Whewell's Philosophy of Inductive Sciences, i. 216-21;
Mill's Logic, pp. 160, 265 (bk. ii. ch. v. section 6, and bk.
iii. ch. viii. section 7).

102. Whewell, indeed, says that the 'necessary law' is that a
change of velocity must have a cause; the 'empirical law' tells
us that the time during which it has been moving is not a cause.
-- Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, ii. 591. I need not go
into this.

103. Logic, p. 151 (bk. ii. ch. v. section 3).

104. Logic, p. 190, etc. (bk. iii. ch. ii. section 3, 4); Ibid.
p. 423 (bk. iv. ch. i. section 4).

105. Logic, p. 207 (bk. iii. ch. iv. section 1).

106. Autobiography, pp. 168, 173.

107. Logic, p. 548 (bk. vi. ch. ii. section 2).

108. Autobiography, p. 108.

109. Logic, p. 557 (bk. vi. ch. iv. section 3).

110. See his view that the difference of character between the
sexes is due to external circumstances, and therefore removable.
-- Logic, p. 566 (bk. vi. ch. v. section 3).

111. Logic, pp. 567, 569 (bk. vi. ch. v. section 4, 5). (Art is
misprinted 'act' in the last edition.)

112. Ibid. p. 185 (bk. iii. ch. i. section 1).

113. Logic. p. 144 (bk. ii. ch. iv. section 5).

114. Ibid. pp. 576, 585 (bk. vi. ch. vii. section 4; bk. iv. ch.
ix. section 2).

115. Ibid, p. 303 (bk. iii. ch. xi. section 3).

116. Autobiography, p. 159.

117. Autobiography, p. 160.

118. Logic, p. 583 (bk. vi. ch. ix. section 1).

119. Ibid. p. 590 (bk. vi. ch. i. section 3).

120. Ibid. p. 584 (bk. vi. ch. ix. section 1).

121. Bk. vi. ch. x.

122. See especially the reviews of Tocqueville, Michelet, and
Guizot in the Dissertations.

123. Dissertations, ii. 121.

124. Lettres inédites de Mill à Comte (1899), p. xxxv. Mill's
letters to Comte upon his view of ethology are significant.
Chapter III

Political Economy(1*)

I. Mill's Starting-Point

    Mill's decision to abandon 'ethology' in favour of political
economy, had one clear advantage. The function of a philosophical
pioneer in the vast and vague region indicated by the new science
was beset with difficulty. It was doubtful whether the proposed
science could be constructed at all; and any conclusions
attainable would certainly have belonged to a region remote from
specific application to the questions of the day. Political
economy offered a field for inquiry with a narrower aim of easier
achievement. The greatest problems of the time were either
economical or closely connected with economical principles. Mill
had followed the political struggles with the keenest interest:
he saw clearly their connection with underlying social movements;
and he had thoroughly studied the science or what he took to be
the science -- which must afford guidance for a satisfactory
working out of the great problems. The philosophical Radicals
were deserting the old cause and becoming insignificant as a
party. But Mill had not lost his faith in the substantial
soundness of their economic doctrines. He thought, therefore,
that a clear and full exposition of their views might be of the
highest use in the coming struggles. Hence arises one broad
characteristic of his position. Mill was steeped from childhood
in the principles of Malthus and Ricardo. In that capacity he had
been a champion of their views against the followers of Owen. But
he had come to sympathise with the aims, though he could not
accept the theories, of the Owenites. Hence he was virtually
asking how, given Ricardo's premises, are we to realise Owen's
aspirations? The groundwork of argument, however, remained
throughout. Though a more favourable estimate of Socialism was
introduced in one chapter of his book, as I have already noticed,
no corresponding changes were made in the remainder.
    The Political Economy speedily acquired an authority
unapproached by any work published since the Wealth of Nations.
In spite of many attacks, it still holds a position among
standard textbooks; and in the case of textbooks, fifty years may
be counted as remarkable longevity. During the first half of that
period, a large school looked up to Mill as an almost infallible
oracle. If in the later half that belief has vanished, we ought
to recognise merits, sometimes overlooked by his assailants. The
most undeniable is the singular skill of exposition. Mill had an
admirable sense of proportion; each topic is taken up in
intelligible order and treated with sufficient fulness; general
principles are broadly laid down and clearly illustrated; and
applications to actual cases are sufficiently indicated, without
those superfluous digressions into minuter details which often
entangle or break the main thread of an argument. The style is
invariably lucid, and Mill, while free from arrogance and
singularly courteous to opponents, wears his magisterial robes
with the dignity of acknowledged authority. Whatever fallacies
lie beneath the equable flow of didactic wisdom, we can
understand what was the charm which concealed them from early
readers. The book seemed to be a unique combination of scientific
reasoning and practical knowledge, while the logical apparatus,
so harshly creaking in the hands of Ricardo, not only worked
smoothly but was in the hands of one whose opposition to
'sentimentalism' was plainly no cynical mask for coldness of
    Mill states his aim in the preface. He wished to expound the
doctrine of Adam Smith with the 'latest improvements.' But he
would take Smith for his model in combining economics with 'other
branches of social philosophy.' Smith, he says, by never losing
sight of this aim, succeeded in attracting both the general
reader and the statesman. Mill certainly achieved a similar
result. If he did not emulate Smith's wide researches into
economic history, and had not Smith's curious felicity of
illustration, he took a comprehensive view of the great issues of
the time, and spared no pains in filling his mind with the
necessary materials. His surprising power of assimilating
knowledge had been strengthened by official experience. No one
had a more vigorous digestion for blue-books, or -- what is
perhaps rarer -- less desire to make a display by pouring out the
raw material.
    Although Mill's work upon pure political economy, lies mainly
beyond my province, it illustrates one important point. Mill
speaks as one expounding an established system. The speed with
which the book was written shows that it did not imply any
revision of first principles. Mill is working in general upon
Ricardo's lines, in whose 'immortal Principles,' for example, he
finds the first philosophical account of international trade.(2*)
He assumes too easily that a mere modification of old doctrines
is needed, where later writers have demanded a thoroughgoing
reconstruction. He has incurred some ridicule, for example, by an
utterance characteristic of his position . He says,(3*) that
'there is nothing in the laws of Value which remains for the
present or any future writer to clear up; the theory of the
subject is complete.' The phrase was rash. Apparently
unassailable theories have an uncomfortable trick of suddenly
exploding. Later economists often take this for a case in point.
They have, they think, made a specially successful breach in this
part of Mill's doctrine, and his confidence was singularly
infelicitous. Mill's luckless boast was suggested by his
rectification of an ambiguity in the terminology of the science.
How, he asked, could there be a 'proportion' between two
disparate things, a 'quantity' (supply) and a 'desire'
(demand)?(4*) He proceeds to remove the ambiguity by an account
of the 'equation' between demand and supply, explaining the
process by which values adjust themselves so that the quantity
supplied at the current price will be equal to the quantity
demanded at that price. I take it that his account of the facts
is substantially correct, and that, by removing certain
inconsistencies of language, he had purified the theory from one
at of fallacies. But he himself seems to regard the improvement
as merely one of terminology. He thinks that his predecessors
meant to state the same facts, and, indeed, that they must have
seen the truth, though he could not find in them an express
statement. We may ask whether later improvements of Mill himself
amount to a substantial change in the theory, or merely to a
better mode of expression. I do not doubt that modern economists
have much improved the language in which the theory is expressed.
Nor, again, can it be doubted that the logic is rectified by
rectifying the language. The only question can be as to the
importance of the improvement. What strikes the sceptic is that,
after all, when we approach any practical application of the
theory, the old and the new theorists seem to be guided by pretty
much the same reasoning. The improvement in elegance and
consistency of the language does not bring with it a
corresponding improvement in the treatment of actual problems.
The obvious reason is that political economy has not reached, if
it ever will reach, the stage at which the application of a
refined logical method is possible or fruitful. The power of
using delicate scientific instruments presupposes a preliminary
process. We must have settled distinctly what are the data to be
observed and measured; and the use of mathematical formulae is
premature and illusory till we know precisely what we have to
count and how to count it. The data and the psychological
assumptions of economists are still far too vague and disputable
to admit of such methods, except by way of illustration.
Meanwhile rough and even inaccurate statements may be adequate to
convey the knowledge which we can really apply. We are really
making use of facts admitted on all hands, and known with
sufficient accuracy, though the principles upon which they depend
have not been clearly defined. 


    To appreciate Mill's position, it is necessary briefly to
notice the prejudices which he had to encounter and the
sympathies upon which he could reckon. Political economy had been
exultant in the days of James Mill. He and his allies were
entering the promised land. They took the science to be in the
same stage as astronomy just after the publication of Newton's
Principia. The main truths were established, though prejudice and
sentiment still blinded the outside world to the clearest
demonstration. A narrow and unpopular circle naturally retorts
dislike by fanaticism. The Utilitarians were, and knew themselves
to be, bitterly hated; though they took the hatred to be an
unconscious tribute to their real authority -- the homage of the
stupid to irresistible logic. Richard Jones in the preface to his
Treatise on Rent (1831), says, that the Ricardians had not only
put forward 'startling and in some instances, unhappily,
disgusting and most mischievous paradoxes,' but that they had
thus alienated mankind and caused a distrust of political
economy. When J. S. Mill's treatise appeared, this position was
modified. The 'philosophical Radicals' had declined as a party;
but the assault upon protectionism in which they had acted as
forlorn hope had conquered a much wider circle. Their ideas had
spread, whether by stress of argument or congeniality to the
aspirations of the newly enfranchised classes. The conspicuous
instance, of course, is the free trade movement. The triumph over
the corn-laws seemed to establish the truth of the economic
theory. Doctrines preached by professors and theorists had been
accepted and applied by politicians on a grand scale. The result,
as Cairnes, one of Mill's chief followers observes, was not
altogether an advantage to the science.(5*) The popular mind
identified political economy with free trade, and thought that
all difficulties could be solved by a free use of the sacred
words 'supply and demand.' The strict economic doctrine had been,
as Cairnes held, adulterated in order to suit the tastes of the
exoteric audience. This remark suggests the problem, not strictly
soluble, as to the causes of the free trade victory. Did it mark
a triumph of logic, or was it due to the simple fact that the
class which wanted cheap bread was politically stronger than the
class which wanted dear bread? Cobden admitted fully that the
free trade propaganda was a 'middle-class agitation.'(6*) The
genuine zealots were the manufacturers and merchants; and it was
so far a trial of strength between the leaders of industry and
the owners of the soil -- a class struggle not between rich and
poor, but between the 'plutocracy' and the 'aristocracy.' Cobden
was proud of the order to which he belonged, and held that the
aristocracy represented blind prejudice. Some verses often quoted
by popular orators declared that the landowners' motto was 'down
with everything' (including health, wealth, and religion) 'and up
with rent'; and Bright in 1842 told the workmen that 'the
greatest enemy of the remorseless aristocracy of Britain must
almost of necessity be their firmest friend.'(7*) As usual in
such cases, a legend arose which regarded the victory as due
exclusively to the force of truth. Beyond all doubt, argument
played its part as well as class prejudice. Cobden, though little
interested in abstract theories, was an admirable, cogent, and
clear reasoner. He was fully competent to assimilate so much
political economy as was required for his purpose, and used it
most effectively. Later history, however, has shown that in such
matters pure reason cannot by itself win the battle against
interested prejudice. For the time, the victory, taken by the
winners to be a victory of reason, reflected glory upon the
economists who from the days of Adam Smith had been labouring to
indoctrinate the public mind. The triumph of the agitation was
thus due to sheer force of argument and the Consequent
recognition of the principles of justice to the poor and goodwill
to all mankind. Science and philanthropy had joined hands. The
enthusiasm which soon afterwards greeted the Exhibition of 1851
showed the widespread conviction that the millennium of peace and
liberty, of which the Wealth of Nations marked the dawn, was at
last appearing in full daylight. And Mill was regarded as the
authorised representative in philosophy of the principles now at
last fully applied to practice.
    Mill himself did not fully shire the optimistic exultation
which helped to strengthen his authority; nor was it accepted by
the class most immediately affected. The 'big loaf' was a cry, it
might be thought, which should appeal most strongly to the
hungriest. Yet the Chartists, whose agitation was beginning when
the Anti-Corn Law League was founded, were lukewarm or positively
hostile. They interrupted free trade meetings and looked askance
at the agitation.(8*) The Chartists thought that the middle
class, having got into power by their help, were throwing them
over and monopolising all the fruits of victory. Their ablest
leaders admitted, indeed, that free trade would be desirable, but
desirable only on condition that the charter should first be
conceded and democracy invested with political power to guard
against misappropriation of the economic advantages. The
employers, as they suspected, wanted cheap bread, because, as
Lord Shaftesbury once put it, 'cheap bread means low wages.'(9*)
The free-traders, indeed, had constantly to meet this argument.
Cobden constantly and earnestly denied the imputation. He desired
free trade, as he asserted with unmistakable sincerity, above all
in justice to workmen, and ridiculed the notion that wages sank
with the price of corn.(10*) Cobden, however, appeals rather to
obvious facts than to economic theorems; and Chartists who read
Ricardo and M'Culloch might find some excuse for their opinion.
If the 'iron law' held good, free trade in multiplying the
labourers might only multiply the mass of misery. It might
increase the aggregate wealth without raising the average
welfare. The economical purists might reply that the poor would
profit by the change on condition of also accepting the gospel
according to Malthus. But the very name of Malthus stank in the
nostrils of all Chartist leaders.
    Another agitation gave special importance to this view. The
credit which accrued to political economists from free trade was
affected by their responsibility for the new poor-law. The
passage of this measure in 1834 might be taken as a victory not
merely of the economists in general, but specifically of the
hated Malthus. He and his followers had denounced the old system
most effectually, and had denounced it in the name of his
principles. To Malthus and to Ricardo the only remedy seemed to
be the ultimate abolition of the poor-laws. Their disciples were
prominent in carrying the new law. Nassau Senior (already
mentioned) had resolved when a young man to reform the poor-laws.
He had lectured in 1828 on the Principles of Population as an
adherent (with some modification) of Malthus. As an early member
of the Political Economy Club he was at the very focus of sound
doctrine. He was an active member of the commission of 1832, and
is said to have drawn up the famous report upon which the new
measure was founded.(11*) The measure itself hid therefore the
highest credentials that strict political economists could
desire. Brougham as Lord Chancellor helped Miss Martineau, a most
orthodox adherent of the school, and a personal friend of
Malthus, to prepare the public mind by a continuation of her
    The new poor-law, though placed to the credit of Malthusians,
was by no means a pure and simple application of the Malthus
theory. The gross abuses, rate-aided wages, and so forth, were
suppressed in accordance with his views; but the complete
abolition of the poor-law, to which he had looked forward, was
out of the question. The position was already critical. An
experienced magistrate told the commission(12*) that if the
system went on for another ten years 'a fearful and bloody
contest must ensue.' A generation of superfluous labourers, he
said, had grown up demanding support. To maintain the system was
dangerous, but simply to abolish it was to provoke a social war.
The alternative was a cautious and gradual remodelling of the
system; and the transmutation of a demoralising into a
disciplinary system. This meant so great a deviation from the
extreme proposals that it might even tend to perpetuate the
system by removing its abuses. Many of the evils resulted from
the very fact which, in the eyes of Ricardo, was its chief
palliation -- the obligation of each parish to keep its own
paupers. It had produced not economy but chaos. The commission
recommend that the power of making regulations, now exercised 'by
upwards of fifteen thousand unskilled and (practically)
irresponsible authorities liable to be biased by sinister
interests' (Bentham's sacred phrase) should, now be confided to
the central board of control, on which responsibility is most
strongly concentrated, and which will have the most extensive
information.'(13*) The competition between the parishes had
produced the tangled laws of settlement, leading to endless
litigation: the depopulation of some places, the overcrowding of
others, the peculations and jobbery due to the 'sinister
interests' of petty local authorities, and the utter absence of
any uniform or rational system. To compel the fifteen thousand
bodies to substitute co-operation for competition, to check their
accounts,and to enforce general rules, it was necessary to create
a central board with wide administrative authority. For such a
scheme, now obvious enough, the commissioners found their only
precedent in a measure by which a barrister had been appointed to
inspect savings banks and friendly societies.(14*)
    The new poor-law was thus a 'centralising' measure, and
marked a most important step in that direction. It was denounced
for that reason on both sides, and among the orthodox economists
by M'Culloch. J. S. Mill defended it warmly against this
'irrational clamour'; and but for certain restraining influences,
especially the teaching of Tocqueville, would he thinks have gone
into the opposite excess.(15*) It seems, however, that the
Utilitarians generally accepted the law as a judicious
application of Malthus, tempered by proper regard for
circumstances. They were indeed bound in principle to be shy of
the direct application of a priori formula. Yet it may also be
briefly noted that this was one of the cases on which the
Utilitarians unconsciously forwarded a tendency to which they
objected in general terms. They wished to codify and simplify the
poor-law, and found it necessary to introduce a central
regulating body. Though they meant to stimulate local activity,
they were calling the central authority into fresh activity.
    Meanwhile their opponents were equally ready to see nothing
in it but Malthus, and to denounce it with corresponding
bitterness. It was contrary to Christianity to the rights of man,
and to the good old laws of England. It was a part of the
machinery by which cold-blooded economists were enslaving the
poor. The operative, says the Chartist historian,(16*) thought
that it broke the last link in the chain of sympathy between rich
and poor. Prison-like workhouses were rising to remind the poor
of their 'coming doom.' They could expect nothing but 'misery in
the present, and the Bastille in the future, in which they were
to be immured when their rich oppressor no longer required their
services.' The historian of the factory movement(17*) confirms
this statement. The poor man was to work or starve. Poverty,
then, was to be treated as a crime. The parochial system was to
be broken up, and the clergy thus separated from the poor. The
whole system was anti-Christian: had not the commissioners put
out a warning against alms-giving?(18*) The commissioners again
proposed the emigration of pauperised agricultural labourers into
manufacturing districts, and were so playing into the hands of
the capitalists. Cobbett's view gave the keynote to another
version of the case. He saw as clearly as any one the evils of
pauperisation, but the old law at least admitted the poor man's
right to support. In good old times he had been supported by the
church. The great robbery at the Reformation had been partly
compensated by the poor-law. To abolish or restrict the old right
was to consummate the abominable robbery and to fleece the poor
man more thoroughly at the bidding of 'parson Malthus.' Cobbett's
view not only commended itself to his own class, but was more or
less that of the 'Young Englanders,' who aspired to a
reconstruction of the old social order. The Times denounced the
new law bitterly, and its proprietor, Walter, thought (as Kydd
says), and no doubt thought rightly, that the indignation roused
by the measure had done much to foster Chartism.(19*) Meanwhile,
to Mill and his friends the whole of this declamation came under
the head of the later 'sentimentalism.' They held with Malthus
that an unlimited right to support meant an indefinite
multiplication of poverty. To admit the right was to undertake an
impossible task and provoke a revolution on its inevitable
failure. Right must be based upon fact; and it is idle to neglect
the inevitable conditions of human life. This position might be
logically unassailable; and the measure supported on the strength
of it is now admitted to have been a vast reform. It came to be
cited as one of the claims to gratitude of the economists. Their
science had arrested an evil which appeared to be almost
incurable. Sound reason had again triumphed over vague
sentimentalism. The new law was, however, still given as an
illustration of the heartlessness of political economists. Mill,
who might claim justly that he was as anxious as any one to raise
the poor, had sorrowfully to admit that the masses were too
ignorant and their leaders too sentimental to recognise his good
intentions. They took the surgeon for an assassin.
    Among the enemies of the new poor-law were the keenest
agitators for factory legislation. The succession of leaders in
that movement is characteristic. The early measures introduced by
the first Sir Robert Peel and supported by Owen had been
tentative and of limited application. As a demand arose for more
drastic measures, the first bill was introduced in 1831 by John
Cam Hobhouse (1786-1869), afterwards Lord Broughton. Hobhouse's
election for Westminster in 1820 had been a triumph for the
Benthamites; and he was afterwards one of the members through
whom Place tried to influence legislation. Hobhouse was too much
of the aristocrat to be up to Place's standard of Radicalism, and
on this point he was too much of an economist to lead the
movement. He declared the demands of the agitators to be
hopelessly unpractical; or, as Oastler put it, gave in to 'the
cold, calculating, but mistaken Scottish philosophers,' who had
an overwhelming influence on the country.(20*) The lead passed to
Michael Thomas Sadler (1780-1835). Sadler, a Tory and an
evangelical, had proposed to introduce the poor-law system into
Ireland. He had attacked Malthus (1830) in a book to be presently
noticed. He declared that Hobhouse had surrendered to the
economists, who were 'the pests of society and the persecutors of
the poor.'(21*) He now proposed a more stringent measure, which
led to the appointment of a committee of the House of Commons in
1832. The report (presented 8th August 1832) startled and shocked
the public. A royal commission was appointed in 1833 to collect
further evidence. Sadler had meanwhile been defeated by Macaulay
in a sharp contest for Leeds. His health soon afterwards broke
down, under the strain of carrying on the agitation, and the lead
fell to Lord Shaftesbury (then Lord Ashley). Shaftesbury, again,
as an aristocrat and an evangelical, was a natural enemy of the
Utilitarian. He was heartily approved by Southey, from the study
of whose works he professed himself to have 'derived the greatest
benefit.' He thought that the country was 'drooping under the
chilly blasts of political economy,' and regarded the millowner
as 'the common enemy of the operatives and the
country-gentleman.'(22*) Richard Oastler, the most effective and
popular organiser of the agitation outside of parliament, was
also a Tory, a churchman, and a protectionist. He had joined in
the anti-slavery movement, and now thought that the factory
system involved a worse slavery than that of the negro. He
accepted the title of 'king of the factories,' given in ridicule
by his enemies.(23*) He became a martyr to his hatred of the new
Poor-law by resigning his place as agent to an estate rather than
enforce its provisions. He, too, hated the economists, and
denounced , the horrible Malthusian doctrine,' which he took to
be that the 'Creator sent children into the world without being
able to find food for them.'(24*) John Fielden, who became the
parliamentary leader in 1846, upon Shaftesbury's temporary
retirement from the House, had been brought up as a Quaker and a
Tory. He became a Utilitarian and a Radical. The typical Radical
for him was not Place but Cobbett, his colleague for Oldham in
the first reformed parliament. 'Honest John Fielden' made a
fortune by cotton-spinning, but wrote a tract called the Curse of
the Factory System, and no doubt shared Cobbett's hatred of the
Scottish 'philosophers' and Parson Malthus.
    These brief indications may be sufficient for one point. The
agitators on behalf of the factory movement took the political
economists, 'Malthusians,' and Utilitarians to be their natural
and their most dangerous enemies. They assumed that the economist
doctrine might be condensed into the single maxim 'do nothing.'
Whether it were a question of encouraging trade or supporting the
poor, or putting down 'white slavery' in a factory, government
was to leave things alone or, in other words, to leave them to
the devil. Chalmers, though an ultra-Malthusian in some respects,
approved the factory movement, because, as he said, it was a
question between free trade and Christianity.(25*) Christianity
orders us to help our neighbours, and political economy to let
them alone. Mill, of course, would have repudiated this doctrine.
Political economy, he would have replied, does not forbid us to
do good, or it would be opposed to Utilitarianism as well as to
Christianity. It only shows us what will do good by pointing out
the consequences of our actions, and Christianity can scarcely
forbid us to disregard consequences. Nor, in fact, was it true
that the economists unequivocally condemned the factory acts.
Malthus had approved them, and M'Culloch wrote warmly to
Shaftesbury to express his sympathy.
    Undoubtedly, however, the opposition to the factory
legislation appealed to the principles accepted and most
vigorously enforced by the Utilitarians. It came from the
free-traders, and from the inner circle of orthodox theorists. In
the later debates, Bright and Cobden, Villiers and Milner-Gibson,
Bowring, Bentham's trusted disciple, Roebuck, a wayward, though
at first an eager, follower, and the sturdy Joseph Hume were
jealous opponents. The Edinburgh and the Westminster Reviews
rivalled each other in orthodoxy.(26*) The Edinburgh declared
(July 1835) that Sadler's famous report was full of false
statements, if not wholly false; and the Westminster (April 1833)
thought that it was 'a stalking horse' to divert attention from
the agitation against the corn-laws and slavery. Fraser's
Magazine, on the contrary, which was attacking the economists in
a series of articles, made a special point of the horrors
revealed by the report. They might be summed up as 'child murder
by slow torture.' The Tory organs, the Quarterly and Blackwood,
took the same side. The manufacturers denied the existence of the
evils alleged, complained of spies and unfair reports, and
taunted the landowners with neglect of the suffering agricultural
labourers. Shaftesbury says(27*) that the argument most
frequently used was a famous statement by Senior. That high
authority had declared that all the profits of manufacturers were
made in the last two hours of the twelve. Cut down the twelve to
ten, and profits would disappear, and with them the manufacturing
industry.(28*) The same doctrine, in fact, worked into a variety
of forms, sometimes fitted for practical men, and sometimes
seeking the dignity of scientific formulation, was the main
argument to be met. This is, in fact, typical of the economists'
position. Some of them made concessions, and some of the Whigs
shrank from the rigid doctrine.(29*) But it was more in their
way, at least, to supply 'chilling blasts' of criticism than to
give any warm support. One qualification must be noticed. The
agitation began from the undeniable cruelty to children. The
enthusiast's view was put into epigrammatic form by Michelet. The
monster Pitt had bought the manufacturers' support by the awful
phrase, 'take the children.'(30*) In reality the employment of
children had at first appeared desirable from a philanthropic
point of view; but it had developed so as to involve intolerable
cruelty. The hideous stories of children worked to death, or to
premature decrepitude, revealed by the commissions had made a
profound impression. So far the Utilitarians as moralists were
bound and willing to protest. They hated slavery, and to do
nothing was to permit the most detestable slavery. A child of
tender years might be worked to death by brutal employers with
the help of careless parents. This was fully admitted, for
example, by Cobden, who said that he entirely approved of
legislation for children, but held equally that adults should be
encouraged to look for help to themselves and not to
government.(31*) Even the straitest economists seem to have
admitted so much. The problem, however, remained as to the
principle upon which the line must be drawn. If helpless children
should be protected, have not women, or even working men in
dependent positions, an equal right to protection? Moreover, can
interference in one case be practically carried out without
involving interference in the whole system?
    The economic position was thus assailed on many points,
though by enemies mutually opposed to each other. The general
tendency of the economists was against government interference,
and their most popular triumph on application of the do-nothing
principle. In the free-trade agitation, their main opponents were
the interested classes, the landowners, and the merely stupid
Conservatives. Elsewhere they were opposed by a genuine, even if
a misguided, philanthropy; by Conservatives who wished to meet
revolution not by simple obstruction, but by rousing the
government to a sense of its duties. Southey's 'paternal
government' might be ridiculed by Macaulay and the Whigs;
Cobbett's good old times might be treated as the figment of an
ignorant railer. The Young Englanders who found their gospel in
Disraeli's Sibyl might be taken to represent mere fanciful
antiquarianism masquerading as serious politics; and Carlyle,
with his fierce denunciations of the 'dismal science' in Chartism
and the Latter-Day Pamphlets set down as an eccentric and
impatient fanatic naturally at war with sound reason. The
appropriate remedy, as Mill thought, was a calm, scientific
exposition of sound principles. His adversaries, as he thought,
reproduced in the main the old sentimentalism against which
Bentham and James Mill had waged war, taking a new colouring from
a silly romanticism and weak regrets for a picturesque past. But
there was a perplexing fact. Churchmen and Tories were acting as
leaders of the very classes to whom Radicals look for their own
natural allies. Shaftesbury complained that he could not get the
evangelicals to take up the factory movement.(32*) They had been
the mainstay of the anti-slavery movement, but they did not seem
to be troubled about white slavery. The reason, no doubt, was
obvious; the evangelicals were mainly of the middle class, and
class prejudices were too strong for the appeals to religious
principles. On the other hand, the Radical artisans would accept
men like Sadler or Shaftesbury for leaders as a drowning man may
accept help from an enemy. The point of agreement was simply that
something should be done, and that was enough to alienate the
poor man from Whigs and Utilitarians, who were always proving
that nothing should be done.
    While these controversies were in the foreground the
remarkable movement of which Mr and Mrs Sidney Webb (33*) are the
first historians, was developing itself. Workmen were learning
how to organise effective trades-unions, and co-operators were
turning into a more practicable channel some of the aspirations
of which Owen had been the prophet. What Mill thought of such
movements will appear presently . Meanwhile it is enough to say
that the economists generally confined themselves to throwing
cold water upon what they held to be irrational schemes. The
working classes could not raise their position by combination,
though they had an undeniable right to try fruitless experiments.
They were going astray after false prophets, and blind to the
daylight of a true science. The co-operative movement, indeed,
received a warmer welcome when it came to be known. But the
remarkable point is once more the wide gap between the
'philosophical Radicals' and the classes whom they aspired to
lead. The aspirations of the poorer class took a form condemned
as simply absurd and illogical by the theories of their would-be


    Popular instinct recognised its natural enemy in Malthus.
'Malthusian' was a compendious phrase for anti-Christian,
hard-hearted, grovelling, materialist, fatalistic. The formal
controversy was dying out. One of the last 'confutations' was by
the enthusiastic Sadler, which provoked a slashing attack in the
Edinburgh by the rising light Macaulay.(35*) Alison had prepared
a ponderous treatise(36*) by 1828, which, however, did not appear
till 1840, when his popularity as a historian encouraged its
publication. Thomas Doubleday (1790-1870), an amiable man and a
sturdy reformer, published his True Law of Population in
1831.(37*) Sadler, the churchman and philanthropist, Alison, the
ponderous Tory, and Doubleday, the Radical, are agreed upon one
point. They are all defending the beneficence of the deity, and
take Malthus to be a devil's advocate. Sadler, who was a
mathematician, devotes the greatest part of his book to a
discussion, helped by elaborate tables, of the famous geometrical
progression. Alison, of course, rambles over all the articles of
the Tory faith, defending the corn-laws, protection, and slavery
along with the factory acts, the poor-law, and the allotment
system, and expounding his simple philosophy of history and the
inevitable currency question. The real difficulty is to assign
the precise point at issue. If Malthus is taken as asserting
that, as a matter of fact, population actually and invariably
doubles every twenty-five years, or at any rate always multiplies
to starvation point, it is easy to 'confute' him; but then he had
himself repudiated any such doctrine. If, on the other hand, you
only say that over-population is in fact restrained by some
means, Malthus had said so himself. It was common ground, for
example, that great towns were unfavourable to population; and
Macaulay could fairly tell Sadler that this was admitted by
Malthus, and was really a case of the famous 'positive
checks.'(38*) Alison takes similar ground in much of his
argumentation. The difference seems to be that Sadler and
Doubleday assume a pre-established harmony where Malthus traces
the action of 'checks.' Sadler,(39*) for example, agrees with the
opinion of Muret, ridiculed by Malthus, that God had made the
force of life 'in inverse ratio to fecundity.' Sadler and
Doubleday agree that 'fecundity' is diminished by comfort. Men
multiply less as they become richer, instead of becoming richer
as they multiply less. J. S. Mill says that Doubleday alone among
the Anti-Malthusians had some followers, but thinks that this
argument is sufficiently confuted by a glance at the enormous
families of the English upper classes.(40*) Macaulay had taken
more trouble to reply by statistics drawn from the Peerage. The
one obvious point is that none of the disputants could properly
talk of 'scientific laws.' What Malthus had indicated was a
'tendency,' or a consequence of the elasticity of population
which might arise under certain conditions, and to which it was
important to attend. But this gives no approach to a formula from
which we can infer what will be the actual growth under given
conditions. Macaulay showed clearly enough the futility of
Sadler's reasoning. It was hopeless to compare areas, taken at
random, large and small, heterogeneous or uniform, in different
countries, climates, and social states, and attempt by a summary
process to elicit a distinct 'law.' All manner of physiological,
psychological, and sociological questions are involved; not to be
set aside by a hasty plunge into a wilderness of statistics. To
discover a tenable 'law of population' we shall have to wait for
the constitution of hitherto chaotic sciences.
    Meanwhile, it may be noticed that the Whigs as represented by
Macaulay were upon this matter as dogmatic as James Mill himself,
whose dogmatism Macaulay had censured as roundly as he censured
Sadler. Malthus, in fact, had triumphed; and Mill's Malthusianism
dominates his whole treatise. He had been brought up as an
uncompromising Malthusian; in youth he had become something of a
martyr in the cause, and he never flinched from upholding the
general principle. What was it? In an early chapter(41*) of his
treatise he lays down the Malthusian propositions. 'Twenty or
thirty years ago,' he says, they might have been in need of
enforcement. The evidence is, however, so incontestable that they
have steadily made way against all opposition, and may now be
regarded as 'axiomatic.' This incontestable doctrine, as Mill
here explains, is, firstly, that the human race can double itself
in a generation; and, secondly, that the obvious consequences can
be avoided only by limiting this power through Malthus's positive
or preventive checks that is, by prudence on the one hand, and
starvation and disease on the other.(42*) This prudential
restraint, then, is, if not the one thing necessary, the
universal condition without which no other scheme of improvement
can be satisfactory. It is the focus upon which his whole
argument converges. Mill, however, gives a characteristic turn to
the argument. The doctrine that the progress of society must 'end
in shallows and in miseries'(43*) was not, as had been thought, a
'wicked invention' of Malthus. Implicitly or explicitly, it was
the doctrine of his 'most distinguished predecessors' and can
only be successfully combated on his principles. The publication
of his essay is the era from which better views of this subject
must be dated.'(44*) It gives the really fundamental principle.
Mill agrees with Malthus that the root of social evil is not the
inequality of property. Even an unjust distribution of wealth
does not aggravate, but at most accelerates, the advent of
misery. 'With the existing habits of the people' an equal
division of property would only cause them to populate down to
the former state.(45*) And yet Mill here parts company from.
Malthus in the spirit, if not in the logic, of his argument.
Malthus no doubt was thoroughly benevolent, and like many amiable
country clergymen desired to see the spread of savings banks,
friendly societies, and schools; but he was painfully conscious
of the difficulty of infusing ideas into the sodden, sluggish
labourers of his time, and hoped rather for the diminution of
abuses than for the regeneration of mankind. Mill, on the
contrary, sympathised with the revolutionists who had alarmed
Malthus. He tells them, indeed, with Malthus, that their schemes
must conform to actual and inevitable conditions. But he also
holds that the 'existing habits' of the 'people' can be
materially modified; and believes that a 'just distribution of
wealth' would tend to modify them. Malthus emphasises the point
that nothing can be done unless the standard of life be raised.
Mill dwells on the other aspect: if the standard be raised, an
indefinite improvement can be effected. What Malthus took to be a
difficult though not impassable barrier Mill took to represent a
difficulty which men might be trained to recognise and surmount.
His sanguine belief in the educability of mankind enabled him to
regard as a realisable hope what to Malthus in his early days had
seemed a mere vision, and even in later days a remote ideal. The
vis medicatrix is the same for Mill as for Malthus, but Mill has
a far more vivid expectation of the probability of curing the


    One of Mill's most characteristic doctrines shows
conspicuously this relation. Malthus had found in Norway and
Switzerland communities which flourished because they
spontaneously practised his principles. 'It is worthy of remark,'
says Mill,(46*) 'that the two countries thus honourably
distinguished are countries of small landed proprietors.' This
coincidence was not accidental; and Mill's Malthusianism falls in
with his admiration for peasant-proprietorship. He diverged in
this respect from the orthodox economical tradition. The
economists generally left it to sentimentalists to regret the
British yeoman, and to weep musically with Goldsmith over the
time 'when every rood of ground maintained its man.' Wordsworth
had dwelt pathetically upon the homely virtues of the
North-country statesman.(47*) Cobbett had in his happiest
passages dwelt fondly upon the old rural life, and denounced in
his bitterest invectives the greedy landowners and farmers who
had plundered and degraded the English peasant. The economists
looked at the matter from the point of view represented by Arthur
Young. Enclose commons; consolidate small holdings; introduce
machinery; give a free hand to enterprising landlords and
substantial farmers, and agriculture will improve like commerce
and manufactures. Small holders are as obsolete as handloom
weavers; competition, supply and demand, and perfect freedom of
trade will sweep them away, new methods will be adopted, capital
introduced, and the wages of the labourer be raised. M'Culloch,
for example, took this view;(48*) denounced small holdings, and
prophesied (49*) that France would in fifty years become the
greatest 'pauper-warren in Europe.' A remarkable advocate of a
similar view was Richard Jones (1790-1855), who in 1835 succeeded
Malthus at Haileybury.(50*) Jones admired Malthus and accepted
with qualifications the account of rent given by Malthus and
West. But he denounced Malthus's successors, Ricardo, James Mill,
and M'Culloch for preferring 'anticipation' to 'induction', and
venturing to start with general maxims and deduce details from
them. Jones deserves the credit of perceiving the importance of
keeping historical facts well in view. He shows sufficiently that
Ricardo's theory, if taken to be a historical statement of the
actual progress of events, is not correct. He refuses to define
rent, but treats historically of the various payments made in
respect of land. After classifying these, he decides that rent of
the Ricardian kind prevails over less than a hundredth part of
the earth's surface. He considers it, however , as representing a
necessary stage of progress. It is far superior to the early
stages, because it supposes the growth of a class of capitalists,
able to direct labour and introduce the best methods of
cultivation. Hence Jones comes by a different route to an
agreement with M'Culloch. He prophesies that peasant-proprietors
will rapidly fall into want and their numbers be limited only by
the physical impossibility of procuring food. They were precisely
in the position least favourable to the action of prudential
    Mill upon this matter dissented most emphatically both from
the 'classical' and the historical champion. The point is with
him of vital importance. His French sympathies had prepared him
to see the other side of the question. The most unequivocal
triumph claimed, with whatever truth, for the French revolution
was the elevation of the cultivators of the land. Mill, at any
rate, held emphatically that the French revolution had
'extinguished extreme poverty for one whole generation,'(52*) and
had thereby enabled the French population to rise permanently to
a higher level. Contemporary English history gave the other side.
Poor-law controversies had brought into striking relief the
degradation of the English agricultural labourer. The Morning
Chronicle articles, to which he had devoted six months, combined
with an advocacy of peasant-proprietorship an exposition of the
inadequacy of poor-laws. The excellent W. T. Thornton (1813-1880)
had been from 1836 Mill's colleague in the India House, and was
one of the few friends who communicated freely with him during
his seclusion.(53*) In 1846 Thornton published a book upon Over
Population and its Remedy, in which he declares himself to be a
thoroughgoing Malthusian, and rebukes M'Culloch for saying that
Malthus's work exemplified the 'abuse' of general principles.
Thornton, like Mill, follows Malthus in thinking that
over-population must be checked by preventing imprudent
marriages;(54*) but he makes a special point of the doctrine that
misery is not only the effect but the 'principal promoter' of
over-population.(55*) Hence he is not content with Malthus's
negative position. The evil will not die out of itself. His
favourite remedy at this time was the 'allotment system.' From
this Mill dissents.(56*) They agree, however, upon the merits of
peasant-proprietorship, upon which Thornton published a book in
1848, shortly before the appearance of Mill's treatise.(57*) Mill
says that this ought to be the standard treatise on that side 'of
the question.'(58*) Neither Mill nor Thornton had any firsthand
knowledge of agriculture; but they forcibly attacked the
assumptions then prevalent among English agriculturists. Thornton
had been especially impressed by the prosperity of the Channel
Islands -- a rather limited base for a wide induction; but both
he and Mill could refer to experience on a much larger scale
throughout wide districts on the Continent. The pith of Mill's
position is condensed in Michelet's picturesque passage, where
the peasant is described as unable to tear himself away even on
Sunday from the contemplation of his beloved plot of land. The
three periods when the peasant had been able to buy land were
called the 'good King Louis XII,' the 'good King Henry IV' and
the revolution. Arthur Young's famous phrase of the 'magic of
property' which 'turns sand to gold' was a still more effective
testimony, because Young was the Coryphaeus of the modern ,
English school of agriculturists.'(59*)
    France, then, represented the good effects of Malthusianism
in action. The French peasantry, as Thornton says after
Lavergne,(60*) had not read Malthus, but they instinctively put
his advice in practice. Mill triumphantly quotes the figures
which showed the slow rate of increase of the French
population.(61*) The case of Belgium, as he remarks, showed that
peasant-proprietorship might be consistent with a rapid increase,
but the French case proved conclusively that this was not a
necessary result of the system. The 'pauper-warren' theory at
least is conclusively disproved. M'Culloch's unfortunate
prediction might be explained by his a priori tendencies; but it
is curious to find Mill confuting Jones, the advocate for a
historical method, by an appeal to experience and statistics. The
possession of the soundest method does not make a man infallible.
Jones and M'Culloch, as Mill said, had confounded two essentially
different things. They had argued simply as to the economic
advantages of production on a large and small scale without
reference to the moral effect upon the cultivator. Their
criterion is simply the greatness of the return to a given amount
of capital on different systems. They had therefore treated the
cases of France and Ireland as identical, whereas in one vital
circumstance they are antithetical. France represented the
observance of Malthus's true principle, because the peasant was
moved by the 'magic of property'; he had absolute security in his
little plot; and the vis medicatrix or desire to save was raised
to its highest point. Ireland represents the defiance of Malthus,
because the Irish cottiers, with no security, and therefore no
motive for saving, multiplied recklessly and produced a true
'pauper-warren.' Mill accordingly reaches the conclusion that
while peasant-proprietorship does not of necessity involve rude
methods of cultivation, it is more favourable than any other
existing system to intelligence and prudence, less favourable to
'improvident increase of numbers,' and therefore more favourable
to moral and physical welfare.(62*)
    Jones would admit small culture as a natural stage towards
the development of the English system. Mill considers it to be in
advance of that system, but neither does he consider it to
represent the absolutely best system. In a later passage he
repudiates an opinion which, he says, might naturally be
attributed to him by readers of the earlier chapters.(63*) Though
the French peasant is better off than the English labourer, he
does not hold that we should adopt the French system, nor does he
consider that system to be the ideal one. To cover the land with
isolated families may secure their independence and promote their
industry, but it is not conducive to public spirit or generous
sentiment. To promote those qualities we must aim at
'association, not isolation, of interests.' This view is
significant. Peasant-proprietorship, we are constantly told, is
the great barrier against Socialism. It represents, in fact,
'individualism' in its highest degree. It stimulates the
Malthusian virtues, prudence, industry, and self-help, and makes
each man feel the necessity of trusting to his own energy. Yet
Mill, with all his Malthusianism, thinks that such virtues might
be stimulated too much; and, after preaching the merits of
individualism, shows a leaning towards the antagonistic ideal of
Socialism. He says little -- perhaps it would hardly have been
relevant to say much -- of the historical aspect of the question.
But there is a tacit implication of his argument of no little
importance. According to him, the English labourer had been
demoralised, and the whole Irish peasantry brought to the edge of
starvation, while the French and other peasantries were
prosperous and improving. To what historical causes was this vast
difference due? The French revolution, however important, can
only be understood through its antecedents. Systems of
land-tenure, it is obvious, have been connected in the most
intricate way with all manner of social, industrial, and
political phenomena. Commerce and manufactures may seem in some
sense a kind of natural growth-a set of processes at which
government can look on from outside, enforcing at most certain
simple rules about voluntary contracts. But, in the case of land,
we have at every point to consider the action and reaction of the
whole social structure and of the institutions which represent
all the conflicts and combinations of the great interests of the
state. Consequently neither the results actually attained, nor
those which we may hope to attain, can be adequately regarded
from the purely industrial side alone. Systems have not
flourished purely because of their economical merits, nor can
they be altered without affecting extra-economical interests. To
do nothing is to leave agricultural institutions to be perverted
by political or 'sinister' interests. Mill was very little
inclined to do nothing. He saw in the superiority of the foreign
to the British systems a proof of the malign influence of the
'sinister interests' in our constitution. The landed aristocracy
were the concrete embodiment of the evil principle. The nobility
and the squirearchy represented the dead weight of dogged
obstructiveness. They were responsible for the degradation of the
labourer; and the Ricardian doctrine of rent explained why their
interests should be opposed to those of all other classes.
Although Mill attributed enormous blessings to the revolution in
France, he was far too wise to desire a violent revolution in
England, and he was far too just to attribute to individual
members of the class a deliberate intention to be unjust. Yet he
was prepared to advocate very drastic remedies; and if there were
any human being of moderate cultivation from whom he was divided
by instinctive repulsion and total incapacity to adopt the same
point of view, it was certainly the country squire. The natural
antipathy was quaintly revealed when Mill found himself in the
House of Commons opposed to thick rows of squires clamouring for
protection against the cattle-plague.
    So far Mill's position is an expansion or adaptation of
Malthus. Obedience to Malthus makes the prosperous French
peasant; disobedience, the pauperised English labourer. Malthus,
as Mill interprets him, means that all social improvement depends
upon a diminished rate of increase, relatively to
subsistence;(64*) and to diminish that rate the prudential check
must be strengthened. 'No remedies for low wages,' therefore,
'have the smallest chance of being efficacious which do not
operate on and through the minds and habits of the people';(65*)
and every scheme which has not for its foundation the diminution
of the proportion of the people to the funds which support them,
is 'for all permanent purposes a delusion.'(66*) The two
propositions taken together sum up Mill's doctrine. Social
welfare can be brought about only by stimulating the vis
medicatrix or sense of individual responsibility. Every reform
which does not fulfil that condition is built upon sand. The
application to England is a practical comment. The true remedies
for low wages (67*) are first an 'effective national education'
so designed as to cultivate common-sense. This will affect the
'minds of the people' directly. Secondly, a 'great national
measure of colonisation.' This will at once diminish numbers.
Thirdly, a national system for 'raising a class of
peasant-proprietors.' This will provide a premium to prudence and
economy affecting the whole labouring class. Besides this, Mill
approves of the new poor-law, which has shown that people can be
protected against the 'extreme of want' without the demoralising
influence of the old system.(68*) Mill here accepts, though he
does not often insist upon, the doctrine upon which Thornton had
dwelt in his Over Population: that poverty is self-propagating so
far as it makes men reckless: education, as he remarks, is 'not
compatible with extreme poverty'.(69*) Hence the remedies
themselves require another condition to make them effective. He
declares emphatically that in these cases small means do not
produce small effects, but no effect at all.(70*) Nothing will be
accomplished, unless comfort can be made habitual to a whole
generation. The race must be lifted to a distinctly higher plane,
or it will rapidly fall back. Mill, I fancy, would have been more
consistent if he had admitted that great social changes must be
gradual. But in any case, he was far from accepting the
do-nothing principle. Political economy, he says, would have 'a
melancholy and a thankless task' if it could only prove that
nothing could be done.(71*) He holds that a huge dead lift is
required to raise the labourers out of the slough of despond, and
he demands therefore nothing less than great national schemes of
education, of home and foreign colonisation. He speaks, too, with
apparent approval of laws in restraint of improvident
marriages.(72*) It is, indeed, true that upon his schemes
government is to interfere in order to make the people
independent of further interference. Whether such a compromise be
possible is another question. 


    Meanwhile a wider problem has to be considered. Unless some
remedy can be found for the existing evils, he says, the
industrial system of this country -- the dependence, that is, of
the whole labouring class upon the wages of hard labour -- though
regarded by many writers as the ne plus ultra of civilisation,
must be 'irrevocably condemned.'(73*) The agricultural labourer
can be taken out of that position. By making him a proprietor he
can be brought -- within the range of new motives. The
independent peasant has in visible form before his eyes the base
from which he and his family must draw supplies. It requires no
abstract reasoning to show him that, if he brings more mouths
into existence, his fields will not therefore bear double crops.
But for the artisan who is a minute part of a vast organisation,
whose wages come out of an indefinite, unexplored reservoir which
may be affected by changes in commerce of the origin and exact
nature of which he is completely ignorant, there is no such
palpable limit. The springs from which his subsistence flows may,
for anything he sees, be inexhaustible. He is a unit in a large
multitude, which, taken as a whole, must undoubtedly be somehow
dependent upon the general resources of the nation. But how to
explain the intricate relations of the different classes is a
problem puzzling to the best economists, and capable of all
manner of fallacious solutions. As an individual, the artisan
might learn like other people to be prudent; but to know what is
prudent he must understand his position. Can the labourer
rightfully demand or reasonably expect to get a larger share of
the wealth which he produces, or must he confine himself to
limiting his numbers, and trusting to supply and demand to bring
his right share? Here the workman was misled by all manner of
false lights; and it became incumbent upon Mill to explain the
    A population entirely dependent on wages never, says
Mill,(74*) refrains from over-population unless from 'actual
legal restraint,' or some 'custom' which 'insensibly moulds their
conduct.' The English agricultural labourer seems to multiply
just as far as he can.(75*) All 'checks' have gone or are going.
If the artisan is better off, it is due to the rapid expansion of
our trade. Should the market for our manufactures -- not actually
fall off but cease to expand as rapidly as it has done for fifty
years, we may fall into the state of Ireland before 1846. He
hopes, indeed, that the factory population may be intelligent
enough to adapt itself to circumstances. The fact that so large a
part of our population is composed of middle classes or skilled
artisans is the only security for some restraint. Yet Mill's
opinion even of the artisan was low. English experience confirms
the evidence of Escher of Zürich.(76*) The head of the English
artisan is turned by the idea of equality. 'When he ceases to be
servile, he becomes insolent.'(77*) There is nowhere, he says
elsewhere,(78*) any friendly sentiment between labourers and
employers. The artisan, swamped by the growing multiplication of
unskilled labour, will too probably, we may infer, take a false
view of the situation, and ascribe his poverty not to his own
neglect of Malthus, but to the greed and hard-heartedness of the
capitalist. Such an anticipation was likely enough to be
    This leads to the great problem of the true relation between
capital and labour. The distinctive peculiarity of England was
the dependence of the masses upon wages. How, as Mill has asked,
is this state of things reconcilable with improvement? He will
assume, as his predecessors had substantially done, that the
capitalist and labourers are separate classes, and that the
labourer derives his whole support from the capitalist. Though
this is not everywhere true, it is for him the really important
case. Moreover, he seems to think that the rule derived from
considering the classes separately will not be altered when the
two characters are united in individuals. The labourer, so far as
he has 'funds in hand,' is also a capitalist; and that part of
his income is still decided by the general law of profits.(79*)
The assumption of a complete separation, made for convenience of
argument, might no doubt be confounded with a statement of fact.
At any rate, it is merely an explicit avowal of the tacit
assumption of the orthodox economists.
    Here, then, we pass from Malthus to Ricardo. Mill adopts the
Ricardian scheme, though trying to make it more elastic.
Ricardo's doctrine of a 'minimum' rate of wages to which the
'general rate' constantly approximates has enough truth for the
'purposes of abstract science.'(80*) The rate indeed varies with
the standard of living, and that, as we have seen, is a critical
point. Yet the main outlines of the theory remain. As population
presses upon the land, the landlord gets the benefit of his
'monopoly of the better soil,' and capitalist and labourer divide
the remainder. Profits and wages, as Ricardo had said, vary
inversely; a 'rise of general wages falls on profits; there is no
possible alternative.'(81*) Here, indeed, an important
modification must be made in Ricardo's words, in order to state
what Ricardo 'really meant.'(82*) Profit depends, not upon wages
simply, but upon the 'cost of labour.' The labourer is not a
fixed quantity, representing so many 'foot-pounds' of energy; his
efficiency, as Mill argued, may vary indefinitely with his moral
and intellectual qualities; (83*) it may be profitable to pay for
the effective labour double the wages of the ineffective; and, in
point of fact, 'the cost of labour is frequently at its highest
where wages are lowest.'(84*)
    Thus interpreted, Ricardo, like Malthus, admits of progress.
By improving in efficiency, and by maintaining his standard of
life, the labourer's position may be improved. Still, however,
improvement supposes a due regard to the interests of the
capitalists, who make all the advances and receive all the
produce. Here we have the old doctrine of the 'tendency of
profits to a minimum.'(85*) This theory, admitted though
inadequately explained by Adam Smith, had been illustrated by E.
G. Wakefield, and as Mill thinks, most scientifically treated by
his friend Ellis. Another writer, to whom Mill refers with his
usual generosity, was John Rae, whose New Principles of Political
Economy had, he thinks, done in regard to accumulation of capital
what Malthus had done in regard to population.(86*) The necessity
of resorting to inferior soils, which enriches the landowner,
causes the difficulty of raising the labourer's 'real wages.'
Profits are lowered not by the 'competition of capitalists,' but
by the limitation of the national resources. As the difficulty of
raising new supplies becomes more pressing, the 'cost of labour'
rises, and the capitalist's profits diminish. Now, in every
country, as Rae had shown, there is a certain 'effective desire
of accumulation.'(87*) It varies widely, and corresponds, we may
say, to the principle which limits population -- the 'effective
desire' of propagation. There is a certain rate of profit which
will induce men to save, and saving is the one source of capital.
Hence, if the rate obtainable falls to this point, saving will
cease, the capital which supports labour will not increase, and
the country will be in the 'so-called stationary state.' Such a
state, no doubt, is possible and often actual. Given a nation
forced to draw its resources from a fixed area, and unable to
improve its methods of cultivation, it is obvious that it may
reach a point at which it can only just maintain its actual
position. Mill holds not only that such a result is possible, but
that it is always imminent. In an 'old country,' he says, 'the
rate of profit is habitually within, as it were, a hair's-breadth
of the minimum, and the country therefore on the very verge of
the stationary state.'(88*) He does not mean, he explains, that
such a state is likely soon to be reached in Europe, but that, if
accumulation continued and nothing occurred to raise the rate of
profit, the stationary state would be very quickly reached. We
have still the Malthusian view. We are always 'within a
hair's-breadth' of the dead wall which will absolutely limit
progress. Improvements are in fact constantly staving off the
impending catastrophe. We are drifting, so to speak, towards a
lee-shore, where, if not wrecked, we shall at least come to a
standstill. Again and again we manage to make a Little way, and
by new devices to weather another dangerous point. By prudence,
too, we may turn each new advantage to account, and improve our
condition by refraining from increasing our numbers. But the
danger is always threatening.
    One noteworthy result is Mill's chapter upon the stationary
state.(89*) He has, it seems, been so impressed by the
probability that he will find refuge from his fears by facing the
worst. After all, are not the grapes sour? If we are unable to
grow richer, is the loss of wealth so great a misfortune? He
turns to think of the 'trampling, crushing, elbowing, and
treading on each other's heels which form the existing type of
human life.'(90*) Is such a state desirable? In America, where
all privileges are abolished, poverty unknown, and the six points
of the Chartists accepted, the main result achieved is that 'the
whole of one sex is devoted to dollar-hunting and the whole of
the other to breeding dollar-hunters.' (91*) Coarse stimuli are
needed for coarse minds; but a better ideal should be possible.
We might aim at an order quite compatible with the 'stationary
state,' where labourers should be comfortable, no enormous
fortunes accumulated, and a much larger part of the population
free from mechanical toil and enabled to 'cultivate freely the
graces of life.' Nor is it desirabLe that cultivation should
spread to every corner of the world, every flowery waste ploughed
up and all wild animals extirpated. 'A world from which solitude
is extirpated is a very poor ideal.'
    Mill agreed with Ruskin, though Ruskin did not agree with
Mill, and, indeed, called him a goose. A stationary state of
wealth need not, says Mill, imply a stationary state of the 'art
of living.' That art was more likely to improve when we were not
all engrossed by the 'art of getting on.' How far that is true I
do not presume to say . It seems possible that in such a state
the struggle to be stationary might be as keen, though advance
would be hopeless. But, without criticising a theory which
represents rather a temporary protest than a settled conviction,
we may be content to notice how far removed was this typical
economist from the grovelling tendencies often ascribed to his
kind. Mill, as even Carlyle would have admitted, was not a mere
devotee of 'pig's-wash.'
    This vision of a stationary state comes in the book in which
Mill passes from the 'statics,' as he calls it, to the 'dynamics'
of political economy. His purpose is to trace the influence of
industrial progress. His first chapter (92*) notices the vast
mechanical discoveries, the increased security of society and
greater capacity for united action, which give reasons for hoping
indefinite growth of aggregate wealth There is, he thinks, 'not
much reason to apprehend' that population will outrun, though we
must sadly admit the possibility that it will keep up with,
production and accumulation. This leads to the chapters in which
he discusses the effect of progress upon the various classes
concerned.(93*) How does the 'progress of industry' affect the
three classes -- landowners, capitalists, and labourers? Land is
a fixed quantity; but population may increase, capital may
increase, and the arts of production may improve by supposing
each to increase separately and then together. A long and careful
analysis gives us the general result. It is enough to notice the
    Land represents the fixed 'environment' of the race. The
proprietors of the land will be enriched by economical progress
and the growing necessity for resort to inferior soils. The cost
of raising the labourer's subsistence increases, and profits
therefore tend to fall. The improvement of the arts of
agricultural production acts as a 'counteracting force.' It
relaxes the pressure and postpones the stationary state. For the
moment the improvement may diminish (as Ricardo had argued), but
in the long run must promote, the 'enrichment of landlords,' and,
if population increases, will transfer to them the whole benefit.
Mill, as we have seen, was fully alive to the enormous increase
in past times of the general efficiency of labour and to the
indefinite possibilities of the future. Yet the improvement seems
here, again, to be regarded rather as checking the gravitation
towards the stationary state, than as justifying any confident
hopes of improvement. Meanwhile the elevation of the labouring
classes depends essentially upon their taking advantage of such
improvements to raise their standard, instead of treating an
addition to their means 'simply as convertible into food for a
greater number of children.'(95*)


