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John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXXI - Miscellaneous Writings [1827]

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John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXXI - Miscellaneous Writings, ed. John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1989).

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About this Title:

Vol. 31 of the 33 vol. Collected Works contains Mill’s writings on botany and reviews of medical books. It also contains his edition of Bentham’s Rationale of Judicial Evidence and his father’s Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind.

Copyright information:

The online edition of the Collected Works is published under licence from the copyright holder, The University of Toronto Press. ©2006 The University of Toronto Press. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form or medium without the permission of The University of Toronto Press.

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This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.

Table of Contents:

Edition: current; Page: [i]
volume xxxi
Edition: current; Page: [ii]

The Collected Edition of the Works of John Stuart Mill has been planned and is being directed by an editorial committee appointed from the Faculty of Arts and Science of the University of Toronto, and from the University of Toronto Press. The primary aim of the edition is to present fully collated texts of those works which exist in a number of versions, both printed and manuscript, and to provide accurate texts of works previously unpublished or which have become relatively inaccessible.

Editorial Committee

john m. robson, General Editor

harald bohne, j.c. cairns, j.b. conacher,

d.p. dryer, marion filipiuk, francess halpenny,

samuel hollander, r.f. mcrae, ian montagnes,

ann p. robson, f.e. sparshott

Edition: current; Page: [iii]
Miscellaneous Writings
Edited by JOHN M. ROBSON University Professor and Professor of English, Victoria College, University of Toronto
Edition: current; Page: [iv]

© University of Toronto Press 1989

Toronto and Buffalo

Printed in Canada

ISBN 0-8020-2728-8

London Routledge

ISBN 0-415-04879-6


Printed on acid-free paper

Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data

Mill, John Stuart, 1806-1873.

Collected works of John Stuart Mill

Edited by John M. Robson and others

Includes bibliographical references.

Partial contents: v. 31. Miscellaneous writings /

edited by John M. Robson.

ISBN 0-8020-2728-8 (v. 31)

1. Philosophy. 2. Political science. 3. Economics

I. Robson, John M., 1927- II. Title.

B1602.A2 1963 192 C64-000188-2 rev

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

Mill, John Stuart, 1806-1873

Miscellaneous writings. -

(Collected works of John Stuart Mill; V. 31)

I. Title. II. Robson, J.M. (John Mercel), 1927- 828′.708

ISBN 0-415-04879-6

This volume has been published with the assistance of a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

Edition: current; Page: [v]


  • introduction, by John M. Robson vi
  • Editions of Jeremy Bentham and James Mill, 1827 and 1869
    • Jeremy Bentham’s Rationale of Judicial Evidence (1827) 3
    • James Mill’s Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind (1869) 93
  • Botanical Writings, 1840-61
    • Calendar of Odours (1840) 257
    • Rare Plants in West Surrey (1841) 258
    • Isatis Tinctoria (1841) 258
    • Notes on Plants Growing in the Neighbourhood of Guildford, Surrey (1841) 258
    • Cnicus Forsteri (1841) 260
    • Additional Guildford Stations (1841) 261
    • Polygonum Dumetorum (1841) 261
    • Rarer Plants of the Isle of Wight (1841) 262
    • Corrections and Additions in Mr. Mill’s List of Plants in the Isle of Wight (1842) 263
    • The Phytologist; a Botanical Magazine (1843) 263
    • Notes on the Species of Oenanthe (1845) 265
    • Correction of an Error in the “Notes on the Species of Oenanthe” (1845) 266
    • Observations on Isatis Tinctoria and Other Plants (1856) 266
    • Plants Growing Wild in the District of Luxford’s Reigate Flora (1856) 268
    • Note on West Surrey Plants (1856) 274
    • Reigate Plants (1856) 274
    • Plants Growing on and near Blackheath (1857) 276
    • Late (Early?) Flowering Plants (1858) 276
    • Hutchinsia Petraea (1858) 278 Edition: current; Page: [vi]
    • Leucojum Aestivum (1858) 278
    • Clifton Plants (1858) 279
    • Plants on Sherborn Sands, Blackheath, and Other Stations (1858) 279
    • Some Derbyshire Plants (1858) 280
    • Linaria Purpurea (1858) 281
    • Faversham Plants (1858) 282
    • Lepidium Ruderale (1859) 282
    • Wallflower Growing on the Living Rock (1860) 283
    • Spring Flowers of the South of Europe (1860) 283
    • Botany of Spain (1861-62) 289
    • Verbascum Thapsiforme (1862) 320
  • Medical Reviews, 1834 and 1842
    • Dr. King’s Lecture on Anatomy (1834) 323
    • Carpenter’s Physiology (1842) 323
  • appendices
    • Appendix A. Wills and Deed of Gift (1853-72) 327
    • Appendix B. The Vixen, and Circassia (1837) 345
    • Appendix C. The Spanish Question (1837) 359
    • Appendix D. Questions before the Select Committee on Metropolitan Local Government (1867) 389
    • Appendix E. Mill at the Political Economy Club 407
    • Appendix F. Textual Emendations 411
    • Appendix G. Index of Persons and Works 414
  • index 457
Edition: current; Page: [vii]


the range of volume titles in the Collected Works might suggest that “miscellaneous” is redundant in Mill’s case; however, given that the current laws of the political economy of publishing rule out very slender volumes, his breadth of interest has defeated our taxonomical abilities. The label must nevertheless not be seen as denigrating; collectively these materials contribute substantially to a full understanding of Mill’s life and thought, and many have independent value. The following comments are designed to make that statement plausible to any sceptics who may have strayed into these underpopulated Millian territories, although full mapping of them remains a task for cartographers as yet unsighted.


Rationale of Judicial Evidence

mill’s first major work was as an editor, and it is a credit to his capacity and temper that he was able to describe it in his Autobiography with such equanimity:

About the end of 1824, or beginning of 1825, Mr. Bentham, having lately got back his papers on Evidence from M. Dumont (whose Traité des Preuves Judiciaires, grounded on them, was then first completed and published), resolved to have them printed in the original, and bethought himself of me as capable of preparing them for the press; in the same manner as his Book of Fallacies had been recently edited by Bingham I gladly1 undertook this task, and it occupied nearly all my leisure for about a year, exclusive of the time afterwards spent in seeing the five large volumes through the press. Mr. Bentham had begun this treatise three times, at considerable intervals, each time in a different manner, and each time without reference to the preceding, two of the three times he had gone over nearly the whole subject.2

Edition: current; Page: [viii]

Bentham’s project in fact dated back to the early 1800s, as Mill indicates in his Preface of 1827: “The papers, from which the work now submitted to the public has been extracted, were written by Mr. Bentham at various times, from the year 1802 to 1812.”3 There had been several attempts to shape manuscript into book before Etienne Dumont, who had already laboured mightily in the vineyard to squeeze out the 1802 vintage Bentham (Traités de législation civile et pénale), succeeded in 1823 with his French redaction, Traité des preuves judiciaires. In 1809, when Dumont had just commenced the work that took some fifteen years to complete, Bentham described the early states of the manuscripts to him, partly explaining in the process why Dumont was to take so long:

In reading the old stuff of Years 1803 and 1804 (1804 was part of the way a 2d edition [i.e., version] of 1803) it would be an act of charity or of justice (place it to which account you please) if you would hold a pencil in your hand and mark by cancelling lines such passages as are clearly superseded by the edition of 1808, as on the opposite page.—[Bentham illustrated on a page of this letter.]

still more if with pencil or better still if with pen you would, in such parts as may appear not superseded, make a memorandum indicative of the places in which they may with most propriety be respectively inserted: for example in such a Chapter: or between such and such a Chapter. viz in the edition of 1808 which contains 14 or 15 Chapters.

If in this way you amend the French, it will be ingratitude in you to grudge doing the same service to the English.4

Not only Dumont was acting as a legal aide to Bentham. In the same letter Bentham says that “the whole of Book Circumstantial” in the version of 1808 had been “marginal-contented” by Herbert Koe, then his amanuensis.5 The pattern is similar to that he adopted in most of his publications, which appeared as edited by disciples, so that, in Sydney Smith’s words, Bentham was Bentham to the civilized world “after that eminent philosopher has been washed, trimmed, shaved and forced into clean linen.”6

Never one to underestimate, Bentham looked for someone to take on “the coal-heavers work of revising, expunging various Sections and polishing,” or, as he alternatively phrased it, “revision, with confrontation of the parts, that there may be no repetitions or inconsistencies, or gaps.”7 And even these editorial Edition: current; Page: [ix] labours take one only up to the press, not through it, as Dumont had earlier pointed out to Bentham: “Yet what a life—what a galley-slave life is an editor’s Correct as he may, faults will remain to tear his soul in pieces—an & is wanting—a word is omitted—a letter misplaced—stops in confusion. Truly a corrector of the press is a galley-slave!”8

In addition to Koe, James Mill, newly acquainted with Bentham and dependent on free-lance writing and editing, was enlisted as coal-heaver and galley-slave on the masses of “evidence” manuscript. Ever hopeful, Bentham wrote to his brother on 29 September, 1809: “Evidence—the editing it forms [James] Mill’s sole business, and the business of striking out various sections so to fit it for the press goes on prosperously. I hope to see it ready for the press before Christmas—yes considerably before.”9 Mill exerted himself in his usual thorough fashion, giving “a lesson in reading Benthamic copy” to the printer, who became “far less frightened than he formerly was, or pretended to be”; Mill also was putting in hard days at sections such as “Circumstantial,” which left him “not a little non plused, on more occasions than one, whether to take or reject—unwilling to lose, and yet unwilling to overload,” and “Pre-appointed, . . . a remarkably interesting part, [which] is not for that reason a part the sooner to be got through.”10 Letters between Dumont and Bentham are full of badinage as well as hints about how the revisions were made,11 but one letter from James Mill to Bentham best summarizes the labour:

I have this day got to the end of Exclusion. Impossibility then is all that remains: and I am at the end of the principal stage of my labours, viz. my operations upon your text,—i.e. among your various lections, the making choice of one—the completing of an expression, when, in the hurry of penmanship, it had been left incomplete, etc. Editorial notes, of which we have so often talked, are only thus far advanced, that a variety of rudiments are set down, with references to the places of the work where they should be introduced. But it has often happened to me to find, what I had thought might be added as a note in one place, was given admirably by yourself in another place, and a better place. And in truth, having surveyed the whole, the ground appears to me so completely trod, that I can hardly conceive anything wanting. It is not easy, coming after you, to find anything to pick up behind you. My Edition: current; Page: [x] memory, too, is so overmatched by the vast multiplicity of objects which the work involves, that I am afraid to trust myself in any kind of notes, save suggestions of cases, illustration by instances,—lest what I say should be an idea brought forward in some other part of the work. All this, however, is not intended to operate as an apology or pretext for indolence. Notes there shall be written, and very full ones,—whether these notes shall be printed, is another question.12

In October 1811, writing to James Madison, President of the United States, to demonstrate his competence to supply a comprehensive code, Bentham says:

The subject of evidence has been examined in its whole extent and sifted to the bottom. A work of mine on this subject under the title of The Rationale of Evidence enough to occupy two moderate sized quarto volumes, has been for some time in the hands of another friend of mine [i.e., James Mill], and will be in the Printers’ hands in the course of about two months.13

But such was not to be, and James Mill’s mighty efforts appear to have been wasted. In late November Bentham’s attention turned to what became An Introductory View of the Rationale of Evidence for the Use of Non-Lawyers as well as Lawyers, of which 148 pages (about one-third of the whole) were printed by 1812, and the rest was written at that time, but the work was not published until Bowring’s edition in 1843.14

And only in 1823 did a much abbreviated version of the Rationale itself appear in Dumont’s redaction, Traité des preuves judiciaires, which was followed by an anonymous English translation of it. A Treatise on Judicial Evidence, in 1825. The younger Mill, saying nothing of his father’s or anyone else’s shaping hand, indicates that all was still to do when his call came.

[The] three masses of manuscript it was my business to condense into a single treatise: adopting the one last written as the groundwork, and incorporating with it as much of the two others as it had not completely superseded I had also to unroll such of Bentham’s involved and parenthetical sentences, as seemed to overpass by their complexity the measure of15 what readers were likely to take the pains to understand It was further Mr. Bentham’s particular desire that I should, from myself, endeavour to supply any lacunae Edition: current; Page: [xi] which he had left: and at his instance I read for this purpose, the most authoritative treatises on the English Law of Evidence, and commented on a few of the objectionable points of the English rules,16 which had escaped Bentham’s notice. I also replied to the objections which had been made to some of his doctrines, by reviewers of Dumont’s book, and added a few supplementary remarks on some of the more abstract parts of the subject, such as the theory of improbability and impossibility. The controversial part of these editorial additions was written in a more assuming tone, than became17 one so young and inexperienced as I was but indeed I had never contemplated coming forward in my own person, and, as an anonymous editor of Bentham. I fell into the tone of my author, not thinking it unsuitable to him or to the subject, however it might be so to me. My name as editor was put to the book after it was printed, at Mr. Bentham’s positive desire, which I in vain attempted to persuade him to forego.18

The concluding sentences are borne out by correspondence both at the time of publication and when the work was reprinted for the Bowring edition of Bentham’s Works. While the work was in press (it was published in mid-May 1827),19 Bentham wrote on 18 April:

Dear John

It is matter of no small surprise to me to see the title page without your name to it Nothing could be more clearly understood between us than that it should be there I do not say that the word title page was used on that occasion—but such was the meaning. If what you have done has been written under a different impression, so much the worse for me—and if the book be good for any thing, for the [world?] at large.

To this Mill replied:

I certainly did not understand you to have expressed any desire that my name should be in the title page. Nevertheless, if you positively require it, I am willing that it should be so, rather than that you should imagine I had taken less pains with the work under the idea of its being (so far as I am concerned) anonymous. But I confess I should greatly prefer that my name should be omitted. That the work should be benefited by it is out of the question. I myself might be benefited inasmuch as it would prove that you thought me worthy to be the editor of a work of yours. But on the other hand very little of the labour which I have bestowed upon the book appears on the face of it, or can be known to any one who was not acquainted with the MS. If my name were annexed to it people would think that I wished to Edition: current; Page: [xii] make a parade either of your good opinion [of] me, or of the few notes which I have added.20 The notes are not of sufficient value to make it of any consequence to the public to know who wrote them—I should be very sorry to be suspected of wishing to obtain a reputation at a cheap rate by appearing before the public under the shelter of your name.

Bentham’s brief response on 24 April was decisive: “My dear John / Your name is of far too great importance to the work to be omitted in the title page to it.” Mill’s immediate acceptance is lost, but Bentham’s confirmation (still on the 24th) is again typical: “Dear John / Amen. If you know not what that word means send to the Booksellers for a Hebrew Dictionary.” “P.S. Name at the end of the Preface.”21

So much for modesty and deference. After the Rationale was published, the editor’s close friend, John Arthur Roebuck, reviewing the work in the house journal, the Westminster Review, gave little away:

On the labour of the editor we are hardly entitled to give an opinion; not knowing the state of the papers from which he has compiled the work, we are unable to judge in how much we are indebted to him for the order and regularity which the work at present evinces. The notes and additions he has supplied are few, but those few are judicious they are short and to the purpose.22

And the Law Magazine, which says Mill edited the work “with great ability,” and in a later article judges that he “contributed by far the most valuable part of the chapter on conclusive evidence,”23 can have given only pleasure. But through William Empson’s pen, the old enemy, the Edinburgh Review, gave the reviewer’s sting that brought on Mill’s allergic regret about his tone. In the course of a thorough thrashing of the author, Empson takes but a little breath before turning on the editor.

Mr Mill, junior, is not likely to have underrated the importance of the trust confided to him by Mr Bentham . . .; yet, unless they were persuaded, upon Hindoo principles, that he was born of a legal caste, and that therefore talents of this description must be hereditary; or unless they took the fiction, by which every Englishman is supposed to be acquainted with the law, for a reality, we think that both parties would have exercised a sounder discretion—the one in not reposing, the other in not accepting, such a charge. Considering that Mr Bentham’s own experience of the law of England must have been long suspended, and can have been at best only an acquaintance with principles rather than details, an accurate knowledge of this despised part of jurisprudence became an indispensable qualification on the part of his assistant—the groom, to whom a colt, so naturally wild, and so peculiarly circumstanced, was made over to be physicked, broken in, and got ready for the fair. If it were likely that a pamphlet might be compiled of the minor inaccuracies of the original, there could be no object in leaving more than a given portion of them uncorrected, and it was surely quite unnecessary to add supplemental errors in the notes.

Edition: current; Page: [xiii]

And perhaps equally unnecessary for the reviewer to add:

The cannon’s roar in the text is, throughout, ludicrously accompanied by a discharge of the editor’s pocket-pistol in the note. The deep growl that mutters from above, is followed by a snap and a snarl from below; so that, in the place of any instructive commentary, or even reproof, there is a long reproachful howl, which reminds one of nothing philosophical and scholastic—except possibly it may be the accompaniment with which a litter of young Cynics used to attend the lectures at Diogenes’s Tub.24

The riposte in the Westminster to the Edinburgh’s attack on the Rationale included only a brief allusion to the youthful editor, in which the usual irony against the Edinburgh is blunt. Offering the reviewer’s constant plea of limited space, the anonymous friend says:

We must leave Mr Mill, junior, under rebuke for having found fault with the English law, lacking the knowledge of a craftsman; while it is confessed that the law should be level and accessible to all understandings—when the very accusation of ignorance becomes a condemnation of the thing indicated. . . .25

There can be no doubt that Mr. Mill, junior, agreed that he had taken the prudence out of jurisprudence, and when in 1837, a decade older and proportionately wiser, he was approached by John Hill Burton about the reprinting of the Rationale in the collected edition, his response indicates a lingering smart: “If it is proposed to reprint, along with the Rationale of Evidence, my preface & notes, I should like much to see the proofs, as there are various things in the notes which I regret having published. Otherwise I have nothing to suggest.”26 On Burton’s Edition: current; Page: [xiv] urging, he took second thought, and suggested the suppression of the note at I, 126 (15-16 below), then adding:

But I should wish my signature, at the end of the preface, & all mention of my name, to be omitted. I never intended to put my name to the book in any shape, & only did so because Mr Bentham insisted on it, & I feared that if I persisted in my refusal he would think I had done my work so ill as to be ashamed to avow it.

I should also wish a paragraph to the effect of that on the opposite page, to be added in brackets, at the end of the preface.27

That paragraph was the basis of the addition to the preface in the Bowring edition, in which Mill anonymously apologizes for “the air of confident dogmatism perceptible in some of [the] notes and additions,” excused partly by “their having been written in very early youth,” and partly by his belief that they would be anonymous, and so should be “accordant with the spirit of the work itself, and in Mr. Bentham admissible. . . . ” “His name,” he concludes truthfully if in the exculpatory third person, “was subsequently affixed, contrary to his own strongly expressed wish, at the positive desire of the venerable author, who certainly had a right to require it.”28 After sending the paragraph to Burton, Mill wrote again to suggest further adding the words (quoted above from the final version) “and in Mr. Bentham admissible”:

Otherwise I shall have the appearance of censuring the tone of the work, which I am very far indeed from intending. I still wish to suppress any direct mention of my name, not to prevent it from being known to the reader if he chuses to enquire about it which I know cannot be done, but because its suppression is as it were, an act of disavowal as to any appropriateness in the notes and additions to my present frame of mind, and because I do not like to perk in the face of the world in general that the person known by my name has written things which he is ashamed of, when my name has never in any instance been put to writings I am not [sic] ashamed of.29

One must not assume, however, that the experience was a disaster for Mill. His account, written, it should be recalled, some thirty years after the editing, concludes with a passage that emphasizes individual without entirely forgetting general utility:

The time occupied in this editorial work was extremely well employed in respect to my own improvement. The Rationale of Judicial Evidence is one of the richest in matter of all Bentham’s productions. The theory of evidence being in itself one of the most important of Edition: current; Page: [xv] his subjects, and ramifying into most of the others, the book contains, very fully developed, a great proportion of all his best thoughts, while, among more special things; it comprises the most elaborate exposure of the vices and defects of English law, as it then was, which is to be found in his works; not confined to the law of evidence, but including, by way of illustrative episode, the entire procedure or practice of Westminster Hall. The direct knowledge, therefore, which I obtained from the book, and which was imprinted upon me much more thoroughly than it could have been by mere reading, was itself no small acquisition. But this occupation30 did for me what might seem less to be expected, it gave a great start to my powers of composition. Everything which I wrote subsequently to this editorial employment, was markedly superior to anything that I had written before it.31 Bentham’s later style, as the world knows, was heavy and cumbersome, from the excess of a good quality, the love of precision . . . But his earlier style . . . is a model of liveliness and ease combined with fulness of matter, scarcely ever surpassed: and of this earlier style there were many striking specimens in the manuscripts on Evidence, all of which I endeavoured to preserve. So long a course of this admirable writing had a considerable effect upon my own. . . .32

Given the striking stylistic differences between Mill’s journalism and speeches in his apprentice years and in the early 1830s, there is no reason to question this assessment. Nor can one doubt that his practised diligence and beaverish industry were helped into habit by the work. Also, the sheer bulk of the Rationale calls for the kind of commendation too often denied to editors.33 In this respect, the skill of the youngster would command the highest of meagre wages paid such diligent servants (present coal-heavers and galley-slaves excepted). The heaviest demands were made by Bentham’s manuscripts themselves—the hand-writing execrable, the fragmentary state of the references and the allusiveness exhausting, the repetitions with variation mind-destroying.

As to the benefit to Mill of the content, some debate is possible, but the coincidence of Bentham’s major themes34 with Mill’s own cast of thought is hardly accidental or trivial. In general, one can point to the epistemological, Edition: current; Page: [xvi] psychological, and logical speculations in the Rationale as reflected throughout Mill’s writings. The last is most obvious, though no pushing of slender inference would justify asserting that Mill’s System of Logic grew directly and solely out of his editing of Bentham’s Rationale, for he had begun the study of logic in early youth, had written his “Traité de Logique” (derivative as it was) in 1820-21, and had worked hard on the subject with his fellow “Students of Mental Philosophy” during the mid-1820s.35 But he began seriously considering writing on “the science of science itself, the science of investigation—of method,”36 not long after the appearance of the Rationale. And the interconnections are significant. In the first place, the examination of evidence is at the centre of induction.37 Furthermore, Bentham’s discussion of probability and improbability prompted some of Mill’s more interesting notes (e.g., 17-18, 28-32) that adumbrate his speculations in the Logic.38 Bentham’s attention to psychological factors is less obviously manifest in Mill’s work, but is consonant with his discussions not only in the Logic but in his social thought.

More pervasive, especially in Mill’s newspaper writings at the time, and his strenuous propagandism for the Philosophic Radical programme, is what L.J. Hume identifies as Bentham’s “single intellectual enterprise” between 1802 and 1822, “the development of a campaign against misrule in all its forms.”39 The centrality of the Rationale in this enterprise is obvious in such statements as “Evidence is the basis of Justice,”40 and the young Mill, though not subtle about the meaning of “justice,” certainly worked for his mentors’ version of it. Probably the most telling example, linking cause with effect, is the note attacking the dicta of the moral-sense schools, beginning “An appropriate name for this class of phrases would be covers for dogmatism; an appellation indicating the property common to them all, of serving as cloaks for ipse-dixitism . . . ” (15). This passage Edition: current; Page: [xvii] echoes tone for tone the chapter in Bentham’s Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation that Mill repeatedly cited in his own polemical essays on ethics41—his reason for suppressing it in Bowring’s edition is not at all obvious, as repetition is the norm rather than the exception in that edition, and Mill used the same material in his well-known essay on Bentham in the London and Westminster in 1838, and developed part of the argument further in his essay on Nature, written in the 1850s. Furthermore, the argument appears in other guise at 90, where the statement that the “love of justice” is not innate interestingly anticipates the final chapter of Utilitarianism.

Apart from absorbing general tenets, Mill must also have stocked his capacious mind with considerable information, for Bentham’s quirky text is as full of matter as of mannerism, and abounds in suggestive and telling opinion. However, much of this matter (as well as the general tenets) was also found elsewhere in Bentham’s and James Mill’s writings (including the latter’s Commonplace Books), as well as in the intense Radical discussions and ephemeral journalism, and tracing any specific notion in the younger Mill’s work to the editing of the Rationale is uncertain. In his many general allusions to Bentham’s thought he of course touches on ideas found in the Rationale as well as in other writings of a genius not liable to single utterance of insights, and, curiously enough, the central issue of the Rationale stayed with Mill, though it occupies almost no place in his own concerns. In a letter to Cliffe Leslie, the comment, late and solicited, is definite:

I agree with you in going the complete length with Bentham as to the admissibility of evidence. There are I believe frequent cases like that you mention, of practical mischief both to the accused & to others from his not being examined as a witness. The one point on which alone B seems to me to be wrong is in allowing the judge to interrogate.42

Apart from the fundamental issues raised in the Rationale, specific points and applications can be seen in Mill’s writings, especially those of the 1820s, many of which, as he said, dwelt on “some defect of the law, or misdoings of the magistracy or the courts of justice,”43 and, as he might have added, the inutility of oaths, the culpability of “Judge and Co.,” and the absurdities of technical obstructions. However, on the whole Mill took comparatively little interest in Edition: current; Page: [xviii] most legal questions, the early decision not to enter the Inns of Court being as decisive as that not to go to Cambridge. His mind did not take a legal bent, and so, even allowing for his youth and inexperience, it is not surprising to find little obvious originality in his notes and additions, which had not even the energy derived from self-prompting. Still, Roebuck’s remark quoted above hardly seems adequate (though it would be welcomed by the present editor): “The notes and additions [the editor] has supplied are few, but those few are judicious: they are short and to the purpose.” First, Mill’s contributions are not really few or short: they number about seventy, plus forty-two referential footnotes, and while some are perfunctory and several, appropriately brief, concern the text (e.g., 13, 24, 24-5), bring information up to date (e.g., 38, 45), or give internal references (e.g., 33), the majority are substantive, including definitions (e.g., 11, 12, 18), illustrations (e.g., 18-19), and corrections (e.g., 22-3, 28-30, 30-2, 49, 50—this last is specially interesting, as it uses information from James Mill’s History of India).44

Were Mill’s contributions “to the purpose”? To judge that they are seems apposite. In substance Mill did not overreach himself or his brief, although it must be admitted that Bentham’s extravagant play of mind makes pontification about proper exclusion or inclusion difficult. The critic who has looked most closely at Bentham’s writings on adjective law, William Twining, is enthusiastic about Mill’s general contribution, saying that it

must rank as one of the most remarkable editorial feats in history. Anyone who has had occasion to work with Bentham manuscripts will recognise the magnitude of the task, the crabbed script, the convoluted prose, the tendency to repetition and, above all, the sheer volume of the material, are enough to daunt committed and experienced editors.

But, he adds,

The quality of the achievement is less easy to assess. Mill succeeded in organising the material into a reasonably coherent structure; he judiciously preserved many eloquent passages in Bentham’s early, more direct, style; no doubt he made it more readable than the original manuscripts, although much of it falls far short of the clarity and simplicity of Dumont. Mill competently filled in a number of gaps; he was generally scrupulous in identifying passages of which he was the author and in indicating points where he disagreed with Bentham. His youth and his lack of training may have been an advantage in allowing him to approach the task boldly with few inhibitions, yet there is little to suggest that he misrepresented, distorted or suppressed any of Bentham’s views.45

The longest of Mill’s substantive additions, especially 70-83 and 84-90, quite justify Twining’s judgment about the extraordinary nature of the editing.46 In them Edition: current; Page: [xix] particularly he seems to be saying what would be “in Mr. Bentham admissible,” though he is less spectacular than his mentor; the imitation is so close, indeed, that at times two readings are needed to get at the syntax, though in Mill’s passages no more are generally required to get at the sense.

Were Mill’s contributions, in spite of his own later doubts, “judicious”? In rebuking the Edinburgh for its earlier sins (see esp. 57-64, 64-6), Mill did not go near the limits of the journal warfare of the time,47 but should have expected the spirited rebuff he received after making such comments on the Edinburgh’s reviewer as: “But I waste time, and fill up valuable space, in arguing seriously against such solemn trifling” (66). The “pocket-pistol” comment presumably was prompted by the heavy irony against lawyers found throughout (see, e.g., 46, 46-8), as well as the attacks on religion (e.g., 54-5). And Mill’s adoption of an ethical stance learned from his father is not endearing: “After an attentive consideration . . ., the reader will probably join with me . . .” (30). Apart from these local and political short-term reverberations, the evidence suggests, as he might have said, that a less bellicose and dismissive tone would have been appropriate, even though it would have left Bentham alone on the provocative salient he himself typically advanced.

Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind

the circumstances of Mill’s other major editorial work were quite different; though his intimate study of his father’s Analysis began even before he started work on the Rationale in 1824-25, his edition of the Analysis was one of his last literary projects, appearing in 1869. It must be seen, therefore, as a much more carefully considered endeavour, and one that reflects lifelong intellectual and indeed personal concerns.

The Autobiography gives the initial context. James Mill, says his son, “could only command the concentration of thought necessary for this work, during the complete leisure of his holiday of a month or six weeks annually”; and he commenced the Analysis

in the summer of 1822, in the first holiday he passed at Dorking; in which neighbourhood, from that time to the end of his life, with the exception of two years, he lived, as far as his Edition: current; Page: [xx] official duties permitted, for six months of every year. He worked at the Analysis during several successive vacations, up to the year 1829, when it was published, and allowed me to read the manuscript, portion by portion, as it advanced.48

After its publication J.S. Mill enlisted others in the regime of careful reading and study to which he attributed so much. Describing the activities of the “Students of Mental Philosophy,” which met twice a week in George Grote’s house, beginning in 1825 (that is, while the youthful employee of the East India Company was, very much inter alia, editing Bentham), Mill says that one of them read aloud a section of the work under study (they started with James Mill’s Elements of Political Economy), after which discussion began, “any one who had an objection or other remark to make” being heard.

Our rule was to discuss thoroughly every point raised, whether great or small, prolonging the discussion until all who took part were satisfied with the conclusion they had individually arrived at, and to follow up every topic of collateral speculation which the chapter or the conversation suggested, never leaving it until we had untied every knot which we found. We repeatedly kept up the discussion of some one point for several weeks, thinking intently on it during the intervals of our meetings. . . .

After political economy, they turned to logic, and then “launched into analytic psychology,” beginning with David Hartley.

When we had finished Hartley, we suspended our meetings; but, my father’s Analysis of the Mind being published soon after, we reassembled for the purpose of reading it. With this our exercises ended. I have always dated from these conversations my own real inauguration as an original and independent thinker It was also through them that I acquired, or very much strengthened, a mental habit to which I attribute all that I have ever done, or ever shall do, in speculation; that of never accepting half-solutions of difficulties as complete; never abandoning a puzzle, but again and again returning to it until it was cleared up; never allowing obscure corners of a subject to remain unexplored, because they did not appear important; never thinking that I perfectly understood any part of a subject until I understood the whole.49

It is surely not fanciful to hear an echo of this discussion in the Preface that Mill supplied for the edition of the Analysis in 1869. At its conclusion he suggests that the best way to approach the edition is to read James Mill’s text first (perhaps a chapter at a time); when the “student has done all he can with the author’s own exposition—has possessed himself of the ideas, and felt, perhaps, some of the difficulties, he will be in a better position for profiting by any aid that the notes may afford, and will be in less danger of accepting, without due examination, the opinion of the last comer as the best” (104).

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It cannot now be determined how much the detailed scrutiny by the Students of Mental Philosophy in 1829 contributed to the notes Mill wrote for the edition of 1869,50 but it is certain that he himself had “become possessed . . . of the ideas, and felt . . . some of the difficulties,” and one may assume, given his devotion to the Analysis, that many of the points tackled forty years later were originally puzzles that had been again and again returned to until cleared up. He was loyal almost to a fault to his father’s writings, even paying for a reissue—without notes—of the little read and polemically narrow Fragment on Mackintosh after he had contracted with Longmans for the second edition of the Analysis.51 Throughout his life he referred to the virtues of the Analysis, which it would appear he valued above the work that established James Mill’s reputation and career, the generally more appreciated History of British India.

His first tribute appeared in 1833, in an appendix to Lytton Bulwer’s England and the English that, if not directly written, was certainly prompted by Mill.

As a searcher into original truths, the principal contribution which Mr. Mill has rendered to philosophy, is to be found in his most recent work, The Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind. Nothing more clearly proves what I have before asserted, viz.—our indifference to the higher kind of philosophical investigation, than the fact, that no full account—no criticism of this work has appeared in either of our principal Reviews.52

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After quickly summarizing the doctrine, and suggesting that some points should be contended, the notice continues:

The moment in which this remarkable work appeared is unfortunate for its temporary success. Had it been published sixty years ago—or perhaps sixty years hence, it would perhaps have placed the reputation of its author beyond any of his previous writings.53

In the next year Mill recommended his “father’s metaphysical work” warmly to J.P. Nichol, offering him a copy,54 and there was no diminution of his admiration after James Mill’s death, as is evident in the paragraph he contributed to Andrew Bisset’s article on James Mill in the 7th ed. (1842) of the Encyclopaedia Britannica:

Mr. Mill’s ingenuity as a very acute and original metaphysician was abundantly displayed in his Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind, published in 1829. In this work he evinced analytical powers rarely, if ever, surpassed; and which have placed him high in the list of those subtile inquirers who have attempted to resolve all the powers of the mind into a very small number of simple elements. Mr. Mill took up this analysis where Hartley had left it, and applied the same method to the more complex phenomena, which the latter did not attempt to explain. From the general neglect of metaphysical studies in the present age, this work, which, at some periods of our history, would have placed its author on a level, in point of reputation, with the highest names in the republic of letters, has been less read and appreciated than his other writings.55

Though in 1853, being busy with other work and probably disaffected from John Chapman, he resisted Chapman’s suggestion that he publish “notes to the Analysis,”56 he continued actively to promote and recommend it.57 He became immersed again in the experientialists’ battle with the intuitionists during the writing and revision of his Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy and was reminded of his early activities and friends during his campaign for the parliamentary borough of Westminster in 1865, so it is not surprising that his father’s work should be in his mind during the parliamentary recess of 1867. He decided to settle down in Avignon to a “winter’s work which will not be political or economical but psychological.” “I am,” he told his associate and friend W.T. Thornton, “going to prepare in concert with Bain a new edition of my father’s Analysis of the Mind with notes and supplementary matter. This will be not only Edition: current; Page: [xxiii] very useful but a very great relief by its extreme unlikeness to parliamentary work & to parliamentary semi-work or idleness.”58

Alexander Bain, mentioning that the work began in that recess, says it was finished in 1868, and comments: “I had necessarily a long correspondence with him on the allocation of topics; but each of us took our own line in regard to the doctrines.”59 An undated but obviously preliminary list in Mill’s hand of “Notes required” seriously underestimates the work to be done:

1. On latent feelings; & the question whether sensations of which we have no memory, have ever been in consciousness.

2. On the ignoring in the Analysis, of all direct action on ideas by external stimuli operating on the brain: no production of ideas being recognised save by sensations & association.

3. (Bain) The nervous character of ideation.

4. (Bain) The parts of speech.

5. To correct the philology of conjunctions & prepositions.60

At that point Bain clearly had been recruited, but the lack of a name against the final point suggests that the philologist Alexander Findlater had not yet been asked, and there is no indication that the assistance of George Grote (probably James Mill’s most consistent admirer) had been solicited on questions of Greek philosophy.

Mill’s account in his Autobiography (written soon after the publication of the edition early in 1869) deals with these matters, and emphasizes his continued hopes for the Analysis’s much-delayed success as well as his explanation for its failure:

. . . I commenced (and completed soon after I had left Parliament) the performance of a duty to philosophy and to the memory of my father, by preparing and publishing an edition of the Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind with notes bringing up the doctrines of that admirable book to the latest improvements in science and in speculation.61 This was a joint undertaking: the psychological notes being furnished in about equal proportions by Mr. Bain and myself, while Mr. Grote supplied some valuable contributions on points in the history of philosophy incidentally raised, and Dr. Andrew Findlater supplied the deficiencies in the book which had been occasioned by the imperfect philological knowledge of the time when it was written.62 Having been originally published at a time when the current of metaphysical speculation ran in a quite opposite direction to the psychology of Experience and Association, the Analysis had not obtained the amount of immediate success which it deserved, though it had made a deep impression on many Edition: current; Page: [xxiv] individual minds, and had largely contributed, through those minds, to create that more favourable atmosphere for the Association Psychology of which we now have the benefit. Admirably adapted for a class-book of the Experience Metaphysics, it only required to be enriched, and in some cases corrected, by the results of more recent labours in the same school of thought, to stand, as it now does, in company with Mr. Bain’s treatises, at the head of the systematic works on Analytic psychology.63

There can be no doubt that, as in the Autobiography itself, in the new edition of the Analysis the two motives, loyal devotion to his father and active service in the war against intuitionism, were genuine, united, and indeed inseparable. Though in early near-apostate moments, especially when manoeuvring to stay close to John Sterling, he could admit doubts, the saving words are present—for example in the following passage, “your need,” “bad moods,” “if I could”:

I am very far from agreeing, in all things, with the “Analysis,” even on its own ground—though perhaps, from your greater distance, the interval between me & it may appear but trifling. But I can understand your need of something beyond it & deeper than it, & I have often bad moods in which I would most gladly postulate like Kant a different ultimate foundation “subjectiver bedürfnisses willen” if I could.64

Normally the allegiance is clear. In a passage not found in the Early Draft of his Autobiography, he says of his father:

leaving out of the reckoning all that portion of his labours in which he benefitted by what Bentham had done, and counting only what he achieved in a province in which Bentham had done nothing, that of analytic psychology, he will be known to posterity as one of the greatest names in that most important branch of speculation, on which all the moral and political sciences ultimately rest, and will mark one of the essential stages in its progress.65

And he emphasizes the link between his own major work and the Analysis when explaining the polemical purpose of his System of Logic:

the chief strength of this false philosophy [the intuitive] in morals, politics, and religion, lies in the appeal which it is accustomed to make to the evidence of mathematics and of the cognate branches of physical science. To expel it from these, is to drive it from its stronghold: and because this had never been effectually done, the intuitive school, even after what my father had written in his Analysis of the Mind, had in appearance, and as far as published writings were concerned, on the whole the best of the argument.66

Again, explaining his purpose in assailing Hamilton, Mill says:

That philosophy [the intuitional metaphysics], not always in its moderate forms, had ruled the thought of Europe for the greater part of a century. My father’s Analysis of the Mind, my own Logic, and Professor Bain’s great treatise, had attempted to reintroduce a better mode of philosophizing, latterly with quite as much success as could be expected. . . .67

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About the intentions, then, nothing more need be said. About the effect, there is little to be claimed specifically for the Analysis. Of course, though the details are moot and the history tangled, twentieth-century Anglo-American philosophy drew much impetus from the experientialist school and much of its energy from opposing the heirs of the intuitionists, and experimental psychologists, who have shown little interest in their antecedents, owe a considerable debt to the associationists. But it cannot be argued that the second edition of James Mill’s Analysis in itself contributed much more to the tradition than its first edition. And that little more — a very little — is traceable to interest in John Stuart Mill’s notes, which have attracted some modest attention in relation not to his father or to the experiential school but to his own thought.

Mill’s notes to the Analysis, like those to the Rationale, may be categorized according to purpose and content. A few are merely locative (e.g., 107, 108), while many are critical of James Mill’s terminology (e.g., 104-5, 123, 153, 198-9). Not surprisingly, there are frequent eulogies of author and work: “This exposition of Naming . . . is one of those specimens of clear and vigorous statement, going straight to the heart of the matter, and dwelling on it just long enough and no longer than necessary, in which the Analysis abounds” (122-3); “The doctrine of this chapter [“Conception”] is as just as it is admirably stated” (141).68

Many of the most interesting notes involve an expansion and elucidation of James Mill’s ideas.69 But the dominant kind are those in which such expansion and elucidation are marked by overt or strongly implied criticism. He is hardest on James Mill in the discussions of general names, classification, connotation and denotation, memory and expectation, the import of propositions, attention, will, and belief.70 But the tone is appropriately gentle, as befits the relation between this editor and author: “The theory of Predication here set forth, stands in need of further elucidation, and perhaps of some correction and addition” (128). Mill can, however, be forthright: “I am unable to feel the force of this remark” (132). Probably the best illustrations of his tone come in passages where he strives for balance:

The reason assigned by the author for considering association by resemblance as a case of association by contiguity, is perhaps the least successful attempt at a generalisation and simplification of the laws of mental phenomena, to be found in the work. It ought to be remembered that the author, as the text shews, attached little importance to it. And perhaps, not thinking it important, he passed it over with a less amount of patient thought than he usually bestowed on his analyses. (120.)

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That the pleasures or pains of another person can only be pleasurable or painful to us through the association of our own pleasures or pains with them, is true in one sense, which is probably that intended by the author, but not true in another, against which he has not sufficiently guarded his mode of expression (219).71

For students of J.S. Mill’s thought, there is much to engage the attention. Generally, his associationism is laid out in much more detail here then elsewhere, especially if one takes into account his explicit and implied approval of James Mill’s account and his explicit acceptance or modification of the views of Bain72 and Spencer.73 In Bain’s words: “The work contains perhaps the best summary of his psychological opinions, although the Hamilton shows them in the more stirring shape of polemics.”74 That “stirring shape” can, of course, be discerned, as Hamilton, Mackintosh, and other intuitionists are not spared. The battle is joined most obviously at 117-19, and in the final chapters, but there are skirmishes throughout (e.g., 181-3), and no one could escape the conclusion that the rallying cry on all fronts is “Experience!”

As a result, useful parallel accounts and modifications of questions that occupy Mill elsewhere are found in these notes. Matters dealt with in his System of Logic recur, for instance in reference to syllogism (175). His brisk encounters with Samuel Bailey over Berkeley’s theory of vision are revived (156),75 and the account of personal identity (211-13) recalls parts of his Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy. The most compelling modifications relate to moral theory, the notes to Chaps. xix ff., especially in their bearing on the development of moral feeling through sympathy, being essential to a full appreciation of Mill’s utilitarianism (particularly the long note at 231-42).76 Another interesting discussion, not duplicated elsewhere in his limited accounts of aesthetic issues, is that of beauty (223-6), where he reveals an acquaintance with aspects of Coleridge’s and Ruskin’s views.77

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Here, indeed, interpretation moves close to biography. The notes contain a few pleasing personal touches, as when in using a typical philosopher’s illustration, he says he has seen Lafayette (174); for the fact, see his Autobiography, CW, I, 179. Also, he refers to ascending Skiddaw (212-13), an experience that occupies an important place in his walking tour of the Lake District.78 His mention of the effect of music (222) has individual experience at its core, and when he then refers to the colour of flowers the feeling is powerfully manifest:

My own memory recals to me the intense and mysterious delight which in early childhood I had in the colours of certain flowers; a delight far exceeding any I am now capable of receiving from colour of any description, with all its acquired associations. And this was the case at far too early an age, and with habits of observation far too little developed, to make any of the subtler combinations of form and proportion a source of much pleasure to me. This last pleasure was acquired very gradually, and did not, until after the commencement of manhood, attain any considerable height. (223.)

Once more, the evidence of the gradual growth of pleasure in form and proportion is found in his walking-tour journals, where the Romantic picturesque is applied in personal ways. In the same passage dealing with colour and music, Mill’s apparently general comment has at its heart his interpretation of his own sensibility in comparison with that of his wife:

The susceptibility to the physical pleasures produced by colours and musical sounds, (and by forms if any part of the pleasure they afford is physical), is probably extremely different in different organisations. In natures in which any one of these susceptibilities is originally faint, more will depend on association. The extreme sensibility of this part of our constitution to small and unobvious influences, makes it certain that the sources of the feelings of beauty and deformity must be, to a material extent, different in different individuals. (223.)79

The main biographical interest, however, must centre on Mill’s comments about his father. When his discussion in the Autobiography of James Mill’s denigration of the feelings is recalled, the note to the Analysis in which he says that the author undervalued the role of the “animal” as compared with the “mental, or intellectual” part of human nature stands out boldly (220-1). In another passage in the Autobiography Mill shortly but memorably mentions one of James Mill’s shortcomings: “A defect running through his otherwise admirable modes of instruction, as it did through all his modes of thought, was that of trusting too much Edition: current; Page: [xxviii] to the intelligibleness of the abstract, when not embodied in the concrete.”80 In the Preface to the Analysis, he expands on the failure, though with his usual sense of needed justification:

an opening was made for some mistakes, and occasional insufficiency of analysis, by a mental quality which the author exhibits not unfrequently in his speculations, though as a practical thinker both on public and on private matters it was quite otherwise; a certain impatience of detail. The bent of his mind was towards that, in which also his greatest strength lay; in seizing the larger features of a subject—the commanding laws which govern and connect many phenomena. Having reached these, he sometimes gives himself up to the current of thoughts which those comprehensive laws suggest, not stopping to guard himself carefully in the minutiae of their application, nor devoting much of his thoughts to anticipating all the objections that could be made, though the necessity of replying to some of them might have led him to detect imperfections in his analyses. (102-3.)

The most telling parallel, however, is found between the accounts of James Mill’s character and moral effect on the young in the Autobiography and in the Preface to the Analysis. It is tempting to quote the former at length, but one extract will perhaps be sufficient to suggest the whole.

