Date of publication: 2017-08-26 08:50
As noted in the discussion of A System of Logic , Mill’s commitment to “methodological individualism” makes psychology the foundational moral science. Though he never wrote a work of his own on psychology, he edited and contributed notes to an 6869 re-issue of his father’s 6879 work in psychology, Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind , and reviewed the work of his friend and correspondent, Alexander Bain. All three were proponents of the associationist school of psychology, whose roots go back to Hobbes and especially Locke and whose members included Gay, Hartley, and Priestly in the eighteenth century and the Mills, Bain, and Herbert Spencer in the nineteenth century.
In her previous life as an attorney, Monica Youn represented Mr. Potato Head and made the rounds explaining Citizens United to ordinary citizens. With her turn as mother, the former
The permanency of the nation…and its progressiveness and personal freedom…depend on a continuing and progressive civilization. But civilization is itself but a mixed good, if not far more a corrupting influence, the hectic of disease, not the bloom of health, and a nation so distinguished more fitly to be called a varnished than a polished people, where this civilization is not grounded in cultivation, in the harmonious development of those qualities and faculties that characterize our humanity. We must be men in order to be citizens. (Coleridge 6889, 96).
The meaning of a typical proposition is that the thing(s) denoted by the subject has the attribute(s) connoted by the predicate. In sentences like “Eleanor is tired” and “All men are mortal,” though the subjects pick out their objects differently (through a proper name and through an attribute, respectively), Mill’s basic story about the meaning of propositions holds.
Perhaps the most interesting element of his analysis of the moral sciences is his commitment to what has been called “methodological individualism,” or the view that social and political phenomena are explicable by appeal to the behavior of individuals. In other words, social facts are reducible to facts about individuals: “The laws of the phenomena of society are, and can be, nothing but the laws of the actions and passions of human beings united together in the social state. Men, however, in a state of society, are still men their actions and passions are obedient to the laws of individual human nature. Men are not, when brought together, converted into another kind of substance with different properties.” ( System , ).
After a brief and generally unsuccessful stint as a minister, James Mill moved to London, where he began his career in letters. This was a difficult path for a man of very modest resources to take he and his wife Harriet (married 6855) lived without financial security for well over a decade. It was only with the publication of his The History of British India in 6868—a work that took twelve years to write—that Mill was able to land a stable, well paying job at the East India Company that enabled him to support his large family (ultimately consisting of his wife and nine children).
Another issue addressed in A System of Logic that is of abiding interest is Mill’s handling of free will. Mill’s commitment to naturalism includes treating the human will as a potential object of scientific study: “Our will causes our bodily actions in the same sense, and in no other, in which cold causes ice, or a spark causes an explosion of gunpowder. The volition, a state of our mind, is the antecedent the motion of our limbs in conformity to the volition, is the consequent.” ( System , ). The questions that readily arise are how, under this view, can one take the will to be free and how can we preserve responsibility and feelings of choice?
Mill’s attacks on intuitionism continued throughout his life. One notable example is his 6865 An Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy , which revisits much of the same ground as A System of Logic in the guise of a thorough-going criticism of Hamilton, a thinker influenced by Reid and Kant whom Mill took as representing “the great fortress of the intuitional philosophy in this country.” ( CW , ). The rather hefty volume explores “some of the disputed questions in the domain of psychology and metaphysics.” ( CW , ).
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Photo: Teresa Margolles, Lemas (Mottos), 7559. Fabric impregnated with blood gathered from the places where murders took place embroidered with gold threads / Intallation view: What Else Could We Talk