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“awakening ” in 1826, he ceased to be “only one thing,” and became really a philosopher. He discovered the value of feeling and of a “due balance among the faculties." He gained the habit of avoiding half-truths, and of looking at questions from his opponent's point of view, with a constant sense of his own fallibility (Autob., pp. 132-162). The beginning of the change seems to have been a reflection on the results of “victorious analysis” in his own person ; he feared it had worn away his power of feeling. One result of the change was a correction of his old Utilitarianism. He now thought that the way to attain happiness is not to pursue it directly, but “to treat some end external to it as the purpose of life" (ib., p. 142. Accordingly in the Essay on Liberty, the chief end of man is described, in the language of Humboldt, “as the highest and most harmonious development of his powers to a complete and consistent whole" (p. 103), or, in his own words, “the permanent interests of man as a progressive being” (p. 24). This was one of the first of his many modifications of the Utilitarianism of his father and Bentham. He was also led to abandon their political philosophy. French influences were becoming a large factor in his life. His early visit to France (in 1820) had impressed him with the superior openness of the French character and absence of false shame in contrast with English reserve and the English custom of taking low motives for granted (Autob., pp. 58, 59). “Both in a good and in a bad sense,” he says long afterwards, “the English are farther from a state of nature than any other modern people.” They not only act but feel according to rule. His later visit (at the Revolution of 1830) was of more direct influence on his Political Philosophy. It introduced him to the new ideas of History and Social Science that played so large a part in his thinking in after times. He had been only half convinced by Macaulay's criticisms of the Essay on Government. He saw that one great defect of the school of Bentham was its neglect of
1 Subjection of Women (first written in 1861. See Bain's J. S. Mill, p. 130), 2nd ed., p. 124. In Diss. and Disc., II. 355 (Fr. Rev., written 1849), he on the contrary made it a reproach against the English people that “a theory which purports to be the very thing intended to be acted upon fills them with alarm.”
history. But he also recognised the defect of the merely historical and experimental political writers, who appeal to “specific experience" (Autob., 157-160). He now came to learn the meaning of a Philosophy of History, which was to have neither defect. “To find on what principles derived from the nature of man and the laws of the outward world each state of society and of the human mind produced that which came after it, and whether there can be traced any order of production sufficiently definite to show what future states of society may be expected to emanate from the circumstances which exist at present,' that is the problem of a philosophy of history (Dissert., II. 129, Edin. Rev., Jan., 1844, “Michelet "). He had read such ideas in Coleridge and the Germans (see Autob., p. 161, Diss., I. 425, "Coleridge”), but it was French statements of them in Guizot, Michelet, Comte and the St. Simonians, that carried them fairly home to his mind' (ib., pp. 162, 163 ; cf. Dissert., II., “Michelet" and "Guizot"). He had new reasons now for agreeing neither with Bentham in his neglect of history nor with the English historians (like Macaulay) in their neglect of all attempts at a philosophy of history.
His views of Political Economy were undergoing a corresponding change. The Essays on Some Unsettled Questions in Political Economy were written between 1829 and 1831," and are the fruit of the deliberations of a small economical club in which the writer took a leading part between 1825 and 1830. The Essays are essentially Ricardian, the last (which was re-cast in 1833, and published in London and Westminster Review, October, 1836) being perhaps the most adventurous (“On the Definition and Method of Political Economy”). Another stray economical paper, on the Currency Juggle (1833, Dissert., I. 42) showed no tendency on Mill's part to leave the old lines. Nevertheless, the St. Simonians in 1830 had helped to convince him of “the very limited and temporary value of the old political economy, which assumes private property and inheritance as indefeasible facts, and freedom of production and exchange as the dernier mot of social improvement” (Autob., pp. 166, 167). He became (through the St. Simonians) a modified Socialist and (through De Tocqueville) a modified democrat; full of care for the rights of minorities (ib., p. 191). He learned, also through the St. Simonians, to press the claims of women to the legal rights that are claimed for men. By the time he wrote his Principles of Political Economy, in 1848, all the main ideas of his writings had become a part of him.
1 Even in his later days Mill could see nothing valuable in Kant except his refutation of his predecessors (Exam. of Hamilton, p. 636, n.).