My father’s moral inculcations were at all times mainly those of the “Socratici viri”, justice, temperance (to which he gave a very extended application), veracity, perseverance, readiness to encounter pain and especially labour; regard for the public good; estimation of persons according to their merits, and of things according to their intrinsic usefulness; a life of exertion, in contradiction to one of self-indulgent sloth. These and other moralities he conveyed in brief sentences, uttered as occasion arose, of grave exhortation, or stern reprobation and contempt.81

With that account one must compare the passage in the Preface:

The moral qualities which shone in his conversation were, if possible, more valuable to those who had the privilege of sharing it, than even the intellectual. They were precisely such as young men of cultivated intellect, with good aspirations but a character not yet thoroughly formed, are likely to derive most benefit from. A deeply rooted trust in the general progress of the human race, joined with a good sense which made him never build unreasonable or exaggerated hopes on any one event or contingency; an habitual estimate of men according to their real worth as sources of good to their fellow-creatures, and an unaffected contempt for the weaknesses or temptations that divert them from that object,—making those with whom he conversed feel how painful it would be to them to be counted by him among such backsliders; a sustained earnestness, in which neither vanity nor personal ambition had any part, and which spread from him by a sympathetic contagion to those who had sufficient moral preparation to value and seek the opportunity; this was the mixture of qualities which made his conversation almost unrivalled in its salutary moral effect. He has been accused of asperity, and there was asperity in some few of his writings; but no party spirit, personal rivalry, or wounded amour-propre ever stirred it up. (101.)82

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Few sons have done so much to praise while explaining—but then few fathers have needed both so much.


most students of Mill’s thought, as well as those casually acquainted with his writings and reputation, would find it odd that the Examiner’s collective obituary of Mill included a section entitled “His Botanical Studies,” by Henry Trimen.83 But in fact Mill’s passion for field botany began early and continued—indeed may be said to have contributed—to his death.

One can date the initiation quite accurately. Sir Samuel Bentham and family took their young guest with them on a tour of the Pyrenees and vicinity in August and September of 1820, during which George Bentham, who was to become one of the leading botanists of the century, was making the observations that led to his first book, Catalogue des plantes indigènes des Pyrénées et du Bas-Languedoc (1826). He introduced the fourteen-year-old Mill, six years his junior, to the pleasures of gathering and, emphatically, of cataloguing. When the party settled down in Montpellier for the winter celebrated in Mill studies as the hothouse forcing-ground of his precocity, Mill immediately reported in his notebook, inter important alia, the activity that became as incessant as he could manage: “Je m’occupai pendant toute la journée à écrire mon journal, à arranger mes plantes, et à lire l’oraison Milonienne de Ciceron.”84 Such entries occur frequently.85

Not entirely coincidentally, Mill’s only reference in the Autobiography to his botanical passion comes in the midst of his vivid account of his true inception into the utilitarian faith, when it “burst” upon him, the “feeling rushed” upon him, that “a new era in thought” was commencing; the “vista of improvement” that Jeremy Edition: current; Page: [xxx] Bentham opened up was “sufficiently large and brilliant to light up” his life. Typically for Mill, this personal dedication depended on a method that offered clarity and evidence; one of the central persuasive elements in Bentham’s Traités was its classification of offences. Typically for Bentham, the model was scientific: “The Linnaeus of Natural History the world has had for some time past. The Linnaeus of Ethics is yet to come.”86

Mill’s comment in the Autobiography emphasizes the links:

Logic, and the dialectics of Plato, which had formed so large a part of my previous training, had given me a strong relish for accurate classification. This taste had been strengthened and enlightened by the study of botany, on the principles of what is called the Natural Method, which I had taken up with great zeal, though only as an amusement,87 during my stay in France; and when I found scientific classification applied to the great and complex subject of Punishable Acts, under the guidance of the ethical principle of Pleasurable and Painful Consequences, followed out in the method of detail introduced into these subjects by Bentham, I felt taken up to an eminence from which I could survey a vast mental domain, and see stretching out into the distance intellectual results beyond all computation.88

The lesson is applied in Mill’s System of Logic, especially in Bk. IV, Chap. viii, Sect. 5. After describing the “natural arrangement” based on “natural groups,” Mill deals with the general value of classification:

Although the scientific arrangements of organic nature afford as yet the only complete example of the true principles of rational classification, whether as to the formation of groups or of series, those principles are applicable to all cases in which mankind are called upon to bring the various parts of any extensive subject into mental co-ordination. They are as much to the point when objects are to be classed for purposes of art or business, as for those of science. The proper arrangement, for example, of a code of laws, depends on the same scientific conditions as the classifications in natural history; nor could there be a better preparatory discipline for that important function, than the study of the principles of a natural arrangement, not only in the abstract, but in their actual application to the class of phenomena for which they were first elaborated, and which are still the best school for learning their use. Of this the great authority on codification, Bentham, was perfectly aware: and his early Fragment on Government, the admirable introduction to a series of writings unequalled in their department, contains clear and just views (as far as they go) on the meaning of a natural arrangement, such as could scarcely have occurred to any one who lived anterior to the age of Linnaeus and Bernard de Jussieu.89

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It would have been inappropriate in that context for Mill to have said that he had been taken by Bentham’s writings “up to an eminence” whence he “could survey a vast mental domain,” and indeed, while admitting the great importance of classification to his thought, it would be silly pretence to assert that his botanical excursions always took him up to these heights: it was the ethical vision that inspired him. Nonetheless, his moral philosophy came, through a complicated personal development, to incorporate aesthetic feelings: his intense appreciation of landscape, first stimulated on the same journey that introduced him to botany, helped shape the poetic values that he found essential to moral practice.90 And, holding as closely as he could to the dictum mens sana in corpore sano, he certainly worked for mental as for physical health in his constant and admirable walking regime, which allowed for continuous stooping to the vegetable level without evident damage to his sacroiliac.

The central purposes of his Autobiography not being biographical, he gives merely a passing reference to what was actually a fully realized avocation, alluding to his early habit of “taking long rural walks” on Sundays, and to his holiday “tours, chiefly pedestrian,” with chosen companions, followed later in life by “longer journeys or excursions, alone or with other friends.”91 It is in the records of these walks, tours, and journeys—sufficiently pedestrian in style—that one can see the importance to Mill of his passion.

The evidence comes in several forms, physical as well as literary. As early as September 1828 Mill was able to engage Henry Cole for several evenings “pleasantly enough in the examination of his Hortus Siccus”—an arranged collection of dried plants—from which Mill gave him several specimens.92 By 1840 the collection in the family’s Kensington Square house, according to Caroline Fox, amounted to an “immense herbarium”;93 it continued to expand, and his Avignon collection was housed in a herbarium specially built for him in 1868 by his stepdaughter, Helen Taylor.94

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These collections, which included Indian plants given to Mill by his colleague, Dr. Royle, a surgeon and naturalist who was in charge of the East India Company’s correspondence relating to vegetable productions,95 are now preserved in herbaria in at least four countries: in England in the collection of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and the Holmesdale Natural Historical Club Museum in Reigate, Surrey;96 in France at the Musée Requien, Avignon; in the United States at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, the National Arboretum in Washington, and Harvard University; and in Australia in the Royal Botanic Gardens and National Herbarium, South Yarra, Victoria.

The Avignon collection, consisting mainly of plants from the department of Vaucluse (with some English and a few other specimens), was at Mill’s request put at the disposal of his friend and botanical collaborator, Jean Henri Fabre. It includes ten loose-leaf volumes containing about 1000 specimens with labels giving the plant’s name and the date of its accession, the collection beginning in 1859, when Mill took up residence in Avignon following his wife’s death, and continuing virtually up to his own death.97

The other collections (with the exception of that in the Holmesdale Natural Historical Club Museum, the provenance of which is unknown) were all originally part of the gift by Helen Taylor to Joseph Dalton Hooker, the Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. She made the offer on 27 September, 1873, saying Hooker could have a choice of specimens for his own “private or any public collection.”98 He responded favourably, saying that in his view the plants should go to the National Collection at Kew, and on 9 February, 1874, she reported that the “packages” of his selection were now ready for shipment, and said he was free to choose from the many duplicates for his own collection.99 A year later, four Edition: current; Page: [xxxiii] cases were shipped (at her expense), and she said on 20 March, 1875 (assuming that they had arrived) that she was “very glad” to accept his suggestion that he donate the duplicates to “Cambridge University, U.S.”100

On 7 April, 1875, Hooker addressed a formal letter to the Secretary of the Royal Gardens saying that the gift, “of considerable extent and in excellent condition” had been received, and that an official letter of thanks should be sent to Helen Taylor. He commented:

These collections are of both scientific value and historical interest, on account of the eminence of their former possessor as a philosopher and writer, and because his botanical tastes and acquirements were well and widely known. In early life Mr Mill was a diligent observer and collector of British plants, and made some important discoveries relating to the Flora of these Islands, and he continued collecting and observing wherever he resided or travelled up to a very short period before his death.101

Subsequently Hooker’s annual report included an account of the gift:

The complete herbarium of the late J. Stuart Mill was presented after his death by Miss Helen Taylor. Although better known for his philosophical and other writings Mr. Mill collected diligently in the neighbourhood of London and in his later years travelled extensively in south Europe. The range of his specimens extends from the Pyrenees to the Bithynian Olympus, and Greece is particularly well represented partly by plants gathered by his own hands and partly by a collection procured from Professor Van Heldreich of Athens. Amongst plants from Asia Minor is a new and very distinct species of flat-leaved Sedum which has been described by Mr. Baker in the Journal of Botany under the name of Sedum Millii. A selection of about 2,530 species has been made for the Kew Herbarium, and it is Miss Taylor’s wish that the remainder be presented to Harvard University, U.S.A. and to the Botanical Museum of the Melbourne Gardens.102

What happened to the specimens not chosen by Hooker originally, which consequently remained in France, is not known; probably they are the non-Vaucluse items in the Musée Requien. Also a record of the donation to Melbourne has not been located. The rest of Helen Taylor’s gift took a complicated route: Hooker consulted, as he had indicated he would, Asa Gray, Director of the herbarium at Harvard (now named after him). Gray agreed to accept the material Hooker did not wish to retain at Kew, and when it arrived, made a selection from Edition: current; Page: [xxxiv] it, which is now at Harvard.103 He then, in consultation with John H. Redfield, a scientific friend in Philadelphia, donated the bulk of the collection to the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, which was in the process of revitalizing its collections. On its receipt in April 1878, this portion of Mill’s herbarium contained some 3000 species,104 most of which are still in the Academy’s collection. Some, however, were traded by Redfield, then Conservator of the Botanical Section in the Academy, to Isaac Martindale, another active supporter; his collection eventually was purchased by the U.S. National Arboretum in 1964, and in it were some 200 sheets attributable to Mill.

The written records of Mill’s botanical passion run from single labels,105 through lists and notebooks, references in journals and letters, and anecdotes by others, to the articles included in this volume, and the books in his library. Like all dedicated observers in that heyday of natural history, Mill knew the value of lists; like many, he was obsessive in keeping them; like few, he was famous enough to have them preserved. Short lists are in the Mill papers at Yale and Johns Hopkins and in the Mill-Taylor Collection of the London School of Economics,106 but the main itemized records fill five notebooks in the Mill-Taylor Collection.107

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Mill’s walking-tour journals from 1827 to 1832 are mainly topographical in detail, but they sufficiently indicate that, in spite of the respectable distances covered, he took time to stoop and study. On the second day of the first trip, for example, he reports that an otherwise dull walk near Bognor “however afforded the Atriplex laciniata and littoralis, Hordeum maritimum, Phleum arenarium and Beta maritima.”108 This is typical, being simply a list that is revelatory only to the inditer and the initiate. Mill’s role as instructor109 occasionally appears: “I will enumerate the plants which a young botanist may expect to find” in the Vale of Aylesbury.110 But only a few passages evoke feelings attractive to more general readers: in Upper Yewdale, “a complete Alpine valley,”

for the first time we saw some alpine plants, particularly the bright yellow Saxifrage, one of the most beautiful of our mountain plants whose golden flowers grow in tufts up the moist sides of this dell. . . . The pass [beyond Tilberthwaite] contains much boggy ground, which is completely covered with that delightful shrub, the sweet gale, also called the Dutch myrtle, from its myrtle like appearance and smell: here and in Langdale, whole acres are covered with it, and the air is perfumed by it to a great distance. Mixed with its little bushes, a more delicate plant the Lancashire bog asphodel raises its bright yellow spikes.111

Generally more interesting and happy evidence is found in the diary of Mill’s friend Henry Cole and in Mill’s correspondence to and concerning his family and friends. Indeed Cole’s diary again supplies unique information. The first botanical reference is dated 4 September, 1828: “Drank tea with John Mill and employed the evening in the examination of a portion of his Botanical Specimens of which he liberally made me several presents.” On the next day he “Botanized in Battersea fields and Breakfasted with J. Mill,” and from 11 to 25 September he employed three evenings, “pleasantly enough in the examination of [Mill’s] Hortus Edition: current; Page: [xxxvi] Siccus.”112 Cole also records that on 12 June, 1829, he went to Battersea Fields “in company with John Mill and his brother [presumably James, then aged about 13] to seek for the Orchis latifolia which (as is usual in most cases where there is a specific proposal) we could not find.” And a year later, on 29 June, 1830, he reports that when he called on Mill he found him “exulting in his discovery of the Martigon Lily at Dorking.”113

Mill’s correspondence also has some delightful moments. In 1837, writing in Greek to his brother Henry, aged seventeen, Mill says (translated and with place names interpreted): “In the wet parts of the source of River [Riverhead] I have seen a large plant and want to have it. But perhaps you have found it either in [Riverhead] or in [the Weald?].”114 And two years later he writes to his mother from Venice: “Among other fruits of my journey [in Italy] I have botanized much, & come back loaded with plants. By the bye among those I want Henry to dry for me, I forgot to mention the common elder.”115 After Henry’s death in 1840, there is evidence of even closer collaboration with the youngest boy in the family, George, who contributed three articles to the Phytologist; in the most impressive of these, “List of the Flowering Plants in the Neighbourhood of Great Marlow, Bucks, in the Early Part of the Summer 1843” (I [June 1844], 983-95), John undoubtedly collaborated.116

Nothing is known of Mill’s sisters’ botanical interests, and his wife was perceived as too delicate for field pursuits. She, however, took or was induced to adopt an interest in his hobby. For instance, he reports to her from St. Hélier during his continental search for health in 1854: “I have made a good many excellent captures of plants.” And again from Morlaix, recalling an earlier trip with her and her daughter Helen, he comments: “I have got few plants yet in France—the botanizing at Vire & Dinan in 1844 seems to have exhausted this part of the country.”117 Indeed in almost every one of his daily letters in this series there is some reference to botany, usually conveying the pleasure and often the fun of the game.

When I got to the inn [in Palermo] I was not even tired, except indeed my arms with the weight of plants I carried, to the edification & amidst the apostrophes of the public—who were full of questions & remarks—the most complimentary of which was one I overheard, one woman having given a shout of astonishment (all speaking here by the common people is shouting) when another quietly remarked to her that it was for my bella & was a Edition: current; Page: [xxxvii] galanteria. I wish indeed it had been for my bella, & a day never passes when I do not wish to bring flowers home to her. You see by this how beautiful the flowers are: this time, besides some lovely blue flowers, there were some noble specimens of the tall yellow asphodel of our gardens, which grew quite comfortably out of the rocks of Pellegrino & were gathered for me by an enterprising goatherd. On entering the town I was actually stopped at the octroi—I was asked what those were: “plants” I said—“what do they serve for?” “per sciente”. what did I bring them for? “for curiosity”—“there was nothing doganale”—they were quite satisfied & dismissed me with the pleased animated look & voice which everybody here has on every occasion.

Complaints such as the following are not to be taken seriously when the voice is an addict’s:

I was not at all tired, except the hand which carried the plants, for the load . . . was quite painful to mind & body. I never felt so much the embarras des richesses. Determining them with imperfect books takes several hours in every 24: it is now past 12 & I have only determined about a third, the rest must remain in water & in the tin case till tomorrow—to be determined by daylight—nor have I been able to change a single paper. I am here in the season of flowers as well as of all other beauty.118

The reports continued at home as well as abroad: “On Monday morning there was a Scotch mist but I made out my walk over Wrynose & down the Duddon to Broughton & though I could not see much of the mountains in Little Langdale it was still very fine & I found a rare fern & a rare mint, peppermint to wit, which I have never found before.”119 And when, after her mother’s death, Helen Taylor became his almost constant companion, she not only received the botanical news, but joined him on several trips that included, as was mandatory for him, collecting samples. Even she, much more physically active than her mother, sometimes found Mill too much for her. For instance, after climbing the Pic du Midi through ice and snow, she comments from a warm ground-level, to her brother Algernon on 16 July, 1859: “Mr. Mill is still well, although he suffers from the great heat. Nevertheless as he walks all the mornings, determines plants all the afternoons and often sits up till 2 o’clock drying papers, and does not suffer from fatigue he must be getting better.”120 The most significant series of letters from Mill to Helen Taylor concerns a major attempt to catalogue the collection in his Blackheath house, during January and February 1860, when he suggests to Helen, who was in Avignon, that she can “trace [his] progress” in Charles Cardale Babington’s Manual of British Botany.121

Of course Mill’s non-familial correspondence also reflects his botanical Edition: current; Page: [xxxviii] activities. Throughout his life, his letters written during or after tours report interesting findings to sympathetic ears (and at least temporarily sedentary legs). An early example reveals Mill in May 1830 moving towards acquaintance with William Jackson Hooker, the leading English botanist of the day, and author of the just-published British Flora. Through the agency of Henry Cole, who knew Hooker, Mill sends his notes on the work, giving additional stations, especially for Oenanthe aprifloria and Vicia sativa. He adds:

As I am very favourably situated for observing the plants of Surrey, which have hardly been observed at all since Ray’s time if we except those in the immediate vicinity of London, which are figured in Curtis’s Flora Londinensis and many of which appear to have become extinct in the situations where Curtis found them, I may possibly be able hereafter to make other communications of a nature similar to this, if the present one should prove to be of any use. I have explored some parts of the County very fully, and almost every part of it more or less, but I expect to make many more discoveries before I have done.122

The immediate result was an exchange of specimens; the gradual one, Mill’s acceptance by the botanical community.123 He walked with some of the most avid collectors, and corresponded widely. The most extensive single letter is worth extracting at length, because it suggests much that may have been lost in non-extant correspondence. His friend Henry S. Chapman, in New Zealand, wrote concerning the possibility of importing useful plants (a proper enough concern for utilitarians, especially since the school’s founder had been concerned with importing and exporting plants useful as well as decorative). Mill replied, “I lost no time in asking Dr. Royle for the Himalayan seeds,” and “seeds of any useful plants that are likely to suit your climate.” He had arranged for them to be sent directly by Dr. Jameson, a botanist who had pioneered tea planting in India, and was Superintendent of the East India Company’s botanical garden at Saharunpore. He asked Chapman to send Jameson New Zealand seeds for trial in India, and he added, turning to the personal:

Many thanks for thinking of ferns for me. If you have anybody there who can name them it would be useful, as there are probably no books here on the botany of New Zealand; but if not, I will find someone to name and describe them here, as in any case there are likely to be new ones among them. Any other plants would be interesting as well as ferns,—all is fish that comes to my net, and there may be among plants picked up indiscriminately in a new country, as many and as interesting nondescripts as there were in Graham’s Mexican collection.124

The concluding reference indicates the network involved: George John Graham, one of Mill’s closest friends in the 1820s, travelling in Mexico from 1827 to 1829, Edition: current; Page: [xxxix] had collected some 400 specimens of Mexican plants; his collection is mentioned by George Bentham in his Plantae Hartwegianae (1839). Mill botanized with Royle,125 and with two of the main supporters of the Phytologist, its second publisher, William Pamplin, with whom Mill became friendly, and its final editor, Alexander Irvine, who became one of Mill’s favourite walking companions.

All this activity did not mean that Mill confused collecting with extirpation. In company with other botanists, he objected strenuously to the Royal Horticultural Society’s offering in 1864 “three prizes for the three best herbaria of every county in England, and three additional prizes for the best of these best,” because the result would be “the extinction of nearly all the rare species in our already so scanty flora.” In his view, expressed in a letter to the editor of the Gardeners’ Chronicle, the invitation included the temptation to “all the dabblers in plant collection, a race whose selfish rapacity certainly needs no additional temptation, . . . to hunt out all the rare plants in every part of the country and to carry off all they find, or destroy what they do not carry off, in order that not only they may themselves possess the plant, but that their competitors may not.”126

All of Mill’s botanical writings intended for publication appeared in The Phytologist: A Botanical Journal, except for his loyal notice of the Phytologist in the Westminster Review in 1843. The journal, which began publication in June 1841, was initially conducted by George Luxford, was owned (and printed) by another botanical enthusiast, Edward Newman, and was published by yet another, John Van Voorst. From May 1855 to March 1863 the editor was Alexander Irvine.127 Typical of its times, the Phytologist signalled the importance of natural theology by the inscription in a medallion, “Wisdom of God in Creation,” in all volumes in the first series, and by religious epigraphs in Greek and Latin in both Edition: current; Page: [xl] series. Mill was evidently not troubled by this devotion, which in any case did not flavour the journal’s articles.

Mill’s contributions appeared from the first number in June 1841 until October 1862, not long before the journal ceased publication. They are not regularly distributed, however, seven of the ten in the first series being from 1841, and nothing appearing between 1845 and 1856, when the first of his eighteen in the second series appeared. They are similarly unequal in length and significance, some dealing with single species, and one, “Botany in Spain,” four parts printed in five instalments, being a comparatively full record of a walking tour with Helen Taylor.128 Not the least of the conclusions to be drawn from it is just how energetic they both were; the two intervening years had, evidently, brought her up to his competitive standards.

Like many of the articles in the Phytologist, some of Mill’s contributions are mere extracts from letters intended for publication in full or in part. One can only guess whether he sent material to the first series that was not published, but under Irvine’s editorship each number included a list of “Communications Received” that gives firmer evidence.129 Commonly there are close to twenty names in the list; Mill’s name or initials appear comparatively frequently—a few dedicated readers outdid him by writing virtually every month. It would appear that mention in this list did not preclude publication of an actual extract elsewhere in the same or succeeding issues, though there were no regular quotations from correspondence until 1862, except for 1858, when three extracts from Mill appeared. Undoubtedly some of the “communications” received from Mill were printed, but certainly not all of his articles were listed as communications.130

Further evidence of his passion, not in itself persuasive or exciting for the general reader, comes from his collection of reference works. It is not now possible to determine the extent of Mill’s botanical library, especially that portion of it that was in his Avignon home. The following titles, however, were included in the gift of his library to Somerville College, Oxford, in 1907 (those marked with Edition: current; Page: [xli] an asterisk are no longer in the collection): C.C. Babington, Manual of British Botany, 5th ed. (London, 1862); A. de Brébisson, Flore de la Normandie, Pt. 1: Phanérogamie (Caen, 1836); J.A. Brewer, Flora of Surrey (London, 1863), and A New Flora of the Neighbourhood of Reigate, Surrey (London, 1856); W.A. Bromfield, Flora Vectensis: Being a Systematic Description of the . . . Flowering Plants . . . Indigenous to the Isle of Wight, ed. W.J. Hooker and T.B. Salter (London, 1856); George Louis le Clerc Buffon, Histoire naturelle (first 15 vols. of 1st ed. of 44 vols.) (Paris, 1749-67); M.H. Cowell, A Floral Guide for East Kent (Faversham, 1839); T.B. Flower, Flora of the Isle of Thanet (Ramsgate, 1842); E.F. Forster, Flora of Tunbridge Wells (London, 1816); G. Francis, An Analysis of the British Ferns and Their Allies (London, 1837); *Observations on Modern Gardening (London, 1770); G.S. Gibson, Flora of Essex (London, 1852); Joseph Dalton Hooker, The Student’s Flora of the British Islands (London, 1870); William Jackson Hooker, The British Flora, 3rd ed., 2 vols. (London, 1835); *Alexander Irvine, Illustrated Handbook of British Plants (London, 1858); John Lindley, A Natural System of Botany; or, A Systematic View of the Organisation, Natural Affinities, and Geographic Distribution, of the Whole Vegetable Kingdom, 2nd ed. (London, 1836); Edward Newman, A History of British Ferns, and Allied Plants (London, 1844); *Daniel Oliver, Lessons in Elementary Botany (Leipzig and Cambridge, 1864); *Phytologist, 15 vols.; G.E. Smith, Flora of South Kent (1829); H.C. Watson, Compendium of the Cybele Britannica, 4 vols. [one missing] (London, 1868-70), and Part 1 of Supplement to the Cybele Britannica (London, 1860). Many of these are well worn, though some must have been difficult to carry in the field.

What they demonstrate in the company of all the other evidence is the remarkable devotion that Mill gave to his avocation. In an age of amateurs, he made a mark, though not a top one. Henry Trimen’s assessment is convincng; Mill’s notes in the Phytologist, he says, though “always clear and accurate,” give no “inkling of the great intellectual powers of the writer.” They are, he continues,

merely such notes as any working botanical collector is able to supply in abundance. Mainly content with the pursuit as an outdoor occupation, with such an amount of home-work as was necessary to determine the names and affinities of the species, Mr. Mill never penetrated deeply into the philosophy of botany, so as to take rank among those who have, like Herbert Spencer, advanced that science by original work either of experiment or generalization, or have entered into the battle-field where the great biological questions of the day are being fought over.131

His slight contributions—slight compared to his work in other areas as well as to the major labours of others in this—are not quite trivial. Best known is the aid he gave in the preparation of Brewer’s Flora of Surrey.132 In fact, in the Flora stations observed by him are given for virtually every genus and on virtually every Edition: current; Page: [xlii] page. Surrey was his special territory, but certainly not his only one. Mountstuart Grant Duff reports: “I remember once, in the division lobby, asking him whether it was true that he was preparing a Flora of the department of Vaucluse. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I make a Flora of every district in which I settle. I made a Flora of Surrey.’ ”133 That remark is open to a narrow interpretation, and in fact the only other comparable endeavour seems to have been his collaboration with Fabre, whom he met in 1859, on the flora of Vaucluse.134 Some of Mill’s identifications have been mentioned in the specialist literature,135 and the taxonomy records his name in the mushroom Stuartella and in Sedum Millii.136

On balance, it would seem, however, that the private outweighed the public utility of Mill’s botanizing. The glimpses into his daily life and pleasures certainly help correct the view of him as a joyless moral machine. A letter from Mill to Herbert Spencer, not himself known for playful exuberance,137 is welcome evidence:

My murderous propensities are confined to the vegetable world. I take as great a delight in the pursuit of plants as you do in that of salmon, and find it an excellent incentive to exercise. Indeed I attribute the good health I am fortunate enough to have, very much to my great love for exercise, and for what I think the most healthy form of it, walking.

My late attack at Paris [at the end of June] was choleraic, dangerous for a few hours, and leaving me a little weak, but I am now quite recovered, thanks partly to having wandered about the Dunes at Calais and the Downs at Dover in pursuit of specimens for my herbarium.138

And Henry Trimen’s snapshot is evocative:

The writer of this notice well remembers meeting, a few years since, the (at that time) parliamentary logician, with his trousers turned up out of the mud, and armed with the tin insignia of his craft, busily occupied in the search after a marsh-loving rarity in a typical spongy wood on the clay to the north of London.139

All in all, it is fitting that Mill’s death was related to his loved avocation. On Saturday, 3 May, 1873, he made a fifteen-mile botanizing walk in Orange with Edition: current; Page: [xliii] Fabre, and had lunch with him before returning to Avignon, where he developed a chill on the Monday, and died on Wednesday, 7 May, of the erysipelas endemic to the area. His last extant letter was to Fabre, concerning their trip,140 and what seems to have been his last written word is a notation of a plant located on that final—and happy—excursion.



mill’s interest in medicine, which was much more personal than theoretical, is very little evident in his published works, though not infrequently obvious in his correspondence. The only published items directly bearing on the subject are the two slight reviews here included, “King’s Lecture on the Study of Anatomy,” from the Monthly Repository in 1834, and “Carpenter’s Physiology,” from the Westminster Review in 1842. It will be noted that in both Mill emphasizes the importance of systematic method, praising the Continental physiologists for their powers of generalization, which the English were only beginning to emulate. His botanical bent is also shown in his praise of Carpenter for including the physiology of plants in his discussion. Anyone interested in Mill and medicine, however, should turn to his letters, especially those to his wife, and to a manuscript of twelve pages suggesting the proper preventive care and medication appropriate for visitors to Egypt.141


in 1853, following his marriage, Mill made a short and conventional will, confirming not surprisingly his devotion to his wife by leaving everything to her, Edition: current; Page: [xliv] and in the event of her death, to her daughter, Helen Taylor; they were, with his friends William Ellis and William Thomas Thornton, appointed executors. After Harriet Taylor Mill’s death, he bought a plot in the Avignon cemetery, and a house and its land nearby; subsequently he drew up a French will in February 1859, securing these properties to Helen Taylor. In January 1864 he confirmed that will and added a codicil willing her additional properties he had acquired in the neighbourhood, as well as any he might acquire in the future. Another codicil in January 1867 added to her legacy all real and personal property that he possessed in Avignon and environs. To evade provisions of the French law of inheritance, he made all these provisions unnecessary by a deed of gift (“donation”) to Helen Taylor in February 1869 that conveyed to her all his real property in the district, and the contents of the house (including 982 volumes).

Finally, in 1872 Mill added a long codicil to his English will, cancelling earlier codicils to it not now known, reconfirming Helen Taylor as executor (and, failing her, Ellis and Thornton). He also appointed Helen Taylor as literary executor, and left to her the manuscript of the Autobiography to be published as she saw fit, with the aim of protecting his reputation against any “pretended” biography; she also was entrusted with the decision to add to the autobiographical memoir a selection of his letters, all others to be destroyed. His French will was mentioned, and his wish that his mortal remains be buried in the tomb of his wife in Avignon. He further specified legacies not only to Helen Taylor and her brother Algernon and his children, but also to his sister Mary Elizabeth Colman and her children, and to his alternate executors, was well as to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (£500), the Land Tenure Reform Association (£500), and to the first university in the United Kingdom “to throw open all its degrees to female students” (£6000). His copyrights he left to John Morley for support of a periodical “which shall be open to the expression of all opinions and shall have all its articles signed with the name of the writer.” These bequests, however, were subject to Helen Taylor’s predeceasing him, which of course she did not, and it is not known which provisions she carried out, except that she expressly denied responsibility to carry out the gift to the university first to admit women.142


while mill was not as interventionist an editor as Francis Jeffrey of the Edinburgh or Charles Dickens of Household Words and All the Year Round, his temper and Edition: current; Page: [xlv] talents were tested by some articles commissioned for or submitted to the London and Westminster during his stewardship from 1835 to 1840. In the manuscript list of his published works he included four articles to which he felt his contribution sufficiently justified the claim of co-authorship. Two of these are related to his specific interests, and are consequently included in earlier thematic volumes of the Collected Works.143 The others, “The Vixen, and Circassia” and “The Spanish Question,” both appeared in 1837,144 reflecting particular international issues of the day and so calling for comment in the periodical, but neither involving a special concern of Mill’s. They contribute, however, to an appreciation of his role and activity as editor, especially when read with his correspondence of the period, and his editorial notes to the London and Westminster, which are reprinted in Volume I of the Collected Works. “The Spanish Question” is known to have posed problems that were undoubtedly recurrent: Mill first wrote to William Napier, experienced on the ground and in print about Spanish military matters, gently proposing that he contribute on the subject or name someone who could; Mill himself offered to supply comments on British foreign policy and the general question of intervention. Napier declined, but gave important details in his letter, and suggested Charles Shaw as a substitute; in his reply Mill indicated that Shaw was not appropriate, as his work would be reviewed in the article, and said that an (unnamed) author had been found.145


during his parliamentary career, probably the closest Mill came to dealing effectively with constituency matters was through his part in the campaign for municipal government for the metropolis. He spoke often on the issue, and served Edition: current; Page: [xlvi] actively on the Select Committee considering the proposal. The Committee issued three reports, two in 1866, and a third in 1867.146 Mill’s interest in efficiency, fairness, and responsible leadership emerges in his questions, which thus help fill in the detail of his political beliefs and activities, especially in his interaction with sympathetic witnesses whose appearance was called for by his allied reformers.


an interesting glimpse into Mill’s combined intellectual and social life, similar to those deriving from the records of his debating activities, is provided by the records of the Political Economy Club, founded in 1821. He was elected to it in 1836, and became a member of its ruling Committee in 1840, as did his friend Edwin Chadwick. His father was one of its founding members (a portion of the draft rules is in his hand),147 though he seldom attended and resigned in 1835, presumably because of ill-heath; and George Grote was the first treasurer. The membership, originally limited to thirty, and raised to thirty-five in 1847, was not thoroughly orthodox but economically eclectic, including businessmen, politicians (cabinet ministers were honorary members after 1834), civil servants, and men of letters, as well as writers on economics. The meetings, on the first Monday of each month from December through June, were held successively during Mill’s membership in the Freemason’s Tavern (until 1850), the Thatched House Tavern (1850-61), the St. James’s Restaurant (1861-67), and Willis’s Rooms (1867-77); the original subscription was five guineas. The sessions began with a dinner at 6:30 p.m., and the discussion often lasted until 11, with the speakers remaining seated.

The proposed questions (often more than one for each meeting) were printed and circulated before each meeting, and the proposer, if present, opened the discussion, originally and through Mill’s period speaking without a text. Mill was an active member, as the list of topics in Appendix E shows, and his prominence is indicated by the passing of a resolution regretting his death, a rare practice, and by the subscription of £50 from the Club’s funds towards his proposed memorial.148

His questions cover, not surprisingly, a wide range of topics, from technical definitions, through queries about the practical effects of measures, to broad social and moral issues. They not infrequently reflect Mill’s pondering over matters that Edition: current; Page: [xlvii] appear prominently in his writings, not only in his Principles of Political Economy (first published in 1848, and much revised in later editions), but also in his newspaper articles on Ireland, his parliamentary evidence on the Bank Act and on income tax, and his comments in various essays on co-operation. There are also inferences to be drawn about his life from his absences in the record in 1854 when he was travelling for his health, and in 1859-60, after his wife’s death, when he stayed for much of the year in semi-retirement in Avignon. His final appearance is interesting in that he gave attendance at the Club as the reason for his return to London early in July 1865;149 he in fact became caught up reluctantly in the successful campaign for his election on 11 July as Member of Parliament for Westminster.

Initially I made the claim that the miscellaneous writings in this volume contribute substantially to a full understanding of Mill’s life and thought, and that many have independent value: that claim can be substantiated only by a careful analysis of them, each in context, and the comments above are intended merely to make it plausible. In any case, taken with the great bulk of his better-known writings in earlier volumes, these materials certainly demonstrate that Mill’s character and behaviour were much richer and more varied than narrow stereotypes have suggested. And if he is taken as representative of homo victorianus, that species too must be seen as vital, compelling, and emphatically not to be confined in a museum’s hortus siccus.


in this volume, as the edition draws to a close after some thirty years, it seems appropriate to admit that our filing system includes a drawer labelled miscellaneous, in which there is a folder labelled miscellaneous, in which. . . . Considering what those dots conceal, I should further confess that the temptation to include in this volume all the various bits and pieces connected with Mill has been very great. An inoculation of common sense, however, not unrelated to a cost-benefit regime, has controlled the impulse. Omitted, therefore, are some slight manuscripts not connected to other writings,150 including those that are merely copies of passages by others (most notably the Egyptian medical notes mentioned above), and Mill’s comments on Grote’s manuscripts. As indicated above, we have had to exclude his manuscript botanical lists. Also omitted are marginalia: Mill was not a great Edition: current; Page: [xlviii] annotator of books, most of his pencilled marks being merely crosses or lines against passages or page references on fly leaves; few suggest more than that a passage interested him.

This volume is divided into three sections, reflecting subject matter and genre, and appendices. The first part consists of Mill’s editorial contributions to Jeremy Bentham’s Rationale of Judicial Evidence (1827) and to the second edition of James Mill’s Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind (1869). Both of these sets of materials exist only in printed form, except for a manuscript fragment of the latter. These exhibit a curious inversion of original intention, in that Mill’s annotations become the text, and the text becomes annotation: to give the context, passages explaining, summarizing, and quoting Bentham’s and James Mill’s texts, in italic type (and also within square brackets when not direct quotations), introduce Mill’s comments. Economy is here necessary, and only when the actual wording of the original is essential are these introductory passages lengthy; when Mill’s comment is virtually self-explanatory, the editorial note is merely locative. Page references to the original are given at the end of each discrete passage; though many of Mill’s additions are in footnotes, these references do not include “n.” To avoid confusion, references incorporated in the original text are moved to footnotes. For consistency, “Vol.” and “p(p).” are added to original references as necessary.

The second section contains Mill’s published writings on botany, which appeared in the Phytologist between 1841 and 1862, plus a review of the Phytologist in the Westminster Review (1843), and a “Calendar of Odours” he prepared for Caroline Fox. All of these are extant in only one version, and present no special textual problems.

The text proper concludes with two brief notices of the printed version of a medical lecture and of a textbook, the first printed in the Monthly Repository (1834), the second in the Westminster Review (1842). Again there is only one version of each, and no special problems.

The appendices include five textual items. Appendix A, containing Mill’s English and French wills, has the manuscript documents as copy-texts; despite the urge to punctuate lawyer’s forms, these are reproduced diplomatically, except that “and” is substituted for “&” and “etc.” for “&c.” Appendices B and C, co-authored reviews from the London and Westminster Review, exist only in the one printed form, as do Appendix D, taken from Parliamentary Papers, and Appendix E, taken from the printed record of the Political Economy Club: in each case there are no competing versions. The two remaining appendices are lists of textual emendations and of persons and works cited in the texts and Appendices A through E. The distinct challenges in preparing the index to such a volume have been met and overcome by the skills and diligence of Dr. Jean O’Grady.

Editorial notes to each item identify the copy-text, indicate whence such titles as are not original have been derived (as in the case of several of the botanical Edition: current; Page: [xlix] articles), and supply other specific explanatory material, such as the description of the item in Mill’s own list of his published writings and any corrections found in his own copy. Editorial footnotes (signalled by numeric series within each item) give personal identifications, bibliographic detail, and such limited historical comment as seems necessary for comprehension. Notes in the originals are signalled by the series *, †, ‡, etc.; occasionally references within the text have been moved to footnotes for consistency, and some have been corrected.

There being no competing versions of any of the items, except for the manuscript fragment of a note to James Mill’s Analysis, there are few textual notes, each of which is explained in its place.


the only editorial interventions in printed texts, except for Mill’s editions of Bentham and James Mill, are made for consistency: special instances are given in Appendix F with, as necessary, explanations for the changes. Headings have been restyled. Other general practices include: “2dly” and similar forms are given as “2ndly”; ordinals attached to rulers’ names are given in the form “Charles I”; “&c.” is given as “etc.”; terms mentioned rather than used are given in italic (sometimes this involves removing quotation marks)—this alteration is especially needed in the notes to James Mill’s Analysis, where the practice is normal in James Mill’s text, but, surprisingly, not in the notes. The titles of works published separately are given in italic and parts of works in quotation marks. Foreign words and phrases are normalized in italic type. Long quotations have been set in smaller type, and the quotation marks deleted. An apparent exception to this practice appears in the editorial notes to Bentham’s Rationale in places where Mill says quotation marks signal passages written by Bentham that he has incorporated within sections of his own. Square brackets appear when page references are added to the text to conform to Mill’s own practice in particular items. Volume and page references in the original have been standardized and corrected as necessary.151 In the notes to the Analysis, “i.e.” is normalized in italic.

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for permission to publish manuscript materials, we are indebted to the National Provincial Bank, residual legatees of Mary Taylor, Mill’s step-granddaughter. We are most grateful to the librarians and staff of the British Library, the British Library of Political and Economic Science, the Farlow Reference Library of Harvard University, the Institute for Historical Research (University of London), Somerville College Oxford, the University of London Library, the Library of University College London, the University of Toronto Library, the Victoria University Library, and the Yale University Library. We have been graciously assisted by David G. Frodin of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, G. Lucas, S. FitzGerald, and L.E. Thompson of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Hollis G. Bedell of the Botany Libraries, Harvard University, and J.H. Ross of the Royal Botanic Gardens and National Herbarium, Yarra, Victoria, Australia. Among those scholars who gave generously of their time and attention are John Beattie, Stephen Conway, Lawrence Dewan, Robert Fenn, and Anthony Lewis. Joan Bulger, our copy-editor, has continued with the aid and co-operation of her production and design colleagues to prolong my joy at working with the University of Toronto Press. As always, my thanks to the Editorial Committee of the Collected Works, most signally to Ann P. Robson, who on many a joint ante-jentacular circumgyration proved conclusively, with rationale and analysis abounding, that weeds editorial are but flowers stylistic in the wrong place. Attentive readers will appreciate how much of the work of the edition is the result of the unstinted dedication and labour (not all mental) of my co-workers, especially Marion Filipiuk, who found our way through the thickets of Bentham and James Mill, Jean O’Grady, whose green thumb and environmental care made the botanical lists yield what fruit they have, and Rea Wilmshurst, whose gimlet eye and clutterless mind saved us from many an error. They were assisted in all but command by Michele Green, Jonathan Cutmore, Jannifer Smith-Rubenzahl, and Elizabeth King.

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1827, 1869

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Extracts from Rationale of Judicial Evidence, Specially Applied to English Practice. From the Manuscripts of Jeremy Bentham, Esq. Bencher of Lincoln’s Inn. 5 vols. London: Hunt and Clarke, 1827. Preface signed “John S. Mill.” Identified in Mill’s bibliography as “The Preface, Additions and Editorial Notes to the Rationale of Judicial Evidence by Jeremy Bentham” (MacMinn, p. 8). In the text below, Mill’s contributions are printed in normal roman type, with volume and page references to the edition of 1827 in parentheses at the end. In the original, Mill’s contributions are usually attributed at the end by “Editor” or “Ed.”; these are here omitted. In a few cases, specially noted, the attribution was not attached to passages obviously Mill’s. Where necessary, passages of Bentham’s own text are quoted or summarized in italic type; the summaries are enclosed in square brackets. Unless otherwise indicated, Mill’s footnotes are appended to the conclusion of the quoted or summarized text.

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Jeremy Bentham’s Rationale of Judicial Evidence


the papers, from which the work now submitted to the public has been extracted, were written by Mr. Bentham at various times, from the year 1802 to 1812. They comprise a very minute exposition of his views on all the branches of the great subject of Judicial Evidence, intermixed with criticisms on the law of Evidence as it is established in this country, and with incidental remarks on the state of that branch of law in most of the continental systems of jurisprudence.

Mr. Bentham’s speculations on Judicial Evidence have already been given to the world, in a more condensed form, by M. Dumont, of Geneva, in the Traité des Preuves Judiciaires, published in 1823: one of the most interesting among the important works founded on Mr. Bentham’s manuscripts, with which that “first of translators and redacteurs,” as he has justly been termed, has enriched the library of the continental jurist.1 The strictures, however, on English law, which compose more than one-half of the present work, were judiciously omitted by M. Dumont, as not sufficiently interesting to a continental reader to compensate for the very considerable space which they would have occupied. To an English reader—to him at least who loves his country sufficiently well to desire that what is defective in her institutions should be amended, and, in order to its being amended, should be known—these criticisms will not be the least interesting portion of the work. As is usual in the critical and controversial part of Mr. Bentham’s writings, the manner is forcible and perspicuous. The occasional obscurity, of which his style is accused, but which in reality is almost confined to the more intricate of the theoretical discussions, is the less to be regretted, as the nature of the subject is of itself sufficient to render the work a sealed letter to those who read merely for amusement. They who really desire to possess useful knowledge do not grudge the trouble necessary to acquire it.

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The task of the Editor has chiefly consisted in collating the manuscripts. Mr. Bentham had gone over the whole of the field several times, at intervals of some length from one another, with little reference on each occasion to what he had written on the subject at the former times. Hence, it was often found that the same topic had been treated two and even three times; and it became necessary for the Editor to determine, not only which of the manuscripts should supply the basis of the chapter, but likewise how great a portion of each of those which were laid aside might usefully be incorporated with that which was retained. The more recent of the manuscripts has in most cases been adopted as the ground-work, being generally that in which the subjects were treated most comprehensively and systematically; while the earlier ones often contained thoughts and illustrations of considerable value, with passages, and sometimes whole pages, written with great spirit and pungency. Where these could conveniently be substituted for the corresponding passages in the manuscript chosen as the basis of the work, the substitution has been made. Where this was thought inexpedient, either on account of the merit of the passages which would thus have been superseded, or because their omission would have broken the thread of the discussion, the Editor (not thinking himself justified in suppressing anything which appeared to him to be valuable in the original) has added the passage which was first written, instead of substituting it for that which was composed more recently. From this cause it may occasionally be found in perusing the work, that the same ideas have been introduced more than once, in different dresses. But the Editor hopes that this will never prove to be the case, except where either the merit of both passages, or the manner in which one of them was interwoven with the matter preceding and following it, constituted a sufficient motive for retaining both.

