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MR. JOHN STUART MILL.
MR. JOHN STUART Mill is well known in France. His reputation as an economist ; his works on politics and social questions ; his various translations; an analysis of his Logic, which the author M. Taine in his Etude sur Stuart Mill pronounces 'masterly ;' the attacks of his numerous adversaries ;—all these have contributed to spread abroad his fame. No name has been more frequently quoted among us in contemporary polemics. Unfortunately for philosophy, many of those who have spoken of him, seem to have known him only vaguely and at secondhand. They have contented themselves, in general, with making him out to be an adherent of Auguste Comte, and classing him among the positivists, which is merely a quick and ready mode of judging a cause without hearing it.
The word positivism, which is so frequently used in these days, is a very vague term, with an apparent precision about it; it is applied to ways of philosophizing which are in reality quite different, and it confounds with the pure disciples of Comte men who have more than once insisted upon their independence of thought.
Strictly speaking, there, ought to be only one positivism, that of Auguste Comte, as there can be only one true Cartesianism, that of Descartes, or one true Kantism, that of Kant. But, since the doctrine of Comte, taken in its totality, is, as every one knows, rather incoherent, since his religion and his politics have done nothing but furnish arms to his opponents, and grieve his admirers, it is easily to be understood that another positivism than his has been formed. This positivism, which may be called orthodox, eliminating the subjective portion of the founder's work, restricts itself to some rigorously fixed fundamental principles,
which it declares invariable; such as the suppression of all researches beyond phenomena; the law of the three conditions, theological, metaphysical, positive; the division of the sciences into concrete and abstract; and the hierarchical classification of the abstract sciences according to their order of increasing complexity and decreasing generality, thus, mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, sociology. Any one who does not admit these principles, with all that logically flows from them, is rejected by the School.
Mr. Mill is of the number. If he admits the law of the three states (Comte and Positivism, p. 33); if he eliminates all transcendental researches, it is because he holds that the positive mode of thinking is not necessarily a negation of the supernatural.' He thus restores to sentiment or to individual faith that which he cuts off from science. On questions of origin, he says, the philosopher is free to form any opinion he pleases ; this is not one of the points on which agreement is necessary, “but it is a mistake on the part of M. Comte to leave no open questions.' As for the classification of the sciences, a capital point with this school, Mr. Mill, while doing justice to Auguste Comte, reproaches him for his omission of psychology and all belonging to it, logic, the theory of the criterion, etc., for his disdain of political economy,-in short, he declares that he has failed in his most ambitious work, "saying
that he has not created sociology' (ibid. pp. 70 and 130), which in the absence of a psychology could not but be imperfect. We have 'nothing to do with this discussion. But does it not seem strange that Mr. Mill, while differing so materially from them, should be classed by public opinion, at least in France, among the positivists? Whence arises this confusion ? We account for it thus.
A general tendency, a method of investigation, a mode of thought which may be described as scientific, and even empirical, is common to many of the fine intellects of the seventeenth century. It consists in circumscribing as closely as possible the domain of hypothesis, and of admitting as an object of science only that which may be observed as a fact, or formulated as a law, and verified. This mode of thought, the work of several generations of philosophers and savants, and among whose promoters Mr. Mill names Bacon, Descartes, Newton, Hume, Kant, Bentham, and even Hamilton, existed before positivism, and is not in any respect the creation of Auguste Comte.
The foundation of. M. Comte's philosophy is in no way peculiar to him, but the general property of the age, and far as yet from being universally accepted, even by thoughtful minds. The philosophy called Positive is not a recent invention of M. Comte, but a simple adherence to the traditions of all the great scientific minds whose discoveries have made the human race what it is. M. Comte has never presented it in any other light. But he has made the doctrine his own by his method of treat
Positivism is, then, a form of the modern scientific spirit, but it is only a particular form of it, it is only a wave of the great current, it is one species in the genus. Everything which the scientific mind supposes, exists in positivism, but with something more,—these are the fundamental principles which constitute the credo of the school. Between the positive mind, and positivism, we, for our part, discern as much difference as between the philosophic mind, and philosophy, that is to say, between that which remains and that which passes away. But as positivism is very categorical in its negations, very decided in its dogmas, very clear in its formulas, it is more imposing than the less affirmative method of the purely scientific mind. Thence the general confusion which so often makes of a savant or a philosopher a positivist in spite of himself.