    This doctrine led to one of the strangest of controversial
catastrophes. In his chapter upon 'wages' (96*) Mill had begun
with an unlucky paragraph. He introduced the word 'wage-fund' to
describe the sums spent in 'the direct purchase of labour'; and
stated that wages necessarily depended upon the proportion of
this fund to the labouring population. This doctrine was assailed
by Thornton in 1869.(97*) Mill, reviewing Thornton, astonished
the faithful by a complete recantation; and, though a disciple or
two -- especially Cairnes and Fawcett -- continued to uphold the
doctrine, or what they took to be the doctrine, political
economists have ever since been confuting it, or treating it as
too ridiculous for confutation. If we are to assume that the
wage-fund was at once an essential proposition of the old
'classical' economy and a palpable fallacy, the whole structure
collapses. The keystone of the arch has crumbled. Nor, again, is
it doubtful that this catastrophe marked a critical change in the
spirit and methods of political economy. And yet, when the actual
discussion is considered, it seems strange that it should have
had such importance. What was this 'wage-fund theory'? The answer
is generally given by quoting the passage already mentioned from
M'Culloch, a paragraph from Mill, and Fawcett's reproduction of
Mill. Mill's sentences, says Professor Taussig, 'contain all that
he ever said directly and explicitly on the theory of the
wage-fund.'(98*) It is strange that so vital a point should have
been so briefly indicated. Then Mill's ablest follower, Cairnes,
declares that though he had learned political economy from Mill,
he had never understood the wage-fund theory in the sense which
Thornton put upon it and which Mill accepted.(99*) But for Mill's
admission, he says, he would 'have confidently asserted' that not
only no economist but 'no reasonable being' had ever asserted the
doctrine. We are left to doubt whether it be really a
corner-stone of the whole system or an accidental superstructure
which had really no great importance. At any rate it was rather
assumed than asserted; and yet is so closely connected with the
system that I must try to indicate the main issue.
    In the first place, the 'wage-fund' is Mill's equivalent for
Adam Smith's 'fund which is destined for the maintenance of
servants';(100*) and Mill, again, starts from a proposition
inherited from Smith. 'Industry,' he says, 'is limited by
capital' -- a doctrine, as he adds, perfectly obvious though
constantly neglected.(101*) Undoubtedly an industrial army
requires its commissariat: its food, clothes, and weapons. Its
very existence presupposes an accumulation of such supplies in
order to the discharge of its functions. A more doubtful
assumption is stated by Adam Smith. 'The demand,' he says,(102*)
'for those who live by wages naturally increases with the
increase of national wealth, and cannot possibly increase without
it.' The growth of the national wealth, that is, 'naturally'
involves the growth of the wealth of every class. Machinery
increases the efficiency of labour and therefore increases the
power at least of supporting labourers. Moreover, in the long
run, and generally at the moment, this power will certainly be
exercised.(103*) The interests of the capitalist will lead him to
support more labourers. The identity of interest between the
classes concerned might thus be taken for granted. Hence, we may
trust to the spontaneous or 'natural' order of things to bring to
all classes the benefit of improved industrial methods. This
natural order, again, including the rate of wages, is understood
to imply, at least, the absence of state interference. Political
rulers must not tamper with the industrial mechanism. It will
spontaneously work out the prosperity of the whole nation and of
each class. Left to itself the industrial organism generates
those economic harmonies upon which the optimist delighted to
dwell. 'Natural' seems to take the sense of 'providential.' The
'economic harmonies' are, like the harmonies perceived by Paley
or the Bridgewater Treatise writers in external nature, so many
proofs of the divine benevolence; any attempt to interfere with
them could only lead to disaster. To show in detail the mischiefs
involved, to expose the charlatans whose schemes implied such
interference, was the grand aim of most economists. Mill, as we
shall see, was very far from accepting this view without
qualification. He thought with the Utilitarians generally that
the 'sovereign' had enormous powers, and moreover was bound to
apply them for the redress of social evils. Society, he held, was
full of injustice. Laws aggravated many evils and could suppress
others. Still the normal function of government is to prevent
violence, see fair play, and enforce voluntary contracts. When it
exceeds these functions, and tries by sheer force to obtain
results without considering the means, it may do infinite
mischief. It acts like an ignorant mechanic, who violently moves
the hands of the clock without regard to the mechanism. Erroneous
conceptions of the very nature of the machinery had led to the
pestilent fallacies which Smith and his successors had been
labouring to confute. The free-traders(104*) had often to expose
one sophistry which deluded the vulgar. Its essence is, as Mill
puts it, that we attend to one half of the phenomenon and
overlook the other.(105*) The protectionist thinks of the
producer and forgets the consumer. Half the popular fallacies
imply the failure to take into account all the actions and
reactions which are implied by a given change. The processes by
which industry adapts itself to varying conditions --
compensating for an ebb in one quarter by a flow in another -- is
mistaken for a change in the whole volume. From the neglect to
trace out the more remote, though necessary consequences, all
manner of absurd doctrines had arisen. The doctrine of 'gluts'
and 'over-production' confounded the case of a production of the
wrong things with an excess of production in general. Improved
machinery was supposed not merely to displace one class of
labourers for a time, but to supersede 'labour' in general. We
should forbid the substitution of power-looms and steam-ploughs
for hand-weaving and spades, or try to increase wealth by
depriving workmen of their tools. A strange confusion of ideas is
involved. People, said Whately,(106*) ask for 'work' when what
they want is really 'wages.' They assume that because more labour
is required, more wages will be forthcoming. The fire of London,
as Mandeville observed, was an excellent thing for the builders.
If their wages had simply dropped out of the skies, it might have
been good for everybody. So, again, Mill has to labour the point
(107*) that society does not gain by unproductive expenditure,
that is, by the support of horses and hounds, but by
'production'; that is, by expenditure on mines and railways. He
lays down a principle which, he says, is most frequently
overlooked, that , demand for commodities is not demand for
labour.' His doctrine has been ridiculed and treated as
paradoxical. It implies at any rate an important distinction. It
is intended to draw the line between changes which merely mean
that a different employment is being found for labourers, and
changes which mean that a greater sum is being devoted to the
support of labourers in general.(108*) The argument against such
fallacies might naturally be summed up by saying that the real
point to be considered was the effect of any change upon the
'wage-fund.' The error, common to all, is the confusion between
the superficial and the more fundamental -- the functional, we
may say, and the organic changes. They are exposed by tracing the
secondary results, which have been overlooked in attending to the
more palpable but less conspicuous part of the phenomenon. Then
we see that some changes imply not a change in the quantity of
labour supported; only a redistribution of the particular
energies. They do not affect the 'wage-fund.' The phrase was
useful as emphasising this point; and useful, though it might be
in some sense a truism. Truisms are required so long as
self-contradictory propositions are accepted. But a further
problem is suggested. What, after all, is the wage-fund? What
determines its amount? If this or that phenomenon does not imply
a change in the fund, what does imply a change, and what are its
laws? To this we get, in the first place, the old Malthusian
answer. Whatever the fund may precisely be, the share of each man
will be determined by the whole number depending upon it. This is
obviously true, but does not answer the question, What actually
fixes the sum to be divided? That problem seems to drop out of
sight or to be taken as somehow implicitly answered. The answer
should, however, be indicated by Mill's treatment of the most
important cases.
    The distribution problem, made prominent by Ricardo, was
emphasised by controversies over the poor-law or the factory acts
and trades-unionism. The economists had been constantly
endeavouring to expose quack remedies for poverty. The old
attempts to regulate wages by direct legislation had been too
long discredited to be worth powder and shot. Mill, in discussing
'popular remedies for low wages,' (109*) argues that competition
'distributes the whole wage-fund among the whole labouring
population.' If wages were below the point at which this happens
there would be 'unemployed capital'; capitalists would therefore
compete and wages would be raised. If, on the other hand, law or
'opinion' fixes wages above the point, some labourers will be
unemployed, or the 'wage-fund' must be forcibly increased.
'Popular sentiment,' however, claimed that 'reasonable wages'
should be found for everybody. Nobody, he says, would support a
proposal to this effect more strenuously than he himself, were
the claim made on behalf of the existing generation.(110*) But
when the claim extends to all whom that generation or its
descendants chooses 'to call into existence' the case is altered.
The result would be that the poor-rate would swallow up the whole
national income, and the check to population be annihilated.
Here, again, instead of hearing clearly why or how the wage-fund
is fixed, we are at once referred to Malthus. The factory
legislation suggests the same question. The rigid economists had
maintained that here again the attempt to interfere must be
injurious. It would hamper the growth of capital, and therefore
injure those dependent upon capital. Mill treats the case with
remarkable brevity. He apparently regarded the whole movement as
savouring of quackery. But he discusses the question briefly from
the moral point of view. Children, he says, should of course be
protected from overwork, for in their case , freedom of contract
is but another word for freedom of coercion.'(111*) Women, he
notes, are protected by the factory acts; but this is only
excusable, if excusable at all, because, as things now are, women
are slaves. If they were free, it would be tyrannical to limit
their labour. The old political economy still suffices. Meanwhile
the problem was coming up in other shapes. The Utilitarians have
been active in procuring the repeal of the laws against
combination. They had thought, indeed, that the workmen, once set
free, would find combination needless, and would learn to act by
means of individual competition. Trades-unionism, on the
contrary, had developed, and was producing long and obstinate
struggles with the capitalist. Were these struggles attempts to
interfere with a 'natural' order? Were they wasteful modes of
attempting to secure a share of the 'wage-fund' which would come
to them in any case by the spontaneous play of the industrial
machinery? Socialists were beginning to declare that instead of
an identity there was a radical opposition of interests. The
answer made by orthodox economists implies some wage-fund theory
. They were never tired of declaring that all attempts to raise
wages by combination were fallacious. The struggle was always
costly, and, even if successful, could only benefit one section
of workmen at the expense of others. What precise assumption
might underlie this doctrine is another question not so easily
answered. It is taken for granted that there is a definite fund,
such that no struggling can wring more from the capitalist; and
all the rugging and riving of labourers and unions can only
succeed in one body getting a larger share out of the mouth of
the others. Mill's final view seems to be given in his discussion
of erroneous methods of government interference. Legislation
against combinations to raise wages is most vigorously
condemned.(112*) The desire to keep wages down shows 'the
infernal spirit of the slave-master,' though the effort to raise
them beyond a fixed limit is doomed to failure. We ought to
rejoice if combination could really raise the rate of wages; and
if all workmen could combine such a result might be possible. But
even then they could not obtain higher wages than the rate fixed
by 'supply and demand' -- the rate which distributes the 'whole
circulating capital of the country among the labouring
population.'(113*) Combinations are successful at times, but only
for small bodies. The general rate of wages can be affected by
nothing but the 'general requirements of the labouring people.'
While these requirements (corresponding to the standard of
living) remain constant, wages cannot long fall below or remain
above the corresponding standard. The improvement, indeed, of
even a small portion would be 'wholly a matter of satisfaction'
if no general improvement could be expected. But as such
improvement is now becoming possible, it is to be hoped that the
better artisans will seek advantage in common with, or 'not to
the exclusion of, their fellow labourers.' The trades-union
movement, therefore, is taken to be equivalent to the formation
of little monopolies through which particular classes of
labourers benefit at the expense of others. Yet Mill is evidently
anxious to make what concessions he can. Strikes, he thinks, have
been the 'best teachers of the labouring classes' as to the
'relation between labour and the demand and supply of labour.'
They should not be condemned absolutely -- only when they are
meant to raise wages above the 'demand and supply' limit; and,
even then, he remembers that 'demand and supply' are not
'physical agencies'; that combinations are required to help poor
labourers to get their rights (the 'demand and supply' rate) from
rich employers; and, that trades-unions tend to advance the time
when labourers will regularly 'participate in the profits derived
from their labour.' Finally, it is desirable, as he
characteristically adds, that 'all economical experiments,
voluntarily undertaken, should have the fullest licence.'
    Mill, unlike his rigid predecessors, is anxious to make out
as good a case as he can for trades-unions. His sympathies are
with them, if only the logic can be coaxed into approval. To
elevate the labouring class is the one worthy object of political
action. Yet he is hampered by the inherited scheme. However
modified, it always involves the assumption of a fixed sum to be
distributed by 'supply and demand.' Limit the supply of labour,
and you raise the price. No other plan will really go to the
bottom of the problem. The rate of wages is fixed by 'supply and
demand'; and the phrase seemed to imply that the rate of wages
was fixed by a bargain, like the price of corn or cloth at a
given time and place. Error, as Mill truly observes,(114*) is
often caused by not 'looking directly at the realities of
phenomena, but attending only to the outward mechanism of buying
and selling.' Are we looking directly at realities when we take
for granted that 'labour' is bought and sold like corn and
cotton? Are we not coming in sight of more fundamental changes,
questions of the structure as well as the functions of industrial
organism, which cannot be so summarily settled? Thornton argues
as though workmen secreted 'labour' as bees secrete honey, and
the value of the product were fixed by the proportion between the
quantity in the market and the quantity which purchasers are
prepared to take at the price. He only tries to show that the
price may still be indeterminate. The 'equation' between supply
and demand of which Mill had spoken might be brought about at
varying rates of exchange. The whole supply might conceivably be
taken off either at a high or at a low price. We need not go
behind the immediate motives which govern a set of buyers meeting
a set of sellers at an auction. Mill accepts the same
assumptions. It is quite true, he says, that in the case of wages
various rates may satisfy the 'equation.' The whole labouring
population may be forced to put up with starvation allowance or
may be able to extort enough to raise their standard of life.
This, he says, upsets the 'wage-fund' doctrine, hitherto taught
by nearly all economists 'including myself.'(115*) Moreover, the
employer has the advantage in the 'higgling,' owing to what Adam
Smith had already called 'the tacit combination of
employers.'(116*) This depressing influence can be resisted by a
combination of the employed; and therefore the doctrine which
declared the necessary incapacity of trades-unions to raise wages
must be thrown aside. 
    Mill has received, and fully deserves, high praise for his
candour in this recantation. We must, however, regret the
facility with which he abandoned a disagreeable doctrine without
sufficiently considering the effects of his admission upon his
whole scheme.(117*) To what, in fact, does the argument amount to
which he thus yielded? He says that the capitalist starts with
the 'whole of his accumulated means, all of which is potentially
capital.' Out of this he pays both his labourers and his family
expenses. No 'law of nature' makes it impossible for him to give
to the labourer all 'beyond the necessaries of life', which he
had previously spent upon himself. The only limit to possible
expenditure on wages is that he must not be ruined or driven out
of business.(118*)
    This surely is obvious. No law of nature or of man forbids me
from giving all that I have to my labourers, though I cannot give
more than I have. If I have a balance at my bankers, I may pay my
wage-bill by a cheque for any smaller sum, and live on the
difference. Difficulties at once arise when we look at the
'realities' of the phenomena and turn from 'money wages' to 'real
wages.' It is easy for an individual to give what he pleases, but
not so easy to make such a change in the whole concrete
industrial machinery as to apply it all to the production of
labourers' commodities. What, in any case, was precisely the
economical dogma inconsistent with Mill's statement? According to
him, it was the doctrine that, at any given time, there is a
certain fund in existence which is 'unconditionally devoted' to
the payment of wages. This was taken to 'be at any given moment a
predetermined amount.' (119*) But how was it supposed to be
predetermined? All events are predetermined by their causes, and
to treat political economy as a possible science is to assume
that wages, among other things, are somehow determinate. Mill
means apparently to deny a determination by something in the
nature of the capital itself. The capital might mean something
which could not, even if everybody wished it, be applied in any
other way. The circulating might bear to the fixed capital the
same relation as wool, for example, to mutton. Save at all, and a
certain part of your savings will be wages, as a certain part of
the sheep will be wool. Unless you waste it, you will employ it
on the only purpose for which it is adapted.
    Such a 'predetermination' is of course a fiction. Was it ever
taken for a fact? (120*) It was rather, I believe, an assumption
which has slipped into their reasoning unawares. Starting from
the old proposition that 'industry is limited by capital,' and
remarking that some capital did not go directly to wages, they
simply amended the proposition by saying that wages depended on
'circulating' capital, and thought that the corrected formula
would do as well as the old. Perhaps they assumed roughly that
'circulating' must bear a fixed proportion to capital in general;
or that, at any rate, the proportion was somehow determined by
general causes. The doctrine thus understood tends to become a
merely identical proposition: the 'wage-fund' means simply the
wages, and the rate of wages is given by the total paid divided
by the number of receivers. The economists continued to lecture
the labourers upon the futility of their aims with the airs of
professors exploding the absurdity of schemes for perpetual
motion. It must, however, be observed that neither Mill nor his
disciples held that the rate of wages was unalterable. They had
the strongest belief that it could be raised, and raised through
the agency of trades-unions. Mill's disciple, Fawcett, as
Professor Taussig remarks,(121*) lays down the old wage-fund
formula, and yet proceeds to argue about strikes raising wages
without reference to this supposed impossibility. In an early
article,(122*) highly praised by Mill, Fawcett discussed strikes.
He appeals to the wage-fund doctrine throughout, and yet he
approves of trades-unions, and only exhorts men to strike when
trade is improving, instead of striking when it is falling off.
It does not for a moment occur to him that 'supply and demand' or
the wage-fund theory determine every particular case. Undoubtedly
men, by combining and taking advantage of the 'conjuncture', may
get the best of a bargain. Fawcett holds, indeed, that the
immediate advantage will be temporary or limited to one trade.
Still combination will, for the time, enable the men to get an
earlier share of the improved profits. Then, he argues, and it is
of this that Mill approves, that such a system, by interesting
the men in business and letting them perceive the conditions of
success, will lead to the consummation most ardently desired by
Mill and himself; to a perception of an ultimate identity of
interests and a final acceptance of some system of co-operation.
Thus, by listening to Malthus and raising the standard of life,
the artisan will himself become a capitalist or a sharer in
    The wage-fund doctrine, so understood, included a reference
not to the immediate bargain alone but to a more remote series of
consequences. The 'predetermination' refers to the whole set of
industrial forces which work gradually and tentatively. The
ablest defender of the wage-fund, understood in this sense, was
J. E. Cairnes (1823-1875),(123*) who, like Thornton, was a
personal friend of Mill; and, though an acute and independent
thinker, was an admiring disciple. He met Mill's recantation by
applying Mill's earlier faith. He does not believe in that
'economic will-o'-the-wisp,' (124*) as Thornton calls it, the
wage-fund, which supposes that in the bargain between men and
masters there is a 'predetermined' amount which must be spent in
wages. It is only predetermined, he says, in so far as all men
act from certain motives which, under given circumstances, must
bring about certain results. Thornton, he says, has talked as if
'supply and demand' meant a power which forced men to act in a
certain way, instead of being merely a general phrase indicating
the normal operation of these motives. To determine the general
rate of wages we have to look at the whole mechanism, not at the
special bargain. To explain that action Cairnes starts again from
the Ricardian scheme. On the one hand we have, of course,
Malthus; and on the other, the relation between wages and
profits, the effective desire of accumulation, the necessity of
resorting to inferior soils, with the consequent 'tendency of
profits to a minimum' (for the proof of which he refers to Mill
himself), and the accepted statement that profits are already
within a hand's-breadth of the minimum.(125*) Cairnes modifies
the scheme in various ways, upon which I need not dwell: as by
admitting , non-competing industrial groups,' and arguing that
the amount of the fixed and circulating capital is more or less
determined by the direction of the national industries. Such
conditions, he argues, determine the permanent rate of gages,
though for a time oscillations within comparatively narrow limits
may of course take place. Mill, in his unregenerate days, had
argued, as we have seen, that the whole 'wage-fund' must be
distributed, without giving any precise reason for the necessity.
He now held, with Thornton, that a 'conspiracy of employers ,
might retain any part of it. Cairnes holds this conspiracy to be
a fiction. It is not, as is often said, a question of rich men
bargaining with poor men, but of rich men competing with each
other. The competition of capitalists, as he holds, will always
take place, not from any mysterious characteristic of
'circulating capital,' but because, as things are, they are
always on the look-out for profitable employment of their
capital. That process keeps wages up as the competition of
labourers keeps them down, and, though it may act slowly, will
inevitably keep wages approximating to an average.(126*)
    In this view Cairnes takes himself to be only expanding the
doctrine which pervades Mill's whole treatise: in spite of the
occasional obiter dicta about the wage-fund. He does not abandon
-- he declares that nobody ever held -- the 'will-o'-the-wisp, --
the absolute predetermination.(127*) Certainly a doctrine which
struck so thorough a student as one of which he had never even
heard, and which appeared to him to be palpably absurd, could
hardly have had the prominence usually assigned to it. When it
has disappeared, the real point at issue is changed. Cairnes
maintains that Thornton, though denouncing the sham doctrine,
still virtually holds the old doctrine. Thornton said (128*) that
'unionism could not keep up the rate (of wages) in one trade
without keeping it down in others.' And this, as Cairnes says,
implies some sort of 'predetermination,' though not the absolute
predetermination of the abandoned wage-fund. The main difference
is that Cairnes holds that capitalists will always compete;
whereas Thornton holds that they will ultimately combine and then
be certain of victory.(129*)
    This, I think, indicates the true underlying difficulty. The
'natural' rate of wages, said the economists, is fixed by 'supply
and demand.' 'Supply and demand' suggests the ordinary processes
which level prices in the market. Thornton declares that 'labour'
is bought and sold like corn or cotton. The analogy might be
denied. Mr Frederic Harrison observed that 'labour' is not 'a
thing' which can be bought and sold. Thornton treats this as a
purely verbal distinction, and expects even his antagonist to
admit that 'hiring' is simply a case of 'buying,' and therefore
governed by the same laws.(130*) If so, we may apply formula
derived from the case of the market. Then we tacitly introduce
the ordinary economic assumptions. The proposition that wages are
fixed by 'supply and demand' is taken to mean that the rate can
be deduced from the simple process of bargaining. The whole
theory of distribution can be worked out by considering the
fluctuations of the labour market: the value of labour being
fixed by the number of labourers, and the demand for capital
being represented by the rate of profit. The doctrine, it may be
admitted, is approximately true at a given time and place. It
simply generalises the arguments used in every strike. Capital
may be driven from a trade if wages be excessive; the influx or
efflux of capital will raise or lower wages in a given district,
and so forth. The facts may often be inaccurately stated by
interested parties, but their relevance is undeniable. The forces
of which Cairnes speaks, the competition of capitalists for
profits, of labourers for gages, and their effect upon
accumulation and population are undoubtedly the important
factors. It was precisely because the economists recognised these
obvious phenomena that they convinced themselves and persuaded
others. They talked a great deal of undeniable common-sense. They
could, again, fairly demand that some allowance should be made
for 'friction' -- for the fact, that is, that competition and the
various changes which it implies do not take place so rapidly and
automatically as they assumed. They took, it is true,
considerable liberties; they spoke as if capital could be changed
by magic, and a thousand quarters of corn transformed into a
steam-engine; or as if the population could instantaneously
expand or contract in proportion to its means of support. They
could forget at times that such phrases involve a kind of logical
shorthand, and suppose a 'fluidity' of capital, a rapidity in the
processes by which adaptations are carried out, which is unreal,
and may cover important errors.
    Still, with whatever allowances, we may accept the
approximate truth of the assumptions, as describing the process
by which immediate variations in wages are actually determined.
The real difficulty comes at the next stage. Granting the
approximate truth of the formulae at any given time and place,
can they give us a general theory of 'distribution' -- formulae
which can be applied to determine generally what share of the
total produce will go to labourers and what to capitalists? That
is, in other words, can the purely economic formula become also a
'sociological' formula? Will it not only assign the conditions
which govern the particular bargains, but enable us to determine
the whole process by which the industrial mechanism is built up?
That, as I take it, is the point at which the old economists
broke down. Their doctrines, applicable and important within the
appropriate sphere, become totally inadequate when they are
supposed to give a complete theory of industrial development.
    The unreality of the whole theory becomes obvious when we
give it the wider interpretation. The excuse of 'friction'
becomes insufficient. That may be applicable when the error is
simply due to a permissible simplification of the data; not when
the data are themselves wrongly stated. Ricardo, we have seen,
had virtually made an assumption as to the social order. The
labourers, we may say, are a structureless mass; a multitude of
independent units, varying in numbers but otherwise of constant
quality; the value of labour was thus dependent simply on the
abundance or scarcity of the supply, and the labourers were
assumed to be wholly dependent for support upon the capitalist.
The formula applicable upon such a hypothesis might be correct so
far as the data were correct. They would require a complete
revision when we consider the actual and far more complex social
state. Every difference of social structure will affect the play
of competition; the degree in which population is stimulated or
retarded; and the general efficiency of industry. A lowering of
wages instead of producing an increase of profit and an
accumulation of capital may lead to social degeneration, in which
labour is less efficient and the whole organism is slack and
demoralised. Conversely, rise of wages may lead to a more than
corresponding increase of production. The effect, again, of
accumulation of capital cannot be expressed simply by the
increased demand for labour. That seems plausible only so long as
capital is identified with money. It really implies an alteration
of the industrial system and conditions under which the bargain
is made. It may, again, be true that in any particular trade,
capital will be attracted or repelled by fluctuations in the rate
of profit; but it is by no means clear that we can infer that a
general rise or fall of profit will have the same effect upon
accumulation generally. For such reasons, as I take it, an
investigation of the laws of distribution would require us to go
beyond the abstractions about 'supply and demand,' however
appropriate they may be to immediate oscillations or relatively
superficial changes. No such short cut is possible to a real
sociological result. 'To follow out all the causes or conditions
involved would be,' as Professor Taussig says,(131*) 'to write a
book not only on distribution but on social philosophy at large.'
Mill, and especially Cairnes, were sensible of the need of taking
a wider set of considerations. Still no satisfactory conclusion
could be reached so long as it was virtually attempted to solve
the problem by bringing it under the market formula, instead of
admitting that the play of market is itself determined by the
structure behind the market. You have really assumed an
abnormally simple structure, and erroneously suppose that you
have avoided the necessity of considering the structure at all.
The wage-fund controversy brought out the inadequacy of the
method. One result has perhaps been to encourage some writers to
fall back into simple empiricism; to assume that because the
supposed laws were not rightly stated there are no laws at all;
that the justice of the peace can after all fix wages
arbitrarily; and that political economy should shrink back to be
'political arithmetic,' or a mere collection of statistics. The
more desirable method, one must hope, would be to assign the
proper sphere to the old method, and incorporate the sound
elements in a wider system. 


    Meanwhile, the over-confidence of the economists only
encouraged Socialists to revolt against the whole doctrine. It
might be a true account of actual facts; but, if so, demonstrated
that the existing social order was an abomination and a
systematic exploitation of the poor by the rich. The 'iron
necessity' was a necessity imposed by human law -- not, that is,
a legitimate development of social order, but something imposed
by force and fraud. In some directions Mill sympathised with such
doctrines. He professed to be in some sense a 'Socialist,' though
he was not acquainted with some of the works published during his
lifetime. He makes no reference to Marx or Lassalle and other
German writers. Possibly a study of their writings might have led
to modifications of his teaching. To him the name suggested Owen,
Fourier, St. Simon, or his friend Louis Blanc.(132*) Socialism,
as understood by the early leaders, commended itself to Mill,
because it proposed the formation of voluntary communities, like
Fourier's Phalansteries or Owen's New Harmony. They are capable
of being tried on a moderate scale, with no risk to any one but
the triers.(133*) They involve simply social experiments which
could only injure those who tried them. But a different view was
showing itself. Cairnes, commenting upon his master's so-called
Socialism, says that the name now implies the direct interference
of the state for the instant realisation of 'ideal
schemes.'(134*) He objects to this, and therefore, by
anticipation, to 'state Socialism.' Here Mill's position is
ambiguous. In the first place, while agreeing with the aims of
the Socialists, he 'utterly dissents from the most conspicuous
and vehement part of their teaching, their declamations against
competition.'(135*) 'Where competition is not,' he adds,
'monopoly is'; and monopoly means 'the taxation of the
industrious for the support of indolence, if not of plunder.'
Competition raises wages, if the supply of labourers is limited,
and can never lower them, unless the supply is excessive. As
Cobden is reported to have said, the real question is simply
whether two masters are running after one man, or two men after
one master. No one could speak more emphatically or forcibly upon
this. point, nor does he seem to have ever abandoned it. Both
Mill and his disciples saw the only solution in a different
direction. Co-operation is their panacea; and they are never
tired of appealing to the cases of its successful operation,
beginning with M. Leclaire's experiment in France and the
Rochdale pioneers in England. The pith of the doctrine was
already given in the famous chapter (136*) upon 'the probable
futurity of the labouring class' due to Mrs Mill's influence. His
hope for them lay in cooperation, and later editions only
differed from the first by recording new experiments. Cairnes
deduces the same conclusion from his wage-fund. The labourer can
only improve by ceasing to be a 'mere labourer'; profits must
're-inforce' the wage-fund; co-operation shows how this is to be
done, and, constitutes the one and only solution of our present
problem.'(137*) Thornton reaches the same conclusion,
co-operation giving the only compromise which can end the
internecine contest. He can only express his feelings in poetry,
and his last chapter upon 'labour's Utopia' is written with
creditable skill in the difficult terza rima. Fawcett fully
shared this enthusiasm; and the reason is sufficiently obvious.
Co-operation, in their sense, means simply the joint effort of
independent individuals. Competition is assumed to remain in full
force. All combinations, as Mill says of trades-unions, must be
voluntary. That is an 'indispensable condition of tolerating
them.'(138*) The member of a co-operative society is as free to
join or to leave as the shareholder in any commercial company.
The societies compete with each other and with capitalists at
every point. 'Supply and demand' regulate every part of their
transactions. The motive for joining is simply the desire of each
member to invest his savings, and therefore the vis medicatrix is
duly stimulated. Each man can thrive better by working in
concert; but he resigns none of his rights as an individual. He
has not enlisted in an army bound by discipline, but has joined
in a voluntary expedition.
    So far we have what seems to be the logical and consistent
result of the individualist view. But Mill, though he remains an
'individualist' philosophically, is also led to conclusions very
far from the ordinary individualist theory. The last part of his
treatise is devoted to a discussion of the limits of government
interference. He urges energetically that there should be some
space in human 'existence entrenched round and sacred from
authoritative intrusion,'(139*) a doctrine inherited from his
teachers and eloquently expanded in his Liberty. It marks the
point of transition from his economic to his ethical and
political teaching. After repeating the ordinary arguments
against excessive interference by way of protection, usury laws
and the like, he states as a general principle that the burden of
proof is on the advocates of interference, and that 'letting
alone should be the general practice.'(140*) All coercion, as
Bentham had said, is an evil, but, in certain cases, it is the
least possible evil; and Mill, as becomes an empiricist,
declining to lay down an absolute rule, only asks what are the
particular cases in which the evil is over-balanced by the good
of interference. But, here, if we consider the list of
exceptions, we must admit that the general principle is
remarkably flexible. Some cases have been already noticed. Mill
not only allowed but strongly advocated a national system of
education.(141*) He approved a great national scheme of
emigration (142*) and a scheme for home colonisation, and this
expressly with a view to lifting the poor, not gradually but
immediately into a higher level of comfort. He held that laws in
restraint of imprudent marriage were not wrong in principle,
though they might be inexpedient under many or most
circumstances. He approved of measures tending to equalisation of
wealth. He proposed that the right of bequest should be limited
by forbidding any one to acquire more than a certain sum, and so
counteracting the tendency to the accumulation of large
fortunes.(143*) He held that government should take measures for
alleviating the sufferings of labourers displaced by new
inventions or the excessive change of 'circulating', into 'fixed
capital.'(144*) He not only approved of measures for forming a
peasant-proprietary, but, in his last years, became president of
an association for altering the whole system of land tenure. He
thought that government should retain a property in canals and
railways, though the working should be leased to private
companies. He approved, as I have said, of the poor-law in its
new form. The factory legislation alone was still uncongenial to
his principles, though on moral grounds he accept the protection
of children. Even in this direction he incidentally makes a
remarkable concession. A point to which political economists had
not, he thinks, sufficiently attended is illustrated by the case
of the 'Nine Hours Bill.'(145*) Assuming, though only for the
sake of argument, that a reduction of labour hours from ten to
nine would be to the advantage of the workmen, should the law, he
asks, interfere to enforce reduction? The do-nothing party would
reply, No; because if beneficial, the workmen would adopt the
rule spontaneously. This answer, says Mill, is inconclusive. The
interest of the individual would be opposed to the interest of
the 'class collectively.' Competition might enforce the longer
hours; and thus classes may need the assistance of the law, to
give effect to their deliberate collective opinion of their own
interest.' Here again Mill seems to be admitting as an
'exception' a principle which goes much further than he observed.
He is mainly interested by the ethical problem, Is it ever right
to force a man to act against his own wishes in a matter
primarily concerning himself alone? He concludes that it may be
right, because each man may wish for a rule on condition that
every one else obeys it. In that case, the law only gives effect
to the universal desire. But the argument really involves an
exception to the beneficent action of competition. The case is
one in which, upon his assumptions, free competition of
individuals may lead to degeneration instead of a better
development. In such cases, it is possible that association,
enforced by law, may lead to benefits unattainable by the
independent units. This admission would go far in the Socialist
direction. It would justify the principle of 'collective
bargaining' to sanction the collective interests. In the same way
his justification of the factory acts in the case of children
leads beyond the moral to economic grounds. Mill's view, so far
as he goes, would fall in with the opinion that there was here a
necessary conflict between Christian morality and political
economy; or the admission that economic loss must be incurred for
moral considerations. But, in the long run, the two views
coincide; for practices which stint and degrade the breed must be
ultimately fatal to economic efficiency. As was often said at the
time, to forbid interference for economic reasons was to suppose
that the country could only flourish by treating children as it
might conceivably be necessary to treat them under stress of some
deadly and imminent peril. When economists looked beyond the
instantaneous advantage of the market, and remembered that
children were made of flesh and blood, it was obvious that on the
purest economic grounds, a system which implied the degradation
of the labourer must be in the end pernicious to every interest.
In this case, therefore, the interference of the law was
desirable from the economic as well as from the moral point of
    Nobody, of course, would have admitted this more cordially
than Mill, and the admission would imply that we must here look
beyond mere , supply and demand , or individual competition. When
we sum up these admissions, it appears that Mill was well on the
way to state Socialism. Lange, the historian of materialism,
praises him warmly upon this ground.(146*) Lange is enthusiastic
about Mill's Liberty, as well as about his Political Economy. He
praises the Economy on the ground that Mill's great aim is to
humanise the science; and, especially, that in the various
proposals which I have noticed Mill desires an active
interference of government towards raising the moral level of
society. Mill, in short, would have sympathised, had he come to
know it, with the Socialism of the Chair, which was beginning at
the time of his death to make a mark in Germany. Lange's
appreciation was, I think, in great part correct; and suggests
the question, How or how far was Mill consistent? Could a system
essentially based upon Malthus and Ricardo be reconciled with
modern Socialism?
    Mill once more was an individualist in the philosophical
sense. He assumes society to be formed of a number of independent
units, bound together by laws enforced by 'sanctions.' The
fundamental laws should be just; and justice presupposes
equality; equality, at at least in this sense, that the position
of each unit should depend upon his own qualities, and not upon
mere outward accidents. In his articles upon Socialism Mill
declared most emphatically that in the present state of society
any idea of such justice was 'manifestly chimerical';(147*) and
that the main conditions of success were first birth, and
secondly accident. In his first edition his discussion of
Socialism ends by justifying 'private property.' The best scheme
is that which lets every man's share of the produce depend on his
own exertions. He complains, however, that the principle has
'never yet had a fair trial in any country.' Inequalities have
been created and aggravated by the law.(148*) This passage
disappeared when he rewrote his views of Socialism. From the
first, however, he asserts a principle for which he gives the
chief credit to his wife.(149*) Laws of production, he says, are
'real laws of nature'; methods of distribution depend on the
human will, or, as he says in the Political Economy, 'the
distribution of wealth depends on the laws and customs of
society.'(150*) Can the laws secure a just distribution?
    Here, then, is a critical problem. As a Utilitarian he would
reply that government should make fair rules for the general
relations of individuals, and trust to the best man winning in an
open competition. Mill's point of difference from the Socialists
was precisely that he believed in competition to the last, and
was so far a thorough 'individualist.' Yet, as a matter of fact,
vast inequalities of wealth and power had developed, and exiled
justice from the world -- if, indeed, justice had ever existed
there. So far as this could be attributed to laws, unjust because
made by force and fraud, the remedy might lie in reforming the
laws. That case was exemplified by land. 'Landed property', he
says, in Europe, derives 'its origin from force.'(151*) English
land laws were first designed 'to prop up a ruling class.'(152*)
By force, in fact, the landowners had secured the best places at
Malthus's feast, and were enabled to benefit by, without
contributing to, the growth of the national wealth. Rent, says
Cairnes, is 'a fund ever growing, even while its proprietors
sleep.'(153*) Mill, of course, admitted that part of rent is due
to the application of capital; and he does not propose to
confiscate the wealth of the actual proprietors who had acquired
their rights fairly under the existing system. But he is
convinced that land differs radically from movable property.
Capital diminishes in value, as society advances; 'land alone...
has the privilege of steadily rising in value from natural
causes.' (154*) Hence we have the famous proposal of taking the
'unearned increment.'(155*) If the landowner was dissatisfied, he
should be paid the selling price of the day. A good many
landlords may regret that they had not this offer at the time
that it was proposed (1873). Thus land was to be nationalised;
the state was to become the national landlord, as in India,(156*)
and at any rate nothing was to be done by which more land could
get into private hands. He seems, indeed, still to believe in a
peasant-proprietary,(157*) but does not ask how far the doctrine
is compatible with nationalisation.
    If, then, the forcible acquisition of land by its first
owners be still a taint upon the existing title, is property in
other wealth altogether just? Mill admits in his discussion of
Thornton's book that something is to be said against capitalists.
'Movable property,' indeed, has, on the whole, a purer 'origin
than landed property.' It represents industry , not simply force.
There has, indeed, been a good deal of fraud, and many practices
at which 'a person of delicate conscience' might scruple.(158*)
This is a gentle adumbration of the view of some recent
Socialists. Is not capital, they would say, precisely the product
of fraud, and stained through and through by cheating? If Mill
was far from the doctrine of Marx, and did not hold that capital
was a mere name for the process of exploitation, he admitted at
least that there was no such thing as justice in the actual
industrial order. Wealth clearly represents something very
different from a reward given in proportion to industry. In the
first place, it is inherited, and Mill, as I have said, proposed
therefore to limit inheritances; and, in the next place, nobody
can suppose that a poor man who grows rich, even by purely
honourable means, gets a prize proportioned to his virtue or to
his utility; while, finally, the poor man certainly does not
start on equal terms with his richer rival. He that hath not may
not lose that which he hath; but he has small chances of climbing
the ladder, and if he climbs, his success means devotion to his
private interest.(159*) Mill's abandonment of the wage-fund,
again, involved the acceptance of the 'tacit conspiracy.' The
poverty of the mass is not due to a 'law of nature'; and
therefore it is due, partly at least, to the combination of
capitalists, which enables them to bring their power to bear in
keeping down the rate of wages to an indefinite extent.
    The social injustice against which he protests exists under a
system in which the laws are substantially equal. They no longer
recognise class distinctions explicitly; they have ceased to
forbid combinations or to fix the rate of wages; the paternal
theory of government is gone, as he says, for ever, and the old
relation of protector and protected supplanted by a system of
equality before the law.(160*) And yet monstrous inequalities and
therefore injustices remain. What is the inference? Here we have
the real inconsistency or, at least, failure to reconcile
completely two diverging principles. Mill and all his disciples
place their hopes in 'co-operation.' Co-operation can, they
think, be reconciled with the 'liberty' which they regarded both
as desirable in itself and as equivalent to the absence of law.
Co-operation, on this showing, implies first absolute freedom to
join or to leave the co-operative body. The individual joins with
other individuals, but does not sacrifice his individuality. The
relation is still, so to speak, 'external,' and the various
associations compete with each other as fully and unreservedly as
the component individuals. And yet there is an obvious
difficulty. Co-operation must involve a loss of 'liberty,' though
the loss may be compensated. If I co-operate, I undertake
obligations, enforcible by law, though not originally imposed by
law. Mill throws out the conjecture that the choice between
Socialism and individualism will 'depend mainly on one
consideration, viz., which of the two systems is consistent with
the greatest amount of human liberty and spontaneity.' (161*) Now
all association limits action in fact. When great companies take
up an industrial function of any kind, they put a stress upon the
individual, not necessarily the less forcible because not legally
imposed. A great railway, for example, soon destroys other
private enterprises, and makes itself practically necessary. It
is equally governed by a body in which most individual
shareholders exercise as little influence as though they were
appointed by the state. As the industrial machinery, human or
material, is developed, it becomes as much a part of social order
as if it were created by the legislature. The point upon which
Mill insists, that all associations must be 'voluntary,' then
becomes insignificant. I may be legally at liberty to stand
aside; but, in fact, they become imperative conditions of life.
That is to say, that the distinction drawn by the old
individualism between the state institutions and those created by
private action ceases to have the old significance. When a
society once develops an elaborate and complex structure, it
becomes almost pedantic to draw a profound distinction between a
system which is practically indispensable and one which is
legally imperative.
    I will not inquire further whether Mill's position could be
made logically coherent. One thing is pretty clear. If his views
had been actually adopted; if the state educated, nationalised
the land, supported the poor, restrained marriage, regulated
labour where individual competition failed, and used its power to
equalise wealth, it would very soon adopt state Socialism, and
lose sight of Mill's reservations. Mill, as I believe, had been
quite right when he insisted on the vast importance of
stimulating the sense of individual responsibility. That is, and
must always be, one essential moment of the argument. His
misfortune was, that having absorbed an absolute system in his
youth, and accepting its claims to scientific validity, he was
unable when he saw its defects to see the true line (if any one
yet sees the true line) of conciliation. His doctrine, therefore,
contained fragments of opposite and inconsistent dogmas. While
fancying that he was developing the individualist theories, he
adopted not only Socialism, but even a version of Socialism open
to the objections on which he sometimes forcibly insisted. Mill
and the Socialist are both individualists; only the Socialist
makes right precede fact, and Mill would make fact precede right.
Every individual, says the Socialist, has a right to support; the
consequences of granting the right must be left to Providence.
This, says Mill following Malthus, would be fatal, because the
individual would have no motive to support himself. He must only
have such a right as implies personal responsibility. But then,
as facts also show, many individuals may be unable to support
themselves even if they wish it, and their responsibility becomes
a mockery. If we enforce duties on all, must we not make the duty
possible? Must not every one be so trained and so placed that
work will be sure of reward? There is the problem, which he sees
and feels, though his answer seems to imply a doubtful shifting
between antagonistic theories. 


    I must glance finally at the relation of Mill's method to his
general principles. In an early essay (162*) he declares that the
method must be 'a priori,' that is, as he explains, 'reasoning
from an assumed hypothesis.'(163*) In the Logic it is treated as
a case of the 'direct deductive method.' This involves an
important point in his system. He had derived from Comte, as he
tells us,(164*) only one 'leading conception' of a purely logical
kind, the conception, namely, of the 'historical' or 'inverse
deductive method.' This method, implied in Comte's sociology,
starts, as Mill says, from the 'collation of specific
experience.' Now Mill agrees that this 'historical' method was
appropriate to sociology in general. He agrees, too, with Comte
that it was not the method used by economists. But, whereas Comte
had inferred that political economy must for that reason be a
sham science,(165*) Mill holds that economists were justified in
using a different method. Comte, he thought, had failed to see
that in certain cases the method of 'direct deduction' was
applicable to sociological inquiry. One such case, though he will
not undertake to decide what other instances there may be, is
political economy.(166*) He decides that the difficulties,
regarded by Comte as insuperable, may be overcome. His early
account is still valid; and he therefore explicitly rejects the
'historical' method.
    I confess that the use of these technical phrases appears to
me to be rather magniloquent, and to lead to some confusion.
Setting them aside, Mill's view may be briefly stated. He argues,
in the first place, that we cannot apply the ordinary method of
experiment to economic problems. To settle by experience whether
protection was good or bad, we should have to find two nations
agreeing in everything except their tariffs; and that, of course,
if not impossible, is exceedingly difficult.(167*) It follows
that if there be a true science of political economy, it must
have a different method. We might indeed adopt Comte's answer:
'There is no such science'; a view for which there is much to be
said. Mill, however, being confident that the science existed had
to justify its methods. Political economy, he says, considers man
solely as a wealth-desiring being; it predicts the 'phenomena of
the social state' which take place in consequence; and makes
abstraction of every other motive except the laziness or the
desire of present enjoyment which 'antagonise' the desire of
wealth. Hence it deduces various laws, though, as a fact, there
is scarcely any action of a man's life in which other desires are
not operative. Political economy still holds true wherever the
desire of wealth is the main end. 'Other cases may be regarded as
affected by disturbing causes' -- comparable, of course, to the
inevitable 'friction' -- and it is only on account of them that
we have an 'element of uncertainty' in political economy.
Otherwise it is a demonstrable science, presupposing an
'arbitrary definition' of a man as geometry presupposes an
'arbitrary definition 'of a straight line.'(168*)
    The relation of this doctrine to Mill's general views on
logic is clear, but suggests some obvious criticisms. 'Desire for
wealth,' for example, is not a simple but a highly complex
desire, involving in different ways every human passion.(169*) To
argue from it, as though its definition were as unequivocal as
that of a straight line, is at least audacious. Mill, no doubt,
means to express an undeniable truth. Industry, in general,
implies desire for wealth, and the whole mechanism supposes that
men prefer a guinea to a pound. The fact is clear enough, and if
proof be required can be proved by observation. We must again
admit that whatever psychological theorem is implied in the fact
must be assumed as true. But it does not follow that because we
assume the 'desire for wealth' we can deduce the phenomena from
that assumption. That inference would confound different things.
If we were accounting for the actions of an individual, we might
adopt the method. In some actions a man is guided by love of
money, and in others by love of his neighbour. We may 'deduce'
his action in his counting-house from his love of money, and
consider an occasional fit of benevolence as a mere 'disturbing
cause' to be neglected in general or treated as mere 'friction.'
A similar principle might be applied to political economy if we
could regard it as the theory of particular classes of actions.
But we have to consider other circumstances to reach any general
and tenable theory. We have to consider the whole social
structure, the existence of a market and all that it implies, and
the division of society into classes and their complex relations:
the distribution of functions among them and the creation of the
settled order which alone makes commerce possible. We cannot
argue to the action without understanding the structure of which
the agent is a constituent part, and which determines all the
details of his action. The building up of society implies the
influence not of any single desire, but of all the desires, modes
of thought, and affections of human beings. If, therefore, a
comprehension of existing institutions be necessary to political
economy, the deductive method is clearly unequal to the task
which he, partly following Comte, regards as implied in
'sociology' generally. To deduce, not the social structure at
large, but any social organ, from such an abstraction is
hopeless, because every organ is affected through and through by
its dependence upon other organs. Mill virtually supposes that
because the particular function can be understood by abstracting
from accidental influences, the organ of which it is a function
can be understood by abstracting from its essential relations to
the organism.
    Here, in fact, is the error which I take to be implied in
Mill's individualism. Given the social structure as it is, you
may fairly make some such abstraction as the postulates. You may
consider large classes of actions, exchange of wealth, and all
the normal play of commercial forces, as corresponding to the
rather vague 'desire for wealth,' and ask how an individual or a
number of individuals will act when under the influence of that
dominant motive. That is legitimate, and applies to what is
called 'pure political economy' -- the relatively superficial
study of the actual working of the machinery without considering
how the machinery came to have its actual structure. But directly
you get beyond this, to problems involving organic change, you
get to 'sociology,' and can only proceed -- if progress be
possible -- by the 'historical method,' or, in other words, by
studying the growth of the institutions of which we form a part,
and of which we may be considered as the product. This again
means that the general conception of the Utilitarians, which
recognises nothing but the individual as an ultimate unit, though
capable of combining and grouping in various ways, omits one
essential element in the problem. It regards all social
structures as on the same plane, temporary and indefinitely
alterable arrangements; and involves a neglect of the historical
or general point of view which is essential not only to an
understanding of society, but also of the individuals whose whole
nature and character is moulded by it. I have tried to show the
results upon the legal and political conceptions of Mill's
teachers. We now see how the conception of political economy as a
'deductive' or a priori science naturally misled the school. When
they mistook their rough generalisations for definitive science,
they brought discredit upon the theory, and played into the hands
of their enemies, the sentimentalists, who, finding that the
science was not infallible, resolved to trust to instincts and
defy 'laws of nature' in general. Read as common-sense
considerations upon social questions, the writings of Mill and
his followers were generally to the point and often conclusive.
When read as scientific statements, they fail from their obvious
inadequacy and the vague terminology which takes the airs of
clearly defined conceptions. Yet it is impossible to conclude
without noticing two admirable characteristics of Mill and his
disciples. The first is the deep and thorough conviction that the
elevation of the poorer classes is the main end of all social
inquiries. The second and the rarer is the resolution to speak
the plain truth, and to denounce all sophists who, professing the
same end, would reach it by illusory means. Mill's sympathies
never blinded him to the duty of telling the whole truth as he
saw it. 


1. Mill's Political Economy reached a sixth edition in 1865. A
popular edition was first reprinted in 1865 from the sixth
edition. I quote from the popular edition of 1883 by chapter and
section. This is applicable, with very slight exception, to all
editions. The 'table of contents' is almost identical from the
first to the last edition. Some sections were expanded by adding
later information as to land-tenures and co-operation. The early
chapter upon Ireland was altered on account of changes, which
Mill thought, made it no longer appropriate. An addition was made
to the chapter on "International Values"; and book ii, chap. i
was rewritten in order to give a more favourable estimate of
Socialism. On the whole, the changes were remarkably small.

2. See Unsettled Questions (1877) p. 1.

3. Political Economy, p. 265 (bk. iii. ch. i. section 1).

4. Ibid. p. 270 (bk. iii. ch. ii. section 3).

5. Logical Method of Political Economy (1875), p. 4.

6. See Morley's Life of Cobden (1881), ii. 249.

7. Prentice's Anti-Corn Law League, i. 77, 378.

8. Cobden's famous debate with Feargus O'Connor, the Chartist
leader, took place on 5th August 1844. Cobden's victory is
admitted even by the Chartist historian, who regards it as a
proof of O'Connor's incapacity -- R.C. Gammage's Chartist
Movement (1894), p. 254. Prentice has much to say of the
perverseness of the Chartist leaders.

9. Hodder's Shaftesbury, p. 341. This was in 1841. Shaftesbury
afterwards accepted free trade.

10. See, e.g., Cobden's Political Speeches, i., 119, 197.

11. Reprinted in 1884.

12. Report of 1834, p. 73.

13. Report of 1834, p. 169.

14. Report, p. 167.

15. Autobiography, p. 193.

16. Gammage's Chartist Movement, p. 54.

17. Alfred's Factory Movement, pp. 70-78. Alfred is a pseudonym
for Samuel Kydd.

18. Archbishop Whately is said to have thanked God that he had
never give a penny to a beggar. The view suggests some confusion
between the Political Economy Club and the Christian Church. In
Newman's Idea of a University (1875, p. 88, etc.) there is an
interesting passage upon the contrast between Christianity and
the doctrine of the first professor of Political Economy at
Oxford (Senior), that the accumulation of wealth was 'the
greatest source of moral improvement.' The contrast was

19. Miss Martineau attributes the apostasy of the Times to the
desire of the proprietors to please the country justices. See
History of the Peace (1877), ii. 508.

20. Alfred's Factory Movement, i, 138, 141.

21. See his life in Dictionary of National Biography.

22. Hodde's Shaftesbury, i. 161, 339.

23. Alfred's Factory Movement, i. 258.

24. Alfred's Factory Movement, i. 229.

25. Ibid. ii. 251.

26. See Westminster Review for April and October 1833; Edinburgh
Review for July 1835 and January 1844; Blackwood's Magazine for
April 1833; Fraser's Magazine for April 1833; and the Quarterly
Review for December 1836.

27. Hanzard, lxxiv. 911.

28. The passage was quoted in full by Milner-Gibson, 15th March

29. Macaulay's speech, 22nd May 1846 (in Miscellaneous Works,
1870, pp. 207-17), arguing that the moral question cannot be
answered by pure economists, and defending the Ten Hours' Bill,
is worth notice.

30. See Alfred's Factory Movement, i, 2.

31. See Cobden's letter at the end of the first volume of Mr
Morley's Life.

32. Holder's Shaftesbury, i, 300, 325.

33. History of Trades-Unionism (1894). See especially chaps. iii
and iv (from 1829 to 1860).

34. For the view of the economists, especially Nassau Senior, and
of a Whig government 'pledged to the doctrines of philosophical
Radicalism', see Mr and Mrs Sidney Webb's Trades-Unionism, pp.
123, etc., and the same writers' Industrial Democracy, p. 249.

35. Sadler's Law of Population, 2 vols. 8vo, appeared in 1830,
and was reviewed in the Edinburgh for July by Macaulay, who in
the number for January 1831 published a 'refutation' of Sadler's
'refutation.' The articles were first collected in Macaulay's
Miscellaneous Works.

36. Principles of Population and their Connection with Human
Happiness, 2. vols. 8vo, 1840.

37. The True Law of Population shown to be connected with the
Good of the People, 1 vol. 8vo, 1841 (second edition, 1847). G.
Poulette Scrope (1797-1876), better known as a geologist than an
economist, declares in his Political Economy (1833) that if every
nation were to be freed from all checks and 'to start off
breeding at the fastest possible rate,' very many generations
would pass 'before any necessary pressure could be felt.' (p.
276) The doctrine that there is an 'iron necessity' for resorting
to inferior soils is in contradiction to 'every known fact.' (p.
266) Scrope was a sentimentalist who starts from the 'natural
rights' of man to freedom, the 'bounties of creation,'
'property,' and 'good government.' Given these 'simple and
obvious principles, 'everything will go right.

38. Miscellaneous Works, p. 193.

39. Sadler's Population, ii, p. 387.

40. Political Economy, bk. i, ch. x, section 3 n. W.T. Thornton,
in his Over Population (p. 121), though a professed disciple of
Malthus, agrees with Doubleday. Mr Herbert Spencer criticises
Doubleday in his Biology, chap. xii, (section 366 n.) in course
of an elaborate discussion of the general question of fertility.

41. Bk. i, ch. x.

42. Political Economy, p. 212 (bk. ii, ch. xi, section 3).

43. One of Mill's rare quotations. See Shakespeare's Julius
Caesar, act iv, sc. iii.

44. Political Economy, p. 452, (bk. iv, ch. vi, section 1).

45. Ibid. p. 118 (bk, i, ch. xiii, section 2).

46. Political Economy, p. 99 (bk. i, ch. x, section 3).

47. See Mill's reference to Wordsworth, Political Economy, p. 155
(bk. ii, ch. vi, section 1 n).

48. See, e.g., his note to the Wealth of Nations, p. 565 seq.

49. As quoted by W.T. Thornton, Plea for Peasant Proprietors
(1874), p. 133.

50. Jones's Essay on the Distribution of Wealth and on the
Sources of Taxation: Book 1, Rent, appeared in 1831. Though
constantly pressed by his intimate friend, Whewell, to complete
the book, Jones never found the time for the purpose. In 1859,
Whewell published Jones's Literary Remains -- chiefly notes for
lectures -- with a life.

51. Rent, pp. 68, 146. Whewell in his preface to Jones's Remains
(p. xvii) seems to charge Mill with approprating Jones's
classification without due recognition of the merits. Mill used
the book freely, and calls it a 'copious repertory of valuable
facts' (Political Economy, bk. ii, ch. v, section 4). If he did
not speak more strongly of the merits of Jones's classification
(into 'labour', 'métayer,' 'ryot,' and 'cottier' rents) it was
probably because he thought Jones responsible for a fatal
confusion between 'cottiers' and 'peasant-proprietors'. In the
Rent this distinction is ignored. In the Remains, which Mill had
not seen, Jones speaks (pp. 208, 217, 438, 522, 537) of the
'peasant-proprietors' as an interesting class, but pronounces no
definite judgment upon the system.

52. Political Economy, p. 230 (bk. ii. ch. xiii, section 3).

53. Bain speaks of Thornton as one of the friends who, like
Sterling, maintained a close intimacy with Mill in spite of
differences of opinion. These differences certainly did not
prevent Thornton from speaking and writing of Mill in the tone of
an ardent and reverential admirer. As little has been told of
Thornton's private life, I will venture to say that, as a young
man, I used often to see him, when he visited Fawcett and
Fawcett's great friend, Mr C.B. Clarke, at Cambridge. Thornton's
extreme amiability, his placid and candid, if slightly
long-winded, discussion of his favourite topics, won the
affection of his young hearers, and has left a charming
impression upon the survivors.

54. Over Population, p. 268.

55. Ibid. p. 121.

56. Political Economy (bl. ii. ch. xii. section 4).

57. Plea for Peasant Proprietors (1874) p. 261 n.

58. Political Economy, p. 223 (bk. ii. ch. vi. section 6).

59. Political Economy, pp. 168, 171, 182 (bk. ii. ch. vi. section
67; vii. sections 1, 5).

60. Peasant Proprietors (1874), p. 159, referring to Lavergne's
Economic Rurale (1860).

61. Political Economy, p. 177 (bk. ii. ch. vii. section 4).

62. Political Economy, p. 182 (bk. ii. ch. vii. section 5).

63. Ibid. p. 460 (bk. iv. ch. vii. section 4).

64. Political Economy, p. 217 (bk. ii. ch. xi. section 6).

65. Ibid. p. 225 (bk. ii. ch. xii. section 4).

66. Ibid. p. 211 (bk. ii. ch. xi. section 3).

67. Ibid. p. 230, etc. (bk. ii. ch. xiii. section 31, 34). Mill,
in the later editions, observes that he has left this as it was
written, although the rapid increase of means of communication
has made the case 'no longer urgent.'

68. Political Economy, p. 221 (bk. ii. ch. xii. section 2).

69. Ibid. p. 230 (bk. ii. ch. xiii. section 3).

70. Ibid. p. 232 (bk. ii. ch. xiii. section 4).

71. Ibid. p. 225 (bk. ii. ch. xiii. section 1).

72. Ibid. p. 213 (bk. ii. ch. xi. section 4).

73. Political Economy, p. 229 (bk. ii. ch. xiii. section 2).

74. Political Economy, p. 213 (bk. ii. ch. xi. section 4).

75. Ibid. pp. 213, 216 (bk. ii. ch. xi. sections 3, 5).

76. Quoted from the report of the Poor-law Commission in 1840. --
Political Economy (bk. i. ch. vii. section 5).

77. Political Economy, p. 68 (bk. i. ch. vii. section 5).

78. Ibid. p. 460 (bk. iv. ch. vii. section 4), where he speaks of
the total want of fairness and justice on both sides.

79. Political Economy, p. 252 (bk. ii. ch. xv. section 6).

80. Political Economy, p. 209 (bk. ii. ch. xi. section 2).

81. Ibid. p. 418 (bk. iii. ch. xxvi. section 3).

82. Ibid. p. 253 (bk. ii. ch. xv. section 7).

83. Ibid. bk. i. ch. vii.

84. Ibid. p. 254 (bk. ii. ch. xv. section 7).

85. Ibid. bk. iv. ch. iv. Cf. Unsettled Questions, pp. 105-6. The
article by Ellis, on the effect of improvements in machinery
(Westminister Review for January 1826), though rather awkwardly
stated, with the old capitalist and his quarters of corn
illustration, puts the point clearly.

86. Political Economy, p. 102 (bk. i. ch. xi. section 2).

87. Ibid. p. 103 (bk. i. ch. xi. section 3).

88. Political Economy, p. 443 (bk. iv. ch. iv. section 4).

89. Ibid. bk. iv. ch. vi.

90. Ibid, p. 453 (bk. iv. ch. vi. section 2).

91. Political Economy (1862), ii. 323. In the later editions this
passage is replaced by a reference to the civil war, which showed
that the struggle for wealth is not necessarily fatal to the
'heroic virtues.'

92. Political Economy, bk. iv. ch. i.

93. Ibid. bk. iv. ch. iii.

94. Ibid. p. 439 (bk. iv. ch. iii. section 5).

95. Political Economy, p. 436 (bk. iv. ch. iii. section 4).

96. Ibid. p. 207 (bk. ii. ch. x. section 1).

97. Thornton's On Labour; its Wrongful Claims and Rightful
Demands. Another work generally mentioned in regard to this
controversy is Longe, Refutation of the Wages-Fund Theory (1866).

98. Professor Taussig, Wages and Capital (1896), p. 23. Professor
Taussig gives a very thorough and candid discussion of the
question, to which I am glad to refer. To follow the many
controversies which he notices would take me into technicalities
beyond the purpose of this book, and, I fear, beyond my

99. Cairnes's Leading Principles, etc. p. 214.

100. Wealth of Nations (M'Culloch), p. 38. Ricardo (Works, p. 59)
and Senior (Political Economy, p. 153) call it the 'fund for the
maintenance of labour'.

101. Political Economy, p. 39 (bk. i. ch. v. section 1).

102. Wealth of Nations (M'Culloch), p. 31. I do not consider what
was Adam Smith's general doctrine.

103. This is the gist of Ellis's article (see above, p. 200 n.).

104. Mill scandalised the staunch free-traders by admitting an
exception to the doctrine in the case of new countries
'naturalising a foreign industry' by a moderate duty (Political
Economy, bk. v. ch. x. section 1). Such incidental consequences
are obviously possible. A prohibition to import a material of
industry might lead to the discovery of mines at home or to new
methods of manufacture. But such results seem to lie outside of
pure political economy.

105. Political Economy, p. 209 (bk. ii. ch. xi. section 2).

106. As quoted by Cairnes's Leading Principles, p. 302.

107. Political Economy, bk. i. ch. v. section 5.

108. Cairnes's Leading Principles, p. 222. explains the
principle. Taussig (pp. 107 and 274) agrees with Brentano that
Mill's doctrine is simply a corollary from the theory that wages
'are paid out of capital.'

109. Political Economy, p. 219 (bk. ii. ch. xii. section 1).

110. Ibid. p. 219 (bk. ii. ch. xii. section 2).

111. Political Economy, p. 578 (bk. v. ch. xi. section 9)

112. Political Economy, p. 563 (bk. v. ch. x. section 5).

113. Ibid. p. 564 (bk. v. ch. x. section 5).

114. Political Economy, p. 56 (bk. i. ch. v. section 10).

115. Dissertations, iv. 47 (reprint of article in Fortnightly
Review of May 1869).

116. Ibid. iv. 67.

117. Since no edition of the Political Economy appeared between
this time and Mill's death, he had no opportunity of making
alterations in his treatise. His review of Thornton, however,
seems to indicate a failure to appreciate the full bearing of his

118. Dissertations, iv. 46.

119. Dissertations, iv. 43.

120. See Taussig, pp. 211-45 for the vagueness of such writers as
M'Culloch and Torrens, 'The point', he says, 'was hardly ever
raised in terms.'

121. Taussig, p. 238.

122. Article in Fortnightly Review for July 1860. See Mill,
Political Economy, p. 565 (bk. v. ch. x. section 5).

123. See Dictionary of National Biography for a short notice.

124. On Labour, p. 292.

125. Leading Principles, p. 257.

126. Leading Principles, p. 277.

127. 'Historically', says Professor Taussig (p. 242), 'there may
be ground for that contention,' viz., that the wage-fund never
meant more than Ricardo's doctrine that profits were the 'leaving
of wages', and that accumulation depended on profits. This, he
adds, is held by many writers who reject the 'wage-fund' proper,
that is, Thornton's 'will-o'-the-wisp.'

128. On Labour, p. 288.

129. On Labour, p. 274.

130. Ibid. pp. 86, 87.

131. Taussig, p. 122.

132. See the posthumous articles in the Fortnightly Review for
February, March, and April, 1879. They were obviously imperfect,
and scarcely justified publication.

133. Political Economy, p. 133 (bk. ii. ch. i. section 4).

134. Leading Principles, p. 316.

135. Political Economy, p. 476 (bk. iv. ch. vii. section 7).

136. Political Economy, p. 476 (bk. iv. ch. vii.) Mill refers to
Babbage's Economy of Machinery and Manufactuers for an incidental
reference to applications of profit-sharing in Cornish mines, and
a suggestion that it would be applicable elsewhere. Babbage gives
little more than a passing suggestion.

137. Leading Principles, pp. 339, 344.

138. Political Economy, p. 566 (bk. v. ch. x. section 5).

139. Political Economy, p. 569 (bk. v. ch. xi. section 2).

140. Ibid. p. 573 (bk. v. ch. xi. section 7).

141. He qualifies this to some extent in the Liberty. The state
should enforce education and pay for it, but not provide schools.
The line is hard to draw.

142. See especially Political Economy, p. 585 (bk. v. ch. xi.
section 14).

143. Political Economy, p. 138 (bk. ii. ch. ii. section 4).

144. Ibid. p. 61 (bk. i. ch. vi. section 3).

145. Political Economy, p. 581 (bk. v. ch. xi. section 12).

146. J.S. Mill's Ansichten uber die Sociale Frage, etc. (1866).

147. Fortnightly Review for February 1879.

148. Political Economy (first edition) i. 252-53.

149. Autobiography, p. 246.

150. Political Economy, p. 123 (bk. ii. ch. i. section 1).

151. Dissertations, iv. 59.

152. Ibid. iv. 240.

153. Leading Principles, p. 333.

154. Dissertations, iv. 263.

155. Ibid. iv. 285.

156. Ibid. iv. 274.

157. Ibid. iv. 269.

158. Ibid. iv. 60. The whole doctrine that the sanctity of
property depends upon the mode of acquisition by remote
proprietors seems to be scarcely reconcilable with sound

159. After giving Adam Smith's famous account of the causes of
the varying rates of wages, Mill points out 'a class of
considerations' too much neglected by his predecessors: cases,
namely, in which unskilled labourers are insufficiently paid; and
remarks that there is almost a 'hereditary distinction of caste.'
-- Political Economy, p. 238 (bk. ii. ch. xiv. section 2).

160. Political Economy, p. 456 (bk. iv. ch. vii. section 1).

161. Ibid. p. 129 (bk. ii. ch. i. section 3).

162. 'On the Definition of Political Economy, and on the Method
of Investigation proper to it.' Reprinted in Unsettled Questions,
and quoted in the Logic, p. 288 (bk. vi. ch. ix. section 3).

163. Unsettled Questions, p. 143.

164. Autobiography, p. 210.

165. See, e.g., Comte's Philosophie Positive, iv. 266-78. The
fourth volume of Comte disappointed Mill, as he says; and this
probably explains one reason.