The plan of the work having been altered and enlarged at different times, and having ultimately extended to a much wider range of subjects than were included in the original design, it has not unfrequently happened that the same subject has been discussed incidentally in one book, which was afterwards treated directly in another. In some of these cases the incidental discussion has been omitted, as being no longer necessary; but in others it contained important matter, which was not to be found in the direct and more methodical one, and which, from the plan on which the latter was composed, it was not found possible to introduce in it. In such cases both discussions have usually been retained.

The work, as has been already observed, not having been written consecutively, but part at one time, and part at another, and having always been regarded by the author as an unfinished work, it has sometimes, (though but rarely) occurred, that while one topic was treated several times over, another, of perhaps equal importance, was not treated at all. Such deficiencies it was the wish of Mr. Bentham that the Editor should endeavour to supply. In compliance with this wish, some cases of the exclusion of evidence in English law, which were not noticed by Mr. Bentham, have been stated and commented upon in the last chapter of the Edition: current; Page: [7] book on Makeshift Evidence, and in two chapters of the sixth part of the Book on Exclusion.* He has likewise subjoined to some of the chapters in the latter book, a vindication of the doctrines which they contain, against the strictures of an able writer in the Edinburgh Review.2 A few miscellaneous notes are scattered here and there, but sparingly: nor could anything, except the distinctly expressed wish of the Author, have induced the Editor to think that any additions of his could enhance the value of a work on such a subject, and from such a hand.

For the distribution of the work in Chapters and Sections, the Editor alone is responsible. The division into Books is all that belongs to the Author.

The original manuscripts contained, under the title of Causes of the Exclusion of Evidence, a treatise on the principal defects of the English system of Technical Procedure. This extensive subject may appear not to be so intimately connected with the more limited design of a work which professes to treat of Judicial Evidence only, as to entitle a dissertation upon it to a place in these pages. On examination, however, the parenthetical treatise was thought to be not only so instructive, but so full of point and vivacity, that its publication could not but be acceptable to the readers of the present work: and the additional bulk, in a work which already extended beyond four volumes, was not deemed a preponderant objection, especially as the dissertation, from the liveliness and poignancy with which it exposes established absurdities, gives in some degree a relief to the comparative abstruseness of some other parts of the work. It stands as the eighth in order of the ten books into which the work is divided.3

A few of the vices in the detail of English law, which are complained of both in Edition: current; Page: [8] this book and in other parts of the work, have been either wholly or partially remedied by Mr. Peel’s recent law reforms;4 and some others may be expected to be removed, if the recommendations of the late Chancery Commission be carried into execution.5 The changes, however, which will thus be effected in a system of procedure founded altogether upon wrong principles, will not be sufficient to render that system materially better; in some cases, perhaps, they will even tend to render it worse: since the malâ fide suitor has always several modes of distressing his adversary by needless delay or expense, and these petty reforms take away at most one or two, but leave it open to him to have recourse to others, which, though perhaps more troublesome to himself, may be even more burdensome to his bonâ fide adversary than the former. Thus, for instance: in one of the earlier chapters of Book VIII, the reader will find an exposure of one of those contrivances for making delay which were formerly within the power of the dishonest suitor; I mean that of groundless writs of error.6 Mr. Peel has partially (and but partially) taken away this resource,7 and the consequence, as we are informed, has been, not that improper delay has not been obtained, but that it has been obtained by way of demurrer,8 or by joining issue and proceeding to trial; either of which expedients (though perhaps somewhat less efficacious to the party seeking delay) are equally, if not more, oppressive in the shape of expense to the party against whom they are employed, than the proceedings in error.

The truth is, that, bad as the English system of jurisprudence is, its parts harmonize tolerably well together; and if one part, however bad, be taken away, while another part is left standing, the arrangement which is substituted for it may, for the time, do more harm by its imperfect adaptation to the remainder of the old system, than the removal of the abuse can do good. The objection so often urged by lawyers as an argument against reforms, “That in so complicated and intricate a system of jurisprudence as ours, no one can foretell what the consequences of the slightest innovation may be,” is perfectly correct;9 although the inference to be drawn from it is not, as they would have it to be understood, that the system ought Edition: current; Page: [9] not to be reformed, but that it ought to be reformed thoroughly, and on a comprehensive plan; not piecemeal, but at once. There are numerous cases in which a gradual change is preferable to a sudden one; because its immediate consequences can be more distinctly foreseen. But in this case, the consequences even of a sudden change can be much more easily foreseen than those of a gradual one. Whatever difficulties men might at first experience (though the difficulties which they would experience have been infinitely exaggerated) in adapting their conduct to a system of procedure entirely founded on rational, and therefore on new, principles; none are more ready than lawyers themselves to admit that still greater difficulty would be felt in adapting it to a system partly rational and partly technical.

For such a thorough reform, or rather re-construction of our laws, the public mind is not yet entirely prepared. But it is rapidly advancing to such a state of preparation. It is now no longer considered as a mark of disaffection towards the state, and hostility to social order and to law in general, to express an opinion that the existing law is defective, and requires a radical reform. Thus much Mr. Peel’s attempts have already done for the best interests of his country; and they will in time do much more. A new spirit is rising in the profession itself. Of this the recent work of Mr. Humphreys, obtaining, as it has done, so great circulation and celebrity, is one of the most gratifying indications.10 The reform which he contemplates in one of the most difficult, as well as important branches of the law, is no timid and trifling attempt to compromise with the evil, but goes to the root at once.* And the rapidity with which this spirit is spreading among the young and rising lawyers, notwithstanding the degree in which their pecuniary interest must be affected by the removal of the abuses, is one of the most cheering signs of the times,11 and goes far to shew, that the tenacity with which the profession has usually clung to the worst parts of existing systems, was owing not wholly to those sinister interests12 which Mr. Bentham has so instructively expounded, but, in part at least, to the extreme difficulty which a mind conversant only with one set of securities feels in conceiving that society can possibly be held together by any other.

It has appeared to the Editor superfluous to add one word in recommendation of Edition: current; Page: [10] the work. The vast importance of the subject, which is obvious to all men, and the consideration that it has now for the first time been treated philosophically, and by such a master, contain in themselves so many incitements of curiosity to every liberal mind, to every mind which regards knowledge on important subjects as an object of desire, that volumes might be written without adding to their force.

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at an interval of more than ten years from the first publication of this work, the original Editor feels that an apology is due from him for the air of confident dogmatism perceptible in some of his notes and additions, and for which he can only urge the palliation of their having been written in very early youth—a time of life at which such faults are more venial than at any other, because they generally arise, not so much from the writer’s own self-conceit, as from confidence in the authority of his teachers. It is due, however, to himself to state, that the tone of some of the passages in question would have been felt by him, even then, to be unbecoming, as proceeding from himself individually: he wrote them in the character of an anonymous Editor of Mr. Bentham’s work, who, in the trifling contributions which the author desired at his hands, considered (so far as mere manner was concerned) rather what would be accordant with the spirit of the work itself, and in Mr. Bentham admissible, than what would be decorous from a person of his years and his limited knowledge and experience.14 His name was subsequently affixed, contrary to his own strongly expressed wish, at the positive desire of the venerable author, who certainly had a right to require it.15

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The exclusive rules relative to evidence belong to the adjective branch of the law: the effect of them is to frustrate and disappoint the expectations raised by the substantive branch. The maintenance of them has this effect perpetually: the Edition: current; Page: [11] abolition of them, even though by the judicial power, would have no such effect, but the contrary.

The terms, adjective and substantive, applied to law, are intended to mark an important distinction, first pointed out to notice by this author;16 viz. the distinction between the commands which refer directly to the ultimate ends of the legislator, and the commands which refer to objects which are only the means to those ends. The former are as it were the laws themselves; the latter are the prescriptions for carrying the former into execution. They are, in short, the rules of procedure. The former Mr. Bentham calls the substantive law, the latter the adjective. (Vol. I, p. 5.)

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[Bentham argues (Vol. I, pp. 18-20) that in searching for matters of fact, human beings are faced “every day, and almost every waking hour,” with “questions of evidence.” He mentions specifically domestic management, natural philosophy, technology, medicine, and then mathematics, noting that in the last “the evidentiary facts” are “feigned,” but nonetheless persuasion depends on evidence.]

The difference, in respect of evidence, between questions of mathematics and questions of purely experimental science, of chemistry, for example, is merely this; that the evidence applicable to the former, is that description of evidence which is founded upon general reasoning; while the evidence applicable to the latter, is evidence of that description which is derived immediately from matters of fact, presenting themselves to our senses. To point out the peculiar properties of these two kinds of evidence, and to distinguish them from one another, belongs rather to a treatise on logic than to a work like the present; which, considering evidence almost exclusively in regard to its connection with judicature, excludes all general speculations which have no immediate bearing upon that subject. (Vol. I, p. 20.)

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[Bentham refers again to the substantive and adjective branches of law.]

See ante, p. 5—note. (Vol. I, p. 25.)

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The state of the facts, as well as the state of the law, being such as to confer on the plaintiff a title to such or such a right, or to satisfaction on the score of such or such a wrong; if evidence, and that of a sufficient degree of probative force to satisfy the judge, of the existence of the necessary matter of fact, be wanting; the law, in that instance, fails of receiving its due execution and effect; and, according to the nature of the case, injustice in the shape of non-collation of rights where due, non-administration of compensation where due, or non-administration of punishment where due, is the consequence. [Mill’s note is appended to “non-collation.”]

By collation of rights, Mr. Bentham means that species of service which the judge renders to any person by putting him in possession of a certain right. Non-collation of rights has place when that service is not rendered,—when the person in question is not put in possession of the right.

So, collative facts are those facts which have been appointed by the legislator to give commencement to a right: thus, under English law, in the case of the right to a landed estate, collative facts are, a conveyance executed in a particular form, a devise, and the like: in the case of the rights of a husband over a wife, and vice versâ, the collative fact is the ceremony of marriage, and so on. Collative facts are also sometimes called by Mr. Bentham investitive facts.

In like manner, ablative, or divestitive facts, are those which take away rights: as in the case of property, gift or sale to another party: in the case of several of the rights of a father over his child, the child’s coming of age, etc. etc.17 (Vol. I, p. 26.)

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[It is one] natural and proper object of the legislator’s care, viz. to see that the necessary evidence be forthcoming.

There are many other judicial purposes for which it is necessary that things and persons should be forthcoming, besides that of being presented to the judge in the character of sources of evidence. The subject of Forthcomingness, therefore, belongs to the general subject of Procedure. And as the arrangements necessary to secure the forthcomingness of persons and things to serve as sources of evidence, do not differ from those which are necessary to secure their forthcomingness for any other judicial purpose, they do not properly form part of the subject of the present work. (Vol. I, p. 27.)

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Of evidence sine lite. An example of this is, where, to enable a man to receive money from an officer employed in the payment of public money, evidence shewing his title must be produced. Here, as elsewhere, the object is to guard against deception in the most effectual way possible, without preponderant or unnecessary vexation, expense, and delay.

On this subject a few pages had been written by Mr. Bentham, but he had never completed the enquiry, and the manuscript in the hands of the Editor was so incomplete that he has thought it best to suppress it.18 (Vol. I, p. 37.)

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[Bentham proposes (Vol. I, pp. 103-6) a scale to measure the value of witnesses’ evidence.]

M. Dumont, in a note to the Traité des Preuves Judiciaires, has brought forward several objections against the scale which Mr. Bentham has suggested for the measurement of degrees of persuasion and probative force. It is fair that the reader should have the means of judging for himself, what degree of validity these objections possess. I quote from a recently published and very well executed translation of Mr. Dumont’s work.

I do not dispute the correctness of the author’s principles; and I cannot deny that, where different witnesses have different degrees of belief, it would be extremely desirable to obtain a precise knowledge of these degrees, and to make it the basis of the judicial decision; but I cannot believe that this sort of perfection is attainable in practice. I even think, that it belongs only to intelligences superior to ourselves, or at least to the great mass of mankind. Looking into myself, and supposing that I am examined in a court of justice on various facts, if I cannot answer “Yes” or “No” with all the certainty which my mind can allow, if there be degrees and shades, I feel myself incapable of distinguishing between two and three, between four and five, and even between more distant degrees. I make the experiment at this very moment; I try to recollect who told me a certain fact: I hesitate, I collect all the circumstances, I think it was A rather than B: but should I place my belief at No. 4, or No. 7? I cannot tell.

A witness who says, “I am doubtful,” says nothing at all, in so far as the judge is concerned. It serves no purpose, I think, to enquire after the degrees of doubt. But these different states of belief, which, in my opinion, it is difficult to express in numbers, display themselves to the eyes of the judge by other signs. The readiness of the witness, the distinctness and certainty of his answers, the agreement of all the circumstances of his story with each other,—it is this which shows the confidence of the witness in himself. Hesitation, a painful searching for the details, successive connexions of his own testimony,—it is this which announces a witness who is not at the maximum of certainty. It belongs to the judge to appreciate these differences, rather than to the witness himself, who would be greatly embarrassed if he had to fix the numerical amount of his own belief.

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Were this scale adopted, I should be apprehensive that the authority of the testimony would often be inversely as the wisdom of the witnesses. Reserved men—men who knew what doubt is—would, in many cases, place themselves at inferior degrees, rather than at the highest; while those of a positive and presumptuous disposition, above all, passionate men, would almost believe they were doing themselves an injury, if they did not take their station immediately at the highest point. The wisest thus leaning to a diminution, and the least wise to an augmentation, of their respective influence on the judge, the scale might produce an effect contrary to what the author expects from it.

The comparison with wagers and insurances does not seem to me to be applicable. Testimony turns on past events; wagers turn on future events: as a witness, I know, I believe, or I doubt; as a wagerer, I know nothing, but I conjecture, I calculate probabilities: my rashness can injure nobody but myself; and if a wagerer feels that he has gone too far, he often diminishes the chances of loss by betting on the other side.

It appears to me, that, in judicial matters, the true security depends on the degree in which the judges are acquainted with the nature of evidence, the appreciation of testimony, and the different degrees of proving power. These principles put a balance into their hands, in which witnesses can be weighed much more accurately than if they were allowed to assign their own value; and even if the scale of the degrees of belief were adopted, it would still be necessary to leave judges the power of appreciating the intelligence and morality of the witnesses, in order to estimate the confidence due to the numerical point of belief at which they have placed their testimony.

These are the difficulties which have presented themselves to me, in meditating on this new method.19

On these observations of M. Dumont it may, in the first place, be remarked that, if applicable at all, they are applicable only to the use of the scale by the witness, not to the use of it by the judge, which latter use, however, is perhaps the more important of the two. In the next place, even as regards the witness, I doubt whether any great weight should be attached to the objections. For, first, what almost all of them seem to imply is, that, because we cannot in all cases attain the degree of exactness which is desirable, therefore we ought to neglect the means of attaining that degree of exactness which is in our power. The witness who does not know the degree of his persuasion,—the witness to whom the scale would be useless, will not call for it: the judge will at all events have the same means of appreciating his testimony, as he has now, and will not be the more likely to be deceived by a witness who does not use the scale, because it has happened to him to have received the testimony of one who does.

Secondly, the most formidable in appearance of all M. Dumont’s objections—I mean that which is contained in his third paragraph—seems to me, if it prove anything, to prove much more than M. Dumont intended. The wise, says he, will place their degree of persuasion lower than they ought, the foolish, higher than they ought: the effect therefore of the scale is to give greater power to the foolish than they otherwise would have, and less power to the wise. But if this be true, what does it prove? that different degrees of persuasion should not be suffered to be indicated at all; that no one should be suffered to say he doubts. It is not the scale Edition: current; Page: [15] which does the mischief, if mischief there be. There are but two sorts of witnesses, the wise and the foolish: grant to them the privilege of expressing doubt, or any degree of persuasion short of the highest, and the foolish, says M. Dumont, will make no use of the privilege, the wise will make a bad use. But if so, would it not be better to withhold the privilege altogether? Is it the scale which makes all the difference?

The truth seems to me to be, that the scale will neither add to the power of the foolish witness, nor unduly diminish that of the wise one. It will not add to the power of the foolish witness, because he cannot place his persuasion higher than the highest point in the scale; and this is no more than he could do without it. It will not unduly diminish the power of the wise witness; because the wise witness will know tolerably well what degree of persuasion he has grounds for, and will therefore know tolerably well whereabouts to place himself in the scale. That he would be likely to place himself too low, seems to me a mere assumption. The wiser a man becomes, the more certainly will he doubt, where evidence is insufficient, and scepticism justifiable; but as his wisdom increases, so also will his confidence increase, in all those cases in which there is sufficient evidence to warrant a positive conclusion. (Vol. I, pp. 106-9.)

* * * * *

When, by a consideration of any kind, a man is determined to maintain a proposition of any kind, and finds it not tenable on the ground of reason and experience; to conceal his distress, he has recourse to some phrase, in and by which the truth of the proposition is, somehow or other, assumed.

Thus, in the moral department of science; having a set of obligations which they were determined to impose upon mankind, or such part of it at any rate as they should succeed in engaging by any means to submit to the yoke; phrases, in no small variety and abundance, have been invented by various persons, for the purpose of giving force to their respective wills, and thus performing for their accommodation the functions of a law. Law of nations, moral sense, common sense, understanding, rule of right, fitness of things, law of reason, right reason, natural justice, natural equity, good order, truth, will of God, repugnancy to nature.

An appropriate name for this class of phrases would be covers for dogmatism; an appellation indicating the property common to them all, of serving as cloaks for ipse-dixitism, for that fallacy which has been termed by the logicians petitio principii.

To say that an act is right or wrong, because it is conformable or disconformable to the law of nature, is merely to say that it is right or wrong because it is Edition: current; Page: [16] conformable or disconformable to right or wrong. What law has nature? What is nature itself? Is it a poetical and imaginary personage, which I suppose nobody ever seriously believed to have any real existence? Is it the physical and psychological world, considered as a whole? Take the word in either sense, “law of nature” is a phrase which can have no meaning; and he who uses it means nothing by it, except his own opinions, or his own feelings; which he thus endeavours to erect into a standard, to which the opinions and feelings of others are to conform.

To say, in like manner, that an act is right or wrong because it is conformable or disconformable to conscience, or moral sense, is to say that it is right or wrong, because I, the speaker, approve or disapprove of it. For what is conscience, or moral sense, except my own feeling of approbation or disapprobation? By what other test am I to determine what is conformable to conscience, what is conformable to the moral sense?

The moralists, or pretended moralists, who make use of these words, may be said to belong to the dogmatical school of ethics: since they give their own approbation or disapprobation, as a reason for itself, and a standard for the approbation or disapprobation of every one else. This appellation will distinguish them from those who think that morality is not the province of dogmatism, but of reason, and that propositions in ethics need proof, as much as propositions in mathematics. (Vol. I, p. 126.)

* * * * *

[In a “Note by the Author,” Bentham mentions an article by Richard Price (1723-91), “On the Importance of Christianity, the Nature of Historical Evidence, and Miracles,” in Four Dissertations (London: Millar and Cadell, 1767), pp. 359-439. Bentham summarizes part of Price’s argument thus:] Imagine a lottery, says he, with a million of blanks to a prize: take No. 1, No. 1,000,001, or any intermediate number; and suppose yourself to hear of its gaining the prize: would you find any difficulty in believing it? No, surely: yet here is an improbability of a million to one: and yet you believe it without difficulty. If this ratio does not import sufficient improbability, instead of millions take billions: or, instead of billions, trillions, and so on.

Well then, since we must stop somewhere, we will stop at a trillion. This being the nominal ratio, what is the consequence? Answer—That the real ratio is that of 1 to 1. One little circumstance of the case had escaped the observation of the mathematical divine. Of the trillion and one, that some one ticket should gain the prize, is matter of necessity: and of them all, every one has exactly as good a chance as every other. Mathematicians, it has been observed, (so fond are they of Edition: current; Page: [17] making display of the hard-earned skill acquired by them, in the management of their instrument) are apt not to be so scrupulous as might be wished in the examination of the correctness and completeness of the data which they assume, and on which they operate. [Mill appended the following “Father Note by the Editor.”]

When Dr. Price affirms that we continually believe, on the slightest possible evidence, things in the highest degree improbable,20 he confounds two ideas, which are totally distinct from one another, and would be seen to be such, did they not unfortunately happen to be called by the same name: these are, improbability in the ordinary sense, and mathematical improbability. In the latter of these senses there is scarcely any event which is not improbable: in the former, the only improbable events are extraordinary ones.

In the language of common life, an improbable event means an event which is disconformable to the ordinary course of nature.* This kind of improbability constitutes a valid reason for disbelief; because, universal experience having established that the course of nature is uniform, the more widely an alleged event differs from the ordinary course of nature, the smaller is the probability of its being true.

In the language of mathematics, the word improbability has a totally different meaning. In the mathematical sense of the word, every event is improbable, of the happening of which it might have been said à priori that the odds were against it. In this sense, almost all events which ever happened are improbable: not only those events which are disconformable, but even those events which are in the highest degree conformable, to the course, and even to the most ordinary course, of nature.

A corn merchant goes into a granary, and takes up a handful of grain as a sample; there are millions of grains in the granary, which had an equal chance of being taken up. According to Dr. Price, events which happen daily, and in every corner, are extraordinary, and highly improbable. The chances were infinitely great against my placing my foot, when I rise from my chair, on the precise spot where I have placed it; going on, in this manner, from one example to another, nothing can happen that is not infinitely improbable.

True it is, in all these cases (as well as in that of the lottery, supposed by Dr. Price21 there is what would be called, in the language of the doctrine of chances, an improbability, in the ratio of as many as you please to one: yet it would obviously be absurd to make this a reason for refusing our belief to the alleged event; and why? Because, though it is in one sense an improbable event, it is not an Edition: current; Page: [18] extraordinary event; there is not in the case so much as a shadow of disconformity even to the most ordinary course of nature. Mathematically improbable events happen every moment: experience affords us no reason for refusing our belief to them. Extraordinary events happen rarely: and as respects them, consequently, experience does afford a valid reason for doubt, or for disbelief. The only question in any such case is, which of two things would be most disconformable to the ordinary course of nature; that the event in question should have happened; or that the witnesses by whom its occurrence is affirmed, should have been deceivers or deceived. (Vol. I, pp. 137-8.)

* * * * *

[Bentham refers to revenge and malice as dyslogistic terms.]

The word dyslogistic is employed by Mr. Bentham in the sense of vituperative; as opposed to eulogistic. (Vol. I, p. 146.)22

* * * * *

[Bentham argues that in general the “moral or popular sanction” operates to promote truth, but that there are exceptions when there is a conflict between the interest of the whole and those of “smaller communities or aggregations of individuals” within it. For instance (Vol. I, pp. 214-15),] The whole community has its popular or moral sanction upon an all-comprehensive scale; the several communities of thieves, smugglers, and all other communities having particular interests acting in opposition to the general interest—all those recognized, or not recognized, as being included in the more comprehensive class or denomination of malefactors,—have each of them a sort of section of the popular or moral sanction to itself.

Instances in which particular classes have joined in making one moral rule for their conduct among themselves, another and a totally different rule for their conduct towards all other persons, are not unfrequent. Such is uniformly found to be the case, where particular classes are possessed of so much power, as to be in a great degree independent of the good or ill opinion of the community at large. In the moral code of the West India slaveholders, many acts which would be among the worst of crimes if committed against a white man, are perfectly innocent when the subject of them is a negro. For white and black, substitute Mahomedan and Christian, and the same observation holds good with respect to Turkey. Substitute Edition: current; Page: [19] orthodox and heretic, it at one time held good in all Catholic, not to say in all Christian countries; as well with regard to the other virtues in general as to that of veracity in particular. (Vol. I, p. 215.)

* * * * *

[In discussing the effect of the religious sanction in procuring complete and correct testimony, Bentham comments:] The age in which the text of the sacred writings was first committed to writing, was not, in the instance of any of the book-religions, an age in which any such qualities as those of precision, accuracy, and particularity of explanation, belonged in any considerable degree to the public mind. To reduce the precept to a state adapted to practice, it has become more and more the custom to fill up from the precepts of the moral sanction, the reputed deficiencies manifested in these particulars by the religious sanction. In a delineation, which at this time of day should come to be given, of what the religious sanction prescribes in relation to truth and falsehood; the exceptions above mentioned as applied by the moral sanction to the general requisition of veracity and verity—the particular allowances as well as counter-prescriptions made by the moral sanction, in favour of the several classes of falsehoods, designated as above by the several appellations of falsehoods of duty, falsehoods of humanity, and falsehoods of urbanity,—would probably not be omitted.

Mr. Bentham might have quoted, in illustration of this remark, the following passage from Paley—a writer of undisputed piety, who, in a system of morals professing to be founded upon the will of God as its principle, makes no difficulty in giving a licence to falsehood, in several of its necessary or allowable shapes.

There are falsehoods which are not lies, that is, which are not criminal; as, where the person to whom you speak has no right to know the truth, or, more properly, where little or no inconveniency results from the want of confidence in such cases; as where you tell a falsehood to a madman, for his own advantage; to a robber, to conceal your property; to an assassin, to defeat or divert him from his purpose. The particular consequence is, by the supposition, beneficial; and as to the general consequence, the worst that can happen is, that the madman, the robber, the assassin, will not trust you again; which (beside that the first is incapable of deducing regular conclusions from having been once deceived, and the two last not likely to come a second time in your way), is sufficiently compensated by the immediate benefit which you propose by the falsehood.*

(Vol. I, pp. 233-4.)

* * * * *

Edition: current; Page: [20]

[To illustrate the inefficiency of the religious sanction in preventing “wilful and deliberate falsehood,” Bentham cites] Cases in which, under the influence of a manifestly-operating sinister interest in the shape of wealth, power, dignity, or reputation, such declarations of opinion are made, as, from the nature of the facts asserted, cannot, consistently with the nature of the human mind, be in all points true; but without any particular proof of falsity operating in the case of one such false declarer more than another. To this head may be referred all solemn declarations of opinion on the subject of controverted points respecting facts out of the reach of human knowledge, delivered in the shape of pre-appointed formularies; adopted and authenticated by the signature of the witness in question, or otherwise; the declaration enforced or not by the ceremony of an oath.

Every person taking orders in the English church, signs a declaration of his full belief in the whole of the thirty-nine articles of that church. Some of the most pious members of it have not, however, scrupled to declare, that it is not necessary that this declaration should be true: that it is allowable for a person who does not believe in the whole, but only in a part, of the thirty-nine articles, to sign a declaration professing himself to believe in the whole.23 (Vol. I, p. 239.)

* * * * *

[Continuing his assault on the religious sanction, Bentham says:] To depend, on every the most important occasion of life, upon the force of a principle which, on the occasions here in question, not to speak of other occasions, has been demonstrated by experience to be nearly, if not altogether, without force, would continue to lead, as it has led, to mischievous error and deception, to an indefinite extent. The topic of oaths, and the topic of exclusionary rules, grounded on the supposition of a deficiency of sensibility to the force of the religious sanction, will furnish proofs and illustrations.

See Book II, Securities, Chapter vi, and Book IX, Exclusion, Part III, Chap. v. [Vol. V, pp. 125-45.]

Cases no doubt there are, and those very numerous, in which the religious Edition: current; Page: [21] sanction appears to exercise a much stronger influence than is here ascribed to it. That which is really the effect of the moral sanction, or of the legal sanction, or of both, is continually ascribed to the influence of the religious sanction. From causes which it would be easy, but foreign to the present purpose, to explain, religious persons are apt to suppose, that an act, if virtuous, is more virtuous, if vicious, more excusable, when the motive which prompted it belonged to the religious class, than when it belonged to any other: and even in some cases, that an act which, if produced by any other motive, would be vicious, becomes virtuous by having a motive of this class for its cause. Thus it becomes the interest of every one, to whom the reputation of virtue is an object of desire, to persuade others, and even himself, that as many as possible of his actions, be they good or bad, emanate from that class of motives. (Vol. I, pp. 246-7.)

* * * * *

[Bentham’s list of securities for trustworthiness of testimony concludes with “Investigation,” which he describes as] arrangements designed or tending to promote the discovery of one article of evidence through the medium of another: the discovery of a lot of testimonial evidence, for example, of a sort fit to be lodged in the budget of ultimately employable evidence; whether the article, by means of which it is discovered, be, or be not, itself fit to be so disposed of, fit to be attended to in that character: the finding out, for example, a person who was an eye-witness of the transaction, by the examination of a person who was not himself an eye-witness of it, but heard the other speak of himself as having been so.

Arrangements competent to the process of investigation, as here described, are in every case necessary, to preserve the aggregate mass of evidence from being untrustworthy and deceptitious on the score of incompleteness.

This last article in the list of securities, which, as the reader will have seen, is a security, not for the correctness of any one article of evidence, but for the completeness of the whole mass, belongs to the head of Forthcomingness, which was reserved by the Author to form part of a work on Procedure.24 (Vol. I, p. 281.)

* * * * *

Edition: current; Page: [22]

[Mill appended the following note to a discursive footnote by Bentham on the absurdities of rules concerning cross-examination of witnesses.]

Mr. Phillipps’s Law of Evidence, Vol. I, p. 256, says, “If a witness should appear to be in the interest of the opposite party, or unwilling to give evidence, the court will in its discretion allow the examination-in-chief to assume something of the form of a cross-examination.” It appears therefore that this rule of judge-made law has to a great degree been set aside by other judge-made law, subsequently enacted. (Vol. II, pp. 48-9.)

* * * * *

[Bentham considers the benefit and “vexation” of confining a witness, when] What is manifest is, that the price thus considered as capable of being paid for an additional security against the liberation of a guilty defendant by mendacious testimony, is not a small one. . . .

Whatsoever be the species of delinquency, of the vexation in question the magnitude will be the same. The proportion between the two mischiefs, between the two benefits, or between the benefit on one hand and the price paid for it in the shape of mischief (viz. vexation) on the other hand, will depend in every case upon the magnitude, that is, upon the mischievousness, of the offence.

It seems, however, that there can be scarcely any cases in which an extraneous witness, not suspected of being in any way implicated in the offence of which the defendant stands accused, can with propriety be subjected to confinement: particularly to such close confinement as is here in question. Not that, if there were no better means of warding off the danger of deception from his testimony, there might not be cases of so much importance that even this remedy, expensive as it is, would be fit to be employed. But I see no reason why the same arrangement which is proposed by Mr. Bentham to be adopted in the case of a defendant, (viz. vivâ voce interrogation as soon as possible after his person can be secured),25 should not, when necessary, be adopted likewise in the case of an extraneous witness; or why, if sufficient in the one case, it should not be sufficient in the other. I admit that it would be absurd, in the view of obviating the danger of mendacity-serving suggestion, to receive in every cause the evidence of every witness in the first instance, and thus try the cause from beginning to end, in order to facilitate the trying of it again at a subsequent period: but if (as Mr. Bentham maintains) a strong suspicion that the witness means to give false evidence, renders even confinement Edition: current; Page: [23] of his person, if necessary to the prevention of deception from that cause, a justifiable measure, that same degree, or even a less degree, of suspicion, would surely justify the subjecting him to a preliminary examination; which, though it would not prevent him from subsequently receiving mendacity-serving information, would at any rate render such information of little use to him for his mischievous purpose. Observe also, that this arrangement would obviate, not only the danger of suggestion ab extrà, but that of premeditation: confinement of his person, were it ever so close, could be a security only against the former. (Vol. II, p. 236.)

* * * * *

[Bentham’s list of the advantages of “preappointed evidence” in cases involving contracts includes prevention of (1) “non-notoriety and oblivion,” (2) “uncertainty” as to “import,” (3) “spurious contracts,” (4) “unfairly obtained” contracts, and (5) “injury to third persons”; it concludes with (6) “Production of revenue to government,” concerning which he says:] In this, the last upon the list of purposes, we see an advantage altogether void of all natural connection with the five preceding ones, and with the general object and use of evidence. But, when the connection is once formed, it contributes a material assistance to those other original and direct purposes: inasmuch as the advantage derived from the institution in this point of view is carried to account, and serves to set in the scale against whatever articles are chargeable upon it on the side of disadvantage.

This last might perhaps without impropriety be struck out of the list of uses: since a tax on contracts, in whatever manner laid on, is either a law-tax, that is, a tax upon justice, which is perhaps the worst of all taxes, or a tax upon the transfer of property, which is one of the worst, or both together. (Vol. II, p. 456.)

* * * * *

[Bentham proposes to deal with types of “evidentiary facts” as bearing on the probability of “principal facts,” that is, “facts on the belief of which judicial decision depends.” The fourth of these principal facts “considered as probabilized” is “Unauthenticity” of] any instrument being, or purporting to be, of ancient date. For the circumstances capable of serving in the character of evidentiary facts to probabilize this principal fact, unauthenticity,—or (which is the same thing in Edition: current; Page: [24] other words), to disprobabilize the authenticity of the instrument,—see a table of evidentiary facts of this description, taken principally from Le Clerc’s Ars Critica.

No such table is to be found in the MS.26 (Vol. III, p. 24.)

* * * * *

[The fifth of these principal facts is] Posteriora priorum: any supposed antecedent acts in a number of supposed successive acts (whether forbidden by law or not), considered as following one another in a supposed naturally connected series: for example, as being, or being supposed to be, conducive to one and the same end; such as, in a law-suit, success, viz. on either side of the suit.

Correspondent evidentiary facts,—any acts proved to have been performed, and considered as having been performed in consequence of such supposed antecedent acts; for example, in pursuit of the same end.

See a table of evidentiary facts of this description taken from Comyns’s Digest of English Law.

This table, as well as that which is subsequently mentioned, is also wanting.27 (Vol. III, p. 24.)

* * * * *

[The following note is appended to the title, “Of Improbability and Impossibility,” of Chap. xvi of Book V.]

In putting together the scattered papers from which this work was compiled, considerable difficulty was felt in assigning its proper place to what Mr. Bentham had written on the subject of improbability and impossibility.

Edition: current; Page: [25]

Had it been in the power of the editor to select that arrangement which appeared to him best suited to the nature of the subject, he would have placed so much of the present chapter as is merely explanatory of the nature of improbability and impossibility, in the first book, entitled Theoretic Grounds; and so much of it as relates to the probative force of improbability and impossibility, considered as articles of circumstantial evidence, in the present book. It appeared to him, however, on perusing the manucript, that the mode in which Mr. Bentham had treated the subject did not admit of any such separation of it into two parts, as he had at first contemplated. The only question, therefore, which remained, was, whether to place the chapter under the head of Theoretic Grounds, or under that of Circumstantial Evidence? and, on consideration, he has thought it better to postpone the more general and explanatory matter to the present book, than to separate this one species of circumstantial evidence from the rest. (Vol. III, p. 258.)

* * * * *

[To begin his discussion of “Impossible facts distinguished from verbal contradictions,” Bentham says:] It having been shewn that improbability and impossibility, applied to a matter of fact, are merely terms expressing a certain strength of persuasion of the non-existence of that fact; what remains is to shew, what are the grounds, on which such a persuasion is liable to be entertained: to shew, in other words, in what consists the improbability or impossibility of any alleged fact.

Previously, however, to entering upon this inquiry, it will be necessary to discard out of the list of impossible facts, articles that might be in danger of being considered as included in it. These are:

1. Contradictions in terms: or, as they might be termed, verbal impossibilities. Examples: Two and two are not so many as four:—Two and two are more than four:—The same thing is, and is not, at the same time.

The truth is, that in these cases no matter of fact at all is asserted; consequently none of which it can be said that it is impossible.

This may be illustrated by the following passage from Locke:

All propositions, wherein two abstract terms are affirmed one of another, are barely about the signification of sounds. For since no abstract idea can be the same with any other but itself, when its abstract name is affirmed of any other term, it can signify no more but this, that it may or ought to be called by that name; or that these two names signify the same idea. Thus, should any one say, that parsimony is frugality, that gratitude is justice; that this or that action is, or is not, temperate; however specious these and the like propositions may at Edition: current; Page: [26] first sight seem, yet when we come to press them, and examine nicely what they contain, we shall find that it all amounts to nothing, but the signification of those terms.*

(Vol. III, p. 268.)

* * * * *

[The second category, after contradictions in terms, discussed in the preceding note, is “Inconceivable facts,” concerning which Bentham says:] Sometimes to this class, sometimes to the former, belong the opposites of a variety of propositions of a mathematical nature: e.g. that two and two should be either more or less than equal to four: that two right lines should of themselves enclose a space.

These propositions, even such an one as the last, viz. that two right lines cannot enclose a space, are but verbal contradictions. The terms straight line, and space, and enclose, are all general terms, and to affirm them one of another, is merely to say that they are of this or that meaning. It is merely to say that the meaning we ascribe to the term space, or rather to the term enclosure of space, is inconsistent with the meaning we ascribe to the term two straight lines. When we pass from names to things, and take two straight rods in our hands, we have the evidence of our senses, that they cannot enclose a space. If they touch at any one part, they diverge from one another at every other part. If they touch at more than one part, they coincide, and then are equivalent to one straight line. What we mean by an enclosure, is such a line, or continuance of lines, that a body departing from any one point can pass on without turning back till it come to that point again, without having met in its progress any place where the line was interrupted, any place where there was not a portion of line. An enclosure is a line or conjunction of lines, which beginning at one point is continued till it comes to that point again. Two straight lines are lines which departing from one point never meet, but continually diverge. What is affirmed, then, is, that lines which do meet, in the manner thus described, and lines which in that manner do not meet, are not the same lines. The question, then, either is about the physical fact, the rods, to which the evidence of sense and experience is applicable; or it is about the meaning of general terms. (Vol. III, pp. 268-9.)

* * * * *

Edition: current; Page: [27]

[Bentham asserts that supposed “disconformity” between matters of fact and what someone believes to be “the established course of nature” may be of three kinds: facts “disconformable in toto,” such as a body being at the same time in two places; facts “disconformable in degree,” such as a man being sixty feet tall; and facts “disconformable in specie,” such as a unicorn. He continues:] It is manifest, that, in the two last of these classes, the incredibility of the fact rises only to a greater or less degree of improbability, not to that of impossibility. The supposed facts are not repugnant to the established course of nature; they are only not conformable to it: they are facts which are not yet known to exist, but which, for aught we know, may exist; though, if true, they would belong to the class of extraordinary facts, and therefore require a greater degree of evidence to establish their truth than is necessary in the case of a fact exactly resembling the events which occur every day.

It will be attempted to be shewn in a subsequent note,28 that even what Mr. Bentham calls impossibilities in toto, are in reality nothing more than facts in a high degree improbable. (Vol. III, p. 284.)

* * * * *

[Bentham gives (Vol. III, pp. 285-6) the “primum mobiles, or causes of motion and rest,” that modify the law of gravitation, as:]

1. The centrifugal force.

2. The force of cohesion,—the attraction observed to take place amongst the homogeneous parts of the same whole.

3. The force of chemical attraction: to which, perhaps, may be to be added repulsion. . . .

4. The force of repulsion or elasticity, given to the particles of other matter by caloric, when, being united with them, it forms a gas.

5. The force of expansion and contraction (repulsion and re-attraction) produced by the addition and subtraction of caloric to and from other bodies in the states of solidity and liquidity.

6. The force of electrical and galvanic attraction and repulsion.

7. The force of magnetic attraction and repulsion.

8. The force of muscular motion put in action by the will.

9. The force of muscular motion put in action by the vital power, in the case of the involuntary motions that take place in living animals.

10. The force of muscular motion put in action in the way of animal galvanism.

11. The force of vegetation.

Edition: current; Page: [28]

[He concludes the discussion by considering whether new primum mobiles may not be found:] as to the discovery of new causes of motion, causes apparently distinct from, and not referable to, any of those above enumerated, I am not disposed to regard it as in any degree improbable. Yet, as to any causes adequate to the production of any such effect as the effect in question; in the discoveries just spoken of there is not any thing that would prevent me from regarding it as being, in the sense above determined, practically impossible. Why? Because it appears to me practically impossible, that, after so long a course of physical experience and experiment, any primum mobile, of a force adequate to the production of an effect of such magnitude, can have remained undetected. As to the power of steam, the application of it to any useful purpose is not so old as a century and a half; but the existence of it as a source of motion, could never have been altogether a secret to any one who ever boiled a pot with a cover to it.

It may, perhaps, be doubted, whether, until our knowledge shall have attained a perfection far beyond what it has attained, or is ever likely to attain, such an attribute as impossibility in toto, can, in the sense in which Mr. Bentham uses the words, be predicated of any conceivable phenomenon whatever.

Mr. Bentham has given a list (whether complete or incomplete is of no consequence for the present purpose) of the various forces by which gravitation is known to be, under certain circumstances, counteracted: and assuming this list to be complete, he proceeds to infer [p. 287], that “any motion which, being in a direction opposite to that of the attraction of gravitation, should not be referable to any one of those particular causes of motion, may be pronounced impossible:” and for practical purposes, no doubt it may; but if metaphysical accuracy be sought for, I doubt whether even in this case the impossibility in question be any thing more than a very high degree of improbability. For,

1st. Suppose the catalogue of all the known forces which may operate to the production of motion, (or, as Mr. Bentham calls them, the primum mobiles,) to be at present complete: does it follow that it will always remain so? Is it possible to set limits to the discoveries which mankind are capable of making in the physical sciences? Are we justified in affirming that we are acquainted with all the moving forces which exist in nature? Before the discovery (for instance) of galvanism, it will be allowed, we should not have been justified in making any such assertion.29 In what respect are circumstances changed since that time? except that we are now acquainted with one force more than we were before. By what infallible mark are Edition: current; Page: [29] we to determine, when we have come to the knowledge of all the properties of matter?

Mr. Bentham himself acknowledges [p. 289] that the discovery of new moving forces is not impossible; but the discovery of new forces, adequate to the production of such an effect as that of raising a heavy body from the floor to the ceiling of a room without any perceptible cause, he does consider impossible; because (says he) had any force, adequate to the production of such an effect, been in existence, it must have been observed long ago.* No doubt, the improbability of the existence of any such force, increases in proportion to the magnitude of the effect; but it may be permitted to doubt, whether it ever becomes an impossibility. Had our grandfathers been told, that there existed a force in nature, which was capable of setting gold, silver, and almost all the other metals on fire, and causing them to burn with a bright blue, green, or purple flame,—of converting the earths into bright metallic substances by the extrication of a particular kind of air; etc. etc.,—they surely might have said, with fully as much justice as we can at present, that if any cause had existed in nature, adequate to the production of such remarkable effects, they could not have failed to have been aware of it before.

2ndly. Suppose it certain that all the great moving forces, to one or more of which all the phenomena of the universe must be referable, were known to us; we should not, to any practical purpose, be farther advanced than before. We might indeed, in a general way, be assured of the impossibility of every phenomenon not referable to some one or more of these forces as its cause: but that any given alleged phenomenon is in this predicament, is more than we could possibly be assured of; until we knew not only all the moving forces which exist, but all the possible varieties of the operation of all those forces, and all the forms and shapes under which it is possible for them to manifest themselves; until, in short, we knew all which it is possible to know of the universe. How can I be sure that a given phenomenon which has no perceptible cause, is not the effect of electricity, unless I knew what all the effects of electricity are? And so of all the other laws of nature. As, however, it is very improbable that we ever shall know all the laws of nature in all their different combinations and manifestations, and as, moreover, it is difficult to see how, even if we did know them all, we could ever be certain that we did so; it seems that we never can pronounce, with perfect certainty, of any conceivable event, that it is impossible. See even Mr. Bentham himself, infra, Sect. 10, ad finem [Vol. III, pp. 371-2].

Although, however, it could not be pronounced, of the story told by Mr. Bentham, that the event which it relates is impossible, thus much may with safety Edition: current; Page: [30] be pronounced, that, if it did happen, it was not produced by witchcraft.30 I can conceive the existence of sufficient evidence to convince me of the occurrence of the event, improbable though it be. I cannot conceive the existence of any evidence, which could convince me that witchcraft was the cause of it. The reason is this: suppose the fact proved, the question remains,—Is it referable to witchcraft, or to some natural cause?—Of extraordinary events, produced by natural causes, many have come within my experience: of events produced by witchcraft, none whatever. That extraordinary events from natural causes have frequently occurred, there is abundant evidence: while there cannot, in the nature of things, be any evidence, that any event has ever been occasioned by witchcraft. There may be evidence that a particular event has uniformly followed the will of a particular person supposed to be a witch; but that the supposed witch brought about the given effect, not by availing herself of the laws of nature, but through the agency of an evil spirit, counteracting those laws,—this can never be more than an inference: it is not in the nature of things that any person should have personal knowledge to that effect; unless he has that perfect acquaintance with all the laws of nature, which alone can enable him to affirm with certainty that the given effect did not arise from any of those laws, What alleged witch, or magician, was ever suspected of producing more extraordinary effects than are daily produced by natural means, in our own times, by jugglers? Omniscience alone, if witchcraft were possible, could enable any one not in the secret, to distinguish it from jugglery. It is no wonder, then, that no evidence can prove witchcraft; since there never can be any evidence of it, good or bad, trustworthy or the reverse. All the evidence that has ever been adduced of witchcraft is,—testimony, in the first place, to an extraordinary event, and, in the next place, to somebody’s opinion that this event was supernatural; but to nothing else whatever. (Vol. III, pp. 289-92.)

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[The following note, headed “Further Remarks by the Editor,” completes Bk. V, Chap. xvi, Sect. 5, “On the Three Modes of Disconformity to the Course of Nature.”]