On the contrary, that which constitutes, in our opinion, one of the principal merits of Mr. Mill, is liberty of investigation, without which there is no philosophical spirit; the taste for polemics and discussion which makes him rank so high the dialectics of a great idealist-Plato—which he values above all as a method of research; the largeness of mind which accepts all objections, the philosophical good faith with which he plainly declares what is, in his opinion, the value of each of his solutions, without concealing its incompleteness and insufficiency.
M. Littré objects to Mr. Mill's psychological and logical point of view, as opposed to the objective point of view of the positive school. He also objects to his definition of philosophy as the science of man as an intelligent, moral, and social being. To us, who have only to treat of the psychologist, this is a good augury. Continuing the tradition of James Mill and of Brown, but adding to them the results of half a century of progress, he recognises them for his masters, and not Comte, from whom he has been supposed, by a retrospective illusion, to derive his inspiration. He says, in his Examination of Hamilton's Philosophy (ch. xiv. p. 266, note 2), “More than half of my System of Logic, comprehending all its fundamental doctrines, was written before I had seen the course of Positive Philosophy. My work is indebted to Comte for several important ideas, but a short list would exhaust the chapters and even the pages which contain them. As to the general doctrine (that which eliminates first or final causes), it was familiar to me in my childhood, thanks to the teaching of my father, who had learned it where M. Comte learned it, that is to say, in the method of the physical sciences, and the writings of former philosophers. Since Hume, this doctrine has been the common property of the philosophic world. Since Brown, it has entered into popular philosophy.'
i Mill's Auguste Comte and Positivism.
A declared partisan of the psychology of association, Mr. Mill has not explained his doctrine under a systematic form, like James Mill, Herbert Spencer, or Mr. Bain. Let us now try to collect the doctrines scattered through the Logic, Hamilton's Philosophy, and the Dissertations, and to explain them under these three titles : Method in Psychology, Psychology strictly so called, the psychological theory of Mind and Matter.
OF METHOD IN PSYCHOLOGY.
Of Method in Psychology.-1. The aim of psychology—2. Method of psy.
chology: positivists, metaphysicians, and associationalists—3. The science of character, or Ethology.
In every science method is of capital importance; it is all the more so in proportion as the science is less advanced, and more
hesitating in its march. This is the case with psychology, and it is not rash to say that the insufficiency of its progress has been the inevitable result of the method generally employed. Mr. Stuart Mill, who justly calls attention to the little advance made in the method of the moral and social sciences, has resolutely attacked that of psychology; he returns to the charge several times, and he makes his thoughts on this point perfectly clear.
* Psychology,' he says, “has for its aim the uniformities of succession ; the laws, whether primitive or derivative, according to which one mental condition succeeds another, is the cause of another, or at least the cause of the coming of another.'
It is a common opinion that the thoughts, sentiments, and actions of sensible beings cannot be the object of a science, in the same sense as the beings and phenomena of the exterior world. That opinion rests upon a confusion ; all science is confounded with exact science. But we may conceive an intermediate case between the perfection of the science and its extreme imperfection. For example, a phenomenon may result from two sorts of causes,—from major causes accessible to observation or to calculation ;—from minor, secondary causes, which are not constantly accessible to exact observation, or even which are not so at all. In such a case, we may account for the principal part of the phenomenon, but there will be variations and modifications which we cannot completely explain.
This occurs in the theory of the tides. There are the major causes, the attraction of the sun and of the moon,--all that depend on that attraction may be explained and predicted for any portion whatever, even an unexplored portion, of the earth's surface. But there are also secondary causes,—the direction of the wind, local circumstances, the configuration of the bottom of the ocean, etc., —which have a great influence on the height and the hour of the tide, and which, in most cases, cannot be calculated or predicted. Nevertheless, not only is it certain that these variations have causes which act in accordance with perfectly uniform laws,—not only is the theory of the tides, therefore, a science like meteorology, but it is more practically useful. For the
I See Logic, vol. ii. book 6, and Dissertations and Discussions, vol. iii. p. 97.