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When he wrote the Unsettled Questions Mill was of opinion that this à priori method was the only right method of inquiry in Social Science generally as well as the Economical branch of it. Comte convinced him of his mistake, and in the Logic (which was completed at a time when he was in active correspondence with Comte") he describes the method of Social Science in its other branches as the Concrete Deductive Method. It is not the Experimental or Chemical, which relies on specific experience ;? we cannot reason, for example, from the facts that are true of a nation at one period of its history to the facts true of it now, and we have no power to make experiments. No two events in history are ever the
Nor can we, except in Political Economy, use the Geometrical method of reasoning from one assumption (or at most a very few assumptions), as Bentham did when he assumed that the majority of men will be governed by their personal interests. “ It is unphilosophical to construct a science out of a few of the agencies by which the phenomena are determined and leave the rest to the routine of practice or the sagacity of conjecture.” We must treat Social Science as dealing with a complicated case of the Composition of Causes, and consider not a few but all of the causes at work, as is done in Astronomy and Physiology. The difficulties, however, of this complicated phenomenon, Society, are so great that, when we have first deduced our conclusions from our knowledge of human nature, we need to verify them by specific experience. It may even happen conversely that the specific experience first suggests a generalization and then we verify it by our knowledge of human nature, following an Inverse Deductive Method. Comte thought that this inverse method was the only one admissible in social science; social science was to generalize from history and then verify the generalizations by the laws of human nature. But there is scope also, Mill thinks, for direct deduction.3 “ Different species of social facts are in the main dependent immediately and in the first resort on different kinds of causes, and therefore not only may with advantage, but must be studied apart," just as there is a physiological and a pathological study of the separate organs, although every organ is affected by every other. So Political Economy, by reasoning from " the familiar psychological law that a greater gain is preferred to a smaller one,” and from the outward circumstances of societies in relation to that law, can explain the one particular class of social phenomena. From this position Mill did not afterwards depart. He hints that he would have recognised the same deductive method in other cases could he have seen the possibility of a similarly fruitful abstraction. The theory of population we have seen to be an instance of the kind, but Mill (not quite logically) incorporates it with political economy itself " for the sake of practical utility” (Uns. Quest., p. 140). The antagonistic principles to the desire of wealth, namely, aversion to labour and desire of present indulgences are incorporated also, on the ground that they are "inseparably mixed up with” the desire of wealth (ib,
1 See Lettres d'Aug. Comte à J. S. Mill, 1841-46 (Leroux, 1877).
2 He was thinking amongst other things of Macaulay's criticism of the Essay on Government.
3 “All true political science is in one sense of the phrase à priori.” -Inaug. Address, St. Andrews, 1867, p. 51.
In reality, therefore, Mill's Political Economy is an inquiry into the operation not of one desire, but of four distinct desires, and it might be doubted whether its method would not be more truly described as concrete deductive than geometrical. The four would be included if we abridged and amended the final definition and made it read as follows: “The science which traces the laws of such of the phenomena of society as arise from the combined operations of mankind in the production, consumption and distribution of wealth.” Mill himself (though he is not perfectly consistent, see, e.g., Uns. Quest., p. 138) excludes Consumption as having no laws distinct from those of human enjoyment, generally (ib., p. 132) and in his final definition he does not mention Distribution, perhaps for the reason given in the Political Economy, that its laws are not determined by fixed conditions of nature and human nature, but are wholly of human institution (Pol. Econ., Prelim. Remarks, and bk. II., ch. i.). His account
1 Comte rejected both Psychology and Political Economy; but in his he was not followed by all his disciples.
of Production includes Malthus' doctrine of Population, under the title of the “law of the increase of labour"; and, as he does not profess to confine himself to abstract political economy, he has no difficulty in treating of all the four motives under one head or another, the desire of wealth being the main abstraction, and the others the first of the modifying concurrent causes.
We might suppose the order to be as follows : After considering by themselves the effects of the desire of wealth, we combine with them the effects of the desire of marriage, when the latter have first been considered by themselves in their abstractness. We then combine with these two the effects of the desire to avoid labour and the desire of present indulgences. Last of all we combine our results with the results of the other ordinary motives of everyday life, thus coming gradually down from abstractness to concrete facts.