After an attentive consideration of the characters by which Mr. Bentham endeavours to distinguish his three classes from one another,31 the reader will probably join with me in reducing these three classes to two; viz. 1. facts repugnant to the course of nature so far as known to us, and 2. facts merely Edition: current; Page: [31] deviating from it: or (to express the same meaning in more precise language) 1. facts contrary to experience; 2. facts not conformable to experience.

The discovery of a new species of animal, presents a specimen of a fact not conformable to experience. The discovery (were such a thing possible) of an animal belonging to any of the already known species, but unsusceptible of death, or decay, would be a fact contrary to experience.

This distinction was pointed out by Hume;* but, having pointed it out, he knew not how to apply it: and the misapplication which it seemed to me that he had made of it, led me for a long time to imagine that there was no foundation for the distinction itself. Having, however, by further reflection, satisfied myself of its reality, I will attempt, if possible, to make my conception of it intelligible to the reader.

All that our senses tell us of the universe, consists of certain phenomena, with their sequences. These sequences, that is to say, the different orders in which different phenomena succeed one another, have been discovered to be invariable. If they were not so; if, for example, that food, the reception of which into the stomach was yesterday followed by health, cheerfulness, and strength, were, if taken to-day, succeeded by weakness, disease, and death; the human race, it is evident, would have long ago become extinct. Those sequences, then, which are observed to recur constantly, compose what is termed the order of nature: and any one such sequence is, by rather an inappropriate metaphor, stiled a law of nature.

When a new discovery is made in the natural world, it may be either by the disruption of an old sequence, or by the discovery of a new one. It may be discovered, that the phenomenon A, which was imagined to be in all cases followed by the phenomenon B, is, in certain cases, not followed by it; or it may be discovered that the phenomenon C is followed by a phenomenon D, which, till now, was not known to follow it.

In the former case, the newly discovered fact is contrary to experience; in the latter case, it is merely not conformable to it. In the first case it is repugnant to what had been imagined to be the order of nature; in the second case, it merely deviates from it.

The first time that the sensitive plant was discovered, its characteristic property was a fact not conformable to experience. A new sequence was discovered; but no sequence was broken asunder; the plant had not been known to possess this property, but neither had it been known not to possess it, not having been known at all.

But if a stone projected into the air were, without any perceptible cause, to remain suspended, instead of falling to the ground; here would be not merely a new Edition: current; Page: [32] sequence, but the disruption of an old one: a phenomenon (projection of a stone into the air) which, from past experience, had been supposed to be universally followed by another phenomenon (the fall of the stone), is found, in the case in question, not to be so followed. Here then is a fact contrary to experience.

The error, then, (as it appears to me) of Hume, did not consist in making the distinction between facts contrary, and facts not conformable, to experience; it consisted in imagining, that, although events not conformable to experience may properly be believed, events contrary to experience cannot. That an event is not fit to be credited which supposes the non-universality of a sequence previously considered to be universal, is so far, in my conception, from being true, that the most important of all discoveries in physics have been those whereby what were before imagined to be universal laws of nature, have been proved to be subject to exception. Take Mr. Bentham’s own list (pp. 285-6)32 of the exceptions to the law of gravitation: suppose all these unknown, the law might have been supposed universal, and the exceptions, when discovered, would have been so many violations of it: but do not these exceptions, with the exceptions again to them, and so on, compose by far the most valuable part of physical science? (Vol. III, pp. 304-7.)

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[Bentham discusses cases in which facts that could properly have been objected to on rational grounds as improbable have been proved true. The first of these is water turning to ice, a fact that was incredible to the King of Siam, according to an anecdote reported by Locke.]33

This being one of the chapters which was written twice over by Mr. Bentham, the last time without reference to the first; the story of the King of Siam is told twice over at full length. As, however, it is brought to view for two very different purposes, viz. the first time, to illustrate the principle that the credibility of a fact relative to a particular individual depends upon his acquaintance with the course of nature, and the second time, to exemplify the effect of improbability as an article of circumstantial evidence; and as, moreover, the illustrations which accompany the story, in the two places in which it is introduced, are different; it has not been thought advisable to strike it out in either place. (Vol. III, p. 333.)

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[Concerning such nonsense as that an old woman can move “through the air at pleasure on a broomstick,” or a man can introduce “his body into a quart bottle,” we have as full proof of their falsity] as, for the governance of human conduct, a man needs to have; it is only by a mixture of ignorance and rash confidence, that either of them could be pronounced, in the strict sense of the word impossibility, impossible: since, to the production of either of these effects, there needs but the existence of some power in nature with which we are not as yet acquainted.

Compare this with page 289, and the note at the bottom of that page.34 (Vol. III, p. 372.)

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[Attempting in Sect. xi of Chap. xvi to assert, in connection with “alibi evidence,” a distinction between “facts impossible per se, and facts impossible si alia,” Bentham says:] There are two occasions on which the evidence, or argument, indicated by the words impossibility and incredibility, are capable of presenting themselves.

1. On the one side (say that of the demandant), a fact is deposed to by a witness: on the other side (viz. that of the defendant), no testimony is adduced, but it is averred that the supposed fact, as thus deposed to, is in its own nature incredible; or, what comes to the same thing, improbable to such a degree as to be incredible. Say, for example, a fact pretended to have taken place in the way of witchcraft: a man lifted up slowly, without any exertion of will on his part, or connexion with any other, from the ground into the air; or an old woman, by an exertion of volition on her part, riding in the air at pleasure on a broomstick.

2. On the one side (say again that of the demandant), a fact is deposed to by a witness, as before: on the other hand, it is averred to be impossible,—impossible not in its own nature, as before, but for this reason, viz. that the existence of it is incompatible with the existence of another fact, which in this view is deposed to by other evidence: say the testimony of a superior number of witnesses. The defendant cannot, at the time alleged, have been committing the offence in London; for at that same time he was at York, a place above two hundred miles distant. The instance here given is that which is commonly known by the name of alibi. It supposes the incompatibility of a man’s existing in one place at any given point of time, with the existence of the same man in any other place at the same point of time: or, in other words, of a man’s existing in two places at once.

“For the purpose of the present inquiry, these two kinds of impossibility are exactly alike. The nature of the impossibility is in both cases the same; in both Edition: current; Page: [34] cases it consists in disconformity to the established course of nature. The difference is, that, in the first of the two cases, there is but one event mentioned, and that event is one which, taken by itself, cannot be true;—in the second case there are two events mentioned, either of which, taken by itself, may be true, but both together cannot.

“In the first case, therefore, the impossibility being supposed, we immediately set it down that the testimony of the affirming witnesses is false:—in the second place, we have to choose which of the two testimonies we shall disbelieve; that of the witnesses who affirm the one fact, or that of the witnesses who affirm the other fact.

“If I am told that, on such a day, at such an hour, John Brown leaped over the moon, I at once reject the assertion as being incredible: this is impossibility of the first kind. If A tells me, that, on such a day, at such an hour, John Brown was in London; and B tells me, that, on the same day, and at the same hour, the same individual was at York; I pronounce with equal readiness that both stories cannot be true, but it remains a question for subsequent consideration, which of them it is that is false: and this is impossibility of the second kind.”* (Vol. III, pp. 372-4.)

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[The following note is appended to the title, “Of ex parte preappointed written evidence,” of Sect. 2 of Bk. VI, Chap. ii (“Of Extrajudicially Written Evidence”). The next section is entitled “Of adscititious evidence; i.e. evidence borrowed from another cause.” Mill completed the chapter; see the next entry.]

This and the following section were left by the author in the state of mere fragments. Several memoranda, far too incoherent to be inserted, prove it to have been his intention to enter more fully both into the subject of ex parte preappointed evidence, and into that of adscititious evidence. It does not appear, however, that he carried this intention into effect. (Vol. III, p. 422.)

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[The following note appears at the end of Bentham’s discussion, in Bk. VI, Chap. ii, Sect. 2, of “evidence alio in foro.” Mill’s contribution follows immediately in the text.]

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Here ends all that Mr. Bentham had written on the subject of adscititious evidence, with the exception of some loose memoranda. What follows was chiefly made up from these memoranda by the editor.

The course proper to be taken, in respect to adscititious evidence, will be found to vary, according as the document in question is a previous decision, or the whole or some part of the minutes of the evidence delivered in a previous cause.

In respect of the propriety of admission, both these species of adscititious evidence stand nearly on the same ground. Neither of them ought to be admitted, when better evidence from the same source is, without preponderant inconvenience, to be had; neither of them ought to be rejected, when it is not.

There is not, probably, that system of judicial procedure in existence, (how bad soever the mode of taking evidence that it employs), which does not afford a greater probability of right decision than of wrong; and in general the presumption of right decision is a very strong one. True it is that no decision of a court of justice, certifying the existence of a fact, affords ground for believing it, any farther than as such decision renders probable the existence, at the time when it was pronounced, of evidence sufficient to support it: and if the original evidence, on which the decision in the former cause was grounded, were forthcoming in the present, that evidence would be preferable, as a foundation for decision, to the mere opinion formerly pronounced on the ground of that same evidence by a judge. But it scarcely ever happens that evidence which has once been presented, admits of being again presented in as perfect a form as before. All that important species of evidence which is constituted by the deportment of the witness in the presence of the judge, is, in most cases, irrecoverably lost: such evidence as can be obtained now, might not be sufficient to warrant the former decision, and yet the decision, when pronounced, may have been perfectly borne out by the evidence on that occasion adduced. On the other hand, it is true that, in very many cases, by recurring to the original sources, sufficient evidence of the fact might even now be obtained, not, however, without more or less of delay, vexation, and expense: for the avoidance of which, it is often proper that the previous decision, though an inferior kind of evidence, should be received as a substitute, in the place of a superior kind.

As to the minutes of the evidence delivered in the former cause; it is sufficiently manifest that they ought not to be admitted, if recurrence to the original sources of evidence be practicable, without preponderant inconvenience; if the witnesses in the former cause be capable of being examined, or such written or real evidence as it may have afforded be capable of being exhibited, in the present: unless when there may be a use in comparing two testimonies delivered by the same witness on two different occasions. But if (no matter from what cause) recurrence to the original sources be either physically or prudentially impracticable, the minutes of the former evidence should be admitted, and taken for what they are worth. If the Edition: current; Page: [36] evidence in question be oral testimony, being generally upon oath, subject to punishment in case of intentional falsehood, and to counter-interrogation, it is at any rate better than hearsay evidence, which, at its origin, had none of these securities: if it be real evidence, the official minutes of it are the very best kind of reported real evidence, of which hereafter.

A question of greater nicety is, whether in any, and, if in any, in what cases, adscititious evidence shall be taken for conclusive?

In the case of minutes of evidence, the short answer is, never. The testimony of a witness, or of any number of witnesses, even if delivered in the cause in hand, and under all the securities which can be taken in the cause in hand for its correctness and completeness, ought not to be, nor, under any existing system of law that I know of, would be, taken for conclusive: much less a mere note of the testimony which they delivered on a former occasion, subject perhaps, indeed, to the same set of securities, but perhaps to a set in any degree inferior to those which there may, in the cause in hand, be the means of subjecting them to.

The case of a decision is more complicated. For the purpose of a prior cause, a decision has been given which supposes proof made of a certain fact; and the question is, whether, on the ground of such decision, such fact shall be taken for true,—shall be considered as being sufficiently and conclusively proved,—for the purpose of the decision to be given in a posterior cause?

It must of course be assumed, that the prior decision necessarily supposes evidence of the fact in question to have been presented to the judge, sufficient to create in his mind a persuasion of its existence: for there would be manifest impropriety in making the decision conclusive evidence of any fact not absolutely necessary to its legality; with whatever degree of probability the existence of such fact might be inferred from it.

1. Let the parties be the same; and the tribunal either the same tribunal, or one in which the same or equally efficient securities are taken for rectitude of decision. In this case, unless where a new trial of the former cause would be proper, the decision in the former cause ought to be taken as conclusive evidence (for the purpose of the posterior cause) of every fact, proof of which it necessarily implies. A lawyer would say, Quia interest reipublicae ut sit finis litium.35 Not choosing to content myself with vague and oracular generalities, which are as susceptible of being employed in defence of bad arrangements of procedure as of good ones, I place the propriety of the rule upon the following more definite ground: that, as every person who would have an opportunity of applying the security of counter-interrogation in the second cause, has had such an opportunity in the first; and as the rules of evidence which were observed in the former trial, were, by supposition, as well calculated for the extraction of the truth, as those which would be to be acted upon in the present; the judge on the second occasion would have no Edition: current; Page: [37] advantage, in seeking after the truth, over the judge on the first, to counterbalance the disadvantage necessarily consequent upon lapse of time: and the decision of the first judge (though strictly speaking it be only evidence of evidence) is more likely to be correct, than that which the second judge might pronounce on the occasion of the posterior cause.

The case is different if fresh evidence happen to have been brought to light subsequently to the first trial, or if there be any reason for suspecting error or mala fides on the part of the first judge. But, in either of these cases, a new trial of the former cause would be proper. If the fact be sufficiently established for the purpose of the first cause, it is sufficiently established for the purpose of any subsequent cause between the same parties. It is only when there appears reason to think that it was improperly considered as established in the first cause, that there can be any use in going through the trouble of establishing it again in the second.

The above remarks apply also to the case in which the parties to the second cause are not the actual parties to the first, but persons who claim in their right, their executors, for example, or heirs-at-law; or even persons claiming under the same deed, or, in any other way, upon the same title; all those, in short, who in English law language are quaintly called privies in blood, in estate, and in law: for though these have not had an opportunity of cross-examining the witnesses in the former cause, other persons representing the same interest have.

2. Suppose the parties different, that is, with different interests, and the same reasons do not apply. The deficiency in respect of securities for trustworthiness, which constitutes the inferiority of adscititious evidence, may now have place to an indefinite extent, and is always likely to have place to some extent. It will very often happen that there was some part of the facts, known to the witnesses in the former cause, which would have made in favour of one or other party to the present cause; but which did not come to light, because, there being no one among the parties to the former cause in whose favour it would have made, it found no one to draw it out by interrogation. The former decision, therefore, although conclusive against the parties to the former cause, and all who claim under them, ought not to be conclusive against a third party. If it were, an opportunity would be given for a particular modification of the characteristic fraud: a feigned suit instituted by one conspirator against another, and judgment suffered by the latter to go against him, with the view of establishing a false fact, to be afterwards made use of in a suit against some other person.

The above observations constitute what foundation there is for the rule of English law, that res inter alios acta is not evidence:36 of which hereafter. Note, en passant, the character of jurisprudential logic: a decision inter alios is not conclusive evidence, therefore not admissible.

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3. Lastly, suppose the tribunals different, and governed by different rules: and let the rules of the tribunal which tried the first cause be less calculated to insure rectitude of decision than those of the tribunal which tries the second. In this case, with or without the deficiency in point of security, arising from the difference of the parties, there is at any rate the deficiency which arises from the imperfection of the rules: the impropriety, therefore, of making the decision conclusive, is manifest. Its probative force will evidently vary, in proportion to the imperfection of the rules which govern the practice of the court by which it was pronounced; always considered with reference to the main end, rectitude of decision.

The probative force will be greater, caeteris paribus, when the court from which the evidence is borrowed is in the same, than when it is in a different, country; on account of the greater difficulty, in the latter case, of obtaining proof of the existence of the characteristic fraud. But this presumption is much less strong than that which arises from a difference in the mode of extraction.

We shall see hereafter to how great an extent nearly all the above rules are violated in English law. (Vol. III, pp. 426-33.)

* * * * *

[The following note is appended to Bentham’s list of the means (of varying reliability) of making transcripts: writing with pen and ink, printing with moveable types and stereotypes, engraving, sculpture, and painting.]

Add to the lithography, which, when this work was written, had scarcely been applied to the multiplication of copies of a written document.37 (Vol. III, p. 472.)

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[The first paragraph of the following passage appears in the text in square brackets and italics at the end of Bentham’s discussion in Bk. VI, Chap. xii (“Aberrations of English Law in Regard to Makeshift Evidence”). Mill’s contribution follows immediately in normal roman type.]

The papers from which the above remarks on the aberrations of English law have been compiled, were written by Mr. Bentham at different times, and left by him in a very incomplete and fragmentitious state. It appears that he had intended to give some account of what is done by English law in regard to all the different kinds of makeshift evidence, but never completed his design. The remainder of this Edition: current; Page: [39] chapter, (with the exception of a fragment, which for distinction’s sake has been printed in inverted commas,) is the result of a partial attempt to fill up the void which had thus been left in the body of the work.

5. Few questions have been more agitated in English law than those which relate to the admissibility of, and the effect, to be given to, different articles of adscititious evidence.* The subject occupies sixty closely printed nominal octavo, real quarto pages, in Phillipps’s exposition of the law of evidence.38 Of a subject thus extensive, more than a very general view cannot be expected to be given in the present work: nor is it necessary for our purpose to go beyond the more prominent features.

One remarkable circumstance is, that the whole body of the rules of law relating to this subject, are, with a very small number of exceptions, exclusionary. Either the decision given in a former cause is said not to be evidence; and then it is that decision which is excluded; or it is said to be conclusive evidence: and then an exclusion is put upon the whole mass of evidence, howsoever constituted, which might have been capable of being presented on the other side.

In saying this, enough has already been said to satisfy any one, who has assented to what was said in a former chapter concerning adscititious evidence,39 that nearly the whole of the established rules on this subject, except to the extent of the single and very limited case in which it was there seen that exclusion is proper, are bad. Accordingly, the rule that a judgment directly upon the point is conclusive in any future cause between the same parties, is a good rule: it is almost the only one that is.

Even this rule is cut into by one exception: that verdicts in criminal proceedings are not only not conclusive, but are not even admissible evidence, in civil cases. For this exception, two reasons are given: the one, founded on a mere technicality; the other on a view, though a narrow and partial one, of the justice of the case. The first is, that it is res inter alios acta: the parties in the civil cause cannot, it is said, have been also the parties in the previous criminal one, the plaintiff in a criminal proceeding being the king. It is obvious, however, that the king’s being plaintiff is in this case a mere fiction. Although the party in whose favour the previous verdict is offered in evidence, was not called the plaintiff in the former proceeding, there is nothing whatever to hinder him from having been the prosecutor, who is substantially the plaintiff. Now if he was the prosecutor, and his adversary the defendant, it is evident that the cause is between the same parties; that it is not, in reality, res inter alios acta; and that if it be treated as such, justice is sacrificed, as it so often is, to a fiction of law.

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The other reason is, “that the party in the civil suit, in whose behalf the evidence is supposed to be offered, might have been a witness on the prosecution.”* This is true. He might have been a witness; and the previous verdict might have been obtained by his evidence. But it might be, that the contrary was the case. Whether he was a witness, or not, is capable of being ascertained. If he was not a witness, why adhere to a rule, which cannot have the shadow of a ground but upon the supposition that he was? But suppose even that he was a witness, and that the verdict which he now seeks to make use of, was obtained from the jury by means of his own testimony. This will often be a very good reason for distrust; but it never can be sufficient reason for exclusion. Under a system of law, indeed, which does not suffer a party to give evidence directly in his own behalf, it is consistent enough to prevent him from doing the same thing in a roundabout way. A proposition, however, which will be maintained in the sequel of this work, is, that in no case ought the plaintiff to be excluded from testifying in what lawyers indeed would call his own behalf, but which, by the aid of counter-interrogation, is really, if his cause is bad, much more his adversary’s behalf than his own.40 Should this opinion be found to rest on sufficient grounds, the reason just referred to for not admitting the former verdict as evidence, will appear to be, on the contrary, a strong reason for admitting it.

Thus much may suffice, as to the first rule relating to this subject in English law: a rule which has been seen to be as reasonable, as the above-mentioned exception to it is unreasonable. We shall find few instances, in the succeeding rules, of an approach even thus near to the confines of common sense.

For, first, a judgment is not evidence, even between the same parties, “of any matter which came collaterally in question, nor of any matter incidentally cognizable, nor of any matter to be inferred by argument from the judgment.” By the words not evidence, lawyers sometimes mean one thing, sometimes another: here, however, not admissible in evidence, is what is meant. That it ought not to be conclusive as to any fact but such as the judgment, if conformable to law, necessarily supposes to have been proved, is no more than we have seen in a former chapter: that, however, because it ought not to be made conclusive, it ought not to be admissible, is an inference which none but a lawyer would ever think of drawing. A common man’s actions are received every day as circumstantial evidence of the motive by which he was actuated; why not those of a judge?

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The next rule is, that a verdict or judgment on a former occasion, is not evidence against any one who was a stranger to the former proceeding: that is, who was not a party, nor stood in any such relation to a party, as will induce lawyers to say that he was privy to the verdict. The reason why a judgment under these circumstances is not evidence, is, that it is res inter alios acta. But we have seen already* that its being res inter alios acta, though a sufficient reason for receiving it with suspicion, is no reason for excluding it.

The more special reason, by which, in the case now under consideration, this general one is corroborated, is, that the party “had no opportunity to examine witnesses, or to defend himself, or to appeal against the judgment.” This being undeniable, it would be very improper, no doubt, to take the judgment for conclusive. On this ground, what is the dictate of unsophisticated common sense? A very obvious one. As the party has not had an opportunity to examine witnesses, to defend himself, or to appeal against the judgment, at a former period, let him have an opportunity of doing all these things now: let him have leave to impeach the validity of the grounds on which the former judgment was given, and to shew, by comments on the evidence, or by adducing fresh evidence, that it was an improper one: but do not shut out perhaps the only evidence which is now to be had against him, merely because it would be unjust, on the ground of that evidence, to condemn him without a hearing. In the nature of a judgment is there any thing which renders a jury less capable of appreciating that kind of evidence, than any other kind, at its just value? But it is useless to argue against one particular case of the barbarous policy which excludes all evidence that seems in any degree exposed to be untrustworthy. The proofs which will be hereafter adduced of the absurdity of the principle, are proofs of its absurdity in this case, as in every other.

Another curious rule is, that, as a judgment is not evidence against a stranger, the contrary judgment shall not be evidence for him. If the rule itself is a curious one, the reason given for it is still more so: “nobody can take benefit by a verdict, who had not been prejudiced by it, had it gone contrary:”41 a maxim which one would suppose to have found its way from the gaming-table to the bench. If a party be benefited by one throw of the dice, he will, if the rules of fair play are observed, be prejudiced by another: but that the consequence should hold when applied to justice, is not equally clear. This rule of mutuality is destitute of even that semblance of reason, which there is for the rule concerning res inter alios acta. There is reason for saying that a man shall not lose his cause in consequence of the verdict given in a former proceeding to which he was not a party; but there is no reason whatever for saying that he shall not lose his cause in consequence of the verdict in a proceeding to which he was a party, merely because his adversary was Edition: current; Page: [42] not. It is right enough that a verdict obtained by A against B should not bar the claim of a third party C; but that it should not be evidence in favour of C against B, seems the very height of absurdity. The only fragment of a reason which we can find in the books, having the least pretension to rationality, is this, that C, the party who gives the verdict in evidence, may have been one of the witnesses by means of whose testimony it was obtained. The inconclusiveness of this reason we have already seen.

The rule, that a judgment inter alios is not evidence, which, like all other rules of law, is the perfection of reason,42 is in a variety of instances set aside by as many nominal exceptions, but real violations, all of which are also the perfection of reason. To the praise of common sense, at least, they might justly lay claim, if they did no more, in each instance, than abrogate the exclusionary rule. But if the rule be bad in one way, the exceptions, as usual, are bad in the contrary way.

One of the exceptions relates to an order of removal, executed, and either not appealed against, or, if appealed against, confirmed by the quarter sessions. This, as between third parishes, who were not parties to the order, is admissible evidence, and therefore (such is jurisprudential logic) conclusive: the officers, therefore, of a third parish, in which the pauper may have obtained a settlement, have it in their power, by merely keeping the only witnesses who could prove the settlement out of the way till after the next quarter sessions, or at farthest for three months, to rid their parish for ever of the incumbrance. The reason of this is, “that there may be some end to litigation:”* a reason which is a great favourite with lawyers, and very justly. Litigation, understand in those who cannot pay for it, is a bad thing: let no such person presume to apply for justice. One is tempted, however, to ask, whether justice be a thing worth having, or no? and if it be, at what time it is desirable that litigation should be at an end? after justice is done, or before? It would be ridiculous to ask, for what reason it is of so much greater importance that litigation between parishes should have an end, than litigation between individuals; since a question of this sort would imply (what can by no means be assumed) that reason had something to do with the matter.

What is called a judgment in rem in the exchequer, is, as to all the world, admissible, and conclusive. The sentence of a court of admiralty, is, in like manner, as against all persons, admissible, and conclusive. So is even that of a foreign court of admiralty. The sentence of ecclesiastical courts, in some particular instances; this, like the others, is admissible, and, like the others, conclusive. It is useless to swell the list. Equally useless would it be to enter into a detailed exposition of the badness of these several rules. The reader by whom the spirit of Edition: current; Page: [43] the foregoing remarks has been imbibed, will make the application to all these cases for himself.

The law recognizes no difference in effect, between the decision of a court abroad, and that of a court at home. The sentence of any foreign court, of competent jurisdiction, directly deciding a question, is conclusive, if the same question arise incidentally between the same parties in this country; in all other cases, it is inadmissible. The case of debt, in which it is admissible, but not conclusive, is partially, and but partially, an exception: for even in this case the foreign judgment is, as to some points, conclusive.*

To make no allowance for the different chance which different courts afford for rectitude of decision, would be consistent enough as between one court and another in the same country; in England at least, the rules of the several courts, howsoever different among themselves, being each of them within its own sphere the perfection of reason, any such allowance as is here spoken of would be obviously absurd: that must be equally good every where, which is every where the best possible. Of foreign judicatories, however, taken in the lump, similar excellence has not, we may venture to affirm, been ever predicated by any English lawyer; nor is likely to be by any Englishman; for Englishmen, how blind soever to the defects of their own institutions, have usually a keen enough perception of the demerits, whether of institutions or of any thing else, if presented to them without the bounds of their own country. Were a consistent regard paid to the dictates of justice, what could appear more absurd than to give the effect of conclusive evidence to the decisions of courts in which nearly all the vices of English procedure prevail, unaccompanied by those cardinal securities, publicity and cross-examination, which go so far to make amends for all those vices, and which alone render English judicature endurable? Yet the rule which, in so many cases, excludes those decisions altogether, errs nearly as much on the contrary side; for, the difficulty of bringing witnesses and other evidence from another country being generally greater than that of bringing them from another and perhaps not a distant part of the same country, there is the greater probability that the decision in question may be the only evidence obtainable.43

After what has been observed concerning the admissibility of prior decisions in English law, little need be said on that of prior depositions. Wherever the decision itself is said to be res inter alios acta, the depositions on which it was grounded are so too; and are consequently excluded. In other cases they are generally admissible: though to this there are some exceptions. Happily nobody ever thought of making them conclusive.

“Among the causes which have contributed to heap vexation upon suitors on the Edition: current; Page: [44] ground of evidence, one has been the scramble for jurisdiction, i.e. for fees, between the common law courts, and the courts called courts of equity. Such was the hostility, the common law courts refused to give credit to whatever was done under authority of their rivals. Depositions in equity were not admissible evidence at common law. When the work of iniquity is wrought by judicial hands, there must always be a pretence; but no pretence has been too thin to serve the purpose. It consists always in some word or phrase: and any one word that comes uppermost is sufficient.

“The pretence on this occasion was,—a court of equity is not a court of record. A better one would have been, to have said, it is not a tennis court. The consequence would have been equally legitimate; and the defects of the common law courts, and the effrontery of the conductors of the business, would not have been placed in so striking a point of view.

“With much better reason (if reason had any thing to do in the business) might the equity courts have refused the application of courts of record to the common law courts. In every cause, the evidence, and that alone, is the essence of the cause; in it is contained whatever constitutes the individual character of the cause, and distinguishes it from all other causes of the same species: to a cause, the evidence is what the kernel is to the nut. In a court of equity, this principal part of the cause, though not made up in the best manner, is at any rate put upon record, or, in plain English, committed to writing, and preserved. In a court of law this is never done. The evidence, like the leaves of the Sibyl, is committed to the winds.44 What goes by the name of the record is a compound of sense and nonsense, with excess of nonsense: the sense composed of a minute quantity of useful truth, drowned and rendered scarce distinguishable by a flood of lies, which would be more mischievous if they were less notorious.

“In the court of exchequer, the same judges constitute one day a court of equity, another day a court of law. What if the occasion for the rejection of the evidence had presented itself in this court? In the hands of an English judge, the jus mentiendi is the sword of Alexander.45 On the declared ground of iniquity, stopping every day their own proceedings, why scruple to refuse credit to their own acts?”

It is now, however, fully settled, that the answer of the defendant, as well as the depositions of witnesses, in chancery, are evidence in a court of law; and that “a Edition: current; Page: [45] decree of the court of chancery may be given in evidence, on the same footing, and under the same limitations, as the verdict or judgment of a court of common law.”*

The exemplifications which we undertook to give of the defects of English law in relation to makeshift evidence, may here end. To what purpose weary the reader with the dull detail of the cases in which casually-written or ex-parte preappointed evidence are excluded, with the equally long, and equally dull, list of the cases in which, though exclusion would be just as reasonable (if it were reasonable at all), admission, and not exclusion, is the rule? To know that the established systems are every where radically wrong, wrong in the fundamental principles upon which they rest, and wrong just so far as those principles are consistently applied; this, to the person who regards the happiness of mankind as worth pursuing, and good laws as essential to happiness, is in a pre-eminent degree important and interesting. But, for one who, by a comprehensive survey of the grand features, has satisfied himself that the system is rotten to the core; for such a person to know that it is somewhat more tolerable in one part than in another part; that principles which are mischievous in all their applications, are a little more or a little less mischievous in one application than in another; that, in this or that portion of the field of law, vicious theories are consistently carried out, and yield their appropriate fruit in equally vicious practice, while in this or that odd corner they are departed from; would in general be a sort of knowledge as destitute of instruction, as it always and necessarily must be of amusement. (Vol. III, pp. 573-86.)

* * * * *

[Examining the “delay, vexation, and expense” of the “corruptive” “fee-gathering principle,” Bentham begins with “Sham writs of error—King’s Bench an open delay-shop.”]

The reader will remember that this was written previously to Mr. Peel’s recent law reforms. By one of these, a partial, and but a partial, remedy, was applied to the abuse here in question;46 which, however, will equally serve the purpose of history, and of illustration. (Vol. IV, p. 64.)

* * * * *

Edition: current; Page: [46]

[Under “natural procedure,” Bentham argues, the genuine claim would be obvious, and there would be no surprises. As it is,] where information is by either party really wanted, generally speaking, he has this alternative: either he applies for it by motion, (a cause within a cause), getting it, or not getting it; or he does without it as well as he can.

So utterly unfit is the initial document called the declaration, in the opinion of judges themselves, for any such purpose as that of informing the defendant what claim it is that is made upon him,—that a practice has grown up of compelling the plaintiff to give in, together with the declaration, another document, called a bill of particulars, which shall really specify, what the declaration pretends to specify, the nature of the demand. According to the judges, then, who have introduced this practice, the declaration is waste paper: utterly useless with reference to the purpose for what it is pretended to be meant; productive only of a mass of expense to the defendant. The bill of particulars really giving the information, all the information that is wanted; the question, why the declaration is not abolished, is a question for those who are capable of penetrating the mysteries of the judicial conscience. (Vol. IV, p. 285.)

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[The following comment, headed “Note by the Editor,” appears in the midst of Bentham’s account in Bk. VIII, Chap. xxviii, of remedies for the flaws in technical procedure. Bentham comments:] As far as concerns the organization of the existing courts of natural procedure, they are susceptible of great improvements: but in respect of the mode of procedure, two single features, (viz. appearance of the parties before the judge, and vivâ voce examination of the parties, but especially the former) are enough to render them as much superior to the best of the regular courts, as the military tactics of European are to those of Asiatic powers. They afford no work for lawyers: the wonder is not great that they should not be to the taste of lawyers.

It is proper to observe here, that the praise bestowed by Mr. Bentham upon the existing courts of natural procedure, is confined, in the strictest sense, to the procedure of these courts, and by no means extends to the constitution of the courts themselves. In many of these courts, it is well known that justice is very badly administered. What, however, we may be very certain of, is, that the cause of this bad administration of justice is not the absence of the technical rules; and that if, over and above all other sources of badness, the practice of these courts were afflicted, in addition, with the rules of technical procedure, they would be not only no better, but beyond comparison worse, than they are.

Edition: current; Page: [47]

The real and only cause of the badness of the courts of natural procedure, (in so far as they are bad), is that which is the cause of the mal-administration of so many other departments of the great field of government; defect of responsibility on the part of those persons, to whom the administration of them is entrusted.

Causes of such defect of responsibility:

1. Defect of publicity. In the case of a justice of peace, administering judicature, alone, or in conjunction with a brother justice, at his own house, or on his bowling green, or wherever he happens to be, publicity does not exist in any degree. In the case of courts of conscience,47 there is (I believe) nominal, but there can scarcely be said to be effectual, publicity; since the apparent unimportance of the cause prevents the proceedings in it from being reported in the newspapers, and would prevent it, even if reported, from attracting in general any portion, sufficient to operate as a security, of public attention.

2. Number of judges. In many of the courts of conscience, the tribunal is composed of a considerable number of officers; though any greater number than one, or at most two, (one to officiate when the other is sick, or, from any other cause, unavoidably absent), can serve no purpose but that of dividing, and in that manner virtually destroying, responsibility.

3. Defect of appeal. In a great variety of cases, no appeal lies from the decision of individual justices of peace, except to the Quarter Sessions, that is to say, from the justices individually to the justices collectively. How fruitless an appeal of this sort must in general be (not to speak of its expense) is evident enough. What little value it has, is mainly owing to the greater effectual publicity attendant on the proceedings of a court of general sessions, which are generally reported in the local papers, and always excite more or less of interest in the neighbourhood.

4. The judges exempt from punishment, or even loss of office, in the event of misconduct.

If the party injured by the decision of a justice of peace is able and willing to go to the expense of a motion for a criminal information in the King’s Bench, or an indictment at Nisi Prius, or an action against the justice for damages; and if, having done so, he can prove, to the satisfaction of the judges, the existence of what is called malice* on the part of the magistrate, by whose unjust decision he has been injured; all these things being supposed, he may then have some chance of seeing some punishment inflicted upon his oppressor; though even then probably a very Edition: current; Page: [48] inadequate one; the prevailing doctrine being, that the proceedings of an unpaid magistrate ought to be construed liberally and indulgently, as otherwise no gentleman will consent to take upon himself the office.48

But, without the above preliminaries, who ever heard of an English justice of peace who was so much as suspended from the commission, on the ground of any misconduct, however gross? And a country justice must either have very bad luck, or play his cards extremely ill, if, out of every thousand cases of misdecision, there be so much as one or two in which all these conditions meet. (Vol. IV, pp. 443-6.)

* * * * *

[The following note is appended to the heading of a section dealing with another “remedy,” “Abolition of fees.”]

This, as the reader will observe, was written before the recent act, which, in the instance of the twelve judges, commuted fees for salaries.49 The evil, however, still subsists, in regard to a vast variety of judicial offices. (Vol. IV, p. 450.)

* * * * *

[Bentham says:] On the score of vexation to the public at large, by the disclosure of facts comprizable under the denomination of secrets of state, no decision appears to have been ever pronounced. Why? Because no known case ever presented itself, in which a decision to that effect was called for on that ground. In this instance, as in every other, it depends upon chance to open the mouth of jurisprudence. [To that comment he appends a note on the habit courts of judicature have of declaring—that is, making—law, which concludes:] More law, law covering a greater extent in the field of legislation, is thus made by a single judge, in a quarter of a minute, and at the expense of a couple of words, than the legislature would make in a century, by statutes upon statutes, after committees upon committees. [Mill’s note, in square brackets, continues Bentham’s note, though it refers rather to Bentham’s text.]

Edition: current; Page: [49]

Mr. Bentham seems to have overlooked one remarkable case, in which a witness was forbidden to disclose something which the judge thought proper to consider, or to pretend to consider, as a state secret. I allude to the case of Plunkett v. Cobbett, in which Lord Ellenborough refused to suffer a witness, who was a member of parliament, to be examined concerning words spoken in parliament: and this by reason of his duty, and in particular of his oath, by which he was bound not to reveal the counsels of the nation.*

To support this inference, the two following falsehoods must have been taken for true: 1. That words spoken in parliament were state secrets; 2. That in no case ought state secrets to be revealed. (Vol. IV, pp. 541-2.)

* * * * *

[Continuing his onslaught on the needless expense of the law, Bentham remarks:] Be the delinquency of the defendant ever so enormous, the expense of prosecution ever so great, reimbursement is not to be thought of. Why not? Because, to receive money under the name of costs is “beneath the royal dignity.”

The iniquity of this rule has forced the judges to take upon themselves the responsibility of allowing to the prosecutor a sum of money under the name of expenses: this however they do or leave undone as they please: consequently the most frivolous reasons frequently suffice for leaving it undone. It is asserted in the eighty-fourth number of the Edinburgh Review, p. 403, that, in a recent case, a judge refused to allow the prosecutor his expenses, because one of the witnesses for the prosecution offended him by his demeanour.50 (Vol. IV, p. 547.)

* * * * *

[On “Abolition of taxes upon justice,” Bentham says:] In speaking of this or any other expedient for obtaining pecuniary supplies for the relief of this species of distress, it is impossible to avoid thinking of the factitious loads by which it has Edition: current; Page: [50] everywhere been aggravated. I speak not here of what has been done by the judge for his own profit; but of what has been done by the finance minister for his own use. The subject has elsewhere been treated pretty much at large. See Protest against Law Taxes.51

The reader will observe, that this work was written before the late repeal of the stamp duties on law proceedings,52 which has been justly deemed one of the most meritorious acts of the present enlightened administration. The arguments in the text, however, are general, and apply equally to all nations. (Vol. IV, p. 624.)

* * * * *

[In Bk. IX, Pt. III, Chap. ii, Sect. 2, Bentham attacks judges, concerned with precedent and their own interest, for exclusionary principles.]

It seems much more probable, that the exclusion of evidence originated in the ignorance of an uncivilized age, than in the sinister interest of the judge. In a rude state of society, where the art of extracting truth from the lips of a witness is not understood, and where testimonies are counted, not weighed,53 it seems to have been the universal practice to strike out of the account the testimony of all witnesses who were considered to be under the influence of any mendacity-promoting cause. Exclusionary rules of evidence have nowhere been carried so far as under the systems of procedure which have been the least fettered with technicalities. Take, for instance, the Hindoo law of evidence. See Mill’s History of British India, Bk. II, Chap. iv.54 (Vol. V, p. 27.)

* * * * *

[Continuing his onslaught on foolish exclusions of evidence, Bentham says:] One decision I meet with, that would be amusing enough, if to a lover of mankind there could be any thing amusing in injustice. A man is turned out of court for a Edition: current; Page: [51] liar,—not for any interest that he has, but for one which he supposed himself to have, the case being otherwise. Instead of turning the man out of court, might not the judge have contented himself with setting him right? . . . The pleasant part of the story is, that the fact on which the exclusion was grounded could not have been true. For, before the witness could be turned out of court for supposing himself to have an interest, he must have been informed of his having none: consequently, at the time when he was turned out, he must have ceased to suppose that he had any.

Another offence for which I find a man pronounced a liar, seems to make no bad match with the foregoing: it was for being a man of honour. “Oh ho! you are a man of honour, are you? Out with you, then; you have no business here.” Being asked whether he did not look upon himself as bound in honour to pay costs for the party who called him, supposing him to lose the cause, and whether such was not his intention; his answer was in the affirmative, and he was rejected. It was taken for granted that he would be a liar. Why? Because he had shewn he would not be one. If instead of saying yes he had said no, who could have refused to believe him? and what would have become of the pretence?

By the supposition, the witness is a man of super-ordinary probity: moral obligation, naked moral obligation, has on him the force of law. What is the conclusion of the exclusionist? That this man of uncommonly nice honour will be sure to perjure himself, to save himself from incurring a loss which he cannot be compelled to take upon himself.

Both these extravagancies have been set aside by later decisions. A witness cannot now, according to Phillipps, be excluded on account of his believing himself to be interested, nor on account of his considering himself bound in honour to pay the costs.* The former point, however, seems to be still doubtful.

Another of the absurdities of English law, in respect to the exclusion grounded on pecuniary interest, is very well exposed in the following passage, extracted from a review of the Traités des Preuves Judiciaires, in the 79th Number of the Edinburgh Review:

Take as an example the case of forgery. Unless the crime has been committed in the presence of witnesses, it can only be proved (in the proper sense of the word) by the individual whose name is said to have been forged. Yet that person is the only one whom the law of England prohibits from proving the fact; a strange prohibition, for which some very strong reason will naturally be sought. The reason to be found in the books is this, that the party has an interest in pronouncing that paper forged, for the enforcement of which he may be sued if it is genuine:55 and this would be true, if the event of the criminal inquiry were admitted to affect his interest, when the holder proceeds in a civil suit to enforce the supposed obligation. But it is also an indisputable rule, that the issue of the trial for forgery, whether condemnation or discharge, is not permitted to have the least effect upon this Edition: current; Page: [52] liability: the criminal may be convicted, and yet the party whose name appears to the instrument, may be fixed with the debt in a civil proceeding; or he may be acquitted, and yet the genuineness of the handwriting may hereafter be questioned, and its falsehood established. How, then, can the anomaly of this exclusion be explained? It seems that legal antiquarians have preserved the tradition of a practice which is said to have prevailed in former times,—when a person was convicted of forgery, the forged instrument was damned; i.e. delivered up to be destroyed in open court. The practice, if it ever existed, now lives but in the memory of the learned; the disabling consequences, however, survive it to this hour. The trial proceeds in the presence of the person whose name is said to have been forged, who alone knows the fact, and has no motive for misrepresenting it. His statement would at once convict the pursuer [qu. prisoner?] if guilty, or, if innocent, relieve him from the charge. But the law declares him incompetent; and he is condemned to sit by, a silent spectator, hearing the case imperfectly pieced out by the opinions and surmises of other persons, on the speculative question, whether or not the handwriting is his. And this speculation, incapable under any circumstances of satisfying a reasonable mind, decides upon the life of a fellow-citizen, in a system which habitually boasts of requiring always the very best evidence that the nature of the case can admit!56

(Vol. V, pp. 57-9.)

* * * * *

[Bentham considers exceptions to the general rule that evidence of witnesses is excluded when they have pecuniary interest in the outcome. The first exception is discussed under the heading, “Interest against interest.”] Unless the rule, out of which the exception is taken, be supposed to be bad in toto, the reason of the exception (if it has any) supposes all other circumstances equal, and the quantity of money creative of the interest the same on both sides. Against the truth of this supposition, there is exactly infinity to one. The number of possible ratios is infinite: of these the ratio of equality is one. Of the proportion between interest and interest, the exception takes no cognizance: no mention of it is made.

It must be acknowledged, that, in many of the cases in which this exception has been allowed, it has been, from the nature of the case, unquestionably certain that the interest, at least the pecuniary interest, was equal on both sides; thus, the accepter of a bill of exchange is an admissible witness in an action by indorser against drawer, to prove that he had no effects of the drawer’s in his hands; because, whichever way the suit may be decided, he is equally liable. On the other hand, there are many cases in which the interest is not really, but only nominally the same on both sides. Thus, a pauper is a good witness for either parish, in a settlement case: why? because (we are told) it is the same thing to him whether he has a settlement in one parish or in another;57 true, it may be the same thing; but it Edition: current; Page: [53] may also be a very different thing, since different parishes give very different allowances to their poor. (Vol. V, p. 63.)

* * * * *

[In discussing (Bk. IX, Pt. III, Chap. iv, Sect. 1) perjury as one of the improper grounds for exclusion because of improbity, Bentham says, in a footnote which Mill’s comment (in square brackets) concludes:] Where a witness, who at the time of the transaction was an uninterested one, has since given himself an interest in the cause, as, for instance, by a wager, English lawyers have decided—and with indisputable justice—that, by this act of the witness, the party shall not be deprived of the benefit of his testimony. The damage which a man is not allowed to do by an act otherwise so innocent as that of a wager, shall he be allowed to do it by so criminal an act as perjury?

It is rather curious, that, while the attesting witness, if he has happened to perjure himself since he signed his name, would not, I suppose, be admitted to prove his own signature, he is admitted to disprove it: “a person who has set his name as a subscribing witness to a deed or will, is admissible to impeach the execution of the instrument;”* although by so doing he confesses himself to have been guilty of a crime which differs from the worst kind of perjury only in the absence of oath, from forgery only in name. (Vol. V, pp. 86-7.)

* * * * *

[Looking to experience for support of his views on exclusion based on improbity, Bentham says:] Inquiring among professional friends the degree of observance given to the rules excluding witnesses on the ground of improbity, I learn that judges may, in this point of view, be divided into three classes. Some, treating the objection as an objection to credit, not to competency, admit the witness, suffer his evidence to go to the jury, presenting the objection at the same time, warning the jury of the force of it, and when thus warned, leaving them to themselves. If, after this warning, the jury convict a man of whose guilt the judge from whom they have thus received the warning, is not satisfied; from thence follows, as a matter of course, a recommendation to mercy, from whence follows, as a matter also of course, a pardon. Another class suffer the testimony to be given, but if they do not Edition: current; Page: [54] find it corroborated by other testimony, direct the jury to acquit, paying no regard to it. A third class, again, if they understand that no other evidence is to follow, refuse, in spite of all authorities, so much as to suffer the jury to hear the evidence.