166. Logic, p. 590 (bk. vi. ch. ix. section 4).

167. Unsettled Questions, p. 148.

168. Ibid. pp. 137-50.

169. Mill makes this remark himself in writing to Comte about
Chapter IV

Politics and Ethics

 I. Mill's Problem

    In the Political Economy Mill had touched upon certain
ethical and political questions. These are explicitly treated in
a later group of works. The first and most important was the
essay upon Liberty (1859). I have already spoken of the elaborate
composition of this, his most carefully written treatise.(1*) The
book, welcomed by many even of his opponents, contains also the
clearest statement of his most characteristic doctrine. The
treatises on Representative Government (1861), upon the
Subjection of Women (written at the same time, but not published
till 1869), and upon Utilitarianism (in Fraser's Magazine, 1861,
and as a book in 1863), are closely connected with the Liberty,
and together give what may be called his theory of conduct.(2*) I
shall try to bring out their leading principles.
    The Liberty, says Mill, could have no claim to originality
except in so far as thoughts which are already common property
receive a special impress when uttered by a thoughtful mind.
Hymns to liberty, indeed, have been sung so long and so
persistently that the subject ought to have been exhausted. The
admission that liberty can be in any case an evil is generally
evaded by a device of touching simplicity. Liberty, when bad, is
not called liberty. 'Licence, they mean,' as Milton puts it,
'when they cry liberty.' Bentham exposes the sophistry very
neatly as a case of 'sham-distinctions' in the book of
    The general sentiment is perfectly intelligible from the
jacobin point of view. At a time when legislators were supposed
to have created constitutions, and priests to have invented
religions, history was taken as a record of the struggle of
mankind against fraud and force. War is simply murder on a large
scale, and government force organised to support tyrants. All
political evils can be attributed to kings, and superstition to
priests, without blaming subjects for slavishness and stupidity.
Such language took the tone of a new gospel during the great
revolutionary movements of the eighteenth century. Men who were
sweeping away the effete institutions upheld by privileged
classes assumed 'Liberty' to be an absolute and ultimate
principle. The Utilitarians, though political allies, were
opposed in theory to this method of argument. Liberty, like
everything else, must be judged by its effects upon happiness.
Society, according to them, is held together by the sovereign.
His existence, therefore, is essentially necessary, and his power
almost unlimited. The greater was the importance of deciding when
and where it should be used. Bentham and James Mill assumed that
all ends would be secured by making the sovereign the servant of
the people, and therefore certain to aim at the greatest
happiness. They reached the same conclusions, therefore, as those
who reached them by a rather shorter cut, and their doctrine
differed little in its absolute and a priori tendency. Thorough
democracy would give the panacea. J. S. Mill had become
heretical. I have noticed in his life how he had been alarmed by
the brutality and ignorance of the lowest classes, and had come
to doubt whether 'liberty,' as understood by his masters, would
not mean the despotic rule of the ignorant. The doubts which he
felt were shared by many who had set out with the same political
    Here we come once more to the essentially false position in
which the philosophical radicals found themselves. The means
which they heartily approved led to ends which they entirely
repudiated. They not only approved, but were most active in
advocating, the adoption of democratic measures. They demanded,
in the name of liberty, that men should have a share in making
the laws by which they were bound. The responsibility of rulers
was, according to James Mill, the one real principle of politics;
and it followed that, to use the sacred phrase, the 'sinister
interests, which distract them should be destroyed. The
legislation which followed the Reform Bill gave an approximate
sanction to their doctrine. The abolition of rotten-boroughs
destroyed the sinister interest of the land owners; the reform of
municipalities, the sinister interest of the self-elected
corporations; the new poor-law, the sinister interest of the
parish vestries; and the ecclesiastical reforms showed that great
prelates and ancient cathedrals were not too sacred to be
remodelled and made responsible. The process inevitably smoothed
the way for centralisation. The state, one may say, was beginning
to come to life. The powers which, in a centralised government,
are exercised by an administrative hierarchy, had been treated
under the category of private property. To introduce
responsibility was to remove the obstacles to uniform machinery.
Vigorous action by a central authority had been impossible so
long as power had been parcelled out among a number of different
centres, each regarding its privileges as invested with all the
sanctity of private property. The duke, who claimed that he
'might do as he would with his own' -- including his boroughs --
had surrendered that part of his property to the new voters. They
enjoyed their rights not as a personal attribute, but ill virtue
of satisfying some uniform condition. For the time, indeed, the
condition included, not simply a ripe age and masculine sex, but
'ten-pound householdership.' Power held by men as members of a
class is, at any rate, no longer private property, but something
belonging to the class in general, and naturally used in the
interests of the class collectively. The legislature could make
general rules where it used rather to confirm a set of distinct
bargains made with each proprietor of ultimate authority. So far,
the generalising and centralising process was both inevitable and
approved by the Utilitarians. Nor could they, as prominent
advocates of codification and law-reform generally, object to the
increased vigour of legislation no longer trammelled by the
multitude of little semi-independent centres. But a further
implication often escaped their notice. 'Liberty' is increased by
destroying privilege in the sense that the individual acquires
more influence upon the laws that bind him. But it does not
follow that he will be 'freer' in the sense of having fewer laws
to bind him. The contrary was the case. The objection to the
privileges was precisely that the possessors retained them
without discharging the correlative functions. The nobles and the
corporations had not been too active, but too indolent. They had
left things undone, or left them to be done after a haphazard
fashion by individual energy. The much-lauded 'self-government'
implied an absence of government, or precisely the state of
things which was no longer possible when the old privileges were
upset. The newly organised municipalities had to undertake duties
which had been neglected by the close corporations, and others
which had been clumsily discharged by individuals. The result was
that the philosophical radicals found that they were creating a
Frankenstein. They were not limiting the sphere of government in
general, only giving power to a new class which would in many
ways use it more energetically. The difference came out in the
economic matters where the doctrine of non-interference had been
most actively preached. The Chartists and their allies claimed
their 'rights' as indisputable possessions, whatever might be the
consequences. To the Utilitarians this meant that the Chartists
were prepared in the name of a priori principles to attack the
most necessary institutions, and fly in the face of 'laws of
nature.' The old system had tended to keep the poor man down. The
Chartist system would help him to plunder the rich. The right
principle was to leave everything to 'supply and demand.' As the
contrast became clearer, some of the philosophical radicals
subsided into Whiggism, and others sank into actual Tories. Mill
remained faithful, but with modified views. He had seen in the
hostility of the lower classes to sound economy an illustration
of the ignorance, selfishness, and brutality of the still
uneducated mass.(4*) But he drew a moral of his own. The
impression made upon him by Tocqueville's Democracy in America is
characteristic. That remarkable book led him to aim at a
philosophical view of the whole question. It was an impartial
study of the whole question of the social and political
tendencies summed up in the phrase, 'democracy.' The general
result was to open Mill's eyes to both the good and evil sides of
democracy, to regard democracy in some shape as inevitable
instead of making it a religion or denouncing it as diabolical;
and to consider how the evils might be corrected while free play
might be allowed to the beneficial tendencies. It enlightened
him, he says, more especially on the great question of
centralisation, and freed him from the 'unreasoning prejudices'
which led some of the radicals to oppose even such measures as
the new Poor Law.(5*) So much may indicate Mill's general
attitude; and, if his conclusions were questionable, the main
purpose was so far eminently philosophical.
    Mill begins his Liberty by insisting upon the danger to which
his attention had been roused by the course of events. The
conflict between liberty and authority led to the demand that
rulers should become.responsible to their subjects; and when this
result was secured, a new evil appeared. The tyranny of the
majority might supplant the tyranny of rulers; and, if less
formidable politically, might be even worse spiritually. 'Social
tyranny' may be more penetrative than political, and enslave the
soul itself.(6*) In England the 'yoke of law' may be lighter, but
the 'yoke of opinion' is perhaps heavier than elsewhere in
Europe. When the masses have learned their power, they will
probably be as tyrannical in legislation as in public
opinion.(7*) The purpose of his essay is to assert 'one very
simple principle' by which this tendency may be restrained. That
principle is (briefly) that the sole end which warrants
interference with individual action is 'self-protection.' He will
argue not from 'abstract rights,' but from 'utility' understood
in its largest sense, and corresponding 'to the interests of a
man as a progressive being.'


    The principle thus formulated is applicable both in the
sphere of speculation and in the sphere of conduct. Mill first
considers 'liberty of thought and discussion.' He has here the
advantage of starting from a generally admitted principle. Every
one now admits, in words at least, the doctrine of toleration.
Mill might have adduced a catena of authorities beginning with
the seventeenth century writers who, having themselves suffered
persecution, were slowly perceiving that persecution even of
error was objectionable. It is a proof of his ability that he
could give fresh interest to so old a topic. In the previous
generation indeed it had still been a practical question. The
early Utilitarians had to attack the disqualifications imposed
upon dissenters, and had remonstrated against the persecution of
Carlisle. That incident had started Mill's literary career.
Moreover, as he points out, the prosecutions of Pooley, Truelove,
and Mr Holyoake showed that the old spirit was not extinct in
1857.(8*) Still, these were but 'rags and remnants of
persecution.' In denouncing them Mill was going with the tide.
The ground upon which he plants his argument is more significant.
The older writers had chiefly insisted upon the question of
right. It cannot be just to punish a man for acting rightly, and
it must surely be right for me to speak what I conscientiously
believe to be true. One of James Mill's articles in the
Westminster took this ground. Samuel Bailey had argued that a man
cannot be responsible to men for his beliefs, inasmuch as they
are beyond his own control. He may be foolish, but he cannot be
immoral -- a thesis which James Mill defended against certain
theological opponents.(9*) J. S. Mill, taking the ground of
'utility,' is led to wider considerations. He argues in substance
that the suppression of opinions or of their free utterance is
always opposed to the most vital interests of society. Hence the
question as to liberty of thought connects itself with the whole
question as to liberty of conduct. It comes under his general
principle as to the rightful provinces of collective and
individual action. His general conclusion upon freedom of
dismission is summed up in four propositions.(10*) The opinions
suppressed may, in the first place, be true. To deny that
possibility is to assume infallibility. Secondly, if not wholly,
they may be partly, true; and to suppress them is to prevent
necessary corrections of the accepted beliefs. Thirdly, even a
true opinion which refuses to be tested by controversy will be
imperfectly understood. And fourthly, an opinion so held will
become a dead formula, and only 'cumber the ground,' preventing
the growth of real and heartfelt convictions.
    The general validity of the arguments is unimpeachable, and
the vigour of statement deserves all commendation. Mill puts
victoriously the case for the entire freedom of thought and
discussion. The real generosity of sentiment, and the obvious
sincerity which comes from preaching what he had practised, gives
new force to well-worn topics. The interest of the race not only
requires the fullest possible liberty to form and to communicate
our own opinions, but rather makes the practice a duty. Though
Mill gives the essential reasons, his presentation of the case
has significant peculiarities. Even if an opinion be true, he
says, it ought to be open to discussion. He proceeds to urge the
more doubtful point, that contradiction, even when the truth is
contradicted, is desirable in itself. Free discussion not only
destroys error, but invigorates truth. It preserves a wholesome
intellectual atmosphere, which kills the weeds and stimulates the
healthy growths. In mathematical reasoning, indeed, the evidence
is all on one side. There are no objections, and no answers to
objections. But as soon as we reach any question of the truths
even of physical, and still more of the moral, sciences, truth
must be attained by balancing 'two sets of conflicting
reasons.'(11*) The doctrine, true or false, which is not
contradicted, comes to be held as a 'dead belief.' An objector is
supposed to observe that on this showing, the existence of error
is necessary to the vitality of truth, and that a belief must
perish just because it is unanimously accepted. Mill 'affirms no
such thing.' He admits 'that the stock of accepted truths must
increase.' But the growth of unanimity, though 'inevitable and
indispensable,' has its drawbacks. It would be desirable to
encourage contradiction even by artificial contrivances. The
Socratic dialectics and the school disputations more or less
supplied a want which we have now no means of satisfying.(12*) By
systematic discussion of first principles, men are forced to
understand the full bearing and the true grounds of their
professed beliefs. This doctrine is illustrated, and no doubt was
derived in part from the early discussions in which Mill had
trained his logical powers. It suggests a valuable mode of mental
discipline; but as a statement of the conditions of belief, it
seems to confuse the accident with the essence. The bare fact of
sincere contradiction surely tends to weaken belief; and
resistance to contradiction, though it measures the strength of
belief, is not the cause of its strength. No doubt a truth may be
strengthened in passing through the ordeal of contradiction, so
far as we are thus forced to realise its meaning. The same result
may be produced by other means, and, above all, by applying
belief to practice. We believe in arithmetical truths, partly
because the oftener we have to count the more we realise the
truth that two and two make four. Whatever the original source of
our beliefs, the way to make them vivid is to act upon them. Mill
himself incidentally observes that men have a living belief in
religious doctrines, 'just up to the point to which it is usual
to act upon them.'(13*) That, I take it, hits the point. The
doctrine, for example, that we should turn the second cheek is
practically superseded, not because it is never contradicted, but
because it does not correspond to our genuine passions or
actions. Beliefs, true or erroneous, preserve their vitality so
long as they are put into practice, and not the less because they
are held unanimously. What is true is that they are then rather
instincts than opinions. Beliefs do not die when unchallenged,
but are the more likely to be 'dormant' or held implicitly
without conscious formulation.
    This leads to a further result. As Mill insists in the Logic,
'verification' is an essential part of proof. To act upon a
belief is one way of verifying. The fact that we apply a theory
successfully is also a valid proof that it is true in the great
mass of everyday knowledge. But a religious belief is not
verified in the same sense. The fact that I act upon it, and am
satisfied with my action, proves that it is in harmony with my
emotions, not that it is a true statement about facts. The
persuasive force often remains, though the logic has become
unsatisfactory. This suggests the question as to the nature of a
satisfactory 'verification.' We clearly hold innumerable beliefs
which we have not fully tested for ourselves. Mill supposes his
opponent to urge that simple people must take many things on
trust.(14*) We might rather say that even the wisest has to take
nine-tenths of his beliefs on trust. We may rightly believe many
truths which we are incompetent either to discover or to prove
directly because we can verify them indirectly. We can accept
whole systems of truth, though we are unable to follow the direct
proofs. A belief in astronomical theories, for example, is
justified for the vast majority, not because they can understand
the arguments of Laplace or Newton, but because they may know how
elaborately and minutely the conclusions of astronomers are daily
verified. The question is not whether we should take things on
trust; we cannot help it; but upon what conditions our trust
becomes rational. Authority cannot simply justify itself; but it
is reasonable to trust an authority which challenges constant
examination of its credentials and thorough verification of its
    Mill's tendency is not, of course, to deny, but to treat this
too slightly. He is inclined to regard ' authority' as something
logically opposed to reason, or, in other words, to accept the
old Protestant version of the 'right of private judgment'; or to
speak as if every man had to build up his whole structure of
belief from the very foundations. There is, he would admit, a
structure of knowledge erected by the convergence of competent
inquirers, and tested by free discussion and careful verification
at every point of its growth. New theories give and receive
strength from their 'solidarity' with established theories; and
'authority' is derived from the reciprocal considerations of
various results of investigation. Mill is apt to speak as if each
thinker and each opinion were isolated. The 'real advantage which
truth has, consists,' he says, 'in this, that though a true
opinion may be often suppressed, it will be generally
rediscovered, and may be rediscovered at a favourable moment,
when it will escape persecution and grow strong enough to defend
itself.'(15*) Persecution may succeed and often has succeeded.
The doctrine that it cannot succeed is a 'pleasant falsehood'
which has become commonplace by repetition. The statement is
surely incomplete. Errors, like truths, may be 'rediscovered' or
revived. There are 'idols of the tribe' -- fallacies dependent
upon permanent weaknesses of the intellect itself, which appear
at all ages and may gain strength under favourable circumstances.
Truth becomes definitively established when it is capable of
fitting in with a nucleus of verified and undeniable truth. Mill
seems to have in mind such a truth as the discovery of a
particular fact. If the existence of America had been forgotten,
it would be rediscovered by the next Columbus. If the dream of an
Atlantis had once vanished, we need never dream it again. But the
statement is inadequate when the truth discovered is some new law
which not merely adds to our knowledge, but helps to systematise
and to affect our whole method of reasoning.
    This position affects Mill's view of the efficacy of
persecution. He argues, rather oddly, from the suppression of
Lollards, Hussites, and Protestants. Mill certainly did not hold
that the suppressed opinions were true; and he does not attempt
to prove that they would not have died out of themselves. If
Protestantism was suppressed in Spain, the reason may have been
that it was so little congenial to the Spanish people, that the
persecutions were on the side of the really dominant tendencies
of the majority. That a tree without roots may fall the quicker
when the wind blows needs no proof; but is not conclusive as to
the effect upon a living tree. The true view, I venture to think,
is different.(16*) Opinions are not a set of separate dogmas
which can be caught and stamped out by themselves. So long as
thought is active it works by methods too subtle to be met by
such coarse weapons. It allows the dogma to persist, but
evacuates it of meaning. The whole structure becomes honeycombed
and rotten, as when in France sceptics had learned to say
everything without overtly saying anything. Persecution directed
against this or that separate theory only embitters and poisons a
process which is inevitable if people are to think at all; and
persecution can only succeed, either where it is superfluous, or
where it is so systematic and vigorous as to suppress all
intellectual activity. In either case the result is most
lamentable, and the admission only strengthens the case against
persecuting. Persecution can only succeed by paralysing the whole
intellectual movement.
    I think, then, that Mill, though essentially in the right,
has an inadequate perception of one aspect of the question.
Elsewhere(17*) he complains that we have substituted an
apotheosis of instinct for an apotheosis of reason, and so fallen
into an infinitely more 'degrading idolatry.' Here, he seems
inclined to attack all beliefs not due to the individual reason
acting independently. He accentuates too decidedly the absolute
value, not of freedom, but of its incidental result,
contradiction. He seems to hold that opposition to an established
opinion is good in itself. He would approve of circle-squarers
and perpetual-motion makers because they oppose established
scientific doctrines. He admires originality even when it implies
stupidity. Intelligence shows itself as much in recognising a
valid proof as in rejecting a fallacy; and the progress of
thought is as dependent upon co-operation and the acceptance of
rational authority as upon rejecting errors and declining to
submit to arbitrary authority. A man after all ought to realise
the improbability of his being right against a consensus of great
thinkers. Mill himself remarks, when criticising Bentham, that
even originality is not 'a more necessary part of the
philosophical character than a thoughtful regard for previous
thinkers and for the collective mind of the human race.'(18*)
That, I take it, is perfectly true, but is apt to pass out of
sight in his argument. The ideal state is not one of perpetual
contradiction of first principles, but one in which contradiction
has led to the establishment of a rational authority.


    I have insisted upon this chiefly because a similar error
seems to intrude into the more difficult problems which follow.
The real difficulty of toleration arises when we have to draw the
line between speculation and action. Is it possible to
discriminate absolutely? to give absolute freedom to thought and
yet to maintain institutions which presuppose agreement upon at
least some general principles? If men, as Mill asks, should be
free to form and to utter opinions, should they not be free to
act upon their opinions -- to carry them out, so long at least as
it is 'at their own risk and peril' -- in their lives?(19*) How
does the principle present itself in this case? Mill has
declined(20*) to take advantage of any assumption of absolute
right. He wishes to give a positive ground; to show that the
liberty which he demands corresponds in point of fact to a
necessary factor of human progress. His own doctrine is that the
'development of individuality is one of the leading essentials of
well-being'; and he adopts as identical the doctrine of Wilhelm
von Humboldt,(21*) that the right end of man is 'the highest and
most harmonious development of his powers to a complete and
consistent whole.' Humboldt considers this end to be 'prescribed
by the eternal or immutable dictates of reason.' Mill would
prefer, we may suppose, to have regarded it as the uniform
teaching of experience. In either case, it is a broad and
elevated doctrine which few thinkers would deny in general terms.
It is, moreover, eminently characteristic of Mill in his best
mood. He never wrote more forcibly than in his exposition of this
doctrine. He is now stimulated by the belief that he is preaching
in painfully deaf ears: In advocating freedom of thought or
denouncing despotism he was enforcing the doctrines most certain
of popular applause. But nobody cared much for 'individuality' or
objected to the subtler forms of moral tyranny. The masses are
satisfied with their own ways; and even 'moral and social
reformers' want as a rule to suppress all morality but their own.
Mill is uttering forebodings common to the most cultivated class.
The fear lest the growth of democracy should imply a crushing out
of all the higher culture has been uttered in innumerable forms
by some of our most eloquent writers and keenest thinkers. The
course of events since Mill's death has certainly not weakened
such fears. The problem is still with us, and certainly not
solved. Mill's view is eminently characteristic of his whole
doctrine. How, starting as a democrat, he had been led to a
strong sense or the possible evils of democracy, I have already
tried to show. I have now to inquire into the relation of this
view to his general theory.
    'Custom' in conduct corresponds to tradition in opinion. So
far as you make it your guide, you need no faculty but that of
'ape-like imitation.'(22*) You cultivate neither your reason nor
your will when you let the world choose your plan of life. You
become at best a useful automaton -- not a valuable human being;
and of all the works of man, which should be perfected and
beautified, the first in importance is surely man himself.
Obedience to custom implies condemnation of 'strong impulses' as
a snare and a peril. And yet strong impulses are but a name for
energy, and may be the source of the 'most passionate love of
virtue and the sternest self-control.' Individual energy was once
perhaps too strong for the 'social principle.' Now 'society' has
fairly got the better of individuality. We live in dread of the
omnipresent censorship of our neighbours, desire only to do what
others do, bow even our minds to the yoke, shun 'eccentricity' as
a crime, and allow our human capacities to be starved and
withered. Calvinism, he says, preaches explicitly that self-will
is the 'one great offence of men.' Such a creed generates 'a
pinched and hidebound type of human nature.' Men are cramped and
dwarfed, as trees are clipped into pollards. It has lost sight of
qualities belonging to a different type of excellence. 'It may be
better to be a John Knox than an Alcibiades; but it is better to
be a Pericles than either.'
    Clipping and cramping means loss of 'individuality', and
'individuality' may be identified with 'development.' This, he
says, might close the argument; but he desires to give further
reasons to prove to those who do not desire liberty for
themselves that it should be conceded to others. His main point
is the vast importance of genius, which can only exist in an
atmosphere of freedom. The 'initiation of all wise and noble
things comes, and must come, from individuals.' He is not such a
'hero-worshipper' as to desire a heroic tyrant, but he ardently
desires a heroic leader; and where eccentricity is a reproach,
genius will never be able to expand. Press all people into the
same mould, condemn tastes which are not the tastes of the
majority, and every deviation from the beaten path becomes
impossible. Yet public opinion tends to become more stifling.
'Its ideal of character is to be without character.' 'Already
energetic characters on any large scale are becoming merely
traditional.' The greatness of England is now all collective. We
are individually small, and capable of great things only by our
'habit of combining.' 'Men of another stamp made England what it
has been, and men of another stamp will be needed to prevent its
decline.' The evil is summed up in the 'despotism of custom.'
China is a standing warning. It had the 'rare good fortune ' of
possessing a particularly good set of customs. But the customs
have become stereotyped, the people all cast into the same mould,
and China therefore is what England is tending to become.
    Hitherto European progress has been due to the diversity of
character and culture of the various nations. It is losing that
advantage. Nations are assimilated; ranks and professions are
losing their distinctive characters; we all read the same books,
listen (not quite all of us?) to the same sermons, and have the
same ends. The process is accelerated by all the past changes.
The extension of education, the extension of means of
communication, the extension of manufactures, and, above all, the
supremacy of public opinion, are all in its favour. With 'so
great a mass of influences hostile to individuality' it is 'not
easy to see how it can stand its ground.'
    When Mill, as a young man, suddenly reflected that, if all
his principles were adopted, he should still be unhappy, he did
not doubt their truth. But now he seems to be emphatically
asserting that the victory of all the principles for which he and
his friends had contended would be itself disastrous. 'Progress'
meant precisely the set of changes which he now pronounces to
lead to stagnation. Democracy in full activity will extinguish
the very principle of social vitality. And yet, when at a later
period Mill became a politician, he gave his vote as heartily as
the blindest enthusiast for measures which inaugurated a great
step towards democracy. His sincerity in both cases is beyond a
doubt, and gives emphasis to the problem, how his practical
political doctrine can be reconciled with his doctrine of
    The first question provoked by such assertions is the
question whether this is a correct, still more, whether it is an
exhaustive, diagnosis of the social disease? May not Mill be
emphasising one aspect of a complex problem, and seeing the
extinction of that 'individuality' which is really an element of
welfare, in the extinction of such an 'individualism' as is
incompatible with social improvement? His general aim is
unimpeachable. The harmonious development of all our faculties
represents a worthy ideal. The first or most essential of all
human virtues, as Humboldt had said, is energy; for the greater
the vitality, the more rich and various the type which can be
evolved by cultivation. Yet it may be doubted whether the two
aims suggested will always coincide. Energy certainly may go with
narrowness, with implicit faith and limited purpose. The stream
flows more forcibly in a defined channel. If Knox was inferior to
Pericles or, say, the Jew to the Greek, the inferiority was not
in energy or endurance. The efflorescence of Greek culture was
short lived, it has been said, because there was too much
Alcibiades and too little of Moses.(23*) Culture tends to
effeminacy unless guarded by 'renunciation' and regulated by
concentration upon distinct purpose. As in the question of
toleration, Mill overestimates the value of mere contradiction,
so in questions of conduct he seems to overestimate mere
eccentricity. Yet eccentricity is surely bad so far as it is
energy wasted; expended upon trifles or devoted to purposes which
a wider knowledge shows to be chimerical. To balance and
correlate the various activities, to direct energy to the best
purposes, and to minimise a needless antagonism is as essential
to development as to give free play to the greatest variety of
healthy activities.
    Mill's doctrine may thus be taken as implying a historical
generalisation. Historical generalisations are wrong as a rule;
and one defect in this seems to be evident. Are energetic
characters really rarer than of old? We may dismiss the illusion
which personified whole processes of slow evolution in the name
of some great prophet or legislator. It may still be true that
the importance of the individual has really been greater in
former epochs. The personal qualities of William the Conqueror or
of Hildebrand may have affected history more than the personal
qualities of Bismarck or of Pius IX. The action of great men,
indeed, at all periods whatever, is essentially dependent upon
their social environment; but personal idiosyncrasies may count
for more in the total result at one period than another. The
fortunes of a rude tribe may be, not only more obviously but more
really, dependent upon the character of its chief than the
fortunes of a civilised nation upon the character of its prime
minister. And, therefore, it may be, the individual as a more
important factor in the result, seems to represent greater
individual energy. Yet the energy of the old feudal baron, who
could ride roughshod over his weaker neighbours or coerce them
with fire and sword, is not necessarily greater than the energy
of the modern statesman, who has by gentler means slowly to weld
together alliances of nations, to combine and inspirit parties,
to direct public opinion, and to act therefore with constant
reference to the national or cosmopolitan order.
    Mill's(24*) lamentation over the pettiness of modern English
statesmen is familiar. What is really implied? England, as Mill
the democrat would have said, was once a country of castes: the
priest, the noble, the merchant, the peasant, represented
distinct types. Each class was bound by an unalterable custom and
conforms to inherited traditions; each, again, discharged some
simple or general function now distributed among many minor
classes. In later phrase, modern England has been made by
processes of 'differentiation' and 'integration.' The old class
lines have disappeared, the barriers of custom have been broken
down, the old functions have been specialised, and instead of
independent individual action, the whole system of life depends
upon the elaborate and indefinitely ramified systems of
co-operation, deliberate or unconscious. The obvious result is a
growth of organic unity, accompanied by an equal development of
diversity. Each unit can be assigned to a more special function,
because other functions are assigned to co-operating units, and
greater mutual dependence is implied in the greater variety of
careers and activities. In his democratic phase, Mill blesses
this process altogether; he approves the destruction of privilege
and caste distinctions; he approves the 'division of labour,' the
increased diversity of occupation, and the consequent growth of
co-operation; he desires the fuller responsibility of the ruling
class or the closer dependence of government upon the people. But
in the later phase, when he emphasises the evils of democracy,
does he not condemn what is a necessary implication in the very
process which he approves? The division of labour, he now
observes, narrows a man's life and interests; the necessity of
co-operation narrows the sphere of 'individuality'; and the
process which gives diversity to society as a whole implies
certain uniformities in the social atoms. The less the variety in
the units, the greater is the facility of arranging them in
different configurations. The eccentric man is a cross-grained
piece of timber which cannot be worked into the state.
'Individuality' is so far a hindrance to the power of entering
into an indefinite number of combinations. And yet so far as
'individuality' diminishes, the responsibility of government
means the subordination of rulers to the average commonplace
stupidity. What, then, is the 'individuality' which may be called
unconditionally good? How are we to define the danger so as to
avoid condemning the conformity which is a necessary implication
of progress? How are we to manage 'differentiation' at the
expense of 'integration'; to exalt such 'individuality' as is
incompatible with 'sociality'; and to regard 'eccentricity' and
'antagonism' and contradiction as valuable in themselves instead
of accidental results in particular cases of originality which in
some sense is priceless? Here, I think, is the real difficulty.
Have we to deal with forces necessarily 'counteracting' each
other, in Mill's phrase, or with forces which can be combined in
a healthy organism? Mill undoubtedly supposes that some
conciliation is possible. The historical view has shown the evil.
We have now to consider the remedy to be applied to the various
forms in which it affects economic, political, and ethical
conditions. The general principle has been given.
'Self-protection' is the only justification for the interference
of society with the individual. Although absolute liberty would
mean anarchy, we may still demand a maximum of liberty, and
suppress such a use of liberty by one man as would in fact
restrain the liberty of another. Mill, like Bentham, holds to the
purely empirical view. Interference is bad when the harm caused
by the coercion is not counterbalanced by the good.
    Bentham's doctrine is not only plausible but, within a
certain sphere, points to one of the most obvious and essential
conditions of useful legislation. The Utilitarians were always
affected by the legal principles from which they started. In the
case of criminal law, Mill's principle marks the obvious minimum
of interference. A state must suppress violence. If I claim
liberty to break your head, the policeman is bound to interfere.
If you and I claim the same loaf, the state, even if it be a
communistic state, must either settle which is to eat it, or
leave us to fight for it. And, again, if the principle does not
fix the maximum of legislation, it points to the most obvious
limiting considerations. The state means the judge and the
policeman, who cannot look into the heart, and must classify
criminal action by its definable external characteristics. It can
reach the murderer but not the malevolent man, who would murder
if he could. It is therefore incompetent to punish wickedness
except so far as wickedness is manifested by overt acts. If it
went further it would be unjust, because acting blindly, as well
as intolerably inquisitorial. Nor can it generally punish actions
which produce no assignable injury to individuals. To punish a
man for neglecting definite duties is necessary; but to try to
punish the idleness which may have caused the neglect would be
monstrous. The state would have to be omniscient and omnipresent,
and at most would favour hypocrisy instead of virtue. Briefly,
the law is far too coarse an instrument for the function of
enforcing morality in general. It must generally confine itself
to cases where injury is inflicted upon an assignable person and
by conduct defined by definite outward manifestations. This had
been clearly stated by Bentham. Mill, in his chapter on the
'limits of the authority of society upon the individual,' insists
upon objections obvious in the legal case. Can we deduce from
these legal limits a general principle defining the relation
between society and its units? I notice first the difficulty
already suggested by the Political Economy.


    How, as Mill had asked, in speaking of the economic aspects
of government interference, are we to mark out the space which is
to be sacred from 'authoritative intrusion'? So long as the
social state is simple, the application is easy. When one savage
catches the deer, and another the salmon, each may be forbidden
to take the other's game by force. Each man has a right to the
fruits of his own labour. In the actual state of things there is
not this charming simplicity. A man's wealth is not a definable
material object, but a bundle of rights of the most complex kind;
and rights to various parts of the whole national income, which
are the product of whole systems of previous compacts, The
possessor has not even in the vaguest sense 'created' his wealth;
he has more or less contributed the labour of brains and hands to
the adaptation of things to use, or enjoys his rights in virtue
of an indefinite number of transactions, bargains made by
himself, or bequests transferring the rights to new generations.
To protect his property is to protect a multifarious system of
rights accruing in all manner of ways, and to sanction the
voluntary contracts in virtue of which the whole elaborate
network of rights corresponds to the complex social order. The
tacit assumption of the economists was that this order was in
some sense 'natural' and law an artificial or extra-natural
compulsion. Can the line be drawn? The legal regulation has been
an essential though a subordinate part of the whole process. Law,
at an early stage, is an undistinguishable part of customs, which
has become differentiated from mere custom as settled governments
have been evolved and certain definite functions assigned to the
sovereign power. We cannot say that one set of institutions is
due to law and another to customs or to voluntary contracts. The
laws which regulate property in land or inheritance or any form
of association have affected every stage of the process and have
not affected it as conditions imposed from without, but as a part
of the whole elaboration. The principle that 'self-protection' is
the only justification of interference then becomes hard of
application. I am to do what I like with my own. That may be
granted, for 'my own' is that with which I may do what I like.
But if I am allowed in virtue of this doctrine to make any
contracts or to dispose of my property in any way that please, it
follows that the same sanctity is transferred to the whole system
which has grown up by voluntary action at every point, and which
is therefore regarded as the 'natural' or spontaneous order. Now
the actual course of events, as Mill maintains, produced a
society with vast inequalities of wealth a society which, as he
declares, does not even show an approximation to justice, or in
which a man's fortunes are determined not by his merits but by
accident. On this interpretation of the principle of
non-interference, it follows that in the name of legal 'liberty'
you approve a process destructive of 'liberty' in fact. Every man
is allowed no doubt by the laws to act as circumstances admit;
but the circumstances may permit some people to enjoy every
conceivable pleasure and to develop every faculty, while they
condemn others to find their only pleasure in gin, and to have
such development as can be acquired in 'London slums.' A famous
judge pointed out ironically that the laws of England were the
same for the rich and the poor; that is, the same price was
charged for justice whether the applicants could afford it or
not. Is it not a mockery to tell a man that he is free to do as
he pleases, if it only means that he may choose between
starvation and the poorhouse? Mill had himself been inclined to
remedy the evils by invoking an omnipotent legislature to
undertake very drastic measures of reform. Equal laws will
produce equal results when, in point of fact, they apply to men
under equal conditions. If a society consists of mutually
independent and self-supporting individuals, the principle of
non-interference may work smoothly. Each man has actually his own
secret sphere, and the law only affects the exchange of
superfluous advantages among independent units. But that is to
say that to make your rule work, you must prevent all that
process of development which is implied in civilisation. Society
must be forced to be 'individualistic' in order that the formula
may be applicable. Self-protection means the protection of
existing rights. If they are satisfactory, the result of
protecting them will be satisfactory. But if the actual order,
however produced, is essentially unjust, the test becomes
illusory. Yet, if the laws are to interfere to prevent the growth
of inequality, what becomes of the sacred sphere of
    Here we have the often-noted conflict between equality and
liberty. Leave men free, and inequalities must arise. Enforce
equality and individuality is cramped or suppressed. And yet
inequality certainly means a pressure upon the weaker which may
lead to virtual slavery. We must admit that neither liberty nor
equality can be laid down as absolute principles. The attempt to
treat any formula in this fashion leads to the perplexities
exemplified in Mill's treatment of the 'liberty' problem. His
doctrines cannot be made to fit accurately the complexities of
the social order. 'Equality' and 'liberty' define essential
'moments' in the argument, though neither can be made to support
an absolute conclusion.
    The difficulty was indicated in Bentham's treatment of
'security' and 'equality.' Both, he said, were desirable, but
when there was a conflict 'equality' must give way to 'security.'
Here we come to another closely allied doctrine. 'Security'
implies 'responsibility.' A man must be secure that he may be
industrious. He will not labour unless he is sure to enjoy the
fruit of his labour. This gives the Malthusian vis medicatrix.
But, stated absolutely, it implies pure self-interest. Robinson
Crusoe was responsible in the sense that if he did not work he
would starve. And, if we could, in fact, mark off each man's
separate sphere, or regard society as a collection of Robinson
Crusoes, the principle might be applied. Each man should have a
right to what he has himself 'created.' But when a man 'creates'
nothing; when his 'environment' is not a desert island but an
organised society, the principle must be differently stated.
'Responsibility,' indeed, always implies liberty -- the existence
of a sphere within which a man's fortunes depend upon his
personal character, and his character should determine his
fortune. But, as Mill can most clearly recognise, social
responsibility means something more. One most 'certain incident'
of social progress is the growth of co-operation, and that
involves, as he says, the 'subordination of individual caprice'
to a 'preconceived determination' and the performance of parts
allotted in a 'combined undertaking.'(25*) The individual, then,
is part of an organisation, in which every individual should play
his part. The over-centralisation which would crush him into an
automaton is not more fatal than the individual independence
which would be incompatible with organisation. The desirable
'responsibility' is not that of a Robinson Crusoe but that of the
soldier in an army. It should be enforced by other motives than
mere self-interest, for it affects the interests of the whole
body corporate. Now Mill, believing even to excess in the power
of education, included in education the whole discipline of life
due to the relations of the individual to his social environment;
and it is his essential principle that this force should be
directed to enforcing a sense of 'responsibility' in the widest
acceptation of the word.


    A similar doctrine is implied in his political writings, of
which the Representative Government is the most explicit. The
book is hardly on a level with his best work. Treatises of
'political philosophy' are generally disappointing. The
difficulty lies, I suppose, in combining the practical with the
general point of view. In some treatises, the 'philosophy' is
made up of such scraps about the social contract or mixture of
the three forms of government as excited Bentham's contempt in
Blackstone's treatise. They are a mere juggle of abstractions fit
only for schoolboys. Others, like James Mill's, are really party
pamphlets, masquerading as philosophy, and importing obvious
principles into the likeness of geometrical axioms. A good deal
of wisdom no doubt lurks in the speeches of statesmen; but it is
not often easy to extricate it from the mass of personal and
practical remarks. Mill's treatise might suggest some such
criticism; and yet it is interesting as an indication of his
leading principles. Some passages show how long experience in a
public office affects a philosophic thinker. Mill's exposition,
for example, of the defects of the House of Commons in
administrative legislation,(26*) his discussion of the fact (as
he takes it to be) that governments remarkable for sustained
vigour and ability have generally been aristocratic,(27*) and his
panegyric upon the East India Company,(28*) record the genuine
impressions of his long administrative career, and are refreshing
in the midst of more abstract discussions. I have, however, only
to notice a general principle which runs through the book.
    Mill starts by emphasising the distinction applied in the
Political Economy between the natural and the artificial.
Political institutions are the work of men and created by the
will. The doctrine that governments 'are not made, but grow,'
would lead to 'political fatalism' if it were regarded as true
exclusively of the other. In fact, we might reply, there is no
real opposition at all. 'Making' is but one kind of 'growing.'
Growing by conscious forethought is still growing, and the
antithesis put absolutely is deceptive. Mill is striving to
enlarge the sphere of voluntary action. He wishes to prove that
he can take the ground generally supposed to imply the doctrine
of 'freewill.' Institutions, he fully admits, presuppose certain
qualities in the people; but, given those qualities, they are 'a
matter of choice.'(29*) In politics, as in machinery, we are
turning existing powers to account; but we do not say that,
because rivers will not run uphill, 'water-mills are not made but
grow.' The political theorist can invent constitutions as the
engineer can invent machinery, which will materially alter the
results; and to inquire which is the best form of government 'in
the abstract' is 'not a chimerical but a highly practical
employment of the scientific intellect.' The illustration is
difficult to apply if the 'river' means the whole society, and
the 'water-mill' is itself, therefore, one part of the 'river.'
The legislator is not an external force but an integral part of
internal forces.
    In the next place, Mill rejects a distinction made by
Comte(30*) between order and progress. Comte had made a
distinction between 'statics' and 'dynamics' in sociology, which
are to each other like anatomy and physiology. The conditions of
existence, and the conditions of continuous movement of a society
correspond to 'order and progress.'(31*) Mill replies that
'progress' includes 'order,' and that the two conditions cannot
give independent criteria of the merits of the institutions.
Comte, in any case, regarding sociology as a science, considers
the dependence of political institutions upon social structure to
be much closer than Mill would admit. The power of the legislator
to alter society is strictly subordinate and dependent throughout
upon its relation to the existing organism. In his study of
Comte,(32*) Mill declares emphatically that Comte's work has made
it necessary for all later thinkers to start from a 'connected
view of the great facts of history.' He speaks with enthusiasm of
Comte's great survey of history, and fully accepts the principle.
Yet, in fact, he scarcely applies the method in his political
system, and accepts a doctrine really inconsistent with it. His
anxiety to give a far wider sphere to the possibilities of
modifying, leads him to regard institutions as the ultimate
causes of change, instead of factors themselves strictly
dependent upon deeper causes. Hence he substitutes a different
distinction. We are to judge of institutions by their efficiency
as educating agencies, on the one hand, and as the means of
carrying on 'public business' on the other. Institutions should
do their work well, and turn the workers into good citizens.(33*)
    The educative influence of government is thus his
characteristic point. The 'ideally best form of government,' as
Mill of course admits, is not one applicable 'at all stages of
civilisation.'(34*) We have to suppose certain conditions, and he
takes pain to show in what cases his ideal would be
inapplicable.(35*) But, given the stage reached in modern times
(as he practically assumes), there is 'no difficulty in showing'
the ideal form to be the representative system; that in which
'sovereignty is vested in the entire aggregate of the community,'
every citizen having a voice and taking at least an occasional
part in discharging the functions of government.(36*) This
applies the doctrine already expounded in the Liberty. Citizens
should be 'self-protecting and self-protective';(37*) the
'active,' not the 'passive' type of character should be
encouraged. The striving, go-ahead character of Anglo-Saxons is
only objectionable so far as it is directed to petty ends; the
Englishman says naturally, 'What a shame!' when the Frenchman
says, 'Il faut de la patience!' and the institutions which
encourage this energetic character by giving a vote to all, by
permitting freedom of speech, and by permitting all men to
discharge small duties (to act on juries for example) are the
best. I will only note that this tends to beg the important
question, Are the institutions really the cause or the effect?
Has the energy of the English race made their institutions free?
or have the free institutions made them energetic? or are the
institutions and the character collateral effects of a great
variety of causes? When so much stress is laid upon the
educational effect -- of serving upon a jury, for instance -- we
are impelled to ask what is the ultimate cause. Are people so
much morally improved by serving on juries? If the institution
like the 'water-mill' only directs certain instincts already
existing, we must not speak as if the mill made the water.power;
and Mill's arguments suggest a liability to this fallacy. It
becomes important at the next stage.
    The ideal form of government has its infirmities, as Mill
insists. Two are conspicuous: the difficulty of inducing a
democracy to intrust work which requires skill to those who
possess skill;(38*) and the old difficulty -- the 'tyranny of the
majority.' Mill's contention that the 'Demos' may be stupid,
mistake its own interests, and impress its mistaken views upon
the legislation, needs no exposition. We are thus brought to the
question how the ideal government is to be so constituted that
the interests of a section -- even if it be the majority -- may
not be so powerful as to overwhelm the other sections even when
backed by 'truth and justice.'(39*) Danger of popular stupidity
and danger of class legislation indicate two great evils to be
abated as far as possible by 'human contrivance.' (40*) A
sufficient 'contrivance' was in fact revealed at the right
moment. A discovery of surpassing value had been announced by one
of his friends. Hare's scheme of representation, says Mill with
characteristic enthusiasm, has the 'almost unparalleled merit' of
securing its special aim in almost 'ideal perfection,' while
incidentally attaining others of almost equal importance. He
places it among the very greatest 'improvements yet made in the
theory and practice of government.'(41*) It would, for example,
be almost a 'specific' against the tendency of republics to
ostracise their ablest men.(42*) And it would be the appropriate
organ of the great function of 'antagonism'(43*) which now takes
the place of contradiction in intellectual development. There
will always be some body to oppose the supreme power, and thus to
prevent the stagnation, followed by decay, which has always
resulted from a complete victory.
    Is not the 'water-mill' here expected to work the river? The
faith in a bit of mechanism of 'human contrivance' becomes
sublime. Hare's scheme may have great conveniences under many
circumstances. But that Hare's scheme or any scheme should
regenerate politics seems to be a visionary belief, unworthy of
Mill's higher moods. He seems to fall into the error too common
among legislative theorists, of assuming that an institution will
be worked for the ends of the contriver, instead of asking to
what ends it may be distorted by the ingenuity of all who can
turn it to account for their own purposes. There is a more vital
difficulty. If Hare's scheme worked as Mill expected it to work,
one result would be necessarily implied. The House of Commons
would reflect accurately all the opinions of the country.
Whatever opinion had a majority in the country would have a
majority in the House. Labourers, as he suggests when showing the
dangers of democracy, may be in favour of protection, or of
fixing the rate of wages. Now in this scheme the majority in the
country may enforce whatever laws approve themselves to the
ignorant. I do not say that this would actually be the result;
for I think that, in point of fact, the change of mere machinery
would be of comparatively little importance. The power of the
rich and the educated does not really depend upon the system of
voting, or the ostensible theory of the constitution, but upon
the countless ways in which wealth, education, and the whole
social system affect the working of institutions. Mill can fully
admit the fact at times. But here he is taking for granted that
the effect of the scheme will be to secure a perfectly correct
miniature of the opinions of all separate persons. The wise
minority will therefore be a minority in the land. It will be
able to make speeches. But the speeches, however able, are but an
insignificant trickle in the great current of talk which forms
what is called 'public opinion.' The necessary result upon his
showing would be, that legislation would follow the opinions of
the majority, or, in other words, facilitate the 'tyranny of the
    This suggests one vital point. Mill, as I have said, has
endeavoured to enlarge as much as possible the sphere of
operation of the freewill -- of the power of individuals or of
deliberate conscious legislation. The result is to exaggerate the
influence of institutions and to neglect the forces, intellectual
and moral, which must always lie behind institutions. We can
admit to the full the importance of the educational influence of
political institutions, and the surpassing value of energy,
self-reliance, and individual responsibility. The sentiment is
altogether noble, and Mill expresses it with admirable vigour.
But the more decidedly we hold his view of the disease, the more
utterly inadequate and inappropriate appears his remedy. The
tendency to levelling and vulgarising, so far as it exists, can
certainly not be cured by ingenious arrangements of one part of
the political machinery. I take this to mark Mill's weakest side.
The truth was divined by the instinct of his democratic allies.
So long as he voted for extending the suffrage, they could leave
him to save his conscience by amusing himself with these harmless


    Mill's Subjection of Women brings out more clearly some of
the fundamental Utilitarian tenets. None of his writings is more
emphatically marked by generosity and love of justice. A certain
shrillness of tone marks the recluse too little able to
appreciate the animal nature of mankind. Yet in any case, he made
a most effective protest against the prejudices which stunted the
development and limited the careers of women. Mill declares at
starting, that till recently the 'law of force' has been 'the
avowed rule of general conduct.' Only of late has there been even
a pretence of regulating 'the affairs of society in general
according to any moral law.' (44*) That moral considerations have
been too little regarded as between different societies or
different classes is painfully obvious. But 'force' in any
intelligible sense is itself only made applicable by the social
instincts, which bind men together. No society could ever be
welded into a whole by 'force' alone. This is the Utilitarian
fallacy of explaining law by 'sanctions,' and leaving the
'sanctions' to explain themselves. But the argument encourages
Mill to treat of all inequality as unjust because imposed by
force. The 'only school of genuine moral sentiment,' he says, 'is
society between equals.' Let us rather say that inequalities are
unjust which rest upon force alone. Every school of morality or
of thought implies subordination, but a subordination desirable
only when based upon real superiority. The question then becomes
whether the existing relations of the sexes correspond to some
essential difference or are created by sheer force.
    Here we have assumptions characteristic of Mill's whole
logical method; and, especially, the curious oscillation between
absolute laws and indefinite modifiability. His doctrine of
'natural kinds' supposed that two races were either divided by an
impassable gulf, or were divided only by accidental or
superficial differences. He protests against the explanation of
national differences by race characteristics. To say that the
Irish are naturally lazy, or the Negroes naturally stupid, is to
make a short apology for oppression and for slavery. Undoubtedly
it is wrong, as it is contrary to all empirical reasoning, to
assume a fundamental difference; and morally wrong to found upon
the assumption an apology for maintaining caste and privilege.
But neither is it legitimate to assume that the differences are
negligible. The 'accident of colour' has been made a pretext for
an abominable institution. But we have no right to the a priori
assumption that colour is a mere accident. It may upon Mill's own
method be an indication of radical and far-reaching differences.
How far the Negro differs from the white man, whether he is
intellectually equal or on a wholly lower plane, is a question of
fact to be decided by experience. Mill's refusal to accept one
doctrine passes imperceptibly into an equally unfounded
acceptance of its contradictory. The process is shown by the
doctrine to which, as we have seen, he attached so much
importance, that political science must be deductive, because the
effect of the conjoined causes is the sum of the effects of the
separate causes. When two men act together, the effect may be
inferred from putting together the motives of each. 'All
phenomena of society,' he infers, 'are phenomena of human nature
generated by the action of outward circumstances upon masses of
human beings.' (45*) We can therefore deduce scientific laws in
sociology as in astronomy. This tacitly assumes that man, like
molecule, represents a constant unit, and thus introduces the de
facto equality of human beings, from which it is an inevitable
step to the equality of rights. The sound doctrine that we can
only learn by experience what are the differences between men
becomes the doctrine that all differences are superficial, and
therefore the man always the same. The doctrine becomes audacious
when 'man' is taken to include 'woman.' He speaks of the
'accident of sex' and the 'accident of colour' as equally unjust
grounds for political distinctions.(46*) The difference between
men and women, Whites and Negroes, is 'accidental,' that is,
apparently removable by some change of 'outward circumstances.'
    Mill, indeed, does not admit that he is begging the question.
He guards himself carefully against begging the question either
way,(47*) though he thinks apparently that the burthen of proof
is upon those who assert a natural difference. Accordingly he
urges that the so-called 'nature of women' is 'an eminently
artificial thing'; a result of 'hothouse cultivation' carried on
for the benefit of their masters.(48*) He afterwards(49*)
endeavours to show that even the 'least contestable differences'
between the sexes are such as may 'very well have been produced
merely by circumstances without any differences of natural
capacity.' What, one asks, can the 'circumstances mean?
Psychology, as he truly says, can tell us little; but physiology
certainly seems to suggest a difference implied in the whole
organisation and affecting every mental and,physical
characteristic. It is not, apparently, a case of two otherwise
equal beings upon which different qualities have been
superimposed, but of a radical distinction, totally inconsistent
with any presumption of equality.(50*) When we are told that the
legal inequality is an 'isolated fact' -- a 'solitary breach of
what has become a fundamental law of human institutions'(51*) --
the reply is obvious. The distinction of the sexes is surely an
'isolated fact,' so radical or 'natural' that it is no wonder
that it should have unique recognition in all human institutions.
Mill has, indeed, a further answer. If nature disqualifies women
for certain functions, why disqualify them by law? Leave
everything to free competition, and each man or woman will go
where he or she is most fitted. Abolish, briefly, all political
and social distinctions, and things will right themselves. If
'inequality' is due to 'force,' and the difference between men
and women be 'artificial,' the argument is plausible. But if the
difference be, as surely it is, 'natural,' and 'force' in the
sense of mere muscular strength, only one factor in the growth of
institutions, the removal of inequalities may imply neglect of
essential facts. He is attacking the most fundamental condition
of the existing social order. The really vital point is the
bearing of Mill's argument upon marriage and the family. He
thinks (52*) that the full question of divorce is 'foreign to his
purpose'; and, in fact, seems to be a little shy of what is
really the critical point. He holds, indeed, that the family is a
'school of despotism,'(53*) or would be so, if men were not
generally better than their laws. Admitting that the law retains
traces of the barbarism which regarded wives as slaves, the
question remains whether the institution itself is to be
condemned as dependent upon 'force.' Would not the 'equality'
between persons naturally unequal lead to greater instead of less
despotism? If, as a matter of fact, women are weaker than men,
might not liberty mean more power to the strongest? Permission to
the husband to desert the wife at will might be to make her more
dependent in fact though freer in law. Whatever the origin of the
institution of marriage, it may now involve, not the bondage but
an essential protection of the weakest party. This is the side of
the argument to which Mill turns a deaf ear. We are to neglect
the most conspicuous of facts because it may be 'artificial' or
due to 'circumstances,' and assume that free competition will be
an infallible substitute for a system which affects the most
vital part of the whole social organism. To assume existing
differences to be incapable of modification is doubtless wrong;
but to treat them at once as non-existent is at least audacious.
Finally, the old difficulty recurs in a startling shape. If
differences are to disappear and the characteristics of men and
women to become indistinguishable, should we not be encouraging a
'levelling' more thoroughgoing than any which can result from
political democracy?


    These special applications raise the question: What is the
interpretation of his general principle? 'Self-protection' is the
only justification for social interference. Where a man's conduct
affects himself alone society should not 'interfere'(54*) by
legislation. Does this imply that we must not interfere by the
pressure of public opinion? We may, as Mill replies, approve or
disapprove, but so long as a man does not infringe our rights, we
must leave him to the 'natural and, as it were, the spontaneous
consequences of his faults.' We may dislike and even abhor
anti-social 'dispositions' -- cruelty and treachery -- but
self-regarding faults and the corresponding dispositions are not
subjects of 'moral reprobation.' A man is not accountable to his
fellow creatures for prudence or 'self-respect.'(55*) Mill
anticipates the obvious objection. No conduct is simply
'self-regarding.' 'No one is an entirely isolated being'; and
injuries to myself disqualify me for service to others.
'Self-regarding' vices, as his opponent is supposed to urge, are
also socially mischievous; and we must surely be entitled to
assume that the experience of the race has established some moral
rules sufficiently to act upon them, however desirous we may be
to allow of 'new and original experiments in living.'(56*) Mill's
reply is that we should punish not the fault itself but the
injuries to others which result. We hang George Barnwell for
murdering his uncle, whether he did it to get money for his
mistress or to set up in business. We should not punish him, it
is implied, for keeping a mistress; but we should punish the
murder, whatever the motive. The criminal lawyer, no doubt,
treats Barnwell upon this principle. But can it be morally
applicable? Mill admits fully that self-regarding qualities may
be rightfully praised and blamed We may think a man a fool, a
lazy, useless, sensual wretch: we may, and are even bound to,
tell him so frankly, avoid his society, and warn others to avoid
him. My judgment of a man is not a judgment of his separate
qualities but of the whole human being. I disapprove of George
Barnwell himself, not simply his greediness or his vicious
propensities. I think a man bad in different degrees if he is
ready to murder his uncle, whether from lust or greed or even
with a view to a charitable use of the plunder. The hateful thing
is the character itself which, under certain conditions, leads to
murder. As including prudence, it may be simply neutral or
respectable; as implying vice, disgusting; and as implying
cruelty, hateful. Still, I do not condemn the abstract qualities
-- interest in oneself, or sexual passion or even antipathy --
each of which may be desirable in the right place -- but the way
in which they are combined in the concrete Barnwell. No quality,
therefore, can be taken as simply self-regarding, for it is
precisely the whole character which is the object of my moral
judgment of the individual. I have spoken of the inadequate
recognition of this truth by Bentham and James Mill. It makes J.
S. Mill's criterion inapplicable to the question of moral
interference. lf, as he argues, we are to impress our moral
standard upon others, we cannot make the distinction; for our
standard implies essentially an estimate of the balance of all
the man's qualities, those which primarily affect himself as much
as those which primarily affect others. Here is the vital
distinction between the legal and the moral question, and the
characteristic defect of the external view of morality. Keeping,
however, to the purely legal question, where the criterion is
comparatively plain, we have other difficulties. We are only to
punish Barnwell as an actual, not as a potential, murderer. We
should let a man try any 'experiment in living' so long as its
failure will affect himself only, or, rather, himself primarily,
for no action is really 'isolated.' We are, says Mill, to put up
with 'contingent' or 'constructive' injury for the sake of 'the
greater good of human freedom.'(57*) 'Society,' he urges, cannot
complain of errors for which it is responsible. It has 'absolute
power' over all its members in their infancy, and could always
make the next generation a little better than the last. Why,
then, interfere by the coarse methods of punishment to suppress
what is not directly injurious to itself? The strongest, however,
of all reasons against interference, according to him, is that it
generally interferes wrongly and in the wrong place. In proof of
this he refers to various cases of religious persecution: to
Puritanical laws against harmless recreation: to Socialist laws
against the freedom to labour: to laws against intemperance and
on behalf of Sunday observance: and, generally, to laws embodying
the 'tyranny of the majority.' We may admit the badness of such
legislation; but what is the criterion by which we are to decide
its badness or goodness? Is it that in such cases the legislator
is usurping the province of the moralist? that he is trying to
suppress symptoms when the causes are beyond his power, and
enforcing not virtue but hypocrisy? Or is it that he really ought
to be indifferent in regard to the moral rules which are
primarily self-regarding -- to leave prudence, for example, to
take care of itself or to be impressed by purely natural
penalties; and to be indifferent to vice, drunkenness, or sexual
irregularities, except by suppressing the crimes which
incidentally result? Mill endeavours to adhere to his criterion,
but has some difficulty in reconciling it to his practical
    Mill holds 'society' to be omnipotent over the young. It has
no right to complain of the characters which it has itself
concurred in producing. lf this be so, can it be indifferent to
morality? Indeed, Mill distinguishes himself from others of his
school precisely by emphasising the educational efficiency of the
state. Institutions, according to him, are the tools by which the
human will -- the will of the sovereign -- moulds the character
of the race. Mill's whole aim in economic questions is to
encourage prudence, self-reliance, and energy. He wishes the
state to interfere to strengthen and enlighten; and to promote an
equality of property which will raise the standard of life and
discourage wasteful luxury. What is this but to stimulate certain
moral creeds and to discourage certain 'experiments in living'?
How can so powerful an agency affect character without affecting
morals -- self-regarding or extra-regarding? The difficulty comes
out curiously in his last chapter. He has recourse to a dexterous
casuistry to justify measures which have an obvious moral
significance. Are we to legislate with a view to diminishing
drunkenness? No: but we may put drunkards under special
restrictions when they have once been led to violence. We should
not tax stimulants simply in order to suppress drunkenness; but,
as we have to tax in any case, we may so arrange taxation as to
discourage the consumption of injurious commodities. May we
suppress gambling or fornication? No: but we may perhaps see our
way to suppressing public gambling-houses or brothels, because we
may forbid solicitations to that which we think evil, though we
are not so clear of the evil as to suppress the conduct itself.
We may enforce universal education, though he makes the condition
that the state is only to pay for the children of the poor, not
to provide the schools. And, once more, we are not forbidden by
his principle to legislate against imprudent marriages; for the
marriage clearly affects the offspring, and, moreover, affects
all labourers in an over-populated country. Yet, what
interference with private conduct could be more stringent or more
directly affect morality?
    A principle requiring such delicate handling is not well
suited to guide practical legislation. This timid admission of
moral considerations by a back-door is the more curious because
Mill not only wishes to have a moral influence, but has the
special merit, in economical and in purely political questions,
of steadily and constantly insisting upon their moral aspect. He
holds, and is justified in holding, that the ultimate end of the
state should be to encourage energy, culture, and a strong sense
of responsibility. It is true that, though he exaggerates the
influence of institutions, he insists chiefly upon the negative
side, upon that kind of 'education' which consists in leaving a
man to teach himself. Yet his political theory implies a wider
educational influence. Every citizen is to have a share both in
the legislative and administrative functions of the government.
Such an education must have a strong influence upon the moral
characteristics. It may promote or discourage one morality or
another, but it cannot be indifferent. And this impresses itself
upon Mill himself. The principles of 'contradiction' in
speculation and of 'antagonism' in politics; the doctrines that
each man is to form his own opinions and regulate his own life,
imply a society of approximately equal and, as far as possible,
independent units. This, if it means 'liberty,' also means a most
effective 'educational' process. One lesson taught may be that
'any one man is as good as any other.' Mill sees this clearly,
and declares that this 'false creed' is held in America and
'nearly connected' with some American defects.(58*) He persuades
himself that it may be remedied by Hare's scheme, and by devices
for giving more votes to educated' persons. One can only reply,
sancta simplicitas! In fact, the 'educational' influence which
implies levelling and equalising is not less effective than that
which maintains ranks or a traditional order. It only acts in a
different direction. Here, once more, Mill's argument seems to
recoil upon his own position. When, in the Liberty, he sums up
the influences hostile to individuality, including all the social
and intellectual movements of the day, he is describing the
forces which will drive his political machinery. The political
changes which are to break up the old structure, to make society
an aggregate of units approximately equal in wealth and power,
will inevitably facilitate the deeper and wider influences of the
social changes. If, in fact, 'individuality' in a good sense is
being crushed by the whole democratic movement -- where democracy
means the whole social change -- it will certainly not be
protected by the political changes to be made in the name of
liberty. Each man is to have his own little sphere; but each man
will be so infinitesimal a power that he will be more than ever
moulded by the average opinions. In the Liberty (59*) Mill puts
his whole hope in the possibility that the 'intelligent part of
the public' may be led to feel the force of his argument. To
believe that a tendency fostered by every social change can be
checked by the judicious reasoning of Utilitarian theorists,
implies a touching faith in the power of philosophy.
    Mill's doctrines, I believe, aim at most important truths.
'Energy' is, let us agree, a cardinal virtue and essential
condition of progress. It requires, undoubtedly, a sphere of
individual freedom. Without freedom, a man is a tool --
transmitting force mechanically, not himself co-operating
intelligently or originating spontaneously. Every citizen should
be encouraged to be an active as well as a passive instrument.
Freedom of opinion is absolutely essential to progress, social as
well as intellectual, and therefore thought should be able to
play freely upon the sway of irrational custom. The tyranny of
the commonplace, of a mental atmosphere which stifles genius and
originality, is a danger to social welfare. That Mill held such
convictions strongly was the source of his power. That he held to
them, even when they condemned some party dogma, was honourable
to his sincerity. That he filed to make them into a satisfactory
or consistent whole was due to preconceptions imbibed from his
teachers. Perhaps it is truer to say that he could not accurately
formulate his beliefs in the old dialect than that his beliefs
were intrinsically erroneous.
    Upon his terms a clear demarcation of the sphere of free
action is impossible. Mill, as an 'individualist,' took society
to be an 'aggregate' instead of an, organism.' To Mill such
phrases as 'organic' savoured of 'mysticism'; they treated a
class name as meaning something more than the individuals, and
therefore meant mere abstractions parading as realities,(60*) and
encouraged the fallacies current among Intuitionists and
Transcendentalists. And yet they point at truths which are
anything but mystical. It is a plain fact that society is a
complex structure upon which every man is dependent in his whole
life; and that he is a product, moulded through and through by
instincts inherited or derived from his social position.
Conversely, it is true that the society is throughout dependent
upon the character or the convictions and instincts of its
constituent members. To overlook the reciprocal action and
reaction, and the structure which corresponds to them, is
necessarily to make arbitrary and inaccurate assumptions and to
regard factors in a single process as independent entities. The
tendency of the Utilitarian was to regard society as a number of
independent beings, simply bound together by the legal or
quasi-legal sanctions. Morality itself was treated as a case of
external 'law.' The individual, again, was a bundle of ideas,
bound together by 'associations which could be indefinitely
modified.' In both cases, the unity was imposed by a force in
some sense 'external,' and therefore the whole social structure
of individual character became in some sense 'artificial.' It is
the acceptance of such assumptions which hinders Mill in his
attempt to mark out the individual sphere.
    We have seen the difficulties. In morality, it is impossible
to divide the 'extra-regarding' from the 'self-regarding'
qualities, because morality is a function of the whole character
considered as a unit. Mill, therefore, has to concede a
considerable sphere to moral pressure. The fact that in positive
law it is not only possible but necessary to distinguish
'self-regarding' actions from 'extra-regarding' actions marks the
sphere within which legislation can work efficiently. But the
same fact proves also that the direct legal coercion is only a
subordinate element in the whole social process. Though it is
only called into play to suppress certain overt actions, it
indirectly affects the whole character: it may help to stimulate
all the qualities, 'self-regarding' or otherwise, which form a
good citizen; and to argue that it should be indifferent to these
broader results is to omit a reference to the wider 'utility'
which is identical with morality. Mill is thus driven to awkward
casuistry by trying to exclude the moral considerations where
they are obviously essential, or to admit them under some
ingenious pretext. In economic problems the difficulty is more
conspicuous; for we have there to do with the whole industrial
structure, which is affected throughout by institutions created
or confirmed by law. It is, again, impossible to distinguish the
spheres of the 'natural' and the 'artificial' -- or of individual
and state action. The industrial structure is a product of both.
Consider all state action to be bad because 'artificial,' and you
are led to such an isolation of the 'individual' as reduces all
responsibility to a name for selfishness. You are to teach men to
be prudent simply by leaving the imprudent to starvation. Mill,
revolted by this consequence, admits that the state must have
regard to the injustice for which it is, at least indirectly,
responsible. He then inclines to exaggerate the power of the
'artificial' factor because it embodies human 'volition' and
leans towards the crude Socialism which assumes that all
institutions can be arbitrarily reconstructed by legislative
interference. Hence when we come to the political problem, to the
organ by which the legal bond is constructed, Mill exaggerates
the power of 'making' as contradistinguished from the 'growing.'
He seems to assume that institutions can 'create' the instincts
by which they are worked: or to forget that they primarily
transmit instead of originating power, though indirectly they
foster or hinder the development of certain tendencies. Mill
would guard against the abuse of political power by dividing it
among the separate individuals. He then perceives that he is only
redistributing this tremendous power instead of diminishing its
intensity. By isolating the 'individual' he has condemned him to
narrow views and petty ideals, but has not prevented him from
impressing them upon the mass of homogeneous units. Hence, he is
alarmed by the inevitable 'tyranny of the majority.' He has put a
tremendous power into the hands of Demos, and can only suggest
that it should not be exercised.
    It is, if I am right, the acceptance of this antithesis, put
absolutely, the 'individual,' as something natural on one side,
and law, on the other side, as a bond imposed upon the society,
which at every step hampers Mill's statement of any vital truths.
He cannot upon these terms draw a satisfactory distinction
between the individual and the society. When man is taken for a
ready-made product, while his social relation can be 'made'
off-hand by the sovereign, it is impossible to give a
satisfactory account of the slow processes of evolution in which
making and growing are inextricably united, and the individual
and the society are slowly modified by the growth of instincts
and customs under constant action and reaction. The difficulty of
course is not solved by recognising its existence. No one has yet
laid down a satisfactory criterion of the proper limits of
individual responsibility. The problem is too vast and complex to
admit of any off-hand solution; and Mill's error lies chiefly in
under-estimating the difficulty.
    The contrast to Comte is significant. The inventor of
'sociology' had seen in the 'individualism' of the revolutionary
school a transitory and negative stage of thought, which was to
lead to a reconstruction of intellectual and social authority.
Mill could see in Comte's final Utopia nothing but the
restoration of a spiritual despotism in a form more crushing and
all-embracing than that of the medieval church. They went
together up to a certain point. Comte held that 'contradiction'
and 'antagonism' were not ultimate ends, though they may be
inseparable incidents of progress. In the intellectual sphere we
should hope for the emergence of a rational instead of an
arbitrary authority, and a settlement of first principles, not a
permanent conflict of opinion. The hope of achieving some
permanent conciliation is the justification of scepticism in
speculation and revolutions in politics. Comte supposed that such
a result might be achieved in sociology. If that science were
constituted, its professors might have such an authority as now
possessed by astronomers and teachers of physical sciences.
Society might then be reconstructed on sound principles which
would secure the responsibility of rulers to subjects, and the
confidence of the subjects in rulers. Mill in his early
enthusiasm had admitted the necessity of a 'spiritual power' to
be founded on free discussion.(61*) He had, with Comte, condemned
the merely critical attitude of the revolutionary school. When he
saw Comte devising an elaborate hierarchy to govern speculation,
and even depreciating the reason in comparison with the 'heart,'
he revolted. Comte was a great thinker, greater, even, he
thought, than Descartes or Leibniz,(62*) but had plunged into
absurdities suggestive of brain disease. The absurdities were,
indeed, flagrant, yet Mill still sympathises with much of Comte's
doctrine; with the positivist religion; and the general social
conceptions. Even a 'spiritual authority' is, he thinks,
desirable. But it must be developed through free discussion and
the gradual approximation of independent thinkers, not by
premature organisation and minute systematisation.(63*) The
regeneration of society requires a moral and intellectual
transformation, which can only be regarded as a distant ideal. We
may dream of a state of things in which even political authority
shall be founded upon reason: in which statesmanship shall really
mean an application of scientific principles, and rulers be
recognised as devoted servants of the state, Even an
approximation to such a Utopia would imply a change in moral
instincts, and in the corresponding social structure, to be
worked out slowly and tentatively. Yet Mill is equally
over-sanguine in his own way. He puts an excessive faith in human
'contrivances,' representation of minorities, and the forces of
'antagonism' and 'individuality.' If Comte's scheme really
amounts, as Mill thought, to a suppression of individual energy,
Mill's doctrine tends to let energy waste itself in mere
eccentricity. As originality of intellect is useful when it
accepts established results, so energy of character is fruitful
when it is backed by sympathy. The degree of both may be measured
by their power of meeting opposition; but the positive stimulus
comes from cooperation. The great patriots and founders of
religion have opposed tyrants and bigots because they felt
themselves to be the mouthpiece of a nation or a whole social
movement. And, therefore, superlative as. may be the value of
energy, it is not generated in a chaos where every man's hand is
against his neighbour, but in a social order, where vigorous
effort may be sure of a sufficient backing. When the individual
is regarded as an isolated being, and state action as necessarily
antagonistic, this side of the problem is insufficiently taken
into account, and the question made to lie between simple
antagonism and enforced unity.