2 See Preface to edition 1844 ; but cf. Autob., pp. 120, 121, 180.
This slight sketch of Mill's mental history will be of service when we try to trace the effect of his philosophy on his political economy and of the latter on the former. His aim in writing the Political Econony was (as he tells us in his Preface) to produce a work after the model of the Wealth of Nations. The distinctive feature of Adam Smith's work was (he thinks) that it invariably considered principles in close conjunction with their applications.? Now for practical purposes political economy is “inseparably intertwined with many other branches of social philosophy," and there are perhaps no economical questions which can be decided on purely economical premises. Adam Smith himself never forgot this, but since his time no attempt (Mill says) has been made to write on economical matters as he wrote on them, and to apply the wider knowledge of social philosophy that has been gained since his time. There has been no attempt, in short, “to exhibit the economical phenomena of society in the relation in which they stand to the best social ideas of the present time, as he did, with such admirable success, in reference to the philosophy of his century” (Preface to ist edition of Political Economy, 1848). Hence the title of Mill's book is, Principles of Political Economy with Some of their Applications to Social Philosophy. It was to combine the abstract theories of economics, as worked out by Ricardo and others, with the modifications of economic theories shown in the practice of men and nations, and required by a general philosophy of society.
1 Mill allows that he might have learned the same lesson from Owen's followers, e.g. from W. Thompson (Distribution of Wealth, 1824). See Mill, Pol. Econ., II. l., § 4. He might in fact have learned it from Bentham. See Reform Catechism (1818), p. 36, and note. “A peremptory exclusion, by which one-half of the species is excluded from that security for a regard to their interests, which in the case of the other half is pronounced indisputable.” Cf. ibid., p. 128 ft., and Mill, Autobiogr., p. 105.
2 It is fair to Malthus to remember that his Political Economy avowedly attempted the same conjunction. J. Hill Burton made the same attempt in the year after Mill.
On the threshold we are met by questions which touch philosophy in its larger sense, the questions of Definition and Method. How are we to define Political Economy, and what is its scope and method ? These questions are much better treated in the last of the Essays on some Unsettled Questions in Political Economy, and in the 6th book of the System of Logic (1844) than anywhere in the Political Economy, where in fact we need constantly to read between the lines. When we are told in the introduction (Pol. Econ., Preliminary Remarks) that it is no part of the author's design to aim at “ metaphysical nicety of definition,” that every one has a notion sufficiently correct for common purposes of what is meant by wealth, etc., we do well to remember Mill's own idea of an intelligible style, “to say a little more than the truth in one sentence and correct it in the next”?; and, further, his belief that the definition of a science usually comes later than the creation of the science itself. “ The facts classed themselves" before there was any intentional classification of them; and it requires the highest powers of analysis and abstraction to determine the logical definition of any science. The first principles of all sciences belong not to the particular sciences themselves but “to the philosophy of the human mind,” and are rather last than first in order of time.*
Political Economy, like the rest, has fared very ill in the matter of its own definition. Even Adam Smith's definition “an enquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations” might convey the notion that it teaches nations how to become rich; but it is a science, not an art. For a like reason it is not well defined by analogy to domestic economy, which is nothing if not an art, or as “the science of the laws which regulate the production and consumption of wealth,” for that might include all the physical sciences in any way concerned in production. It is one of the moral or psychological sciences (Uns. Questions, 129), and it is “the science which treats of the production and distribution of wealth so far as they depend upon the laws of human nature" (ib., p. 133), or (more strictly still) as “the science which traces the laws of such of the phenomena of Society as arise from the combined operations of mankind for the production of wealth, in so far as those phenomena are not modified by the pursuit of any other object ” (ib., p. 140).
1 Prof. Ingram's criticism on the full title of the Political Economy is perfectly fair. It ought to have read, “with some of their applications to other branches of Social Philosophy."
2 Diss., I., “Bentham ” (1838), p. 391. 3 Cf. Burke, Sublime and Beaut., Introduction (1756). 4 Uns. Questions, p. 120; cf. above (Ad. Sm. on Philosophy), p. 149. 1 E.g., Mrs. Marcet, Conversations on Pol. Econ., 1817, pp. 17, 18.
We see that the final definition involves the conception of a particular Method of studying the science; and of this Mill is aware. Definition (he says, p. 141) must always be closely connected with Method. “Political Economy considers mankind as occupied solely in acquiring and consuming wealth,” not that economists suppose that mankind are really thus constituted, “but because this is the mode in which science must necessarily proceed” (Uns. Quest., pp. 138, 139). There are certain departments of human life in which the gaining of wealth is the main and acknowledged pursuit of men, and Political Economy investigates this pursuit by itself, in abstraction from all other pursuits, proceeding à priori and getting results that are true in the abstract, and therefore “ true in the concrete with proper allowances.” The amount of these allowances (the modifications due to competing motives and disturbing causes) constitutes “the only uncertainty of Political Economy” (Uns. Quest., 138-150). In other words the concrete part of Mill's book on Political Economy is the only uncertain part of it.
The definition up to this point was anticipated by the German economist, L. H. Jacob, the contemporary of James Mill. See Roscher, Nat. Oekon. in Deutschland, p. 688. For a good discussion of present views of Definition and Method, see J. N. Keynes, Scope and Method of Pol. Econ. (1891).