The reader should be informed that these pages were written somewhere about the year 1803. Whether any greater degree of unanimity exists on the bench, in regard to these matters, at the present day, perhaps nobody knows: it is hardly worth knowing. (Vol. V, p. 95.)

* * * * *

[In condemning exclusions based on religious opinions, Bentham says:] Speculation, quoth somebody. No; cases of evidence excluded on account of atheism have every now and then presented themselves in practice. [To this he appends the following note, which Mill’s comment (in square brackets) concludes:] The books exhibit several cases of this sort; and from private information it has happened to me to hear of several not mentioned in any book.

Such a case occurred only a few months ago. One of Carlile’s shopmen had been robbed.58 His evidence was refused, and justice denied to him, on the ground of what lawyers affectedly call defect of religious principle.59 (Vol. V, pp. 132-3.)

* * * * *

[Bentham asserts that the question “Are you an atheist?” not only offends “against the dictates of reason and justice,” but is] repugnant to the known rules of actually existing law. In virtue of a statute still in force, [Mill’s note is here appended] a declaration to any such effect subjects the individual to penalties of high severity: and the rule, that no man shall, in return to any question, give an answer that can have the effect of subjecting him to any sort of penalty, is the firmly-established fruit of that mischievous superstition, the war upon which will form the business of the ensuing Part.

Since this was written (July 1806) the statute against blasphemy has been Edition: current; Page: [55] repealed:60 but the Lord Chancellor, (by virtue of that power of superseding the will of the legislature, which judges never hesitate to assume to themselves whenever they need it), has taken upon himself to declare, that to deny the Trinity is still an offence at common law.61 (Vol. V, p. 133.)

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[Concerning the exclusion of evidence from “persons excommunicated,” Bentham says:] You omit paying your attorney’s bill: if the bill is a just one, and you able to pay it, this is wrong of you; but if unable, your lot (of which immediately) will be just the same. If the business done, was done in a court called a common law court, your attorney is called an attorney, and the case belongs not to this purpose. If in a court called an ecclesiastical court, the attorney is called a proctor: you are imprisoned, and so forth; but first you must be excommunicated. For this crime, or for any other, no sooner are you excommunicated, than a discovery is made, that, being “excluded out of the church,” you are “not under the influence of any religion:” you are a sort of atheist. To your own weak reason it appears to you that you believe; but the law, which is the perfection of reason, knows that you do not. Being omniscient, and infallible, and so forth, she knows that, were you to be heard, it would be impossible you should speak true: therefore, you too are posted off upon the excluded list, along with atheists, catholics, and quakers.

Forbidden by his religion, a quaker will not pay tithes: sued in the spiritual court, he is excommunicated. As a witness, he is now incompetent twice over: once by being a quaker, and again by being excommunicate. Why by being excommunicate? Answer, per Mr. Justice Buller,—“because he is not under the influence of any religion.”62

Since these two paragraphs were written (July 1806), the incompetency of excommunicated persons to give evidence has been removed by the statute 53 George III, c. 127 (Phillips, Vol. I, p. 26). (Vol. V, p. 140.)

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Edition: current; Page: [56]

[With heavy irony, echoed by Mill in his note, Bentham discusses the legal means by which “competency” is restored to a witness. The first of these is the “Burning Iron” applied to the hands of those guilty of “clergyable felonies.” He comments, in part:] Other punishments may run their course; other punishments, whatever may be their duration, may have run their course, and the incredibility remain unextinguished. It is not time, but heat, that works the cure. Neither does whipping possess any such virtue as that of a restorative to veracity: for whipping is not fire. A conviction of an offence, for which whipping is the sentence; expels the veracity; but the execution of the sentence does not in this case bring it back again. To a plain understanding, the incredibility might as well be whipped out as burnt out, or the new credibility whipped in as burnt in: but this, it seems, is not law. There is no purifier like fire.

There are cases indeed, in which whipping, or fine, or transportation, or any other kinds of punishment, have all the virtue of burning: but this is only when they have been substituted for it by act of parliament:63 in all other cases, nothing but burning will serve. The benefit of clergy has of itself no virtue; burning, or a statutory substitute is indispensable. “In Lord Warwick’s case,” says Phillipps (Vol. I, p. 32) “one who had been convicted of manslaughter, and allowed his clergy, but not burnt in the hand, was called as a witness for the prisoner; and on an objection to his competency, the lords referred it to the judges present, who thought he was not a competent witness, as the statue had made the burning in the hand a condition precedent to the discharge.”64 (Vol. V, p. 172.)

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[The second means of restoring competency (see the previous entry) is “A Great Seal,” on which Bentham says:] The sort of great seal to be employed on this occasion, is that which is employed for granting pardons. Supposing (what has sometimes happened) the ground of the pardon to have been the persuasion of the convict’s innocence, the restoration of the admissibility would, under the rule of consistency, be a necessary consequence: in every other case, whatever propriety there might be, consistency is out of the question. An experiment was once made by Edition: current; Page: [57] another sort of seal, called a privy seal: the experiment failed: the seal was not found to be big enough. [To this passage Bentham appends the following note, which Mill’s comment (in square brackets) concludes:] The English of this is, that it belongs to the Chancellor, not to the Lord Privy Seal (or at least not to the Lord Privy Seal alone) to grant pardons. Understand, in a direct way: for in an indirect way, as above shewn [See Bk. VIII, “Technical Procedure,” Chap. xiv, “Nullification.”], it belongs to any body.

A statute of the last session but one, (6 Geo. IV, c. 25) enacts, that a pardon under the sign manual, and countersigned by a Secretary of State, shall have the same effect as a pardon under the great seal. (Vol. V, p. 173.)

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[Bentham asserts sadly that to expect relief from law taxes is hopeless,] unless the moment (perhaps an ideal one) should ever arrive, that should produce a financier to whom the most important interests of the people should be dearer than his own momentary ease.

That time is happily come.65 (Vol. V, p. 222.)

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[The following lengthy passage, headed “Farther Remarks by the Editor,” concludes Sect. 2, “Lawyer and Client,” of Bk. IX, Chap. v, “Examination of the Cases in Which English Law Exempts One Person from Giving Evidence against Another.”]

In the notice of the Traité des Preuves Judiciaires, in the Edinburgh Review,* the rule which excludes the testimony of the professional assistant, is with much earnestness defended.66 The grounds of the defence, in so far as they are intelligible to me, reduce themselves to those which follow:

1. The first argument consists of two steps, whereof the former is expressed, the latter understood; and either of them, if admitted, destroys the other. The proposition which is asserted is, that the aid which is afforded to an accused person by his advocate, is of exceedingly great importance to justice. The proposition Edition: current; Page: [58] which is insinuated is, that of this aid he would be deprived, if his advocate were rendered subject to examination.—If the only purpose, for which an advocate can be of use, be to assist a criminal in the concealment of his guilt, the last proposition is true: but what becomes of the former? If, on the other hand (as is sufficiently evident) an advocate be needful on other accounts than this,—if he be of use to the innocent, as well as to the guilty, to the man who has nothing to conceal, as well as to the man who has; what is to hinder an innocent, or even a guilty defendant, from availing himself of his advocate’s assistance for all purposes, except that of frustrating the law?

2. The second argument consists but of one proposition: it is, that Lord Russell’s attorney would have been a welcome visitor, with his notes in his pocket, to the office of the solicitor of the Treasury. To the exalted personages, whose desire it was to destroy Lord Russell, any person would, it is probable, have been a welcome visitor, who came with information in his pocket tending to criminate the prisoner.67 From this, what does the reviewer infer? That no information tending to criminate the prisoner should be received? That the truth should not, on a judicial occasion, be ascertained? Not exactly: only that one means, a most efficient means, of ascertaining it, should be rejected. Are we to suppose, then, that on every judicial occasion the thing which is desirable is, that the laws should not be executed? then, indeed, the reviewer’s conclusion would be liable to no other objection than that of not going nearly far enough; since all other kinds of evidence might, and indeed ought, on such a supposition, to be excluded likewise.

So long as the law treats any act as a crime which is not a crime, so long it will, without doubt, be desirable that some acts which are legally crimes should escape detection: and by conducing to that end, this or any other exclusionary rule may palliate, in a slight degree, the mischiefs of a bad law. To make the conclusion hold universally, what would it be necessary to suppose? Only that the whole body of the law is a nuisance, and its frustration, not its execution, the end to be desired.

Laws are made to be executed, not to be set aside. For the sake of weakening this or that bad law, would you weaken all the laws? How monstrous must that law be, which is not better than such a remedy! Instead of making bad laws, and then, by exclusionary rules, undoing with one hand a part of the mischief which you have been doing with the other, would it not be wiser to make no laws but such as are fit to be executed, and then to take care that they be executed on all occasions?

3. The third argument is of that ingenious and sometimes very puzzling sort, called a dilemma. If the rule were abolished, two courses only, according to the reviewer, the lawyer would have: he must enter into communication with the Edition: current; Page: [59] opposite party from the beginning, to which course there would be objections; or he must wait till he had satisfied himself that his client was in the wrong, and must enter into communication with the opposite party then; to which course there would be other objections. What the force of these objections may be, it is not necessary, nor would it be pertinent, to inquire: since neither justice nor Mr. Bentham demand that he should enter into communication with the opposite party at all. What is required is only, that if, upon the day of trial, the opposite party should choose to call for his evidence, it may not be in his power, any more than in that of any other witness, to withhold it.

One would not have been surprised at these arguments, or even worse, from an indiscriminate eulogizer of “things as they are;”68 this, however, is by no means the character of the writer of this article: it is the more surprising, therefore, that he should have been able to satisfy himself with reasons such as the three which we have examined. Not that these are all the reasons he has to give: the following paragraph seems to be considered by him as containing additional reasons to the same effect:

Even in the very few instances where the accused has intrusted his defender with a full confession of his crime, we hold it to be clear that he may still be lawfully defended. The guilt of which he may be conscious, and which he may have so disclosed, he has still a right to see distinctly proved upon him by legal evidence. To suborn wretches to the commission of perjury, or procure the absence of witnesses by bribes, is to commit a separate and execrable crime; to tamper with the purity of the judges is still more odious: but there is no reason why any party should not, by fair and animated arguments, demonstrate the insufficiency of that testimony, on which alone a righteous judgment can be pronounced to his destruction. Human beings are never to be run down like beasts of prey, without respect to the laws of the chase. If society must make a sacrifice of any one of its members, let it proceed according to general rules, upon known principles, and with clear proof of necessity: “let us carve him as a feast fit for the gods, not hew him as a carcass for the hounds.”69 Reversing the paradox above cited from Paley,70 we should not despair of finding strong arguments in support of another, and maintain that it is desirable that guilty men should sometimes escape, by the operation of those general rules which form the only security for innocence.71

In reading the above declamation, one is at a loss to discover what it is which the writer is aiming at. Does he really think that, all other things being the same, a system of procedure is the better, for affording to criminals a chance of escape? If this be his serious opinion, there is no more to be said; since it must be freely admitted that, reasoning upon this principle, there is no fault to be found with the rule. If it be your object not to find the prisoner guilty, there cannot be a better way Edition: current; Page: [60] than refusing to hear the person who is most likely to know of his guilt, if it exist. The rule is perfectly well adapted to its end: but is that end the true end of procedure? This question surely requires no answer.

But if the safety of the innocent, and not that of the guilty, be the object of the reviewer’s solicitude; had he shewn how an innocent man could be endangered by his lawyer’s telling all he has to tell, he would have delivered something more to the purpose than any illustration which the subject of carcasses and hounds could yield. If he can be content for one moment to view the question with other than fox-hunting eyes, even he must perceive that, to the man who, having no guilt to disclose, has disclosed none to his lawyer, nothing could be of greater advantage than that this should appear; as it naturally would if the lawyer were subjected to examination.

“There is no reason why any party should not, by fair and animated arguments, demonstrate the insufficiency of that testimony, on which alone a righteous judgment can be pronounced to his destruction.” This, if I rightly understand it, means, that incomplete evidence ought not, for want of comments, to be taken for complete: we were in no great danger of supposing that it ought. But the real question is,—should you, because your evidence is incomplete, shut out other evidence which would complete it? After the lawyer has been examined, is the evidence incomplete notwithstanding? then is the time for your “fair and animated arguments.” Is it complete? then what more could you desire?

The denunciation which follows, against hunting down human beings without respect for the laws of the chase, is one of those proofs which meet us every day, how little, as yet, even instructed Englishmen are accustomed to look upon judicature as a means to an end, and that end the execution of the law. They speak and act, every now and then, as if they regarded a criminal trial as a sort of game, partly of chance, partly of skill, in which the proper end to be aimed at is, not that the truth may be discovered, but that both parties may have fair play: in a word, that whether a guilty person shall be acquitted or punished, may be, as nearly as possible, an even chance.

I had almost omitted the most formidable argument of all, which was brought forward by M. Dumont, not as decisive, but as deserving of consideration, and which the reviewer, who adopts it, terms “a conclusive reductio ad absurdum.72 This consists in a skilful application of the words spy and informer (espion, délateur), two words forming part of a pretty extensive assortment of vaguely vituperative expressions, which possess the privilege of serving as conclusive objections against any person or thing which it is resolved to condemn, and against which, it is supposed, no other objections can be found.

Spies and informers are bad people; a lawyer who discloses his client’s guilt is a spy and an informer; he is therefore a bad man, and such disclosure is a bad Edition: current; Page: [61] practice, and the rule by which it is prohibited is a good rule. Such, when analysed into its steps, is the argument which we are now called upon to consider.

But to form a ground for condemning any practice, it is not enough to apply to the person who practises it an opprobrious name: it is necessary, moreover, to point out some pernicious tendency in the practice; to shew that it produces more evil than good. It cannot be pretended that the act of him, who, when a crime comes to his knowledge, (be it from the malefactor’s own lips, or from any other source), being called upon judicially to declare the truth, declares it accordingly, is a pernicious act. On the contrary, it is evident that it is a highly useful act: the evil occasioned by it being, at the very worst, no more than the punishment of the guilty person; an evil which, in the opinion of the legislature, is outweighed by the consequent security to the public. Call this man, therefore, an informer or not, as you please; but if you call him an informer, remember to add, that the act which constitutes him one, is a meritorious act.

M. Dumont expresses an apprehension that no honourable man would take upon him the functions of an advocate, if compelled to put on what he is pleased to call the character of an informer. Further reflection would, I think, have convinced him that this apprehension is chimerical. There is scarcely any thing in common between the two characters of an informer and of a witness. The antipathy which exists against the former extends not to the latter. A witness, as such, does not take money for giving evidence, as an informer frequently does for giving information. The act of an informer is spontaneous: he is a man who goes about of his own accord doing mischief to others: so at least it appears to the eyes of unreflecting prejudice. The evidence of the witness may be more fatal to the accused than the indications given by the informer; but it has the appearance of not being equally spontaneous: he tells what he knows, because the law compels him to say something, and because being obliged to speak, he will speak nothing but the truth: but for any thing that appears, if he had not been forced, he would have held his tongue and staid away. An honourable man, acting in the capacity of an advocate, would, by giving true evidence, incur the approbation of all lovers of justice, and would not incur the disapprobation of any one: what, therefore, is there to deter him? unless it be a hatred of justice.

The reviewer adds, that M. Dumont’s argument “might be assisted with a multiplicity of reasonings:” these, as he has not stated them, Mr. Bentham, probably, may be pardoned for being ignorant of. The reviewer is modest enough to content himself with the “single and very obvious remark, that the author evidently presumes the guilt from the accusation:”73 a remark which could have had its source in nothing but the thickest confusion of ideas. Had Mr. Bentham recommended condemnation without evidence, or any other practice which would be indiscriminately injurious to all accused persons, innocent or guilty; it might Edition: current; Page: [62] then have been said of him, with some colour of justice, that he presumed the guilt from the accusation. But when, of the practice which he recommends, it is a characteristic property to be a security to the innocent, a source of danger to the guilty alone,—under what possible pretence can he be charged with presuming the existence of guilt?—though he may be charged, sure enough, with desiring that where there is guilt, it may be followed by punishment; a wish probably blameable in the eyes of the reviewer, who thinks it “desirable that guilty men should sometimes escape.”

Thus weak are all the arguments which could be produced against this practice, by men who would have been capable of finding better arguments, had any better been to be found. It may appear, and perhaps ought to appear, surprising, that men generally unprejudiced, and accustomed to think, should be misled by sophistry of so flimsy a texture as this has appeared to be. Unhappily, however, there is not any argument so palpably untenable and absurd, which is not daily received, even by instructed men, as conclusive, if it makes in favour of a doctrine which they are predetermined to uphold. In the logic of the schools, the premises prove the conclusion. In the logic of the affections, some cause, hidden or apparent, having produced a prepossession, this prepossession proves the conclusion, and the conclusion proves the premises. You may then scatter the premises to the winds of heaven, and the conclusion will not stand the less firm:—the affections being still enlisted in its favour, and the shew, not the substance, of a reason being that which is sought for,—if the former premises are no longer defensible, others of similar quality are easily found. The only mode of attack which has any chance of being successful, is to look out for the cause of the prepossession, and do what may be possible to be done towards its removal: when once the feeling, the real support of the opinion, is gone, the weakness of the ostensible supports, the so called reasons, becomes manifest, and the opinion falls to the ground.

What is plainly at the bottom of the prepossession in the present case, is a vague apprehension of danger to innocence. There is nothing which, if listened to, is so sure to mislead as vague fears.74 Point out any specific cause of alarm, any thing upon which it is possible to lay your hand, and say, from this source evil of this or that particular kind is liable to flow; and there may be some chance of our being able to judge whether the apprehension is or is not a reasonable one. Confine yourself to vague anticipations of undefined evils, and your fears merit not the slightest regard: if you cannot tell what it is you are afraid of, how can you expect any one to participate in your alarm? One thing is certain: that, if there be any reason for fear, that reason must be capable of being pointed out: and that a danger which does not admit of being distinctly stated, is no danger at all. Let any one, Edition: current; Page: [63] therefore, ask himself,—supposing the law good, and the accused innocent,—what possible harm can be done him by making his professional assistant tell all that he knows?

He may have told to his lawyer, and his lawyer, if examined, may disclose, circumstances which, though they afford no inference against him, it would have been more agreeable to him to conceal. True; but to guard him against any such unnecessary vexation, he will have the considerate attention of the judge: and this inconvenience, after all, is no more than what he may be subjected to by the deposition of any other witness, and particularly by that of his son, or his servant, or any other person who lives in his house, much more probably than by that of his lawyer.

Whence all this dread of the truth? Whence comes it that any one loves darkness better than light, except it be that his deeds are evil?75 Whence but from a confirmed habit of viewing the law as the enemy of innocence,—as scattering its punishments with so ill-directed and so unsparing a hand, that the most virtuous of mankind, were all his actions known, could no more hope to escape from them than the most abandoned of malefactors? Whether the law be really in this state, I will not take upon myself to say: sure I am, that if it be, it is high time it should be amended. But if it be not, where is the cause of alarm? In men’s consciousness of their own improbity. Children and servants hate tell-tales; thieves hate informers, and peaching accomplices; and, in general, he who feels a desire to do wrong, hates all things, and rules of evidence among the rest, which may, and he fears will, lead to his detection.

Thus much in vindication of the proposed rule. As for its advantages, they are to be sought for not so much in its direct, as in its indirect, operation. The party himself having been, as he ought to be, previously subjected to interrogation; his lawyer’s evidence, which, though good of its kind, is no better than hearsay evidence, would not often add any new facts to those which had already been extracted from the lips of the client. The benefit which would arise from the abolition of the exclusionary rule, would consist rather in the higher tone of morality which would be introduced into the profession itself. A rule of law which, in the case of the lawyer, gives an express license to that wilful concealment of the criminal’s guilt, which would have constituted any other person an accessary in the crime, plainly declares that the practice of knowingly engaging one’s self as the hired advocate of an unjust cause, is, in the eye of the law, or (to speak intelligibly) in that of the law-makers, an innocent, if not a virtuous practice. But for this implied declaration, the man who in this way hires himself out to do injustice or frustrate justice with his tongue, would be viewed in exactly the same light as he who frustrates justice or does injustice with any other instrument. We should not then hear an advocate boasting of the artifices by which he had trepanned a deluded Edition: current; Page: [64] jury into a verdict in direct opposition to the strongest evidence; or of the effrontery with which he had, by repeated insults, thrown the faculties of a bonâ fide witness into a state of confusion, which had caused him to be taken for a perjurer, and as such disbelieved. Nor would an Old Bailey counsel any longer plume himself upon the number of pickpockets whom, in the course of a long career, he had succeeded in rescuing from the arm of the law. The professional lawyer would be a minister of justice, not an abettor of crime; a guardian of truth, not a suborner of mendacity: and not at his hands only, in another sphere, whether as a private man or as a legislator, somewhat more regard for truth and justice might be expected than now, when resistance to both is his daily business, and, if successful, his greatest glory; but, through his medium, the same salutary influence would speedily extend itself to the people at large. Can the paramount obligation of these cardinal virtues ever be felt by them as it ought, while they imagine that, on such easy terms as those of putting on a wig and gown, a man obtains, and on the most important of all occasions, an exemption from both? (Vol. V, pp. 313-25.)

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[Having commented that a wife’s evidence is admissible against her husband when he is accused of inflicting personal injury on her, Bentham adds a note on the exclusion of a first wife’s evidence in cases of bigamy, on the grounds that she is the only lawful wife. Mill’s comment (in square brackets) completes the footnote.]

Technical law is never consistent, even in its badness. On a prosecution for bigamy, the first husband or wife is not admissible to prove the fact of the former marriage. But, after a long period of uncertainty, it has been settled as late as the year 1817, that in any collateral suit or proceeding between third persons, the rule is quite different:76 a person may therefore be incidentally charged with bigamy by the testimony of the first wife or husband, and with the effect of punishment, viz. in the shape of loss of character; a punishment not the less real, for being inflicted by other hands than those of the executioners of the law. (Vol. V, pp. 336-7.)

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[Bk. IX, Pt. IV, Chap. v, on exclusion of evidence by husbands and wives, is concluded by Mill’s comments, headed “Further remarks by the Editor.”]

The exclusion of the testimony of husband and wife, for or against each other, is in Edition: current; Page: [65] the number of the exclusions which, in an article already alluded to, are defended by the Edinburgh Review:

yet not entirely, [says the reviewer,] on account of that dread entertained by the English law, of conjugal feuds, though these are frequently of the most deadly character. But the reason just given, in the case of the priest, applies; [this refers to the opinion of Mr. Bentham, that the disclosure, by a catholic priest, of the secrets confided to him by a confessing penitent, should not be required or permitted]77 for the confidence between married persons makes their whole conversation an unreserved confession; and they also could never be contradicted but by the accused: while external circumstances might be fabricated with the utmost facility, to give apparent confirmation to false charges. But our stronger reason is, that the passions must be too much alive, where the husband and wife contend in a court of justice, to give any chance of fair play to the truth. It must be expected, as an unavoidable consequence of the connexion by which they are bound, that their feelings, either of affection or hatred, must be strong enough to bear down the abstract regard for veracity, even in judicial depositions.78

Want of space might form some excuse to this writer for not having said more; but it is no apology for the vagueness and inconclusiveness of what he has said.

The confidence, say you, between married persons makes their whole conversation an unreserved confession? So much the better: their testimony will be the more valuable. It is a strange reason for rejecting an article of evidence, that it is distinguished from other articles by its fulness and explicitness.

The reviewer must have read Mr. Bentham very carelessly, to suppose that his reason for excluding the testimony of the priest is, because the discourse of the penitent is an “unreserved confession:” this would be a reason for admitting, not for rejecting, the evidence. The true reason for the exclusion in the case of the confessor, is, that punishment attaching itself upon the discharge of a religious duty would in effect be punishment for religious opinions. Add to which, that the confidence reposed by the criminal in his confessor has not for its object the furtherance, nor the impunity, of offences; but for its effect, as far as it goes, the prevention of them. To seal the lips of the wife gives a facility to crime: to seal those of the confessor gives none; but, on the contrary, induces a criminal to confide the secret of his guilt to one whose only aim will in general be to awaken him to a sense of it. Lastly, it is to be remembered that, by compelling the disclosure in the case of the confessor, no information would ultimately be gained: the only effect being, that, on the part of the criminal, no such revelations would be made. Not so in the case of the wife, who may have come to a knowledge of the crime independently of any voluntary confession by her criminal husband.

That the testimony of the wife could not be contradicted but by the accused person, her husband, and vice versâ,—which, if true, would be a good reason for distrusting, but no reason for rejecting their evidence,—is, in the majority of Edition: current; Page: [66] cases, not true. What the husband and wife have told one another in secret, no one but they two can know; and, consequently, what either of them says on the subject of it, nobody but the other has it in his power to contradict. But is not this likewise the case between the criminal and his accomplice, or between the criminal and any other person, with respect to any fact which occurred when they two were the only persons present? while, with respect to all other facts, the testimony of husband or wife would, if false, be just as capable of being refuted by counter-evidence as the testimony of any other witness.

The aphorism on which the reviewer founds what he calls his “stronger reason,” one would not have wondered at meeting with in a German tragedy; but it is certainly what one would never have looked for in a discourse upon the law of evidence. Strange as it may sound in sentimental ears, I am firmly persuaded that many, nay most, married persons pass through life without either loving or hating one another to any such uncontrollable excess. Suppose them however to do so, and their “feelings,” whether of affection or of hatred, to be “strong enough to bear down the abstract regard for veracity:” will they, in addition to this “abstract regard,”—a curious sort of a regard,—be strong enough to bear down the fear of punishment and of shame? Will they render the witness proof against the vigilance and acuteness of a sagacious and experienced cross-examiner? Or rather, are not the witnesses who are under the influence of a strong passion, precisely those who, when skilfully dealt with, are least capable of maintaining the appearance of credibility, even when speaking the truth; and, à fortiori, least likely to obtain credit for a lie?

But I waste time, and fill up valuable space, in arguing seriously against such solemn trifling. (Vol. V, pp. 345-9.)

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[The following note occurs in the midst of Bentham’s argument that justice is deprived of valuable evidence by the exclusion of evidence by “a party to the cause, for or against himself” (Bk. IX, Pt. V, Chap. i).]

The Edinburgh Review, in an article which has been several times referred to, makes a long attack upon “the French method of interrogating persons under a charge” with a view to the extraction of their self-criminative testimony.79 It is not necessary to enter particularly into the objections advanced by the reviewer against this practice. They may all be summed up in two propositions, neither of which seems very likely to be disputed: 1. that an innocent man may very possibly be unable to furnish, all at once, those explanations which are necessary to make his Edition: current; Page: [67] innocence appear; and 2. that, such inability on the part of a prisoner not being conclusive evidence of his guilt, it would be very wrong to treat it as if it were so.

The reviewer does not state whether his objection extends to the examination of the prisoner on the occasion of the definitive trial: but we may presume that it does not, since his arguments do not apply to that case. By that time, the prisoner may reasonably be supposed to be prepared with all such explanations as the circumstances will admit of; and if he is not, I fear it will go hard with him, whether the insufficient explanations which he does give, are given through his advocate only, or partly from the lips of his advocate and partly from his own.

But, even against the preliminary interrogation of the prisoner as soon as possible after his apprehension, the objections, it is evident, are altogether inconclusive. That non-responsion and evasive responsion are strong articles of circumstantial evidence against a prisoner, is what will hardly be denied:—that, by an inconsiderate judge, more than the due weight may be attached to them, is a casualty to which they are liable, in common with all other sorts of circumstantial evidence, but not more liable than other sorts. Were the possibility of deception a sufficient ground for putting an exclusion upon evidence, can it be necessary to say, that no evidence would be admitted at all? But the exclusionists never seem to consider, that if deception may arise from evidence, it is still more likely to arise from the want of evidence.

After all, the reviewer, when he comes to his practical conclusion, explains away the whole effect of his previous arguments, and ends by prescribing

a middle course, which leaves the party to judge and act for himself. If he is blessed with self-command, and is in possession of the means of at once refuting his pursuers, why should his vindication be delayed? but as he may be incompetent to do so, or unprovided with the necessary proofs, let him be calmly told by the magistrate, that no unfair inference will be drawn from his reserving his defence for a more convenient season.80

That something of this sort should be told him, is obviously proper; to which I will add, that no promise could be more safely given than a promise not to draw any unfair inferences; though it may be doubted how far such an assurance would quiet the alarms of an innocent prisoner, until he should be informed what inferences the magistrate would consider unfair. The proper thing to tell him would be, that if, from the unexpectedness of the accusation, he felt his faculties to be in too bewildered a state to qualify him for making a clear statement of the truth (and of this the magistrate would be in some measure able to judge), or if any sufficient reason rendered him unable or averse to give the necessary explanations without delay, he would be at liberty to say as little or as much as he pleased; but that if, when the trial should come on, and he should come to be finally examined, the explanations afforded by him should appear to be such as might with equal facility and propriety have been given on the spot; his having refrained from giving Edition: current; Page: [68] them at that time, would be considered as strong evidence (though even then, not conclusive evidence) of his guilt. (Vol. V, pp. 352-4.)

* * * * *

[Bentham examines, in Bk. IX, Pt. V, Chap. iii, the inconsistencies of English law concerning the admissibility of defendant’s evidence. He treats first criminal cases, and then turns to civil ones, on which he says, in part:] Speak indeed he [the defendant] may; if mere speaking will content him, without speaking to any purpose. For, in cases of this class, defendant and plaintiff standing on even ground, and without any nook for compassion (real or hypocritical) to plant itself upon, and cry, Hear him! hear him! whatever he may (if he have courage) insist upon saying, will be watched by men with sieves in their hands; and whatever testimony he may take upon him to throw in along with his matter of argument and observations, will be carefully separated, and forbidden to be lodged in the budget of evidence.

There is one case, according to Phillipps, in which the evidence of the defendant is allowed to be given in his own behalf, on the occasion of an action in the common law courts. The case I allude to, is that of an action for a malicious prosecution, “where it seems,” says Phillipps, “to have been understood, that the evidence which the defendant himself gave on the trial of the indictment, may, under certain circumstances, be received in his favour on the trial of the action.” (Phillipps, Vol. I, p. 66.)

Observe that in this, as in so many other cases, evidence which might without any trouble be obtained in a good shape, is carefully put into a bad one. What the defendant said on the first occasion, may be received in his favour on the second; though by what evidence, except hearsay evidence, he can be proved to have said it (unless the judge’s notes happen to have been preserved) is not clear: while the defendant himself, who is there in court, ready to be examined, and without the slightest inconvenience in the shape of delay, vexation, or expense, stands peremptorily debarred from opening his mouth.

Whether he is allowed in this case to give evidence for himself, or no,—certain however it is, that in this one case his wife is allowed to give evidence for him, which, in the opinion of Phillipps, seems to be the same thing. The reason given by Lord Holt for admitting in evidence the oath of the defendant’s wife, to prove the felony committed, is as follows: “For otherwise, one that should be robbed would be under an intolerable mischief: if he prosecuted for such robbery, and the party should be acquitted, the prosecutor would be liable to an action for a malicious Edition: current; Page: [69] prosecution, without the possibility of making a good defence, though the cause of prosecution were ever so pregnant.”81 The reason is a good one; but admit its goodness, and what becomes of the exclusionary rule? (Vol. V, pp. 388-9.)

* * * * *

[Arguing against the requirement of a second witness in cases of perjury, Bentham points to the error in] supposing that any rational conclusion can be drawn from the mere circumstance of number, as between accusers and defendants, without taking into the account the particular circumstances of each case.

It is on the same ridiculous plea, that the testimony of a single witness has been determined in English law to be insufficient to ground a conviction for perjury: “because,” we are told, “there would only be one oath against another.”82 Irrefragable logic this, if all oaths be exactly of equal value, no matter what may be the character of the swearer, and to the action of what interests he may be exposed. It is on the same ground, that no decree can be made, in equity, on the oath of one witness, against the defendant’s answer on oath. (See the following section.) (Vol. V, p. 469.)

* * * * *

[After pointing out that in English law, two witnesses are required to support a conviction of treason, Bentham has high sport with the notion that the king is less protected from assassination than any subject. Mill’s note is appended to this comment:] Picking a pocket of a handkerchief, value one shilling, is capital felony; its being the king’s pocket does not make it treason: for picking the king’s pocket of his handkerchief, a man might be hanged on the testimony of a single witness: shooting the king being treason, a man may shoot the king in the presence of any body he pleases, and not a hair of the murderer’s head can be touched for it. Blessed laws! under which it is as safe again, to shoot the king as to pick his pocket!

This singular rule of evidence is now no longer in force as regards any direct Edition: current; Page: [70] attempt against the person of the king, but it still subsists as regards any other kind of treason.83 (Vol. V, p. 487.)

* * * * *

[Mill’s self-explanatory note, the first paragraph below (in italics and square brackets), appears at the end of Bentham’s part of Bk. IX, Pt. VI, Chap. iv, “Exclusion by Rendering a Particular Species of Evidence Conclusive.” Mill’s part of the chapter follows immediately in normal type.]

This chapter having been left unfinished by the Author, what follows has been added to it by the Editor. A few paragraphs, which for distinction have been put in inverted commas, consist of fragments, written at different times by Mr. Bentham: for the remainder the Editor is alone responsible.

This is not the only sort of case in which the sworn, but uncrossexamined and self-serving testimony of a party to the suit, is received as conclusive, that is, to the exclusion of counter-evidence. “The practice in chancery,” we are informed by Phillipps,* “invariably is, that a party is entitled only to extracts of letters, if the other party will swear that the passages extracted are the only parts relating to the subject matter.”

There is another rule, by which a man’s own testimony is rendered conclusive evidence in his favour, and that too on such a subject as that of his own character. The witness indeed in this case is not a party in the suit; but for any thing that appears, he may be the vilest of malefactors; and he is, at any rate, under the influence of an interest, which is one of the strongest of all interests in the bulk of mankind, while even in the vilest it cannot be a weak one. A witness, as we have seen, is not compellable to answer any question, the answer to which, if true, might tend to degrade his character: if, however, he chooses to answer, the party Edition: current; Page: [71] who asks the question is bound by his answer, and is not allowed to falsify it by counter-evidence.*

The above seem to be the only instances worth mentioning, in which an article of orally delivered testimonial evidence has in English law been made conclusive. The instances in which similar effect has been given to an article of circumstantial evidence are innumerable; and many of them have been already brought to view.

1. As often as a decision has been given against either of the parties in a suit, on no other ground than that of his having failed, at a particular stage of the suit, to perform any operation which has been rendered necessary at that stage by technical rules, to the obtainment of justice; so often has the non-performance of that operation been taken as evidence, and conclusive evidence, of what is called in the language of lawyers want of merits, that is, of the badness of his cause.

“Of the justice of the demand, whatsoever it be, that happens to be made upon the defendant, provided the suit does not happen to be called a criminal one, non-resistance on his part is regarded and acted upon as sufficient evidence; and to the plaintiff possession is given of the object of his demand, just as if the justness of it had been proved. Even a lawyer will not pretend that on any ground of reason the inference is a conclusive one. Pecuniary inability, especially under the load of factitious expense imposed every where by the technical system, is another cause equally adequate to the production of the effect. In every part of the empire of the technical system, and more particularly in England, this inability will have place in the case of a vast majority of the body of the people.

“If a presumption thus slight were not received in proof of the justice of the plaintiff’s claim, and in the character of conclusive evidence,—if such direct proof of it as were to be had, were in every instance to be required,—a number of malâ fide suits, with the produce of which, the coffers of the man of law are at present swelled, would have no existence.

“Thus it is, that under the technical system, every court calling itself a court of justice is in effect an open shop, in which, for the benefit of the shopkeeper and his associates, licenses are sold at a fixed, or at least at a limited, price,—empowering the purchaser to oppress and ruin at his choice any and every individual, obnoxious to him or not, on whom indigence or terror impose the inability of opposing effectual resistance.

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“The real condition in which the great majority of the people, in the capacity of suitors, have been placed by the factitious expenses manufactured by the man of law, is an object too reproachful to him to be suffered to remain undisguised. In this, as in every other part of the system, extortion and oppression find in mendacity an ever-ready instrument. The real condition in which the suitor has been involved, the misfortune of defencelessness through indigence, is put out of sight: a crime is imputed to him in its stead: and for that crime, not only without proof, but under the universally notorious consciousness of his innocence, he is punished. Contempt is the word constantly employed to designate this imaginary crime. The real, the universally notorious, causes of his inaction, are fear and impotence. But a man cannot be punished avowedly for fear: he cannot be punished for impotence: mankind would not submit themselves to tyranny so completely without a mask. Adding calumny to mendacity, they pretend to regard his inaction as originating in contempt; and it is on this mendacious accusation of their own forging, that they ground the ruin they inflict on him under the name of punishment.”

In equity, the defendant, who, from his own poverty or ignorance, or the carelessness of his lawyer, is so unfortunate as not to put in an answer to the plaintiff’s bill, stands a great chance (if a poor man) of being a prisoner for life. He is committed to gaol for the contempt: and as he is not released without payment of fees,—unless he has money to pay these fees, or can find some one else who will pay them for him, he must remain there all his life. Instances of this sort have not unfrequently, through the medium of the newspapers, been presented to the public eye.

2. As often as a contract, or any other legally operative instrument, is pronounced null and void, on account of the non-observance of any formality; so often, the sort of exclusion of which we are here treating, has place. A man claims a landed estate, under the will of the last proprietor. The will is produced in court: it is found to have the signatures of two witnesses only, instead of three;84 or one of the three is proved to have put his name to the will in the absence of the testator: the will is rejected, and the party loses his estate. The rejection of the will may, perhaps, be considered as a penalty, for non-compliance with that injunction of the law which requires that certain formalities should be observed. Considered in this point of view, it has been shewn in a previous Book* to be unnecessary and objectionable. But it may also be regarded as grounded on the presumption that the will was spurious, or unfairly obtained. Here then is this one circumstance, viz. non-observance of legally prescribed formalities, received as conclusive evidence of spuriousness or unfairness. The fallacy of this supposition has also been made Edition: current; Page: [73] sufficiently manifest in the Book already referred to. This article of circumstantial evidence, which is conclusive in law, is so far from being conclusive in reason, that it scarcely amounts even to the slightest presumption, until two things be ascertained: first, that the party knew that these formalities were prescribed; and secondly, that compliance with them was in his power. That spurious or unfair instruments have not frequently been prevented by the peremptory requisition of these formalities, is more than I would undertake to say: but an assertion which one may venture upon without much danger of mistake, is, that there is scarcely an instance of any instrument’s having been actually set aside for the want of them, in which there was not a considerable, if not a preponderant, probability of its being genuine.

3. Almost all estoppels are exclusions of the sort now under consideration. You are estopped, say the lawyers, from proving so and so: the meaning of which is, that they will not permit you to prove it. For this they have sometimes one pretext, sometimes another: something which you yourself have said or done; or something which has been said or done by somebody else.

There is a great variety of instances in which they tell you that you are estopped by a previous decision, either of the same court, or of some other court of justice: these have been already noticed under the head of adscititious evidence.* At other times you are estopped by what they term an admission. You are said to make an admission, if you say or do any thing, or if any other person says or does any thing for you, which a judge construes as an acknowledgment on your part, that a certain event has happened; that is, any thing from which he chooses to infer its happening: after which, though every body, who knows any thing about the matter, knows that it has not happened, and would say so if asked, the judge, to save the trouble of asking, chooses to act exactly as if it had.

Admissions are of two kinds, express or presumed; and the former are either admissions upon record, or admissions not upon record. It is a rule with lawyers, that no evidence can be received to dispute admissions upon record, that is, admissions in the pleadings. If this rule went no farther than to confine the evidence to such points as are actually in dispute between the parties, it would be a good rule. In a law book, a man may reckon himself fortunate if he hits upon a rule which has a reason: if he expect, that where the reason stops, the rule will stop too, it is very rarely that he will not be disappointed. One example will serve as well as a thousand. When a man, against whom an action is brought for a sum of money, denies that the plaintiff is entitled to the whole sum which he claims, but admits that he has a just claim upon him for a smaller sum,—the practice is, for the defendant to pay into court the amount of the sum which he acknowledges to be Edition: current; Page: [74] due, that it may remain in deposit until the cause is decided. This payment, lawyers choose to call an “acknowledgment upon record;” and now mark the consequence: “the party cannot recover it back, although he has paid it wrongfully, or by mistake.”*

As for extrajudicial admissions, it is not always that they are even receivable; when they are, they are generally taken for conclusive: for it may be observed, in regard to this part of the law of evidence, as in regard to so many other parts of it, that neither the lawyers by whom it was made, nor the lawyers by whom it has been expounded, ever seem to know that there is any middle course between taking an article of evidence for conclusive, and rejecting it altogether. Accordingly, in reading the dicta of judges, or the compilations of institutional writers from those dicta, one is continually at a loss to know what they mean. In speaking of this or that evidentiary circumstance, what they tell you concerning it, is, that it is evidence: now and then superadding, as it were for the sake of variety, the epithet good to the general appellative, evidence. Would you know whether they mean that it is conclusive, or only that it is admissible? Observe their actions: see whether they send it to a jury: for any thing that you can collect from their words, they are as likely to mean the one as the other.

The following will serve as an example, as well of the ambiguity of which I have been speaking, as of the sort of logic which passes for irrefragable, under the dominion of technical rules. When a party, interested in the cause, makes an admission against his interest, if he has not made it by mistake, it is nearly the best evidence against him that you can have: ergo, it ought to be taken for conclusive against him, when he has made it by mistake; ergo, the admission of a person who is merely a nominal plaintiff, and who is not interested in the cause, ought to be conclusive against the person who is. So, at least, it was decided in the case of Bauerman v. Radenius, in which the admission of the plaintiffs on the record, though not the parties really interested, was received as conclusive, and the plaintiffs were nonsuited. I say, received as conclusive; because, when a plaintiff is nonsuited, that is to say, when his claim is dismissed by the judge without going to a jury, it is because, if he had gone to a jury, the jury must have found a verdict against him; which would have been a bar to any future prosecution of the same claim: whereas a nonsuit leaves it still in his power to bring a fresh action, after remedying the defect which would have compelled the jury to find against him. The court of King’s Bench afterwards affirmed, that is, confirmed, the nonsuit: on which occasion Mr. Justice Lawrence said, “The present plaintiffs either have or have not an interest: but it must be considered that they have an interest, in order to support the action; and if they have, an admission made by them that they have no cause of action, is admissible evidence.”85 This judge, here, with much naïveté, Edition: current; Page: [75] displays the manner in which, under the influence of technical rules, what is known to be false is taken for true, in order that what is evidently unjust may be done. He knew as well as the nominal plaintiffs knew, that they had not an interest in the cause: but what of that? The law knew that they had.

There is an overflow of legal learning, on the question, what effect to your prejudice shall be given to the admission of your agent: and here again recurs the usual alternative: it is either not received, or it is received as conclusive: it either excludes all other evidence, or it is itself excluded. Thus, in one case,* “a letter from the defendant’s clerk, informing the plaintiff that a policy had been effected, was held to be good evidence [meaning here conclusive evidence] of the existence of the policy; and the defendant was not allowed to prove that the letter had been written by mistake, and that the policy had not been made:” while, in another case, “where the fact sought to be established, was, that a bond had been executed by the defendant to the plaintiff, which the defendant had got possession of, the Master of the Rolls refused to admit, as evidence of this fact, the declaration of the defendant’s agent, who had been employed to keep the bond for the plaintiff’s benefit, and who, on its being demanded by the plaintiff, informed him that it had been delivered to the defendant.” It might seem to a cursory reader, on comparing these two decisions, either that the predilection of judges for bad evidence was such, that, rejecting an admission in other cases, they were willing to receive it upon the single condition of its being made by mistake; or that, in laying down rules of evidence, blind caprice was the only guide. In this apparent inconsistency, however, there is a principle, though no one would have thought it: it is this: that the admissions of an agent are not to be received, unless “made by him, either at the time of his making an agreement about which he is employed, or in acting within the scope of his authority.”86 It is not, that what he says on these occasions is more likely to be true than what he says on other occasions: it is, that “it is impossible to say a man is precluded from questioning or contradicting any thing that any person may have asserted, as to his conduct or agreement, merely because that person has been an agent:”87 and as it would be unjust to preclude him from contradicting it, it is not permitted so much as to be heard.

Besides these express admissions, there is an extensive assortment of presumed ones; when a man “precludes himself from disputing a fact, by the tenour of his conduct and demeanour:” the meaning of which is, that the court will presume an Edition: current; Page: [76] admission from any thing that a man does, which they think he would not have done if the fact had not been true. This is the principle: but as to the extent of its application, there is no criterion of it except the Index to the Reports. It has usually been applied only to cases in which the presumption afforded by the act is really strong, and might reasonably be held conclusive in the absence of counter-evidence, though certainly not to the exclusion of counter-evidence, since there is not so much as one of the cases in which the presumption is not liable to fail. Without touching upon the grounds of failure which are peculiar to this or that case, there is one obvious ground which is common to them all. A man’s actions can never prove the truth of a fact, except in so far as his belief of it is evidence of its truth: and to hinder a man from proving that a thing did not happen, because at some former period he believed that it did, even if you were sure that he believed it (which in general you are not, it being only inferred from his actions), would be unjust in any case, but is more especially absurd, when the fact in question is one of those complicated, and frequently recondite, facts, which are constitutive of title.