    The problem must be left to posterity. Mill's doctrine, if I
am right, is vitiated rather by an excessive emphasis upon one
aspect of facts than by positive error. He seems often to be
struggling to express half-recognised truths, and to be hampered
by an inadequate dialect. I have already touched upon the
morality more or less involved in his political and economic
views. His ethical doctrine shows the source of some of his
perplexities and apparent inconsistencies. His position is given
in the little book upon Utilitarianism, which is scarcely more,
however, than an occasional utterance.(64*) In a more systematic
treatise some difficulties would have been more carefully
treated, and assumptions more explicitly justified. The main
lines, however, of Mill's Utilitarianism are plain enough. The
book is substantially a protest against the assertion that
Utilitarian morality is inferior to its rivals. 'Utilitarians,'
he says, 'should never cease to claim the morality of
self-devotion as a possession which belongs by as good a right to
them as to the Stoic or to the Transcendentalist.'(65*) The
Utilitarian standard is 'not the agent's own happiness, but the
happiness of all concerned.' The Utilitarian must be 'as strictly
impartial as a disinterested and benevolent spectator' in
determining his course of action. The spirit of his ethics is
expressed in 'the golden rule of Jesus of Nazareth.' Mill insists
as strongly as possible upon the paramount importance of the
social aspect of morality. Society must be founded throughout
upon justice and sympathy. Every step in civilisation generates
in each individual 'a feeling of unity with all the rest.' (66*)
Characteristically he refers to Comte's Politique Positive in
illustration. Though he has the 'strongest objections' to the
system of morals and politics there set forth, he thinks that
Comte has 'superabundantly shown the possibility of giving to the
service of humanity, even without the aid of belief in a
Providence, both the psychical power and the social efficacy of a
religion.' Nay, it may 'colour all thought, feeling, and action,
in a manner of which the greatest ascendency ever exercised by
any religion may be but a type or foretaste.' The danger is that
the ascendency may be so marked as to suppress 'human freedom and
individuality.' The love of the right is to become an
all-absorbing passion, and selfish motives admitted only so far
as subordinated to desire for the welfare of the social body.
Clearly this is a loftier line than Bentham's attempt to evade
the difficulty by ignoring the possibility of a conflict between
private and public interest. The only question, then, is as to
the logic. Can Mill's conclusions be deduced from his premises?
    We must first observe that Mill's argument is governed by his
antipathy to the 'intuitionist.' The intuitionist was partly
represented by his old antagonist Whewell, who in a ponderous
treatise had set forth a theory of morality intended not only to
give first principles but to elaborate a complete moral code.
Mill attacked him with unusual severity in an article in the
Westminster Review.(67*) Whewell, in truth, appears at one time
to be founding morality upon positive law -- a doctrine which is
at best a strange perversion of a theory of experience; and yet
he denounces Utilitarians by the old arguments, and brings in
such an 'intuitionism' as always roused Mill's combative
propensities. Mill defends Bentham against Whewell, and his
Utilitarianism starts essentially from Bentham's famous saying,
'Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign
masters, pain and pleasure.' Happiness, says Mill, is the 'sole
end of human action'; to 'desire' is to find a thing pleasant; to
be averse from a thing is to think of it as painful; and, as
happiness gives the criterion of all conduct, it must give 'the
standard of morality.' (68*) To 'prove' the first principle may
be impossible; one can only appeal to self-consciousness in
general; but it seems to him so obvious that it will 'hardly be
disputed.' (69*) It still requires explicate statement in order
to exclude a doctrine held by many philosophers. Mill (70*)
refers to Kant, whose formula that you are to act so that the
rule on which you act may be law for all rational beings, is the
most famous version of the doctrine which would deduce morality
from reason. It really proves at most, as Mill says, the formal
truth that laws must be consistent, but it fails 'almost
grotesquely' in showing which consistent laws are right. Absolute
selfishness or absolute benevolence would equally satisfy the
formula. For Mill, then, all conduct depends on pain and
pleasure; every theory of conduct must therefore be based upon
psychology, or consequently upon experience, not upon abstract
logic. Every attempt to twist morality out of pure reason is
foredoomed to failure; logical contradiction corresponds to the
impossible, not to the immoral, which is only too possible. That
is a first principle, which seems to me, I confess, to be
    It follows, in the next place, that Mill's argument is
substantially an interpretation of facts, a sketch of a
scientific theory of certain social phenomena. We find that
certain rules of conduct are as a matter of fact generally
approved; and we have to show that those rules are deducible from
the assumed criterion. The rule, 'act for the greatest happiness
of the greatest number,' coincides with the conduct approved in
the recognised morality, and we need and can ask for no further
explanation of the 'criterion.' Mill answers the usual
objections. The criterion, it is said, can only justify the
'expedient' not the 'right.' The Utilitarian must act from a
calculation of 'consequences,' and consequences are so uncertain
that no general rule can be framed. To this, as urged by Whewell,
Mill replied that his adversary had proved too much.(71*) The
argument would destroy 'prudence' as well as morality. We can
make general rules about the interests of the greatest number as
easily as about our own personal interests. And, if it be urged
that such general rules always admit of exceptions, all moralists
have had to admit exceptions to moral rules. Exceptions, however,
as James Mill had said, can only be admitted in morality, when
the exception itself expresses a general rule. All moralists
admit of lying in some extreme cases, but only where the
obligation to speak truth conflicts with some higher obligation.
If something be wanting in this defence, it may perhaps be
supplied from Mill himself. The importance of cultivating a
sensitive love of truth is, he says, so great as to possess a
'transcendent expediency' (72*) not to be violated by temporary
considerations. When discussing the question of justice Mill
insists upon the importance of the confidence in our
fellow-creatures as corresponding to the 'very groundwork of our
existence.' The general rule, that is, corresponds to an
individual quality which is essential to the social union. A
strong sense of veracity is unconditionally good, though
circumstances may require exceptions to any rule when stated in
terms of outward conduct. Lying may be necessary, but should
always be painful. This is familiar ground on which it is
needless to dwell. But another criticism of the 'criterion' is
more important and leads to one of Mill's most characteristic
arguments. The greatest happiness criterion, it is often said,
will be interpreted differently as men form different judgments
of what constitutes happiness. The 'felicific calculus' will give
different results for the philosopher and the clown, the
sensualist and the ascetic, the savage and the civilised man; and
it is part of the empiricist contention that in fact the standard
has varied widely. Mill himself observes, and he is only
following Locke (73*) and Hume, 'that morality has varied widely;
has in some cases sanctioned practices the most revolting' to
others, and that the 'universal will of mankind is universal only
in its discordance.'(74*) It is indeed precisely for that reason
that the Utilitarian has defined to accept the authority of the
'moral sense' and appealed to facts. The belief that our feeling
is right, simply because it is ours, is the 'mental infirmity
which Bentham's philosophy tends to correct and Dr Whewell's to
perpetuate.' (75*) That is to say, Bentham can lay down an
'objective criterion' because he calculates actual pains and
pleasures. But will not this criterion be after all 'subjective'
because our estimate of pains and pleasures is so discordant?
Mill tries to meet this by a famous distinction between the
qualities of pleasures. Bentham had insisted that one pleasure
was as good as another. 'Quantity of pleasure being equal,
push-pin is as good as poetry.' (76*) Mill now declares that 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.' We must consider 'quality' as well as
'quantity.'(77*) The 'only competent judges,' he argues, are
those who have known both. Now, it is an 'unquestionable fact'
that those who have this advantage prefer the higher or
intellectual to the lower or sensual pleasures. It is better to
be a Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. If the fool or
the pig dissents it is because he only knows his own side of the
    Answers are only too obvious. What is 'quantity' as
distinguished from 'quality' of pleasure? The statement, 'A cubic
foot of water weighs less than a cubic foot of lead' is
intelligible; but what is the corresponding proposition about
pleasure? Can we ask, How much benevolence is equal to how much
hunger? The 'how much' is strictly meaningless. Moreover, are not
both Socrates and the pig right in their judgment? Pig's-wash is
surely better for the pig than dialogue; and dialogue may be
better for Socrates than pig's-wash. If 'desirable' means that
pleasure which each desires, each may be right. If it means some
quality independent of the agent, we have the old fallacy which
in political economy makes 'value' something 'objective.' All
'value' must depend upon the man as well as upon the thing. And
this again suggests that neither Socrates nor a Christian saint
would really make the supposed assertion. It is not true
absolutely that 'intellectual' pleasures are simply 'better' than
sensual. Each is better in certain circumstances. There are times
when even the saint prefers a glass of water to religious
musings; and moments when even a fool may at times find such
intellectual pleasures as he can enjoy better than a glass of
wine. This seems to be so obvious that we must suspect Mill of
hastily stopping a gap in his argument without duly working out
the implications. Indeed, he seems to be making room for
something very like an intuition. He assumes the proposition,
doubtful in itself and apparently inconsistent with his own
position, that all competent people agree, and then makes this
agreement decisive of a disputable question.
    Bentham, from his own point of view, was, I think, perfectly
right in his statement. To calculate pleasures, the only question
must be which are the greatest pleasures, and the only answer,
those which, as a fact, attract people most. If a man is more
attracted by 'push-pin' than by poetry, the presumption is that
push-pin gives him most pleasure. We are simply investigating
facts; and cannot overlook the obvious fact that estimates of
pleasure vary indefinitely. Some things are pleasant to the
refined alone, while others are more or less pleasant to
everybody, and others, again, cease to be pleasant or become
disgusting as men advance. To introduce the moral valuation in an
estimate of facts to change the 'desirable' as 'that which is
desired' into the 'desirable' as 'that which ought to be desired'
is to beg the question or to argue in circle.
    Yet Mill was aiming at an obvious truth. As men advance
intellectually, intellectual pleasures will clearly fill a larger
space in their ideal of life. The purely sensual pleasures will
have their value as long as men have bodies and appetites; but
they will come to have a subordinate place in defining the whole
ends of human conduct. The morality of the higher being will
include higher aspirations. We have then to inquire, In what
sense is a 'felicific calculus' possible or required? The moral
rule is, as Mill holds, a statement of certain fundamental
conditions of social life, giving, as he puts it, the
'ground-work' upon which all social relations are built up. This
again supposes essentially a society made of the most varying
elements, poets and men of science, philosophers and fools, nay,
according to him, including both Socrates and the pig. In
criticising Whewell, for example, he quotes (79*) with most
emphatical approval that 'admirable passage' in which Bentham
includes animal happiness in his criterion. We are to promote the
pig's happiness so far as the pig is 'sentient,' little as he may
care for a Socratic dialogue. But if so, the 'greatest happiness'
rule must have for its end the conditions under which the most
varying types of happiness may be promoted and each kind of
happiness promoted according to the character of the subject. And
in point of fact, the actual moral rules, 'Love your neighbour as
yourself,' be truthful, honest, and so forth, do not as such
define any special type of happiness as good. They assume rather
that happiness, as happiness, is so far good; and that we ought
to promote the happiness of others if our action be not
objectionable upon some other ground. This indicates a really
weak point of the old Utilitarianism, which Mill was trying to
remedy. If, as Bentham would seem to imply, we are to form Our
estimate of happiness simply by accepting average estimates of
existing human beings, we shall be tempted to approve conduct
conducive to the lower kinds of happiness alone. I should reply
that this is to misunderstand the true nature of morality. If
morality, as Mill would admit, corresponds essentially to the
primary relations of social life, it is defined not by any
average estimates of happiness, but by a statement of the
conditions of the welfare of the social organism. It states the
fundamental terms upon which men can best associate. It gives the
fundamental 'social compact' (if we may accept the phrase without
its fallacious connotation) implied in an ordered system of
society. The happiness of each is good, so far as it does not
imply anti-social characteristics. But morality leaves room for
the existence of the most varied types of character from the
saint to the pig, and aims at producing happiness -- not by
taking the existing average man as an ultimate unalterable type,
but -- by leaving room for such a development of men themselves
as will alter their character and therefore their views of
happiness. As the society progresses the individual will himself
be altered, and the type which implies a greater development of
intellect, sympathy, and energy come to prevail over the lower,
more sensual, selfish, and feeble type. Though happiness is still
the ultimate base, the morality applies immediately to the social
bond, which contemplates a general development of the whole man
and a modification of the elements of happiness itself. Mill,
perceiving that something was wanted, makes the unfortunate
attempt at supplying the gap by his assumption of an imaginary
consensus of the better minds. What is true is that all men may
consent to conditions of society which leave a free play to the
higher influences: that is, are favourable to the more advanced
type with greater force of intellect and richness of emotional
    Here we return to the old Utilitarian problem: What is the
'sanction' of morality? The 'sanction' can be nothing else than
the sum of all the motives which induce men to act morally. What,
then, are they? The Utilitarians, starting from the juridical
point of view, had a ready answer in the case of positive law.
The sanction, briefly, is the gallows. Law means coercion, and as
everybody (with very insignificant exceptions) objects to being
hanged, the gallows may be regarded as a sanction of universal
efficacy. If the moral law be taken in the same way as implying a
rule of conduct to be enforced by an external sanction, the
correlative to the gallows was hell-fire. This satisfied Paley,
but as the Utilitarians had abolished hell, they were at some
loss for a substitute.
    Here Mill accepts the principles laid down by his father. He
defends the Utilitarians upon the ground that they 'had gone
beyond all others in affirming that the motive has nothing to do
with the morality of the action, though much with the morality of
the agent.'(80*) They based morality upon 'consequences,' and the
consequences of an action are no doubt independent of the motive.
If I burn a man for heresy, the 'consequences' to him are the
same whether my motive be love of his soul or the hatred of a
bigot for a free-thinker. To estimate the goodness or badness of
an action, we must consider all that it implies. We must inquire
whether a society in which heretics are repressed by the stake is
better or worse than one in which they are left at liberty; and
that cannot be settled by simply asking whether the persecutor is
benevolent or malevolent. The purest benevolence may be misguided
if it is directed by erroneous belief. The 'sentimentalism,'
denounced by Utilitarians, implied refusal to look at
consequences, and the justification, for example, of corrupting
charity on the ground that it was pleasant to the sympathy of the
corrupter. Their especial function was to warn philanthropists
that misguided philanthropy might stimulate the greatest evils.
But to infer from this the general principle that the 'motive'
was indifferent involves the characteristic fallacy. The true
inference is that sound morality has an intellectual as well as
an emotional basis; it supposes a just foresight of consequences
as well as a desire for happiness. Conduct depends throughout
upon character; it cannot be altered without altering character,
though the alteration may imply enlightenment of the intellect
rather than development of the feelings. When we come to the
moral 'sanction' the motive becomes all important. The legislator
may be contented if he can induce a bad man to act like a good
man or to refrain from murder in the presence of the policeman.
He can take the policeman and the gallows for granted; and assume
the existence of the fundamental social instincts upon which the
judicial machinery depends. But it is precisely with those
instincts that the moralist is concerned. He has to ask what are
the forces which work the machinery and cannot be indifferent to
the question of 'motive.' Mill only half recognises the point
when he admits that the 'motive' has much to do with the
'morality of the agent.' If 'motive' be interpreted widely enough
it constitutes the agent's morality. An action is moral in so far
as it implies a character thoroughly 'moralised' or fitted to
play the right part in society. The distinction between the
morality of the conduct and the morality of the agent vanishes. A
good act is that which a good man would perform. If a bad man,
under compulsion, acts in the same way, he acts from fear, and
his act is therefore morally neutral, and to call him good on
account of his action is therefore a mistake. He simply shows
that he is a man, and dislikes hanging even more than he hates
his fellow-men.
    An 'external sanction' really means a motive for acting as
though you were good even if you are not good. That such
sanctions are essential to society, that they provide a shelter
under which true morality may or must grow up, is obvious. It is
true, also, that in early stages the distinction between the law
which rests upon force and that which rests upon the character is
not manifest. But ultimately morality means nothing but the
expression of the character itself. Hence to find a universal
'sanction' for morality is chimerical. Such a sanction would be
'a motive' which would apply to all men good or bad; that is, it
would not be a moral motive. Fear of hell or the gallows may
indirectly help (or hinder) the development of a moral character;
but in itself the fear is neither good nor bad. The very attempt,
therefore, to find such a 'sanction' implies the 'external' or
essentially inadequate view of morality, into which the
Utilitarians with their legal prepossessions were too apt to
fall. The law, resting upon external sanctions, may be useful or
prejudicial to morals, but must always be subordinate; for its
application depends upon instincts by which it is guided and
which it cannot create.
    Mill recognises this, virtually, though not explicitly, in
his discussion of the 'Utilitarian sanction.' He declares in
rather awkward phrase that the 'ultimate sanction of all morality
(external motives apart)' is 'a subjective feeling in our own
minds.' (Where else can such a feeling be, and what is 'an
objective feeling'?) These feelings exist, as he argues, equally
for the Utilitarian and the 'Transcendentalist,' though the
'Transcendentalists' think that their existence 'in the mind'
implies that they have a 'root out of the mind.'(81*) The
'conscience,' that is, pain in breaking the moral law, exists as
a fact, whatever its origin. If 'innate' it can still be opposed,
and the question, 'Why should I obey it?' is equally difficult to
answer. Even if innate, again, it may be an innate regard for
other men's pains and pleasures, and so coincide with the
Utilitarian view. He argues accordingly, that, in point of fact,
we may acquire that 'feeling of unity' with others which gives
the really 'ultimate sanction' to the 'Happiness morality.' (82*)
With this result I at least can have no quarrel. I hold it to be
perfectly correct and as good an account of morality as can be
given. The fault is in placing the 'external sanction ' on the
same level with the 'internal' and failing to see that it is not
properly 'moral' at all. But here, once more, it is necessary to
look at the difficulty of deriving his conclusion from the
premises inherited from his teachers. The essential difficulty
lies in the psychological analysis and the theory of association.
We are again at James Mill's point of view. Conduct is determined
by pain and pleasure. An action supposes an end, and that 'end'
must be a pleasure. If we ask, pleasure to whom? the answer must
be, pleasure to the agent. All conduct, it would seem, must be
directly or indirectly self-regarding, for the 'end ' must always
be my own pleasure. Mill maintains that 'virtue' may, for the
Utilitarian as well as for others, be a 'thing desirable in
itself.' (83*) That is a 'psychological fact,' independently of
the explanation. But at this point he lapses into the old
doctrine. Virtue, he admits, is not 'naturally and originally
part of the end.' Virtue was once-desired simply 'for its
conduciveness to pleasure' and especially 'to protection from
pain.' It becomes a good in itself. This is enforced by the
familiar illustration of the 'love of money' and of the love of
power or fame. Each passion aimed originally at a further end,
which has dropped out while the desire for means has become
original. The moral feelings, as he says in answer to
Whewell,(84*) are 'eminently artificial and the product of
culture.' We may grow corn, or we may as easily grow hemlocks or
thistles. Yet, as he declares in the Utilitarianism,(85*) 'moral
feelings' are not 'the less natural' because 'acquired.' The
'moral faculty' is a 'natural outgrowth' of our nature. The
antithesis of 'natural' and 'artificial' is generally ambiguous;
but Mill's view is clear enough upon the main point. Virtue is
the product of the great force 'indissoluble association.' Now
'artificial associations' are dissolved 'as intellectual culture
goes on.' But the association between virtue and utility is
indissoluble, because there is a 'natural basis of sentiment'
which strengthens it -- that basis being 'our desire to be in
unity with our fellow-creatures.'(86*) One further corollary
deserves notice. To become virtuous, it is necessary to acquire
virtuous habits. We 'will' at first simply because we desire.
Afterwards we come to desire a thing because we will it. 'Will is
the child of desire, and passes out of the dominion of its parent
only to come under that of habit.' (87*) Thus, as he had said in
the Logic,(88*) we learn to will a thing 'without reference to
its being pleasurable' -- a fact illustrated by the habit of
'hurtful excess' and equally by moral heroism. It would surely be
more consistent to say that habit is a modification of character
which alters our pains and pleasures but does not enable us to
act against our judgment of pains and pleasures. He is trying to
escape from an awkward consequence; but the mode of evasion will
hardly bear inspection.
    Mill's arguments imply his thorough adherence to the
'association psychology.' They really indicate, I think, an
attempt to reach a right conclusion from defective premises. The
error is implied in the analysis of 'ends' of action. When a man
acts with a view to an 'end' the true account is that his
immediate action is affected by all the consequences which he
foresees. This or that motive conquers because it includes a
perception of more or less remote results. But what determines
conduct is not a calculation of some future pains or pleasures,
but the actual painfulness or pleasurableness of the whole action
at the moment. I shrink from the pain of a wound or from the pain
of giving a wound to another person. Both are equally my
immediate feelings; and it is an error to analyse the sympathetic
pain into two different factors, one the immediate action and the
other the anticipated reaction. It is one indissoluble motive,
just as natural or original as the dislike to the unpleasant
sensation of my own wound. To distinguish it into two facts and
make one subordinate and a product of association is a fallacy.
We can hardy believe that 'association' accounts even for 'love
of money' or 'fame.' Avarice and vanity mean an exaggerated fear
of poverty or regard to other people's opinions. They do not
imply any forgetfulness of end for means, but an erroneous
estimate of the proportion of means to ends. The really
noticeable point, again, has already met us in James Mill's
ethics. When Mill speaks of 'virtue' as 'artificial' or
derivative, he is asserting a truth not to be denied by an
evolutionist. Undoubtedly the social sentiments have been slowly
developed; and undoubtedy they have grown up under the protection
of external 'sanctions.' The primitive society did not
distinguish between law and morality; the pressure of external
circumstances upon character and the influence of the character
itself upon the society. A difficulty arises from the defective
view which forces Mill to regard the whole process as taking
place within the life of the individual. The unit is then a being
without moral instincts at all, and they have to be inserted by
the help of the association machinery. Sympathy is not an
intrinsic part of human nature in its more advanced stages, but
something artificial stuck on by indissoluble association. Mill,
himself, when discussing the virtue of justice in his last
chapter, substantially adopts a line of argument which, if not
satisfactory in details, sufficiently recognises this point of
view. And, if he still fails to explain morality sufficiently, it
is in the main because he never freed himself from the
unsatisfactory assumptions of the old psychology. Here, as in so
many other cases, he sees the inadequacy of the old conclusions,
but persuades himself that a better result can be reached without
the thorough revision which was really necessary.


1. Autobiography, p. 50. the most elaborate attack upon the
Liberty is contained in Liberty, Equality and Fraternity (1873),
by my brother Sir James FitzJames Stephen, in whose I life I have
given an account of the book. I shall not here go into the
controversy. I am content to say that, though I cannot agree with
my brother, I think that he strikes very forcibly at some weak
points in Mill's scheme. The most remarkable point is that the
book is substantially a criticism of Mill's from the older
Utilitarian point of view. It shows, therefore, how Mill diverged
from Bentham.

2. I refer for the Liberty and the Representative Government to
the People's Editions of 1867.

3. Works, ii. 451.

4. Autobiography, p. 231.

5. Ibid., pp. 191-95.

6. Liberty (People's Edition, 1867), p. 3

7. Ibid., p. 5.

8. Liberty, 17 n. The Bradlaugh case showed that the old spirit
was not extinct twenty-five years later.

9. See Bain's James Mill, p. 304.

10. Liberty, pp. 30, 31.

11. Liberty, p. 21. The excellent Abraham Tucker remarks that if
he met 'a person of credit, candour, and understanding.' who
denied that two and two made four, he would give him a hearing.
-- Light of Nature (1834), p. 125.

12. Liberty, pp. 25, 26. 'To become properly acquainted with a
truth,' says Novalis (quoted in Carlyle's essay upon him), 'we
must first have disbelieved and disputed against it.' But Novalis
also observed that 'my faith gains infinitely the moment I see it
should by some one else.'

13. Liberty, p. 24.

14. Liberty, p. 22.

15. Liberty, p. 17.

16. Note in Liberty Mill's theory that the impulse given at
'three periods' -- the Reformation, the last half of the
eighteenth century, and the 'Goethean and Fichtean' period in
Germany -- have made Europe what it is. Yet each 'period' is only
the product of the preceding periods. Has Europe owed nothing to
the seventeenth century?

17. Subjection of Women, p. 6.

18. Dissertations, p. 351. So in Subjection of Women (second
edition, 1869, p. 129) he remarks that originality generally
presupposes 'elaborate discipline,' and agrees with F.D. Maurice
that the most original thinkers are those who know most
thoroughly what has been done by their predecessors.

19. Liberty, p. 32.

20. Ibid., p. 7.

21. Humboldt's Sphere and Duties of Government was translated by
Joseph Coulthard in 1854.  Though originally written in 1791 it
did not appear in a complete form till published in the collected
edition of his works by his brother Alexander in 1852. The book
shows the influence of Kant and Rousseau. Humboldt was at a time
a kind of philosophical antimonian objecting to all external law
as injurious to spontaneous spiritual development. Marriage
should be left to individual contract, because, 'where law has
imposed no fetters morality most surely binds.' In Bentham's
phrase 'external sanctions' weaken the internal. The state should
provide 'security,' and leave religion and morality to
themselves. Humboldt's philosophy is not Mill's, though on most
points the practical application coincides.

22. It would be curious to compare Mill's theory with the very
interesting books in which M. Tarde has shown the vast importance
of 'imitation' in sociology.

23. Mill, in his Representative Government (p. 17), argues that
the Hebrew prophets discharged the functions of modern liberty of
the press; and that the Jews were therefore the 'most progressive
people of antiquity' after the Greeks. Still, their 'culture' was
hardly so wide.

24. Liberty, p. 41.

25. Political Economy, bk. iv. ch. I,  section 2.

26. See chap. v.

27. Representative Government, p. 45.

28. Ibid., p. 104.

29. Representative Government, p. 5.

30. Coleridge, he observes, had also distinguished 'permanence'
and 'progression.' -- Representative Government. p. 8.

31. See Philosophie Positive, iv, 318, etc.

32. Auguste Comte and Positivism (reprinted from the Westminister
Review, 1865) p. 36.

33. Representative Government, p. 14.

34. Ibid., p. 22.

35. Representative Government, ch. iv.

36. Ibid., p. 21.

37. Ibid., p. 22.

38. Representative Government, p. 47.

39. ibid., p. 52.

40. ibid., p. 53

41. Ibid., p. 57.

42. Ibid., p. 59.

43. Representative Government, p. 60.

44. Subjection of Women (1869), p. 16.

45. Logic, p. 572 (bk. vi. ch. vi, section 2).

46. Representative Government p. 76. Cf. Political Economy, p.
493 (bk. iv. ch. vii. section 2).

47. Subjection of  Women, pp. 41, 104.

48. Subjection of Women, pp. 48-9.

49. Ibid., p. 105. In one of the letters to Carlyle Mill asks
whether the highest masculine, are not identical with the highest
feminine, qualities. I should like to see Carlyle's answer.

50. This argument is put by Comte in his correspondence with
Mill. So far, Comte seems to have the best of it; and Mill's
inability to appreciate the doctrine is characteristic. At this
time Mill seems to have been undecided upon the question of
divorce. See the discussion in the Letters, pp. 208-73.

51. Subjection of Women, p. 36.

52. Subjection of Women, p. 59. Cf. Liberty, p. 61.

53. Subjection of  Women, p. 81.

54. Liberty, p. 44.

55. Ibid. p. 46.

56. Liberty, p. 47.

57. Liberty, p. 48.

58. Representative Government, p. 74.

59. Liberty, p. 41.

60.  See in Representative Government, p. 62, his argument
against the objection to Hare's scheme that it would destroy the
local character of representation. The objectors think, he says,
that 'a nation does not consist of persons but of artificial
units, the creation of geography and statistics'; that 'Liverpool
and Exeter are the proper objects of a legislator's care in
contradistinction to the population of those places.' this, he
thinks, is 'a curious specimen of delusion produced by words.'
The local interests and affections which bind neighbours and
townsmen together may thus be simply set aside.

61. See Correspondence with Comte, p. 414.

62. August Comte, p. 200.

63. ibid. pp. 94-100.

64. I refer to the second edition (1864). Mill's Utilitarianism,
and some other parts of his writings referring to the same
subject, have been republished in 1897 by Mr Charles Douglas as
The Ethics of  John Stuart Mill. He has prefixed some interesting 
'Introductory Essays.' Mr Douglas had previously published John
Stuart Mill: a Study of his Philosophy, 1895. Both are valuable
studies of Mill.

65. Utilitarianism, p. 24.

66. Ibid. p. 48.

67. October 1852, reprinted in Dissertation, ii. 450, etc.

68. Utilitarianism, pp. 17, 58.

69. Ibid. p. 59.

70. Utilitarianism, p. 5.

71., Dissertations, ii, 474.

72. Utilitarianism, p. 33.

73. See Locke's Essay (bk. i, ch. iii, section 9) upon the
'Caribbees' and 'Tououpinambos'.

74. Dissertation, ii, 198.

75. Ibid. ii, 389.

76. ibid, ii, 389.

77. Utilitarianism, p. 12. It is rather odd to find Mr Ruskin
making the same remark. -- Fors Clavigera, xiv, 8.

78. Utilitarianism, p. 14. The argument is virtually Plato's. See
Republic, book ix, (581-83).

79. Dissertations, ii, 482.

80. Utilitarianism, p. 26. Mill is answering the criticism that
Utilitarianism puts the standard of morality too high if it
assumes that every man is to be prompted by desire for the
'greatest happiness of  the greatest number.' I have spoken of
this in considering James Mill's ethical position.

81. Utilitarianism, p. 42.

82. Ibid., p. 48.

83. Utilitarianism, p. 54.

84. Dissertations, ii, p. 472.

85. Utilitarianism, p. 45.

86. Ibid. p. 46.

87. Utilitarianism, p. 60.

88. Logic, bk. vi, ch. iii. section 4.
Chapter V

Historical Method

I. John Austin

    I have spoken more than once of the paradox implied in the
Utilitarian combination of appeals to 'experience,' with
indifference to history. The importance of historical methods
already recognised by Mill has become more obvious in later
years. It was, as he saw, clearly desirable that the Utilitarians
should annex this field of Inquiry and apply appropriate methods.
I have said something of Mill's view of the problems thus
suggested; but the attitude of the Utilitarians in regard to them
may be more fully indicated by the writings of some of his
    John Austin (1790-1859)(1*) was accepted as the heir-apparent
to Bentham in the special department of jurisprudence. Five
years' service in the army was a unique apprenticeship for a
Benthamite; and, as his widow tells us, helped to develop his
chivalrous sense of honour. It may also help to explain a want of
sympathy for the democratic zeal of most of his comrades. In any
case, it did not suppress a delight in intellectual activity.
Austin left the army, and in 1818 was called to the bar, but
ill-health compelled him to retire in 1825. He was thus qualified
to be a jurist by some knowledge of practice, and forced to turn
his knowledge to theoretical application. Upon the foundation of
the London University he became the first professor of
jurisprudence. With the true scholar's instinct for thorough
preparation, he went to Bonn, studied the great German writers
upon jurisprudence, and made the acquaintance of eminent living
professors. The insular narrowness of Bentham and James Mill was
thus to be corrected by cosmopolitan culture. Austin returned
amidst the highest expectations. A clear voice, a perfect
delivery, and a courteous and dignified manner were suited to
give effect to his teaching; and unanimous tradition tells us
that his powers in conversation were unsurpassed. Why did he not
acquire such an intellectual leadership in London as Dugald
Stewart had enjoyed in Edinburgh? Some reasons are obvious.
English barristers and law students were serenely indifferent to
the 'philosophy of law.' They had quite enough to do in acquiring
familiarity with the technicalities of English practice. The
University itself turned out to be chiefly a high school for boys
not yet ripe for legal studies. Though J. S. Mill attended his
lectures and took elaborate notes, few men had Mill's thirst for
knowledge. Moreover, Austin thought it a duty to be as dry as
Bentham, and discharged that duty scrupulously. The audiences
dwindled, and the salary, derived from the fees, dwindled with
it. Austin, a poor man, could not go on discoursing gratuitously
to empty benches, and gave his last lecture in 1832.
    Admiring friends did their best to find a sphere for his
talents. Brougham placed him on the Criminal Law Commission,
where he soon found that there was no serious chance of being
employed, as he desired, in active codification A course of
lectures promoted by the sound Utilitarian, Henry Bickersteth
(Lord Langdale), at the Inner Temple fell as flat as the former.
Austin retired to France, saying that he was born out of time and
place, and should have been a 'schoolman of the twelfth century
or a German professor.' He was afterwards on a Commission at
Malta, with his friend Sir G. Cornewall Lewis for a colleague. A
change of government brought this employment to an end. Austin
gave up active work. He passed some years in Germany and France
in the enjoyment of intellectual society. After the revolution of
1848 he returned to England, and led a quiet country life at
Weybridge. His sole later publication was a pamphlet against
parliamentary reform in 1859. He died in the following December.
Weak health and a fastidious temperament partly account for his
silence. After publishing his early lectures he could never be
induced to bring out a second edition. He suffered from scholar's
paralysis -- preference of doing nothing to doing anything short
of the ideal standard. He had not strength to satisfy the demands
of German professors, and cared nothing for the applause of the
British public. His 'estimate of men was low,' says Mrs Austin,
'and his solicitude for their approbation was consequently
small.' His want of success did not embitter, though it
discouraged him; and he was constantly, we are told, 'meditating
on the sublimest themes that can occupy the mind of man.' He kept
the results for his own circle of hearers. Utilitarian zeal for
democracy was impossible for him. He had the scholar's contempt
for the vulgar, and dreaded political changes which could
increase the power of the masses. It is the more remarkable that
Austin's Utilitarianism is of the most rigid orthodoxy. A
thorough Benthamite training gave absolute immunity to even the
germs of transcendental philosophy. He speaks with the
profoundest respect of the great German professors, especially of
Savigny. He cordially admires their learning and acuteness. But
when they deviate into philosophy he denounces their 'jargon' as
roundly as Bentham or James Mill. Austin became the typical
expounder of Benthamite jurisprudence. His lectures long enjoyed
a high reputation: partly, I cannot help guessing, because, good
or bad, they had the field to themselves; partly, also, because
their dry, logical articulation fits them admirably for
examination purposes; and partly, I do not doubt, because they
represent some rare qualities of mind. Their fame declined upon
the rise of the 'historical school.' Austin's star set as Maine's
rose. Yet Austin himself claimed that his was the really
historical method. The historical school, he says,(2*) is the
school which appeals to 'experience,' and holds that a 'body of
law cannot be spun out of a few general principles, considered a
priori.' Bentham clearly falls under the definition, for Bentham
considered the reports of English decisions to be 'an invaluable
mine of experience for the legislator.' If this be an adequate
criterion, how does Bentham differ from the school which claimed
the historical method as its distinctive characteristic? Austin
aims at giving a 'philosophy of law.' The phrase at once
indicates two correlative lines of inquiry. A 'law' supposes a
law-giver -- an authority which lays down or enforces the law. We
may then inquire what is implied by the existence of this
authority, or what is its origin, growth, and constitution? That
is a problem of 'social dynamics.' We may, again, take the
existence of the state for granted; inquire what are the actual
laws; how they can be classified and simplified; and what are the
consequent relations between the state and the individual. That
is a problem of 'social statics,' and corresponds to the ordinary
legal point of view. The conception of 'law' is common to both,
though it may be approached from opposite directions, and may
require modification so as to bring the results of the two lines
of inquiry into harmony. The problems, and therefore the methods
of inquiry, must be distinct, but each may be elucidated by the
    Austin's position is given by his definition of law. It
implies what has been called the 'Austinian analysis,' and is
considered by his followers to dissolve all manner of
sophistries. It is already implied in Hobbes.(3*) A law, briefly,
is the command of a sovereign enforced by a sanction. The
definition gives the obvious meaning for the lawyer. Murder is
punishable by death. That is the law of England. To prove that is
the law, we need only go to the statute-book. The statute rests
upon the absolute authority of the legislature. It assumes the
existence, then, of a sovereign; an ultimate authority behind
which the lawyer never goes. It is for him infallible. The
English lawyer accepts an act of parliament as a man of science
accepts a law of nature. If there be any law which has not these
marks it is for him no law. Conduct is illegal when the state
machinery can be put in force to suppress it. Therefore the
sphere of law is precisely marked out by the conception of the
sovereign and the sanction.
    The definition, then, may be true and relevant for all the
lawyer's purposes. But a definition, as J. S. Mill would point
out, is not a sufficient foundation for a philosophy. It may
provisionally mark out some province for investigation; but we
must always be prepared to ask how far the definition corresponds
to an important difference. Now Austin's definition has important
implications. It excludes as well as includes. Having defined a
law, he argues that many other things which pass by that name are
only 'metaphorically' or 'analogically' laws; and this raises the
question, whether the fact that they do not conform to his
definition corresponds to a vital difference in their real
nature? Is he simply saying, 'I do not call them laws,' or really
pointing out an essential and relevant difference of 'kind'? An
important point is suggested by one exclusion. We are not to
confound the so-called laws proper with the 'laws of nature' of
scientific phraseology. Such a law of nature is simply a
statement of a general fact. The astronomer asserts that the
motion of bodies may be described by a certain formula. In saying
so, he does not assert, even if he believes the inference to be
legitimate, that their motion is caused by a divine command or
enforced by a sanction. The actual uniformity is all that
concerns him. The uniformity produced by law proper led, as
Austin holds, to a confusion between different conceptions.
Austin was clearly right in pointing out the difference; and
scientific thinkers, before and since his time, have had to
struggle with a fallacy, singularly tenacious of life. A 'law of
nature' in the scientific sense is not a law in the jurist's
sense. The difference may be regarded in another way The two
senses of law differ as a 'command' differs from a proposition;
the imperative from the indicative mood. The command, 'Do not
murder,' is not a simple proposition. It belongs rather to action
than to belief. It utters a volition and therefore creates a
fact, instead of simply expressing a truth. Yet a command is also
a fact, and may be regarded as part of the general system of
fact. The command, 'Do not murder,' implies the fact, 'murder is
forbidden.' We might show that in certain social conditions
murder becomes punishable by death. That is a property of society
at certain stages. If the social machinery worked with perfect
accuracy, it would be as much a law of nature that a society
kills murderers as that a wolf kills lambs or that fire burns
straw. From this point of view, then, a 'law proper' falls under
the conception of a 'law of nature,' though a law of nature is
not a 'law proper.' It is a law of nature in the making, or a law
of nature which is only fulfilled when a number of complex
conditions of human conduct are satisfied. Austin, denying that
free-will means a really arbitrary element, would no doubt have
admitted that the 'law proper' was a product of the general laws
(in the scientific sense) of human nature. This aspect of the
case, however, passes out of sight. The law is something created;
'set,' as he calls it, or laid down by the sovereign at his own
will, and is thus perfectly arbitrary. That is the ultimate fact,
and makes a radical difference. We stop at the 'command,' and do
not ask how the command itself comes into existence. This
corresponds to J. S. Mill's distinction between 'making' and
'growing.' Law belongs to the region of 'making.' It originates
in the will of the sovereign. Whatever he wills and 'sanctions,'
and nothing else, is therefore law in the proper sense of the
    Another class of 'laws' is excluded by the definition. A
'custom' is not a law proper. I obey many rules, which are not
'commands' and not enforced by legal sanctions. I conform to
countless rules of conduct, though no assignable person has ever
made them, and though the sovereign will not punish me for
breaking them. In such rules the disapproval of society may act
in the same way as a sanction, though not annexed by a sovereign.
The resemblance may pass into identity. Customs become laws, as
they receive the sanction of the legislator or of the courts.
This includes Bentham's 'judge-made' law; and Austin diverges
from Bentham by recognising this as a legitimate mode of
legislation. The question then arises whether the distinction
between laws and customs is essential or superficial -- a real
distinction of kinds or only important in our classification.
From the lawyer's point of view, again, the importance is
obvious. He always wishes to know precisely at what point the law
can be brought to bear. whether a rule will be enforced by the
courts, or generally Under what circumstances a custom will be
accepted as a law. The answer necessarily leads to much legal
subtlety. The custom may be treated as constructively a law. The
sovereign has not actually made nor 'sanctioned' it; but virtue
has somehow gone out of him by implication, and his recognition
is equivalent to imposition of the rule. Though the 'sovereign'
has not really 'made' the law, he may be considered as having
made it by a metaphysical fiction. In this direction Austin
becomes the twelfth century schoolman, and has to split hairs to
force his definition upon the facts. The inquiry, though
necessary from the lawyer's point of view, becomes irrelevant
from the sociologist's. The social action is the same, whether
the rule obeyed be a custom or a law strictly so called.
Confusion therefore follows when the question of legal validity
is substituted for the question of real efficacy. Primitive
societies obey implicitly a variety of elaborate 'laws' or
'customs,' though they have no conception of legislation. The
obedience to the rule is instinctive, and the rule regarded as
absolutely unalterable. Are such rules 'laws' -- though not made
by a sovereign -- or mere 'customs,' though obeyed as strictly as
the most effective 'laws'? Austin answers consistently that they
are not laws at all. There are people, he says, in 'a state of
nature,'(4*) such as the savages in New Holland or North America.
Their life, in Hobbes's famous phrase, is 'solitary, poor, nasty,
brutish, and short.' Their laws correspond to mere 'positive
morality or the law set by public opinion,' which is necessarily
so uncertain that it cannot serve as a complete guide of conduct,
nor can it be sufficiently minute or detailed.(5*) Savages, it
seems, form herds not societies, and may be simply left out of
consideration by the philosophical jurist. Austin, of course.
could not be expected to anticipate more recent investigations
into archaic institutions; but he was unlucky in thus summarily
condemning them by anticipation. In any case the position
indicates an important gap in his system. What was the legal bond
which converted the herds into political societies? The problem
of the formation of society had been solved not by historical
inquiry but by the 'social contract theory.' Austin follows
Bentham and Hume. They had shown conclusively not only that the
contract was a figment historically, but that it could not supply
what was wanted. It professed to add the sanctity of a promise to
the social bond, whereas the sanctity of a promise itself
requires explanation. The theory simply amounted, as Bentham had
urged, to a roundabout way of introducing utility. Any sort of
contract, as Austin urges,(6*) presupposes a formed political
society. Clearly it cannot otherwise be a contract in his sense
-- an obligation enforced by a sanction -- when it is itself to
be the foundation of sovereignty or sanctions. Austin therefore
rejects contemptuously the doctrine of natural law accepted by
his German teachers. The theory that there is somehow or other a
body of law, deducible by the pure reason, and yet capable of
overriding or determining the 'law proper,' is his great example
of ontological 'jargon' and 'fustian.' Austin's disciples
hold(7*) that his main service to the philosophy of law was
precisely his exposure of the fallacy. The 'Natur-Recht' is
'jargon.' It is most desirable to discuss ideal law as meaning
the law which it would be useful to adopt; but to speak as if it
had already some transcendental reality is to confuse 'ought'
with 'is' or, as Austin would say, the question of utility with
the question of actual existence. The 'natural law' corresponds
to the legal fictions denounced by Bentham, under which, when
really making law, judges pretended to be only applying an
existing law; and to the theories attacked in the Anarchical
Fallacies, according to which this ideal law could override the
actual law. Austin's polemic was no doubt directed against a
theory fertile in confusion and fallacies.
    Still the social contract, though exploded, leaves a problem
for solution. Somehow or other the social organism has been put
together, or, in Austin's phrase, the sovereign has come into
existence. To explain this is the sociological problem. Austin
recognises a difficulty. Generally speaking, he says, 'the
constitution of the supreme society has grown.'(8*) It should
then, we might expect, be studied like other growths, as the
physiologist studies the growth of plants and animals and tries
to formulate the processes. Austin, however, protests by
anticipation. He does not use the 'fustian but current phrase,'
Growth, to cover anything mysterious. He only means that
governments have in fact been put together by unsystematic
processes' -- 'by a long series of 'authors' and 'successive
sovereigns.' They did not, that is, spring ready-made from the
hand of a supernatural legislator, but they were made by a series
of patchings and cobblings carried out by ignorant and
short-sighted rulers. The 'growing,' then, was really 'making,'
however blundering and imperfect. Thus we have no 'mystical'
social bond. Society has been constructed all along by the same
method. The ultimate cause has always been, the perception of the
utility of political government, or the preference by the bulk of
the community of any government to anarchy.'(9*) The theory thus
appears to be that men in fact made such an agreement as the
social contract supposes, though the agreement had not the force
of a contract. Men have always seen, as they see now, that
government is useful; and thus 'perception of utility' (not
utility simply) is the sole force which holds society together
and supports the sovereign and the sanctions.
    A practical lawyer has little concern with savages and the
origin of civil society. Austin's principles, however, apply to
the modern society also. Law, as he seems to think, excludes or
supersedes custom, so that the whole fabric of the state is
entirely dependent upon the 'sovereign,' and the social union
upon the 'perception of utility.' As a rule, one might observe,
the question hardly arises. Men accept the social constitution
into which they are born, because they can't help it. They never
ask whether it is useful because they have no alternative of
joining or separating. I may ask whether I shall belong to this
or that club; but no one can choose whether he shall or shall not
be a member of society. This leads to the point already noticed
under Bentham. Custom is not really the creature of law, but law
the product of custom. The growth of a society does not imply the
disappearance of instinct, but implies on the contrary that
certain fundamental instincts and the corresponding modes of
action have become so thoroughly settled and organised that the
society is capable of combining to modify particular regulations.
When the English people passed the Reform Bill and the Americans
accepted the constitution of the United States they altered very
important laws, but it was precisely because they had been so
thoroughly imbued with certain habits of combined action,
involving the acceptance of complex legislative processes, that
they were able to make changes in the less essential parts of the
constitution. The 'sanction' no doubt determines the conduct of
the individual. But when we ask upon what then does the sovereign
power depend, we must go behind the law, and ask what are the
complex instincts, beliefs, and passions which in fact bind men
together and constitute the society as a moral organism.
    The weak side of the 'Austinian analysis' is this
transference of a legal conception to a sociological problem.
Distinctions valid and important in their own sphere become
irrelevant and lead to idle subtleties beyond that sphere. What,
in fact, is the sovereign? He stands for an undeniable fact. Law
presupposes a state and political unity. Political order implies
some supreme and definite authority which can be invoked in all
controversies as to what is or is not the law. The simplest case
would be an irresponsible despot who could command whatever he
pleased, and whose commands would be implicitly obeyed. If he
does not exist he must be invented, as Voltaire said of the
Deity. He is a 'fictitious entity,' or the incarnation of legal
authority. This corresponds to the truth implied in the
Utilitarian polemic against the supposed balance of powers and
the mixture of the three abstract forms, monarchy, aristocracy,
and democracy. The existence of the state implies unity of
authority and the agreement that the validity of laws shall
depend upon their elaboration by definite constitutional
processes. But then we have to ask, Who precisely is the
sovereign? The answer would be simple in the case of the
individual despot. When the sovereign is not a single man but an
organised body of men, such phrases as 'will' and 'command'
become metaphorical. The will is not one will, but the product of
multitudinous wills acting in complex though definable ways. The
sovereign is not an entity distinct from the subjects, but is
composed of the subjects themselves, or some fraction of them,
according to a definite set of regulations. Can the state be
treated as the embodiment of an external force? Austin is greatly
puzzled to say who, in a given case, is the sovereign? Is
parliament, or the House of Commons, or the electoral body the
ultimate sovereign of England? Who is the true sovereign in a
federal government such as the United States, where sovereign
powers are distributed in complex ways? The legal question, What
are the recognised forms by which valid laws are nominally
constructed? is again confounded with the question of fact, What
are the real forces which, in fact, produce obedience? The
British Constitution has been steadily altering from remote times
as a certain understanding has been developed. The centre of
power has imperceptibly shifted without definite legislation; and
the legal theory has remained unaltered, or has only conformed to
customs already established. The question, therefore, what forms
must be observed in conformity to precedent or explicit
legislation, is entirely different from the question, What are
the really dominant forces? The crown can undoubtedly veto an act
of parliament in the legal sense of 'can'; whether it 'can' do so
in the practical sense is a question only to be solved by saying
what are the real forces which lie beneath the constitutional
    I have already noticed the tendency of the Utilitarians to
confuse the legal doctrine of the sovereign's omnipotence with
the doctrine of his omnipotence in fact. Macaulay had
sufficiently pointed out to Mill that the sovereign was limited:
limited by his own character and by the impossibility of
enforcing laws not congenial to the public sentiment. Austin
illustrates a further result. Customs are legally invalid till
recognised and sanctioned by the sovereign. That is important for
the lawyer. But interpreted as a law of 'social dynamics,' it
leads to the inversion by which custom is supposed to be created
by the law, and the sovereign made the ultimate source of power,
instead of being himself the product of a long and intricate
process of development of custom. Here, therefore, is the point
at which the Utilitarian view becomes antithetic to the
historical. It seeks to explain the first state of society by the
last, instead of explaining the last by the first. We can see,
too, the main reason for this mode of conceiving the case. To
Austin the reference to the underlying forces by which political
society is built up seemed to be 'mysticism.' A fully developed
'law' is intelligible: the customs which grow up in the twilight
before the full light of day has appeared are too incoherent and
shadowy for scientific treatment. The mode of analysing all
phenomena into independent and uniform atoms leads to this
result. Causation itself had been reduced to mere sequence to get
rid of a 'mystic bond,' and the same method is applied to social
phenomena.(10*) We have the difficulty which occurs so often in
the Utilitarian theories. They desire on the one hand to be
scientific, and on the other hand to be thoroughly empirical. The
result is to divide the two spheres: to enlarge as much as
possible the variability of human society in order to be
'empirical'; and to regard the constituent atoms as unchangeable.
Hence they have always a difficulty of conceiving of growth or
'evolution,' in which variation is supposed to be compatible with
the existence of law, or to combine the two aspects of change and
uniformity. That always appears to them to be 'mystical.' Though
they deny 'freewill,' they give the widest possible range to the
sphere of voluntary action. 'Making' is radically distinguished
from 'growing,' instead of being simply growth directed by
conscious foresight. There is nothing really more 'mystical,'
though there is something much more complex, in the growth of a
society than in the growth of a natural species. But as it
supposes a change due to something in the constitution of the man
himself, not to merely 'external circumstances,' it has to be
rejected as much as possible. Hence we get our omnipotent
sovereign creating laws and customs and to be taken as an
ultimate fact.
    I need not point out at length the relation of these views to
Utilitarianism in general, and to the belief in the indefinite
modifiability of human nature and the transcendent importance of
political machinery. It is enough to note that Austin's position
involves one assumption remarkable in a Utilitarian. The
empiricism of the Utilitarians is interpreted to mean that
everything must be explained by circumstances, and conduct
therefore by 'external' sanctions. Austin feels that, after all,
some bond must be required to hold men together. The legislative
sanctions cannot be quite ultimate. In fact, we want 'morality';
and he therefore includes the 'laws of God' among the laws which
are really, not metaphorically, laws. He thus accepts the Paley
view, though with a certain reserve., Utility, is the sole
criterion or 'index,' as he calls it, to the moral law. Still,
the law requires a sanction. The sanction is left in judicious
vagueness; but we are told that God must be benevolent, and must
therefore be held to approve the conduct which promotes the
happiness of his creatures. This, it would seem, is essential to
Austin's position.(11*) Whether he was practising some 'economy,'
and what his fellow Utilitarians would have thought of it, and
how precisely he would have justified his position logically, are
questions which I cannot discuss.
    The application of Austin's principles to the purely legal
sphere lies beyond my purpose. His aim is to analyse the primary
conceptions of jurisprudence in accordance with his principles,
and to obtain a rational classification of law in general.
Whether the result was satisfactory, or how far satisfactory, I
cannot inquire. The lectures were reviewed in the Edinburgh both
by J. F. Stephen(12*) and by J. S. Mill.(13*) Both of them speak
warmly of the merits of Sir Henry Maine, then beginning to be
famous, and both regard the two methods as correlative rather
than antagonistic. That they ought to be correlative is clear. A
sound theory of origins and growth should be perfectly compatible
with a sound theory of the actual order. But whether the two
systems actually present that harmony is another question.
    The political application of Austin's principles might be
illustrated from the writings of his friend and disciple, Sir
George Cornewall Lewis (1806-1863).(14*) Strong sense, unflagging
industry, and the highest integrity won for Lewis high authority
in parliament. A boundless thirst for knowledge, supported by a
remarkable, memory, enabled him to discuss many topics of
historical criticism. He was intimate with Grote, who accepted
his suggestions upon Greek history respectfully. and his
intellect was of the true Utilitarian type. His writings are as
dry as the most thoroughgoing Utilitarian could desire. He will
not give his readers credit for understanding the simplest
argument till it is set down at full length in plain black and
white. He was sceptical, and practical experience had impressed
him, even to excess, with the worthlessness of human testimony.
In politics scepticism naturally becomes empiricism; and as a
thoroughgoing empiricist he rejects altogether James Mill's
absolute methods. He is as convinced as Macaulay that political
theories must be based upon observation, and is entirely free
from the error of supposing that a constitution can be devised
without reference to time, place, and circumstance. Yet he could
write a dialogue upon the best form of government, which seems to
imply that some real meaning can be given to the problem without
reference to the stage of social development, that is, to the one
condition which makes the problem intelligible.
    One reason is that Lewis was a practical man, and he shows
very clearly why the practical man was inclined to
Utilitarianism. A chancellor of the exchequer knows that the fate
of a budget depends upon him, and refuses to regard himself as a
mere tool of fate. A scientific treatment of history would lead,
he thinks, to fatalism.(15*) Everything is intrinsically
uncertain where the human will is concerned.(16*) Such events as
the French revolution, therefore, must be regarded as
controllable by statesmanship, and not, with some historians,
declared to have been 'inevitable.' When we have got to the
statesman or to the sovereign we have the ultimate cause, and
need not ask whether he be not himself a product. Thus all laws,
constitutional or otherwise, may be compared to machinery,(17*)
and suppose contrivance or design. All institutions have been
made, and he assumes that even polygamy and slavery were
'dictated by unsound practical arguments.'(18*) The tendency of
such a doctrine is clear. All institutions, from the most organic
to the most superficial, are regarded as equally a product of
conscious manufacture. Their relation to the processes of social
growth is tacitly disregarded, and the whole organism can be
modified by a simple shuffling of the cards. We can therefore
attack the problem of the best form of government without
emphasising the necessary reference to historical conditions.
Lewis's wide reading supplied him with any number of judicious
remarks, drawn from all authorities between Aristotle and Comte.
Undoubtedly such remarks deserve respect; they are apt to be
commonplace, but are not therefore useless. Only, to apply them
to any purpose, it is necessary to have a more definite
understanding of the processes of social development which limit
and define their value at any given stage. Empiricism, thus
understood, really makes scientific method, as well as any
definite scientific conclusion, impossible. Even in the purely
practical sphere, the most important of all problems for a
statesman is to know what are the limits of his powers, and to
recognise what is really 'inevitable' in the great changes.
Otherwise, he is in the position of Mrs Partington fighting the
Atlantic. Lewis became a Whig instead of a Utilitarian Radical;
but it may be doubtful whether Whig 'opportunism' was not the
most natural development of the Utilitarian empiricism.


