Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

its validity to be verified.'1 Mr. Mill, although he refuses to recognise deduction as a fundamental process, gives it a high place, holding that several sciences have hitherto made but little progress, because they have used induction in place of deduction.

In short, reason, in its lowest degree, is, properly speaking, nothing but an association of ideas; for we cannot see anything else in the inference from the particular to the particular. It is because the ideas of a lighted candle, a burnt finger, and pain, are associated with one another, that later on one recalls the other. True reasoning is produced only when we seize, in place of fortuitous successions, constant and unconditional successions, that is to say, relations of causality.*

VII.

Mr. John Stuart Mill has repeatedly and extensively treated the question of liberty. Is he a fatalist? Is he a partisan of free-will ? He is neither one nor the other. He believes that the question is wrongly put, and the same opinion is professed, though in different terms, by the whole of the school w ch we are now considering.

The partisan of necessity says : Volition is an effect; like every effect, it has its cause—motives are this cause. Who can doubt

4

1 Logic, book ii. chap. iii.

2 Ibid. ch. vi. 8 Leibnitz called the inference from the particular to the particular an empirical consecution. As, for example, that of a Dutchman who goes into a tavern in Asia, and expects to be served with Dutch beer.—De Anima Brutorum, vol. ii.

Upon the general character of Mill's logic, and its relations to the theories of Hobbes and Hume, see Ravaisson, op. cit., p. 63. Reason, he says, does not consist in Mr. Mill's drawing one thing from another thing, but simply in recalling how near to one thing another thing approaches, otherwise said to reproduce in a different order that which has been the result of observation and induction. Induction itself, in which all reason is resolved, consists but in mechanically adding to the succession of facts which experience offers, similar successions. It is an instinctive operation, by which we pass from one particular fact to another particular fact, without which there fails to be any kind of reasoning.

6 Logic, book vi. chap. ii. An Examination, etc., chap. xxv.

that, if we thoroughly knew the character of an individual, and all the circumstances which act upon it, we could predict the resolutions of that individual with certainty? The partisan of liberty says : In the first place I have on my side the intimate sentiment of my free-will; and then my projects, my plans, even the most ordinary actions of my life show me that I am not the slave of necessity, that I do not act like an automaton, but that I participate.

These two doctrines are partly wrong and partly right. The confusion and disagreement arise from an erroneous theory of causality, which considers the relation of cause to effect as necessary, which imagines a mysterious constraint exercised by the antecedent upon the consequent, which could not exist, in fact, without destroying free will.

“We are certain that, in the case of our volitions, there is not this mysterious constraint. We know that we are not compelled, as by a magical spell, to obey any particular motive. We feel that if we wished to prove that we have the power of resisting the motive we could do so (that wish being, it need scarcely be observed, a new antecedent), and it would be humiliating to our pride, and paralysing to our desire of excellence, if we thought otherwise. But neither is any such mysterious compulsion now supposed by the best philosophical authorities to be exercised by any cause over its effects. Those who think that causes draw their effects after them by a mystical tie, are right in believing that the relations between volitions and their antecedents is of another nature.'1

The error of the necessitarians consists in understanding by the necessity which they recognise in our actions, anything more than a simple uniformity of succession which permits them to be foreseen : they have, at bottom, the idea that there is a much stricter bond between volitions and their causes.2

The error depends almost solely upon the associations suggested by the word necessity, and it would be avoided by abstaining from the use of a term so completely inappropriate to express the simple fact of causality. This word, in fact, implies

* Mill's Logic, vol. ii. p. 411, 4th edition.

2 Ibid. vol. ii. p. 420. 1 Mill's Logu, vol. ii. p. 413, 4th edition. ? Ibid. vol. ii. p. 416, 4th edition. 3 An Examination, etc., chap. xxv. p. 564.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

much more than a simple uniformity of succession; it implies irresistibility. If it may be applied to the natural agents which are, for the most part, irresistible, we can see how far its application to the springs of human action is inexact.

“There are physical sequences which we call necessary, as death for want of food or air ; there are others which are not said to be necessary, as death from poison, which an antidote, or the use of the stomach-pump, will sometimes avert.'?

Human actions are in this category. In short, the question never can be understood until the improper term necessity shall have been suppressed.