Take a few instances.

“By accounting with a person as farmer of the tolls of a turnpike, a party is estopped from disputing the validity of his title, when sued by account stated for those tolls.

“By paying tithes to the plaintiff on former occasions, a defendant admits the right of the plaintiff to an action for not setting out tithes.

“Where a party rented glebe lands of a rector, and had paid him rent, he was not permitted, in an action for use and occupation, to dispute his lessor’s title, by proving that his presentation was simoniacal.

“In actions of use and occupation, when the tenant has occupied by the permission of the plaintiff, he cannot dispute the plaintiff’s title, although he may shew that it is at an end.

“In an action of ejectment, by a landlord against his tenant, the tenant cannot question the title of his landlord, although he is at liberty to shew that it has expired.”*

In all these instances, the presumption upon which, if upon any thing, the decision must have been grounded, is, that if the plaintiff had not really had a good title, the defendant would not have paid rent, tithe, etc. to him, as the case may be. To justify the rendering this presumption conclusive, it would be necessary, among a crowd of other suppositions, to suppose that a tenant never paid rent to the de facto landlord, without first demanding his title deeds, and going over them with a lawyer, for the purpose of assuring himself that they did not contain any flaw.

4. A whole host of exclusions lurk in the admired rule, that the best evidence which the nature of the case admits of, is to be required: a rule which seems to Edition: current; Page: [77] please every body, and with the more reason, as, having no distinct meaning of its own, it is capable of receiving any which any one thinks proper to attach to it. There is a charm, too, in the sound of the words best evidence, which no lawyer, and scarcely any non-lawyer, is able to resist. The following seems to be nearly the train of thought (in so far as any thing like thought can be said to have place) which passes through the mind of the submissive and admiring student, when he hears this maxim delivered ex cathedrâ, as something which, like Holy Writ, is to be believed and adored. Good evidence, it naturally occurs to him, is a good thing: à fortiori therefore (it is unnecessary to say), the best evidence cannot but be a good thing: what, however, can be more proper, than always to require, and insist upon having, the best of every thing? How admirable, therefore, the rule which requires the best evidence (whether it is to be had or no); and how admirable the system of law, which is in a great measure made up of such rules!

As a preliminary to praising this rule, a desirable thing would be, to understand it: for this, however, you have no chance but by looking at the practice: the attempt to find a meaning for the words would be lost labour. The meaning attached to it by lawyers has been different, according to the different purposes which they have had to serve by it. One use which they have made of it, is, to serve as a reason for excluding an inferior and less trustworthy sort of evidence, when a more trustworthy sort, from the same source, is to be had: as, for example, a transcript, when the original is in existence and forthcoming. Applied to this purpose, the rule, if it were not so vague, would be justly entitled to the appellation of a good rule: the purpose, at any rate, (with the limitations which have been seen in the Book on Makeshift Evidence), must be allowed to be a good purpose. Another use which has been made by lawyers, at times, of this rule, is, to enable a judge, at no greater expense than that of calling a particular sort of evidence the best evidence, to treat it as conclusive in favour of the party who produces it; or the non-production of it as conclusive against the party who, it is supposed, ought to have produced it; in both cases putting an exclusion upon all other evidence: and it is in this application of the rule, that it presents a demand for consideration in this place.

“Take a sample of their best evidence,—of that best evidence which, by such its bestness, puts an exclusion upon all other evidence.

“Speculative Position or Antecedent;—Written evidence is better than parol evidence. Practical Inference or Conclusion;—Therefore, in case of a contract, when there exists written evidence of it, with certain formalities for its accompaniments, oral evidence is, or is not, to be admitted, in relation to the purport of such contract. Is, or is not; whichever is most agreeable and convenient to the judge. Such is the plain and true account of the matter: for distinctions are spun out of distinctions; and, the light of reason, by which they would be all consumed, being effectually shut out, on and on the thread might continue to be spun without end.

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“Observe the inconsistency.

“In English law, circumstantial evidence of the weakest kind, comparison of hands, by persons acquainted, or not acquainted, with the hand of the person in question,—or even the bare tenour of the instrument, i.e. the circumstance of its purporting upon the face of it to have been executed (i.e. recognized) by the person or persons therein mentioned,—this circumstance, if coupled with the evidentiary circumstance ex custodiâ, is (if the assumed date of the instrument be as much as thirty years anterior to the day of production) held sufficient, and, in default of counter-evidence, conclusive.

“A dozen or a score of alleged percipient witnesses, all ready to concur in deposing that, to the provisions in the instrument mentioned, this or that other had been agreed to be added or substituted,—shall they be received, and heard to say as much? Oh, no; that must not be; it is against our rule about best evidence.

The general rule on this subject, is, that oral evidence is not admissible “to contradict, or vary, or add to, the terms of a written agreement.”* Cut down as this rule is, by almost innumerable exceptions, there is still enough of it left to do much mischief. The exceptions, if their practical effect be looked to, are reasonable, as narrowing pro tanto the extent of a bad rule: in principle, however, there is scarce one of them which is tenable, unless it be first granted that the rule is absurd. It would be difficult, for example, to discover how, in respect of the propriety of admitting oral evidence to shew the abandonment of a written agreement, it should make any difference whether the agreement was or was not under seal; or why, in equity, on a bill for the specific performance of a written agreement, evidence to prove that, by reason of accident or mistake, the written instrument does not correctly express the agreement, should, if tendered by the defendant, be in certain cases admitted; if tendered by the plaintiff, refused. The origin of the exceptions to this rule, as well as to so many other technical rules, is visible enough. They were established by the same sort of authority which established the rules, viz. that of judges, deciding pro hâc vice,88 under the guidance of no principle, but in accordance with the interest or whim of the moment, or frequently with the laudable view of doing justice, notwithstanding technical rules. A judge sees plainly, that, in this or that particular case, if he adhere to the rule, he will do injustice; and without daring to set it aside, or even allowing himself to suppose that a rule which had descended from wise ancestors could be other than a good one, he has honesty enough to wish to do justice in the cause in hand, and accordingly cuts into the rule with a new exception for every new instance which presents itself to him of its mischievous operation, taking care never to carry the exception one jot farther than is strictly necessary for his immediate purpose: another judge follows, and takes another nibble at the rule, Edition: current; Page: [79] always upon the same diminutive scale; and so on. Hence it comes, that, at length, after the lapse of a few centuries, the body of the law, considered as a whole, has become a little more just, and a great deal more unintelligible:—while the law books have degenerated from the primitive simplicity of the old textbooks, where every thing was comprehended under a few simple principles, (in which, whatever trespasses you might find against justice or common sense, you will find none against consistency,—and which would be perfect, if conduciveness to human happiness were a quality that could, without inconvenience, be dispensed with in law); and have swelled into an incoherent mass of mutually conflicting decisions, none of them covering more than a minute spot in the field of law, and which the most practised memory would vainly strive to retain, or the most consummate logic to reduce to a common principle.

Oral evidence, it seems, is receivable to explain, in many cases in which it would not be receivable to vary, the terms of an agreement. The general rule is, that, in case of a latent ambiguity,—that is to say, an ambiguity which does not appear on the face of the instrument, but is raised by extrinsic evidence,—extrinsic evidence will be received to explain it: thus, if a testator bequeaths to John Stiles his estate of Blackacre, and it appears that he has two estates known by that name, oral evidence will be received to shew which of the two he meant. Provided always, that there be no possibility of giving effect to the instrument in terminis,89 without the aid of other evidence:* for if it have a definite meaning, though a different one from that of the testator, it does not signify. When they cannot by any means contrive to give execution to the ipsissima verba of the will, then, it seems, they will condescend to inquire what the testator intended.

Not so when the ambiguity is patent, that is, apparent on the face of the instrument. In this case, the door is inexorably shut upon all extrinsic evidence; and if the intention of the party cannot be inferred from the context, “the clause will be void, on account of its uncertainty.”90 You are unskilled in composition: after making mention in your will of two persons, your brother and your younger son, you bequeath to him an estate: in this case it may possibly admit of dispute, to which of the two you meant to bequeath it; what, however, can admit of no dispute, is, that you meant to bequeath it to one or other of them: as, therefore, it is doubtful whether you intended that A should have it, or B, the judge will not give it to either of them, but gives it to C, the heir-at-law, whom it is certain you intended not to have it. Or, if he gives it to either of the two persons who, and who alone, can Edition: current; Page: [80] possibly have been meant, he gives it upon the slightest imaginable presumption from the context. There were twenty persons standing by when you executed the will, all of whom knew perfectly well, from your declarations at the time, which of the two parties in question you meant, but none of whom he will suffer to be heard. And this is what lawyers call requiring the best evidence.

For this rule two reasons have been given: one a technical, that is, avowedly an irrational one; the other, one which pretends to be rational. The technical reason is the production of Lord Bacon: it is this: “the law will not couple and mingle matter of specialty, which is of the higher account, with matter of averment, which is of inferior account in law.”91 For those to whose conceptions the incongruity of so irregular a mixture might fail to present itself in colours sufficiently glaring, a subsequent lord chancellor brought forth the following less recondite reason; that the admission of oral evidence in explanation of patent ambiguities, “would tend to put it in the power of witnesses to make wills for testators:”92 an objection which would be very strong against any one mode of proof, if it did not unhappily apply to every other.

All hearing of evidence lets in some danger of falsehood. What, however, was probably meant, is, that the admissibility of oral evidence to explain a will, would frustrate the intention of the law in requiring preappointed evidence, a better sort of evidence than oral, and less likely to be false. If this be the meaning, it is enunciated far too generally. It is true that preappointed evidence, considered as a genus, is better than oral. But it is not true that every particular article of the former is better than the best conceivable article of the latter. It is not true that the signature of three witnesses is better, caeteris paribus, than the oral depositions of twenty. Yet this rule excludes the latter evidence, on the plea of its inferiority to the former.*

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Another consequence of the technical maxim, that written evidence is better than parol, (a maxim which, like almost all other general maxims of technical law, is not true in more than half the cases which it extends to), is the exclusion, in a great number of cases, of oral evidence to prove that there exists a written document evidentiary of a particular fact. The judges, on the occasion of a reference made to them in the course of the late queen’s trial, declared that “the contents of every written paper are, according to the ordinary and well-established rules of evidence, to be proved by the paper itself, and by that alone, if the paper be in existence.”* Good: provided always it be a necessary consequence, that a paper is forthcoming, because it is in existence. Upon the strength of this rule, the judges decided, that the supposed writer of a letter could not be questioned concerning the contents of the letter, unless the letter itself were first produced, and the witness asked whether he wrote it. Thus, the only evidence, perhaps, which you have got, and that too of so good a kind as the testimony of a writer concerning what he himself has written, is excluded, because another sort of evidence is not produced, which would be better if you could get it, but which, in all probability, you cannot get. The superior evidence, though not forthcoming to any practical purpose, cannot be shewn not to exist; and it is therefore said to be forthcoming, to the purpose of excluding all inferior evidence.

A volume might be filled with specimens of the injustice and absurdity which are the fruit of the rule requiring the best evidence. Take this example among others. A written instrument, with certain formalities, being the best evidence; if, in the written instrument, any one of these formalities be omitted, neither the agreement, nor any other evidence of the transaction, will be received. Thus,

a written instrument which requires a stamp, cannot be admitted in evidence, unless it be duly stamped; and no parol evidence will be received of its contents. If, therefore, the instrument produced is the only legal proof of the transaction, and that cannot be admitted Edition: current; Page: [82] for want of a proper stamp, the transaction cannot be proved at all; as, in an action for use and occupation, if it appear that the defendant held under a written agreement, which for want of a stamp cannot be received, the plaintiff will not be allowed to go into general evidence; for the agreement is the best evidence of the nature of the occupation.*

An agreement on unstamped paper not being itself receivable, it follows naturally enough, that if it be lost, parol evidence will not be received of its contents; nor even if it be wrongfully destroyed by the other party: notwithstanding another technical rule, that no one is allowed to take advantage of his own wrong.93 But you can never guess from the terms of a rule, to what cases it will be applied.

Take the following still more barefaced piece of absurdity, as a final specimen of the operation of this vaunted rule.

The acts of state of a foreign government can only be proved by copies of such acts, properly authenticated. Thus, in the case of Richardson v. Anderson, where the counsel on the part of the defendant proposed to give in evidence a book purporting to be a collection of treaties concluded by America, and to be published by the authority of the American government; and it was proposed, further, to prove, by the American minister resident at this court, that the book produced was the rule of his conduct; this evidence was offered as equivalent to a regular copy of the archives in Washington: but Lord Ellenborough rejected the evidence, and held, that it was necessary to have a copy examined with the archives.

We may expect in time to see a judge arise, who, more tenacious of consistency than his predecessors, will refuse to take notice of the existence of the city of London, unless an examined copy of the charter of the corporation be given in evidence to prove it.

Can any exposure make this piece of technicality more ridiculous than it is made by merely stating it?

5. I shall notice only one more instance of the species of disguised exclusion which forms the subject of the present chapter. The sort of evidence which, in this instance, is taken for conclusive, is the species of official document called a record.

Records, [says Phillipps,] are the memorials of the proceedings of the legislature, and of the king’s courts of justice, preserved in rolls of parchment; and they are considered of such authority, that no evidence is allowed to contradict them. Thus, if a verdict, finding several issues, were to be produced in evidence, the opposite party would not be allowed to shew, that no evidence was offered on one of the issues, and that the finding of the jury was indorsed on the postea by mistake.

On this piece of absurdity, after what has already been said, it can scarcely be necessary to enlarge. Somehow or other, however, lawyers seem to have found Edition: current; Page: [83] out, that, like every thing else which is human, so even a record,—however high its “authority,” and however indisputable its title to the appellation bestowed upon it by Lord Chief Baron Gilbert, “a diagram” (whatever be meant by a diagram) “for the demonstration of right” (whatever be meant by the demonstration of right),—is still, notwithstanding it be written upon parchment, liable to error:94 for they have found it necessary to determine that a record shall be conclusive proof only “that the decision or judgment of the court was as is there stated,” and not “as to the truth of allegations which were not material nor traversable.”95 This is fortunate: the fact of the judgment being one of the very few matters, contained in what is called a record, which, unless by mistake, are generally true. But, however fallible in respect of other facts, in respect of this one fact they hold it to be infallible; and its infallibility, itself needing no proof, supersedes all proof of the contrary; which, therefore, as it cannot prove any thing, it would be loss of time to hear: accordingly it is not heard, but inexorably excluded.* (Vol. V, pp. 570-96.)

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this rule, though good in principle, is frequently, as it is administered, an instrument of mischief; partly from being combined with a bad system of pleading, partly from the perverse application which has been made of it to purposes for which it was never intended. Being an exclusionary rule, it demands consideration in this place: and the occasion seems a suitable one for taking notice, not of the bad effects in the way of exclusion only, but of the bad effects of other descriptions, which are the fruit of it.

Nothing can be more proper than to exclude all evidence irrelevant to the points in dispute: and if the points in issue on the pleadings were always the points, and all the points, in dispute, nothing could be more proper than to exclude all evidence irrelevant to the points in issue. Unhappily, however, to determine what are the points in dispute, though the professed object of all systems of pleading, is very imperfectly attained even under the best; and the points really at issue are often very different from the points in issue, as they appear on the pleadings.

In so far as the representation given in the pleadings of the state of the question between the parties, fails to accord with the real state; in so far, at least, as any point (that is, of course, any material point) which is really in dispute, is omitted or mis-stated in the pleadings; in so far, the rule, which requires that the evidence be confined to the points in issue, those points not being the points in dispute, operates to the exclusion of all evidence which bears only upon the real points in dispute. This includes all cases of quashing, grounded on what is called a flaw in the pleadings: as, for instance, the case of a misnomer. If you indict a man under the name of John Josiah Smith, and it turns out that his real name is John Joseph Smith, though nobody has the least doubt of his being the person meant, and though he himself would not have the effrontery to declare upon oath a belief that he was not, it is no matter, the indictment is quashed: because, the only question at issue, as indicated by the indictment, relating to the supposed guilt of Josiah, proof, however convincing, of the criminality of Joseph, is foreign to the issue. On the same ground, in an action for non-residence, the designation of the parish by the name of St. Ethelburgh, instead of Saint Ethelburgha, was held to be (as lawyers term it) a fatal variance. On another occasion, the ground of the quashing was, that a party to a bill of exchange had been called Couch, instead of Crouch: on another, that the prisoner was charged with having personated M’Cann, while the evidence went to shew, that the man whom he had personated was M’Carn. It was not that, in any of these instances, any real doubt existed as to the purport of the charge; nor was it that, in the guilt of defrauding two persons with names so different as M’Cann and M’Carn are, there was deemed to be any such difference Edition: current; Page: [85] in point of enormity as could justify so great a diversity of treatment: it was, that the unbending spirit of technical rules requires that you should prove, verbatim et literatim, the very thing which you have asserted, and, whatever may be the real issue, ties you down to the nominal one. That the substitution of an r for an n could in any other way be effected than by dropping the proceeding and beginning de novo, is what you will never get any Common Lawyer to understand.

It is the same when any other circumstance, legally material, is misdescribed in the pleadings; as when the declaration stated an absolute promise, and a conditional one was proved; and when a declaration for assaulting a constable in the execution of his office, alleged that he was constable of a particular parish, and the proof was that he was sworn in for a liberty, of which the parish was part: a notable reason for depriving the plaintiff of justice, or putting him to the expense of another suit to obtain it!*

The root of the evil here lies in the system of pleading. To eradicate it entirely, that whole system must be abolished: the mode in which what is called pleading is now conducted, namely, by a sort of written correspondence between two attorneys, must give place to oral pleading, by the parties themselves, in the presence of the judge; when either no such mistakes as the above would be made, or, if made, they would be instantly rectified. Even under the present vicious system, however, the quashing of the suit might be avoided much oftener than it is. There are mistakes that are of consequence, there are others which are of none: there are mistakes by which the opposite party may have been misled, there are others by which he cannot. It is just, certainly, that after a party has intimated to his adversary his intention of proving a certain case, he should be allowed to prove that case, and no other: since, if there were no such rule, the other party might be taken by surprise: he might come prepared with evidence to rebut what he imagined was the claim against him, and might find, on going to trial, that the one really brought was quite different. This being the reason, what then is the practical rule? Let the remedy be confined to the single case, in which alone there is any evil to be remedied. If the opposite party has really been misled, or put to any inconvenience by the error, he cannot, one would think, have any reasonable objection to saying so: nor to delivering the assertion under all those securities which are taken for the truth of testimony in any other case. Unless, therefore, he is willing, under these securities, to declare that, in consequence of the error, he has been either prevented from bringing the necessary evidence, or induced to bring evidence which was not necessary, let the error be rectified, and the cause go on as it would have done if there had been no error. If he be willing to make such a declaration, and if his adversary admit, or fail to disprove its truth, let the necessary delay (when any delay is necessary) be granted: and let the party by whose fault the error was Edition: current; Page: [86] occasioned, be subjected to the obligation of indemnifying the other for all bonâ fide expenses which he can prove to have been occasioned him by it.

If the rule, in the cases above examined, is attended with bad effects, it is not that it is a bad rule, but (as has been already intimated) that it is accompanied by a bad system of pleading. There is, however, another set of cases, in which the rule is applied in a sense in which it is altogether absurd: facts being shut out, under pretence of their not being the facts at issue, which, though unquestionably not the facts at issue, are of the highest importance as evidentiary of those which are.

Thus, the custom of one manor is not to be given in evidence to explain the custom of another manor; unless it be first proved, that both manors were formerly one, or were held under one lord; or unless the custom is laid as a general custom of the country, or of that particular district. Why? Because customs are “different in different manors, and in their nature distinct.”96 But although the customs of different manors are different, they may nevertheless be analogous; and though the custom of one manor cannot of itself prove that of another, it may assist in clearing up apparent inconsistencies in it, or in obviating an argument grounded on its supposed improbability. There is also another reason, of still greater weight, which we owe to the ingenuity of Lord Chief Justice Raymond: “for,” says he, “if this kind of evidence were to be allowed, the consequence seems to be, that it would let in the custom of one manor into another, and in time bring the customs of all manors to be the same.”* In the contemplation of so overwhelming a calamity, it is no wonder that Lord Raymond should have lost sight of whatever inconvenience might happen to be sustained by the party in the right, from losing his cause for want of such explanations as a reference to the custom of a neighbouring manor might have afforded; especially if advertence be had to the appalling fact, that the customs of all manors would come to be the same, if suffered to be shewn for what they are. The reader will not, of course, indulge in any such vain fancy, as that the custom which is good for one manor, can be good, or even endurable, for the manor adjoining; or that the inhabitants of one village could even exist, under rules and regulations which bind the inhabitants of another village as well as themselves.

Again; “in a question between landlord and tenant, whether rent was payable quarterly or half-yearly, evidence of the mode in which other tenants of the same landlord paid their rent, is not admissible.” Yet what can be more strictly relevant? the determining motive in such cases usually being the landlord’s convenience, which may reasonably be presumed to be the same in the case of one farmer as of another.

Mr. Harrison gives an abstract of eight cases decided under the rule that Edition: current; Page: [87] evidence is to be confined to the points in issue; seven of which include this same sort of absurdity.

It cannot be pretended, that the evidence thus shut out is irrelevant: and to maintain, as a general maxim, that evidence of relevant facts is to be excluded, because those facts are not expressly averred in the pleadings, would be too great a stretch of technicality, even for a lawyer. For the above decisions, however, no better reason can be given; unless that of Lord Chief Justice Raymond, which Mr. Phillipps styles an “argument of inconvenience,”97 be so considered.

With as good reason might any other article of circumstantial evidence be excluded. A murder, suppose, has been committed: the prisoner was near the spot; he was known to be a personal enemy of the deceased, and at a former interview he had threatened to kill him: stains of blood were found upon his linen when he was apprehended, and he had a bloody knife in his pocket. What then? None of these facts are in issue: it is not said in the indictment, that he was an enemy of the deceased, nor yet that he had used threatening language towards him; he is not charged with soiling his linen; and though, indeed, it is alleged in the indictment, that he killed and slew the deceased with a knife, value sixpence, it is nowhere imputed to him that he stained the knife. At this rate, the plaintiff would need to include in the declaration every fact which, in the character of an evidentiary fact, he might have occasion to bring to the notice of the judge.

We have now considered the rule in both its applications: its abusive application, which can never be other than mischievous; and its legitimate application, which, to be purely beneficial, wants only to be combined with a rational mode of pleading. Suppose the system of pleading reformed; this rule, to be a good one, would only need to be always employed in its legitimate, and never in its abusive, sense. When thus restricted, however, what does it really mean? Only, that evidence is not to be admitted of any facts, except either those on which the decision immediately turns, or other facts which are evidentiary of them.

General as this rule is, greater particularity will not, in this instance, be found to be attainable; since the question, on what facts the decision turns, is a question, not of evidence, but of the substantive branch of the law: it respects the probandum, not the probans: it does not belong to the inquiry, by what sort of evidence the facts of the case may be proved; it belongs to the inquiry, what are the facts of which the law has determined that proof shall be required, in order to establish the plaintiff’s claim.

This circumstance, obvious as it is, might easily be overlooked by one who had studied the subject only in the compilations of the English institutional writers; who, not content with directing that the evidence be confined to the points in issue, have farther proceeded, under the guise of laying down rules of evidence, to declare, on each occasion, what the points in issue are.

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One whole volume98 out of two which compose Mr. Phillipps’s treatise on the Law of Evidence,—with a corresponding portion of the other treatises extant concerning that branch of the law,—is occupied in laying down rules concerning the sort of evidence which should be required in different sorts of actions or suits at law. But why should different forms of action require different sorts of evidence? The securities by which the trustworthiness of evidence is provided for, and the rules by which its probative force is estimated, if for every sort of cause they are what they ought to be, must be the same for one sort of cause as for another. The difference is not in the nature of the proof; it is in the nature of the facts required to be proved. There is no difference as between different forms of action, in reason, or even in English law, in respect of the rules relating to the competency of witnesses; nor, in general, to the admissibility or the proof of written documents; nor in respect of any other of the general rules of evidence. What Mr. Phillipps (I mention him only as a representative of the rest) professes, under each of the different forms of action, to tell you, is, what facts, in order to support an action in that form, it is necessary that you should prove.

Now what are these facts? In every cause, either some right is claimed, or redress demanded for some wrong. By a wrong, is of course meant a violation of a right. Some one or more of those facts, therefore, by which rights are conferred, or taken away, or violated, must at any rate be proved: and if proof of any other fact be necessary, it can only be as evidentiary of these. If, therefore, a man professes to tell you all the facts, some one or more or all of which you must prove, in order to get a decision in your favour; he must furnish you, among other things, with a complete list of all the facts which confer or take away, and all the acts which violate, all the rights, which have been constituted and sanctioned by law. This, accordingly, is what Mr. Phillipps and others of his brethren attempt to do. But, to enumerate the facts which confer or take away rights, is the main business of what is called the civil branch of the law: to enumerate the acts by which rights are violated, in other words to define offences, is the main business of the penal branch. What, therefore, the lawyers give us, under the appellation law of evidence, is really, in a great part of it, civil and penal law.

Another part of it consists of rules, which are called rules of evidence, but which are really rules of pleading. These are laid down under the guise of instructions for adapting the evidence to the pleadings. It is not often, however, that a man has it in his power to mould the evidence as he pleases: but he always has the power,—that is to say, his lawyers have it for him,—of moulding the pleadings (those on his own side at least) as he pleases. These rules, therefore, for adapting the evidence to the pleadings, are, in fact, rules for adapting the pleadings to the evidence.

Two examples will illustrate the intermixture of the substantive law with the law of evidence; and one of them will also afford a specimen of the intermixture of rules of evidence with rules of pleading.

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Under the title Burglary, Mr. Starkie begins by saying, that on an indictment for burglary, it is essential to prove, 1st, a felonious breaking and entering; 2ndly, of the dwelling-house; 3rdly, in the night-time; 4thly, with intent to commit a felony.99 He then proceeds to inform us, that there must be evidence of an actual or constructive breaking: for if the entry was obtained through an open door or window, it is no burglary. That the lifting up a latch, taking out a pane of glass, lifting up folding-doors, breaking a wall or gates which protect the house, the descent down a chimney, the turning a key where the door is locked on the inside,—constitute a sufficient breaking. That where the glass of the window was broken, but the shutter within was not broken, it was doubted whether the breaking was sufficient, and no judgment was given; and so on in the same strain. Who does not see that all this is an attempt,—a lame one, it must be confessed, (which is not the fault of the compiler), but still an attempt,—to supply that definition of the offence of burglary, which the substantive law has failed to afford?

The title “burglary” consists of twelve octavo pages, not one line of which is law of evidence.100 It is all, like the part above extracted, penal law; except three pages, which are occupied in stating how the ownership of the dwelling-house, in which the offence was committed, must be laid in the indictment; and which therefore belong to pleading.

To take our next example from the non-penal branch of the law: when Mr. Phillipps, in treating of the sort of evidence required to support an action of trover, informs us, that the plaintiff in this action must prove that he had either the absolute property in the goods, or at least a special property, such as a carrier has, or a consignee or factor, who are responsible over to their principal; and further, that he must shew either his actual possession of the goods, or his right to immediate possession; and that he must prove a wrongful conversion of the goods by the defendant, and that the denial of goods to him who has a right to demand them, is a wrongful conversion; and that the defendant may shew that the property belonged to him, or to another person under whom he claims, or that the plaintiff had before recovered damages against a third person for a conversion of the same goods, or that he was joint tenant of the property with the plaintiff, or tenant in common, or parcener, or had a lien on the goods, or a hundred other things which it would be of no use to enumerate;101 what can be more plain, than that he is here telling us, not by what evidence an action of trover is to be sustained, but in what cases such an action will lie: that he is telling us, in fact, what we are to prove, not by what evidence we are to prove it; that he is enumerating the investitive facts, which will give to the plaintiff a right to the service which he claims to be rendered to him at the charge of the defendant; and the divestitive facts, by which that right will be taken away from him.

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Yet, of this sort of matter the whole of the chapter, a few sentences excepted, is composed; and this it is that composes the greatest part of almost all the other chapters in the volume; which yet does not include any sorts of causes except those which, in form at least, are non-penal.

I do not mention this as matter of blame to the institutional writers from whose compilations the above examples are drawn. There are some things really belonging to the subject of evidence, which it is necessary to state in treating separately of each particular kind of action; viz. the nature of the corresponding preappointed evidence, (if the law has rendered any such evidence necessary to support the claim that is the subject of the action); and also the nature and amount of the evidence which the law renders sufficient to establish a primâ facie case, and throw the onus probandi upon the other side. With this matter really belonging to Evidence, it may be convenient to mix up such matters belonging to civil and penal law, as ought to be adverted to by the professional agent of the party who brings the action. The arrangement which is best for the practitioner, or the student of the law, differs as much from that which is best for the philosopher, as the alphabetical arrangement of words in a dictionary differs from the methodical classification of them in a philosophical grammar. (Vol. V, pp. 597-610.)

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[Bentham argues that “the greater the affliction” of the sufferer in a suit appears to a witness, the less likely is “mendacious testimony,” one reason being that, “at least in a civilized state of society,” the “love of justice . . . may be considered as having more or less hold on every human heart.”]

This love of justice, commonplace moralists, and even a certain class of philosophers, would be likely to call an original principle of human nature. Experience proves the contrary: by any attentive observer of the progress of the human mind in early youth, the gradual growth of it may be traced.

Among the almost innumerable associations by which this love of justice is nourished and fostered, that one to which it probably owes the greatest part of its strength, arises from a conviction which cannot fail to impress itself upon the mind of every human being possessed of an ordinary share of intellect,—the conviction, that if other persons in general were habitually and universally to disregard the rules of justice in their conduct towards him, his destruction would be the speedy consequence: and that by every single instance of disregard to those rules on the part of any one, (himself included), the probability of future violations of the same nature is more or less increased. (Vol. V, p. 638.)

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[In discussing the effect on testimony of “interest derived from sexual connections,” Bentham considers the possibility that a wife’s adultery will affect her probity in a case involving her husband. He appends the following note, which Mill’s comment (in square brackets) concludes:] Among the Lacedaemonians and Romans, though adultery was no more dispunishable than horse-stealing, a man would lend his wife to a friend as he would his horse. To whatsoever degree illaudable, the custom does not the less prove the rashness of any opinion that should regard adultery on the part of the wife as a proof of the extinction of that partiality, by which, in a cause in which the husband is party, her testimony will naturally be drawn towards the husband’s side.

In France, before the revolution, the effect even of notorious adultery in diminishing that partiality was as nothing. (Vol. V, p. 671.)

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[The following note concludes the Rationale.]


the code recently promulgated for the kingdom of the Netherlands, forms in many respects, so far as regards the law of evidence, an advantageous contrast with most European systems of jurisprudence.

Its superiority is most decided in the department of preappointed evidence, particularly under the head of contracts: formalities being, as it is fit they should be, prescribed, but not peremptorily so. A contract, although informally drawn up, may yet, if signed by the parties, be received in evidence. There is also a system of registration for written contracts. It is an article of this code, that oral evidence is not admissible to prove the existence, or to disprove or add to or alter the contents, of a written contract in form; but to this exclusionary rule there are two curious exceptions, one in favour of the poor, the other in favour of the mercantile classes: if the property dependant on the contract do not exceed the value of one hundred florins, or if the transaction which gave rise to the contract be a commercial transaction, oral evidence may be heard. These exceptions render the code more wise and just, but much less consistent.

In the department of testimonial evidence, the only absolute exclusions are those of the husband or wife of a party to the cause, and all relatives of a party in the direct line: but the relatives and connexions of a party in any collateral line (as well Edition: current; Page: [92] as those of the husband or wife of a party) to the fourth degree, are said to be reproché (in the Dutch version of the code, gewraakt); as are also the presumptive heir, or servant of a party, all persons directly or indirectly interested (pecuniarily) in the cause, and all persons who have been convicted of robbery, theft, or swindling, or who have suffered any afflictive or infamizing punishment.

It is probable, though not clearly apparent on the face of the code, that the words reproché and gewraakt refer to the old rule of the Roman law, by which the evidence of two witnesses is conclusive evidence (plena probatio) in certain cases:103 and the meaning of these phrases probably is, that a witness belonging to any of the classes above enumerated, shall not be considered a witness to that purpose, viz. the purpose of forming a plena probatio, in conjunction with one other witness. If this be the meaning of the apparently exclusionary rule, it tends, pro tanto, to diminish the mischievousness of the monstrous principle of law to which it constitutes an exception.

It seems that the parties themselves cannot be heard in evidence under this code; with this exception, however, that a party may be required to admit or deny his own signature; and several other exceptions closely resembling the juramentum expurgatorium and the juramentum suppletorium of the Roman law, which have already been explained.104

Among the bad rules of Roman law which are adopted in this code, is that which constitutes the evidence of a single witness insufficient to form the ground of a decision. The place of a second witness may, however, in many instances, be supplied by a written document, which is in such cases termed a commencement de preuve par écrit.

A rule deserving of imitation in this code, is that which permits children under fifteen years of age to give their testimony without oath. Their title to credence evidently does not depend upon their capacity to understand the nature of a religious ceremony, but upon their power of giving a clear, consistent, and probable narrative of what they have seen or heard.

On the whole, this new code, so far at least as regards the department of evidence, may be pronounced, though still far from perfect, considerably better than either the English system, or the other continental modifications of the Roman law. (Vol. V, pp. 745-7.)

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Extracts from James Mill, Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind, New Ed. with Notes Illustrative and Critical by Alexander Bain, Andrew Findlater, and George Grote, Edited with Additional Notes by John Stuart Mill, 2 vols. (London: Longmans, et al., 1869). Identified in Mill’s bibliography as “The Preface and many of the notes to the edition of ‘Mill’s Analysis of the Human Mind’ published in 1869” (MacMinn, p. 98). The first edition of the Analysis, 2 vols. (London: Baldwin and Cradock), appeared in 1829. In the text below, J.S. Mill’s contributions are printed in normal roman type, with the original page references in parentheses at the end. In the original, J.S. Mill’s contributions are usually signalled at the end by “Editor” or “Ed.”; these are here omitted. Where necessary, passages of James Mill’s own text are quoted or summarized in italic type; the summaries are enclosed in square brackets. The one manuscript fragment, in the Yale University John Stuart Mill Papers, is signalled as a variant.

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James Mill’s Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind


in the study of Nature, either mental or physical, the aim of the scientific enquirer is to diminish as much as possible the catalogue of ultimate truths. When, without doing violence to facts, he is able to bring one phenomenon within the laws of another; when he can shew that a fact or agency, which seemed to be original and distinct, could have been produced by other known facts and agencies, acting according to their own laws; the enquirer who has arrived at this result, considers himself to have made an important advance in the knowledge of nature, and to have brought science, in that department, a step nearer to perfection. Other accessions to science, however important practically, are, in a scientific point of view, mere additions to the materials: this is something done towards perfecting the structure itself.

The manner in which this scientific improvement takes place is by the resolution of phenomena which are special and complex into others more general and simple. Two cases of this sort may be roughly distinguished, though the distinction between them will not be found on accurate examination to be fundamental. In one case it is the order of the phenomena that is analysed and simplified; in the other it is the phenomena themselves. When the observed facts relating to the weight of terrestrial objects, and those relating to the motion of the heavenly bodies, were found to conform to one and the same law, that of the gravitation of every particle of matter to every other particle with a force varying as the inverse square of the distance, this was an example of the first kind.1 The order of the phenomena was resolved into a more general law. A great number of the successions which take place in the material world were shewn to be particular cases of a law of causation pervading all Nature. The other class of investigations are those which deal, not with the successions of phenomena, but with the complex phenomena themselves, and disclose to us that the very fact which we are studying is made up of simpler Edition: current; Page: [96] facts: as when the substance Water was found to be an actual compound of two other bodies, hydrogen and oxygen; substances very unlike itself, but both actually present in every one of its particles.2 By processes like those employed in this case, all the variety of substances which meet our senses and compose the planet on which we live, have been shewn to be constituted by the intimate union, in a certain number of fixed proportions, of some two or more of sixty or seventy bodies, called Elements or Simple Substances, by which is only meant that they have not hitherto been found capable of further decomposition.3 This last process is known by the name of chemical analysis: but the first mentioned, of which the Newtonian generalization is the most perfect type, is no less analytical. The difference is, that the one analyses substances into simpler substances; the other, laws into simpler laws. The one is partly a physical operation; the other is wholly intellectual.

Both these processes are as largely applicable, and as much required, in the investigation of mental phenomena as of material. And in the one case as in the other, the advance of scientific knowledge may be measured by the progress made in resolving complex facts into simpler ones.

The phenomena of the Mind include multitudes of facts, of an extraordinary degree of complexity. By observing them one at a time with sufficient care, it is possible in the mental, as it is in the material world, to obtain empirical generalizations of limited compass, but of great value for practice. When, however, we find it possible to connect many of these detached generalizations together, by discovering the more general laws of which they are cases, and to the operation of which in some particular sets of circumstances they are due, we gain not only a scientific, but a practical advantage; for we then first learn how far we can rely on the more limited generalizations; within what conditions their truth is confined; by what changes of circumstances they would be defeated or modified.

Not only is the order in which the more complex mental phenomena follow or accompany one another, reducible, by an analysis similar in kind to the Newtonian, to a comparatively small number of laws of succession among simpler facts, connected as cause and effect; but the phenomena themselves can mostly be shown, by an analysis resembling those of chemistry, to be made up of simpler phenomena. “In the mind of man,” says Dr. Thomas Brown, in one of his Introductory Lectures,

all is in a state of constant and ever-varying complexity, and a single sentiment may be the slow result of innumerable feelings. There is not a single pleasure, or pain, or thought, or emotion, that may not, by the influence of that associating principle which is afterwards to Edition: current; Page: [97] come under our consideration, be so connected with other pleasures, or pains, or thoughts, or emotions, as to form with them, for ever after, an union the most intimate. The complex, or seemingly complex, phenomena of thought, which result from the constant operation of this principle of the mind, it is the labour of the intellectual inquirer to analyse, as it is the labour of the chemist to reduce the compound bodies on which he operates, however close and intimate their combination may be, to their constituent elements. . . . From the very instant of its first existence, the mind is constantly exhibiting phenomena more and more complex: sensations, thoughts, emotions, all mingling together, and almost every feeling modifying, in some greater or less degree, the feelings that succeed it; and as, in chemistry, it often happens that the qualities of the separate ingredients of a compound body are not recognizable by us in the apparently different qualities of the compound itself,—so in this spontaneous chemistry of the mind, the compound sentiment that results from the association of former feelings has, in many cases, on first consideration, so little resemblance to these constituents of it, as formerly existing in their elementary state, that it requires the most attentive reflection to separate, and evolve distinctly to others, the assemblages which even a few years may have produced.4

It is, therefore, “scarcely possible to advance even a single step, in intellectual physics, without the necessity of performing some sort of analysis, by which we reduce to simpler elements some complex feeling that seems to us virtually to involve them.”5

These explanations define and characterize the task which was proposed to himself by the author of the present treatise, and which he concisely expressed by naming his work an Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind. It is an attempt to reach the simplest elements which by their combination generate the manifold complexity of our mental states, and to assign the laws of those elements, and the elementary laws of their combination, from which laws, the subordinate ones which govern the compound states are consequences and corollaries.

The conception of the problem did not, of course, originate with the author; he merely applied to mental science the idea of scientific inquiry which had been matured by the successful pursuit, for many generations, of the knowledge of external nature. Even in the particular path by which he endeavoured to reach the end, he had eminent precursors. The analytic study of the facts of the human mind began with Aristotle; it was first carried to a considerable height by Hobbes and Locke, who are the real founders of that view of the Mind which regards the greater part of its intellectual structure as having been built up by Experience. These three philosophers have all left their names identified with the great fundamental law of Association of Ideas;6 yet none of them saw far enough to perceive that it is through this law that Experience operates in moulding our thoughts and forming Edition: current; Page: [98] our thinking powers. Dr. Hartley was the man of genius who first clearly discerned that this is the key to the explanation of the more complex mental phenomena, though he, too, was indebted for the original conjecture to an otherwise forgotten thinker, Mr. Gay.7 Dr. Hartley’s treatise (Observations on Man) goes over the whole field of the mental phenomena, both intellectual and emotional, and points out the way in which, as he thinks, sensations, ideas of sensation, and association, generate and account for the principal complications of our mental nature. If this doctrine is destined to be accepted as, in the main, the true theory of the Mind, to Hartley will always belong the glory of having originated it. But his book made scarcely any impression upon the thought of his age. He incumbered his theory of Association with a premature hypothesis respecting the physical mechanism of sensation and thought;8 and even had he not done so, his mode of exposition was little calculated to make any converts but such as were capable of working out the system for themselves from a few hints. His book is made up of hints rather than of proofs. It is like the production of a thinker who has carried his doctrines so long in his mind without communicating them, that he has become accustomed to leap over many of the intermediate links necessary for enabling other persons to reach his conclusions, and who, when at last he sits down to write, is unable to recover them. It was another great disadvantage to Hartley’s theory, that its publication so nearly coincided with the commencement of the reaction against the Experience psychology, provoked by the hardy scepticism of Hume. From these various causes, though the philosophy of Hartley never died out, having been kept alive by Priestley, the elder Darwin,9 and their pupils, it was generally neglected, until at length the author of the present work gave it an importance that it can never again lose. One distinguished thinker, Dr. Thomas Brown, regarded some of the mental phenomena from a point of view similar to Hartley’s, and all that he did for psychology was in this direction; but he had read Hartley’s work either very superficially, or not at all: he seems to have derived nothing from it, and though he Edition: current; Page: [99] made some successful analyses of mental phenomena by means of the laws of association, he rejected, or ignored, the more searching applications of those laws; resting content, when he arrived at the more difficult problems, with mere verbal generalizations, such as his futile explanations by what he termed “relative suggestion.”10 Brown’s psychology was no outcome of Hartley’s; it must be classed as an original but feebler effort in a somewhat similar direction.

It is to the author of the present volumes that the honour belongs of being the reviver and second founder of the Association psychology. Great as is this merit, it was but one among many services which he rendered to his generation and to mankind. When the literary and philosophical history of this century comes to be written as it deserves to be, very few are the names figuring in it to whom as high a place will be awarded as to James Mill. In the vigour and penetration of his intellect he has had few superiors in the history of thought: in the wide compass of the human interests which he cared for and served, he was almost equally remarkable: and the energy and determination of his character, giving effect to as single-minded an ardour for the improvement of mankind and of human life as I believe has ever existed, make his life a memorable example. All his work as a thinker was devoted to the service of mankind, either by the direct improvement of their beliefs and sentiments, or by warring against the various influences which he regarded as obstacles to their progress: and while he put as much conscientious thought and labour into everything he did, as if he had never done anything else, the subjects on which he wrote took as wide a range as if he had written without any labour at all. That the same man should have been the author of the History of India and of the present treatise, is of itself sufficiently significant. The former of those works, which by most men would have been thought a sufficient achievement for a whole literary life, may be said without exaggeration to have been the commencement of rational thinking on the subject of India: and by that, and his subsequent labours as an administrator of Indian interests under the East India Company, he effected a great amount of good, and laid the foundation of much more, to the many millions of Asiatics for whose bad or good government his country is responsible. The same great work is full of far-reaching ideas on the practical interests of the world; and while forming an important chapter in the history and philosophy of civilization (a subject which had not then been so scientifically studied as it has been since) it is one of the most valuable contributions yet made even to the English history of the period it embraces. If, in addition to the History and to the present treatise, all the author’s minor writings were collected; the outline treatises on nearly all the great branches of moral and political science which he drew up for the Supplement to the Encyclopaedia Edition: current; Page: [100] Britannica, and his countless contributions to many periodical works;11 although advanced thinkers have outgrown some of his opinions, and include, on many subjects, in their speculations, a wider range of considerations than his, every one would be astonished at the variety of his topics, and the abundance of the knowledge he exhibited respecting them all. One of his minor services was, that he was the first to put together in a compact and systematic form, and in a manner adapted to learners, the principles of Political Economy12 as renovated by the genius of Ricardo: whose great work,13 it may be mentioned by the way, would probably never have seen the light, if his intimate and attached friend Mr. Mill had not encouraged and urged him, first to commit to paper his profound thoughts, and afterwards to send them forth to the world. Many other cases might be mentioned in which Mr. Mill’s private and personal influence was a means of doing good, hardly inferior to his public exertions. Though, like all who value their time for higher purposes, he went little into what is called society, he helped, encouraged, and not seldom prompted, many of the men who were most useful in their generation: from his obscure privacy he was during many years of his life the soul of what is now called the advanced Liberal party; and such was the effect of his conversation, and of the tone of his character, on those who were within reach of its influence, that many, then young, who have since made themselves honoured in the world by a valuable career, look back to their intercourse with him as having had a considerable share in deciding their course through life. The most distinguished of them all, Mr. Grote, has put on record, in a recent publication, his sense of these obligations, in terms equally honourable to both.14 As a converser, Mr. Mill has had few equals; as an argumentative converser, in modern times probably none. All his mental resources seemed to be at his command at any moment, and were then freely employed in removing difficulties which in his writings for the public he often did not think it worth while to notice. To a logical acumen which has always been acknowledged, he united a clear appreciation of the practical side of things, for which he did not always receive credit from those Edition: current; Page: [101] who had no personal knowledge of him, but which made a deep impression on those who were acquainted with the official correspondence of the East India Company conducted by him. The moral qualities which shone in his conversation were, if possible, more valuable to those who had the privilege of sharing it, than even the intellectual. They were precisely such as young men of cultivated intellect, with good aspirations but a character not yet thoroughly formed, are likely to derive most benefit from. A deeply rooted trust in the general progress of the human race, joined with a good sense which made him never build unreasonable or exaggerated hopes on any one event or contingency; an habitual estimate of men according to their real worth as sources of good to their fellow-creatures, and an unaffected contempt for the weaknesses or temptations that divert them from that object,—making those with whom he conversed feel how painful it would be to them to be counted by him among such backsliders; a sustained earnestness, in which neither vanity nor personal ambition had any part, and which spread from him by a sympathetic contagion to those who had sufficient moral preparation to value and seek the opportunity; this was the mixture of qualities which made his conversation almost unrivalled in its salutary moral effect. He has been accused of asperity, and there was asperity in some few of his writings; but no party spirit, personal rivalry, or wounded amour-propre ever stirred it up.15 Even when he had received direct personal offence, he was the most placable of men. The bitterest and ablest attack ever publicly made on him was that which was the immediate cause of the introduction of Mr. Macaulay into public life.16 He felt it keenly at the time, but with a quite impersonal feeling, as he would have felt anything that he thought unjustly said against any opinion or cause which was dear to him; and within a very few years afterwards he was on terms of personal friendship with its author, as Lord Macaulay himself, in a very creditable passage of the preface to his collected Essays, has, in feeling terms, commemorated.17

At an early period of Mr. Mill’s philosophical life, Hartley’s work had taken a strong hold of his mind; and in the maturity of his powers he formed and executed the purpose of following up Hartley’s leading thought, and completing what that thinker had begun. The result was the present work, which is not only an immense advance on Hartley’s in the qualities which facilitate the access of recondite Edition: current; Page: [102] thoughts to minds to which they are new, but attains an elevation far beyond Hartley’s in the thoughts themselves. Compared with it, Hartley’s is little more than a sketch, though an eminently suggestive one: often rather showing where to seek for the explanation of the more complex mental phenomena, than actually explaining them. The present treatise makes clear, much that Hartley left obscure: it possesses the great secret for clearness, though a secret commonly neglected—it bestows an extra amount of explanation and exemplification on the most elementary parts. It analyses many important mental phenomena which Hartley passed over, and analyses more completely and satisfactorily most of those of which he commenced the analysis. In particular, the author was the first who fully understood and expounded (though the germs of this as of all the rest of the theory are in Hartley) the remarkable case of Inseparable Association: and inasmuch as many of the more difficult analyses of the mental phenomena can only be performed by the aid of that doctrine, much had been left for him to analyse.