    The great representative of Utilitarian history is George
Grote (1794-1871).(19*) In some respects he was the most typical
Utilitarian. Grote had been introduced to James Mill by Ricardo
in 1817. He had yielded after some struggle to Mill's personal
influence; and, though a student of Kant, had become an
unhesitating proselyte. He had edited Philip Beauchamp, had
defended radical reform against Mackintosh in 1821, and had
joined J. S. Mill and other young friends in their systematic
logical discussions. He fully sympathised with J. S. Mill's
philosophy, and, as Professor Bain tells us,(20*) hardly any man
'conned and thumbed' the Logic as he did. He was more of a
Millite than Mill. Their friendship survived in spite of Mill's
seclusion, and of certain doubts in Grote's mind of his friend's
orthodoxy. The articles upon Coleridge and Bentham, marking
Mill's sentimental backslidings, alarmed the more rigid adherent
of the faith. During the political career of the 'philosophical
Radicals' Grote was the faithful Abdiel. He defended their pet
nostrum, the ballot, until the party became a vanishing quantity.
'You and I,' said Charles Buller to him in 1836, 'will be left to
"tell" Molesworth.'(21*) On the fall of the Melbourne ministry he
gave up parliament, and in 1843 retired from the bank in which he
had been a partner. His continued interest in the old Utilitarian
principles was shown by his lifelong activity in the management
of University College and the University of London. Happily, he
could occupy himself in a more productive enterprise. He had been
long interested in Greek history, and his great work appeared at
intervals from 1846 to 1856. His study of Plato appeared in 1865,
and he was still labouring upon Aristotle at the time of his
    Of the substantial merits of Grote's History I shall not
presume to speak. It took its place at once, and gives a
conclusive proof that the Utilitarian position was no
disqualification for writing history. It seems, indeed, to prove
a good deal more; namely, that the Utilitarian who was faithful
to his most vital principles was especially qualified to be a
    The true position may perhaps be suggested by a remark in a
recent book(22*) by MM. Langlois and Seignobos. In laying down
the conception of history as now accepted by the best writers,
they remark that Grote 'produced the first model of a history' in
the class to which it belongs. The principle illustrated is
significant. 'The aim of history,' we are told, 'should now be
not to please, nor to give practical maxims of conduct, nor to
arouse the emotions, but [to give] knowledge pure and simple.'
History should be a descriptive science. Historians must be
content to give political facts as a writer upon a natural
science gives the ascertained facts about physiology or
chemistry. Nothing, it may be said, could be more in accordance
with Utilitarian doctrine. It was their very first principle to
rely upon fact pure and simple, and to make it precede
speculation and to minimise 'sentiment,' 'vague generalities,'
and a priori theories. If Grote wrote a model history, it was
because he thoroughly embodied the Utilitarian spirit. He studied
the evidence with immense knowledge, unflagging industry, and
thorough impartiality. He resembled an ideal judge investigating
evidence in a trial. That was the method which, upon their own
showing, the Utilitarians were bound to apply to all subjects,
and Grote applied it to Greece with triumphant success.
    The Utilitarian principle, again, was opposed to the errors
most seductive to earlier historians. The classical histories
were meant to be works of art. The artistic aim is incompatible
with scientific history, so far as it interferes with the primary
aim of giving the unadulterated facts. To give a clear, coherent,
and distinct narrative of a complex series of events requires,
indeed, powers of literary expression even of the highest order.
The artistic purpose must be strictly subordinate rather than
absent. A writer must not disguise or embellish or omit with a
view to artistic effect of the whole; and must often sacrifice
the impressive to the truthful. Sometimes, indeed, the historian
must be dull -- but that is a condition against which neither
Grote nor the Utilitarians generally protested. It had been the
aim of a different school to avoid dulness and to rival the
Waverley Novels in making past history live. The errors of such
men as Thierry and Michelet, or Carlyle, Macaulay and Froude,
show the dangers of the method. The severe historian may perhaps
forgive them in consideration of the interest which they excited
in their studies. May he not also admit that the aim is, in some
sort, legitimate? The people, after all, were once alive, and
that truth has some bearing upon their history. If imagination
means a faculty of generating illusions, as the Utilitarians
generally thought, it is no doubt mischievous. But even for the
bare purpose of judging evidence and perceiving truth the
imagination is essential. The error of transposing modern
standards of thought into previous epochs is too obvious to
require illustration; but it is really the fault less of an
excess than of a defect of imagination. The writer must be able,
at every turn, to put himself in the place of his heroes, and of
their contemporaries, if he would understand the meaning of their
actions, or even judge the weight to be attributed to the
evidence. That requires a trained and duly subordinate faculty of
imagination. Even for mere annals -- simple statements of hard
facts -- imagination is required, and it is required the more as
we endeavour to rise from annals to history, or to make history
more than an 'old calendar.'
    A sound Utilitarian might be expected to make the proper
compromise. No one could be more on his guard against the error
of subordinating truth to poetic fancy. But he would not deny the
importance of so much imaginative sympathy as is implied in a
clear apprehension of the mental and moral condition of past
epochs. He might find a sufficient substitute for the dangerous
faculty of picturesque imagination in the more sober faculty
which Grote possessed -- massive common sense; the 'knowledge of
human nature,' as it is called, which corresponds not to poetic
imagination or to a set of established formulae, but to the
practical insight acquired by intimate acquaintance with actual
affairs. If Grote was able to rival or to surpass German
professors on their own ground, it was because his want of some
of their special training was more than counterbalanced by his
experience of business and public life. In Threadneedle Street
and at Westminster he had acquired an instinctive perception
which served him in describing the political and economical
conditions of Athenian life. When joined with an ardour for
research that power gave a value to his judgments of fact which
enabled him to write a model history.
    The 'graphic' or 'artistic' type of history may be
objectionable; is not the philosophical worse? Nothing distorts
facts so much as theory; and a scientific historian should be on
his guard against the philosopher of all men. But how to draw the
line? Stick to bare fact and you can only write annals. History
proper begins as you introduce causation, and the mere series is
transformed into a process. It is impossible to get a bare fact
without some admixture of theory. The Utilitarian principle,
again, suggests the right aim. It excludes the mischievous
didacticism of older historians. The question of fact must
everywhere precede the question of right. In politics, economics
and ethics Bentham and Malthus and the Mills had in various
relations applied the principle which applies equally to history,
The historian may adopt Spinoza's great saying. His business is
to understand, not to approve or denounce. A historian treats of
some great event such as the French revolution. His one
legitimate and dominant purpose should be to explain its causes,
and he should inquire with absolute impartiality how it came to
pass, not whether it was right or wrong. The old method of
writing history attributed events to individuals, and
consistently applied a moral estimate. If the action of this or
that man, Mirabeau or Robespierre, was the ultimate cause of the
events, we may ask whether the action was good or bad, and infer
that the event ought or ought not to have happened. The
scientific view fixes attention simply On the causes. What were
the conditions which determined the event? We must inquire as
impartially as a pathologist examining the causes of a disease.
The category of causation is the sole category relevant. Ethical
judgments may follow: we may decide that certain processes
implied progress or decay; we may go on to judge of the
individuals, making allowance for their motives after estimating
what view of the facts was possible for them, and we shall
generally find that there were good men and bad men on both
sides, and that it is out of place to apply such words as right
or wrong to the events themselves. The moral question is
transferred to another sphere, and human conduct is treated as a
case of natural causation. This method is implied in the very
conception of scientific history and was fully in accordance with
Utilitarianism. Men had been complaining of the inadequacy of the
old history, which dealt exclusively with political intrigues and
the military incidents. As history became more scientific the
necessity of attending to social conditions was daily more
evident, though the extent of the change implied is scarcely even
yet realised. The history, for example, of political or religious
changes cannot be fully written without reference to the economic
conditions of the country, and whole systems of investigation are
requisite before those conditions can be tolerably understood.
Nothing could be more in accordance with Utilitarianism than a
thorough acceptance of this view. Nor, again, should any men have
been more free from the temptation of allowing a priori theories
and hasty generalisations to colour their view of facts. The true
attitude of the historical inquirer should be that which was
illustrated in science by Darwin. On the one side, he must
collect as large as possible a store of facts, observed as
impartially and accurately as possible. On the other side, he
must be constantly but cautiously generalising; endeavouring to
fit the facts in their true order; to discover what formulae
serve to 'colligate' them satisfactorily; and always to assign
causes which are both real and adequate, such that their
existence can be verified, and that, if they exist, they will fit
into a reasoned theory. But his theories must be tentative and
liable to constant revision. They may be suggestive even if not
established, but in so complex an inquiry they must be regarded
as being only a relative or approximate truth.
    Briefly, then, the historian should aim at providing
materials for a 'sociology,' but be on his guard against
supposing for a moment that such a science now exists or can ever
be raised to a level with the fully developed sciences. The word
corresponds to an ideal aim, not to an established fact. It is
important to regard history scientifically, though we cannot hope
for a complete science of history. It simply means that we must
regard the history of man as the history of the gradual
development of the individual and of society by forces dimly
perceived, not capable of accurate measurement, but yet working
regularly and involving no abrupt or discontinuous intervention.
    If Grote's history be really a 'model,' it was because he
virtually accepted such limitations. Historians should admit that
they are still in the stage of collecting the facts upon which
any wide generalisations are still premature. Grote was a student
of philosophy; he had, like Mill, been impressed by Comte, though
he never, like Mill, took Comte for a prophet. He discussed early
beliefs and institutions, and he certainly supposed his history
to have important political implications. But a cautious
intellect and a desire for a solid groundwork of fact restrained
him from excessive theorising, and prevented his prejudices from
overpowering his candour. So far, he represented the best
Utilitarian spirit, and obeyed what was, or at least should have
been, their essential canon: to make sure of your facts before
you lay down your theories. They wished to apply scientific
methods to history, as to law, political economy, ethics, and
psychology: and, upon their view, the first condition of success
was a sufficient accumulation of facts. Yet, as has abundantly
appeared, they had been little disposed to confine themselves to
this preliminary stage. They were too ready to assume that the
sciences could be constituted off hand, and to accept convenient
postulates as absolute truths. They had not only pointed out, but
taken possession of, the promised land. Their premature dogmatism
showed the weakness of their trusting their assumptions. The
result to philosophy of history may be illustrated from the
remarkable writer, who, in the period of Mill's philosophic
supremacy, attempted to lay its foundation.


    Henry Thomas Buckle (1821-1862) represents this aspiration by
his History of Civilization in England.
    Buckle(23*) had some qualifications of the rarest kind. He
had been prevented by delicate health from coming into contact
with contemporaries at school and college, and his intellectual
tastes made him abandon a business career. He had from an early
age devoted himself to a life of study. He absorbed enormous
masses of knowledge, learned many languages, and had ranged over
the most varied fields of literature. A most retentive memory and
methodic habits of work gave him a full command of his materials,
and the consciousness of intellectual force suggested a daring
ambition. He proposed to write a general history of civilisation,
though his scheme, as he gradually became aware of the vastness
of his task, narrowed itself to a history of civilisation in
England, with preliminary surveys of other civilisations. Buckle
had been educated in the religious and political atmosphere of
the average middle-class type. Foreign travel and wide reading
had sapped his prejudices, and he had become a Liberal in the
days when J. S. Mill's influence was culminating. Buckle shared
the enthusiasm of the period in which the triumph of Free Trade
and the application of Adam Smith's principles seemed to be
introducing a new era of peace and prosperity and the final
extinction of antiquated prejudice. He cannot be reckoned as a
simple Utilitarian, but he represents the more exoteric and
independent allies of the chief Utilitarian thinker. He accepts
the general principles of Mill's Logic, though his language upon
metaphysical problems implies that his intellect had never been
fully brought to bear upon such questions. The general sympathy
with the Utilitarians is, in any case, unmistakable, and the most
characteristic tenets of the Mill school of speculation are
assumed or defended in his writings. Buckle was thus fitted to
interpret the dominant tendencies of the day, and his literary
ability was fully adequate to the office. He has much of the
clearness and unflagging vivacity of Macaulay, and whatever
defects may be discoverable in his style, no writer was better
qualified to interest readers outside the narrow circle of
professed philosophers. The book was accepted by many readers as
an authoritative manifesto of the scientific spirit which was to
transform the whole intellectual world.
    Buckle's aim is to fill the gap in the Utilitarian scheme by
placing historical science upon a basis as firm as that of the
physical sciences. Statistics, he argues, reveal regularities of
conduct as marked as those which are revealed by the observation
of natural phenomena. He gives a fatalistic turn to this
statement by speaking as though the 'laws' somehow 'overrode' the
individual volitions, instead of simply expressing the uniformity
of the volitions themselves. Fate, it seemed, went round and
compelled a certain number of people every year to commit suicide
or post undirected letters in spite of themselves. Without asking
how far this language, which not unnaturally startled his
readers, might be corrected into a legitimate sense, we may pass
to a further application. The laws by which human conduct is
governed may, he says, be either 'physical' or 'mental,' the
physical having more influence in the early, and the mental in
the later, stages of development. This corresponds to the
distinction, now familiar, between the 'organism' and the
'environment,' and requires an obvious correction. The two sets
of laws refer to two factors present at every stage of human
development. The 'organism' is, from first to last, dependent
upon its 'environment,' but the action of the environment depends
also upon the constitution of the organism. The 'mental' and
'physical,' therefore, do not act separately, but as parts of a
single process. Buckle's language, however, expresses an obvious
truth. As civilisation advances, the importance of the 'mental'
laws in explaining the phenomena increases. The difference
between two savage races may be explained simply by the
difference of their surroundings; but the civilised man may vary
indefinitely, while his dwelling-place remains constant. The
earlier stages are those which, in Buckle's language, are under
the predominant influence of physical laws. Climate, food, and
soil on the one hand, and the 'general aspects of nature' on the
other hand, represent these influences. To show their action at
the dawn of civilisation, Buckle points to India, Egypt, and the
ancient empires in America. In those regions arose great
governments, displaying remarkable coincidences of structure, and
thus suggesting the operation of some ascertainable causes. If we
possessed a complete 'sociology,' these phenomena would clearly
illustrate important laws, working with great uniformity, though
in complete independence, and therefore, it may be inferred,
revealing some general principles upon the origin of governments.
Nothing can present a more legitimate field of inquiry. A great
despotism implies an abundant population, and therefore certain
physical conditions, geographical and climatic -- as the
existence of a whale implies an open sea and plenty of food. The
problem, then, is how do the conditions lead to the observed
phenomenon? How do the physical conditions lead to the formation
of these early civilisations? Here Buckle makes a remarkable
assumption. He finds a solution in the teaching of the
economists. An increase of population means a lowering of wages;
or, as he puts it, the question of wages is, 'in the long run,' a
question of population.(24*) Now, in cold countries more food is
required, and the food is harder to procure than in the hot.(25*)
Hence population will increase faster in hot countries, and wages
will in them tend to be low. The case of Ireland confirms or
extends the theory. There, cheap food does what general fertility
does in India. The potato, more than the 'scandalous
misgovernment,' is the most active cause of Irish poverty. Cheap
food, then, means low wages. The result, startling for an
enthusiastic free-trader, suggests a confusion. An increase of
population on a given area may lower wages; but it does not
follow that a larger population must be worse off when the area
is more productive. He ought to show that the Indian population
must be in greater excess; he has only shown that it may be
positively greater. There is no proof that it will increase at
all when the 'checks' are once operative, or increase in a
greater ratio to its support. What is the real relation of cause
and effect? Did Irishmen become poor because they had cheap food,
or take to cheap food because they were poor? The food enabled
them, no doubt, to support a larger number of poor, and in a more
precarious position. When the potato failed they could not
substitute wheat. That is enough to confute the hasty assumption
that cheap food is a panacea for poverty, but does not prove that
plenty necessarily causes poverty. There is another step to be
taken. Ricardo now supplements Malthus. He had shown that the
whole wealth of a country must be divided into wages, rent,
profit, and interest, while interest is proportional to profit.
Now, in India, interest and rent have been enormously high;
therefore wages are low and profits high.(26*) A high rate of
interest, however, may show that capital is scarce and payment
precarious. The moneylender may extort high interest from the
peasant, and yet the aggregate of profits may be small, and the
whole country miserably poor. Ricardo's doctrine assumes that the
wages of the labourer are advanced by the capitalist. It does not
apply to a population of village communities, where the
differentiation of classes has not yet taken place.(27*)
    Buckle, however, does not trouble himself with such
difficulties. The great empires are supposed to have arisen from
the growth of a rich class, whose wealth has enabled them to gain
political power. No doubt the despots had great wealth in poor
countries; but it does not appear that they owed it to the
development of a great class of rich capitalists, or even that
such a class existed. The objection to Buckle's method is
apparent. In the first place, it takes for granted the existence
of a complex industrial organisation as an antecedent to the
growth of the despotism. The system under which the capitalist,
the labourer, and the landowner share profits, wages, and rent,
the whole machinery of exchange and competition, is postulated as
though it represented a necessary state, even in the early stages
of civilisation. That was a natural application of the necessary
assumption of the orthodox political economy. It professed to
deduce its conclusions from the laws of human nature common to
all men in all ages. They were therefore as valid in the earliest
as in the latest time, and explain the causes as well as the
consequences of social development; and hence it follows that the
'mental laws' can be excluded. Since the organism is constant,
all differences are due to differences of environment, or, in
Buckle's language, to the 'physical laws.' 'In India,' he says,
'slavery, abject slavery, was the natural state of the great body
of the people; it was the state to which they were doomed by
physical laws utterly impossible to resist.'(28*) In Europe, as
he elsewhere puts it,(29*) man is stronger than nature; out of
Europe nature is stronger than man. Man is in one case the slave,
and in the other the master of the physical forces. That is to
say, that in the earlier stages we may argue directly from the
'environment' to the 'organism.' The hopeless slavery to which so
many millions have been doomed is a direct and inevitable result
of the 'physical laws,' that is, of the climate, soil, and food.
We are therefore dispensed from any inquiry into the character of
the organism itself and the 'mental' laws implied in its
constitution; or we take for granted that the laws which regulate
the more developed organism are absolute and permanent, and may
therefore explain the earliest stages of growth.(30*)
    Thus the inquiry into the nature of the social organisation,
into the primitive institutions out of which the empires have
grown, is virtually set aside. Because the 'mental laws' work so
uniformly they may be neglected. We are left with the bare result
that great empires have grown up under appropriate physical
conditions, and they are all lumped together as 'despotisms.'
That is to emphasise a remarkable set of facts, but not to make
them more intelligible. The facts, that is, reveal a remarkable
uniformity in the social organism; but that does not show what is
the nature of its organisation. If we know that, we shall be able
to understand the differences and the way in which similar forces
have worked under varying conditions. Buckle's leap at a
generalisation so far distracts attention from the most fruitful
line of inquiry. Malthus and Ricardo will solve the problem
offhand. The simple coincidence of despotism and fertility
entitles us to set them down as cause and effect, without further
analysis of the precise mode of operation.
    Buckle's next step illustrates the same point. The 'physical'
laws have thus determined the distribution. They also influence
religion, art, and literature by the action of 'aspects of
nature' upon the imagination. The powers of nature, as he oddly
puts it,(31*) 'have worked immense mischief.' They generate
superstition on one side, as they generated slavery on the other.
Here Buckle's doctrine is connected with Comte's. He accepted, as
he says elsewhere,(32*) Comte's conclusions as to the earliest
stage of the human mind. The man ignorant of scientific laws
attributes all phenomena to 'supernatural causes.' Comte was only
putting into a compact formula a theory more or less assumed by
his predecessors. Superstition represents a necessary stage in
the intellectual development of the race. It embodies the crude
hypotheses of an early stage which have been falsified by later
experience. They continue to exist, however, when they have long
been untenable to educated minds; and Buckle's remarks may help
to explain their vitality. The 'aspects of nature' represent the
impression made by apparently irregular phenomena. Superstition
thrives where men's lives are at the mercy of events which cannot
be foreseen. One special and characteristic instance is the
influence of earthquakes. Spain, Portugal, and Italy are the
European countries in which earthquakes are most frequent, and
are also the countries in which superstition has been most rife.
The excessive stimulus to the imagination has led to the
collateral result that while these countries have produced all
the greatest artists, they have (with the partial exception of
Italy) produced no great names in science.(33*) The principle
that superstition is fostered by such conditions may well be
illustrated by these facts. Hume had remarked that the events
which to good reasoners were the 'chief difficulties in admitting
a supreme intelligence' were to the vulgar 'the sole arguments
for it.'(34*) Buckle might well extend the argument. But to say
that earthquakes 'cause' Spanish superstition is a bold
generalisation. It is an application of Mill's canon of simple
agreement. Earthquakes and superstition coexist in two or three
districts; therefore earthquakes are the cause of
superstition.(35*) On Buckle's own showing, earthquakes are only
one of countless conditions which may produce superstition. Why
is this special condition to be isolated? If Spain is now
superstitious, must not that be due to the concurrence of
innumerable causes? Have not other countries been steeped in the
profoundest superstition though they had no earthquakes? How,
indeed, is the amount of superstition in a country to be
measured? If we were to explain a particular superstition by the
apparent irregularity of the phenomena concerned -- the belief in
an earth-shaking deity, for example -- the explanation might be
adequate. The objection rises when it is presented as a general
scientific formula. Since 'superstition' is a universal incident
of early stages of human thought, it is clearly not explicable by
the phenomena of special districts. That may be an instructive
example, but cannot give the general law. It is illegitimate to
single out the particular condition as if it were the sole cause.
The main point, however, is again the mode of arguing from the
environment to the organism. The argument from the environment to
the organism, from the earthquakes to superstition, has then an
obvious limit. The constant condition can only explain the
constant qualities. The palpable fact is that the same country
has been occupied by races of most different characters.
Freethinking flourishes where there was once abject superstition,
and therefore the country cannot by itself explain the
superstition. When, for example, Buckle explains the artistic
temperament of Greeks or Italians by the physical
characteristics, he is no doubt assigning a real cause, but
obviously a cause insufficient to explain the singular changes,
the efflorescence and the decay of artistic production in either
country. One result is characteristic. The differences are often
explained by 'heredity' or the inheritance by races of qualities
not developed by their present environment, and essentially
dependent upon the previous social evolution. Buckle fully admits
that the question of 'heredity' is not settled by scientific
inquiry.(36*) He infers, and I suppose rightly, that we cannot
assume that there is any organic difference between an infant
born in the most civilised country and one born in the most
barbarous region. Still, he 'cordially subscribes' to Mill's
protest against explaining differences of character by race.(37*)
So far as this excludes all the influences by which a society is
moulded through inherited beliefs and customs, it sanctions an
erroneous inference. Because race differences are not ultimate,
or indicative of absolute organic distinctions, they are
altogether cast out of account. The existing differences have to
be attributed entirely to the physical surroundings; and the
influence of 'aspects of nature' is summarily adduced to explain
much that is really explicable only through the history of the
organism itself.(38*)
    How far this may have led Buckle to exaggerate the direct
efficacy of mere physical surroundings I cannot further inquire.
At any rate, his whole purpose is to explain the growth of
civilisation, which must, as he perceives, be done by introducing
a variable element. Here, therefore, we have to consider the
state in which the 'mental' become more influential than the
physical laws. Buckle begins by expounding a doctrine of critical
importance. In general terms, he holds that progress depends upon
the intellectual factor. A similar doctrine had been emphatically
asserted by Comte, and was, indeed, implied as a fundamental
conception in his whole work. Ideas, he says, govern the world:
'Tout le mécanisme social repose sur les opinions.'(39*) The law
of the 'three stages' is a systematic application of this
doctrine. The doctrine, again, recognises an undeniable truth.
Man is dependent throughout upon his environment. That, in a
sense, remains constant. The savage lives in the same world as
the civilised man. But every step of knowledge implies a change
in the man's relations to the world. His position is determined
not simply by the 'physical laws,' but by his knowledge of the
laws. The discovery of iron or of electricity makes his world, if
not the world, different; and the whole system of knowledge
corresponds to an ultimate condition of his life. His knowledge,
therefore, is an essential factor in the problem. The rationalism
of the eighteenth century and the later progress of science had
of course emphasised this truth. The natural sciences represent
the intellectual framework, which steadily grows and at every
stage gives a final determinant of all human activity.
Superstitions and theology in general correspond to the erroneous
theories which are gradually dispelled as we construct a
definitive and verifiable base of solid knowledge. But is the
scientific progress not only the ultimate but the sole factor in
all social development? Man is a complex being, with an emotional
as well as an intellectual nature, which, proximately at any
rate, determines his conduct. How are we to allow for this factor
of the inquiry?(40*)
    Buckle's version of the principle is significant. He begins
by distinguishing 'progress' into 'moral' and
'intellectual.'(41*) Which of these is the important element? Do
men progress in the moral or in the intellectual element? Since,
as we have seen, we cannot assume an improvement in the
individual, the later differences must be ascribed to the
'external advantages' -- to the opinions and so forth of the
society in which the child is educated. In the next place, the
opinions are constantly varying, whereas the 'moral motives' are
singularly constant.(42*) A 'stationary element,' when
surrounding circumstances are unchanged, can only produce a
stationary effect, and hence we must explain civilisation by the
variable agent. Buckle argues that the moral code recognised has
remained unaltered since distant times. The same general rules
are accepted, and no additional articles have been inserted. Then
the great stages of progress especially the growth of religious
toleration and of peace -- have been due to intellectual, not to
moral changes; and, finally, as he thinks, the average man
remains pretty much the same. Some men are good and some bad; but
the good and the bad actions neutralise each other. Their effects
are temporary, while the 'discoveries of great men' are
'immortal,' and contain the 'eternal truths which survive the
shock of empires, outlive the struggles of rival creeds, and
witness the decay of successive religions.'(43*) Buckle, that is,
reserves for the 'eternal truths' of scientific discovery the
enthusiasm which others had lavished upon the eternal truths of
the great religious teachers. The doctrine agrees with the
Utilitarian theories in one respect. Man is supposed to remain On
the whole constant, in his natural capacities and in his moral
qualities. On the other hand, Buckle dwells more emphatically
than Mill upon the spontaneous growth of scientific ideas as the
sole but sufficient force which moulds the destinies of mankind.
From Mill's constant insistence upon the power of association and
the empirical character of all knowledge, it might be inferred
that even scientific progress is precarious and unstable. To
Buckle the development of scientific knowledge seems to be
inevitable, if only the mind is allowed to work freely. The most
conspicuous facts of the day gave force to his conviction. The
enormous changes in the whole constitution of society were due to
the advance of mechanical discoveries and to the triumph of
free-traders. Watt and Adam Smith, not the religious preachers,
represent the real transforming force. The steam-engine has
altered the whole position of the human race. The sermons of
Methodists and Catholics have left the average man just where he
was. Napoleon was a great criminal, and Wilberforce, perhaps, a
great philanthropist. Their influence has been transitory, while
the scientific inventors have set up changes which will continue
to gather force as the ages roll.
    The truth contained in this, again, seems to be Undeniable.
Modify the 'environment' and your organism is modified
throughout. Alter the climate, the soil, the amount of fertile
land, and the whole state of mankind will be altered. That,
again, has been virtually achieved by modern discoveries. Though
the natural forces may be the same, our relation to them has been
altered; and, if more fertile soil has not been wrought into
existence, the fertile soil has been brought, we may say, nearer
to our doors. Moreover, the change has been primarily due to
scientific discovery and not to any moral change; or the moral
changes, whatever they may be, have been the consequence, not the
cause. So far as Buckle emphasised this aspect, he was clearly
insisting upon a truth which requires recognition. The question
is what bearing this has upon the philosophy of history, and
whether it justifies us in discarding the influence of the
'moral' element in building up the social structure.
    The general doctrine leads to the conclusion that the
essential difference between two stages of history is the
difference between the quantity of knowledge possessed and its
diffusion throughout all classes. That is really Buckle's
contention, from which all his conclusions are deducible. The
'totality of human actions,' as he says, is 'governed by the
totality of human knowledge; (44*) or, as he elsewhere puts
it,(45*) the history of every 'civilised country is the history
of its intellectual development.' If early societies are governed
by the 'physical laws,' later societies are governed by the
action of those laws upon our minds, and the action is thus
profoundly modified as our knowledge of the laws extends. The
'environment' has a different relation to us, but remains the
ultimate and independent determinant. If this be the whole truth,
it would follow that we might write the history of mankind by
writing the history of science. All other phenomena would be
simply deducible as corollaries from the state of knowledge.
Comte had suggested that history might be written without
mentioning the names of individuals. On Buckle's assumption,
history may deal simply with the growth of scientific ideas; and,
therefore, we need not take into account the moral ideas or all
the complex system of actions which come under the head of the
will and the emotions in psychological treatises.
    Is it possible to write a history upon such terms? Granting
that knowledge defines the base upon which the whole structure
must repose, Can we abstract from all this considerations of the
way in which men's beliefs are brought to bear upon the
constitution of society? The difficulty becomes obvious as soon
as Buckle turns from his general principle to the historical
application. Mark Pattison,(46*) in his review of the History on
its first appearance, puts the point. Buckle, he says, after
insisting upon the utter inadequacy of the old historical and
metaphysical methods, proceeds to 'exemplify the very method of
writing history which he had condemned.' His account of French
society is, as Pattison says, a 'masterly sketch,' unequalled in
breadth and comprehensiveness of view by any English writer. But,
then, it brings in precisely the elements of individual
influence, and so forth, which Buckle expressly professed to
exclude. I will add nothing to the commendation possessing a
higher authority than my own. Buckle's surveys, not only of
French, but of English, Spanish, and Scottish, I believe, may
fully justify the opinion that his abilities, rightly directed,
might have produced a history surpassing the achievement of any
of his rivals. But the only question with which I am concerned is
the relation of the history to the philosophy. Buckle, if he had
simply written a history of England, might have eclipsed Hallam
or Macaulay in their own line. Did he really inaugurate a better
method of writing history in general? or, if not, what caused the
failure of a man possessed of such singular qualifications?
    A difficulty is suggested even in regard to the purely
scientific development. Buckle speaks with the warmest enthusiasm
of great men, such as Descartes, whose scientific discoveries
revolutionised thought, or Adam Smith,(47*) who, by publishing a
single work, contributed more to human happiness than all the
statesmen and legislators of whom we have an authentic record.
How can this be reconciled with the insignificance of the
individual? A great discovery is necessarily the work of an
individual. No combination of second-rate men could have supplied
the place of a single Newton. It therefore occurs to Buckle that,
after all, the individual has to be taken into account. If
Descartes and Smith had died of the measles in infancy, progress
would have been arrested. To escape this conclusion, he refers to
the 'spirit of the age,' which would have made the discovery
fruitless at a different period. What is covered by that phrase?
The social influence does not supersede the necessity for
individual genius. Everything that is done must of course be done
by individuals. The 'spirit of the age' must mean such a social
order as fosters discovery; an order, for example, in which so
many men are devoted to scientific inquiry that discovery becomes
certain. The man of genius is still first in the race; but he is
first of many competitors, who, even if he were to die, would
achieve the same result a little later. The individual is still
required, but the importance of any particular individual is so
far diminished. The growth of science cannot be explained, in the
historical sense, without reference to the social order which
leads to the cultivation of science. It is not something which
grows of its own accord outside of society, but supposes the
whole social structure and the moral factor which we are
endeavouring to discard.
    The difficulty affects Buckle's mode of dealing with the
great historical problems. Since progress depends absolutely upon
the growth of science, the one essential is the spirit of
inquiry, or, as he calls it, 'scepticism.' Its natural antagonist
is the 'protective' spirit, which implies servile submission to
authority in matters of opinion or practice. The disastrous
effects of such a spirit are traced in Spain and Scotland. The
'inquisition' and the tyranny of Puritan ministers are its
natural fruits. No one, of course, will deny the evils due to a
suppression of intellectual activity. To exhibit and to denounce
those evils is a task which Buckle performs with admirable
vigour. But, so far, he is merely writing an effective pamphlet
on a large scale. He is denouncing the protective spirit as the
Whig historian denounces Toryism, or rival religious historians
find the evil principle in Protestantism or Popery. The
protective spirit is an abstraction which means a quality of the
whole society considered from one point of view; its relation,
namely, to scientific progress. It cannot be an ultimate cause of
power in itself -- but is a product of many complex conditions.
To consider it impartially, to form an accurate diagnosis of the
disease is the problem for the scientific historian. He should
discover the uniform laws whose working is manifest in the morbid
condition, and, in the case of Spain, render the intellectual
paralysis permanent and incurable. Here Buckle's method becomes
that of the ordinary historian. He refers to the earthquakes and
various physical conditions which apply to the case of Spanish
superstition. We now learn, however, that these physical
influences are 'interwoven with a long chain of other and still
more influential events,' which enable us to trace the steps of
decline with 'unerring certainty.'(48*) We go back, therefore,
both in Spain and Scotland to the political history; to the play
of party and class-interests, which have forced a priesthood at
one time to ally itself with despots, and at another to throw
itself upon the people. The history may be accurate and the facts
alleged are no doubt relevant; but they leave the difficult
problems unsolved. Why, for example, was the Spanish people at
the head of European races in the sixteenth century, and why did
it then suddenly sink into decay? Why did Scotland, sunk in
superstition in the seventeenth century, become, though still the
most superstitious country in Europe, the most energetic and
progressive part of the British empire? To attack such problems
it would, I take it, be necessary to study impartially a vast
variety of social and of what Buckle calls moral questions; to
give weight to a number of 'interwoven' causes, determining the
history of the two races. The facts -- the intellectual
stagnation of Spain and the intolerance of Scottish Puritanism --
imply, as Buckle urges, some general causes. The history shows
them at work, and Buckle's survey brings out many significant
facts. Still, when the protective spirit is hypostatised and made
a kind of independent cause, determining and not determined by
the general social state, we miss the most interesting problem,
or take the solution for granted. What, after all, is the true
secret of this mysterious power? Whence came its vitality? The
evil principle appears like the supernatural sovereign in 'Philip
Beauchamp' or the Demogorgon of Shelley's Prometheus, a cruel
tyrant enforcing false belief -- even so, he requires to be
explained as well as denounced, and we are at least tempted to
ask whether the church and the king must not have discharged some
useful social function; and the creed have embodied some element
of thought and emotion congenial to human nature. That is the
aspect neglected by Buckle.
    One or two conspicuous examples of the result may be
indicated. Buckle has to deal with the French revolution.(49*)
Nobody has been more emphatic in insisting that history should
deal with the facts which illustrate the state of the people
instead of confining itself to court intrigues. Nor could any one
speak more strongly of the misery of the French population before
the revolution. Yet the whole explanation has to be sought in the
purely intellectual causes. The social causes are simply dropped
out of account. The revolution was due to the French
philosophers. Intellectual activity had been entirely suppressed
by the despotism of Louis XIV. The philosophers, he holds,
learned the new doctrine from England. The persecution of the
freethinkers by the later rulers and a servile priesthood forced
the philosophers to attack both the despots, and (unfortunately,
as Buckle holds) to attack Christianity as well. Hence both the
achievements and the incidental evils caused by the final
outbreak. The theory, though strangely inadequate, is a natural
corollary from the doctrine that the history of a nation is the
history of its intellectual development. Voltaire's study of
Locke becomes the efficient cause of a gigantic social change: A
single characteristic, itself the product of many factors, is
made to account for the whole complex process. Still more
significant is his account of the decreasing influence of the
warlike spirit. That, too, must be a product of purely
intellectual causes. Divines have done nothing by preaching, but
intellectual movement has operated in 'three leading ways.'(50*)
The discoveries of gunpowder, of free trade principles, and of
the application of steam to travelling have produced the
peaceable tendencies, which, in Buckle's day, were apparently so
near a final triumph. Let us fully grant what I hope is true,
that this corresponds to a truth; that the various forces which
have brought men together may ultimately conduce to peace; and,
moreover, that the discoveries of science are among the ultimate
conditions of the most desirable of all changes. Does this enable
us to abstract from the social movement? Gunpowder, according to
Buckle, facilitated the differentiation of the military from the
other classes. That already assumes a process only intelligible
through the social history. Buckle tells us that 'divines' have
done nothing. If he means that they have not persuaded nations,
or not even tried to persuade them, to turn the second cheek, he
is unanswerable. Religion, as he says elsewhere,(51*) is an
'effect,' not a cause of human improvement. It can, in fact, be
an original cause only on the hypothesis of a supernatural
intervention. It must be an 'effect' in the sense that it is a
product of human nature under all the conditions. If by religion
is meant simply the belief in fictitious beings, it may be
considered as simply an obstruction to scientific advance; and
the priesthood, as Buckle generally seems to hold, is the gang of
impostors who turn it to account. In any case, the 'moral'
teaching of priests cannot be the ultimate cause of moral
improvement. Yet no one, it might be supposed, could explain the
history of the warlike sentiment in Europe without taking into
account the influence embodied in the church. That the Catholic
church represented a great principle of cohesion; that it was an
organisation which enabled the men of intellect to exercise an
influence over semi-barbarous warriors, are admitted facts which
the historian is at least bound to consider. At whatever period
the body may have become corrupt, it is an essential fact in the
social processes which preceded the invention of gunpowder, and
certainly the discoveries of Watt and Adam Smith. Buckle, as a
rule, treats the church simply as an upholder of superstition. He
ridicules the historians who believed in absurd miracles in 'what
are rightly termed the dark ages,'(52*) and declares summarily
that 'until doubt began, progress was impossible.' Yet Buckle
would certainly have admitted that there was some progress
between the heptarchy and the reformation.
    The truth which his method compels him to neglect seems to be
obvious. The movement of religious thought represents forces not
to be measured by the quantity of effete superstitions which it
contains. The religion corresponds to the development of the
instincts which determine the whole social structure. The general
moral axioms -- love your neighbour, and so forth -- may, as
Buckle urges, remain unaltered; but the change in the ideals of
life and the whole attitude of men to each other takes place in
the religious sphere. If Christianity does not correspond to a
force imposed from without, it may still correspond to the
processes of thought by which sympathy has extended and men been
drawn into comparative unity and harmony. To treat the power of
religion as simply a product of ignorant superstition is to be
unable to understand the history of the world. So much Buckle
might have learned from Comte in spite of the later vagaries of
    Another collateral conclusion marks Buckle's position. As a
historian of political progress he is constantly dwelling upon
the importance of individual action. The tolerant policy of
Richelieu, the despotic system of Louis XIV, and so forth, are
the great aids or impediments to human progress. How is this
reconcilable with the doctrines that individual action is nothing
and the spontaneous growth of knowledge everything? In answer we
are referred to the great general causes, or to the protective
spirit or the spirit of the age, which really govern the whole
process in spite of superficial and transitory causes. What
precisely is meant by these abstractions? To what does the
protective spirit in politics owe its malign persistence? What,
in short, is the source and true nature of the power of
government? The answer is, that to Suckle, as to the
Utilitarians, government represents a kind of external force;
something imposed upon the people from without; a 'sovereign,' in
Austin's sense, who can never originate or impel, though he can
coerce and suppress. He chooses the history of England for his
subject, as he tells us, because England has been 'less affected
than any other country by the two main sources of interference,
namely, the authority of government and the influence of
foreigners.'(53*) Both are treated as 'interferences' from
without, which distort the natural development. English history
is interesting not because its political constitution is a most
characteristic outgrowth of its social state, but because all
government is simply an interference, and in England has had a
minimum influence. Consistently with this, he attacks the opinion
that progress has ever been due to government. Government is, of
course, necessary to punish crime and prevent anarchy;(54*) but
even its successful efforts are 'altogether negative'; and, even
where its intentions have been good, it has been generally
injurious. Briefly, government is powerful for evil, and the one
principle is that rulers should have a 'very little' power and
exercise it 'very sparingly.'(55*) At times he is inclined to
deny all influence to government. Speaking of Scotland, he
remarks that though bad government can be extremely injurious for
a time, it can 'produce no permanent mischief.'(56*) 'So long as
the people are sound,' he says, 'there is life and will be
reaction.... But if the people are unsound all hope is gone and
the nation perishes.' What, then, makes the people 'sound'? Is
not this a tacit admission of the importance of the moral factor?
Has not the religion of a nation some influence, and sometimes
perhaps an influence for good, upon its morality? Puritanism in
Scotland was associated with gross superstition; was it not also
an expression of the moral convictions which preserved the
'soundness' of the race? Catholicism in Spain is still, according
to Buckle, associated with a high moral standard; but this has
'availed the Spaniards' nothing,(57*) because it has suppressed
intellectual progress. It has surely been of some use if it has
preserved their virtue. But, in any case, what is the explanation
of the power of government which can thus destroy the 'soundness'
or morality and ruin the fortunes of a people? Buckle's theory
might apply to the case of a nation conquered by a foreign
tyrant. He denounces conquerors in the old tone as pests and
destroyers of men, who pass their whole lives in increasing human
misery.(58*) Yet conquest has been a factor in the development of
all nations, and Buckle himself argues that the Norman conquest
was an essential step in establishing the liberties of
Englishmen.(59*) It is still more difficult to suppose that a
government which is the growth of a people's own requirements can
be simply mischievous. Without trying to solve such puzzles, we
may say that the whole doctrine seems to imply a misconception of
the relations between the political and the social and moral
constitution of a nation. No satisfactory theory can be formed,
when it is assumed that the function of government is simply to
keep the peace instead of inquiring historically what functions
it has actually discharged. When Buckle regards government like
the 'physical laws' as the cause of pure mischief, he ceases to
be scientific and becomes after a fashion a moralist, denouncing
instead of explaining.
    The connection of this with the do-nothing doctrine which
Buckle accepts in its fullest form is obvious. The less
government the better is the natural formula for a disciple of
Adam Smith. What is here important is the connection of the
doctrine with Buckle's first principles. The political order
cannot be thus treated as if it were an independent power
impinging from without upon a natural order; it is a product of
the whole organism, and to denounce it as simply bad is really
meaningless. It is part of the essential structure, and therefore
we cannot properly abstract from the other parts of the system.
This or that regulation, or this or that wheel of the political
machinery may be superfluous or mischievous; but the question can
only be decided by regarding the system as a whole, and not by
treating the ruling power as something separable. Its
interference has to be treated as abnormal or as simply
mischievous, and yet as of vital importance in history. It
becomes a mystery simply because we do not investigate its nature
with due reference to its functions in the body politic. In other
words, Buckle becomes incoherent because his method induces him
from the start to neglect what is implied when society is
described as organic. He was speaking an indisputable truth when
he said that society depends throughout upon the 'environment' in
the physical laws. It is not less true to say that as the
intellectual progress develope, the recognition of those laws
supplies an ultimate and unchangeable condition of the whole
process of social growth. All civilisation depends absolutely, as
he asserts, upon the corresponding state of knowledge. The error
is in the assumption that we can therefore omit the consideration
of the complex laws which govern the growth of the organism
itself. The individualism which he shares with the Utilitarians
makes him blind to the importance of the line of inquiry which
was to show its power in the following period. If the primitive
despotisms are set down simply as a necessary result of 'physical
laws,' it is superfluous to inquire into the real nature of the
institutions which they imply, or to gain any light upon the
working of similar principles elsewhere. When the whole
ecclesiastical and political constitution of later ages is set
down simply as a relic of barbarism, and the religious and social
instincts which are elaborated through them as simply products of
ignorance, the process becomes unintelligible. If, therefore,
Buckle was recognising a real condition of sound investigation,
he condemned in advance the very kind of inquiry which has proved
most fruitful. If he did more in his purely historical inquiries
it was because he then forgot his philosophy and had to take into
account the considerations which he had pronounced to be
irrelevant. That, I believe, is the reason why Buckle, in spite
of his surpassing abilities, did not make any corresponding mark
upon later investigations. He was trying to frame a philosophy of
history upon principles which really make the formation of a
coherent philosophy impossible. Briefly, then, Buckle shared the
ambition of the Utilitarians to make all the moral sciences
scientific. So far as his writing strengthened the leaning to a
scientific tendency he was working in the right direction.
Unfortunately he also shared their crude assumptions: the
'individualism' which ignores the social factor, and deduces all
institutions from an abstract 'man'; the tendency to explain the
earlier from the later stages; and the impression that 'laws of
nature' are to be unravelled by a summary method of discovering
co-existences of concrete phenomena; and was therefore led to
substitute hasty generalisations for that elaborate study of the
growth of institutions and beliefs which has been the most marked
tendency of sociological inquiry during the last generation. So
far he shares and illustrates the real weakness of the
Utilitarians, the premature attempt to constitute a science when
we can only be labouring effectually by trying to determine the
    Here I may try to indicate, though I cannot develop, a
general conclusion. What was the true significance of the
Utilitarian paradox the indifference to history combined with the
appeal to experience? History in the narrower sense is a
particular case of evolution; and if it could be made scientific,
would formulate the laws by which the existing institutions,
political, ecclesiastical, and industrial, have grown out of
earlier states. The importance of taking into account the
'genetic' point of view, of inquiring into the growth as well as
the actual constitution of things, is obvious in all the sciences
which are concerned with organic life. Though we cannot analyse
the organism into its ultimate constituent factors, we can learn
something by tracing its development from simpler forms. The
method is applicable to biology as well as to sociology; and as
sciences extended, its importance became manifest. Some theory of
evolution was required in every direction, and must obviously be
necessary if we are to carry out systematically the principles of
the uniformity and continuity of nature. The difficulty of the
Utilitarians was all along that theories of evolution appeared to
them to involve something mystical and transcendental. They
proposed to analyse everything till they could get to single
aggregations of facts, or in their sense ideal, that is, to a
thoroughgoing atomism. This leads to the paradox indicated by
Hume's phrase. The atoms, things and thoughts, must be completely
separate and yet invariably conjoined. Causation becomes mere
sequence or conjunction, and 'experience' ceases to offer any
ground for anticipation. I have tried to show how this affected
the Utilitarians in every subject; in their philosophical, legal,
ethical, and economical speculations; and how they always seem to
be in need of, and yet always to reject by anticipation, some
theory of evolution. To appeal to 'experience' they have to make
the whole universe incoherent, while to get general laws they
have to treat variable units as absolutely constant. 'External
circumstances' must account for all variation, though it is
difficult to see how everything can be 'external.' The difficulty
has now appeared in history proper, and the attempt to base a
sociology upon a purely individualist assumption. This may help
to explain the great influence of the Darwinian theories. They
marked the point at which a doctrine of evolution could be allied
with an appeal to experience. Darwin appealed to no mystical
bond, but simply to verifiable experience. He postulated the
continuance of processes known by observation, and aimed at
showing that they would sufficiently explain the present as
continuous with the past. There was nothing mystical to alarm
empiricists, and their consequent adoption of Darwinism implied a
radical change in their methods and assumptions. The crude
empiricism was transformed into evolutionism. The change marked
an approximation to the conceptions of the opposite school when
duly modified, and therefore in some degree a reconciliation.
'Intuitions' no longer looked formidable when they could be
regarded as developed by the race instead of mysteriously
implanted in the individual mind. The organic correlations were
admissible when they were taken to imply growth instead of
supernatural interference, and it was no longer possible to
regard 'natural kinds' as mere aggregates of arbitrarily
connected properties. I need not ask which side really gained by
the change, whether Darwinism inevitably leads to some more
subtle form of atomism, or whether the acceptance of any
evolution does not lead to idealism -- to a belief in a higher
teleology than Paley's -- and the admission that mind or 'spirit'
must be the ultimate reality. Such problems may be treated by the
philosopher of the future. Without anticipating his verdict, I
must try to indicate the final outcome of what passed for
philosophy with the Utilitarians.


1. See Memoir by Mrs Austin prefixed to the edition of his
Lectures, edited by Mr R. Campbell (1869).

2. Jurisprudence, p. 701.

3. For Austin's admiration of Hobbes see especially the long note
in Jurisprudence, p. 186, etc.

4. Jurisprudence, p. 238.

5. Ibid. p. 791.

6. Jurisprudence, p. 336.

7. Cp. Mill's Dissertations, iii, 237, etc.

8. Jurisprudence, p. 330.

9. Jurisprudence, p. 303. Austin makes certain qualifications
which I need not notice.

10. Austin refers his readers to Brown's essay on 'Cause and
Effect'; and takes Brown to have proved 'beyond controversy' that
the faculty called the 'will' is just nothing at all. --
Jurisprudence, pp. 424-25.

11. Mill touches this point characteristically in his review of
Austin, but does not discuss the validity of the logic.

12. Edinburgh Review, October, 1861.

13. Mill's Dissertations, iii, 206-74, from Edin. Rev. of Oct.

14. For Lewis see especially the very interesting article in
Bagehot's Works (by Forrest Morgan), 1891, iii, 222-68. His chief
political treatise is A Treatise on Methods' of Reasoning and
Observation in Politics (1852).

15. Methods of Observation, etc., i, 448.

16. Ibid, i., 357.

17. Ibid., ii, 356.

18. Ibid., ii. 370.

19. Mrs Grote's Personal History of George Grote is neither
adequate nor quire accurate. Compare a very useful life by G.
Croom Robertson in Dictionary of National Biography, and the
article in the Encyclopaedia Britannica by William Smith.

20. Bain's J.S. Mill, p. 83.

21. Mrs Grote's Philosophical Radicals of 1832 (1866), p. 28.

22. Introduction to the Study of History (English Translation,
1898), p. 310.

23. Buckle's Life, by Alfred Henry Huth, appeared in 1880. I have
also to call attention to the very able and learned work, Buckle
and his Critics, by John Mackinnon Robertson (1895). Mr Robertson
passes a severe judgment upon a criticism of Buckle which I
contributed to the Fortnightly Review for May 1880, and takes the
opportunity of pointing out some of my manifold shortcomings.
Though his tone is not such as to make an apology easy, I must
state my position frankly. Mr Robertson points out the
measureless inferiority of a book of mine upon the eighteenth
century to Buckle's great performance. He thinks, too, that my
attack was 'unchivalrous' considering the pathetic circumstances
of Buckle's death, and the fact that his work 'seemed to be
sufficiently discredited already.' Now I can quite agree upon one
point. It never entered by head to compare my own abilities with
Buckle's. I could not more have rivalled his history than have
encountered him at chess. It is impossible to speak more
strongly. Why, then, did I presume to criticise? Because I was
not giving my own unaided opinion. I had been interested by a
problem. Like all young men of my time I had been impressed by
the controversial storm which followed the publication of
Buckle's book, and by that which soon afterwards was roused by
the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species. Many years later,
when Buckle's Life appeared, I was struck by a contrast. Darwin's
speculations had affected every department of thought, and his
influence was still spreading. Buckle's, on the other hand, had
lost much of their interest -- what was the reason? Briefly, as I
thought, and as I still think, that Darwin had supplied a
fruitful suggestion suited to the general movement of thought;
and that Buckle, for want of it, had struck into a wrong path. I
tried in my article to point out the nature of his error. Mr
Robertson's book confirms the truth of my impression as to facts.
Had Buckle continued to interest the leaders of thought, Mr
Robertson would not have given so prominent a position to an old
review article never republished, and which, so far as I know,
had never attracted any particular attention. Mr Robertson's
elaborate survey of recent sociology shows that while some
distinguished writers more or less coincide with Buckle, they
scarcely recognise any indebtedness. That is, I think, because
there was little to recognise. Buckle, in short, as it appeared
to me, had not produced an effect at all comparable to those
produced by Darwin or by Mr Herbert Spencer; and I cannot think
that Mr Robertson accounts for the fact. My own explanation may
of course have been wrong; but I do not see that there was
anything 'unchivalrous' in trying to explain why a man of genius
has not produced an effect proportionate to his powers. Nor can I
see that Buckle's pathetic death made it necessary for me to
modify my language in discussing his philosophy. Upon re-reading
my article I recognise faults which may partly justify Mr
Robertson's resentment. I should certainly have avoided anything
savouring of contempt. I did recognise Buckle's extraordinary
powers, but I forgot clearly to distinguish condemnation of his
opinions from depreciation of the power displayed. Substantially
my view is not changed.

24. Civilisation, i. 49. Note the 'wage fund' in the next page.

25. Ibid. i. 58.

26. Civilisation, p. 69.

27. Mr Robertson holds that Buckle's 'generalisation' is not, as
I 'strangely' represent it, an 'arbitrary application of the
Ricardian law of rent to the society of Ancient India, but
constitutes an elevation of Ricardo's other law of the
subsistence of labour into a broad historic principle.' He points
out, too, that Buckle supposed a previous stage of development,
and thinks that he had appreciated Jones's correction of Ricardo,
in regard to Indian rent. (Buckle and his Critics, pp 49, 59 and
see p. 138) I can only say that I adhere to my statement. Buckle
expressly quotes Ricardo, and makes the origin of civilisations
depend upon the threefold division. That I hold to be
unjustifiable, and to be false in fact. the 'broad historical
principle' seems to be simply the fact that great empires rose
where physical condition, including, of course, fertility, were
favourable. Buckle may deserve credit for dwelling upon the fact.
I only say that his explanation does not explain, and that it is
impossible to lay down as unconditionally true that cheap food
involves cheap wages. If one is to have a theory, why should we
not say that empires were made by conquerers instead of by

28.  Civilisation, i. 73.

29. Ibid. i. 222.

30. Buckle, I may notice, thinks Brown's essay upon Causation one
of the greatest works of the century and a statement of the
principles, derived ultimately from Hume, upon which the 'best
inquirers into these matters take their stand.' (Civilisation,
ii. 460 n). This, I take it, explains his tendency to take a
simple statement of fact for a 'law'. The most curious instance
of the confusion is the remark (Civilisation, i. 155) that
physiologists have never been able to discover the cause of the
equality of the number of male and female births. Statisticians
have now answered the question by showing that the proportion is
20 to 21. Obviously they have not answered the question at all.
the have only ascertained the facts. Buckle partly admits this;
and yet he seems to think that the statement somehow indicates a
new method of historical inquiry.

31. Civilisation, i. 236.

32. Civilisation, i. 342 n.

33. Ibid. i. 112.

34. Natural History of Religion, sec. vi. Mr Robertson attacks me
for my criticisms of Buckle's assertion of the deductive
character of Scottish philosophers. I cannot go into the
question, but I make one remark. He quotes the first sentence of
Hume's Natural History to prove that Hume was a deist when he
wrote it, and says that this is implied through the whole essay.
Now Hume's most serious attack upon theology, the Dialogues, was
written by 1751, though posthumously published. The Natural
History appeared in 1757. The deistic phrases obviated the
necessity for leaving it also for posthumous publication.

35. A curious illustration is given by Mr Robertson (p. 140). The
Japanese it has been said, are less superstitious than their
neighbours, and yet more exposed to earthquakes. If Buckle's
theory means that superstition necessarily follows earthquakes,
the fact seems to contradict the theory. So Mr Robertson seems to
take it, for he gives an explanation. The Japanese do not suffer
from earthquakes because they build slighter house. If so,
earthquakes, it surely might be urged, do not produce
superstition, but rational precaution. If, on the other hand, the
Spaniards have not modifies their architecture, that would surely
prove that they have not been much impressed by earthquakes. The
case seems to me to prove simply the rashness of any such hasty
guesses. Buckle's early critics were misguided enough to deny the
facts alleged, and so gave him a triumph.

36. Civilisation, i. 161.

37. Civilisation, i. 37 n.

38. Mr Robertson reproves me for not giving the passage in which
Buckle says that the question of hereditary influence is still
unsettled. Probably I should have recognised this more clearly. I
did, however, say that Buckle held that the superiority of the
civilised to the barbarian infant was 'not proved'. I said also
that I thought that Buckle was justified for his purpose in
neglecting the possibility of a superiority. He says, in the
passage quoted above, that we have no right to assume such a
change as an increase of brain capacity. I took it that for any
historical period we may assume equality. The brain of a modern
Englishman is not presumably superior to the brain of an
Athenian. Evolution of that kind may be neglected by the
historian of civilisation. The evolution, which I did take him to
neglect, was the moral or social evolution, which is compatible
with approximate identity of the brain or the innate faculties.
Buckle, I said, shared the error of the Utilitarians who assumed
moral progress to consist, not in a changed estimate of
happiness, but simply in a better knowledge of the means of
attaining it. Buckle's identification of progress with increase
of knowledge involved, I said, the same error. The change is
regarded as superficial or 'external'. Meanwhile my argument,
which Mr Robertson attacks, about the fallacy of arguing from the
fixed environment to the varying organism applied to such cases
as the inference from earthquakes to superstition or from climate
to aesthetic tendencies. Such a generalisation, taken as an
explanation of superstition, generally implies, as I held, an
inadequate appreciation of the social or moral evolution. Perhaps
I did not put the point clearly or accurately, and, if so, I
regret it.

39. Philosophie Positive, 1852, i, 44, and cp. Ibid. iv. 648,

40. Mr Herbert Spencer raises this question in a criticism of
Comte, contained in a pamphlet upon the 'Classification of the
Sciences.' See Mill's remarks upon this in his Auguste Comte and
Positivism, pp. 34, 43, 102, 114. The controversy between Mr
Spencer and Comte lies beyond my province.

41. Civilisation, p. 152.

42. Ibid. pp. 160-63.

43. Civilisation, p. 206.

44. Civilisation, p. 209.

45. Ibid. p. 354.

46. Essays (1889), ii, 422. (Essay on Buckle, reprinted from
Westminster Review of 1857.)

47. Civilisation, i. 197.

48. Civilisation, ii. 9.

49. On this point Mr Robertson virtually agrees with me, though
he attaches less importance to it.

50. Civilisation, i. 185.

51. Civilisation, p. 235.

52. Civilisation, pp. 248, 283, 289, 306. He occasionally admits
that the church protected the poor and was useful in its time.
ibid, pp. 462, 559.

53. Civilisation, i. 213.

54. Ibid. i. 257.

55. Civilisation, i. 264.

56. Ibid. ii. 274.

57. Ibid. ii. 145, 146.

58. Ibid. i. 729.

59. Civilisation, i. 563.
Chapter VI


I. Mill's Opponents

    Mill's logic embodies the cardinal principles of his
philosophy. The principles implied that little of what is called
philosophy could be valid. Mill necessarily held that many of the
most pretentious speculations were, in reality, nothing but
words; cobwebs of the brain to be swept into the dustbin,
finally, though politely, by the genuine thinkers. His view of
the consequences to theology and religion could for a long time
be inferred only from incidental remarks. Gradually he came to
think that the reticence was undesirable, and had given his final
conclusions in the Essays, which were published after his death.
The philosophical position which underlies them is most clearly
exhibited in his Examination of Hamilton (1865).(1*) This
included a criticism of Mansel's application of Hamilton's
metaphysical doctrines to theology. Mansel's doctrine, stated in
the Bampton Lectures of 1858, had provoked some sharp and
many-sided controversies. He defended himself against Mill's
criticism. Other writers joined the fray, and in one way or other
a perplexing set of intellectual encounters resulted. The leading
champions were Mill, representing the pure Utilitarian tradition,
Mansel, who represented the final outcome of what Mill called
'intuitionism,' and F. D. Maurice, who may be briefly called the
intellectual heir of Coleridge; while another line of inference
was represented by Mr. Herbert Spencer's First Principles. Many
of the arguments have already a strangely obsolete sound; but
they may serve to illustrate the direction of the main currents
of opinion.
    The writings of Sir William Hamilton provided the ostensible
battle-ground. Mill had seen in Hamilton certain symptoms of a
hopeful leaning towards the true faith. Upon taking up the study
more seriously, he discovered that Hamilton was really an
intuitionist at bottom, and even a 'chief pillar' of the
erroneous philosophy. I shall therefore inquire, in the first
place, into the true nature of this version of the evil
principle. It has been so often 'lucidly expounded' that it is
hard to say what it really means.
    Hamilton,(2*) born 8th March 1788, was grandnephew, grandson,
and son of three successive professors of anatomy at Glasgow.
While still an infant, he lost his father, and was ever
afterwards on terms of the tenderest affection with his mother,
who died in 1827. After at Glasgow, he went to Balliol as a Snell
studying exhibitioner in 1807, and there startled his examiners
by his portentous knowledge of Aristotle.(3*) After some medical
study, he decided to join the Scottish bar. He took, however,
more interest in the antiquarian than the practical branches of
the laws; and spent a great deal of time and labour on abstruse
genealogical researches to establish his claim to a baronetcy. He
had to show that he was heir to a Sir Robert Hamilton, who died
in 1701, through a common ancestor who died before 1552. His love
of obscure researches, or his want of aptitude for speaking,
together with his adherence to Whig principles, kept him out of
the road to professional success. He was known, however, as a
'monster of erudition.' He visited Germany with his college
friend J. G. Lockhart in 1817, and on a second visit in 1820
began a systematic study of the language.
    In 1820 Hamilton was a candidate for the chair of Moral
Philosophy at Edinburgh, vacant by the death of Thomas Brown. To
the scandal of Philosophers, it was given to Wilson, or
'Christopher North,' mainly on political grounds. Probably it was
also held that anybody could talk Moral Philosophy. Hamilton was
appointed to a small professorship in 1821, but the salary,
payable from a duty on beer, was stopped and he ceased to
    In 1829, Macvey Napier, upon succeeding Jeffrey as editor of
the Edinburgh Review, applied to his friend Hamilton for an
article. The result was the review of Cousin, which appeared in
the number for October 1829. Jeffrey was rather scandalised by
this novelty in his old organ; the writer showed an unholy
familiarity with the Absolute and the Infinite and the jargon of
German metaphysics; he could not, said Jeffrey, be a 'very clever
man,' and the article was the 'most unreadable thing that had
ever appeared in the Review.'(4*) The average reader, however,
was awed if not interested; and a select few, including Cousin,
were greatly impressed. Hamilton's reputation was made; he wrote
other articles which confirmed the impression, and in 1836 was
appointed to the Edinburgh professorship of 'Logic and
Metaphysics'. He was at length in his proper place; and many
students of that generation became ardent disciples. For the next
twenty years he was regarded with an enthusiasm like that which
had surrounded Dugald Stewart in the previous period and Reid at
an earlier date. His impressive appearance and force of character
contributed the respect due to his vast reading and tone of
rightful authority. He was unmistakably upright, a lover of
speculation for its own sake, and a man of warm and pure
affections. No one could be happier in domestic life. In 1828,
after his mother's death, he married his cousin, Janet Marshall,
by whom he had four children; He is described as gentle and
kindly in his family; joining in childish games, writing in the
general room, and amusing himself with extravagant romances. He
possessed great physical strength till, in 1844, his imprudent
habits of study brought on a paralytic stroke. He recovered
partially, but became weaker and died on 6th May 1856.