The desire of wealth, though the reasoning from it is à priori, is not itself of course regarded as so purely à priori that it is not itself derived by induction from experience. To Mill nothing is purely à priori. Even the Uniformity of Nature, the ground of all induction, is considered (Logic, bk. III., ch. iii.) as itself an induction. The axioms of geometry are inductions; and deductions are made from them on the hypothesis (which, like the economical, is never quite true) that the points, lines and angles are in nature what they are said to be in the definitions (Logic, bk. II., chaps. v., vi.). The only ultimate unexplainable facts are certain psychological phenomena, such as belief in the truthfulness of Memory and the recognition that Pleasure is a good. The relation of the derivative desire of wealth to its simpler elements was touched on by James Mill among the “ remote causes of our pleasures and pains” (Analysis, ch. xxi., p. 207 seq. ; vol. ii. of ed. 1869). John Mill touches it even more slightly. We gather (from Uns. Quest., p. 132) that he regarded it “ simply as a form of human enjoyment,” and its meaning as too obvious to need explanation. In the
1 Memory: see Exam. of Hamilton (1865) p. 209 n. of ed. 1872. Pleasure: Utilitarianism, p. 6, “admitted to be good without proof.” Social Feeling : Utilitarianism, pp. 43, 45.
Political Economy, after saying that “every one has a notion sufficiently correct for common purposes of what is meant by wealth” (Pol. Econ., ist ed., p. 2), he offers the usual caution against the notion of wealth favoured by Mercantile theorists, and then gives a description which is wider than theirs, but not wide enough : Wealth is "everything which serves any human purpose and which nature does not afford gratuitously. Things for which nothing could be obtained in exchange, however useful or necessary they may be, are not wealth in the sense in which the term is used in Political Economy” (ib., p. 8). This limitation is in the spirit of Ricardo and MacCulloch ; but it is open to the objection that it really reduces wealth to value and makes it hard to understand why common language, and even the language of Ricardian economists, distinguished the two at all.
According to Mill's own account of the matter (Pol. Econ., III. 1) exchange is no “fundamental law of the distribution of produce" but only “part of the machinery for effecting it." Why then should Mill, who recognises no value except value in exchange, adopt a definition of wealth which makes it a sum of things valuable ?
The truth seems to be that he was (or thought himself to be) precluded from devoting special attention to things valuable in use by the terms of his definition of economical science, for that definition represents Political Economy as relating not directly to individuals but only to societies of men. But no one knew better than Mill that in order to know a society we must know individual men ; and he could not have shown reason for refusing to trace the workings of " familiar psychological laws" in the case of the economical unit. To the philosophy of history, he considers psychology an indispensable preliminary, understanding by psychology not introspection but the study of sequences in the world of mental phenomena ; and he allows that political economy assumes all the laws of other sciences that are the necessary conditions of its matter. He grants too that value in use, or the value which people put upon a thing, is the condition and also the “extreme limit ” of value in exchange. But he
1 Pol. Econ., III. I., § 2 ; cf. II., § 1.
omits to notice that it is not every means of gratifying inclinations which the individual counts valuable in use, that in one sense even value in use (as distinguished from mere usefulness) is a scarcity-value, and that the psychological causes which lead the individual to value or not to value particular possessions quite apart from the power of exchanging them, are important links in the whole chain of an economical system.
When this was observed by Jevons and others twenty years or so after the publication of Mill's Principles of Political Economy, a fresh impulse was given to the study of deductive economics. A doctrine of Consumption became an essential part of the whole ; and it was no longer possible to suppose that all exact political economy depended on the assumption of free competition in exchanges.
To Mill wealth consists in "utilities fixed and embodied in material objects "2—just as in his philosophy material objects themselves are permanent possibilities of sensation." He gives us no special account of utility as an economical phenomenon, or of value in relation to it. Outside of political economy, he has given us his view of the gradations of human wants. Although economically he treats all pleasures as alike, this is far from being his view in ethics. His Utilitarianism, as distinguished from that of Bentham and James Mill
, recognises a difference in quality between pleasures. The pleasures arising in connection with the higher or distinctively human faculties are “more desirable " than the merely animal pleasures ; and we know that they are so because those that have tried both tell us so (cf. Diss. and Disc., I. 158; Utilitarianism, p. 12, cf. 15). This is the proof used by Plato (Republic, IX., SS 582 seq.*) when he decides that the philosopher's pleasure is the pleasantest of all. Mill goes on to say that the higher pleasures give greater
1 See Harvard Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oct., 1888, April, 1889.
2 Pol. Econ., I. 11., “Of Unproductive Labour.” Compare Uns. Quest., p. 82: “The wealth of a country consists of the sum total of the permanent sources of enjoyment, whether material or immaterial, contained in it.”
3 Exam. of Hamilton, p. 225, etc.