I am far from thinking that the more recondite specimens of analysis in this work are always successful, or that the author has not left something to be corrected as well as much to be completed by his successors. The completion has been especially the work of two distinguished thinkers in the present generation, Professor Bain and Mr. Herbert Spencer; in the writings of both of whom, the Association Psychology has reached a still higher development.18 The former of these has favoured me with his invaluable collaboration in annotating the present work. In the annotations it has been our object not only to illustrate and enforce, but to criticise, where criticism seemed called for. What there is in the work that seems to need correction, arises chiefly from two causes. First, the imperfection of physiological science at the time at which it was written, and the much greater knowledge since acquired of the functions of our nervous organism and their relations with the mental operations. Secondly, an opening was made for some mistakes, and occasional insufficiency of analysis, by a mental quality which the author exhibits not unfrequently in his speculations, though as a practical thinker both on public and on private matters it was quite otherwise; a certain impatience of detail. The bent of his mind was towards that, in which also his greatest strength lay; in seizing the larger features of a subject—the commanding laws which govern and connect many phenomena. Having reached these, he sometimes gives himself up to the current of thoughts which those comprehensive laws suggest, not stopping to guard himself carefully in the minutiae of their application, nor devoting much of his thoughts to anticipating all the objections that could be made, Edition: current; Page: [103] though the necessity of replying to some of them might have led him to detect imperfections in his analyses. From this cause (as it appears to me), he has occasionally gone further in the pursuit of simplification, and in the reduction of the more recondite mental phenomena to the more elementary, than I am able to follow him; and has left some of his opinions open to objections, which he has not afforded the means of answering. When this appeared to Mr. Bain or myself to be the case, we have made such attempts as we were able to place the matter in a clearer light; and one or other, or both, have supplied what our own investigations or those of others have provided, towards correcting any shortcomings in the theory.

Mr. Findlater, of Edinburgh, Editor of Chambers’ Cyclopaedia, has kindly communicated, from the rich stores of his philological knowledge, the corrections required by the somewhat obsolete philology which the author had borrowed from Horne Tooke.19 For the rectification of an erroneous statement respecting the relation of the Aristotelian doctrine of General Ideas to the Platonic, and for some other contributions in which historical is combined with philosophical interest, I am indebted to the illustrious historian of Greece and of the Greek philosophy.20 Mr. Grote’s, Mr. Bain’s and Mr. Findlater’s notes are distinguished by their initials; my own, as those of the Editor.

The question presented itself, whether the annotations would be most useful, collected at the end of the work, or appended to the chapters or passages to which they more particularly relate. Either plan has its recommendations, but those of the course which I have adopted seemed to me on the whole to preponderate. The reader can, if he thinks fit, (and, if he is a real student, I venture to recommend that he should do so) combine the advantages of both modes, by giving a first careful Edition: current; Page: [104] reading to the book itself, or at all events to every successive chapter of the book, without paying any attention to the annotations. No other mode of proceeding will give perfectly fair play to the author, whose thoughts will in this manner have as full an opportunity of impressing themselves on the mind, without having their consecutiveness broken in upon by any other person’s thoughts, as they would have had if simply republished without comment. When the student has done all he can with the author’s own exposition—has possessed himself of the ideas, and felt, perhaps, some of the difficulties, he will be in a better position for profiting by any aid that the notes may afford, and will be in less danger of accepting, without due examination, the opinion of the last comer as the best.

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[James Mill, dealing with smell as a sensation, remarks:] The word smell, beside denoting the sensation and the object, denotes also the organ, in such phrases as the following: “Sight and Hearing are two of the inlets of my knowledge, and Smell is a third;” “The faculty by which I become sensible of odour is my Smell.”

It may be questioned whether, in the phrases here cited, the word Smell stands for the olfactory organ. It would perhaps be most correct to say, that in these cases it denotes the abstract capacity of smelling, rather than the concrete physical instrument. Even when smell is said to be one of the five senses, it may fairly be doubted whether a part of the meaning intended is, that it is one of the five organs of sensation. Nothing more seems to be meant, than that it is one of five distinguishable modes of having sensations, whatever the intrinsic difference between those modes may be.

In the author’s footnote he recognises that the abstract power of smelling enters into this particular application of the word Smell; and refers to a subsequent part of the treatise for the meaning of Power.21 But he thinks that along with the power, or as part of the conception of Power, the material organ is also signified. It seems to Edition: current; Page: [105] me that the organ does not enter in either of these modes, into the signification of the word. We can imagine ourselves ignorant that we possess physical organs; or aware that we possess them, but not aware that our sensations of smell are connected with them. Yet on either of these suppositions the “power of smelling” would be perfectly intelligible, and would have the same meaning to us which it has now. (Vol. I, p. 14.)

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[The final sentence of the section on hearing reads:] “Sense of hearing” is thus seen to be the name of a very complex idea, including five distinguishable ingredients, the idea of the organ of hearing, the idea of the sensation, the idea of the object of hearing, the idea of a synchronous order, and the idea of a successive order.

In the case of hearing, as of smell, one of the ambiguities brought to notice by the author is of questionable reality. It is doubtful if hearing is ever used as a name of the organ. To the question supposed in the text, “by which of my organs do I have the knowledge of sound” the correct answer would surely be, not “my hearing”22—an expression which, so applied, could only be accepted as elliptical,—but “my organ of hearing,” or (still better) “my ear.” Again, the phrase “I have the sense of hearing” signifies that I have a capacity of hearing, and that this capacity is classed as one of sense, or in other words, that the feelings to which it has reference belong to the class Sensations: but the organ, though a necessary condition of my having the sensations, does not seem to be implied in the name. (Vol. I, pp. 19-20.)

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[Having averred that sight is used as “a name of the object,” James Mill goes on to say that it also “is sometimes employed as a name of the organ.” He then says:] An old man informs us, that his sight is failing, meaning that his eyes are failing.

The example given does not seem to me to prove that sight is ever employed as a name of the organ. When an old man says that his sight is failing, he means only that he is less capable of seeing. His eyes might be failing in some other respect, when he would not say that his sight was failing. The term “sense of sight,” like Edition: current; Page: [106] sense of hearing or of smell, stands, as it seems to me, for the capability, without reference to the organ. (Vol. I, p. 23.)

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[To illustrate his belief that vision denotes the object as well as the feeling, James Mill says:] What vision was that? would be a very intelligible question, on the sudden appearance and disappearance of something which attracted the eye.

Vision, I believe, is used to denote the object of sight, only when it is supposed that this object is something unreal, i.e., that it has not any extended and resisting substance behind it: or rhetorically, to signify that the object looks more like a phantom than a reality; as when Burke calls Marie Antoinette, as once seen by him, a delightful vision.23 (Vol. I, p. 24.)

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[James Mill observes that the “feelings” of taste are very often united with those of smell,] the two organs being often affected by the same thing, at the same time. In that case, though we have two sensations, they are so intimately blended as to seem but one; and the flavour of the apple, the flavour of the wine, appears to be a simple sensation, though compounded of taste and smell.

Some physiologists have been of opinion that a large proportion of what are classed as tastes, including all flavours, as distinguished from the generic tastes of sweet, sour, bitter, etc., are really affections of the nerves of smell, and are mistaken for tastes only because they are experienced along with tastes, as a consequence of taking food into the mouth.24 (Vol. I, p. 25.)

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[Concerning taste, James Mill says there is the same complexity of meaning as in the other terms of sensation, including reference to the organ.]

The statement that “taste” is sometimes employed as a name of the organ, seems to me, like the similar statements respecting the names of our other senses, disputable. (Vol. I, p. 27.)

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[Once more James Mill says that a term, touch, refers to the object.] If I were to call a piece of fine and brilliant velvet a fine sight, another person might say, it is a fine touch as well as fine sight.

It is more true of the word touch, than of the names of our other senses, that it is occasionally employed to denote the organ of touch; because that organ, being the whole surface of the body, has not, like the organs of the special senses, a compact distinctive name. But it may be doubted if the word touch ever stands for the object of touch. If a person made use of the phrase in the text, “it is a fine touch as well as a fine sight,” he would probably be regarded as purchasing an epigrammatic turn of expression at the expense of some violence to language. (Vol. I, p. 32.)

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[James Mill explains his use of the word connotes in the following footnote, to which J.S. Mill’s note is appended.] The use, which I shall make, of the term connotation, needs to be explained. There is a large class of words, which denote two things, both together; but the one perfectly distinguishable from the other. Of these two things, also, it is observable, that such words express the one, primarily, as it were; the other, in a way which may be called secondary. Thus, white, in the phrase white horse, denotes two things, the colour, and the horse; but it denotes the colour primarily, the horse secondarily. We shall find it very convenient, to say, therefore, that it notes the primary, connotes the secondary, signification.

Reasons will be assigned further on, why the words to connote and connotation had better be employed, not as here indicated, but in a different and more special sense.25 (Vol. I, p. 34.)

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[With reference to sensations of “disorganization,” caused by lacerations, cuts, bruises, burnings, poisonings, inflammation, etc., James Mill comments:] Most of those sensations are of the painful kind; though some are otherwise. Some slight, or locally minute inflammations, produce a sensation called itching, which is far from disagreeable, as appears from the desire to scratch, which excites it.

The author, in this passage, uses the word itching out of its ordinary sense; making it denote the pleasant sensation accompanying the relief by scratching, instead of the slightly painful, and sometimes highly irritating, sensation which the scratching relieves. (Vol. I, pp. 37-8.)

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[James Mill points out that] there are some muscles of the body in constant and vehement action, as the heart, of the feelings attendant upon the action of which we seem to have no cognisance at all. That this is no argument against the existence of those feelings, will be made apparent, by the subsequent explanation of other phenomena, in which the existence of certain feelings, and an acquired incapacity of attending to them, are out of dispute.

The paradox, of feelings which we have no cognisance of—feelings which are not felt—will be discussed at large in a future note.26 (Vol. I, p. 42.)

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[James Mill, having asserted that just as each sense has “its separate class of sensations, so each has its separate class of ideas” (Vol. I, p. 54), argues that in the case of muscular action, the will is involved as antecedent.] Thus the idea of resistance is the thought, or idea, of the feelings we have, when we will to contract certain muscles, and feel the contraction impeded.

Rather, when we will to contract certain muscles, and the contraction takes place, but is not followed by the accustomed movement of the limb; what follows, instead, being a sensation of pressure, proportioned to the degree of the contraction. It is not the muscular contraction itself which is impeded by the resisting object: that contraction takes place: but the outward effect which it was Edition: current; Page: [109] the tendency, and perhaps the purpose, of the muscular contraction to produce, fails to be produced. (Vol. I, p. 58.)

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Hunger, and thirst, are also names of ideas, which chiefly refer to sensations in the same part of our system.27

I venture to think that it is not a philosophically correct mode of expression, to speak of indigestion, or of hunger and thirst, as names of ideas. Hunger and thirst are names of definite sensations; and indigestion is a name of a large group of sensations, held together by very complicated laws of causation. If it be objected, that the word indigestion, and even the words hunger and thirst, comprehend in their meaning other elements than the immediate sensations; that the meaning, for instance, of hunger, includes a deficiency of food, the meaning of indigestion a derangement of the functions of the digestive organs; it still remains true that these additional portions of meaning are physical phenomena, and are not our thoughts or ideas of physical phenomena; and must, therefore, in the general partition of human consciousness between sensations and ideas, take their place with the former, and not with the latter. (Vol. I, p. 60.)

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[J.S. Mill’s footnote is appended to the end of Chap. ii, “Ideas” (following a long note by Bain).]

A question which, as far as I know, has been passed over by psychologists, but which ought not to be left unanswered, is this: Can we have ideas of ideas? We have sensations, and we have copies of these sensations, called ideas of them: can we also have copies of these copies, constituting a second order of ideas, two removes instead of one from sensation?

Every one will admit that we can think of a thought. We remember ourselves remembering, or imagine ourselves remembering, an object or an event, just as we remember or imagine ourselves seeing one. But in the case of a simple idea of sensation, i.e. the idea or remembrance of a single undivided sensation, there seems nothing to distinguish the idea of the idea, from the idea of the sensation itself. When I imagine myself thinking of the colour of snow, I am not aware of any Edition: current; Page: [110] difference, even in degree of intensity, between the image then present to my mind of the white colour, and the image present when I imagine myself to be seeing the colour.

The case, however, is somewhat different with those combinations of simple ideas which have never been presented to my mind otherwise than as ideas. I have an idea of Pericles;28 but it is derived only from the testimony of history: the real Pericles never was present to my senses. I have an idea of Hamlet, and of Falstaff;29 combinations which, though made up of ideas of sensation, never existed at all in the world of sense; they never were anything more than ideas in any mind. Yet, having had these combinations of ideas presented to me through the words of Shakespeare, I have formed what is properly an idea not of an outward object, but of an idea in Shakespeare’s mind; and I may communicate my idea to others, whose idea will then be an idea of an idea in my mind. My idea of Pericles, or my idea of any person now alive whom I have never seen, differs from these in the circumstance that I am persuaded that a real object corresponding to the idea does now, or did once, exist in the world of sensation: but as I did not derive my idea from the object, but from some other person’s words, my idea is not a copy of the original, but a copy (more or less imperfect) of some other person’s copy: it is an idea of an idea.

Although, however, the complex idea I have of an object which never was presented to my senses, is rightly described as an idea of an idea; my remembrance of a complex idea which I have had before, does not seem to me to differ from the remembered idea as an idea differs from a sensation. There is a distinction between my visual idea of Mont Blanc and the actual sight of the mountain, which I do not find between my remembrance of Falstaff and the original impression from which it was derived. My present thought of Falstaff seems to me not a copy but a repetition of the original idea; a repetition which may be dimmed by distance, or which may, on the contrary, be heightened by intermediate processes of thought; may have lost some of its features by lapse of time, and may have acquired others by reference to the original sources; but which resembles the first impression not as the thought of an object resembles the sight of it, but as a second or third sight of an object resembles the first. This question will meet us again in the psychological examination of Memory, the theory of which is in no small degree dependent upon it. (Vol. I, pp. 68-9.)

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[James Mill avers that] we have three cases of vividness, of which we can speak with some precision: the case of sensations, as compared with ideas; the case of pleasurable and painful sensations, and their ideas, as compared with those which are not pleasurable or painful; and the case of the more recent, compared with the more remote.

If it be admitted that in the three cases here specified the word vividness, as applied to our impressions, has a definite meaning, it seems to follow that this meaning may be extended in the way of analogy, to other cases than these. There are, for example, sensations which differ from some other sensations like fainter feelings of the same kind, in much the same manner as the idea of a sensation differs from the sensation itself: and we may, be extension, call these sensations less vivid. Again, one idea may differ from another idea in the same sort of way in which the idea of a sensation had long ago differs from that of a similar sensation received recently: that is, it is a more faded copy—its colours and its outlines are more effaced: this idea may fairly be said to be less vivid than the other.

The author himself, a few pages farther on, speaks of some complex ideas as being more “obscure” than others, merely on account of their greater complexity.30 Obscurity, indeed, in this case, means a different quality from the absence of vividness, but a quality fully as indefinite.

Mr. Bain, whose view of the subject will be found further on,31 draws a fundamental distinction (already indicated in a former note)32 between the attributes which belong to a sensation regarded in an intellectual point of view, as a portion of our knowledge, and those which belong to the element of Feeling contained in it; Feeling being here taken in the narrower acceptation of the word, that in which Feeling is opposed to Intellect or Thought. To sensations in their intellectual aspect Mr. Bain considers the term vividness to be inapplicable: they can only be distinct or indistinct. He reserves the word vividness to express the degree of intensity of the sensation, considered in what may be called its emotional aspect, whether of pleasure, of pain, or of mere excitement.

Whether we accept this restriction or not, it is in any case certain, that the property of producing a strong and durable association without the aid of repetition, belongs principally to our pleasures and pains. The more intense the pain or pleasure, the more promptly and powerfully does it associate itself with its accompanying circumstances, even with those which are only accidentally present. In the cases mentioned in the text, a single occurrence of the painful sensation is sufficient to produce an association, which neither time can wear out nor counter-associations dissolve, between the idea of the pain and the ideas of the Edition: current; Page: [112] sensations which casually accompanied it in that one instance, however intrinsically indifferent these may be. (Vol. I, pp. 85-6.)

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[James Mill asserts that there are some ideas we cannot “combine,” because] a strong association excludes whatever is opposite to it. I cannot associate the two ideas of assafoetida, and the taste of sugar. Why? Because the idea of assafoetida is so strongly associated with the idea of another taste, that the idea of that other taste rises in combination with the idea of assafoetida, and of course the idea of sugar does not rise. I have one idea associated with the word pain. Why can I not associate pleasure with the word pain? Because another indissoluble association springs up, and excludes it. This is, therefore, only a case of indissoluble association; but one of much importance, as we shall find when we come to the exposition of some of the more complicated of our mental phenomena.

Some further elucidation seems needful of what is here said, in so summary a manner, respecting ideas which it is not in our power to combine: an inability which it is essential to the analysis of some of the more complex phenomena of mind that we should understand the meaning of. The explanation is indicated, but hardly more than indicated, in the text.

It seems to follow from the universal law of association, that any idea could be associated with any other idea, if the corresponding sensations, or even the ideas themselves, were presented in juxtaposition with sufficient frequency. If, therefore, there are ideas which cannot be associated with each other, it must be because there is something that prevents this juxtaposition. Two conditions hence appear to be required, to render ideas incapable of combination. First, the sensations must be incapable of being had together. If we cannot associate the taste of assafoetida with the taste of sugar, it is implied, that we cannot have the taste of assafoetida along with the taste of sugar. If we could, a sufficient experience would enable us to associate the ideas. Here, therefore, is one necessary condition of the impossibility of associating certain ideas with one another. But this condition, though necessary, is not sufficient. We are but too capable of associating ideas together though the corresponding external facts are really incompatible. In the case of many errors, prejudices, and superstitions, two ideas are so closely and obstinately associated, that the man cannot, at least for the time, help believing that the association represents a real coexistence or sequence between outward facts, though such coexistence or sequence may contradict a positive law of the physical world. There is therefore a further condition required to render two ideas unassociable, and this is, that one of them shall be already associated with some idea which excludes the other. Thus far the analysis is carried Edition: current; Page: [113] in the author’s text. But the question remains, what ideas exclude one another? On careful consideration I can only find one case of such exclusion: when one of the ideas either contains, or raises up by association, the idea of the absence of the other. I am aware of no case of absolute incompatibility of thought or of imagination, except between the presence of something and its absence; between an affirmative and the corresponding negative. If an idea irresistibly raises up the idea of the absence of a certain sensation, it cannot become associated with the idea of that sensation; for it is impossible to combine together in the same mental representation, the presence of a sensation and its absence.

We are not yet, however, at the end of the difficulty; for it may be objected, that the idea of the absence of anything is the idea of a negation, of a nullity; and the idea of nothing must itself be nothing—no idea at all. This objection has imposed upon more than one metaphysician; but the solution of the paradox is very simple. The idea of the presence of a sensation is the idea of the sensation itself along with certain accompanying circumstances: the idea of the absence of the sensation is the idea of the same accompanying circumstances without the sensation. For example: my idea of a body is the idea of a feeling of resistance, accompanying a certain muscular action of my own, say of my hand; my idea of no body, in other words, of empty space, is the idea of the same or a similar muscular action of my own, not attended by any feeling of resistance. Neither of these is an idea of a mere negation; both are positive mental representations: but inasmuch as one of them includes the negation of something positive which is an actual part of the other, they are mutually incompatible: and any idea which is so associated with one of them as to recall it instantly and irresistibly, is incapable of being associated with the other.

The instance cited by the author from Dr. Brown, is a good illustration of the law.33 We can associate the ideas of a plane and of a convex surface as two surfaces side by side; but we cannot fuse the two mental images into one, and represent to ourselves the very same series of points giving us the sensations we receive from a plane surface and those we receive from a convex surface both at once. That this cannot but be so, is a corollary from the elementary law of association. Not only has no instance ever occurred in our experience of a surface which gave us at the same moment both these sets of sensations; but whenever in our experience a surface originally plane, came to give us the sensations we receive from a convex surface (as for instance when we bend a flat sheet of paper), it, at the very same moment, ceased to be, or to appear, a plane. The commencement of the one set of sensations has always been simultaneous with the cessation of the other set, and this experience, not being affected by any change of circumstances, has the constancy and invariability of a law of nature. It forms a Edition: current; Page: [114] correspondingly strong association; and we become unable to have an idea of either set of sensations, those of planeness or those of convexity, without having the idea of the disappearance of the other set, if they existed previously. I believe it will be found that all the mental incompatibilities, the impossibilities of thought, of which so much is made by a certain class of metaphysicians, can be accounted for in a similar manner. (Vol. I, pp. 97-100.)

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[The opening paragraphs of Sect. 10 of Chap. iii (“The Association of Ideas”) read:] It not unfrequently happens in our associated feelings, that the antecedent is of no importance farther than as it introduces the consequent. In these cases, the consequent absorbs all the attention, and the antecedent is instantly forgotten. Of this a very intelligible illustration is afforded by what happens in ordinary discourse. A friend arrives from a distant country, and brings me the first intelligence of the last illness, the last words, the last acts, and death of my son. The sound of the voice, the articulation of every word, makes its sensation in my ear; but it is to the ideas that my attention flies. It is my son that is before me, suffering, acting, speaking, dying. The words which have introduced the ideas, and kindled the affections, have been as little heeded, as the respiration which has been accelerated, while the ideas were received.

It is important in respect to this case of association to remark, that there are large classes of our sensations, such as many of those in the alimentary duct, and many in the nervous and vascular systems, which serve, as antecedents, to introduce ideas, as consequents; but as the consequents are far more interesting than themselves, and immediately absorb the attention, the antecedents are habitually overlooked; and though they exercise, by the trains which they introduce, a great influence on our happiness or misery, they themselves are generally wholly unknown.

That there are connections between our ideas and certain states of the internal organs, is proved by many familiar instances. Thus, anxiety, in most people, disorders the digestion. It is no wonder, then, that the internal feelings which accompany indigestion, should excite the ideas which prevail in a state of anxiety. Fear, in most people, accelerates, in a remarkable manner, the vermicular motion of the intestines. There is an association, therefore, between certain states of the intestines, and terrible ideas; and this is sufficiently confirmed by the horrible dreams to which men are subject from indigestion; and the hypochondria, more or less afflicting, which almost always accompanies certain morbid states of the digestive organs. The grateful food which excites pleasurable sensations in the mouth, continues them in the stomach; and, as pleasures excite ideas of their Edition: current; Page: [115] causes, and these of similar causes, and causes excite ideas of their effects, and so on, trains of pleasurable ideas take their origin from pleasurable sensations in the stomach. Uneasy sensations in the stomach, produce analogous effects. Disagreeable sensations are associated with disagreeable circumstances; a train is introduced, in which, one painful idea following another, combinations, to the last degree afflictive, are sometimes introduced, and the sufferer is altogether overwhelmed by dismal associations.

The law of association laid down in this section ranks among the principal of what may be termed the laws of Obliviscence. It is one of the widest in its action, and most important in its consequences of all the laws of the mind; and the merit of the author, in the large use he makes of it, is very great, as, though it is the key that unlocks many of the more mysterious phenomena of the mind, it is among the least familiar of the mental laws, and is not only overlooked by the great majority of psychologists, but some, otherwise of merit, seem unable to see and understand the law after any quantity of explanation.

The first, however, of the examples by which the author illustrates this law, is not marked by his usual felicity. Its shortcomings are pointed out by Mr. Bain in the preceding note.34 The internal feelings (says the author) which accompany indigestion, introduce trains of ideas (as in the case of horrible dreams, and of hypochondria) which are acutely painful, and may embitter the whole existence, while the sensations themselves, being comparatively of little interest, are unheeded and forgotten. It is true that the sensations in the alimentary canal, directly produced by indigestion, though (as every one knows) in some cases intense, are in others so slight as not to fix the attention, and yet may be followed by melancholy trains of thought, the connection of which with the state of the digestion may be entirely unobserved: but by far the most probable supposition appears to be, that these painful trains are not excited by the sensations, but that they and the sensations are joint or successive effects of a common organic cause. It is difficult to comprehend how these obscure sensations can excite the distressing trains of ideas by the laws of association; for what opportunity have these sensations usually had of becoming associated, either synchronously or successively, with those ideas? The explanation, in the text, of this difficulty, seems surprisingly insufficient. Anxiety, in most people, disorders the digestion; and consequently, according to the author, the sensations of indigestion excite the ideas which prevail in a state of anxiety. If that were the true explanation, the only persons with whom indigestion would depress the spirits, would be those who had suffered previous depression of spirits, sufficient in duration and intensity to disorder the digestion, and to keep it disordered long enough to effect a close and inseparable cohesion between even very slight sensations of indigestion and painful ideas excited by other causes. Surely this is not the fact. The theory has a Edition: current; Page: [116] true application in the case of the confirmed hypochondriac. When the sensations have been repeatedly experienced along with the melancholy trains of thought, a direct association is likely to grow up between the two; and when this has been effected, the first touch of the sensations may bring back in full measure the miserable mental state which had coexisted with them, thus increasing not only the frequency of its recurrence, but, by the conjunction of two exciting causes, the intensity of the misery. But the origin of the state must be looked for elsewhere, and is probably to be sought in physiology.

The other example in the text seems still less relevant. Fear tends to accelerate the peristaltic motion, therefore there is a connection between certain states of the intestines and terrible ideas. To make this available for the author’s purpose, the consequence of the connection ought to be, that acceleration of the peristaltic motion excites ideas of terror. But does it? The state of indigestion characteristic of hypochondria is not looseness of the bowels, but is commonly attended with the exact opposite. The author’s usual acuteness of discernment seems to have been, in these cases, blunted by an unwillingness to admit the possibility that ideas as well as sensations may be directly affected by material conditions. But if, as he admits, ideas have a direct action on our bodily organs, a prima facie case is made out for the localization of our ideas, equally with our sensations, in some part of our bodily system; and there is at least no antecedent presumption against the supposition that the action may be reciprocal—that as ideas sometimes derange the organic functions, so derangements of organic functions may sometimes modify the trains of our ideas by their own physical action on the brain and nerves, and not through the associations connected with the sensations they excite. (Vol. I, pp. 102-5.)

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[The concluding paragraph of Chap. iii, Sect. 10 reads:] In illustration of the fact, that sensations and ideas, which are essential to some of the most important operations of our minds, serve only as antecedents to more important consequents, and are themselves so habitually overlooked, that their existence is unknown, we may recur to the remarkable case which we have just explained, of the ideas introduced by the sensations of sight. The minute gradations of colour, whch accompany varieties of extension, figure, and distance, are insignificant. The figure, the size, the distance, themselves, on the other hand, are matters of the greatest importance. The first having introduced the last, their work is done. The consequents remain the sole objects of attention, the antecedents are forgotten; in the present instance, not completely; in other instances, so completely, that they cannot be recognised.35 Edition: current; Page: [117] The reader, it may be hoped, is now familiar with the important psychological fact, so powerfully grasped and so discerningly employed by Hartley and the author of the Analysis,—that when, through the frequent repetition of a series of sensations, the corresponding train of ideas rushes through the mind with extreme rapidity, some of the links are apt to disappear from consciousness as completely as if they had never formed part of the series. It has been a subject of dispute among philosophers which of three things takes place in this case. Do the lost ideas pass through the mind without consciousness? Do they pass consciously through the mind and are they then instantly forgotten? Or do they never come into the mind at all, being, as it were, overleaped and pressed out by the rush of the subsequent ideas?

It would seem, at first sight, that the first and third suppositions involve impossibilities, and that the second, therefore, is the only one which we are at liberty to adopt. As regards the first, it may be said—How can we have a feeling without feeling it, in other words, without being conscious of it? With regard to the third, how, it may be asked, can any link of the chain have been altogether absent, through the pressure of the subsequent links? The subsequent ideas are only there because called up by it, and would not have arisen at all unless it had arisen first, however short a time it may have lasted. These arguments seem strong, but are not so strong as they seem.

In favour of the first supposition, that feelings may be unconsciously present, various facts and arguments are adduced by Sir William Hamilton in his Lectures; but I think I have shewn in another work, that the arguments are inconclusive, and the facts equally reconcilable with the second of the three hypotheses.36 That a feeling should not be felt appears to me a contradiction both in words and in nature. But, though a feeling cannot exist without being felt, the organic state which is the antecedent of it may exist, and the feeling itself not follow. This happens, either if the organic state is not of sufficient duration, or if an organic state stronger than itself, and conflicting with it, is affecting us at the same moment. I hope to be excused for quoting what I have said elsewhere on this subject (Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy, Chap. xv).

In the case, for instance, of a soldier who receives a wound in battle, but in the excitement of the moment is not aware of the fact, it is difficult not to believe that if the wound had been accompanied by the usual sensation, so vivid a feeling would have forced itself to be attended to and remembered. The supposition which seems most probable is, that the nerves of the particular part were affected as they would have been by the same cause in any other circumstances, but that, the nervous centres being intensely occupied with other impressions, the affection of the local nerves did not reach them, and no sensation was Edition: current; Page: [118] excited. In like manner, if we admit (what physiology is rendering more and more probable) that our mental feelings, as well as our sensations, have for their physical antecedents particular states of the nerves; it may well be believed that the apparently suppressed links in a chain of association, those which Sir William Hamilton considers as latent, really are so; that they are not, even momentarily, felt; the chain of causation being continued only physically, by one organic state of the nerves succeeding another so rapidly that the state of mental conciousness appropriate to each is not produced. We have only to suppose, either that a nervous modification of too short duration does not produce any sensation or mental feeling at all, or that the rapid succession of different nervous modifications makes the feelings produced by them interfere with each other, and become confounded in one mass. The former of these suppositions is extremely probable, while of the truth of the latter we have positive proof. An example of it is the experiment which Sir W. Hamilton quoted from Mr. Mill, and which had been noticed before either of them by Hartley.37 It is known that the seven prismatic colours, combined in certain proportions, produce the white light of the solar ray. Now, if the seven colours are painted on spaces bearing the same proportion to one another as in the solar spectrum, and the coloured surface so produced is passed rapidly before the eyes, as by the turning of a wheel, the whole is seen as white. The physiological explanation of this phenomenon may be deduced from another common experiment. If a lighted torch, or a bar heated to luminousness, is waved rapidly before the eye, the appearance produced is that of a ribbon of light; which is universally understood to prove that the visual sensation persists for a certain short time after its cause has ceased. Now, if this happens with a single colour, it will happen with a series of colours: and if the wheel on which the prismatic colours have been painted, is turned with the same rapidity with which the torch was waved, each of the seven sensations of colour will last long enough to be contemporaneous with all the others, and they will naturally produce by their combination the same colour as if they had, from the beginning, been excited simultaneously. If anything similar to this obtains in our consciousness generally (and that it obtains in many cases of consciousness there can be no doubt) it will follow that whenever the organic modifications of our nervous fibres succeed one another at an interval shorter than the duration of the sensations or other feelings corresponding to them, those sensations or feelings will, so to speak, overlap one another, and becoming simultaneous instead of successive, will blend into a state of feeling, probably as unlike the elements out of which it is engendered, as the colour white is unlike the prismatic colours. And this may be the source of many of those states of internal or mental feeling which we cannot distinctly refer to a prototype in experience, our experience only supplying the elements from which, by this kind of mental chemistry, they are composed. The elementary feelings may then be said to be latently present, or to be present but not in consciousness. The truth, however, is that the feelings themselves are not present, consciously or latently, but that the nervous modifications which are their usual antecedents have been present, while the consequents have been frustrated, and another consequent has been produced instead.

In this modified form, therefore, the first of the three hypotheses may possibly be true. Let us now consider the third, that of the entire elision of some of the ideas which form the associated train. This supposition seemed to be inadmissible, because the loss of any link would, it was supposed, cause the chain itself to break off at that point. To make the hypothesis possible, it is only, however, necessary to Edition: current; Page: [119] suppose, that, while the association is acquiring the promptitude and rapidity which it ultimately attains, each of the successive ideas abides for a brief interval in our consciousness after it has already called up the idea which is to succeed it. Each idea in the series, though introduced, not by synchronous, but by successive association, is thus, during a part of its continuance, synchronous with the idea which introduced it: and as the rapidity of the suggestions increases by still further repetition, an idea may become synchronous with another which was originally not even contiguous to it, but separated from it by an intervening link; or may come into immediate instead of mediate sequence with such an idea. When either of these states of things has continued for some time, a direct association of the synchronous or of the successive kind will be generated between two ideas which are not proximate links in the chain; A will acquire a direct power of exciting C, independently of the intervening idea B. If, then, B is much less interesting than C, and especially if B is of no importance at all in itself, but only by exciting C, and has therefore nothing to make the mind dwell on it after C has been reached, the association of A with C is likely to become stronger than that of A with B: C will be habitually excited directly by A; as the mind runs off to the further ideas suggested by C, B will cease to be excited at all; and the train of association, like a stream which breaking through its bank cuts off a bend in its course, will thenceforth flow in the direct line AC, omitting B. This supposition accounts more plausibly than either of the others for the truly wonderful rapidity of thought, since it does not make so large a demand as the other theories on our ability to believe that a prodigious number of different ideas can successively rush through the mind in an instant too short for measurement.

The result is, that all the three theories of this mental process seem to be quite possible; and it is not unlikely that each of them may be the real process in some cases, either in different persons, or in the same persons under different circumstances. I can only remit the question to future psychologists, who may be able to contrive crucial experiments for deciding among these various possibilities. (Vol. I, pp. 106-10.)

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[In considering whether resemblance, “an alleged principle of association,” can be included under other laws, James Mill says:] I believe it will be found that we are accustomed to see like things together. When we see a tree, we generally see more trees than one; when we see an ox, we generally see more oxen than one; a sheep, more sheep than one; a man, more men than one. From this observation, I think, we may refer resemblance to the law of frequency, of which it seems to form only a particular case.

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The reason assigned by the author for considering association by resemblance as a case of association by contiguity, is perhaps the least successful attempt at a generalisation and simplification of the laws of mental phenomena, to be found in the work. It ought to be remembered that the author, as the text shews, attached little importance to it. And perhaps, not thinking it important, he passed it over with a less amount of patient thought than he usually bestowed on his analyses.

Objects, he thinks, remind us of other objects resembling them, because we are accustomed to see like things together. But we are also accustomed to see like things separate. When two combinations incompatible with one another are both realised in familiar experience, it requires a very great preponderance of experience on one side to determine the association specially to either. We are also much accustomed to see unlike things together; I do not mean things contrasted, but simply unlike. Unlikeness, therefore, not amounting to contrast, ought to be as much a cause of association as likeness. Besides, the fact that when we see (for instance) a sheep, we usually see more sheep than one, may cause us, when we think of a sheep, to think of an entire flock; but it does not explain why, when we see a sheep with a black mark on its forehead, we are reminded of a sheep with a similar mark, formerly seen, though we never saw two such sheep together. It does not explain why a portrait makes us think of the original, or why a stranger whom we see for the first time reminds us of a person of similar appearance whom we saw many years ago. The law by which an object reminds us of similar objects which we have been used to see along with it, must be a different law from that by which it reminds us of similar objects which we have not been used to see along with it. But it is the same law by which it reminds us of dissimilar objects which we have been used to see along with it. The sight of a sheep, if it reminds us of a flock of sheep, probably by the same law of contiguity, reminds us of a meadow; but it must be by some other law that it reminds us of a single sheep previously seen, and of the occasion on which we saw that single sheep.

The attempt to resolve association by resemblance into association by contiguity must perforce be unsuccessful, inasmuch as there never could have been association by contiguity without a previous association by resemblance. Why does a sensation received this instant remind me of sensations which I formerly had (as we commonly say), along with it? I never had them along with this very sensation. I never had this sensation until now, and can never have it again. I had the former sensations in conjunction not with it, but with a sensation exactly like it. And my present sensation could not remind me of those former sensations unlike itself, unless by first reminding me of the sensation like itself, which really did coexist with them. There is thus a law of association anterior to, and presupposed by, the law of contiguity: namely, that a sensation tends to recall what is called the idea of itself, that is, the remembrance of a sensation like itself, if such has previously been experienced. This is implied in what we call recognising a sensation, as one which has been felt before; more correctly, as undistinguishably Edition: current; Page: [121] resembling one which has been felt before. The law in question was scientifically enunciated, and included, I believe for the first time, in the list of Laws of Association, by Sir William Hamilton, in one of the Dissertations appended to his edition of Reid:38 but the fact itself is recognised by the author of the Analysis, in various passages of his work; more especially in the second section of the fourteenth chapter.39 There is, therefore, a suggestion by resemblance—a calling up of the idea of a past sensation by a present sensation like it—which not only does not depend on association by contiguity, but is itself the foundation which association by contiguity requires for its support.

When it is admitted that simple sensations remind us of one another by direct resemblance, many of the complex cases of suggestion by resemblance may be analysed into this elementary case of association by resemblance, combined with an association by contiguity. A flower, for instance, may remind us of a former flower resembling it, because the present flower exhibits to us certain qualities, that is, excites in us certain sensations, resembling and recalling to our remembrance those we had from the former flower, and these recall the entire image of the flower by the law of association by contiguity. But this explanation, though it serves for many cases of complex phenomena suggesting one another by resemblance, does not suffice for all. For, the resemblance of complex facts often consists, not solely, or principally, in likeness between the simple sensations, but far more in likeness of the manner of their combination, and it is often by this, rather than by the single features, that they recall one another. After we had seen, and well observed, a single triangle, when we afterwards saw a second there can be little doubt that it would at once remind us of the first by mere resemblance. But the suggestion would not depend on the sides or on the angles, any or all of them; for we might have seen such sides and such angles uncombined, or combined into some other figure. The resemblance by which one triangle recalls the idea of another is not resemblance in the parts, but principally and emphatically in the manner in which the parts are put together. I am unable to see any mode in which this case of suggestion can be accounted for by contiguity; any mode, at least, which would fit all cases of the kind. (Vol. I, pp. 111-14.)

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[The] union of two complex ideas into one, Dr. Hartley has called a duplex idea.

I have been unable to trace in Hartley the expression here ascribed to him. In every Edition: current; Page: [122] passage that I can discover, the name he gives to a combination of two or more complex ideas is that of a decomplex idea.40 (Vol. I, p. 115.)

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[A comprehensive note by Bain, appended to the end of Chap. iii, “The Association of Ideas,” is followed by J.S. Mill’s footnote.]

The author and Mr. Bain agree in rejecting Contrast as an independent principle of association.41 I think they might have gone further, and denied it even as a derivative one. All the cases considered as examples of it seem to me to depend on something else. I greatly doubt if the sight or thought of a dwarf has intrinsically any tendency to recall the idea of a giant. Things certainly do remind us of their own absence, because (as pointed out by Mr. Bain) we are only conscious of their presence by comparison with their absence; and for a further reason, arising out of the former, viz. that, in our practical judgments, we are led to think of the case of their presence and the case of their absence by one and the same act of thought, having commonly to choose between the two. But it does not seem to me that things have any special tendency to remind us of their positive opposites. Black does not remind us of white more than of red or green. If light reminds us of darkness, it is because darkness is the mere negation, or absence, of light. The case of heat and cold is more complex. The sensation of heat recalls to us the absence of that sensation: if the sensation amounts to pain, it calls up the idea of relief from it; that is, of its absence, associated by contiguity with the pleasant feeling which accompanies the change. But cold is not the mere absence of heat; it is itself a positive sensation. If heat suggests to us the idea of the sensation of cold, it is not because of the contrast, but because the close connection which exists between the outward conditions of both, and the consequent identity of the means we employ for regulating them, cause the thought of cold and that of heat to be frequently presented to us in continguity. (Vol. I, pp. 125-6.)

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[J.S. Mill’s note comes at the end of Chap. iv, “Naming.”]

This exposition of Naming in its most general aspect, needs neither explanation nor comment. It is one of those specimens of clear and vigorous statement, going Edition: current; Page: [123] straight to the heart of the matter, and dwelling on it just long enough and no longer than necessary, in which the Analysis abounds. (Vol. I, p. 133.)

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Names, to be useful, cannot exceed a certain number. They could not otherwise be remembered. It is, therefore, of the greatest importance that each name should accomplish as much as possible. To this end, the greater number of names stand, not for individuals only, but classes. [For example, red, sweet, hot, loud, rose, stone, iron, ox.]

Economy in the use of names is a very small part of the motive leading to the creation of names of classes. If we had a name for every individual object which exists in the universe, and could remember all those names, we should still require names for what those objects or some of them have in common; in other words, we should require classification, and class-names. This will be obvious if it is considered that had we no names but names of individuals, we should not have the means of making any affirmation respecting any object; we could not predicate of it any qualities. But of this more largely in a future note.42 (Vol. I, p. 137.)

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[James Mill comments that when wishing to name simple ideas, for instance those of sight, one has available only red, blue, violet, etc., all of which are the names of the sensations. Awkward expressions result, such as “my sensation of red, my idea of red.” Similarly, “sound of a trumpet,” “flight of a bird,” “light,” “pain,” and “heat” are the names “of the sensation as well as the idea.”]

In strict propriety of language all these are names only of sensations, or clusters of sensations; not of ideas. A person studious of precision would not, I think, say heat, meaning the idea of heat, or a tree, when he meant the idea of a tree. He would use heat as the name only of the sensation of heat, and tree as the name of the outward object, or cluster of sensations; and if he had occasion to speak of the idea, he would say, my idea (or the idea) of heat; my idea (or the idea) of a tree. (Vol. I, p. 140.)

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[J.S. Mill’s note comes at the end of “Nouns Substantive,” Sect. 1 of Chap. iv, “Naming,” in which James Mill refers to “complex ideas which, though derived . . . from the senses, are put together in a great degree at our discretion, as the ideas of a centaur, a mountain of gold, of comfort, of meanness; all that class of ideas . . . which Mr. Locke has called mixed modes”43 (Vol. I, pp. 137-8). He then mentions their arbitrary and individual formation, using other instances cited by J.S. Mill (ibid., pp. 140-1).]