    With all Hamilton's claims to respect, there was a very weak
side to his character. A queer vein of pedantry ran through the
man. A Philosopher ought surely not to spend two years unearthing
a baronetcy. Hamilton stickled for his rights in other cases in a
way which one feels to have been scarcely worthy of him. His real
magnanimity was combined with mental rigidity which made him
incapable of compromise. He is undeniably candid and always
speaks generously of his opponents; but his own logic always
appears to him to be infallible, and neither in practical matters
nor in argument would he yield a jot or a tittle of his case. His
self-confidence was unfailing, and he speaks even in his first
article with the air of an intellectual dictator. He was
resolved, it seems, to justify his position by knowing everything
that had ever been written upon philosophy. Like Browning's old
grammarian, he would 'know all,' both text and comment, and when
the 'little touch' of paralysis came, he was still preparing and
accumulating. He had read a vast mass of obscure literature and
helped a powerful memory by elaborate commonplace books. His
passion for imbibing knowledge, indeed, was out of proportion to
his giving out results. He has left comparatively little, and
much of that is fragmentary. His writings are all included in the
Discussions (from the Edinburgh Review and elsewhere), the often
elaborate notes to his edition of Reid, and the Lectures. The two
first volumes of these lectures (on Metaphysics), as we are told
by the editors, were written in the course of five months for his
first session. They were repeated for twenty years without
serious alteration. The lectures upon logic, filling two volumes
more, were written in the same way for the second session.
Writing in such haste, Hamilton naturally eked out his work by
making very free use of his commonplace book, and, in the course
upon logic, by long quotations from previous textbooks. The notes
to Reid consist in part of long chains of quotations. They show
one palpable weakness. The extracts, detached from their context,
lose their true significance. He gives a list of 101 authorities
from Hesiod to Lamennais, with quotations, in which an appeal of
some kind is made to 'common-sense.' He might have collected a
thousand; but instead of showing the approval of the special
Scottish doctrine, they really show that phrase may be used more
or less freely by holders of every doctrine. He seems to share is
opinion of old writers that every statement in a printed book is
an 'authority.' The results are sometimes grotesque. It was
natural enough that Hamilton should note an unfavourable opinion
of mathematical study expressed by Horace Walpole; but a grave
citation of Horace Walpole as an studies would have amused
authority upon mathematical nobody more than Walpole himself. On
such a method the fuel too often puts out the fire, and
Hamilton's direct expositions are few and his opinions often to
be inferred from fragmentary criticisms. They naturally vary as
he places himself at different points of view; and we are left to
guess how he would have tried to combine them.
    Henry Longueville Mansel (1820-1871),(5*) Hamilton's most
noteworthy interpreter, was a typical Oxford don, as became his
birth. He was the descendant of an old family of
country-gentlemen, the younger members of which had entered the
army or navy or held the family living. He had been a brilliant
schoolboy, had distinguished himself in Oxford examinations, and
became known as a wit in common-rooms, a writer of vivacious
squibs, and a sound Tory and high Churchman. He had a clear
intellect, a forcible style, and had studied theology and German
metaphysics with remarkable energy. He apparently began as a
Kantian; but he was greatly impressed by Sir William Hamilton,
with whom he had no personal relations; and he adopted from
Hamilton the peculiar theory which was to enlist Kant in the
service of the church of England. His Bampton Lectures in 1858
made him famous as a champion of orthodoxy. In 1868 he was
appointed to the deanery of St Paul's; but his labours had been
too much for his brain, and he died suddenly in 1871.
    Hamilton started under the double influence of the Scottish
philosophy and of Aristotle. Formal logic was to him the most
congenial of studies. He would have been thoroughly in his
element in the medieval schools, syllogising to the death.
According to an enthusiastic pupil, he laid the top stone on the
fabric founded by the 'master hand of the Stagirite.'(6*) He was
in his element when dividing, subdividing, and cross-dividing all
manner of philosophical tenets. The aim was admirable. To have
all opinions properly articulated and correlated would be the
final result of a history of philosophy and a step to further
progress. The danger of accepting such a classification
prematurely is equally obvious. The technical terms of
metaphysics have the most provoking habit of shifting their
meaning; they shade off imperceptibly into each other, and
sometimes even change places; they represent aspects of truth
caught from a particular point of view, which become inapplicable
or carry different implications as the point of view
imperceptibly shifts. What appear to be contradictory utterances
may be merely qualifications of each other, or may mean the same
thing in different dialects. A system built of such unsubstantial
and slippery materials is apt to crumble into mere chaos without
extreme care and penetration. Hamilton, most fully aware of this
in general terms, was nevertheless not sufficiently on his guard.
He always seems to fancy that he can avoid all ambiguities by a
definition, and does not remember that the words by which he
defines are as shifting in their sense as the word defined. The
consideration is especially important because it is Hamilton's
main purpose to mediate between conflicting opinions. He starts
from Reid's 'common-sense,' and has to show how the position can
be protected against scepticism on the one side and mysticism on
the other.
    Cousin, as a disciple of the Scottish philosophers,
represented one line of deviation from the judicious mean.
Beginning with Reid, he had become, with certain reserves, a
follower or developer of Schelling. Coleridge's 'genial
coincidence' with Schelling had led to no very tangible result;
but Cousin's systematic development showed the philosophy
diverging into a false track, and wasting itself upon the pursuit
of utterly chimerical aims. Hamilton, therefore, endeavoured to
expose the fallacies involved in the whole procedure. He agreed,
as we shall see, with an important part of Kant's doctrine; but
thought that by certain oversights Kant had opened the door to
Schelling's empty speculations. There was an opposite danger to
which Hamilton was equally awake. He insisted upon it in an
article published October 1830 upon the 'Philosophy of
Perception.' This is, in the main, a fierce attack upon Brown --
the one philosophical writer of whom he cannot speak without
betraying prejudice. Hamilton's antipathy has been already
explained. Brown shows Scottish philosophy lapsing into mere
empiricism and 'inductive psychology.' Hamilton never mentions
him without accusing him of blunders and of crass ignorance.
    Hamilton thus stands up for the orthodox common-sense theory
of Reid, and resents backslidings into transcendentalism on the
right hand and sensationalism on the left. Like the excellent
David Deans, he would keep the 'ridge of the hill, where wind and
water shears.' When, however, he set about the edition of Reid's
works, he began to discover inconsistencies. He doubted whether
Reid had really taught the true faith; and he was led to restate
more articulately his own view. To the end of his life, however,
Hamilton called himself a Natural Realist; and held, though with
increasing qualifications, that Reid's doctrine was an
approximate statement of the same doctrine. What Natural Realism
may be is another question.
    The two essays just mentioned(7*) give the pith of Hamilton's
philosophical theories. His other writings on philosophy are
mainly remodelled versions of the same views, or classifications
of. other solutions of the problems. His speculations in logic,
whatever their value, belong to a sphere which fortunately lies
outside my province. In treating of perception, Hamilton gives
the rationale of our belief in the external world; and in
treating of the 'Unconditioned' the rationale of our belief in a
deity. The results are in both cases remarkable.


    What is the relation between the world of matter and the
world of mind? That had been Reid's problem, and Hamilton starts
from the acceptance of Reid's common-sense reply. We have to
steer between opposing difficulties. Give too much to the mind
and you will drift into mysticism, idealism, or ultimately to
'nihilism.' Give too much to matter and you will become a
materialist or a mere sensationalist. Common sense gives the true
answer. Reid was in the right path when he declared himself to be
on the side of the 'vulgar.'(8*) Things are just what they seem
to be. It is the philosophers who, in Berkeley's famous phrase,
have raised a dust, and complain that they cannot see. This
doctrine gives the principle of an elaborate classification of
philosophers generally, and supplies the test of their
soundness.(9*) The truth lies with the 'Natural Realists' or
'Natural Dualists,' who do justice to both sides. They believe
both in mind and matter 'in absolute co-equality'; in a 'duality'
which presents the elements of consciousness in 'equal
counterpoise and independence.'(10*) Unluckily, there is a mock
dualism which virtually makes the true position untenable. It
surrenders the real key of the position. This is the unfortunate
case of the 'Cosmothetic Idealists,' whose theory represents an
illogical compromise. They assert that the mind perceives -- not
matter but -- something which 'represents' matter. It is
conscious only of its own 'ideas.' These form the visible
imagery, an unreal screen, somehow 'representing' a real world
behind. The sceptic, then, had only to point out that the world
behind was a superfluity, and our whole world turns out to be
illusion. Reid had answered Hume by sweeping away all this
superfluous machinery, and proving (or at least asserting) that
what we see is itself real. Reid's analysis of consciousness,
when duly corrected, showing that, we have, as we believe we
have, an immediate knowledge of the material world, accomplished
everything at once.'(11*) 'Natural Realism' and 'Absolute
Idealism' are the only systems worthy of a philosopher.(12*) The
Cosmothetic Idealist occupies a position from which he can be
driven at any moment by the more thoroughgoing idealist. Yet, as
Hamilton declares, Cosmothetic Idealism has been held in various
forms by the immense majority of philosophers,(13*) indeed, by
almost all who have not been driven by its absurdity into
materialism or scepticism. A few 'stray speculators'(14*) alone
have found the narrow way. The list is apparently exhausted by
the names of Peter Poiret, Reid, and Sir William Hamilton,(15*)
and even Reid may be said with much plausibility to have held a
version of the creed which would make his whole philosophy 'one
mighty blunder.'(16*) What has caused this universal apostasy?
    The answer is remarkable. It is due to a 'crotchet of
philosophers'(17*) -- a crotchet, moreover, not only unsupported
by, but opposed to, all the evidence. It appeared first with
Empedocles; it produced the 'gnostic reasons' of the Platonists;
the 'pre-existing species' of Avicenna; the common intellect of
Themistius and Averroes; the 'intentional species' of the
schools; the 'occasional causes' of the Cartesians; the
predetermined harmony of Leibniz; the plastic medium of Cudworth
and the phenomena of Kant. When so many masters of thought have
inVented theories it is unhappily easy to believe that they have
all gone wrong; but one would at least infer that there was some
difficulty to be solved. And yet all these fabrics of sham
philosophy are founded upon a 'baseless fancy,' which Reid alone
was too independent to take for granted. That 'fancy' was that
the 'relation of knowledge inferred an analogy of
existence.'(18*) Norris of Bemerton had urged that a direct
perception of matter was impossible because 'material objects'
are removed from the mind 'by the whole diameter of Being.' Reid,
with 'an ignorance wiser than knowledge,' confessed his inability
to understand this argument. Seeing no difficulty in supposing an
immediate perception of a totally disparate thing, he did not
make an 'irrational attempt to explain what is in itself
inexplicable.'(19*) We can no more know how the mind is conscious
of itself than how it is percipient of its contrary. The whole
puzzle, then, is gratuitous; -- which is a consoling result for
ordinary common-sense.
    Philosophers had thus bewildered themselves by refusing to
admit a plain, though ultimate, fact. There is a gulf between
mind and matter over which no bridge can be thrown, but no bridge
is wanted. The attempt to construct one is superfluous. Yet in a
different form the question is still prominent, and modern
science has invested it with fresh interest. How are we to
conceive of the relation between the mental and the material
spheres? How, after all, do we draw the line between things and
thoughts, object and subject, ego and non-ego? Where do we reach
the impassable gulf, and what, therefore, is the precise sense in
which we must pronounce all attempt at bridging it to be
preposterous? Hamilton's first position is that we are bound to
stand by 'consciousness.' The 'watchword' of the Natural Realist
is 'the facts of consciousness, the whole facts and nothing but
the facts.'(20*) He constantly appeals to the 'deliverance of
consciousness,' and assures us again and again that unless we can
believe this deliverance, we must suppose man to have been formed
only to 'become the dupe and victim of a perfidious
creator.'(21*) The error of the Cosmothetic Idealists consisted
precisely in the arbitrary rejection of a truth given by the
testimony of consciousness. An original conviction is to be
distinguished from derivative knowledge, as he tells us, by
various characteristics, among which is especially its
'necessity.' We cannot really resist it.(22*) If a disbelief in
consciousness be impossible, why argue against it? If not
impossible, how can you assert that the belief is necessary? You
have only to state the belief and, on your showing, it will prove
itself. To this Hamilton answers that 'necessity' may be of two
kinds. We cannot believe a self-contradictory statement; and we
are therefore sufficiently guarded by logic against errors which
are in this sense impossible. But there are other assertions
which may be denied without self-contradiction, and of which,
notwithstanding this, the denial would lead to universal
scepticism. This corresponds apparently to the difference between
a statement of fact and a statement of judgment. A false
statement of facts may be as consistent as a true statement, and
can Only be met by somehow appealing to experience.(23*) So far,
then, as consciousness assures us of a fact, we may deny it
without contradicting ourselves; but yet, by denying it, we 'make
God a deceiver and the root of our nature a lie.'(24*) We may
thus say without self-contradiction, that memory in general is an
illusion, and the world a mere dream or bundle of baseless
appearances;(25*) but we cannot say so without denying the
primary deliverance of consciousness, and striking at the base of
all knowledge. Certain truths, though not logically
self-supporting, so run through the whole fabric of belief, as to
be essential to its existence. If I am conscious, I cannot really
doubt the fact of consciousness. The knowledge of the fact and
the fact become identical. The possibility of error begins with
judgment, or with the interpretation of the fact. It is
undeniable, again, that, in some sense or other, I believe in an
external world. Every philosopher, as Hamilton says, admits this
to be a fact, and Berkeley appeals to the common sense of mankind
when denying, as confidently as Reid when affirming, the
existence of matter. We must inquire, then, what precisely is
this ultimate deliverance. Does consciousness testify merely to
the fact of the belief, or also to the truth of the belief; and,
in either case, of what belief? This is what Hamilton has to
answer, before summoning us to admit the truth on penalty of
making God a liar.
    The highwater mark of his opinion seems to be given in a
passage of the Lectures. He there tells us that, though it is a
strange, it is a correct, expression to say, 'I am conscious' --
not merely of perceiving the inkstand but -- 'of the
inkstand.'(26*) Reid's blunder -- which, if he really made it,
would convert his whole philosophy into one mighty blunder -- lay
in misunderstanding this. Reid had been startled at his own
boldness in asserting the immediacy 'of our knowledge of external
things';(27*) and therefore weakly admitted that we are conscious
of perceiving the rose, not conscious of the rose itself. This
comes of distinguishing 'consciousness' from perception, and
would end in philosophical suicide. It would seem, then, that
according to this doctrine we are bound either to assert that the
rose -- the visible, coloured, scented object, is revealed in
consciousness as part of the 'material world' and therefore
exists independently of us, or to admit that God is a liar. It is
'palpably impossible that we can be conscious of an act without
being conscious of the object to which the act is relative.'(28*)
    To carry out this theory is the central aim of Hamilton's
'Natural Realism.' Reid's statement might seem to be not a
blunder, but a truism. 'I am conscious of the rose' means
precisely 'I have certain sensations which I regard as implying
the existence of a permanent external reality.' But this is to
interpret perception as involving an 'inference,' and therefore,
according to Hamilton, is to abandon the essential doctrine of
Natural Realism.(29*) It may seem strange, he admits, but it is
true, 'that the simple and primary act of intelligence should be
a judgment, which philosophers in general have received as a
compound and derivative operation.'(30*) 'Knowing' and 'knowing
that we know' are the same thing; as conceiving the sides and
angles of a triangle are the same process, distinguishable in
thought, but 'in nature, one and indivisible.'(31*) What, then,
is this essential judgment? In an act of sensible perception,
says Hamilton, I am conscious of myself and of something
different from myself.(32*) This might seem to define the
distinction between 'consciousness' and 'perception.' the object
of my thought may, as Hamilton remarks, be a 'mode of mind' as
well as a 'mode of matter.'(33*) Consciousness of self, we should
infer, differs from consciousness of the not-self, and it is just
the presence of the not-self which distinguishes perception from
simple consciousness. Hamilton, however, argues that perception
is simple consciousness; or that the distinction, for his
purpose, is irrelevant. There is a 'logical' but not a
'psychological' difference.(34*) Every act of consciousness
implies a conception of the ego. But 'the science of opposites is
one.' therefore consciousness of the ego involves consciousness
of the non-ego, or, in the simplest possible act of intelligence
I must be taken to affirm the existence both of an ego and a
    If I cannot even think about myself without affirming the
existence of an external world, it would be superfluous to look
about for further proofs of its existence. But here occurs a
singular difficulty. Hamilton has to guard against the
transcendentalist as well as against the sceptic. He is therefore
not only a 'realist,' but with equal emphasis a 'relativist.'
that our knowledge is essentially relative is one of the points
upon which he insists most emphatically, and confirms as usual by
a catena of authorities. It is, he says, the truth 'most
harmoniously re-echoed by every philosopher of every school,
except the modern Germans.'(35*) The phrase relativity has more
than one meaning; but according to Hamilton means at least this:
'our whole knowledge of mind and matter is relative --
conditioned -- relatively conditioned.' Of mind and matter 'in
themselves' we only know that they are 'incognisable.' 'All that
we know is therefore phenomenal -- phenomenal of the unknown.'
This, then, is a cardinal doctrine. How is it compatible with the
Doctrine that the ego and non-ego are given in every act of
consciousness? Mind and matter, as we have seen, are separated
'by the whole diameter of being.' they express 'two series of
phenomena, known less' (? not) 'in themselves than' (? but), in
contradistinction from each other.'(36*) What is given is not two
facts, the ego and the non-ego, but the 'relation.' Somehow, the
conscious act implies the presence of two factors, unknowable in
themselves. The 'science of opposites' may be 'the same,' but, if
I know neither opposite, there can be very little science.
Strangely, Hamilton seems to confuse the difference between
knowing a relation and knowing the two things related. He tells
us as a rough illustration, that if we consider the perception of
a book to be made up of twelve parts, four may be given by the
book, four by the sight, and four by 'all that intervenes.'(37*)
He infers, presently, that the 'great problem of philosophy' is
to 'distinguish what elements are contributed by the knowing
subject, what elements by the object known.'(38*) Between these
statements we have a renewed and emphatic assertion of the
'relativity of knowledge.' Hamilton, that is, speaks as if from
the fact that life supposes breathing we could infer how far life
depends upon the lungs and how far upon the air. From a relation
between two things, unknowable in themselves, we can surely learn
nothing as to the things separately. Equality of two quantities
is compatible with indefinite variation in the equal
quantities.(39*) The difficulty is increased when we ask how the
line is actually drawn. The distinction between subjective and
objective corresponds to the distinction between the primary and
secondary qualities of which Berkeley had denied the validity.
Both, he held, are on the same plane, and exist only 'in our
minds.' Hamilton holds that the so-called 'secondary qualities'
are only 'subjective affections.' They are not properly qualities
of Body at all, but sensations produced in the mind by the action
of bodies on the nervous system.(40*) The opinion that these
secondary qualities belong to the non-ego is the 'vulgar or
undeveloped form of natural realism.' Hence, when we say that we
are conscious of the 'rose' or the 'inkstand,' we ought to regard
the colour, fragrance, temperature, and so on, as affections of
the ego. To the non-ego belong the primary qualities alone; and
these are substantially nothing but extension and solidity.(41*)
In other words, the rose belongs to the non-ego as space-filling;
to the ego, as coloured and fragrant. Upon this, it is easy to
remark with Mill, that as the vulgar admittedly consider the
whole rose to belong to the non-ego, and the distinction to have
been first drawn by philosophers, we at once admit an illusion in
what, On Hamilton's principles, is apparently a 'deliverance of
consciousness.' Why are we forbidden to make the same hypothesis
as to the primary qualities? 'Falsus in uno,' as Hamilton
somewhere says, 'falsus in omnibus.' If my judgment of colour be
illusory, why not my judgment of extension? The veracity of the
Creator is equally concerned in both cases.
    But, in the next place, we now reach a more serious
difficulty. The non-ego, we see, corresponds simply to the
qualities fully assignable in terms of space. But Hamilton has
read Kant, and moreover been convinced by him. Kant has proved
beyond 'the possibility of doubt,'(42*) the truth that space is a
'fundamental condition' of thought, and therefore belongs to the
ego. This at once throws us back into idealism. The whole rose
has become a thought, not a thing. So long as he roundly asserts
that mind perceives matter, that matter means solid space, and
that this truth is implied by the very simplest act of
intelligence, we may wonder at his audacity, but we may admit his
consistency. But to combine this with the most positive
assertions of the 'relativity' of knowledge, that is, of our
inability to know either mind or matter, and then to accept as
conclusive Kant's theory that space is a mental form, is to land
us in a hopelessly inconsistent position. What Kant precisely
meant, or whether he had not various and inconsistent meanings,
is happily a question beyond my purpose. Hamilton's view of Kant
is clear. 'The distinctive peculiarity' of Kant's doctrine, he
says, is 'its special demonstration of the absolute subjectivity
of space, and in general of primary attributes of matter.'(43*)
He argues that if Reid virtually held the same view, he abandoned
the principle of Natural Realism.(44*) If, then, Kant's theory
was conclusively proved, was not Hamilton bound to give up his
essential principle? He tells us that the primary qualities are
'unambiguously objective (object-objects),' whereas the secondary
are 'unambiguously subjective (subject-objects).'(45*) Yet, he
admits that Kant proves the primary to be absolutely subjective,
'I have frequently asserted,' he says again, that in 'perception
we are conscious of the external object immediately and in
itself. This is the doctrine of Natural Realism.' But he explains
that by speaking of a thing 'known in itself' he does not mean
known 'out of relation to us,' but known 'as the necessary
correlative of an internal quality of which I am conscious.'(46*)
That is, apparently, knowing a thing 'in itself' is knowing it
'not in itself,' but only in its effect; which again is to
abandon 'Natural Realism.' Hamilton finds a way out of these
apparent contradictions which satisfies himself. Both theories,
he suggests, may be true. We have clearly an a priori knowledge
of space 'considered as a form or fundamental law of thought,'
but also an empirical knowledge of what, in this relation, may be
called 'extension.'(47*) He agrees, he says, with Kant that an 'a
priori imagination' of space is a 'necessary condition of the
possibility of thought'; but differs from Kant by holding that we
have an 'a posteriori percept' of space 'as contingently
apprehended in this or that actual complexus of
associations.'(48*) It is most natural to interpret this as a
virtual acceptance of Kant's doctrine. It falls in with what he
says elsewhere: 'the notion of space is a priori, the notion of
what space contains, adventitious or a posteriori. Of this latter
class is that of Body or Matter.'(49*) If I merely fill up space
by the sense of resistance, as he thinks, that is a subordinate
operation, in no way affecting the subjective character of space
generally. If, on the other hand, I can acquire an empirical
notion of space independently, it seems impossible to see why I
should admit the a priori notion. Hamilton starts from the
assertion that we actually perceive facts, and comes to admit
that we simply organise sensations.(50*)
    Finally, Hamilton turns to yet another theory. His essential
point is the necessity of believing consciousness. When we
inquire what is the sphere within which consciousness is
infallible, we have to accept something very like the condemned
'crotchet' of the Cosmothetic Idealists. The infallibility of
consciousness has, after all, to be limited. The summary
assertion that the mind can leap the gulf which separates it from
matter insists upon some explanation. Consciousness is infallible
when it is its own object. But it is plain, as Hamilton agrees,
that this primary, direct, or presentative knowledge is only, as
it were, the limiting case of knowledge. Accordingly he condemns
Reid for speaking of memory as an 'immediate knowledge of the
past.'(51*) The 'object' in this case is not the past event, but
some picture of the past event; not (in his illustration) George
IV landing at Leith, but a mental image of the landing,
'including a conviction' that it somehow represents a past
reality. It is natural, then, to inquire whether my belief in an
external world may not be a consciousness of a modification of
myself, including a conviction that it merely 'represents' an
external world,(52*) and is not in direct contact with the
'non-ego.' Immediate knowledge of the past is 'a contradiction in
terms.' And this, he adds, applies equally to an 'immediate
knowledge of the distant.'(53*) It is false to say with Reid that
ten men all see the same sun. Each sees a different object,
because each sees a different at of rays from which he infers the
object.(54*) We perceive only modifications of light, or, as he
has said before, the 'rays of light in relation to and in contact
with the retina.'(55*) There is, as he adds, no greater marvel in
our perception of the external world than in the admitted fact
that mind is connected with body. Therefore, in his final
statement,(56*) it is laid down as an essential principle that
consciousness is a 'knowledge solely of what is now and here
present to the mind.' What is meant by the 'here'? 'It is the
condition of intuitive perception,' he says, that a sensation is
actually felt 'there where it is felt to be.' To suppose that a
pain in the toe is felt really in 'the brain is conformable only
to a theory of representationism.'(57*) If the mind is not itself
extended or in any way a subject of space-relations, does this
not imply that the whole external world is somehow outside the
sphere of immediate knowledge -- a construction, not a mode of
consciousness? To this Hamilton replies that the 'nervous
organism... in contrast to all exterior to itself, appertains to
the concrete human ego, and is in this respect subjective,
internal; whereas in contrast to the abstract, immaterial ego,
the pure mind, it belongs to the non-ego, and in this respect is
objective, external.'(58*) This view leads him into pure
physiology. He asks whether the mind is conscious of sensations
at the periphery of the nerves, or at a 'central extremity in an
extended sensorium commune.' He declares, lest such language may
appear suspicious, that the question of materialism is not raised
by this assumption.(59*) Anyhow, since the body is now in some
sense part of the concrete human ego, our consciousness of the
primary qualities is in this sense part of our consciousness of
ourselves. They are given as existing in our own organism, or, in
other words, as we occupy space, we have an 'immediate' knowledge
of space.(60*) I only note the peculiar interpretation now put
upon the deliverance of consciousness. I fancy myself to perceive
the sun; what I really 'perceive' is the action of rays of light
on my retina. Yet it is obvious that I only learn of the
existence of 'rays' or 'retina' long after the perception.
Nobody's 'consciousness,' we may be sure, ever told him that he
perceived not the sun but the action of rays of light on his eye.
Hamilton has diverged from a consideration of the consciousness
itself to a consideration of the physical conditions of
consciousness. Having started with Reid, he next admits Kant to
be conclusive, and ends by escaping to what is only expressible
in terms of materialism. The deliverance of consciousness has
come to be a statement that my fingers are different from my
toes, and that, as I am fingers and toes, I am aware of the fact.
I will not ask whether it is possible by any interpretation to
put a tenable construction upon Hamilton's language. Hamilton
begins by discarding the philosopher's crotchet that the
difference between mind and matter prevents them from affecting
each other; and now he seems to admit its force so fully that he
conceives of the nervous organism as a kind of amalgam of mind
and matter.(61*)
    I have followed Hamilton so far in order to illustrate the
way in which, by superposing instead of reconciling two different
sets of dogma, he became hopelessly confused. The old Scottish
doctrine really becomes bankrupt in his version. Hamilton is
still struggling with Reid's old problem, and attacking the
'cosmothetic idealism' as Reid attacked the ideal system. How are
we to cross the gulf between mind and matter, especially when we
know nothing about either mind or matter taken apart from matter
or mind? The problem is insoluble on these terms because it is
really meaningless. The answer suggested by Kant was effective
precisely -- as I take it -- because it drew the line
differently, and therefore altered the whole question. Kant did
not provide a new bridge, but pointed out that the chasm was not
rightly conceived. To try to settle whether the 'primary
qualities' belong to 'things external to the mind' is idle. It
leads to the inevitable dilemma. If the 'primary qualities'
belong to the things or the object, geometry becomes empirical
and deducible only from particular experiments, like other
physical sciences. Then we cannot account for its unique
character and its at least apparent 'necessity.' If, on the other
hand, the primary qualities belong to the mind, we can understand
how the mind evolves or constructs, but it is at the cost of
admitting them to be after all unreal, because 'subjective,' or
deriving knowledge of fact from a simple analysis of thought. But
the dilemma is really illusory. We cannot say that the truths of
geometry refer either to things 'out of the mind' or to things
'in the mind.' They are 'subjective' in the sense that they are
constructed by the mind in the very act of experiencing. They are
not subjective in the sense of varying from one experience to
another or from one mind to another. They belong to perception as
perception, or to the perceiver as perceiving. It is, therefore,
meaningless to ask whether they are 'objective' or 'subjective,'
if that is to be answered by deciding, as Hamilton would decide,
what part is due to the subject and what part to the object. That
feat could only be performed if we could get outside of our
minds, which we always carry about with us, or outside of the
universe to which we are strictly confined. Then we might perhaps
understand what each factor is, considered apart from the other.
As it is, we can only say that the truths are universal as
belonging to experience in general, and necessary as
corresponding to identical modes of combining our experience. But
we must abandon the fruitless attempt to separate object from
subject, and then to construct a bridge to cross the gulf we have


    Upon this I have spoken sufficiently in considering Mill's
Logic. Mill's failure to appreciate the change in the real issues
made by the Kantian doctrine in this and other questions is a
source of perplexity in his criticism of Hamilton.(62*) His
straightforward statement of his own view is a relief after
Hamilton's complex and tortuous mode of forcibly combining
inconsistent dogmas. He is able, moreover, to expose very
thoroughly some of Hamilton's inconsistencies. But though he can
hit particular errors very hard, he has not a sufficient clue to
the labyrinth. Metaphysicians for him are still divided into two
great schools -- intuitionists and empiricists, or, as he here
says, the 'introspective' and the 'psychological' school.(63*)
The Scottish and the Kantian doctrines are still lumped together,
and therefore more or less misunderstood. Hence in treating of
our belief in an external world he is still in the old position.
Kant, according to him, supposes the mind not to perceive but
itself to 'create' attributes, and then by a natural illusion to
ascribe them to outward things.(64*) The mind, on this version,
does not simply organise but adds to, or overrides, experience.
Consequently the external world would become subjective or
unreal; and unless we admit a quasi-miraculous intuition, we are
under a necessary illusion. Mill substantially starts from
Berkeley's position. The distinction between the primary and
secondary qualities is, he holds, illusory. We know nothing of
'object' or 'subject,' 'mind' or 'matter' in themselves.(65*) Our
knowledge is therefore 'subjective.' Our whole provision of
material is necessarily drawn from sensations. The problem
occurs, how from mere sensations we make an (at least) apparently
external world. Mill endeavours to show that this is possible,
though he thinks that Berkeley's attempt was inadequate.(66*) We
can leap the gulf without the help of any special machinery
invented for the purpose, such as Reid's 'intuitions' or Kant's
forms of perception. He offers his own theory as an 'antagonist
doctrine to that of Sir William Hamilton and the Scottish
school,'(67*) and it certainly has the advantage of simplicity.
    Mill lays down at starting(68*) the postulates from which he
is to reason. Here, of course, we appeal to association.
Association, he tells us, links together the thoughts of
phenomena which are like each other, or which have been
contiguous or successive; the link strengthens as the association
is repeated, and after a time becomes 'inseparable.' Now belief
in an external world means the belief that things exist when we
do not think of them; that they would exist if we were
annihilated; and further, that things exist which have never been
perceived by us or by others. This belief is explicable by the
known laws of association. For at any moment a given sensation
calls up 'a countless variety of possibilities of sensation.'
They are regarded, that is, as sensations which I might
experience if circumstances were altered. Again, these
possibilities of sensation (which, he adds, are 'conditional
certainties') are permanent, because they may be called up by any
of the fleeting sensations. This permanence is one of the
characteristics of the outside world; and we thus have always in
the background, or as a 'kind of permanent substratum,' whole
groups of 'permanent possibilities' suggested by the passing
sensations. These become further consolidated when fixed orders
of succession have suggested the ideas of cause and effect --
themselves a product of association. Hence, we get our external
world, and can define Matter to be a 'Permanent Possibility of
sensation.' The phrase became famous.
    This involves the metaphysical question which was reserved or
evaded in the Logic. His whole purpose there is to show that
thoughts should conform to things. But how things differ from
thoughts was never made clear. 'Attributes,' we were then told,
were the same as 'sensations.' The sensations somehow cohere in
clusters. But what makes them cohere in different forms? When a
sensation is not accompanied by the sensation previously
associated, why is not the association simply weakened or
destroyed instead of suggesting a 'conditional certainty'? I
learn that fire is hot because the sensations of brightness and
heat have occurred together; but when I see the brightness
without feeling the heat, why does not the association simply
become fainter? Why should I interpret the experience to mean,
'If I were nearer I should feel the heat'? Does not the
interpretation imply that I have already some system of combining
my impressions and a need of making the two experiences
consistent instead of contradictory? Upon the single assumption
of sensations occurring together or successively, and related in
time alone, there seems to be no need for any external world
whatever. The hypothesis would be exemplified in the case of an
animal which, though capable of sensations, had no capacity for
arranging them so as to represent space at all. And, again, the
statement suggests no distinct reference to any criterion of
truth or falsehood. It accounts for illusions as well as for true
beliefs. What is the difference? The fact that certain sensations
adhere in clusters is not the same thing as the belief in their
regular recurrence; and considering the vast variety and
intricacy of our sensations, the question which I have mentioned
in connection with James Mill arises again: Why should any two
people have the same clusters or (on this showing) the same
belief -- or how one association can be said to be (not real but)
true, and another (not unreal but) false?
    This difficulty shows itself when Mill proceeds to
investigate the 'primary qualities.' They are to be simply
'attributes' co-ordinate with other attributes. With the help of
Professor Bain and Mr Herbert Spencer, in whose then recent
writings he saw a most encouraging development of his father's
principles, Mill makes out a case to show how the perception of
space may be developed. The problem discussed by those
authorities and their successors is clearly a legitimate part of
psychology; their investigations, though still on the threshold
of a vast and difficult inquiry, are at least valuable
beginnings; and when the experts have all agreed, we shall be
ready to accept their conclusions. There is, however, a
difficulty which exposes Mill to another criticism.(69*) Briefly,
it is that his so-called explanation of space-conception really
presupposes space. Hamilton had pointed this out in his Kantian
moods.(70*) The difficulty is obvious. In a scientific theory a
statement in terms of space is an ultimate statement. We do not
try, nor does it appear to be possible, to get behind it. When I
have said that a body moves in an ellipse. I do not go on to
express the ellipse in terms of 'muscular sensation.' That would
be to substitute for a definite measure one essentially
fluctuating and uncertain. I can define a given muscular
sensation as that which corresponds to a certain distance; but to
reverse the definition -- to express the distance in terms of the
pure sensation, excluding all reference to distance, is surely
impossible. Now, it may seem that Mill is here attempting just
this impossible feat. Therefore he is really still on the same
side of the gulf, though he supposes himself to have crossed it.
His 'pigtail 'according to the famous apologue -- still 'hangs
behind him.' In other words, he is mistaking a psychological for
a metaphysical explanation; an account of how it is that we come
to perceive space, assuming space to exist, with an explanation
of what space is; and a resolution of the perception into a set
of sensations associated in time. Here, again, he is under the
great disadvantage of supposing the space-perception to have been
made within the limits of a lifetime. If it were possible to look
into the mind of an infant we could, he thinks, see how the idea
was formed.(71*) A modern psychologist can at least help himself
by looking indefinitely further back and tracing the whole
history of the organism to the earlier forms of life; and the
space-perception ceases to imply a preternatural or a priori
capacity. Something more is surely wanted, though I do not
venture to say precisely what. Mill's doctrine that my belief in
a external world is a belief in 'a permanent possibility of
sensation' may be accepted in some sense. When, for example, I
believe in the existence of Calcutta, I mean that I believe that
if I were transported to the banks of the Hoogly, I should have
the sensations from which Calcutta is inferrible.(72*) In other
words, in making a statement about the external world, I
construct a hypothetical and universal consciousness. When I
exchange the geocentric for the heliocentric view, I am imagining
what I should see if I were upon the sun instead of the earth.
Instead of regarding my own series of sensations as the base from
which to measure, I regard them as deducible from the series
which would be presented to a different and, of course,
incomparably more extended consciousness. I can thus fill up the
gaps in my own experience and get a regular series instead of one
full of breaches and interruptions. That I do this somehow or
other is Mill's view, and I should admit with him that I do no
more. But, then, the question remains whether Mill can account
for my doing even this. It supposes, at least, a power of forming
what Clifford called 'ejects,' as distinguished from 'objects.' I
must be able to think not of things outside consciousness but of
my own consciousness under other conditions, and of other centres
of consciousness than mine. But this ability is not explicable
from sensations, as ultimate atoms, combined in various ways by
'association'; for that process, it would seem, might take place
without in any way suggesting an external world or a different
consciousness. Here Mill, like his father, is trying to explain
thoughts by dealing with sensations as things and refusing to
admit any action of the mind in order to keep to the
unsophisticated facts. He will not allow the mind to have even an
organising power, even though it be a power which cannot be
separately revealed or give rise to independent truths, but
appears simply as implied in its products. The mind is the
cluster of atomic sensations. It must not tamper with the facts
in any way, on penalty of causing illusion. I can only associate
simple atoms, and the world remains a chaos of independent and
incoherent fragments. They stick together somehow, but the
division into the external and the internal world still remains
an unsolved problem. The 'attribute' will not distinguish itself
from the 'sensation.' We are still unable, that is, to explain
the metaphysical puzzle left unsolved in the Logic.
    Another question arises: If the world is still an incoherent
heap of 'attributes' or 'sensations,' what are we to say of the
mind? With his usual candour Mill applies his principles to the
problem. We get, as he admits, to a real difficulty. The mind, in
the phrase adopted from his father, is a 'thread of
consciousness.' It is a series of feelings with the curious
peculiarity that besides 'present sensations' it has 'memories
and expectations.' What are these? he asks. They involve beliefs
in something 'beyond themselves.' If we call the mind 'a series
of feelings,' we have to add that it is a series which is 'aware
of itself as past and future.' Is it, then, something different
from the feelings, or must we accept the paradox that something
'which in hypothesis is a series of feelings can be aware of
itself as a series?' Here is the final 'inexplicability' which
must arrive, as he admits with Hamilton, when we get to an
ultimate fact. The 'wisest thing we can do is to accept the
inexplicable fact without any theory of how it takes place.'(73*)
That what we call personal identity is 'inexplicable' will hardly
be denied. Yet Mill's position seems to make the paradox
something nearly approaching to a contradiction. If the mental
processes are to be described as feelings, separable but simply
forming clusters more or less complicated and linked to each
other, we seem to get rid not only of a something which organises
experience, but of organisation itself. It becomes difficult to
understand not merely what the mind or soul can be, but what are
the mental processes to which the conception corresponds. This,
however, leads to a different set of questions and one of far
greater interest.


    Discussions such as I have touched often seem to be little
more than a display of dialectical skill. Hamilton and Mill
probably believed equally and in the same sense in the reality of
Edinburgh or London. When a belief is admitted, the question why
we believe is of interest chiefly in so far as the answer may
give canons applicable to really disputable questions. Now the
application of Hamilton's theories to theology certainly involved
issues in regard to which men generally suppose themselves to be
profoundly interested. We clearly believe in an 'external world,'
whatever precisely we mean by it. But do we believe in God? or,
if we believe, what precisely is meant by believing in God? That
is a problem upon which turn all the most important controversies
which have divided men in all ages -- and the controversy which
now raged over Hamilton's theory between Mill and Mansel
corresponded to vital issues. Hamilton's essential position was
given in the famous Cousin article in 1830. He frequently
repeats, but he never much modifies or develops the argument. In
the course of lectures repeated for twenty years, he divides his
subject into three departments: 'empirical psychology' and
'rational psychology'; or the facts and laws of consciousness;
and thirdly, 'ontology,' which was to deal with the ideas of God,
the soul, and so forth.(74*) This third department was never
written; and though We may guess at its general nature, his
doctrine is chiefly indicated by his criticism of Cousin.
    One result is unfortunate. I doubt whether so many sayings
capable of different interpretations were ever brought together
in the same space. The art of writing about 'ontology' is, it
would seem, to disguise a self-evident truism by pompous phrases
till the words are vague enough to allow the introduction of
paradoxical meaning. Schelling and Cousin between them had
provided a sounding terminology; and Hamilton, though his main
purpose is to show that these fine phrases were only phrases,
takes them up, tosses them about as if they had a real meaning,
and leaves us in some doubt how far he is merely using the words
to show their emptiness, or suggesting that, when the bubbles are
burst, there is still some residuum of solid matter. 'The
unconditioned,' he says (giving his own view), 'is incognisable
and inconceivable.'(75*) What, then, is 'the unconditioned'?
'The Unconditioned is the genus of which the Infinite and the
Absolute are species.'(76*) These technical phrases are the balls
with which the metaphysical juggler plays his tricks till we are
reduced to hopeless confusion. Mill gives the straightforward
and, I think, conclusive criticism.(77*) What is the sense of
talking about 'The Absolute' or 'The Infinite' as hypostatised
abstractions? Apply the epithets to concrete things or persons
and we may understand what is really meant. A predicate going
about at large cannot be really grasped; and the discussion would
only be relevant if we were speaking of something which is
absolute and nothing but absolute. The words themselves have
meanings which become different when they are parts of different
assertions. 'Inconceivable' is a word which varies from
self-contradictory to mere difficulty of imagining. 'Absolute,'
according to Hamilton, has two chief meanings, one of which is
not opposed to the Infinite and the other contradictory of the
Infinite. Mansel takes Mill to task for not seeing that Hamilton
uses the word in two 'distinct and even contradictory senses,'
and for not perceiving which meaning is implied in which
cases.(78*) It may be very wrong of Mill, but Hamilton's practice
is certainly confusing. There is Cousin's 'Absolute' and
Hamilton's 'Absolute' and Mansel's own 'Absolute';(79*) and the
difference is to be inferred from the nature of the argument.
There is a false Infinite and a true Infinite; and this suggests
another difficulty. The obvious 'contradictory' of infinite is
finite; but words cannot be really contradictory at all till they
form part of a proposition. It is contradictory to call a thing
finite and infinite in the same sense; but, if we admit of
infinite divisibility, a thing must be at once infinite in
comparison with an infinitesimal, finite in relation to other
things, and infinitesimal in relation to those which in relation
to it are infinite. Some words, again, refer to our knowledge of
things, and are meaningless when predicated of objects. A fact
may be 'certain' to me and only 'probable' to you, simply because
the probability to each depends upon the evidence which he
possesses. When this is supposed to correspond to some difference
in the facts themselves, endless fallacies are produced. 'The
certain' is contradictory of the 'uncertain'; but a given fact
may be both 'certain' and 'uncertain.' A discussion naturally
becomes perplexed, which is really treating a question of logic
in terms appropriate to a question of fact.
    I will not attempt to follow a controversy so perplexed in
itself and in which the antagonists seem to be normally at cross
purposes. I must try to bring out the main issue which is
obscured by the singular confusions of the contest; and to this
there seems to be a simple clue. Hamilton's theory is admittedly
a 'modification of that of Kant,'(80*) and intended to eliminate
the inconsistency by which Kant had left an opening for the
systems of Schelling and Hegel. Now Kant's famous argument, given
in the Critique of Pure Reason, is a most crabbed piece of
writing. It makes an English reader long for David Hume. Still,
beneath its elaborate panoply of logical technicalities, it
contains a very clear and cogent argument, which gives the real
difficulty and which is strangely distorted by Hamilton.
    According to Kant there are three Ideas of the pure Reason --
the Soul, the World, and God. Nobody really doubts the existence
of the world; but doubts as to the existence of the soul or of
God are possible and have been met by professedly demonstrative
arguments. The 'dogmatists' whom Kant criticised had, as they
thought, proved the existence of a monad, an 'indiscerptible'
unit called the soul; and of a Supreme Being, or 'Ens
Realissimum,' who is taken to be in some sense absolute and
simple. Kant holds these arguments to be essentially a
misapplication of logical method. It is the function of the
reason to unify our knowledge. The ideal would be reached if all
knowledge could be regarded as a system of deductions from a
single principle. This, in reasoning about the soul, produces a
'paralogism.' All our thoughts and faculties are bound together
into a unity which is consistent with multiplicity. We interpret
this unjustifiably as implying the existence of an absolutely
simple unit. We hypostatise the unity and regard it as a thing
when, in truth, it represents a complex system of reciprocal
relations. The arguments upon the supposed proofs of the
existence of a supreme Being, though they are expanded and
considered in many different forms, reach a similar conclusion.
We are perfectly right in unifying as much as possible our whole
knowledge of the world, but though we may continue the process
indefinitely, we can never logically arrive at the knowledge of a
single Being existing independently as the foundation of all
other being. In this sense, Kant calls the idea 'regulative.' It
corresponds to the legitimate process of thought; we must unify,
but no reasoning can reveal an entity lying beyond all
experience. We are thus led to 'irresistible illusions,' from
which, however, we can escape, though only 'by the severest and
most subtle criticism.' Kant compares this to the illusion
produced by a mirror, which makes objects really in front appear
to be behind it, or to the apparent increase of the moon's size
when near the horizon. Still, it is impossible, as he
emphatically says, that reason should be itself undeserving of
confidence. It is only from its misuse in an inappropriate
sphere, or, in other words, from its attempt to transcend
experience, that the fallacy arises.(81*)
    It is needless to ask how this argument can be reconciled
with the theism which Kant accepts. Hamilton's criticism of
Cousin is essentially a statement of the converse argument.
Schelling and Cousin had taken up Kant's challenge, not by
inferring the simple being from the complex of experiences, but
by professing to show how multiplicity might be evolved out of
absolute simplicity. This feat, as Hamilton held, and as Mill of
course held with him, could only be accomplished by a palpable
juggle. Clearly you cannot count, if you are restricted to the
use of an absolute 'one.' The germ from which an organic system
is developed cannot be itself absolutely simple. Knowledge can
only be made out of rules; and a simple 'is' gives no rule.
Hamilton tries to express the principle implied in such instances
in the proper pomp of metaphysical language. Cousin starts by
admitting that knowledge supposes 'plurality,' that is, an object
and a subject. Now, says Hamilton,(82*) the 'absolute' must be
identified with the subject or with the object, or with the
'indifferency of both' (whatever that may be). On the first or
second hypothesis, the absolute is not, as it ought to be, a
unit, for it is one of a pair; on the other hypothesis, you
suppose that consciousness does not imply plurality. A man, let
us say in humbler language, if he thinks, must think about
something. If so, we start from a man and a something. But
suppose him to think about himself. Then there must be something
to say about himself; and he will have nothing to say if he is
absolutely simple. That seems to be true enough. Every
proposition asserts a relation of some kind, and a proposition
cannot be got at all if no relation be given. This, therefore, is
one meaning of the 'relativity' of thought. 'To think is the
condition'; that is, you cannot affirm or deny unless you deny or
affirm something. If you try then to get to the absolute by
stripping off all relations, you really get to zero. We think
only by the attribution of certain qualities, and the negation of
these qualities and of this attribution is so far a negation of
thinking at all. Kant's arguments duly carried out prove 'the
unconditioned,' says Hamilton, to be a mere 'fasciculus of
negations.'(83*) Clearly, we reply, if the unconditioned is
reached by unsaying all that we have said. A plain person is,
indeed, chiefly astonished that such arguments should be
required. Schelling's system, says Hamilton himself, is only fit
for 'Laputa on the Empire,'(84*) but Schelling at least invented
a supernatural faculty to perceive an 'incogitable' hypothesis.
Cousin's hypothesis, which tried to omit this faculty, is worse,
for it is self-contradictory.(85*) The spectacle of three of the
most distinguished men in Germany, France, and England joining in
this game, and even of Hamilton winning a 'European reputation'
by declaring that we cannot believe two contradictory
propositions at once, or make something out of nothing, is not
edifying to a believer in philosophy.


    Mill does not want all this apparatus to get rid of the
transcendental world. It is for him too obviously superfluous to
require to be exploded. How then does he come into conflict with
Hamilton? We must turn for explanation to another of Kant's
arguments. The universe must be regarded as in some sense one,
though that does not prove the existence of a simple and absolute
Being as its ground or principle. On the other hand, the universe
is an indefinitely complex multitude of reciprocally dependent
things. We can bring the 'laws' into unity and harmony; but the
things through which the laws are manifested are themselves
infinitely numerous. We may then ask whether the universe is not
only one but a whole; whether its unity entitles us to call it a
single object. This leads to the famous 'antinomies.' They have
been familiar enough in many forms since speculation began. The
universe is given in space and time. Now, we cannot think of
space and time either as finite or infinite. We cannot think of
space as finite because, however far we go, there is still space
beyond. We cannot think of space as infinite, because to imagine
infinite space would require an infinite mind and infinite time.
Space must be either infinite or finite, because one of two
contradictories must be true, and yet each is 'inconceivable.' I
must confess with due humility that I could never see any
antinomy at all. In this I agree with Mill,(86*) though I cannot
agree with his attempt to explain our beliefs in the infinity of
space by an 'inseparable association.' The apparent antinomy is
due, I fancy, to a shift in the meaning of 'infinite.' The
mathematician calls space 'infinite' because space is limited by
space, and there cannot be a 'whole' of space. If by 'infinite' I
mean the completion of a process which ex hypothesi cannot be
completed, I become self-contradictory. There is no meaning in 'a
whole' of space, though every particular space is a whole. Acuter
reasoners, however, can see the difficulty, and we will therefore
admit the 'antinomy.' Then we must observe that, according to
Kant, the antinomies apply solely to the cosmological idea. There
is nothing, he says,(87*) antinomial in the psychological and
theological ideas; for they 'contain no contradiction.' He infers
that their reality can be no more denied than affirmed. If from
the organism I infer a soul I fall into a 'paralogism,' but not
into an 'antinomy.' We do not prove that soul and no-soul are
necessary alternatives and both 'inconceivable,' but simply that
the soul, as a monad, is a superfluity which explains nothing --
a thought interpreted as a thing. The antinomy occurs only when
we deal with the perceived universe, and ask whether it has or
has not limits. It has no application to the argument about God
or the soul. Since they are not in space they have no concern
with the antinomies involved in the conception of space.
    Hamilton's misappropriation of this argument is the master
fallacy of his system. In the Cousin essay he lays down a dogma
without the slightest attempt to prove it. 'The conditioned is
the mean between two extremes -- two inconditionates -- exclusive
of each other, neither of which can be conceived as possible, but
of which, on the principles of contradiction and the excluded
middle, one must be admitted as necessary.'(88*) He adds that our
faculties are thus shown to be weak, but not deceitful. We learn,
moreover, the 'salutary lesson' that the capacity of 'thought is
not to be constituted into the measure of existence,' and we are
warned from 'recognising the domain of our knowledge as
necessarily coextensive with the horizon of our faith.' In a note
we are invited to accept as true the declaration 'of a pious
philosophy -- a God understood would be no God at all'; and we
are told that 'the last and highest consecration of all true
religion must be an altar to the unknown God,' -- which does not
appear to have been St. Paul's opinion. This doctrine was
repeated again and again in various lectures and notes. It was
applied by Mansel to defend Christianity, and was in a sense
accepted by Mr. Herbert Spencer as a support of Agnosticism.(89*)
Yet it is sprung upon us in this abrupt fashion, not only without
proof, but without any clear statement of its meaning; and, as I
think, is really the expression of a confusion of two lines of
argument. An exposition of this great axiom, he says,(90*) would
show that 'some of the most illustrious principles' are only its
'subordinate modifications applied to certain primary notions.'
Among such notions are those of 'cause and effect' and 'substance
and phenomenon.' The discussion of Cause and Effect(91*)
illustrates sufficiently the curious shifting of the argument.
Our inability to conceive a beginning either of time or of the
existence of things in time gives the apparent necessity of
causation. But as we cannot suppose an infinite regress, the
necessity corresponds only to an 'impotence' of our minds. Hence,
he argues, in the case of the human will, we must admit the
possibility, though not the conceivability, of an absolute
beginning, and therefore of freewill. The argument, if sound, is
applicable to cause in general as well as to the will. Hamilton
may mean that since an absolute beginning is possible at some
time, it is possible at any time. We might then have an antinomy.
One of the propositions, 'things are caused' and 'things are not
caused,' must be true, and both are inconceivable. But this would
be to destroy the axiom of causation. The appearance of an
antinomy is obtained by changing the question. Instead of asking
why we take things to be caused, we ask whether we can imagine an
infinite series of causes. The antinomy in this case is simply
the old formula over again. This central position of Hamilton's
philosophy is thus an illegitimate application of Kant's
argument. Kant admits an antinomy only where it is at least
plausible, namely, as applied to the universe which we clearly
have to extend indefinitely if not to absolute infinity. But no
such difficulty is involved in the problem of unity. Hamilton
seems to have been so delighted with the 'antinomy' that he
'enounces' it as a general law; applies it where it has no
meaning whatever, and invariably 'illustrates' it by repeating
the case in which it is plausible.
    Hamilton thus contrives to blend two arguments into one. His
view is the germ of inextricable confusions, and, one might have
thought, too obvious a bit of logical legerdemain to impose even
upon a metaphysician. It plays, however, a most important part in
the attempt made by Mansel to bring Hamilton to bear against the
unbeliever. Mansel's whole aim is to put his antagonists in a
dilemma. They must not be allowed to say simply that an argument
becomes meaningless; they must be taken to say that it leads to a
balance between two alternatives. We therefore get a double
result. On the one hand, we are reduced to complete scepticism --
that is, reason is made impotent in regard to a question which
necessarily arises. On the other hand, we are left with an
impression that we are compelled to take some position in this
region of inconceivables, and this is translated into the pious
assertion that 'belief' extends beyond 'knowledge.' Thus Hamilton
emphatically declares that it is the 'main scope' of his
speculation to show articulately that we 'must believe as actual
much that we are unable (positively) to conceive as actual.'(92*)
    To follow him through the maze of 'inconceivables,'
'absolutes,' 'infinites,' 'unconditioneds' and so forth would be
idle.(93*) I shall be content with one argument which in Mansel's
hands led to an important conflict with Mill. The Infinite, says
Mansel, 'if it is to be conceived at all, must be conceived as
potentially' everything and actually nothing; for if there is
anything in general which it cannot become, it is thereby
limited; and if there is anything in particular which it actually
is, it is thereby excluded from being any other thing.(94*) It
must also be conceived as 'actually everything and potentially
nothing; for an unrealised potentiality is likewise a
limitation.' Hamilton had put the same argument. 'The infinite is
conceived only by thinking away every character by which the
finite was conceived.'(95*) That is, the 'infinite' is equivalent
to the 'indeterminate,' or the result of unsaying all that you
have said. This logically leads to pure nothing, not to an
antinomy. We are told that we must believe something where we get
not to a contradiction but to an absolute vacuum. Mill makes an
obvious criticism.(96*) When I talk of infinite space, I do not
'think away' the character of space, but I only think of an
indefinite extension of space. To believe in infinite space would
otherwise be to disbelieve in geometry. We cannot think at all
about an utterly indeterminate object, but we can think of space
without asking how much space there is in the universe. 'The
Infinite' may be meaningless, but to predicate infinity of space
does not destroy the space conception. If, then, the infinity of
space does not hinder us from obtaining a perfectly accurate
knowledge of its properties, does the infinite or absolute nature
of the Deity prevent us from understanding his attributes? Here
is the real problem; and it leads to the odd spectacle of the
sceptic arguing on behalf of theology against the divine. There
is no contradiction, as Mill argues, in speaking of an infinitely
knowing or powerful or good being. A being has infinite knowledge
if nothing is unknown to him; and is infinitely powerful if
nothing is impossible to him. That gives a plain meaning on the
human side, though we are of course unable adequately to imagine
the result on the divine side. Infinite goodness is, indeed, a
less natural phrase than 'absolute,' because absolute does not
suggest a numerical measure of 'goodness.' Goodness is a quality,
not a quantity. But, understood as meaning the absence of even an
infinitesimal degree of badness, it may be called infinite, and
the 'limit' which is denied is not that implied by 'good,' but by
the degree of goodness. Infinite, if it means anything, must mean
an infinite amount or degree of something definite.
    Mill thus appears to argue that theology is not as irrational
as its defender supposes. The introduction of such predicates as
infinite and absolute do not make knowledge of their subject
impossible. It would have cleared the matter if Mill had gone on
to explain his own view of the 'Absolute.' We may guess what he
ought to have said in conformity with his principles. If all
knowing is essentially a knowledge of relations, it is idle to
seek for an 'absolute' in the sense of a thing which (on Mansel's
definition) 'exists in and by itself, having no necessary
relations to any other being.'(97*) Since, in saying anything
about it, we assert a relation, we cannot even speak of such an
'absolute' without contradiction. 'Absolute,' like certain,
necessary, and so forth, is a name referring to our knowledge. An
assertion about facts may be 'absolutely' true, however trifling
the fact. It may be as absolutely true that a sparrow fell to the
ground at 9 A.M. on the 1st of January last as that the sun
exists or that two and two make four. Knowledge implies not an
'absolute fact' but an 'absolute truth' -- a truth which requires
no qualification not explicitly given in the proposition
asserted. To say that a thing exists absolutely is to add nothing
but emphasis to the statement that it exists. Nor does the
statement that it exists 'conditionally' alter the case. It is
conditional in so far as it has a cause, or as from its existence
we may infer some previous state of things. If, however, it
exists, the conditions have ex hypothesi been fulfilled. It
exists now 'absolutely,' however it came to exist. It is a part
of the whole system of interdependent and continuous processes
which make up the universe.(98*) If we know that anything, then,
is part of the actual world, we have all 'the absolute' required;
and this is an 'absolute' which is perfectly compatible with any
complexity of relations. The clue is given by getting hold of any
bit whatever of the actual web, not by getting into some
transcendental world beyond. The error of supposing that we must
find an 'Absolute' somewhere, and that we cannot find it in any
part of our experience, is the same as would be the error of
supposing that because we cannot fix a point in absolute space,
we cannot get any valid space measures. The centre of the sun or
Greenwich observatory will do equally well, though we cannot even
speak intelligibly of their absolute position in the universe. To
give a scientific account of astronomy we do not require an
absolute centre of space. This is what I take to be implied in
Kant's argument about the idea of God. We cannot get to an
'absolute' Being outside of the universe, but the whole must be
regarded as a single and self-supporting system. This argument is
distorted in the elaborate argumentations of Hamilton and Mansel
against the attempts to get to an absolute Being outside of
things in general. Such an absolute as they attack is doubtless
an absurdity; but neither are we, as they urge, compelled to
believe in it. If we still use theological language, we must say
that God is not a Being apart from the universe, but implied in
the universe; the ground of all things, the immanent principle
whose 'living raiment is the world.' Mill of course holds that we
must abandon 'transcendentalism' or the search for 'things in
themselves' outside of the phenomenal world. Mansel often seems
to agree. Philosophers who indulge in these freaks try, he says,
to lift up the curtain of their own being to view the picture
which it conceals. 'Like the painter of old, they knew not that
the curtain is the picture.'(99*) That sounds like good
positivism or phenomenalism. It should give the death blow to all
'ontology.' He assures us over and over again that the 'Infinite'
is a 'mere negation of thought';(100*) that contradictions arise
whenever we attempt to transcend the limits of experience; that
human reason is so far from bring able to construct a 'Scientific
Theology, independent of and superior to Revelation, that it
cannot even read the alphabet out of which that Theology must be
framed.'(101*) We can know the laws of nature or the phenomena,
but we can know nothing of the substance or noumenon which lies
behind them. Then, is the natural query, why not leave it out of
account altogether? Why venture into this region, where, as
Mansel admits, we find only 'antinomies' or,'contradictory
inconceivables'? Why not, in short, be agnostics like Mr Herbert
Spencer, who based his First Principles on the Hamilton-Mansel
doctrine? This gives the secret of the whole procedure.
    'The cardinal point,' says Mansel, 'of Sir W. Hamilton's
philosophy... is the absolute necessity, under any system of
philosophy whatever, of acknowledging the existence of a sphere
of belief, beyond the limits of the sphere of thought.'(102*)
Faith, then, remains when reason disappears, though faith cannot
solve the doubts suggested by reason.(103*) What 'faith' tells
us, in fact, is that we must believe one of two propositions,
though we cannot conceive the possibility of either. Can it
possibly, we ask, much matter whether we believe that there is or
is not an X of whom nothing more can be intelligibly said? A
belief which extends beyond 'the sphere of thought' is a belief
which we can afford to leave to itself. But Mansel has to declare
that we are forced to believe where we cannot even properly
think. 'We are compelled by the constitution of our minds to
believe in the existence of an absolute and infinite
Being,'(104*) though, as we learn, to 'think of the infinite' is
really a negation of thought. A decision to accept one of the
contradictory beliefs is yet of the highest practical importance.
The schemes of Free Will and Fatalism, says Hamilton,(105*) are
'theoretically balanced,' though the fatalist inconceivability is
the 'less obtrusive'; but 'practically' we must accept free-will
on penalty of admitting the moral law to be 'a mendacious
imperative.' That is, right and wrong become meaningless unless
you accept one of two equally inconceivable doctrines. So Mansel
declares freewill to be 'certain in fact' though 'inexplicable in
theory.'(106*) Why 'certain,' if, as he also declares, it is part
of the 'fundamental mystery' of the coexistence of the Finite and
the Infinite?(107*) According to Mansel, again, the denial that
an infinite Being exists, is simply the acceptance of one of two
'equally inconceivable alternatives.'(108*) It is, he declares,
'our duty' to think of God as 'personal' and to believe that he
is 'infinite.'(109*) It is a duty, then, to accept as a certainty
what reason declares to be only one of two equally probable
    The general attitude is familiar enough. Pascal has put it in
his famous 'wager.' Believe a thing because it is impossible. You
must back one side; and reason is too imbecile to settle which.
Then give up reasoning. The argument is persuasive if not
logically convincing. Hamilton was too much of a philosopher and
a rationalist to accept it in that form. His application remained
ambiguous. Probably he would have approved a rather vague theism,
which might be interpreted in terms of many religious creeds.
Mansel, unluckily, had to get from his philosophy to the position
of strict Anglican orthodoxy; from the contradictory
inconceivables to the Thirty-nine Articles. His method of
performing this feat has little interest now; but I must notice
it enough to show the relation to Mill.