"The free-will doctrine, by keeping in view precisely that portion of truth which the word necessity puts out of sight, namely, the power of the mind to co-operate in the formation of its own character, has given to its adherents a practical feeling much nearer to the truth than has generally, I believe, existed in the minds of necessarians. 3

Mr. Mill lays no great stress upon the proof of our free-will so frequently drawn from consciousness. To have consciousness of our free-will, he says, can only signify one thing: that I have consciousness, before I decide, that I can decide in one sense or the other.

But the use of the word consciousness, thus applied, may be criticised in limine. Consciousness tells me that which I feel, or, do, but it does not tell me that which I may do. Consciousness has not the gift of prophecy. We have consciousness of that which is, not of that which shall or may be.

But this conviction that we are free, whether it be consciousness or belief, what is it? It consists, I am told, in this, that although I decide, I feel that I might have decided in another way. Take, for example, the alternative of assassinating or not assassinating. I am told that if I decide on assassinating, I have the consciousness that I should have been able to abstain from doing so. But have I the consciousness that I should have been able to abstain, if my aversion to the crime and my fear of its consequences had been weaker than my temptation? If I chose to abstain, in what case have I the consciousness that I should have been able to choose to commit the crime? In the case that my desire to assassinate should have been stronger than my horror of murder. When, by an hypothesis, we represent ourselves to ourselves as having acted otherwise than we have acted, we always suppose a difference in the antecedents of the action.

Should it be objected, that in resisting I have the consciousness of making an effort, and that if the temptation lasts long I am as sensibly exhausted by it as I should be after physical exercise ? To this Mr. Mill replies: that the battle between contending motives is not decided in a moment; that their conflict may last a long time, and that when the strife takes place between violent sentiments, it exhausts nervous force to an extraordinary degree. Now, that consciousness of effort, of which we are told, is the consciousness of this state of conflict. The conflict is not between me and a strange power which beats me, or which I beat; it is between me and myself, between the self which desires a certain thing, for instance, and the self which fears remorse. The feeling of effort (a very inappropriate word to be used here) is the result of the battle: it comes from the conquered as well as from the conquerors.

The will cannot be touched without arousing the objection of moral responsibility, which, it is said, cannot exist without it. Mr. Stuart Mill has discussed it.

Suppose that there were two peculiar breeds of human beings, one of them so constituted from the beginning, that, however educated or treated, nothing could prevent them from always feeling and acting so as to be a blessing to all whom they approached ; another of such original perversity of nature that neither education nor punishment could inspire them with a feeling of duty, or prevent them from being active in evil-doing. Neither of these races of human beings would have free-will, yet the former would be honoured as demigods, while the latter would be regarded and treated as noxious beasts . . . kept carefully at a distance, and killed like other dangerous creatures,

when there was no other convenient way of being rid of them.1

We see, therefore, that if the doctrine of necessity be pushed to its most complete exaggeration, the distinction between moral good and evil must nevertheless subsist.

“We thus see that even under the utmost possible exaggeration of the doctrine of Necessity, the distinction between moral good and evil in conduct would not only subsist, but would stand out in a more marked manner than ever, when the good and the wicked, however unlike, are still regarded as of one common nature.'? And that he who has contrary tendencies is a natural and legitimate object of aversion ; and this, whether each enjoys liberty or not.

Mr. Mill's doctrine, as we see, is, that even putting things at the worst, absolute fatalism would not suppress responsibility, that is to say, punishment. We should be born good or evil, as we are born handsome or ugly, foolish or clever; but then we should compassionate crime as we pity ugliness, we should reprove it as we reprove folly, or should shut it up as we shut up madness. Let us remember that Mr. Mill is not a fatalist.4

The question deemed to be so puzzling is, how punishment can be justified, if men's actions are determined by motives, among which motives punishment is one. A more difficult question would be, how it can be justified if they are not so determined. Punishment proceeds on the assumption that the will is governed by motives. If punishment had no power of acting on the will, it would be illegitimate, however natural might be the inclination to inflict it. Just so far as the will is supposed free, that is, capable of acting against motives, punishment is disappointed of its object, and deprived of its justification."

To conclude on this point, Mr. Mill distinguishes, relatively to

2 Ibid.

8

1 Mill's Examination of Hamilton's Philosophy, p. 509.

Responsibility means punishment, p. 570, loc. cit. On this subject, see Letter 25 of Opera Posthuma of Spinoza, addressed to H. Oldenburg.

4 Page 576. 5 Mill's Hamilton's Philosophy, p. 510.

« НазадПродовжити »