    How is this Infinite and Absolute Being to be brought into
any relation whatever with facts? How, by accepting one of two
equally inconceivable alternatives, can we throw any light upon
the truth of a historical statement? Mansel protests that he is
not arguing as to the truth of any particular revelation. Though
he is not bound to prove the truth of the Christian revelation,
he is clearly bound to show that a revelation is probable, and to
suggest the criterions by which its reality must be tested. A
religion, as Kant had said, could not be true which conflicted
with morality.(110*) If morality binds me to be merciful, and a
god orders me to be cruel, he cannot be the true God. The deist
Tindal had argued long ago that Joshua could not be justified by
a divine command in exterminating the Canaanites.(111*) In
answering this difficulty, Mansel hit upon the unlucky phrase
'Moral Miracles.'(112*) A 'moral miracle,' a conversion of a bad
act into a good one, was, he admitted, not the kind of experiment
to be used too often. Every scoundrel can work 'miracles' of that
kind. He can break the divine law though he cannot break the 'law
of nature.' How are we to know that in a given case the divine
law has been suspended by the supreme ruler and not really broken
by the wicked subject? By what logical feat can we show the
identity of Jehovah with the Absolute and Infinite? The deity of
joshua was frankly anthropomorphic: the (generally) invisible
deity of a tribe. We can judge of his character as we can judge
of the character of joshua himself, or of the character of Baal,
or Moloch, or Zeus. If we argue that all the deities represent an
imperfect feeling after a supreme Being, our judgment would not
be affected. The deity would still be imperfect. The commands
obeyed were still cruel and immoral, as conceived at the time. To
argue that they were good because somehow or other Jehovah was
the Inconceivable seems to be too obvious a fallacy even for a
Bampton Lecturer. Mansel denounces the 'morbid horror of what
they (philosophers) are pleased to call Anthropomorphism.'
'Fools' to dream that man can escape from himself, that human
reason can draw aught but a human portrait of God.'(113*) They
really argue that the portrait has at any rate very ugly
features, and doubt whether it is possible to draw any portrait
whatever of the Inconceivable.
    Mansel makes play with this 'antinomy.' The God of his
philosophy is too inconceivable to be a moral lawgiver. But, says
Mansel, he is also jehovah. Jehovah, it is replied, is immoral.
But, says Mansel, he is also the Inconceivable. This singular
mode of eluding difficulties can of course be expressed in
edifying language. The 'caviller,' for example, had objected to
'vicarious punishment.' Mansel says(114*) that this supposes that
nothing can be compatible 'with the boundless goodness of God,
which is incompatible with the little goodness of which man may
be conscious in himself.' The ingenious argument, in spite of
this way of putting it, excited Mill's very justifiable wrath.
'I,' he said, 'will call no being good, who is not what I mean
when I apply that epithet to my fellow-creatures; and if such a
being can sentence me to hell for not so calling him, to hell I
will go.'(115*) Mansel is amazed at this 'extraordinary outburst
of rhetoric'; he will not 'pause to comment on its temper and
good taste'; but he suggests a parallel.(116*) It is that of an
'inexperienced son' taking moral advice from an 'experienced
father,' or believing that the elder man is acting rightly though
his motives are not fully intelligible to the younger. This, as
Mill replies,(117*) assumes that the father is 'good' in the
human sense, although with more wisdom or knowledge. To make the
parallel close we should have to suppose a son who only knows
that it is an equal chance whether his father exists or not, and
is told by somebody who is equally ignorant that the father
desires him to cut a man's throat and appropriate his wife. If
the morality of God be absolutely inscrutable, we must fall back
upon the conclusion that we are entitled to criticise not the
moral contents but the external evidences of a religion.(118*)
Mansel tries to compromise. We may argue from the morality of
religion within limits; the argument may prove that a religion
cannot be divine; but not that it is divine. For that we must go
to 'external facts.'(119*) Our knowledge of God, he still
asserts, is derivable from our 'moral and intellectual
consciousness'; from the 'constitution and course of nature' and
from revelation. These generally agree. When they appear to
differ, we must not settle a priori which is to give way.(120*)
Mr Herbert Spencer, as Manal thinks, went wrong because he took
only the 'negative position' of Hamilton's philosophy, and did
not see, for example, that the belief 'in a personal God is
imperatively demanded by the facts of our moral and emotional
consciousness.'(121*) Mansel was trying to escape from his own
logic under the shelter of 'vague generalities.' Mr Herbert
Spencer, I think, was perfectly right in holding that when our
Deity is the 'Unknowable,' he cannot be made to take sides even
in a moral controversy and certainly not identified with the
anthropomorphic deities of popular mythology.
    The Hamilton-Mansel controversy has become a weariness to the
flesh. The interest which it still possesses is only in the
illustration of the conflict between different lines of
development. The position of Hamilton and his disciple means a
desperate attempt to escape from a pressing dilemma. Kant's
theology represents the deistic rationalism of the eighteenth
century. The metaphysical argument necessarily tends to some form
of pantheism, such as that of which Spinoza is the most complete
representative. Carry out the logic and God is identified with
Nature, and is not a being who can be conceived as interfering
with the laws of Nature. The growth of science had made it
essential to widen the theological conceptions, and to invest the
supreme ruler with attributes commensurate with the new universe,
which had been growing both in vastness and regularity. The
result of attempting to fulfil that condition was inconsistent
with the common-sense theology of the Scottish philosophy, which
tried, by help of 'intuitions,' to preserve a 'personal deity,' a
being still individual and therefore conceivable as interfering;
and which, finding the metaphysical argument dangerous, was
inclined to fall back upon the merely empirical argument of
Paley. I have shown, at fully sufficient length, how by
substituting an antinomy for a paralogism, Hamilton manages
verbally to evade this difficulty; and by extending the sphere of
belief beyond the sphere of reason, justifies belief in a God who
is at once unknowable and yet may be an object of worship.
Mansel's audacious extension of this to the historical and
mythological creeds, and the consequent identification of Jehovah
with the Absolute and Infinite, can only be regarded as a logical
curiosity. The only results were, on the one hand, Mr Herbert
Spencer's agnosticism, and on the other, perhaps, some impulse to
the speculation of the rising generation. Hamilton and Mansel did
something, by their denunciations of German mysticism and
ontology, to call attention to the doctrines attacked. The
Germans might after all give the right clue; and it might be
possible, by substituting a new dialectic for the old logic, to
regard the universe as still woven out of reason, and to preserve
a theological or at least an idealist mode of conception. With
that, however, I have no concern.


    Hamilton's theory at least recognised the inevitable failure
of the empirical or Paley theology which virtually makes theology
a department of science. Mill, as a thorough empiricist, might
have been expected to abandon theology along with all
transcendentalism and ontology. In fact, however, his position
was different. I have already pointed out that at one part of his
argument he appears to be defending orthodox views of theology as
against Mansel. This argument might appear to be merely ad
hominem, as intended to show the absurdity of Mansel's doctrine
of inconceivability; not to deny the inconceivability itself.
Mill, however, really goes further. He approves Hamilton's
strange assertion that 'religious disbelief and philosophical
scepticism are not merely not the same, but have no natural
connection,'(122*) and holds that all the real arguments for the
existence of God and the immortality of the soul remain
unaffected by the association theory. In his Logic Mill had
accepted Comte's 'law of the three stages'; but in his later
study of Comte he expressly declares that this doctrine is
reconcilable with the belief in a 'creator and supreme governor
of the world.' It implies a belief in a 'constant order,' but
that order may be due to a primitive creation, and even
consistent with the continual superintendence of an, intelligent
governor.'(123*) In the posthumous essays this position was
developed in such a way as to give some scandal to his
disciples.(124*) He not only leaves room for theistic beliefs,
but he seems even to sanction their acceptance.
    In the Three Essays on Religion Mill is clearly treading
unfamiliar ground. He refers to the arguments of Leibniz, Kant,
and Butler, but, as Professor Bain remarks,(125*) was a
comparative stranger to the whole sphere of speculation. He is
not so much at home with his subject as he was in the Logic or
the Political Economy; and therefore scarcely appreciates certain
conditions of successful navigation of these regions made
sufficiently obvious by the history of previous adventurers. Yet
his candour and his resolution to give fair consideration to all
difficulties are as conspicuous as his wish to appreciate the
highest motives of his antagonists. Of the three essays, the
first two, written before 1858 (On 'Nature' and the 'Utility of
Religion'), show less disposition than the last (upon 'Theism')
to compromise with orthodoxy; and yet their principles are
essentially the same. Mill, of course, is still a thorough
empiricist. One version of theology is therefore inconsistent
with his most essential tenets. The so-called a priori or
ontological argument is for him worthless. It involves, he
thinks, the unjustifiable assumption that we can infer 'objective
facts from ideas or convictions of our minds.' The 'First Cause
argument,' again, can only upon his view of causation suggest an
indefinite series of antecedents, and one in which the 'higher'
as often follows the 'lower' cause, as the lower the higher.
Matter may be the antecedent of mind, as well as mind of matter.
Moreover, no 'cause' is wanted for that which has no beginning;
and as our experience shows a beginning for mind but no beginning
for force or matter, the presumption is against mind.(126*) If,
indeed, the world be simply a series of separate phenomena,
connected solely as preceding and succeeding, there is no
possibility, it would seem, of inferring any unity or underlying
cause or ground. The very attempt to reach unity is as hopeless
as is the proverbial problem of weaving ropes from sand. The
possibility of Philosophical theism is thus destroyed; for the
God of philosophy corresponds to the endeavour to assert
precisely the unity thus denied in advance. By 'God' Mill must
really mean, not Spinoza's necessary substance nor Kant's 'Idea
of the pure Reason,' but a being who is essentially one factor of
the universe. The confusion is of critical importance. It is
constantly assumed, as Mill assumes, that the 'a priori' and the
empirical arguments are different moDes of proving the same
conclusion. The word 'God' is no doubt used in both cases; but
the word covers entirely different senses. The existence of
Jehovah might be proved or disproved like the existence of Moses.
The God of Spinoza is proved from the logical necessity of the
unity and regularity of the universe. One Being may interfere or
superintend because he is only part of a whole. The other
corresponds to the whole, and interferences or miracles become
absurd. Mill, therefore, by calmly dismissing the a priori
argument is really giving up the God of philosophy, and trying
what he can do with the particular or finite being really implied
in Paley. Theology on this showing can be only a part of natural
science, and precisely that part in which we know nothing.
    To know anything or God, in whatever sense, we must go to
'Nature.' In the first essay Mill discusses the question whether
anything can be made of the various systems which prescribe
'imitation of Nature' or obedience to the laws of Nature. If
Nature be taken in the widest sense, as including man, such
systems are migratory. Disobedience to a 'law of Nature' is not
wrong but impossible. We may, however, take Nature in the
narrower sense in which it is the antithesis of art; or, as he
puts it, as meaning 'that which takes place without human
intervention.'(127*) It is plain that, in this sense, the whole
aim of all human endeavour must be to improve. Nature. Mill
emphasises this by expanding the indictment against Nature, which
has become more familiar in discussions of the 'struggle for
existence.' The 'absolute recklessness of the great cosmic
forces,'(128*) the variety of torments, such as the worst tyrants
have hardly used, inflicted upon all living beings without the
slightest regard to justice, are amply sufficient reasons for not
'imitating Nature.' Hence Mill protests emphatically against the
notion that 'goodness is natural.'(129*) All the virtues are in
his sense 'artificial.' Sympathy begins as a form of selfishness
-- selfishness for two -- and the sentiment of justice is
developed by the necessity of external law. It is the pressure
from without, the interest of each in the goodness of others,
which has really created the moral world. The 'germs' of all
these virtues must, it is true, have been present; the species
could not have existed had it not been endowed with desire for
useful ends; but then, we must also admit the existence of bad
instincts, producing 'rankly luxuriant growths' of vice against
which a long and precarious struggle must be carried on.(130*)
    Mill is thus saying emphatically much that has been said by
later evolutionists. One remark is obvious. The distinction
between 'Natural' and 'Artificial' in this sense is clearly
arbitrary for one who, like Mill, rejects the doctrine of
Freewill. If Nature makes men with certain capacities, Nature
must also be taken to be the cause of all human 'intervention.'
The sphere of the 'artificial' is merely one part of the sphere
of the 'natural.' 'Sympathy' and 'justice' are not the less
natural because they are in this sense artificial. Mill is, of
course, fully aware of the fact that his 'nature' is here at most
department of Nature in the wider sense. Yet the illegitimate
distinction seems more or less to affect his conclusions. He
comes to speak as if the distinction corresponded to a line
between different worlds. In the non-human world we appear to
catch 'Nature' alone and unaided; we can see what it can do its
by itself, and judge, if not of its justice, at least of
benevolence. He is thus led to use language about men amending
Nature or 'co-operating with the beneficent powers,'(131*) which
would be more consistent in a thorough-going advocate of
Freewill, but which in his mouth must be taken as a metaphorical
or provisional mode of speech. To one who uses 'nature' in the
widest sense as implying a conception of the universe as a whole,
the narrower use would be meaningless. But, as we shall now see,
the unity of nature is a conception which Mill virtually rejects.
    Mill has shown conclusively that it is impossible to
interpret Nature as the work of omnipotent Benevolence. So far,
he agrees with many predecessors, including Hume and
Mansel;(132*) but he does not with Hume become simply sceptical,
nor follow Mansel in pronouncing that we must believe a doctrine
which we are unable to 'construe to the mind' as conceivable. He
suggests an alternative view. It is possible to believe in a God
who is benevolent though not omnipotent. This, he declares, is
the only 'religious explanation of the order of Nature,' which is
neither self-contradictory nor inconsistent with facts.(133*) He
'ventures to assert,' moreover, that it has been the real faith
of all who have drawn a worthy support from trust in Providence;
'they have always saved [God's] goodness at the expense of His
power.' This, for example, is the true meaning of Leibniz's 'best
of all possible worlds.'(134*) Mill declares that the doctrine of
the Manichaeans, which he knows to have been 'devoutly held by at
least one cultivated and conscientious person of our own day,' is
the only 'form of belief in the supernatural which stands wholly
clear both of intellectual contradiction and moral
obliquity.'(135*) He points out, too, that even Christianity
admits a devil, though it places upon the Creator the
responsibility of not annihilating him.(136*) Now Manichaeism is
a clear confession of philosophical bankruptcy. The whole aim of
reasoning is to reduce the universe to unity, and this is to
admit that there is an ultimate and insoluble dualism. From the
point of view of the ontologist, indeed, the moral difficulty
which Manichaeism is supposed to meet is irrelevant. God is the
ground or First Cause. Evil is caused as much as good, and if a
first cause or an absolute substance be a necessary assumption,
we must ascribe to it the whole system of things, good or bad,
painful or pleasurable, without trying to separate what is
inextricably intertwined. An argument from causation leaves no
locus standi for any moral objection. Mill, however, denies the
necessity for, or indeed the possibility of, such reasoning. He
is fully prepared to admit that in the last resort we come to
independent and equally uncaused factors. The question, then,
remains, what positive ground we can assign for a belief in any
first cause or causes or 'supernatural entities.'
    Having rejected the metaphysical arguments for a Deity, we
reach at last, says Mill, an argument of a really scientific
character -- the argument, namely, from design.(137*) That is to
say, he tries to find room for an empirical deity who must
therefore correspond to a part of nature, not to the whole. He
does not hold that the knowledge of nature anywhere involves
antinomies or contrary inconceivables. It is a coherent and
throughout intelligible system, but it would correspond to the
ideal of completed science, not to any metaphysical belief.
Within this system there is room for a being who, though he is
limited by something external to himself, may yet be an object of
worship. In fact, there can be no a priori objection to the
theory of a powerful being, who may be discovered, like any other
beings known to us, by his action in particular cases.
Metaphysicians may decline to call such a being God; but a proof
of super-human wisdom and power may be enough for practical
    The proof, then, that such a being exists, must be made by
induction; and, as Mill explains, by the first of the famous
'four methods,' namely, by that of Agreement.(139*) This
argument, though generally the weakest, is in this case 'strong
of its kind.' He illustrates it by the familiar case. The eye is
a complex structure which, as it began in time, must have had a
cause or causes. 'Chance' is eliminated by the number of
instances, and therefore there must be some causal connection
between the 'cause' which brought the elements together and the
'fact of sight.' Mill, that is, thinks it necessary to prove what
science takes for granted. No man of science disputes that there
is some cause of eyes and of every eye. But here we have the
curious transition into another order of thought, which
corresponds to the passage from the empirical to the
transcendental meaning. It is clear that so long as we are in the
sphere of science, the only 'cause' of the existence of an eye is
the sum of the preceding organic processes. A given animal has
eyes because the processes of reproduction involve resemblance to
its parents. If we go back to eyeless ancestors, we have the
problem how eyes were developed; but the purely scientific answer
would still consist in assigning the previous conditions or the
precedent stage in the whole process of nature. How do we get out
of this series? The argument, according to Mill, would proceed by
saying that, as sight follows the eye, the cause must be a
'final' cause; or, in other words, correspond to an 'intelligent
Will.' But what is the relation of this Will to the admitted
series of events? Causation always sends me back along an
indefinitely producible series. Am I to interpret this cause as
an 'alternative' to what may be called the natural cause; or as
corresponding to a general power, which is manifested through the
whole series? In the latter case we may consider the God of
nature as an 'immanent' power. His operation is manifest in the
general wisdom of the whole system. It is not only consistent
with, but implies, the persistence of the 'laws of nature,' and
therefore the evolution of eyes, if there was a period before
eyes existed. If that view be tenable, we may save 'teleology' by
applying it to nature as a whole, but there is no intervention in
the actual series of natural events. On the view which Mill
accepts, we have an intervention, at some particular point. But
how is this to be inferred, or what can it mean? I have already
noticed the familiar difficulties in speaking of 'Philip
Beauchamp.' The philosophical objection is clear,(140*) and in
science 'creation' can be only a word; it introduces an arbitrary
and unmeaning interruption, and, under the form of explaining,
declares explanation to be impossible.
    In fact, when such conceptions are brought into the argument,
when 'creation' is used as an alternative hypothesis to a
permanent order, the answer of the evolutionist is conclusive.
Here, accordingly, Mill finds himself confronted by Darwin. He
admits that the doctrine of the 'survival of the fittest' would
'greatly attenuate,' though it would be in 'no way whatever
inconsistent with creation.'(141*) This means, apparently, that
Darwinism does not prove that there was not a 'creation' at some
indefinite time; though it does show that there is no need for
supposing a creation since the existing order began.
    I have already noticed Mill's view of this 'remarkable
speculation.' Here he virtually admits that his theology, such as
it is, and, indeed, his whole conception of nature, is virtually
opposed to evolution. Science, he says, most truly, leads us to
regard nature as 'one connected system, not a web of separate
threads in passive juxtaposition with one another, but rather,
like the human or animal frame,' in perpetual 'action and
reaction'; and the natural version of this, he adds, is theism.
The unity of nature, that is, has enabled monotheism to supersede
polytheism, because it corresponds to the scientific view.(142*)
Yet, while saying this in general terms, he cannot reconcile it
to his own theories; he still talks of 'laws of nature'
counteracting each other;(143*) he can speak of some things as
'uncaused'; and of a 'permanent' and 'a changeable' element in
nature, as though persistence was not a case of causation. He is
willing, as we have seen, to assume that anything may be the
cause of anything else. The universe is therefore ultimately a
struggle between independent forces, and God becomes a being who
has to struggle against antecedent or independent things. When
science is regarded, not as a system of interdependent truths,
where the value of every theory must be judged by the way in
which it affects and is affected by all other ascertainable
truth, but as an aggregate of purely empirical observations of
the order of succession of otherwise unrelated facts, it is easy
to introduce such conceptions as 'creation,' which virtually deny
the continuity and reasonableness of the order generally, and
tend to confuse, as his antagonists would say, Nature with a
particular element in Nature; and to make noumena take a side in
the struggle between phenomena.
    Mill is thus able to hold that the adaptations 'in nature
afford a large balance of probability in favour of creation by
intelligence.'(144*) It is, he grants, only a probability, and
not strengthened by any independent arguments. It still remains
to consider whether we can find reasons to believe that the
creator is moral. He thinks that most 'contrivances' are for the
preservation of the creatures, and that there is no reason for
attributing the destructive agencies to one Being, and the
preserving agencies to another. We may therefore give up
Manichaeism, or a conflict between good and evil powers; but we
may still have an uncreated at of things with which the good
being must struggle. We must be content to believe in a Being of
great but limited power -- how limited we cannot even conjecture;
whose intelligence may be unlimited though it may also be more
limited than his power; who desires the happiness of his
creatures but has probably other motives. If he shows
benevolence, there are no traces of justice.(145*) Of immortality
we can learn nothing, unless from revelation. He denies that a
revelation, conflicting with morality, can be divine; but this
forces him to limit the power of the Deity. His God desires
morality. How can we discover that he desires it? Can these vague
surmises be helped by any direct revelation or miraculous
intervention? Mill discusses the argument of Hume's essay and
reaches, what I take to be the true conclusion, that the real
question is whether we have independent reasons for believing in
a Deity whose intervention is conceivable.(146*) Considering that
we have some reason for believing in such a being, he at last
concludes that, in spite of most serious difficulties, historical
and philosophical, we are 'entitled to say that there is nothing
so inherently impossible or absolutely incredible in the
supposition that the "extremely precious" gift of Christianity
came from a divinely commissioned man as to preclude any one from
hoping that it may be true.' He can go no further, for he sees no
'evidentiary value' even in the testimony of Christ himself. The
best men are the readiest to ascribe their own merits to a higher
source. Mill, of course, does not believe in the divinity of
Christ; he holds that Christ himself would have regarded such a
pretension as blasphemous; but it remains possible that 'Christ
actually was what he supposed himself to be... a man charged with
a special, express, and unique commission from God to lead
mankind to truth and virtue.'(147*)
    Mill, we see, declared positivism to be reconcilable with
theism. Comte himself, who declared atheism to be the most
illogical form of theology, would have agreed that positivism
does not disprove God's existence. But Comte would have said that
an unverifiable hypothesis about an inconceivable being was
simply idle or 'otiose.' Mill seems to treat the absence of
negative proof as equivalent -- not indeed to the presence of
positive, but -- to the existence of a probability worth
entertaining. His theism, if so vague and problematical a
doctrine can be called theism, is defended as neither
self-contradictory nor inconsistent with fact. Now a theory which
is self-contradictory is really no theory at all. Nor is a theory
scientifically valuable simply because 'consistent' with facts. A
theory must have some definite support in facts. It must at
lowest be not only consistent with the known facts, but
inconsistent with some otherwise imaginable facts. If it fits
every conceivable state of things, it can throw light upon none.
But this is obviously the case with Mill's theory. He makes way
for a good being by an arbitrary division of nature into two sets
of forces. He saves the benevolence by limiting the power of the
deity; but then the limits are, by his own admission, utterly
unknowable. A power, restrained by unknowable bounds, is a power
from which nothing can be inferred. Whatever its attributes, we
do not know whether they will affect any state of things. The
goodness may be indefinitely frustrated. In fact, on Mill's
showing, a power omnipotent but not benevolent, or an indefinite
multitude of powers of varying attributes, or a good and a bad
power eternally struggling, or, in short, any religious doctrine
that has ever been held among men, would suit the facts. Mill's
'plurality of causes' might have suggested this difficulty. I see
a corpse. The death may have been due to any one of an indefinite
number of causes. What right have I to select one? I am in the
same position when I regard the whole of nature as what Hume
called a 'unique effect.' The four methods of induction become
inapplicable, for there are no other universes and I have no
compass to steer by in the region of the unverifiable.
    What, then, can be the advantage of any belief where
conflicting hypotheses must be all equally probable? The question
is partly discussed in the second essay upon the utility of
Religion. Here Mill takes up the old argument of 'Philip
Beauchamp,' the 'only direct discussion' of the point with which
he is acquainted,(148*) and endeavours to state the case more
fairly and in a less hostile spirit. His argument, however, is in
general conformity with Bentham and Grote, and is very forcibly
put. One point may be noticed. He virtually identifies 'religion'
with a belief in 'the supernatural.'(149*) He compares the
efficacy of such beliefs with the efficacy of education (which,
as he characteristically says, is 'almost boundless')(150*) and
of public opinion, and shows with 'Beauchamp' that when conflict
occurs, these influences are stronger than those derived from
supernatural sanctions. Now when we believe in a revelation it is
intelligible to ask, What is the influence of a creed? It
represents a new force influencing men's minds from without. But
when the creed is supposed to be generated from antecedent
beliefs, the argument must be altered by considering what are the
true causes of the belief. How did it come to prevail? An admirer
of Comte might have brought out more distinctly the fact that
such beliefs mark an essential stage of progress, that what are
now sporadic superstitions were once parts of a systematic
religion and represented the germs of science. They were
approximate hypotheses which had to be remodelled by extricating
or dropping the 'supernatural' element. A full recognition of
this would diminish the paradoxical appearance of the statement
from which he starts, that 'a religion may be morally useful
without being intellectually sustainable.' The truth surely is
that we cannot separate the two elements of a creed. Doubtless
there were no such beings as the Zeus or Apollo of popular
belief; but polytheism may still have provided the only form in
which certain truths could be presented; and was, as Comte would
have said, a stage in the process from fetichism towards
monotheism and positivism. A discussion of the utility of belief
in the 'supernatural' without reference to the place of the
supernatural in the whole system of belief must be necessarily
inadequate. Mill admits this in substance, and argues that the
moral truth may survive the superstitions in which it was bound
up.(151*) He goes on to argue, as Comte had argued, that the
instincts which once found their sanction in the supernatural
world might find their embodiment in the 'Religion of
Humanity.'(152*) This he holds to be not only entitled to the
name of religion, but to be 'a better religion than any of those
ordinarily called by that title.' It is disinterested and does
not tend to cramp the intellect or degenerate into a worship of
mere power. Mill says emphatically that the Bentham mode of
considering religion as a supplement to police by providing
'sanctions' is inadequate; and that religion, like poetry, is
valuable as suggesting higher ideals and gratifying the craving
for knowledge of corresponding realities. To the selfish,
supernatural religion offers heaven; and to the 'tender and
grateful' it offers the love of God. He points out that it does
not follow that we must 'travel beyond the boundaries of the
world we inhabit' in order to obtain such consolation.(153*) And
the essay concludes by saying that, though the 'supernatural
religions' have always the advantage of offering immortality, the
value set upon immortality may diminish as life becomes higher
and happier and annihilation may seem more desirable.(154*)
    Yet in the middle of this argument we have the defence of
Manichaeism as a possible creed,(155*) and in the last essay we
seem to reach the true account of his leanings to such a belief.
He still, that is, requires a breathing-space for the
imagination. 'Truth is the province of reason,' but 'in the
regulation of the imagination literal truth of facts is not the
only thing to be considered.'(156*) Reason must keep the
fortress, but the 'imagination may safely follow its own end and
do its best to make life pleasant and lovely inside the castle.'
Thus, though we are only entitled to hope as to the government of
the world and a life after death, the bare hope may have a
beneficial effect. 'It makes life and human nature a far greater
thing to the feelings, and gives greater strength and solemnity
to all the sentiments which are awakened in us by our
fellow-creatures and mankind at large.' Aspirations are no longer
checked by the disastrous feeling of 'not worth while.' Religion,
too, has at before us a 'Divine Person, as a standard of
excellence and a model for imitation.'(157*) The ideal, it is
true, would remain, even if the person were held to be imaginary;
and would not be encumbered by theological difficulties. Yet
there is an advantage in the belief that a perfect being really
exists and represents the ruler of the universe, which cannot be
shared by the rationalist.(158*) Hence as, after all, the truth
of the belief is possible, it may be combined with the Religion
of Humanity. That religion, 'with or without supernatural
sanctions,' will be the religion of the future; but it will be
strengthened by the feeling that we are 'helping God' and
supplying 'cooperation' which 'he, not being omnipotent, really
needs.'(159*) Truly, Mill was nearly qualified for a place among
the prophets.
    Mill's arbitrary assumptions, like the metaphysical wire
drawings of Mansel, are rather unprofitable in themselves: few
people will care to follow them in detail; and neither could
boast of many converts. Believers soon became aware of the real
scepticism of Mansel's position; and positivists saw that Mill
left an opening for superstition. Both Mansel and Mill were
troubled about the Religion of Nature. It is abundantly clear, as
Mill might have foreseen, that such a theology as he contemplates
could be of no real value. It depends essentially upon
compromises and arbitrary distinctions. It is still within the
sphere of science, though doomed to disappear as science
advances, and from the first is inconsistent with the very aims
which are proposed by theology. God is admittedly not omnipotent,
and his existence is no guarantee for morality or optimism. And
hence there is an odd approximation between Mill and Mansel.
    Mill observes(160*) that the moral character of an alleged
revelation cannot be of itself a proof of its divinity. The
importance of the 'internal evidence' is therefore 'principally
negative.' So says Mansel. 'The evidence derived from the
internal character of a religion, whatever may be its value
within its proper limits, is, as regards the divine origin of the
religion, purely negative.'(161*) Where is the difference? If the
morality of a revelation be bad, Mill argues that the revelation
must be at once rejected. Mansel thinks that although the
morality be not clearly good, it may in some way represent a
divine command. Immoral laws cannot be divine, says Mill, though
a good law may be human. A law apparently bad, replies Mansel,
may be divine, though, of course, the badness can only be
apparent. Here, as elsewhere, the believer in the empirical
character of morality appears to attribute most certainty to the
moral judgment. The solutions differ accordingly. Mill supposes
that God must be good, but reconciles this to facts by assuming
that God is not all-powerful. Mansel will not give up the power,
and to preserve the goodness has to assume a radical incapacity
in the intellect -- a necessity of believing where there is an
impotence of conceiving. Mill, that is, is content with the
empirical deity, who is necessarily limited; and Mansel keeps the
deity of ontology but admits that he cannot be known. Mill's
conception is purely arbitrary, though he keeps within the limits
of conceivable experience; while Mansel preserves the language
appropriate to the conception of absolute unity, and yet admits
that it can mean nothing for us. 'Agnosticism' seems to be an
easier and more rational alternative; if it means an open
admission that we know nothing, when we can only save our
appearance of knowledge by arbitrary assumptions or by the use of
meaningless words. Of Mill's position it must be frankly admitted
that his desire for a religious and even supernatural belief is a
proof of dissatisfaction with his own position. He felt here, as
elsewhere, that something was wanting in his philosophy. What
that really was may partly appear by considering other
contemporary solutions. Mansel represents a particular phase of
thought which is already extinct, and views differing both from
theirs and from Mill's had in practice a far wider influence than
    The Utilitarian view naturally identifies a religious creed
with a belief in certain historical statements of fact. If the
facts be provable the religion is true; if disproved it is false.
If there was such a being as Jehovah, it was desirable to worship
him; and the creed would then be useful. If there was no such
being, worship was folly. The test of the utility of a religion
was, therefore, simply the truth or falsehood of its historical
statements. If its gods were made by the fancy, not by the
reason, the result is a condemnation of religion in general. That
is simple and logical, and recognises an indisputable truth. So
far as a religion makes false statements, they must be abandoned;
and so far as its influence depends upon the falsity, it is
    A religion, however, represents more than can be estimated by
this simple test. The poetical value of Homer is not destroyed by
disproving the existence of the Pagan deisms, nor the value of
the Hebrew Scriptures by disproving the existence of jehovah. The
facts alleged may be fabulous and absurd; but they are also
symbols for setting forth views of the world and of conduct, and
so giving emphatic utterance to important truths. The old
religions were attempts of men, in early stages of thought, to
embody ideals of conduct which may really have been of the
highest value to mankind. They were essential, again, to the
social bonds which have, in fact, determined the formation of
society and facilitated the growth of sympathy and philanthropy.
Therefore, if a religious creed be false when interpreted as a
simple statement of fact, we have not exhausted its significance
or even touched the really most important significance of the
religion itself. Believers felt more or less clearly that such
attacks as 'Philip Beauchamp' affected only externals, and left
the need for religion unsatisfied. Only as the actual creed was
pledged to maintain the truth of certain statements, which were
daily becoming more incredible, the necessity appeared of finding
some stronger position than the old Paley scheme, which virtually
regarded religion as a mere statement of historical fact, or as a
department of natural science. To trace the consequences would be
to write a history of modern theology. I shall try only to
indicate the relation to the Utilitarians of a few thinkers. Two
main lines of thought were conspicuous in Mill's generation, and
correspond to what Newman called 'liberalism' and 'dogmatism.'


    A very instructive example of one phase of liberal thought
was Frederick Denison Maurice (1805-1872). Before Mill's attack
upon Mansel, Maurice had been engaged in a sharp controversy
invoked by the Bampton Lecturer. No two men could be more
thoroughly at cross-purposes. In their arguments each word bears
a different signification for the two disputants. Each, of
course, vehemently disapproved the other; and Mansel was provoked
to call Maurice a liar(162*) in direct terms. The real difficulty
is to reduce the argument to any common measure; and Maurice's
position, though not easy to define, is significant.
Maurice,(163*) as I have said, was one of Mill's friendly
adversaries in the early debating society. His references to Mill
are always respectful, little as could be their intellectual
sympathy; while Mill's judgment was that 'more intellectual power
was wasted in Maurice than in any one else of my generation.'
Deep respect for Maurice, admiration of his subtlety and power of
generalisation, only increased Mill's wonder that he could find
all truth in the Thirty-nine Articles.(164*) Maurice had been
brought up as a Unitarian, and was profoundly impressed by the
barren wrangling over the dogmatic partitions of various sects.
After long hesitation he at last found satisfaction in the Church
of England and, as he declared, by accepting the Anglican formula
in their obvious and most natural sense. To men of other
persuasions, his interpretation appeared on the contrary to
amount to a complete transformation of their natural meaning.
Maurice was therefore excluded from all the higher preferment,
and passed for an insidious heresiarch. He replied by a full and
frank, though hardly a lucid, assertion of his own convictions;
and gradually proved, even to his enemies, his entire superiority
to any worldly motives. He was expelled in 1853 from his
professorship at King's College for denying the truth of the
popular version of hell, a little before the denial had become a
commonplace. Disciples had already gathered round him and
regarded him with the reverence due to the purity and loftiness
of his character. As the head of the Christian Socialists in the
critical period of 1848, he had at least given a proof that
divines could take a genuine interest in the great social
problems of the day. Maurice himself was little qualified for
business details, and the whole movement failed for the time,
like most others which start from the sympathy of the outsiders
instead of the actual experience of the actual sufferers. It was,
however, significant of a most important change, more easily
underestimated than exaggerated. Maurice deserves all respect, as
Mill observes, for his action, of which, moreover, it is only
just to say that it was really characteristic of his whole
    What, then, was Maurice's position in theology? In the first
place he recognised most fully a truth which, in various forms,
gives the real strength to all great religious teachers. He held
that the value of a religion depends upon its congeniality to the
highest parts of human nature. He is thus at the opposite pole to
the Philip Beauchamp doctrine, according to which the essence of
religion is to create a spiritual police, and to add the sanction
of hell to the sanction of the gallows. Maurice is equally
opposed to the sacerdotalism which makes the essence of religion
consist in a magical removal of penalties instead of a
'regeneration' of the nature. He takes what may be vaguely called
the 'subjective' view of religion, and sympathises with
Schleiermacher's statement that piety is 'neither a knowing nor a
doing, but an inclination and determination of the
feeling.'(165*) It is evident, again, that Maurice could as
little base his belief upon external evidence as his morality
upon external Sanctions. So far he may be said to coincide with
the philosophical view. A religion must be an expression of
general truths accessible to all men, and independent of time and
place. Maurice had been a wide reader of philosophy; he spent
much time upon a history of 'Metaphysical and Moral
philosophy'(166*) which, if vague in the statement of definite
theories, shows wide sympathy and desire to enter into the spirit
of the various schools. In the Kingdom of Christ(167*) he
declares that 'eclecticism is a necessity of the age'; meaning by
eclecticism a doctrine which shall discover what is the truth
contained in all the partial systems and creeds of all ages.
Here, again, Maurice was sharing the best liberal impulses of the
day, and sharing them because they were congenial to a generous
and tender-hearted nature. The same tendency makes him averse to
any definite system of metaphysical dogmas. The dialectical
wranglings over dogmas which disgusted him in his youth appeared
again in Mansel's metaphysics. The Bampton Lectures showed,
according to him, that we cannot leave the ground of solid fact
for the 'logical ground without being involved in a series of
hopeless quibbles which no human being ought to trouble himself
with, unless he means to abandon the business of existence and to
give himself up to feats of jugglery.'(168*) In such regions no
lasting foundation can be found. Nor, on the other hand, can we
be satisfied with the mere historical critics who, like Strauss,
pick holes in the gospels or, like Strauss's opponents, manage to
mend them; or with the philologists who argue whether 'the line
in the O can be detected with the aid of spectacles or
not.'(169*) A religion which is to move men's hearts must have
some wider and deeper basis.
    So far Maurice's teaching would command the sympathy of all
who called themselves liberal. But what becomes of Logic? Can
philosophy dispense with it altogether? Maurice professedly
appeals to the heart. The appeal is made over and over again in a
great variety of forms: to the 'great human heart,' to 'bedridden
sufferers,' to 'peasants, women, and children,'(170*) and we are
told that it is the 'office of the theologian' to appeal not to
his own judgment or that of the ages, but to the 'conscience,
heart, reason of mankind.'(171*) Nothing can be more to the
purpose if we are considering the efficacy of a religious belief;
but we must ask how this appeal is related to the question of its
truth. The emotions are not reason, though they are bound to be
reasonable. The position is that of all mysticism. The mystic is
one who virtually dethrones reason in favour of the heart.
Therefore mysticism leads to all the varying beliefs which are
suggested by our unguided feelings. When Maurice was charged with
being himself a mystic or neoplatonist, his reply was that the
error of the mystic is not in recognising an 'inner light,' but
in supposing that his intuition is something personal and
private, and not a universal faculty of the human heart.(172*) He
admits, that is, that all religion implies the direct recognition
of divine influences by the human heart, though it is terribly
apt to confound the true intuition with certain erroneous
doctrines. By what test, then, are we to separate the true light
from the misleading gleams of human passion and prejudices? How
can we know that it is the divine Logos which is speaking to us,
and not some sophist substituting a mere human theory?
    This gives Maurice's characteristic doctrine, repeated in
countless forms with most genuine fervour, and yet leaving the
painful impression that we can never get a distinct meaning. He
tells us again and again that we require not a system but a
revelation; that we are to believe in God, not in a theory about
God; not in 'notions' but in principles; that a theology is
groundless which 'accepts as a tenet what is revealed as a
truth,'(173*) and that we shall be 'driven to creeds' by
'weariness of tenets.'(174*) These, and countless variations upon
the same theme, involve a puzzling distinction. How, precisely,
does the belief in God differ from the acceptance of a theory
about God? Maurice, I may perhaps say, takes the belief in God to
be an operation, not a mere bit of logic; an act of the man's
whole nature, not a purely intellectual process such as the
deduction of the conclusion of a syllogism. It is the
apprehension of the 'inner light,' always perceptible if the eye
be opened, and which is in the same indissoluble moment not
merely enlightening but life-giving. The vision is also
'dynamical': the submission of ourselves to a force as well as
the recognition of the existence of certain outward facts. It
implies not merely the admission of a new theory about the
universe, but the bringing ourselves into harmony with the one
central force of the universe -- that is with the God who is Love
as well as power and wisdom. This is the true mystical doctrine;
and that doctrine, if not the most logical, is the most
unanswerable form of religious belief. If a man believes that he
has the 'inner light,' he is in his own court beyond appeal. But
the difficulty of making his decisions valid for others cannot be
evaded, and implies some use of logic. If the inner light implies
knowledge as well as an emotion, it should be expressible in
forms true for all men. The mere formula by itself may be barren,
or merely subordinate; but if any definite creed is to emerge, it
must include tenets capable of logical expression. This is, in
fact, the problem round which Maurice is always turning.
    The result is indicated in his little book upon the Religions
of the World.(175*) It embodies one of the most marked tendencies
of modern thought. No divine can now speak of strange religions
as simply devil-worship, or limit divine truth to his own at of
dogmas. The simple or logical rationalist had inferred that the
true creed must be that which is common to all religions. But to
reject all special doctrines was to leave a blank residuum of
mere abstract deism, if even deism could survive. It was but
another road to the 'religion of nature.' Yet that was the
tendency of most liberal divines within the church. The 'broad
church' party, as it was called, was getting rid of 'dogma' by
depriving the creed of all meaning. Maurice's method is therefore
different. The element of truth in all religions is not any
separable doctrine common to all. It is to be found by regarding
all creeds as partial or distorted expressions of the full truth
revealed in Christ. On this showing therefore Buddhism testifies
to the truth of Christianity, but Christianity does not testify
to the truth of Buddhism. Or, to take a trifling but
characteristic argument,(176*) Wilberforce and the Unitarian, W.
Smith, were colleagues in a great benevolent work. Does that show
that the doctrine of the Trinity is unimportant? No; Smith should
have seen that the zeal of Wilberforce 'manifestly flowed out of
the faith' in the divinity of Christ. Wilberforce, on the other
hand, should see that Christ might rule in the heart of the
Unitarian though the Unitarian knew it not. The divine influence
may operate upon the heart which does not recognise its true
nature. Thus Wilberforce, instead of becoming 'latitudinarian,'
could escape 'latitudinarianism.' This may be true, but it would
clearly not convince Smith. If you appeal to your heart, why may
I not appeal to mine? Is not your conviction, after all,
'subjective' -- as representing your own personal prejudices --
and would it not be just as easy, with equal skill, to invert the
argument? Or is not the real source of action in both cases the
benevolence which has nothing to do with either set of dogmas?
The unintentional shifting is implied in the process by which
Maurice manages to accept the Thirty-nine Articles. Taken as
truths, they utter the voice of the heart, or imply an
apprehension of the divine light. Taken as merely logical, they
are but tenets or 'notional' dogmas. The doctrine of the
Atonement, for example, as made into a quasi-legal theory by
Archbishop Magee, is simply horrible: it deserves all that Paine
could have said of it, and actually 'confounds the evil spirit
with God.' But take it in another sense-not as proclaiming the
supremacy of a harsh and unjust ruler, but as declaring the
process by which the love of God and of his son reconciles men to
himself -- and it becomes infinitely comforting, and expresses
the feelings of 'tens of thousands of suffering human
beings.'(177*) So the doctrine of 'endless' punishment is
horrible and revolting. But eternity has properly nothing to do
with time. 'Eternal punishment is the punishment of being without
the knowledge of God.'(178*) That knowledge does not procure but
constitutes the life. This is no metaphysical theory, but gives
the natural meaning which commends itself to 'peasants, women,
and children.'(179*) To the ordinary mind, the natural inference
would be that we should throw aside dogmas so capable of
misinterpretation, and which admittedly have, as a historical
fact, covered a confusion between God and the devil. The
Athanasian Creed appears to be at least an awkward and ambiguous
mode of expressing a universal benevolence and an aversion to
metaphysical dogma. But to reject it would be, as Maurice thinks,
to fall into mere rationalism. The formulae which are so
revolting in the mouth of the mere dogmatist are essential when
read as utterances of the deepest feelings of the human heart. We
can only hold to their true meaning and denounce their
    After all comes the real difficulty of fitting a 'subjective'
religion to a historical religion. The Christian creed does
assert facts, and facts to which historical evidence is
applicable. A dogma can be made into an utterance of sentiment. A
statement that there was a deluge in the year 4004 B.C. must be
decided by evidence. Maurice was painfully shocked when the
excellent and simple-minded Colenso brought up this plain
issue.(180*) Though Colenso had stood by him generously in the
king's College time, Maurice, who had fully recognised the
generosity, felt himself bound to protest. The dilemma was, in
fact, most trying. To declare that historical evidence is
irrelevant, that our faith is independent of the truth of the Old
Testament narrative, is really to give up historical
Christianity. On the other hand, to argue that the criticisms are
trifling or captious is to stake the truth of the religion upon
the issue of facts. Maurice complains of Colenso for beginning at
the wrong end.(181*) As, however, Colenso has made certain
statements, whatever his method, the truth must be either denied
or admitted. Are they true but irrelevant, or relevant but false?
Maurice cannot unequivocally take either side. He appears to hold
that we may accept the deluge because it teaches us a good lesson
(that bad people will be drowned, apparently), that is, to accept
whatever is edifying; or to think perhaps the deluge was a little
one, that is, to put himself on the ground of historical
criticism. Here, in fact, was the growing difficulty. Mansel
could still speak scornfully of the quibblings of Strauss. But
historical criticism had now to be reckoned with, and subjective
religion must consent to be merely subjective, or submit to have
its results tested by the broad daylight of common sense.
    From Maurice I turn to Carlyle, the beacon-light of the age,
according to his disciples -- the most delusive of wildfires,
according to his adversaries; but in any case the most
interesting literary figure of his time. Extraordinary force of
mind and character are manifested in the struggles with inward
difficulties and external circumstances, which made much of his
life tragic and his teaching incoherent. With the imagination of
a poet he yet cannot rise above the solid ground of prose: a
sense of pervading mystery blends with his shrewd grasp of
realities; he is religious yet sceptical; a radical and a
worshipper of sheer force; and a denouncer of cant and yet the
deviser of a jargon. Such contrasts are reflected in his work,
and are not really hard of solution. A spiritual descendant of
John Knox, he had the stern sense of duty, the hatred of
priestcraft, and the contempt for the aesthetic side of things
which had been bred in or burned into the breed. He came into the
outer world, like his hero Teufelsdröckh,(182*) as a 'Baptist
living on locusts and wild honey,' and occasionally presented
himself to others as a dyspeptic polar bear.(183*) He had imbibed
radicalism in a home of sturdy peasants, pinched by all the
sufferings of the poorer classes in the war time. When the
yeomanry was called out in 1819 he was more disposed to join the
sufferers than the guardians of order.(184*) So far, Carlyle was
in sympathy with James Mill, whose career also illustrated one
mode of passage from Puritanism to political radicalism. Nor
would Carlyle differ from Mill widely on certain religious
points. The conventional dogmatism of the kirk had lost its
savour for both, and meant a blind tradition, not a living force.
Carlyle only went with the general current of youthful intellect
in abandoning the dogmatic creed. When Irving made a painful
effort to put life into the dead bones, Carlyle recognised the
hopelessness of the enterprise. But he was no nearer to Mill.
Carlyle's 'conversion' took place in Leith Walk in June
1821.(185*) It followed three years of spiritual misery; and it
is recorded in the famous chapter in Sartor Resartus on the
'Everlasting No.'(186*) That passage is, indeed, the keynote to
Carlyle's history. Briefly, he had found himself face to face
with materialism and atheism. The weapons of defence afforded by
such teachers as Brown were futile. Carlyle felt that he too was
drifting towards the abysses whither they were being dragged by
Hume. The word duty, so sceptics would persuade him, had no
meaning, or was the name for a mere calculation of pleasure; an
exhortation to build not on morality but on cookery. The universe
seemed to be 'void of Life, of Purpose, of Volition, even of
Hostility: it was one dead, unmeasurable steam-engine, rolling on
in its dead indifference, to grind me limb from limb. O the vast
solitary Golgotha and Mill of Death!' The nightmare was broken by
an act of will. The 'Everlasting No' pealed 'authoritatively
through all recesses of my Being, of my Me; and then it was that
my whole Me stood up in native God-created majesty and with
emphasis recorded its protest.' The result is noteworthy. 'Even
from that time the temper of my misery was changed: not Fear or
whining sorrow at it, but Indignation and grim fire-eyed
Defiance.' Carlyle had won not peace but a 'change of misery.' He
could look at the enemy with 'fire-eyed defiance' but not with
the calm of settled victory. His emancipation was not won by a
reasoned answer to doubt. In the earlier essays Carlyle shows
apparent sympathy with German philosophy.(187*) He speaks with
profound admiration, though in general and popular language, of
the doctrines of Kant, Novalis, and Fichte, and seems to accept
Coleridge's theory of a Reason superior to the
Understanding.(188*) Carlyle, however, was still less of a
metaphysician proper than of a poet. He is a man of intuitions,
scorning all logical apparatus in itself, and soon afterwards
appears to regard metaphysics in general as a hopeless process of
juggling which tries to educe conviction out of negation and
necessarily ends in scepticism.(189*) To him Goethe rather than
any metaphysician presented the true solution. No two men of
genius, indeed, could be more unlike. The rugged, stormy Puritan
could hardly, one would have thought, breathe the serene
atmosphere of the prophet of culture. But the very contrast
fascinated him. Goethe had cast aside all the effete dogmas, and
had yet reached the victorious position in which symmetrical
development was possible. Carlyle remained to the end desperately
struggling, full of 'fire-eyed defiance,' but never getting
outside the chaotic elements. The metaphysical systems of Kant's
successors attracted him as protests against materialism, but he
preferred a shorter cut to the end, and his Scottish common sense
was always whispering that philosophy was apt to be mere
'transcendental moonshine.'
    Carlyle therefore was essentially protesting against the
mechanical doctrines embodied in Utilitarianism. But he saw the
hopelessness of meeting the attack in the old-fashioned armour of
theology. The dogmas of the churches were dead, beyond all hopes
of resuscitation. The verse in Past and Present gives his view:

         'The builder of the Universe was wise,
         He planned all souls, all systems, planets, particles;
         The plan He shaped all worlds and aeons by,
         Was -- Heavens! -- was thy small nine-and-thirty

    An earlier version of these lines speaks of the 'logic of
Maurice,' who had characteristically proved that the articles
were a charter of religious liberty.(191*) Carlyle rejected
formulas. The Maurician rehabilitation led to mere cant. Like
Maurice, he was in principle a mystic, and holds that mysticism
may be taken in a true sense,(192*) in which it seems to be much
the same with an Idealist as contrasted with a materialist
doctrine. When he first made Mill's acquaintance, it was under
the erroneous impression that Mill too was a mystic.(193*)
    I have spoken of Carlyle's personal relations to Mill. His
judgment of the Utilitarians generally is significant. Froude
publishes some entries from Carlyle's journal of 1829-30, a time
when the prophet was only preluding his fuller utterances.(194*)
The Utilitarians, he holds, exhibit tendencies spread over the
whole intellect and morals of the time. Utilitarianism must
collapse, because the reason will triumph over the senses, and
the angel at last prevail over the brute. The moral nature of man
is deeper than the intellectual; the significance of Christ, he
says, is altogether moral, and the significance of Bentham
'altogether intellectual, logical.' Where logic is the only
method, the resulting system can be only mechanical. 'Alas! poor
England! Stupid, purblind, pudding-eating England,' Bentham with
his Mills(195*) grinding 'thee out morality -- and some Macaulay,
also be-aproned and a grinder, testing and decrying it.' The
mention of Macaulay reminds him that the Utilitarians have a
relative merit. 'They have logical machinery,' and do grind
'fiercely and potently on their own foundation, whereas the Whigs
have no foundation. The Whigs are amateurs, the radicals are
guild-brethren.'(196*) The public utterances are versions of the
same doctrines. In Sartor Resartus Teufelsdröckh would consent
that the 'monster Utilitaria' should trample down palaces and
temples 'with her broad hoof,' that new and better might be
built.(197*) So in the Hero-Worship(198*) he calls 'this gross
steam-engine Utilitarianism' an approach towards a new faith. It
is at least a 'laying down of cant,' an honest acceptance of the
belief in mechanism: 'Benthamism is an eyeless heroism; the human
species, like a hapless blinded Samson, grinding in the
Philistine mill, clasps convulsively the pillars of its mill,
brings huge ruin down, but ultimately deliverance withal. Of
Bentham I meant to say no harm.' In later years Carlyle insists
more emphatically upon the bad side of Utilitarianism. He had
grown more bitter, and was more alienated personally. In the
Chartism (1839) he attacks the 'Paralytic Radicalism' --
paralytic being substituted for 'philosophical' which has sounded
statistically a 'sea of troubles' around us, and concluded that
nothing is to be done but to look on. Paralytic Radicalism,
accordingly, is 'one of the most afflictive phenomena the mind of
man can be called upon to contemplate!'(199*) The summary of his
later view is given in the famous summary of the 'Pig Philosophy'
in the Latter-day Pamphlets. The universe is regarded as an
'immeasurable swine's trough,' and the consequences deduced in a
kind of Swiftian catechism.(200*) Utilitarianism means mere
sensualism. Carlyle's interpretation, true or false, reduces the
issue to the simplest terms. Will you accept the mechanical or
the mystical view? Carlyle's metaphysical leanings were to some
forms of transcendental idealism. Time and space, as he says in
the Sartor Resartus, are the canvas on which our life-visions are
painted. They are mysterious 'world-embracing phantoms,' to be
rent asunder by the seer who would pierce to the Holy of Holies.
They are illusions, though while we are on earth we try in vain
to strip them off. Men are spirits; the earth but a vision. We
issue from and fall back into mystery. 'We are such stuff,' in
his favourite quotation,'

                 As dreams are made of, and our little Life
                 Is rounded with a sleep.'(201*)

This is poetry rather than philosophy; and though the thought is
always present to Carlyle and constitutes one secret of his most
powerful passages, it would be impossible to grasp it as a
logical theory or imprison it in any formula whatever. All
systems and formulas are suspicious to him. He is a 'seer' who
not only does not require any logical apparatus, but holds that
to require one is to give up the point. It is the sense of the
ephemeral nature of man, of his suspension in the midst of
infinities, which stimulates or overpowers him. That sentiment
lies deeper than all reasoning. The 'mechanical' view has the
advantage derived from the authority of the physical sciences;
but the sciences, he holds, lie in a superficial region; they
belong to the world of appearance, not to the world of reality.
When the mystic ventures into the ordinary daylight and fights
the man of science with his own weapons, he will get the worst of
it. Science must have its rights on its own ground; and to
suppose the supernatural intruding here and there into natural
phenomena is to court defeat. There are no 'miracles,' but the
universe is itself miraculous. His great message, given in Sartor
Resartus, is that the natural is the supernatural.(202*) We are
not to pick up 'intuitions' here and there; but we have one
intuition, that the world is not a mechanism but a revelation of
God. No set of words can hold the great mystery. They are
hopelessly inadequate, and the sooner they are swept into
oblivion the better. But the one profound mystery remains.
    Even such a vague indication of Carlyle's general meaning is
an attempt to define an imaginative tendency which shrinks from
definite formulation. The more practical application is perhaps
more definable. The 'Everlasting No' means: I will not believe
that the world is a mere dead mechanism, nor that the sole forces
by which society is moulded are the sensual appetites. Rightly or
wrongly, Carlyle attributed those views to the Utilitarians. They
had a certain negative merit, in so far as they took their own
line directly and consistently. The ordinary theology was a mass
of 'shams' and 'cants' -- a collection of subterfuges by which
men could blind themselves for the time to the necessary drift of
the current. The way to meet the Utilitarian was not to
compromise or to argue, but to leave the world of outward fact
and to plant yourself on a deeper base: the direct, imperative,
and unassailable conviction or intuition of the divine order
implied everywhere beneath the 'living raiment.' The issue then
becomes simple and absolute. No set of creeds and 'formulas' can
matter; 'evidences' are an absurdity; the one formula is the
divinity of the universe; the only evidence, the direct intuition
of the eternal verities. The religions of the world are good so
far as they recognise this truth; bad so far as they try to
imprison it in any sort of formula or make it dependent upon any
particular fact. To Maurice, as to others, this attitude seemed
to be hopeless. Does it not become mere pantheism a sentiment too
vague to be efficient?
    Pantheism is a phrase scarcely appropriate for Carlyle's
creed. If Carlyle believed in God, he also believed for practical
purposes in the devil. He might have been expected to accept some
such pessimistic scheme as Schopenhauer's. He was deterred by his
innate Puritanism. The voice of God for him, however vaguely
defined, is heard in morality. God is essentially the giver of
the supreme laws of human conduct, however much the legislator
may be wrapped in mystery. The 'simple creed,' according to his
chief disciple, which was the 'central principle' of all
Carlyle's thought, was the creed of the Jews and the Puritans,
namely, that obedience to the divine law is the one condition of
human welfare, and that nations who worship Baal even in the
guise of art or of material prosperity are on the road to
    Carlyle, then, is so far like Coleridge and Maurice, that he
feels that a religion must find some deeper and more universal
base than can be discovered in the region of empirical fact. It
must correspond to an imperative dictate of the whole heart or
the intellect. He carries out the principle with incomparably
more vigour by rejecting all historical supports and particular
formulas. Neither the Thirty-nine Articles nor the decrees of
councils or popes can be adequate to express the mystery; nor can
the religious sentiment be dependent upon particular events and
'miracles.' It is the difficulty of all such methods that the
appeal to the heart comes to be the appeal to the prejudices of
the individual prophet. In a man of such marked idiosyncrasies as
Carlyle's this is of course conspicuous. His version of history
and of philosophy reflects his inherited prepossessions. It is
enough here to mark one or two of the main points upon which he
came into conflict with contemporaries. A characteristic result
is his theory of hero-worship. The divine element in the world
cannot be enshrined in one sacred book or a single supernatural
order. The revelation comes not only through Moses or Christ, but
through every great man. Odin, Mahomet, Dante, Shakespeare,
Luther, John Knox, Johnson, Rousseau, Burns, Cromwell, and
Napoleon are his chief instances in the 'lectures'; each, more or
less perfectly, was the vehicle of a more or less partial
revelation. But then, may we not see gleams of the same light in
all the multitudinous strugglings of the poor human beings who
have more or less consciously co-operated in the world's
progress? Here and there his shrewd common sense leads him to
recognise the value even of the stupid and the
formula-ridden.(204*) But, as a rule, he thinks of the world as a
collection of 'dull millions' who 'as a dumb flock roll hither
and thither,' led by little more than 'animal instincts.' Among
them at rare intervals are scattered men of intellect and
will.(205*) The great men, as he says elsewhere, are 'children of
the idea' -- such a one as Ram Dass, who set up for a god because
he had 'fire enough in his belly to burn up all the sins in the
world.'(206*) Inspiration belongs to the inspired few, who have
to struggle amid the vast chaotic masses incapable of originating
thought or action. To Carlyle, the essence of history was
biography; the personal influence of a small minority of great
men. The view condemns scientific modes of history. To disbelieve
in the importance of great men is supposed to show materialistic
principles. A 'law' of human development denies the importance of
individual peculiarities. To hold that Cromwell or a Napoleon was
a relatively insignificant accident, the mere fly on the wheel of
great evolutionary processes, seems to be to lead to the
exclusion of all action of the will or of thought. To Carlyle
accordingly the historical method in some of its tendencies was
profoundly antipathetic. To diminish the power of the individual
was, in his view, to deny the spiritual forces upon which society
is dependent. Inspiration, therefore, though no longer confined
to a particular church, is still confined to the elect who stand
out as burning and shining lights in the dim twilight of his
Rembrandtesque pictures.
    The great movements, then, of modern times correspond to the
blind 'animal instincts' of the 'dumb flock.' They are good as
the Utilitarians were good, or as the French revolutionists were
good, so far as their blind action leads to the deposition of the
false leaders and the destruction of their effete systems. The
French Revolution is 'the crowning phenomenon of our modern time;
the inevitable stern end of much: the fearful but also wonderful,
indispensable, and sternly beneficent beginning of much.'(207*)
This is a brief summary of the great prose epic, than which no
book, as he truly declared, had for a hundred years come more
direct and flamingly 'from the heart of a living man.'(208*) The
passage from which I have quoted, however, indicates a further
point. The French Revolution, he holds, was essentially part of
the revolt of the oppressed classes of Europe against their
oppressors. But the positive doctrine of the 'rights of man,'
theories which denied the need of government or demanded simply
to throw the reins upon the neck of the governed, could lead only
to chaos. The reconstruction must be by a new government; by a
government of wisdom or, what to him stems the same thing, a
government by the wise. The 'new Downing Street,' as he puts it,
is to be a Downing Street inhabited by the 'gifted of the
intellects of England.'(209*) Nothing therefore could seem more
contemptible.than the doctrine of laissez faire. That is simply
to leave the fools to themselves. Modern parliaments, with
twenty-seven millions mostly fools listening to them, fill him
with amazement.(210*) A definition of 'right,' then, which makes
it ultimately depend on the wishes of the fools, is simply
absurd. Not the 'animal instinct' but the conformity to the
divine law is the test of morality; and therefore not obedience
to the majority but loyalty to the 'hero.' But how is the hero to
be known? Could he tell us that, he replies, he would be a
Trismegistus. No 'able editor' can tell men how 'to know Heroism
when they see it that they might do reverence to it only, and
loyally make it ruler over them.'(211*) Here is, however, the
difficulty. Obedience to the hero is our only wisdom, and
obedience to the quack is the road to destruction. One is, it may
be said, obedience to right, and the other obedience to might.
How are we to tell right from might? The statement that Carlyle
confused the two, that he admired might in reality, while
professing to admire right simply, was the most popular and
effective criticism of his opinions. He is constantly accused of
approving mere brute-force. Nothing could less correspond to his
intention; but he is puzzled in particular cases. He declares
again and again that they coincide in a sense. 'Might and right
do differ frightfully from hour to hour; but give them centuries
to try it in, they are found to be identical.'(212*) 'That which
is just endures,' is an edifying statement, and one which he
constantly emphasises; but may we not infer that that which
endures is right, and be led to admire very questionable
proceedings? Does the success of a Cromwell for his life-time, or
the more permanent success of a Frederick, justify their
proceedings? Carlyle may have often begun at the wrong end; but
the curious point is that this part of Carlyle's teaching
approximates so closely to a doctrine which he first detested.
Froude tells us that he fought against Darwinism, but apparently
'dreaded that it might turn out true.'(213*) Yet is not the
doctrine of the 'survival of the fittest' just the scientific
version of Carlyle's theory of the 'identity of Right and Might'?
Was not evolution really in harmony with his conclusion? To him,
according to Froude, it seemed that Science led to 'Lucretian
Atheism.' He still believed in God, but when Froude once said
that he could only believe in a God who did something, Carlyle
replied, with a cry of pain which I (Froude) shall never forget,
He does nothing!' The reconstruction which was to follow the
destruction was indefinitely delayed. The hero did not come; and
Carlyle was a prophet who had led his followers into the desert,
but found that the land of promise always turned out to be a
mirage. Carlyle held that hypocrisy was still worse than
materialism; but, as he grew older and watched modern tendencies,
he became less hopeful of the 'Exodus from Houndsditch,' and
sometimes wished the old shelter to remain standing. He shrank
even from the essayists and reviewers and from Colenso, though he
had rejected historical creeds far more summarily than they had
    Carlyle, then, and Maurice might both be called 'mystics' in
the sufficiently vague sense used by Carlyle himself. They object
to logic on principle. They appeal to certain primitive instincts
which can be overridden by no logical manipulations or by any
appeal to outward facts. Both, after all, are forced in the end
to consider the plain, simple, 'objective' test. Maurice finds
that he must answer the question of the historical critic: are
the statements of fact true or false? Carlyle, not seeking for a
base to support any particular creed, can throw the Thirty-nine
Articles overboard, but finally comes into conflict with
scientific conceptions in general. He finds himself opposed to
the scientific view of historical evolution, and sees in the most
conspicuous tendencies of modern thought the disappearance of all
the most ennobling beliefs. The 'supernatural' and
'transcendental' have, after all, to conform to the prosaic
matter of fact understanding. Accepting, as I do, what I suppose
to be the scientific view, I fully believe that Carlyle's method
is erroneous; that in denouncing scientific methods as simply
materialistic, he is opposing the necessary logic of intellectual
development, and that his hero-worship and theory of right really
lead to arbitrary and chaotic results.
    There is, however, another remark to be made. If Carlyle's
view of a scientific doctrine be correct; if its legitimate
result be the destruction of morality, of all our highest
aspirations, even of any belief in the reality of the mind or the
emotions; if the universe is to be made into a dead mechanism or
a huge swine's trough, we are certainly reduced to a most
terrible dilemma. It was really the dilemma from which Carlyle
could never escape, and the consciousness of which tormented him
to the last. He had to choose between allegiance to morality and
allegiance to truth. Scientific tendencies, especially as
embodied in Utilitarianism, seemed to many men, and, as Carlyle's
case shows, to the men of the highest abilities, to have that
tendency. The absolute sincerity of that conviction is
unmistakable. I do not doubt that men, holding the conviction
sincerely, were bound to seek some escape; nor could I condemn
them if under so terrible a dilemma they allowed their love of
truth to be partly obscured. In fact, too, I think that it cannot
be denied that many of the men to whom we owe most, whose
morality was the highest and most stimulating, and who, moreover,
were most hostile to the lower forms of superstition, did in fact
take this position. Though Maurice was far from clear-headed, I
fully believe that his liberal and humane spirit was of the
greatest value, and that he did more than most men to raise the
social tone in regard to the greatest problems. Carlyle's
doctrine is, I equally believe, radically incoherent; but I am
also convinced that Carlyle's impetuous and vehement assertion of
certain great social, ethical, and political principles was of
the highest value. It must be allowed, I think, that such men as
Carlyle and Emerson, for example, vague and even contradictory as
was their teaching, did more to rouse lofty aspirations and to
moralise political creeds, though less for the advancement of
sound methods of inquiry, than the teaching of the Utilitarians.
There was somewhere a gap in the Utilitarian system. Its attack
upon the mythological statements of fact might be victorious; but
it could not supply the place of religion either to the vulgar or
to the loftiest minds. Then the problem arises whether the
acceptance of scientific method, and of an empirical basis for
all knowledge, involves the acceptance of a lower moral standard,
and of a materialism which denies the existence or the value of
all the unselfish and loftier elements of human nature? Can we
adhere to facts without abandoning philosophy; or adopt a lofty
code of ethics without losing ourselves in dream-land? Some
thinkers sought a different line of escape.


    The 'Oxford Movement,' according to Newman, was really
started on the 14th July 1833 by Keble's sermon on 'National
Apostasy.' The 'movement' has become the subject-matter of vast
masses of literature, as becomes a movement among a cultivated
class. While Mill and his friends were under the impression that
reason was triumphant and theology effete, the ghost of the old
doctrinal disputes suddenly came abroad. Learned scholars once
more plunged into dogmatic theology, renewed the old claims of
the church, and seriously argued as to what precise charm would
save an infant from the wrath of a righteous God. What
explanation can be given of this singular phenomenon? There was
clearly a 'reaction,' but why should there be a reaction? The
Evangelical movement had been mainly ethical or philanthropical.
It protested against evils when the national conscience was
already in advance of the actual practice. That was its strength;
its weakness was that it accepted, without examination, the
current beliefs of the day, and simply did without philosophy.
The Oxford movement, though many of its leaders were keenly awake
to social evils, did not start primarily from a desire for social
reform. Nor can its origin be traced directly to a philosophical
development. Its leaders had, of course, been influenced by
literary and speculative developments. They had, as Newman tells
us, been stirred by Scott and Wordsworth and by Coleridge's
philosophy. And yet it is plain enough that the impulse did not
start from philosophical speculation. The movement corresponded
to changes which would be part of the whole history of European
thought. I have said enough of the Utilitarians to indicate the
special English conditions. The Utilitarians saw in the
established church the most palpable illustration of a 'sinister
interest.' Bentham was attacking 'Church of Englandism'; James
Mill was proposing to apply Bentham's principles by substituting
an ethical department of the State for a church, and replacing
the sacrament by tea-parties; the radicals of all varieties
regarded disestablishment and disendowment as the natural
corollary from the Reform Bill, and a Whig statesman
significantly advised the prelates to put their house in order.
It was taken as a hint to prepare for confiscation.
    Yet the Church was enormously strong; it was interwoven with
the whole political and social organisation, and the genuine
radical represented only a fraction of the population. Oxford in
particular, the very focus of conservative and aristocratic
interests, the favourite place for such culture as was popular
with the landowners, the clergy, and all the associated classes,
was startled and alarmed, and began to rouse its latent energy.
Into Oxford no serious philosophical movement had penetrated. It
had been slowly amending its system, but it still adhered in
substance to the ancient traditions. Dimly it knew that infidels
and rationalisers were preaching dangerous theories. Pusey had
visited Germany in 1825-27, and had come back with some knowledge
of German thought. He was even accused, very superfluously, of
rationalism. Of that there was no real danger(214*) for a man
thoroughly steeped in the Oxford spirit. A sufficient
illustration of Oxford education may be found in the curious
controversy between Copleston, who had done much to rouse his
University, and the Edinburgh Reviewers. Copleston replied
vigorously, and yet his boast is a tacit confession. He declares
that Oxford possesses good classical scholars, and we need not
inquire how far they were really abreast of the day. Oxford men
had to get up logic in Aldrich and make some acquaintance with
Aristotle; and he argues that the mathematical studies of the
place were more than 'elementary.' They were even beginning to
include 'fluxions.' If this were a matter for boasting, it could
not be seriously held that Oxford was doing anything comparable
to the German universities as an adequate organ of the national
intellect.(215*) In point of fact, the system allowed the great
majority to remain in complete ignorance of any recent movements
of living speculation, a century or two behind-hand in philology,
and absolutely indifferent to science. Naturally, when the
champions of the Church came out to fight, they were armed with
antiquated weapons. Yet many of them were men of great ability,
and one at least a man of most indisputable genius.
    The alarm spread by radical assaults upon the Church was
equally felt by the liberal divines. No one, for example, was
more alarmed than Dr Arnold. But Arnold, a man of lofty and
generous instincts and strong political interests, took the
essentially liberal view. The Church, as all active-minded men
agreed, was in danger. It was threatened by 'the godless party,'
the radicals and revolutionists who were the heirs of jacobinism,
and were as hateful to him as to the high-churchmen. But here his
diagnosis becomes essentially different. Arnold thought that the
Church had become a separate sect because it adhered to old
prejudices and to sacerdotalism. His remedy was to make it truly
national, by widening its borders, admitting dissenters, and
encouraging philosophic thought. The Church should be, as
Coleridge urged, an essential part of the State organism; not a
close corporation belonging to a priestly order. It was properly
identical with the State. It must be liberalised that the State
might be made religious, and drop the antiquated claims to
magical authority which opposed it to the common sense of the
masses and the reason of the thinkers.(216*) This was precisely
the antithesis to the view taken by the leaders of the
'movement.' They held that the Church was weak, precisely because
it had been unfaithful to its higher claims and made an alliance
with the State, which had passed into a bondage. This, then, is
one aspect of the division between the liberals and the
dogmatists; and what I have now to do is to endeavour to indicate
the dogmatical view.
    I confine myself to two representatives of the movement:
Newman, whose literary genius needs no emphasis; and W. G. Ward,
conspicuous as one who never shrank from an inference, and who,
to do him bare justice, was incapable of supporting logic by
misrepresenting his opponents. He represents the forlorn Hope,
and reveals the tendencies which frightened his less daring
    The true starting-point of the 'movement' can hardly be given
more distinctly than in Ward's Ideal of a Christian Church.(217*)
It represents the stage at which Ward was becoming fully aware of
the consequences of his own logical position. The Ideal has
ceased to be lively reading; it is like an echo from old
common-room disputations of young men intensely interested in the
ecclesiastical movements of the day. Ward contrasts the actual
Church of England with the ideal Church of Christ, and already
finds in the Church of Rome a more promising embodiment of the
true spirit. The true Church is of divine institution, the
channel of supernatural graces, and independent of all human
authority. The Church of England, if not the creature, has become
in fact the slave, of the State. It claims a parliamentary title,
and in return for privileges has abandoned its rightful
authority. Above all, a true church is known by its discipline.
It should be the incarnate conscience of the society, and should
superintend, enforce by its sanctions and stimulate by its
example, the spiritual nature of its members. A true church
should exercise an omnipresent spiritual authority, reaching
every detail of life and organising the perpetual warfare against
the world, the flesh, and the devil. The utter decay of any such
power is the most fatal symptom of the Anglican body. From a
contemporary book, Ward extracts a ghastly account of the misery,
vice, and spiritual degradation of the mass of the
population.(218*) To remedy such evils, he declares, the 'science
of dogmatic theology' is more essential than the science of
political economy.(219*) Dogmatic theology is in fact the basis
of 'ascetic theology,' or of the whole theory of religious
discipline. If, indeed, the Christian theology be taken
seriously, if spiritual degeneration has an importance altogether
out of proportion to material progress, and the salvation of
souls be the one thing necessary, the conclusion is inevitable.
To enforce those truths upon the reason, to impress them upon the
imagination, and to ensure a constant reference to them in all
our conduct, must be the essential work of an authoritative
church. Ward expatiates enthusiastically upon the ceaseless
activity of the Church of Rome; upon the elaborate training of
the priesthood; upon the catechising of children, the daily
meditations, the constant practice of confession, and the various
methods by which the church fixes the eyes of believers steadily
upon spiritual realities. A church incapable of this can no
longer be the salt of the earth, and, in fact, the Church of
England, though it has boasted of being 'the poor man's church,'
has been utterly blind to the 'accumulated mass of misery which
has been gradually growing to a head for the last sixty years.'
'Through no agency of hers,' attention has been roused by such
men as Lord Ashley; and yet the church has shown no symptoms of
shame at such important neglect.(220*) What else can you expect
from the organ of the comfortable classes?
    The social evils were serious enough. Dogmatic theology may
not seem at first sight to be the most appropriate remedy; but,
if it were, it certainly needed a better army of defenders. The
ideal church must have a theological school, a body of trained
teachers capable of meeting the assaults of unbelievers, of
pointing out the true results of biblical criticism, of
scientific and historical inquiries, and of defining the attitude
of the church in regard to them.(221*) Ward is awake to the
growth of a new infidelity, more dangerous than that of the last
century. Carlyle, Kant, Michelet, and Milman are mentioned as
representing different manifestations of this evil spirit.
Strauss, too, is selling more rapidly than any foreign
work.(222*) Moreover, 'Protestantism,' as he maintains, is
utterly effete and unable to cope with the antagonist. The
'theory of private judgment' involves doubt, and will tend
inevitably to 'Comte's philosophy.'(223*) Comte was represented
in England by Mill, who was accordingly the butt of Ward's
sharpest attacks.
    If Ward thus expresses the seminal principle of the movement,
Newman was the most efficient leader. Newman, as he tells us in
the Apologia, held three doctrines: first, the 'principle of
dogma,' which was the ' fundamental principle' of the movement of
1833, and was the antithesis of 'liberalism'; secondly, the
principle, implied by this, of a 'visible church'; and thirdly,
the doctrine that the Pope was antichrist.(224*) The last, of
course, vanished; but the two others remained and only took a
sharper form in his mind. The history of his thought is simply
the history of his growing conviction that the true authority was
that of Rome, not of the Anglican Church.(225*) The 'principle of
dogma' is equivalent to the statement that 'religion as an ere
sentiment' was to him 'a dream and a mockery.' The liberal
principle applied to theology means the substitution of vague
feeling for definite truth. But to speak absolutely of a
'principle of authority' is to raise a difficulty. To believe in
authority is to ground my belief on the belief of some one else.
Therefore the questions remain: why does the authority believe,
and why should I accept its belief as authoritative? The Church
must be competent to judge, and I must be able to judge of its
    The special answer given by Ward and Newman to these points
gives their true position. First of all the dogmatists, agreeing
so far with the liberals, were convinced that the ordinary
opinions of the day led to infidelity or to complete scepticism.
A perfectly consistent mind must, as Newman declared, accept
Catholicism or Atheism. Anglicanism is 'the half-way house to
Rome, and Liberalism is the half-way house' to Atheism.(226*)
Protestantism, again, as involving the right of private judgment,
must lead, as Ward agreed, to Comte. Taken simply, such sayings
amount to pure scepticism. To admit the consistency of Atheism is
to admit that you have no grounds of confuting the Atheist. Upon
the assumptions common to both, the sceptic would get the better
of the Protestant. The rationalised theology of Paley had really
given away the key of the position. It could not permanently hold
out against the legitimate development of the eighteenth century
infidelity. 'As a sufficient basis for theism,' says Ward, the
argument from final causes is 'absolutely and completely
worthless'.(227*) and he declares that Paley's argument is quite
unable to prove God's love, or goodness, or justice, or
personality.(228*) But Paley and his contemporaries had
explicitly given up any other argument. A Protestant, then, was
logically bound to Atheism. Newman agrees. 'I have ever viewed
this argument with the greatest suspicion,' he says, and for good
reasons. It may prove the power and, in lower degrees, the wisdom
and the goodness of God; but it does not prove his attributes as
judge and moral legislator.(229*) So again, Newman declared(230*)
that it was 'a great question whether atheism is not as
philosophically consistent with the phenomena of the physical
world, taken by themselves, as the doctrine of a creative and
governing power.' Paley's proof of Christianity is naturally as
unsatisfactory as his proof of theology. In one of the Tracts for
the Times,(231*) Newman applied what he called a 'kill-or-cure'
remedy. He argued, that is, that if his antagonists rejected his
doctrines for want of Scripture proof, they would have to abandon
their own for the same reason. After recalling and enforcing a
number of the objections made by sceptics to the historical
evidence, he concludes that the evidence is by itself
insufficient. Shall we for that reason refuse to believe? No, we
must begin by believing. If we refuse 'to go by evidence in which
there are (so to say) three chances for revelation and only two
against it, we cannot be Christians.'(232*)
    Hume, then, or Mill or Comte, can at least hold his own upon
empirical ground. Unaided reason, as Newman says in the
Apologia,(233*) can indeed discover sound arguments for theology,
but historically and in practice it will tend towards simple
unbelief. The 'liberals' endeavoured to meet the enemy by
appealing to some philosophical or quasi-mystical doctrine; but
in so doing they either dropped dogmatic and historical creeds
altogether, or saved them by non-natural interpretations.
Religion sublimated into philosophy becomes a mere sentiment, or
a system of subtle metaphysics. It cannot effectively discipline
the ordinary mind or inspire a church to meet the world. Yet some
philosophical principle is necessary. To the Oxford men
philosophy meant chiefly some modification of Aristotle. They
held, of course, that the necessity of a first cause was
demonstrable, and that a theology could be constructed by the
pure reason.
    This, however, leads to the old difficulty, the perplexity
which runs through Christian theology in general. It is forced to
combine heterogeneous elements. Philosophy must be combined with
mythology; and the first cause identified with the
anthropomorphic deity. Your metaphysic proves the existence of
God in one sense, and your concrete creed assumes the existence
to be proved in a sense quite inconsistent. By calling
inconsistency mystery, you verbally force contradictions into a
formula, and speak of a God-man; but the difficulty of getting
from the metaphysical to the historical theology is thus only
masked. How is it to be overcome?
    Ward, laying the greatest stress upon the metaphysical
argument, came into conflict with Mill. Ward and Mill always
spoke of each other with marked respect. They communicated their
writings to each other before publication. Ward reviewed Mill's
Logic in the British Critic in the most complimentary terms. Mill
wrote to Comte in hopeful terms of the services to be rendered to
speculation by the new school of divines. Ward thought Mill by
far the most eminent representative of the 'antitheistic school,'
and spoke with generous warmth of his high moral qualities.(234*)
The point, however, upon which Mill specially valued himself was
just the point upon which Ward took him to be utterly in the
wrong. Mill denied the existence of 'necessary truths.' Ward
believed in the existence of a great body of 'necessary truth.'
Ward argues forcibly for the 'necessity' of mathematical truths,
and denies the power of association. Ward, in short, is Mill's
typical 'intuitionist.' Intuitions, he says, are truths which,
'though not parts of present consciousness, are immediately and
"primarily" known with certitude.'(235*) He adopts from Lewes the
word 'metempirical,' as expressive of what lies beyond the sphere
of phenomena.(236*) and holds that all 'intuitions' give us
'metempirical' knowledge. Lewes invented the phrase to express
the difference between the legitimate 'intuitions' implied in
experience and the illegitimate, which are 'metempirical' as
professing to transcend experience. Ward holds that
'metempirical' truths are valid and essential to reason.
    Morals, again, says Ward, are as certain as mathematical
intuitions; the truth that 'malice and mendacity are evil habits'
is as necessary as the truth that 'all trilateral figures are
triangular.'(237*) Further, I 'intue' that 'all morally evil acts
are prohibited by some living Personal Being'; and from this
axiom it follows, as an obvious inference, 'that this Person is
the supreme Legislator of the Universe.'(238*) The obvious
difficulty is that Ward proves too much. His argument is leading
to an independent theism, not a theism reconcilable with an
historical creed. Accordingly he has to limit or resist his own
logic. He admits the uniformity of nature as 'generally true,'
but makes two exceptions, in favour, first, of 'an indefinite
frequency' of miracles, and secondly of the freedom of 'human
volitions.'(239*) The Freewill doctrine leads to an elaborate and
dexterous display of dialectic, though he must be a very feeble
determinist who could not translate Ward's arguments into his own
language. Beyond this we have further difficulties. If the creed
be as demonstrable as Euclid, how can anybody deny it? Ward has
to account for the refusal of those who do not accept his
intuitions by some moral defect; they are like blind men
reasoning upon colours. Mill's 'antitheism' shows that he was
guilty of 'grave sin'; for, on the Catholic doctrine, there can
be no 'invincible ignorance of the one true God.'(240*) Many men,
however, condemn the creed of revelation precisely upon the moral
ground. The Utilitarians denounced the profound immorality of the
doctrine of hell and of vicarious punishment. Ward's argument
requires such a conscience as will recognise the morality of a
system which to others seems radically immoral, The giver of the
moral law is also the giver of the natural law. But it seems to
be as hard to show that Nature is moral in this sense as to show
that the moral legislator, if omnipotent, can also be benevolent.
The one great religious difficulty, as Ward allows, is the
existence of evil. He quotes Newman's statement that it is a
'vision to dizzy and appal; and inflicts upon the mind a sense of
a profound mystery, which is absolutely beyond human
solution.'(241*) Plainly, it comes to this: the 'intuitions' are
in conflict with experience. They assert that the creator is
omnipotent and infinitely just and benevolent. The admitted facts
are incompatible with the theory, and are therefore declared to
imply an 'insoluble mystery.' Ward intimates that he can show the
true place of this difficulty after setting forth the
'impregnable basis on which Theism reposes.' But he does not
appear to have found time for this ambitious enterprise.
    This introduces the more special problem. How from your
purely metaphysical position do you get to the historical
position? What is the relation between the authority of the
Church and the authority of the pure reason? Though Ward was
perfectly satisfied with his own metaphysics, it was of course
evident to him that such reasoning was altogether beyond the
reach of the mass of mankind. If you are to prove your creed by
putting people right about Freewill and the uniformity of nature,
you will adjourn the solution till the day of judgment. An
essential point of his whole argument is the utter incapacity of
mankind at large to form any judgment upon such matters. The
Protestant 'right of private judgment' means scepticism.
Everybody will have his own opinion if nobody trusts any one
else. If the truth of Christianity is to be proved by the
evidences after Paley's fashion, nobody has a right to believe
who has not swallowed whole libraries and formed elaborate canons
of criticism. The peasant who holds opinions about history, to
say nothing of science and philosophy, must obviously take them
on trust. Hence we must either give up the doctrine that
'certitude' is necessary, or we must find some proof accessible
to the uneducated mind. But it is an essential point of
Catholicism, if not of Christianity, that faith is necessary to
salvation. If wrong belief be sinful, right belief must be
attainable. But men by themselves are utterly impenetrable to
right reason. We have, then, to combine scepticism as to the
actual working of the human intellect with dogmatism as to the
faith. How is that feat to be accomplished?
    Ward replies, by the doctrine of 'implicit reasoning.'
Acceptance of the intuitions implies acceptance of all legitimate
deductions. But this position is more fully 'drawn out' (in his
favourite phrase) by Newman. It runs through a whole series of
the writings in which the delicacy and subtlety of his style are
most fully displayed,(242*) and the difficulty of the position
most fully exhibited. Chillingworth had stated the Protestant
argument. To admit the infallibility of the Church, he had said,
takes the individual no further, unless he is infallibly certain
of the infallibility. To this Newman replies(243*) that I may be
certain without claiming infallibility. Certainty that two and
two make four is quite consistent with a power of mathematical
blundering. Perhaps it should rather be said that, if there be
necessary truths, every one must, within their sphere, be
infallible. But no one asserts that the infallibility of the
Church is a necessary truth. If real, it is a concrete fact to be
proved by appropriate evidence. After exhausting your eloquence
in proving the fallibility, and indeed the inevitably sceptical
result of 'private judgment,' you are bound to show how, in this
case, the individual can attain certitude. The judgment that 'the
Church is infallible' has been disputed by reasonable people. How
are we to show that, in this case, their doubts are unreasonable,
if not wicked? Why do not the proofs of the weakness of private
judgment apply to this as to every other judgment? Have you not
really cut away the foundation on which sooner or later your
argument must be based? Yet certitude is made out to be a moral
duty even for the average believer.
    The theory is most explicitly worked out in the Grammar of
Assent. Newman exerts all his skill in expounding a very sound
doctrine. As a matter of fact, we form innumerable judgments by
what he calls the 'illative sense'; that is to say, not by formal
argument, but by a complex system of 'implicit' reasonings.
'Logic,' as he says, 'does not really prove. It enables us to
join issue with others... it verifies negatively'; and for
'genuine proof in concrete matter we require an organism more
delicate, versatile, and elastic, than verbal
argumentation.'(244*) Logic is a chain which 'hangs loose at both
ends,'(245*) for the first principles must be assumed, and the
abstract concept never fits the actual complexity of concrete
fact. By the 'illative sense,' again, we reach innumerable
truths. We hold that England is an island, or that the man whom
we see is our brother, with a faith indistinguishable from
absolute conviction. We go further; we believe that a friend is
honest, or, say, that Caesar crossed the Rubicon, without
admitting the slightest scruple of doubt. All knowledge whatever
of fact plainly implies something different from formal logic;
and, so far, the only question seems to be why so palpable a
truth needs so elaborate and graceful an exposition. The answer
is indicated by the polemic against Locke. Locke had proposed, as
a test of a love of truth, the refusal to hold any proposition,
with a greater assurance than the proofs it is built on will
warrant.'(246*) The statement seems to be not only unassailable
but in conformity with Newman's doctrine. Should we believe
England to be an island? When Julius Caesar landed, it was not
proved; and he would have been wrong to be certain. When did it
become right to be certain? Surely at whatever moment it was
adequately proved. It is never so proved that to deny it would be
self-contradictory, but by this time it is as much proved as any
fact can be proved. Locke would simply justify himself by saying
that in this case our 'assurance' does not exceed the 'proofs on
which it is built.' The approximation to demonstration is
indefinitely close, though never absolute, and the difference
becomes too small to be perceptible. A difficulty emerges only if
we at once admit the rightness of belief and deny the sufficiency
of the evidence.
    Newman, having shown that we believe in concrete truths not
proved by abstract logic, argues that we also assume many truths
not proved even by sufficient empirical evidence. We have what
Locke called a 'surplusage of assurance.' The fact, again, is
undeniable. We believe implicitly in countless things upon
insufficient evidence. This, as Locke would add, is one main
explanation of the prevalence of error, and also a proof that
error may be innocent. It is a duty to be candid; it cannot be a
duty to be right. We must listen to reason; but the effect of
reasoning must depend upon the constitution of our minds, and the
various beliefs with which they are already stored. Now to Newman
this doctrine always seems to be sceptical. It amounts to the
'liberalising' view that all creeds are equally good if only they
be equally sincere. Hence he lays stress upon the doctrine that
'assent' is a volitional as well as an 'intellectual act.' It is
our duty to obey the reason; and when the 'illative sense'
declares the truth of a proposition, we are bound to an 'active
recognition' of the truth.(247*) Locke, on the contrary, holds
that if we listen to reason, the assent follows automatically by
a non-voluntary act.
    On Newman's showing, an element of volition intrudes into
logic. Belief belongs to action as well as to pure speculation.
'To act you must assume,' he says, 'and that assumption is
faith.'(248*) If acting upon an hypothesis is the same thing as
believing the truth to be demonstrated, this leads to a singular
result. A judge, says Newman, acts upon the assumption that a
criminal's guilt is proved.(249*) Yet, as it is never
mathematically demonstrated, he has a 'surplusage of assurance.'
The judge may be of opinion that the prisoner's guilt is highly
probable and yet be bound to acquit. Is he to believe that the
prisoner's innocence is demonstrated? The case really shows the
opposite: simply that as we have to act upon probabilities, we
are not the less, but the more, bound to guard against the
illusion that they are certainties. At every moment and in every
relation of our lives, we are forced to act upon imperfect
knowledge. The obvious inference is that we are bound to keep in
mind that it is imperfect; or otherwise we shall be morally bound
to commit intellectually error. If, therefore, a creed be not
demonstrably true, we may wisely act as if it were true, but have
no right to deny that we are acting upon probability. Butler's
famous doctrine that 'probability must be the guide of life,' is
true if 'properly explained.' But the difficulty is that, in
religious questions, 'certitude' is declared to be essential; it
must correspond to something more than a 'balance of
arguments';(250*) and yet the certitude rests upon faith, and
faith is 'assumption.' The probability must be somehow converted
into certainty. In the Essay on Development, Newman meets Locke
by declaring that 'calculation never made a hero,' and praising
the Fathers for 'believing first and proving afterwards.'(251*)
Though calculation does not make a hero, it is essential to
making heroism useful. The true hero is the man who is ready to
act, though he fairly estimates the chances and knows perhaps
that they mean a probability of death.
    This gives the real dilemma. Allow conviction to be
influenced by the will, and you must admit that a belief morally
right may be intellectually wrong. You justify the judge for
mistaking presumption for demonstration, and the child for
believing that a drunken parent is strictly sober. If so, you
sanction erroneous beliefs. And this admittedly applies in
particular to religious beliefs. The world, it is granted, is
full of false beliefs, attained precisely by your method. Not one
man in ten of all that have lived has belonged to the true
Church. Newman, in fact, admits that his ultimate proof is
'subjective.' There is no ultimate test of truth beside 'the
testimony borne to truth by the mind itself.'(252*) He does not,
indeed, deny the possibility of demonstration: he often asserts
it; but he holds that the demonstration will not in fact
convince. Men differ in their first principles, and he cannot
change a man's principles more than he can make a crooked man
straight or a blind man see.(253*) Hence we have the final
answer. We have really to desert a logical ground and to take our
stand upon instinct. Our instincts are in one respect infallible.
Belief in revealed religion depends upon belief in natural
religion. Natural religion is founded on the conscience. The
conscience means the sense of sin, and therefore the desire for
intercession which is satisfied by the priesthood. The religion
of philosophy ignores the conscience, though it recognises the
moral sense.(254*) The order of the world, indeed, seems to
contradict this. What strikes the mind 'so forcibly and so
painfully' is God's absence from His own world. He has left men
in ignorance, and is a 'hidden God.' We are forced to the
conclusion that 'either there is no Creator or He has disowned
His creatures.'(255*) Such doubts 'call for the exercise of good
sense and for strength of will to put them down with a high hand
as irrational or preposterous.'(256*) Why 'irrational,' if they
cannot be answered? Newman, indeed, declares that he is as
certain of the existence of God as of his own, although he has a
difficulty in putting the grounds of his certitude into 'mood and
figure.'(257*) The position is illustrated by a remarkable
sermon(258*) in which, after his conversion, he again applies the
old 'kill-or-cure' remedy. He puts the various difficulties of
theistic belief with his usual force. He declares that there are
'irrefragable' demonstrations of the doctrine; but he admits the
difficulties.(259*) They are so great, indeed, that if you once
believe in God you need not shrink from accepting any of the
mysteries of the Catholic creed. The result seems to be that
while Newman declares that 'demonstrations' exist, he also
emphatically declares that they will not practically convince.
The proof for the ordinary mind must depend upon the 'illative
sense'; and the illative sense implies the existence of the
conscience, and, moreover, of the conscience as distinguished
from the 'moral sense.' The 'moral sense' leads only to the
hollow morality of 'so-called civilisation' and of superficial
philosophy. To convince men we must appeal to their conscience.
But for the conscience he would be 'an atheist, a pantheist, or a
polytheist when he looked into the world,' that is, if guided by
experience alone.(260*)
    What, then, is, as he puts it, the 'burdened conscience'
which is my true informant?(261*) The conscience is the sense of
sin. It tells us of a judge; of one who is 'angry with us and
threatens evil.' It tells us of the need of atonement, and yet of
the absence of God from the world. Natural religion, the
foundation of revealed religion, is therefore, as Lucretius said,
a yoke; it 'burdens and saddens the religious mind.' It proves,
too, the doctrine of which Butler was the 'great master,' the
absolute necessity of 'vicarious punishment.'(262*) Thus, as he
says, in another famous passage, natural religion teaches gloom
and horror of ourselves. To be 'superstitious... is nature's best
offering, her most acceptable service, her most mature and
enlarged wisdom, in the presence of a holy and offended God. They
who are not superstitious without the gospel, will not be
religious with it.'(263*)
    This is, indeed, the real pith of the doctrine. Without
asking what may be the logical demonstration, the actual
persuasive force is the appeal to the conscience as a 'sense of
sin.' Starting from the conception of the Church implied in
Ward's Ideal, that is the foregone conclusion. We accept the
Church theology, because we feel the terror which the Church
soothes. Newman, as was inevitable from the confusion between
rules of conduct and canons of logic, has given us the real cause
of belief, but not a good reason for believing. And here the
apologists are precisely at one with the ordinary deist of the
eighteenth century. They agree that the doctrine was accepted
because it fell in with 'natural religion' in 'superstition.' The
power of the Church, or the power of priest-craft, depends
essentially upon the belief in its power of pardoning sin and
reconciling man to God. The difference is that the deist asserted
the superstition to be false, and pardon a quack remedy; whereas
Newman sees a fundamental truth in the superstition, and the full
explanation in the revelation committed to the Church. How, then,
is the issue to be decided? You are wrong, says Newman, as a
blind man judging of colours is wrong. You have quenched the
conscience, and therefore have no guide. Yet, if a blind man can
never realise what sight is, no blind man ever doubts that sight
exists. Nothing is easier than to prove to him that I have means
of knowledge which he does not possess. Why, if conscience
reveals truths, cannot the truths be impressed even upon those
who have no conscience? Why should I believe that your theory is
right, when the ultimate test is one which, by its nature, can
appeal only to its own authority? If men have radically different
instincts which can be brought to no common measure, scepticism
is the inevitable result, unless a supernatural authority can be
applied. That is precisely Newman's conclusion; leave men to
themselves, he says, and they will have no 'common measure,'
unless controlled by a supreme power. The 'absolute need of a
spiritual supremacy' is the 'strongest argument in its
    This gives Newman's relation to the philosophy of the time.
The 'irrefragable demonstrations' of the schools are left in the
background. Granting them to be irrefragable, do they prove or
disprove his point? Does the 'first cause' argument properly lead
to Nature or to the God of Catholicism? To overlook this is to
assume that your reasoning is confirmed by the very logic to
which it is radically opposed. Is Newman really sceptical when he
denies the validity of the scientific view, or the man of science
when he denies the validity of Newman's? What is the relation of
'science' to philosophy? Private judgment is said to lead, in
religion, to scepticism. The obvious reply is that in the
physical sciences it has led to indisputable truths. Whence the
difference? Newman speaks as though the proofs of scientific
truths rested exclusively upon the arguments for each proposition
separately. Men of science accept Newton's theory, he says,
without rigidly testing it each for himself, and assume that it
conforms to the facts, even if the conformity be not
obvious.(265*) Believers in theology should make similar
assumptions. But this omits the real ground of conviction. We
believe in Newton's theory of gravitation, not simply because we
have read the Principia; not even simply because the argument is
part of a whole system of consistent and independent truths; but
also because it can be verified by proofs intelligible to all,
and because it can predict facts open to the severest tests. The
enormous authority of science is not due to the fact that it is
believed by this or that expert or body of experts, but because
it manifests its power by working wonders which are not miracles.
It can appeal to a criterion which is not supernatural, and is as
valid for the sinner as for the saint.
    Here is one result of the Oxford indifference to science.
When Newman was invited by innocent people to appear as the
champion of faith against science, he refused, for the reason
(among others) that he could not tell what was the position to be
assailed. He would not deny that 'science grew, but it grew by
fits and Starts,' and threw out hypotheses which 'rose and
fell.'(266*) He supposes science to represent a fluctuating set
of guesses. Even if it appeared to contradict revelation, the
contradiction could be evaded by an easy device. Science and
Scripture contradict each other as to the motion of the earth. We
cannot decide till we know what motion is, and then it may turn
out that science is false or reconcilable to Scripture.(267*)
This saying alienated Froude and Kingsley, and, I fancy, with
good reason; but we can see how Newman came to it. Theology, he
thought, rested on a deeper foundation than science. It
represented a single body of deductive truth; while science
represented a set of detached conclusions formed upon particular
    This appears to reverse the truth. 'The scientific principle,
in the first place, is at issue with the theology not upon this
or that point, not on the conflict between particular statements,
but all along the line. Two differing conceptions of the universe
are at issue, and one must be accepted. Newman substantially
replies that science has its own -- a lower -- sphere.(268*) In
the Idea of a University he argues that theology must be admitted
into the course, because it deals with the realities underlying
phenomena, and is therefore the rightful queen of sciences. The
history of the actual relations of science and theology would
supply a curious commentary upon this opinion. Newman meanwhile
holds that the conflict arises from a scientific misconception.
The latest infidel device, he says, is to leave theology alone.
The man of science trusts to the interest of his own pursuits to
distract the mind from theology, which then perishes by
inanition.(269*) His error consists in leaving the higher study
out of sight, or applying methods legitimate in one sphere to
those of the other sphere. Science, then, does not give
certainty, or gives certainty which has no bearing upon the
higher orders of truth.
    The reply is obvious. The physical sciences, in the first
place, give a body of consistent and verifiable truth, and the
only such body of truth. In the next place, it is impossible to
assign science and philosophy to two different provinces. The
scientific doctrines must lay down the base to which all other
truth, so far as it is discoverable, must conform. The essential
feature of contemporary thought was just this: that science was
passing from purely physical questions to historical, ethical,
and social problems. The dogmatist objects to private judgment or
free thought on the ground that, as it gives no criterion, it
cannot lead to certainty. His real danger was precisely that it
leads irresistibly to certainty. The scientific method shows how
such certainty as is possible must be obtained. The man of
science advocates free inquiry precisely because it is the way to
truth, and the only way, though a way which leads through many
errors. His test is that which so impressed Newman himself,
Securus judicat orbis terrarum; only orbis terrarum must not be
translated one European Church during a few centuries. The man of
science fully agrees with Newman that there is a true 'illative
sense'; that men can reason implicitly before they can reason in
logical form, and make approximately true formulae though
involved in innumerable superstitions and errors. The ultimate
criterion is the power of verifying conclusions, of testing truth
by its capacity to explain phenomena, and by its conformity to
the scientific truth already established beyond dispute. But
there is no royal road to truth in philosophy any more than in
science; or, rather, it must be far longer and more difficult to
reach it. Therefore we must not lay down rules as absolutely
certain, but subject them to perpetual examination, to what
Newman calls 'the all-corroding force' of the intellect, in the
conviction that by that process we are slowly approximating to
sounder belief. The errors have to be 'corroded.' This is
admittedly true of all the natural sciences; we have to puzzle
out the truth in every development of thought, from astronomy to
physiology, by a slow and painful process. Moreover, it is true
of all the religions of the world except, as Newman would say,
the Catholic. Why is that to be an exception? Newman candidly
admits a difficulty. The suggestion that a religion to be
universally accepted should be universally revealed, as though
written 'on the sun,' is, he admits, plausible.(270*) He urges
that there always was a revelation somewhere, though a revelation
in Jerusalem was not of much use in Peking. Yet the admitted fact
seems to be a fatal objection to the a priori probability which
he assumes of a revelation. To nine-tenths of the world there has
been only a 'virtual,' that is to say, no revelation. How, then,
does he try to make room for the one exceptional case? The secret
is to keep to the geocentric point of view. Shut yourself up
within the Church, interpret the world by reference to it,
instead of interpreting it by its place in the world; pronounce
the instincts by which it has been supported to be ultimate and
infallible, instead of listening to the obvious explanation, and
you can certainly escape self-contradiction -- as it is still
always possible on the same terms to hold to the Ptolemaic
astronomy. You have only to assume as a first principle that the
earth does not move, and the facts can always be forced into
conformity. To outsiders this is to confuse the causes with the
reasons of belief. So Newman in his famous development theory
provides a kind of parallel to the scientific theory. He shows
with the greatest clearness how a certain body works out the
properties implied in the type, and so obeys an implicit logic.
He illustrates the case by analogies with other bodies, such as
the Anglican Church.(271*) But why stop there? How did the first
beliefs aria from which the full theological doctrine expanded?
Newman again suggests the answer. They arise from the 'natural
religions' or superstitions, many of which were admittedly
embodied in the Church.(272*) We have only to carry out his view
logically, and the 'supernatural' element becomes needless.
Christian and Hebrew legends take their place in the general
process of human thought, and the assertion of the ultimate
authority of one particular body is simply the description of the
arbitrary claims which it developed under natural conditions. If
we keep the earth in the centre of our system, we require a
supernatural force to make the sun revolve. Let things fall into
their right order and all becomes harmonious.
    The positions thus occupied by the leading writers of the
time indicate the true issues. The 'dogmatists,' the 'liberals,'
and the 'Utilitarians' are virtually agreed upon one point. The
Paley theology was in a hopeless position. Protestantism could
only lead to infidelity. The arguments from design and from
miracles are radically incoherent. They confuse a scientific with
a philosophical argument, and cannot lead legitimately to proving
the existence of a supreme or moral ruler of the universe. While
accepting scientific methods they are radically opposed to
scientific results, because they tend to prove intervention
instead of order, and disappear as scientific knowledge extends.
Mill's attempt to suggest some kind of tentative and conjectural
theology was obviously hopeless, and interesting only as showing
his sense of the need of some kind of religion which would embody
high ethical ideals and stimulate the purest emotions. Empiricism
was destructive of the historical creeds, but could not of itself
supply the place of the old faiths.
    Here then we come to the great problems by which men are
still perplexed. The Utilitarian, which is the scientific view,
lays down an unassailable truth. A religious creed, so far as it
is a statement of fact, must state facts truly, and be in
conformity with the results of scientific teaching. Moreover, no
theology can be legitimately constructed upon this basis. The
gods become figments; and theology is relegated to the region of
the unknowable. If that be the whole truth, religious creeds are
destined to disappear as knowledge is extended and organised
systematically. 'Philip Beauchamp, gives the true Utilitarian
position. Religion, however, as J.S. Mill felt, is a name for
something far wider. It means a philosophy and a poetry; a
statement of the conceptions which men have formed of the
universe, of the emotions with which they regard it, and of the
ethical conceptions which emerge. It has played, as it still
continues to play, a vitally important function in human life,
which is independent of the particular statements of fact
embodied in the historical creed. The 'mystical' doctrine,
represented by Carlyle, corresponds to this element of religion.
Men will always require some religion if religion corresponds not
simply to their knowledge, but to the whole impression made upon
feeling and thinking beings by the world in which they live. The
condition remains that the conceptions must conform to the facts;
our imagination and our desires must not be allowed to override
our experience; or our philosophy to construct the universe out
of a priori guesses. What doctrine can be developed upon those
terms, whether a 'religion of humanity' in some shape be
possible, is still an open question. To the dogmatist this view
seemed to be equivalent to the simple evaporation of all religion
into mere vague emotional mist. To him a religion appeared
essentially as a system of discipline or a great social organism,
governing men's passions and providing them with a cult and a
concrete vision of the universe. The difficulty is that such a
creed cannot be really deduced from a general philosophy. The
dogma has to be based upon 'authority,' instead of basing the
authority upon proof That is a radically incoherent position, and
leads to the acceptance of the dogmas and traditions which have
become essentially incredible, and to a hopeless conflict with
science. To found a religion which shall be compatible with all
known truth, which shall satisfy the imagination and the
emotions, and which shall discharge the functions hitherto
assigned to the churches, is a problem for the future. I must be
content with this attempt to indicate what was the relation to it
of the Utilitarian position.


1. Mill's Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy and of
the Principal Philosophical Questions discussed in his Writings
was first published in 1865. I refer to the fourth edition
(1872). The book was more changed than any of Mill's other
writings in consequence of the insertion of replies to various
criticisms. A list of those replies is given in the preface to
the third and fourth editions. The essays on 'Religion' appeared
in 1874.

2. See Veitch's Life of Hamilton (1869), and an article by
Hamilton's daughter in the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

3. A letter from Hamilton to Dr Parr in 1820 (Parr's Works, vii,
194-202), on occasion of the contest at Edinburgh, gives an
account of his studies. He was personally unknown to Dugald
Stewart, to whom he desires Parr to write a letter upon the
advantages of studying ancient philosophy, to be shown to the
Town Council (who then elected the professor). Hamilton says that
he took up nearly all Aristotle, most of Plato, and of Cicero's
philosophical works; that he had read many Greek commentators
upon Plato and Aristotle and that many of his books were declared
to be too metaphysical for the schools and were forbidden to be
taken up again. Veitch gives a similar account.

4. Napier's Correspondence, p. 70.

5. Notice by Lord Canarvon prefixed to Gnostic Heresies (1875),
and Burgon's Twelve Good Men.

6. See Mill's Examination of Hamilton, p. 496.

7. Reprinted as the first two chapters in the Discussions on the
'Philosophy of the Unconditioned' and the 'Philosophy of

8. Reid's Works, p. 823.

9. See in Discussions, p. 55; Lectures, i. 295, etc.; Reid's
Works, p. 817 (the most elaborate).

10. Lectures, i. 292.

11. Discussions, p. 93.

12. Reid's Works, p. 817 n.

13. Discussions, p. 56.

14. Ibid., p. 192.

15. Lectures, i, 230, 293. Peter Poiret corresponds to 'Johnny
Dodds of Farthinsacre,' the one orthodox friend of Davie Deans.

16. Lectures, i. 331.

17. Discussions, p. 61.

18. Discussions, p. 61; Lectures, i. 225.

19. Discussions, i. 62.

20. Discussions, p. 64.

21. Reid's Works, p. 745.

22. Ibid. p. 754.

23. Hamilton admits the distinction between 'primary truths of
fact' and 'primary truths of intelligence,' but says that as
their sources are not different, he will not give them different
names. -- Reid's Works, p. 743 n.

24. Reid's Works, p. 743.

25. Lectures, i. 294.

26. Lectures, i. 228.

27. Ibid. i. 224.

28. Ibid. i. 212.

29. Reid's Works, p. 822.

30. Lectures, i. 204.

31. Ibid. i. 194.

32. Reid's Works, p. 744.

33. Ibid. p. 806.

34  Discussions, p. 50, etc.; Lectures, i, 225, etc.

35. Discussions, p. 639. This is the passage welcomed by Mill.
Hamilton, as Mr Stirling notices, applies to the Cosmothetical
Idealist Virgil's Rerumque ignarus, imagine gaudet, and elsewhere
uses the same words to give the position of the true philosopher
(Discussions, pp. 57, 640; Lectures, i. 138). The inability to
get beyond the phenomenon is ridiculed in one case and accepted
in the other.

36. Lectures, i. 225.

37. Ibid. i. 147; ii. 129.

38. Ibid. i. 160.

39. Mill puts this in Examination, p. 35.

40. Reid's Works, pp. 854, 857.

41. Lectures, ii. 112. In the more elaborate discussion in Reid's
Works. Note D, he concludes (p. 857) that the primary 'may be
roundly characterised as mathematical, the secundo primary as
mechanical, the secondary as physiological.'

42. Lectures, ii. 113, 114.

43. Reid's Works, p. 845.

44. Ibid. p. 820.

45. Ibid. p. 858.

46. Reid's Works, p. 866 n.

47. Lectures, ii. 114.

48. Reid's Works, p. 882.

49. Ibid. p. 846.

50. Mr Hutchison Stirling, in a severe examination of Hamilton's
Philosophy of Perception (1865, p. 79 n.) thinks that Hamilton
never understood that, according to Kant, space was a
'perception', not a 'conception'; and infers that he knew little
of Kant except from the 'literature of the subject.'

51. Lectures, i. 218.

52. Mill's argument about this in the Examination (ch. x.) is
entangled in the question about the opinions of  Thomas Brown and
'Cosmothetic Idealists,' which perhaps lays him open to a reply
made by Veitch. I cannot go into this, which illustrates one
confusion in the controversy.

53. Lectures, i. 218 and 221 n.

54. Ibid. ii. 153.

55. Ibid. ii. 130.

56. Reid's Works, Note B, p. 810.

57. Reid's Works, p. 821.

58. Reid's Works, p. 858 n.; cf. p. 880 n. The 'organism' is 'at
once objective and subjective', 'at once ego and non-ego.' Unless
we admit this we must be materialists or idealists.

59. Reid's Works, p. 862.

60. Mr Stirling (pp. 80-110) thinks this 'exceedingly ingenious',
though really fallacious. Mansel accepts it in his Metaphysics
(1860), p. 114; and in the Philosophy of the Conditioned (pp. 72,
75, 83) tries to reconcile it with other phrases. He talks of
matter being 'in contact with mind,' and the object of perception
being 'partly mental and partly material.' The composition is
like the chemical fusion of an acid and an alkali.

61. Veitch tries to make a coherent doctrine from these
utterances. All that Hamilton requires, he thinks, is that the
object perceived his the 'quality of a non-ego.' -- Veitch's
Hamilton, p. 191. As the non-ego is a merely negative conception,
this tends to coincide with the doctrines of Tracy and Brown.

62. Mill had by this time read Kant, and makes frequent
references to him. He may perhaps be excused for not appreciating
the Kantian view by Kant's own inconsistencies and obscurities.
This is a very ticklish point, which I cannot discuss, but which,
as I think, does not really affect the argument.

63. Examination, etc., p. 176. Mill here uses 'introspective,'
which might be applied to psychology, as equivalent rather than
to logical; or to the a priori method which attempts to discover
fact by analysis of pure reasoning.

64. Examination, etc., p. 456; cf. p. 194.

65. Examination, etc., p. 266.

66. Cf. Mill's interesting article upon Berkeley. --
Dissertations, vol. iv. pp. 154-87.

67. Examination, p. 248.

68. Ibid. p. 225.

69. Made especially familiar in recent English speculation by
T.H. Green's criticism of Hume.

70. e.g. Reid's Works, p. 869.

71. Examination, pp. 146-47.

72. Ibid. p. 235.

73. Examination, p. 248.

74. Lectures (Preface).

75. Discussions, p. 12.

76. Ibid. p. 13.

77. Examination, pp. 58, 73.

78. Philosophy of the Conditioned, p . 95.

79. Philosophy of the Conditioned, pp. 108, 147.

80. Ibid. p. 67.

81. Hamilton strangely declares that Kant makes the speculative
reason an 'organ of mere delusion' (Discussions, p. 18, Lectures,
i. 402), and Mansel says that if we accept Kant's doctrine we
must believe 'in a special faculty of lies, created for the
express purpose of deceiving those who believe in it.' For Kant's
statement that the reason cannot be itself untrustworthy, see
Appendix to Transcendental Dialectic (section on 'the ultimate
end of the natural dialectic of human reason,' and for the
comparisons above quoted the same Appendix (section of 'the
regulative employment of the 'ideas of pure reason') and the
Introduction to the Transcendental Dialectic.  Bolton (Inquisitio
Philosophica, ch. iv) quotes many passages from Kant to
illustrate this point, which seems to confirm Stirling's opinion
of the superficiality of Hamilton's knowledge of his author.

82. Discussions, p. 33.

83. Discussions, p. 17.

84. Ibid. p. 20.

85. Ibid. p. 32.

86. Examination, p. 103.

87. 'An ultimate end of the natural dialectic,' etc.

88. Discussions, p. 14.

89. I may say that although I am an 'Agnostic' I cannot accept Mr
Spencer's version of Hamilton's doctrine. But I must not attempt
here to estimate the value of Mr Spencer's theory.

90. Reid's Works, p. 743 n.

91. Lectures, ii. 376-413; Discussions, pp. 604-28.

92. Letters to Calderwood in Lectures, ii. 530-35.

93. One specimen of Hamilton's method may be given for those who
care for such things. In the essay on Cousin he opposes 'the
Infinite' as the 'unconditionally unlimited' to the 'Absolute' as
the 'unconditionally limited'. In both cases we have simple
negations of thought, and therefore reach the inconceivable. If I
say a thing and then unsay it, I get simple zero. That is
obvious. If, again, the absolute asserts the same limit which is
denied by the 'infinite,' they are of course contradictory. And,
in this case, we get the old antinomy, which he accordingly
introduces in the next sentence about the impossibility of
conceiving space either as infinite or finite. But here the
contradictory of infinite ought to be -- not 'absolute' but
'finite'. Having thus got an 'antimony' by making 'the absolute'
equivalent to 'the finite', Hamilton apparently assumes an
antinomy between absolute and its contradictory everywhere. But I
am not compelled to think of a thing either as being some quality
and so far 'conditioned,' or as being no quality at all. The
alternative is either to think of it or not think of  it and that
leads to no antimony. So again (pp. 29, 30) infinite time is
identified with endless time, and absolute with ended time.

94. Bampton Lectures, (3rd edition, 1859), p. 71.

95. Lectures, iii. 103.

96. Examination, p. 105.

97. Bampton Lectures, p. 45.

98. Cf. Tennyson's 'Flower in the Crannied Wall' -- 
        '...... If I could understand
        What you are, root and all, and all in all,
        I should know what God and man is.'

99. Bampton Lectures, p. 89.

100. Ibid. p. 72.

101. Ibid. p. 61.

102. Philosophy of the Conditioned, p. 51.

103. Bampton Lectures, p. 8.

104. Ibid. pp. 67, 68.

105. Reid's Works, p. 974.

106. Bampton Lectures, p. 228. Yet he positively asserts (e.g. p.
220) that free-will is a 'fact of consciousness.'

107. Ibid. p. 217.

108. Ibid. p. 121. Though, as he adds, of that alternative which
renders that very inconceivability 'itself inexplicable'.

109. Ibid. p. 89.

110. Bampton Lectures, p. 202.

111. Ibid. p. 12.

112. Ibid. p. 244.

113. Bampton Lectures, pp. 17, 18.

114. Ibid. p. 212.

115. Examination, p. 129.

116. Philosophy of the Unconditioned, p. 167 (also quoted in
Mill's not to above)

117. Examination, p. 123 n.

118. Bampton Lectures, p. 234.

119. Ibid. p. 239.

120. Philosophy of the Conditioned, p. 245.

121. Ibid. p. 39 n.

122. Examination, pp. 170, 240; Hamilton's Lectures, i. 394. I do
not try to reconcile Hamilton's 'Obiter dictum' in this passage
with his assertion in his second lecture that 'philosophy' and
'psychology' give the only possible proofs of theology; or with
his claim to have met Kant's scepticism.

123. Auguste Comte, (1865) pp. 14, 15.

124. See Mr John Morley's article in Critical Miscellanies
(second edition).

125. Bain's J.S. Mill, p. 139.

126. Three Essays, pp. 142-54.

127. Three Essays, p. 19.

128. Ibid. p. 28.

129. Ibid. p. 46.

130. Ibid. p. 53.

131. Three Essays, p. 65.

132. 'Why' asks Hume, 'is there any misery in the world? Not by
chance, surely. From some cause, then? Is it by the intervention
of the Deity? but he is perfectly benevolent. Is it contrary to
his intentions? But he is Almighty. Epicurus's old questions,' he
says, 'are yet unanswered.' 'If,' says Mansel, 'an infinitely
powerful Being wills evil, he is not perfectly good. If he wills
it not, his will is thwarted and his sphere of action limited.'
-- Hume's Works (1874), ii. 440, 442; Bampton Lectures, p. 51.

133. Three Essays, p. 39.

134. Ibid. p. 40.

135. Ibid. p. 116.

136. Ibid. p. 184. Friday asks Robinson Crusoe why God did not
kill the devil.

137. So in the Examination of Hamilton (p. 567) he says that this
is 'by far the best' and 'by far the most persuasive argument.'

138. Examination, p. 246.

139. Three Essays, p. 170.

140. The 'ingenious simile,' says Mansel, 'by which God is
compared to a mechanic fails only in this particular, that both
its terms are utterly unlike the objects which they profess to
represent.' -- Bampton Lectures, p. 188.

141. Three Essays, p. 174.

142. Three Essays, p. 133.

143. Ibid. pp. 16, 17, Observe the language about 'conforming to
the laws of equilibrium among bodies,' instead of 'conforming
only to the law of gravitation,' as though we did not necessarily
'conform' to all 'laws of nature' in all cases.

144. Three Essays, p. 174.

145. Mill has here come to speak of 'Nature' in the narrower
sense, as opposed to art or to nature working through man.

146. Three Essays, p. 232.

147. Ibid. p. 255.

148. Three Essays, p. 76.

149. Ibid. p. 100.

150. Ibid. p. 82.

151. Three Essays, p. 97.

152. Ibid. p. 111.

153. Ibid. p. 104.

154. Three Essays, p. 122.

155. Ibid. p. 116.

156. Ibid. pp. 248-49.

157. Ibid. p. 253.

158. Ibid. p. 252.

159. Three Essays, pp. 256-57.

160. Ibid. p. 216.

161. Bampton Lectures, p. 238.

162. Examination of the Reverend F.D. Maurice's 'Strictures'
(1859) p. 80. This is a reply to Maurice's What is Revelation?
(1859). Maurice in a Sequel (1860) answers this and other
accusation with dignity; though his remarks upon Mansel were
certainly sharp enough.

163. Maurice's most complete book, the Kingdom of Christ (1838,
enlarged 1842), is less rhetorical and more logical than its
successors. The Theological Essays (1853) gives his teaching in
the shortest compass.

164. Mill's Autobiography, p. 153.

165. i.e. eine Neigung und Bestimmtheit des Gefuhls, quoted in
What is Revelation? p. 316. Maurice defends this against Mansel.

166. Begun about 1835 for the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana. The
whole collected in an edition of 1871-72.

167. Kingdom of Christ (1842) p. 253.

168. What is Revelation? (1819) p. 275.

169. Theological Essays, pp. 65, 119.

170. Ibid, pp. 113, 338, 465.

171. What is Revelation? p. 232.

172. Kingdom of Christ, i. (1842) 41. This book, first published
as a series of letters to a Quaker, is an exposition of the way
in which the mystical doctrine of Fox and Barclay degenerated
from the confusion between a valid, because universal, principle
and a claim to a private or individual application.

173. What is Revelation? p. 228.

174. Theological Essays, p. 316.

175. Originally the Boyle Lectures for 1846. Fourth edition in 1861.

176. Theological Essays, p. 211.

177. Theological Essays, p. 145.

178. Maurice, as I remember Carlyle saying, thought that you might be eternally damned for five minutes.

179. Theological Essays, pp. 430, 450, 480.

180. Maurice's criticism is in a little book called the Claims of the Bible and of Science (1863).

181. Claims of Science, etc. pp. 76, 125.

182. Sartor Resartus, ch. iv.; cf. Froude, i. 334.

183. Froude, iii. 67.

184. Froude, i. 73.

185. Ibid. i. 101.

186. Sartor Resartus, ch. vii.

187. Essays on 'State of German Literature' (1827); 'Novalis' (1829); 'Signs of the Times' (1829).

188. Novalis, Essays, ii. 76.

189. 'Characteristics' 91831); Essays, iii. 20.

190. Past and Present, ch. xv.

191. Froude, iii, 40.

192. 'Novalis' in Essays, ii, 72, etc.

193. Mill's Autobiography, p. 175, etc.

194. The journals have been separately printed in America for the Grolier Club (edited by Prof. Norton).

195. Carlyle, I fear, is punning.

196. Froude, ii, 79, 90.

197. Sartor Resartus, bk. iii. ch. iv.

198. Lecture v.

199. Chartism, ch. x.

200. Latter-day Pamphlets, 'Jesuitism'.

201. Sartor Resartus, bk. i. ch. viii.; bk. iii. ch. viii.

202. Froude, ii, 345.

203. Froude, iii. 12.

204. e.g. Past and Present, bk. ii. ch. xvii., and bk. iii. ch. v., with the humorous description of John Bull, who manages to settle down with his centre of gravity lowest.

205. Essays, iii. 69 (Boswell).

206. Essays, iv. 146. (Scott).

207. Chartism, ch. v.

208. Froude, iii. 84.

209. Latter-day Pamphlets, 'The new Downing Street.'

210. Ibid., 'Stump Orators'.

211. Past and Present, bk. i. ch. 19.

212. Chartism, ch. viii.

213. Froude, iv. 259.

214. See Pusey's (afterwards suppressed) Historical Inquiry into German rationalism (1828). H.J.  Rose had attributed the evil to want of  bishops. Pusey thought it was due to 'dead orthodoxism'. He looked leniently for the moment upon the attempt to infuse a little philosophy into the creed, but soon perceived that the Thirty-nine Articles would be more to the purpose.

215. Oxford had been incidentally attacked in the Edinburgh Review in an article upon 'Laplace' by Playfair; in a review by R. Payne Knight of an Oxford edition of Strabo; and by Syndey Smith in a very amusing review of a book upon education by Edgeworth. Copleston replied, and was answered by the three conjointly. The controversy wandered into various small points. Newman, in his Idea of a University, quotes Copleston with deserved respect for his general principle. But the application to the Oxford system is less cogent.

216. See especially Arnold's pamphlet on Principles of Church Reform (1833), reprinted in Miscellaneous Works (1845), pp. 257-359. Arnold's aversion to sacerdotalism was vigorously expressed in an article in the Edinburgh for April 1836, entitled (by the Edinburgh) 'The Oxford Malignants and Dr Hampton.' It was reprinted in his works. See Stanley's Life of Arnold, ii. 9.

217. The Ideal 91844) was a defence of articles contributed by Ward to the British Critic against the 'Narrative' of  William Palmer (1803-1885). It led to the final catastrophe, and was soon followed by the conversions to Catholicism of Ward and Newman.

218. Ideal, p. 27. The Perils of the Nation (1843) is the book quoted.

219. Ibid. p. 416.

220. Ibid. p. 420.

221. Ideal, pp. 34-44.

222. Ibid. pp. 266.

223. Ibid. p. 504.

224. Apologia, p. 121.

225. Apologia, p. 205.

226. Ibid. pp. 322, 329.

227. Ideal, p. 277.

228. Ibid. p. 499. Ward would apparently have modified these statements at a later period.

229. Idea of a University (1875) p. 453.

230. University Sermons (1843), p. 186. In the later edition this phrase is carefully qualified as referring only to an illegitimate use of reason.

231. No. 85 (1838), reprinted in Discussions and Arguments, 1872.

232. In Discussions and Arguments, p. 249, the curious correction is made of substituting twelve for three. That marks without mending the blot.

233. Apologia (1864), p. 380.

234. Ward's Essays on the Philosophy of Theism (1884), pp. 120-125.

235. Philosophy of Theism, pp. 143 n, 304.

236. Ibid. ii. 87.

237. Philosophy of Theism, i, 50.

238. Ibid. i. 90, 94.

239. Ibid. i, 325.

240. Philosophy of Theism, i. 121. Ward, we are told subsequently ceased to hold this opinion 'with any confidence,' or abandoned it altogether. Ibid. ii. 132.

241. Ibid. ii. 359.

242. Especially the University Sermons, the Essay upon Miracles, the Essay upon Development, and the Grammar of Assent.

243. Grammar of Assent (1870), p. 219.

244. Grammar of Assent (1870), p. 264.

245. Ibid. p. 277.

246. Ibid. p. 155. See also Essay on Development, p. 328.

247. Grammar of Assent, p. 337.

248. Grammar of Assent, p. 92.

249. Ibid. p. 320.

250. Ibid. p. 231.

251. Development, pp. 328, 331.

252. Grammar of Assent, p. 343.

253. Ibid.  pp. 405, 408.

254. Grammar of Assent, p. 391.

255. Ibid. p. 392.

256. Ibid. p. 211.

257. Apologia, p. 377.

258. Sermons to Mixed Congregations, No. xiii.

259. In one of his famous phrases, Newman says that ten thousand difficulties do not make one objection (Apologia, p. 374). This is clearly true in a sense. I may find it impossible to solve a mathematical problem without doubting that a solution exists. But it suggests a very convenient logical device. An unanswerable objection can always be met by calling it a difficulty.

260. Apologia, p. 377.

261. Grammar of Assent, p. 392.

262. Ibid. p. 401.

263. University Sermons (1872) p. 118.

264. Development, pp. 127, 128.

265. Essays on Development, p. 129. Laplace and Lagrange had a different opinion.

266. Apologia, p. 404.

267. University Sermons (1872) p. 348.

268. Idea of a University (1875) pp. 428-455.

269. Ibid. pp. 401, 402.

270. Grammar of Assent, pp. 372, 426.

271. Essay on Development, pp. 102, 108, 170.

272. Essay on Development, pp. 358-365.