There is some need for additional elucidation of the class of complex ideas distinguished (under the name of Mixed Modes) by Locke, and recognised by the author of the Analysis, as “put together in a great degree at our discretion;” as “those which the mind forms arbitrarily,” so that “the ideas of which they are composed are more or less numerous according to pleasure, and each man of necessity forms his own combination.” From these and similar phrases, interpreted literally, it might be supposed that in the instances given, a centaur, a mountain of gold, comfort, meanness, fear, courage, temperance, ignorance, republic, aristocracy, monarchy, piety, good manners, prudence—the elements which constitute these several complex ideas are put together premeditatedly, by an act of will, which each individual performs for himself, and of which he is conscious. This, however, happens only in cases of invention, or of what is called creative imagination. A centaur and a mountain of gold are inventions: combinations intentionally made, at least on the part of the first inventor; and are not copies or likenesses of any combination of impressions received by the senses, nor are supposed to have any such outward phenomena corresponding to them. But the other ideas mentioned in the text, those of courage, temperance, aristocracy, monarchy, etc., are supposed to have real originals outside our thoughts. These ideas, just as much as those of a horse and a tree, are products of generalization and abstraction: they are believed to be ideas of certain points or features in which a number of the clusters of sensations which we call real objects agree: and instead of being formed by intentionally putting together simple ideas, they are formed by stripping off, or rather, by not attending to, such of the simple sensations or ideas entering into the clusters as are peculiar to any of them, and establishing an extremely close association among those which are common to them all. These complex ideas, therefore, are not, in reality, like the creations of mere imagination, put together at discretion, any more than the complex ideas, compounded of the obvious sensible qualities of objects, which we call our ideas of the objects. They are formed in the same manner as these, only not so rapidly or so easily, since the particulars of which they are composed do not obtrude themselves upon the senses, but suppose a perception of qualities and sequences not immediately obvious. From this circumstance results the consequence noticed by the author, that this class of complex ideas are often of different composition in Edition: current; Page: [125] different persons. For, in the first place, different persons abstract their ideas of this sort from different individual instances; and secondly, some persons abstract much better than others; that is, take more accurate notice of the obscurer features of instances, and discern more correctly what are those in which all the instances agree. This important subject will be more fully entered into when we reach that part of the present work which treats of the ideas connected with General Terms.44 (Vol. I, pp. 142-3.)

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[“Nouns Adjective,” Sect. 2 of Chap. iv, concludes:] Beside the use of adjectives, in dividing great classes into smaller ones, without multiplication of names; they sometimes answer another purpose. It often happens that, in the cluster of sensations or ideas which have one name; we have occasion to call attention particularly to some one ingredient of the cluster. Adjectives render this service, as well as that of marking a class. This rose, I say, is red; that rose is yellow: this stone is hot, that stone is cold. The term, red rose, or yellow rose, is the name of a class. But when I say, this rose is red, where an individual is named, I mark emphatically the specific difference; namely, red, or yellow; which constitutes that subdivision of the genus rose, to which the individual belongs.

In the concluding paragraph we find the first recognition by the author that class names serve any purpose, or are introduced for any reason, except to save multiplication of names. Adjectives, it is here said, answer also the purpose of calling attention to some one ingredient of the cluster of sensations combined under one name. That is to say, they enable us to affirm that the cluster contains that ingredient: for they do not merely call attention to the ingredient, or remind the hearer of it: the hearer, very often, did not know that the cluster contained the ingredient, until he was apprised by the proposition.

But surely it is not only adjectives which fulfil either office, whether of giving information of an ingredient, or merely fixing the attention upon it. All general names do so, when used as predicates. When I say that a distant object which I am pointing at is a tree, or a building, I just as much call attention to certain ingredients in the cluster of sensations constituting the object, as I do when I say, This rose is red. So far is it from being true that adjectives are distinguished from substantives by having this function in addition to that of economizing names, that it is, on the contrary, much more nearly true of adjectives than of the class-names which are nouns substantive, that the economizing of names is the principal motive for their institution. For though general names of some sort are indispensable to Edition: current; Page: [126] predication, adjectives are not. As is well shewn in the text, the peculiarity, which really distinguishes adjectives from other general names, is that they mark cross divisions. All nature having first been marked out into classes by means of nouns substantive, we might go on by the same means subdividing each class. We might call the large individuals of a class by one noun substantive and the small ones by another, and these substantives would serve all purposes of predication; but to do this we should need just twice as many additional nouns substantive as there are classes of objects. Since, however, the distinction of large and small applies to all classes alike, one pair of names will suffice to designate it. Instead therefore of dividing every class into sub-classes, each with its own name, we draw a line across all the classes, dividing all nature into large things and small, and by using these two words as adjectives, that is, by adding one or other of them as the occasion requires to every noun substantive which is the name of a class, we are able to mark universally the distinction of large and small by two names only, instead of many millions. (Vol. I, pp. 149-50.)

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[In “Verbs,” Sect. 3 of Chap. iv, James Mill says:] When the name of an act is applied to an agent, the agent is either the person speaking, the person spoken to, or some other person. The word denoting the action is, by what are called the Persons of the verb, made to connote these diversities. Thus amo notes the act, and connotes the person speaking as the actor; amas notes the act, and connotes the person spoken to, as the actor; amat notes the act, and connotes some person, as the actor, who is neither the person speaking, nor the person spoken to.

There is here a fresh instance of the oversight already pointed out, that of not including in the function for which general names are required, their employment in Predication. Amo, amas, and amamus, cannot, I conceive, with any propriety be called names of actions, or names at all. They are entire predications. It is one of the properties of the kind of general names called verbs, that they cannot be used except in a Proposition or Predication, and indeed only as the predicate of it: (for the infinitive is not a verb, but the abstract of a verb). What else there is to distinguish verbs from other general names will be more particularly considered further on.45 (Vol. I, p. 154.)

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[James Mill discusses “the contrivances” used to make verbs,] the marks or names of action, by their connotative powers, a more and more effectual instrument of notation. Accurately speaking, they are adjectives; so fashioned as to connote, a threefold distinction of agents, with a twofold distinction of their number, a threefold distinction of the manner of the action, and a threefold distinction of its time; and, along with all this, another important particular, . . . the copula in predication.

The imperfection of this theory of Verbs is sufficiently apparent. They are, says the author, a particular kind of Adjectives. Adjectives, according to the preceding Section, are words employed to enable us, without inconvenient multiplication of names, to subdivide great classes into smaller ones. Can it be said, or would it have been said by the author, that the only, or the principal reason for having Verbs, is to enable us to subdivide classes of objects with the greatest economy of names?

Neither is it strictly accurate to say that Verbs are always marks of motion, or of action, even including, as the author does, by an extension of the meaning of those terms, every process which is attended with a feeling of effort. Many verbs, of the kind which grammarians call neuter or intransitive verbs, express rest, or inaction: as sit, lie, and in some cases, stand. It is true however that the verbs first invented, as far as we know anything of them, expressed forms of motion, and the principal function of verbs still is to affirm or deny action. Or, to speak yet more generally, it is by means of verbs that we predicate events. Events, or changes, are the most important facts, to us, in the surrounding world. Verbs are the resource which language affords for predicating events. They are not the names of events; all names of events are substantives, as sunrise, disaster, or infinitives, as to rise, and infinitives are logically substantives. But it is by means of verbs that we assert, or give information of, events; as, The sun rises, or, Disaster has occurred. There is, however, a class of neuter verbs already referred to, which do not predicate events, but states of an unchanging object, as lie, sit, remain, exist. It would be incorrect, therefore, to give a definition of Verbs which should limit them to the expression of events. I am inclined to think that the distinction between nouns and verbs is not logical, but merely grammatical, and that every word, whatever be its meaning, must be reputed a verb, which is so constructed grammatically that it can only be used as the predicate of a proposition. Any meaning whatever is, in strictness, capable of being thrown into this form: but it is only certain meanings, chiefly actions or events, which there is, in general, any motive for putting into this particular shape. (Vol. I, pp. 155-6.)

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[In “Predication,” Sect. 4 of Chap. iv, James Mill refers to predication as] the Edition: current; Page: [128] grand expedient, by which language is enabled to mark not only sensations and ideas, but also the order of them.

The theory of Predication here set forth, stands in need of further elucidation, and perhaps of some correction and addition.

The account which the author gives of a Predication, or Proposition, is, first, that it is a mode of so putting together the marks of sensations and ideas, as to mark the order of them. Secondly, that it consists in substituting one name for another, so as to signify that a certain name (called the predicate), is a mark of the same idea which another name (called the subject) is a mark of.46

It must be allowed that a predication, or proposition, is intended to mark some portion of the order either of our sensations or of our ideas, i.e., some part of the coexistences or sequences which take place either in our minds, or in what we term the external world. But what sort of order is it that a predication marks? An order supposed to be believed in. When John, or man, are said to be marks of an individual object, all there is in the matter is that these words, being associated with the idea of the object, are intended to raise that idea in the mind of the person who hears or reads them. But when we say, John is a man, or, John is an old man, we intend to do more than call up in the hearer’s mind the images of John, of a man, and of an old man. We intend to do more than inform him that we have thought of, or even seen, John and a man, or John and an old man, together. We inform him of a fact respecting John, namely, that he is an old man, or at all events, of our belief that this is a fact. The characteristic difference between a predication and any other form of speech, is, that it does not merely bring to mind a certain object (which is the only function of a mark, merely as such); it asserts something respecting it. Now it may be true, and I think it is true, that every assertion, every object of Belief,—everything that can be true or false—that can be an object of assent or dissent—is some order of sensations or of ideas: some coexistence or succession of sensations or ideas actually experienced, or supposed capable of being experienced. And thus it may appear in the end that in expressing a belief, we are after all only declaring the order of a group or series of sensations or ideas. But the order which we declare is not an imaginary order; it is an order believed to be real. Whatever view we adopt of the psychological nature of Belief, it is necessary to distinguish between the mere suggestion to the mind of a certain order among sensations or ideas—such as takes place when we think of the alphabet, or the numeration table—and the indication that this order is an actual fact, which is occurring, or which has occurred once or oftener, or which, in certain definite circumstances, always occurs; which are the things indicated as true by an affirmative predication, and as false by a negative one.

That a predication differs from a name in doing more than merely calling up an idea, is admitted in what I have noted as the second half of the author’s theory of Edition: current; Page: [129] Predication. That second half points out that every predication is a communication, intended to act, not on the mere ideas of the listener, but on his persuasion or belief: and what he is intended to believe, according to the author, is, that of the two names which are conjoined in the predication, one is a mark of the same idea (or let me add, of the same sensation or cluster of sensations) of which the other is a mark. This is a doctrine of Hobbes, the one which caused him to be termed by Leibnitz, in words which have been often quoted, “plus quam nominalis.”47 It is quite true that when we predicate B of A—when we assert of A that it is a B—B must, if the assertion is true, be a name of A, i.e., a name applicable to A; one of the innumerable names which, in virtue of their signification, can be used as descriptive of A: but is this the information which we want to convey to the hearer? It is so when we are speaking only of names and their meaning, as when we enunciate a definition. In every other case, what we want to convey is a matter of fact, of which this relation between the names is but an incidental consequence. When we say, John walked out this morning, it is not a correct expression of the communication we desire to make, that “having walked out this morning” or “a person who has walked out this morning” are two of the innumerable names of John. They are only accidentally and momentarily names of John by reason of a certain event, and the information we mean to give is, that this event has happened. The event is not resolvable into an identity of meaning between names, but into an actual series of sensations that occurred to John, and a belief that any one who had been present and using his eyes would have had another series of sensations, which we call seeing John in the act of walking out. Again, when we say, Negroes are woolly-haired, we mean to make known to the hearer, not that woolly-haired is a name of every negro, but that wherever the cluster of sensations signified by the word negro, are experienced, the sensations signified by the word woolly-haired will be found either among them or conjoined with them. This is an order of sensations: and it is only in consequence of it that the name woolly-haired comes to be applicable to every individual of whom the term negro is a name.

There is nothing positively opposed to all this in the author’s text: indeed he must be considered to have meant this, when he said, that by means of substituting one name for another, a predication marks the order of our sensations and ideas. The omission consists in not remarking that what is distinctively signified by a predication, as such, is Belief in a certain order of sensations or ideas. And when this has been said, the Hobbian addition, that it does so by declaring the predicate to be a name of everything of which the subject is a name, may be omitted as surplusage, and as diverting the mind from the essential features of the case. Edition: current; Page: [130] Predication may thus be defined, a form of speech which expresses a belief that a certain coexistence or sequence of sensations or ideas, did, does, or, under certain conditions, would take place: and the reverse of this when the predication is negative. (Vol. I, pp. 161-4.)

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[Continuing his discussion of predication, James Mill says:] We have already seen, perhaps at sufficient length, the manner in which, and the end for which, the Genus, and the Species are predicated of any subject. It is, that the more comprehensive name, may be substituted for the less comprehensive; so that each of our marks may answer the purpose of marking, to as great an extent as possible. In this manner we substitute the word man, for example, for the word Thomas, when we predicate the Species of the individual, in the proposition, “Thomas is a man;” the word animal, for the word man, when we predicate the Genus of the Species, in the proposition, “man, is an animal.”

If what has been said in the preceding note is correct, it is a very inadequate view of the purpose for which a generic or specific name is predicated of any subject, to say that it is in order that “the more comprehensive name may be substituted for the less comprehensive, so that each of our marks may answer the purpose of marking to as great an extent as possible.” The more comprehensive and the less comprehensive name have each their uses, and the function of each not only could not be discharged with equal convenience by the other, but could not be discharged by it at all. The purpose, in predicating of anything the name of a class to which it belongs, is not to obtain a better or more commodious name for it, but to make known the fact of its possessing the attributes which constitute the class, and which are therefore signified by the class-name. It is evident that the name of one class cannot possibly perform this office vicariously for the name of another. (Vol. I, p. 165.)

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[Having dealt with Genus and Species, James Mill turns to the other three Classical predicables, Differentia, Proprium, and Accidens.]

The author says, that no very distinct boundaries are marked by the three terms, Differentia, Proprium, and Accidens, nor do they effect a scientific division.48 As Edition: current; Page: [131] used, however, by the more accurate of the school logicians, they do mark out distinct boundaries, and do effect a scientific division.

Of the attributes common to a class, some have been taken into consideration in forming the class, and are included in the signification of its name. Such, in the case of man, are rationality, and the outward form which we call the human. These attributes are its Differentiae; the fundamental differences which distinguish that class from the others most nearly allied to it. The school logicians were contented with one Differentia, whenever one was sufficient completely to circumscribe the class. But this was an error, because one attribute may be sufficient for distinction, and yet may not exhaust the signification of the class-name. All attributes, then, which are part of that signification, are set apart as Differentiae. Other attributes, though not included among those which constitute the class, and which are directly signified by its name, are consequences of some of those which constitute the class, and always found along with them. These attributes of the class are its Propria. Thus, to be bounded by three straight lines is the Differentia of a triangle: to have the sum of its three angles equal to two right angles, being a consequence of its Differentia, is a Proprium of it. Rationality is a Differentia of the class Man: to be able to build cities is a Proprium, being a consequence of rationality, but not, as that is, included in the meaning of the word Man. All other attributes of the class, which are neither included in the meaning of the name, nor are consequences of any which are included, are Accidents, however universally and constantly they may be true of the class; as blackness, of crows.

The author’s remark, that these three classes of Attributives differ from one another only in the accident of their application,49 is most just. There are not some attributes which are always Differentiae, and others which are always Propria, or always Accidents. The same attribute which is a Differentia of one genus or species, may be, and often is, a Proprium or an Accidens of others, and so on. (Vol. I, pp. 168-9.)

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[James Mill argues that] all Predication, is Predication of Genus or Species, since the Attributives classed under the titles of Differentia, Proprium, Accidens, cannot be used but as part of the name of a Species. But we have seen, above, that Predication by Genus and Species is merely the substitution of one name for another, the more general for the less general; the fact of the substitution being marked by the Copula. It follows, if all Predication is by Genus and Species, that all Predication is the substitution of one name for another, the more for the less general.

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It will be easy for the learner to make this material fact familiar to himself, by attending to a few instances. Thus, when it is said that man is rational, the term rational is evidently elliptical, and the word animal is understood. The word rational, according to grammatical language, is an adjective, and is significant only in conjunction with a substantive. According to logical language, it is a connotative term, and is without a meaning when disjoined from the object, the property or properties of which it connotes.

I am unable to feel the force of this remark. Every predication ascribes an attribute to a subject. Differentiae, Propria, and Accidents, agree with generic and specific names in expressing attributes, and the attributes they express are the whole of their meaning. I therefore cannot see why there should not be Predication of any of these, as well as of Genus and Species. These three Predicables, the author says, cannot be used but as part of the name of a genus or species: they are adjectives, and cannot be employed without a substantive understood. Allowing this to be logically, as it is grammatically, true, still the comprehensive and almost insignificant substantive, “thing” or “being,” fully answers the purpose; and the entire meaning of the predication is contained in the adjective. These adjectives, as the author remarks, are connotative terms; but so, on his own shewing elsewhere, are all concrete substantives, except proper names. Why, when it is said that man is rational, must “the word animal” be “understood?” Nothing is understood but that the being, Man, has the attribute of reason. If we say, God is rational, is animal understood? It was only the Greeks who classed their gods as Ζω̑α ἀθἀνατα.50

The exclusion of the three latter Predicables from predication probably recommended itself to the author as a support to his doctrine that all Predication is the substitution of one name for another, which he considered himself to have already demonstrated so far as regards Genus and Species. But proofs have just been given that in the predication of Genus and Species no more than in that of Differentia, Proprium, or Accidens, is anything which turns upon names the main consideration. Except in the case of definitions, and other merely verbal propositions, every proposition is intended to communicate a matter of fact: This subject has that attribute—This cluster of sensations is always accompanied by that sensation.

Let me remark by the way, that the word connote is here used by the author in what I consider its legitimate sense—that in which a name is said to connote a property or properties belonging to the object it is predicated of. He afterwards Edition: current; Page: [133] casts off this use of the term, and introduces one the exact reverse: but of this hereafter.51 (Vol. I, pp. 169-71.)

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[Immediately following the text quoted in the previous entry, James Mill remarks:] With respect, however, to such examples as this last, namely, all those in which the predicate consists of the genus and differentia, the proposition is a mere definition; and the predicate, and the subject, are precisely equivalent. Thus, “rational animal” is precisely the same class as “man;” and they are only two names for the same thing; the one a simple, or single-worded name; the other a complex, or doubled-worded, name. Such propositions therefore are, properly speaking, not Predications at all. When they are used for any other purpose than to make known, or to fix, the meaning of a term, they are useless, and are denominated identical propositions.

In this passage the author virtually gives up the part of his theory of Predication which is borrowed from Hobbes.52 According to his doctrine in this place, whenever the predicate and the subject are exactly equivalent, and “are only two names for the same thing,” the predication serves only “to make known, or to fix, the meaning of a term,” and “such propositions are, properly speaking, not Predications at all.” (Vol. I, p. 171.)

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[James Mill argues in detail (Vol. I, pp. 174-8) the pernicious effects of the copula verb’s being used also to denote existence, citing the verb to be in English. To this passage is appended a note by Findlater (pp. 178-82) in which he shows how this confusion is avoided in non-Indo-European languages. J.S. Mill’s note follows immediately on Findlater’s.]

The interesting and important philological facts adduced by Mr. Findlater, confirm and illustrate in a very striking manner the doctrine in the text, of the radical distinction between the functions of the copula in predication, and those of the substantive verb; by shewing that many languages have no substantive verb, no verb expressive of mere existence, and yet signify their predications by other means; and that probably all languages began without a substantive verb, though they must always have had predications.

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The confusion between these two different functions in the European languages, and the ambiguity of the verb To Be, which fulfils them both, are among the most important of the minor philosophical truths to which attention has been called by the author of the Analysis. As in the case of many other luminous thoughts, an approach is found to have been made to it by previous thinkers. Hobbes, though he did not reach it, came very close to it, and it was still more distinctly anticipated by Laromiguière, though without any sufficient perception of its value. It occurs in a criticism on a passage of Pascal, and in the following words.

Quand on dit, l’être est, etc. le mot est, ou le verbe, n’exprime pas la même chose que le mot être, sujet de la définition. Si j’énonce la proposition suivante: Dieu est existant, je ne voudrais pas dire assurément, Dieu existe existant: cela ne ferait pas un sens; de même, si je dis que Virgile est poëte, je ne veux pas donner à entendre que Virgile existe. Le verbe est, dans la proposition, n’exprime donc pas l’existence réelle; il n’exprime qu’un rapport spécial entre le sujet et l’attribut, le rapport du contenant au contenu. . . .*

Having thus hit upon an unobvious truth in the course of an argument directed to another purpose, he passes on and takes no further notice of it.

It may seem strange that the verb which signifies existence should have been employed in so many different languages as the sign of predication, if there is no real connection between the two meanings. But languages have been built up by the extension of an originally small number of words, with or without alterations of form, to express new meanings, the choice of the word being often determined by very distant analogies. In the present case, the analogy is not distant. All our predications are intended to declare the manner in which something affects, or would affect, ourselves or others. Our idea of existence is simply the idea of something which affects or would affect us somehow, without distinction of mode. Everything, therefore, which we can have occasion to assert of an existing thing, may be looked upon as a particular mode of its existence. Since snow is white, and since snow exists, it may be said to exist white; and if a sign was wanted by which to predicate white of snow, the word exists would be very likely to present itself. But most of our predications do relate to existing things: and this being so, it is in the ordinary course of the human mind that the same sign should be adhered to when we are predicating something of a merely imaginary thing (an abstraction, for instance) and that, being so used, it should create an association between the abstraction and the notion of real existence. (Vol. I, pp. 182-4.)

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[To illustrate the sequences in trains of thought connected by cause and effect, James Mill says:] let me suppose that I have a flint and steel in my hand, which I am about to strike, one against the other, but at that instant perceive a barrel of gunpowder open, close before me. I withhold the stroke in consequence of the train of thought which suggests to me the ultimate effect. If I have occasion to mark the train, I can only do it by a series of Predications, each of which marks a sequence in the train of causes and effects. “I strike the flint on the steel,” first sequence. “The stroke produces a spark,” second sequence. “The spark falls on gunpowder,” third sequence. “The spark ignites the gunpowder,” fourth sequence. “The gunpowder ignited makes an explosion,” fifth sequence. The ideas contained in these propositions must all have passed through my mind, and this is the only mode in which language enables me to mark them in their order.

It is necessary again to notice the consistent omission, throughout the author’s theory of Predication, of the element Belief. In the case supposed, the ideas contained in all the propositions might have passed through the mind, without our being led to assert the propositions. I might have thought of every step in the series of phenomena mentioned, might have pictured all of them in my imagination, and have come to the conclusion that they would not happen. I therefore should not have made, either in words or in thought, the predication, This gunpowder will explode if I strike the flint against the steel. Yet the same ideas would have passed through my mind in the same order, in which they stand in the text. The only deficient link would have been the final one, the Belief. (Vol. I, p. 187.)

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[To illustrate sequences connected by being “included under the same name” (Vol. I, p. 186), James Mill refers (p. 188) to syllogism as the leading example.] Let us consider the following very familiar instance. “Every tree is a vegetable: every oak is a tree: therefore, every oak is a vegetable.” This is evidently a process of naming. The primary idea is that of the object called an oak; from the name oak, I proceed to the name tree, finding that the name oak, is included in the name tree; and from the name tree, I proceed to the name vegetable, finding that the name tree is included in the name vegetable, and by consequence the name oak. This is the series of thoughts, which is marked in order, by the three propositions or predications of the syllogism.

For the present I shall only remark on this theory of the syllogism, that it must stand or fall with the theory of Predication of which it is the sequel. If, as I have maintained, the propositions which are the premises of the syllogism are not correctly described as mere processes of naming, neither is the formula by which a Edition: current; Page: [136] third proposition is elicited from these two a process of mere naming. What it is, will be considered hereafter.53 (Vol. I, p. 188.)

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[Discussing the predications in geometry, James Mill comments:] The amount of the three angles of a triangle, is twice a right angle. I arrive at this conclusion, as it is called, by a process of reasoning: that is to say, I find out a name “twice a right angle,” which much more distinctly points out to me a certain quantity, than my first name, “amount of the three angles of a triangle;” and the process by which I arrive at this name is a successive change of names, and nothing more; as any one may prove to himself by merely observing the steps of the demonstration.

I cannot see any propriety in the expression that when we infer the sum of the three angles of a triangle to be twice a right angle, the operation consists in finding a second name which more distinctly points out the quantity than the first name. When we assent to the proof of this theorem, we do much more than obtain a new and more expressive name for a known fact; we learn a fact previously unknown. It is true that one result of our knowledge of this theorem is to give us a name for the sum of the three angles, “the marking power of which is perfectly known to us:”54 but it was not for want of knowing the marking power of the phrase “sum of the three angles of a triangle” that we did not know what that sum amounted to. We knew perfectly what the expression “sum of the three angles” was appointed to mark. What we have obtained, that we did not previously possess, is not a better mark for the same thing, but an additional fact to mark—the fact which is marked by predicating of that sum, the phrase “twice a right angle.” (Vol. I, p. 191.)

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[Treating a matter to which he later returns, the class of words which are names of names, James Mill says:] Word is a generical name for all Names. It is not the name of a Thing, as chair is the name of a thing, or watch, or picture. But word is a name for these several names; chair is a word, watch is a word, picture is a word, and so of all other names. Thus grammatical and logical terms are names of names. The word noun, is the name of one class of words, verb of another, preposition of another, and so on. The word sentence, is the name of a series of words put together for a certain purpose; the word paragraph, the same; and so Edition: current; Page: [137] oration, discourse, essay, treatise, etc. The words genus and species, are not names of things, but of names. Genus is not the name of any thing called animal or any thing called body; it is a name of the names animal, body, and so on; the name animal is a genus, the name body is a genus; and in like manner is the name man a species, the name horse, the name crow, and so on. The name proposition, the name syllogism, are names of a series of words put together for a particular purpose; and so is the term definition; and the term argument. It will be easily seen that these words enter into Predication precisely on the same principles as other words. Either the more distinct is predicated of the less distinct, its equivalent; or the more comprehensive of the less comprehensive. Thus we say, that nouns and verbs are declinables; preposition and adverb indeclinables; where the more comprehensive terms are predicated of the less. Thus we say, that adjectives and verbs are attributes; where the more distinct is predicated of the less.

This exposition of the class of words which are properly names of names, belongs originally to Hobbes,55 and is highly important. They are a kind of names, the signification of which is very often misunderstood, and has given occasion to much hazy speculation. It should however be remarked that the words genus and species are not solely names of names; they are ambiguous. A genus never indeed means (as many of the schoolmen supposed) an abstract entity, distinct from all the individuals composing the class; but it often means the sum of those individuals taken collectively; the class as a whole, distinguished on the one hand from the single objects comprising it, and on the other hand from the class name. (Vol. I, pp. 192-3.)

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[In “Adverbs,” Sect. vi of Chap. iv, to illustrate his assertion that adverbs are always employed to modify the subject or predicate of a proposition, James Mill comments (Vol. I, p. 199):] “Anciently,” is an adverb of time. It is of the same import as the expression, “In distant past time.” It is applied to modify the subject, or predicate, of a proposition, as in the following example: “A number of men anciently in England had wives in common.” “Had wives in common,” is the predicate of the above proposition, and it is modified, or limited, in respect to time, by the word “anciently.” [He goes on to deal with adverbs of place, quality, and relation; J.S. Mill’s note comes at the end of the section.]

In many cases, and even in some of the examples given, the adverb does not modify either the subject or the predicate, but the application of the one to the Edition: current; Page: [138] other. “Anciently,” in the proposition cited, is intended to limit and qualify not men, nor community of wives, but the practice by men of community of wives: it is a circumstance affecting not the subject or the predicate, but the predication. The qualification of past and distant time attaches to the fact asserted, and to the copula, which is the mark of assertion. The reason of its seeming to attach to the predicate is because, as the author remarked in a previous section, the predicate, when a verb, includes the copula. (Vol. I, p. 200.)

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[At the end of Chap. v, “Consciousness,” a long note by Bain, commenting generally on the term, is appended (Vol. I, pp. 226-9); J.S. Mill’s note follows it.]

Those psychologists who think that being conscious of a feeling is something different from merely having the feeling, generally give the name Consciousness to the mental act by which we refer the feeling to ourself; or, in other words, regard it in its relation to the series of many feelings, which constitutes our sentient life. Many philosophers have thought that this reference is necessarily involved in the fact of sensation: we cannot, they think, have a feeling, without having the knowledge awakened in us at the same moment, of a Self who feels it. But of this as a primordial fact of our nature, it is impossible to have direct evidence; and a supposition may be made which renders its truth at least questionable. Suppose a being, gifted with sensation but devoid of memory; whose sensations follow one after another, but leave no trace of their existence when they cease. Could this being have any knowledge or notion of a Self? Would he ever say to himself, I feel; this sensation is mine? I think not. The notion of a Self is, I apprehend, a consequence of Memory. There is no meaning in the word Ego or I, unless the I of to-day is also the I of yesterday; a permanent element which abides through a succession of feelings, and connects the feeling of each moment with the remembrance of previous feelings. We have, no doubt, a considerable difficulty in believing that a sentient being can exist without the consciousness of Itself. But this difficulty arises from the irresistible association which we, who possess Memory, form in our early infancy between every one of our feelings and our remembrance of the entire series of feelings of which it forms a part, and consequently between every one of our feelings and our Self. A slight correction, therefore, seems requisite to the doctrine of the author laid down in the present chapter.56 There is a mental process, over and above the mere having a feeling, to which the word Consciousness is sometimes, and it can hardly be said improperly, applied, viz. the reference of the feeling to our Self. But this process, though Edition: current; Page: [139] separable in thought from the actual feeling, and in all probability not accompanying it in the beginning, is, from a very early period of our existence, inseparably attendant on it, though, like many other mental processes, it often takes place too rapidly to be remembered at the next instant.

Other thinkers, or perhaps the same thinkers on other occasions, employ the word Consciousness as almost a synonyme of Attention. We all know that we have a power, partly voluntary, though often acting independently of our will, of attending (as it is called) to a particular sensation or thought. The essence of Attention is that the sensation or thought is, as it were, magnified, or strengthened: it becomes more intense as a whole, and at the same time more distinct and definite in its various parts, like a visible object when a stronger light is thrown upon it: while all other sensations or thoughts which do or which might present themselves at the same moment are blunted and dimmed, or altogether excluded. This heightening of the feeling we may call, if we please, heightening the consciousness of the feeling; and it may be said that we are made more conscious of the feeling than we were before: but the expression is scarcely correct, for we are not more conscious of the feeling, but are conscious of more feeling.

In some cases we are even said to be, by an act of attention, made conscious of a feeling of which we should otherwise have been unconscious: and there is much difference of opinion as to what it is which really occurs in this case. The point has received some consideration in a former Note,57 but there may be advantage in again recalling it to remembrance. It frequently happens (examples of it are abundant in the Analysis) that certain of our sensations, or certain parts of the series of our thoughts, not being sufficiently pleasurable or painful to compel attention, and there being no motive for attending to them voluntarily, pass off without having been attended to; and, not having received that artificial intensification, they are too slight and too fugitive to be remembered. We often have evidence that these sensations or ideas have been in the mind; because, during their short passage, they have called up other ideas by association. A good example is the case of reading from a book, when we must have perceived and recognized the visible letters and syllables, yet we retain a remembrance only of the sense which they conveyed. In such cases many psychologists think that the impressions have passed through the mind without our being conscious of them.58 But to have feelings unconsciously, to have had them without being aware, is something like a contradiction. All we really know is that we do not remember having had them; whence we reasonably conclude that if we had them, we did not attend to them; and this inattention to our feelings is what seems to be here meant Edition: current; Page: [140] by being unconscious of them. Either we had the sensations or other feelings without attending to them, and therefore immediately forgot them, or we never, in reality, had them. This last has been the opinion of some of the profoundest psychologists. Even in cases in which it is certain that we once had these feelings, and had them with a lively consciousness (as of the letters and syllables when we were only learning to read) yet when through numberless repetitions the process has become so rapid that we no longer remember having those visual sensations, these philosophers think that they are elided,—that we cease to have them at all. The usual impressions are made on our organs by the written characters, and are transmitted to the brain, but these organic states, they think, pass away without having had time to excite the sensations corresponding to them, the chain of association being kept up by the organic states without need of the sensations. This was apparently the opinion of Hartley; and is distinctly that of Mr. Herbert Spencer. The conflicting suppositions are both consistent with the known facts of our mental nature. Which of them is the true, our present knowledge does not, I think, enable us to decide.

The author of the Analysis often insists on the important doctrine that we have many feelings, both of the physical and of the mental class, which, either because they are permanent and unchangeable, or for the contrary reason, that they are extremely fugitive and evanescent, and are at the same time uninteresting to us except for the mental processes they originate, we form the habit of not attending to; and this habit, after a time, grows into an incapacity; we become unable to attend to them, even if we wish. In such cases we are usually not aware that we have had the feelings; yet the author seems to be of opinion that we really have them. He says, for example, in the section on Muscular Sensations: “We know that the air is continually pressing upon our bodies. But the sensation being continual, without any call to attend to it, we lose from habit, the power of doing so. The sensation is as if it did not exist.”59 Is it not the most reasonable supposition that the sensation does not exist; that the necessary condition of sensation is change; that an unchanging sensation, instead of becoming latent, dwindles in intensity, until it dies away, and ceases to be a sensation? Mr. Bain expresses this mental law by saying, that a necessary condition of Consciousness is change; that we are conscious only of changes of state.60 I apprehend that change is necessary to consciousness of feeling, only because it is necessary to feeling: when there is no change, there is, not a permanent feeling of which we are unconscious, but no feeling at all.

In the concluding chapter of Mr. Bain’s great work, there is an enumeration of Edition: current; Page: [141] the various senses in which the word Consciousness is used.61 He finds them no fewer than thirteen. (Vol. I, pp. 229-32.)

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[J.S. Mill’s note comes at the end of Chap. vi, “Conception.”]

The doctrine of this chapter is as just as it is admirably stated. A conception is nothing whatever but a complex idea, and to conceive is to have a complex idea. But as there must always have been some cause why a second name is used when there is already a first, there is generally some difference in the occasions of their employment: and a recognition of this difference is necessary to the completeness of the exposition. It seems to me that conception and to conceive are phrases appropriated to the case in which the thing conceived is supposed to be something external to my own mind. I am not said to conceive my own thoughts; unless it be in the case of an invention, or mental creation; and even then, to conceive it, means to imagine it realized, so that it may be presented to myself or others as an external object. To conceive something is to understand what it is; to adapt my complex idea to something presented to me objectively. I am asked to conceive an iceberg: it is not enough that I form to myself some complex idea; it must be a complex idea which shall really resemble an iceberg, i.e. what is called an iceberg by other people. My complex idea must be made up of the elements in my mind which correspond to the elements making up the idea of an iceberg in theirs.

This is connected with one of the most powerful and misleading of the illusions of general language. The purposes of general names would not be answered, unless the complex idea connected with a general name in one person’s mind were composed of essentially the same elements as the idea connected with it in the mind of another. There hence arises a natural illusion, making us feel as if, instead of ideas as numerous as minds, and merely resembling one another, there were one idea, independent of individual minds, and to which it is the business of each to learn to make his private idea correspond. This is the Platonic doctrine of Ideas in all its purity:62 and as half the speculative world are Platonists without knowing it, hence it also is that in the writings of so many psychologists we read of the conception or the concept of so and so; as if there was a concept of a thing or of a class of things, other than the ideas in individual minds—a concept belonging to everybody, the common inheritance of the human race, but independent of any of Edition: current; Page: [142] the particular minds which conceive it. In reality, however, this common concept is but the sum of the elements which it is requisite for the purposes of discourse that people should agree with one another in including in the complex idea which they associate with a class name. As we shall presently see, these are only a part, and often but a small part, of each person’s complex idea, but they are the part which it is necessary should be the same in all. (Vol. I, pp. 236-7.)

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[In Chap. viii, “Classification,” developing further a position mentioned earlier, James Mill says:] Man first becomes acquainted with individuals. He first names individuals. But individuals are innumerable, and he cannot have innumerable names. He must make one name serve for many individuals. It is thus obvious, and certain, that men were led to class solely for the purpose of economizing in the use of names. Could the processes of naming and discourse have been as conveniently managed by a name for every individual, the names of classes, and the idea of classification, would never have existed. But as the limits of the human memory did not enable men to retain beyond a very limited number of names; and even if it had, as it would have required a most inconvenient portion of time, to run over in discourse, as many names of individuals, and of individual qualities, as there is occasion to refer to in discourse, it was necessary to have contrivances of abridgement; that is, to employ names which marked equally a number of individuals, with all their separate properties; and enabled us to speak of multitudes at once.

The doctrine that “men were led to class solely for the purpose of economizing in the use of names,” is here reasserted in the most unqualified terms. The author plainly says that if our memory had been sufficiently vast to contain a name for every individual, the names of classes and the idea of classification would never have existed. Yet how (I am obliged to ask) could we have done without them? We could not have dispensed with names to mark the points in which different individuals resemble one another: and these are class-names. The fact that we require names for the purpose of making affirmations—of predicating qualities—is in some measure recognised by the author, when he says “it would have required a most inconvenient portion of time to run over in discourse as many names of individuals and of individual qualities as there is occasion to refer to in discourse.” But what is meant by an individual quality? It is not individual qualities that we ever have occasion to predicate. It is true that the qualities of an object are only the various ways in which we or other minds are affected by it, and these affections are not the same in different objects, except in the sense in which the word same stands for exact similarity. But we never have occasion to predicate of an object the Edition: current; Page: [143] individual and instantaneous impressions which it produces in us. The only meaning of predicating a quality at all, is to affirm a resemblance. When we ascribe a quality to an object, we intend to assert that the object affects us in a manner similar to that in which we are affected by a known class of objects. A quality, indeed, in the custom of language, does not admit of individuality: it is supposed to be one thing common to many; which, being explained, means that it is the name of a resemblance among our sensations, and not a name of the individual sensations which resemble. Qualities, therefore, cannot be predicated without general names; nor, consequently, without classification. Wherever there is a general name there is a class: classification, and general names, are things exactly coextensive. It thus appears that, without classification, language would not fulfil its most important function. Had we no names but those of individuals, the names might serve as marks to bring those individuals to mind, but would not enable us to make a single assertion respecting them, except that one individual is not another. Not a particle of the knowledge we have of them could be expressed in words. (Vol. I, pp. 260-2.)

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[At the conclusion of Chap. viii, George Grote supplies a long note (Vol. I, pp. 271-87) on the Socratic philosophers’ notions of classification and abstraction; J.S. Mill’s note follows immediately.]

Rejecting the notion that classes and classification would not have existed but for the necessity of economizing names, we may say that objects are formed into classes on account of their resemblance. It is natural to think of like objects together; which is, indeed, one of the two fundamental laws of association. But the resembling objects which are spontaneously thought of together, are those which resemble each other obviously, in their superficial aspect. These are the only classes which we should form unpremeditatedly, and without the use of expedients. But there are other resemblances which are not superficially obvious; and many are not brought to light except by long experience, or observation carefully directed to the purpose; being mostly resemblances in the manner in which the objects act on, or are acted on by, other things. These more recondite resemblances are often those which are of greatest importance to our interests. It is important to us that we should think of those things together, which agree in any particular that materially concerns us. For this purpose, besides the classes which form themselves in our minds spontaneously by the general law of association, we form other classes artificially, that is, we take pains to associate mentally together things which we wish to think of together, but which are not sufficiently associated by the spontaneous action of association by resemblance. The grand instrument we Edition: current; Page: [144] employ in forming these artificial associations, is general names. We give a common name to all the objects, we associate each of the objects with the name, and by their common association with the name they are knit together in close association with one another.

But in what manner does the name effect this purpose, of uniting into one complex class-idea all the objects which agree with one another in certain definite particulars? We effect this by associating the name in a peculiarly strong and close manner with those particulars. It is, of course, associated with the objects also; and the name seldom or never calls up the ideas of the class-characteristics unaccompanied by any other qualities of the objects. All our ideas are of individuals, or of numbers of individuals, and are clothed with more or fewer of the attributes which are peculiar to the individuals thought of. Still, a class-name stands in a very different relation to the definite resemblances which it is intended to mark, from that in which it stands to the various accessory circumstances which may form part of the image it calls up. There are certain attributes common to the entire class, which the class-name was either deliberately selected as a mark of, or, at all events, which guide us in the application of it. These attributes are the real meaning of the class-name—are what we intend to ascribe to an object when we call it by that name. With these the association of the name is close and strong: and the employment of the same name by different persons, provided they employ it with a precise adherence to the meaning, ensures that they shall all include these attributes in the complex idea which they associate with the name. This is not the case with any of the other qualities of the individual objects, even if they happen to be common to all the objects, still less if they belong only to some of them. The class-name calls up, in every mind that hears or uses it, the idea of one or more individual objects, clothed more or less copiously with other qualities than those marked by the name; but these other qualities may, consistently with the purposes for which the class is formed and the name given, be different with different persons, and with the same person at different times. What images of individual horses the word horse shall call up, depends on such accidents as the person’s taste in horses, the particular horses he may happen to possess, the descriptions he last read, or the casual pecularities of the horses he recently saw. In general, therefore, no very strong or permanent association, and especially no association common to all who use the language, will be formed between the word horse and any of the qualities of horses but those expressly or tacitly recognised as the foundations of the class. The complex ideas thus formed consisting of an inner nucleus of definite elements always the same, imbedded in a generally much greater number of elements indefinitely variable, are our ideas of classes; the ideas connected with general names; what are called General Notions: which are neither real objective entities, as the Realists held, nor mere names, as supposed to be maintained by the Nominalists, nor abstract ideas excluding all properties not common to the class, such as Locke’s famous Idea of a triangle that is neither equilateral nor isosceles Edition: current; Page: [145] nor scalene.63 We cannot represent to ourselves a triangle with no properties but those common to all triangles: but we may represent it to ourselves sometimes in one of those three forms, sometimes in another, being aware all the while that all of them are equally consistent with its being a triangle.

One important consequence of these considerations is, that the meaning of a class-name is not the same thing with the complex idea associated with it. The complex idea associated with the name man, includes, in the mind of every one, innumerable simple ideas besides those which the name is intended to mark, and in the absence of which it would not be predicated. But this multitude of simple ideas which help to swell the complex idea are infinitely variable, and never exactly the same in any two persons, depending in each upon the amount of his knowledge, and the nature, variety, and recent date of his experience. They are therefore no part of the meaning of the name. They are not the association common to all, which it was intended to form, and which enables the name to be used by all in the same manner, to be understood in a common sense by all, and to serve, therefore, as a vehicle for the communication, between one and another, of the same thoughts. What does this, is the nucleus of more closely associated ideas, which is the constant element in the complex idea of the class, both in the same mind at different times, and in different minds.

It is proper to add, that the class-name is not solely a mark of the distinguishing class-attributes, it is a mark also of the objects. The name man does not merely signify the qualities of animal life, rationality, and the human form, it signifies all individual men. It even signifies these in a more direct way than it signifies the attributes, for it is predicated of the men, but not predicated of the attributes; just as the proper name of an individual man is predicated of him. We say, This is a man, just as we say, This is John Thompson: and if John Thompson is the name of one man, Man is, in the same manner, a name of all men. A class name, being thus a name of the various objects composing the class, signifies two distinct things, in two different modes of signification. It signifies the individual objects which are the class, and it signifies the common attributes which constitute the class. It is predicated only of the objects; but when predicated, it conveys the information that these objects possess those attributes. Every concrete class-name is thus a connotative name. It marks both the objects and their common attributes, or rather, that portion of their common attributes in virtue of which they have been made into a class. It denotes the objects, and, in a mode of speech lately revived from the old logicians, it connotes the attributes. The author of the Analysis employs the word connote in a different manner; we shall presently examine which of the two is best.64

We are now ready to consider whether the author’s account of the ideas Edition: current; Page: [146] connected with General Names is a true and sufficient one. It is best expressed in his own words.

The word Man, we shall say, is first applied to an individual; it is first associated with the idea of that individual, and acquires the power of calling up the idea of him; it is next applied to another individual, and acquires the power of calling up the idea of him; so of another, and another, till it has become associated with an indefinite number, and has acquired the power of calling up an indefinite number of those ideas indifferently. What happens? It does call up an indefinite number of the ideas of individuals, as often as it occurs, and calling them up in close connexion, it forms them into a species of complex idea. . . . When the word man calls up the ideas of an indefinite number of individuals, not only of all those to whom I have individually given the name, but of all those to whom I have in imagination given it, or imagine it will ever be given, and forms all those ideas into one,—it is evidently a very complex idea, and therefore indistinct; and this indistinctness has doubtless been the main cause of the mystery which has appeared to belong to it. That this however is the process, is an inevitable result of the laws of association.65

In brief, my idea of a Man is a complex idea compounded of the ideas of all the men I have ever known and of all those I have ever imagined, knit together into a kind of unit by a close association.

The author’s description of the manner in which the class-association begins to be formed, is true and instructive; but does any one’s idea of a man actually include all that the author finds in it? By an inevitable result of the laws of association, it is impossible to form an idea of a man in the abstract; the class-attributes are always represented in the mind as part of an image of an individual, either remembered or imagined; this individual may vary from time to time, and several images of individuals may present themselves either alternatively or in succession: but is it necessary that the name should recal images of all the men I ever knew or imagined, or even all of whom I retain a remembrance? In no person who has seen or known many men, can this be the case. Apart from the ideas of the common attributes, the other ideas whether of attributes or of individual men, which enter into the complex idea, are indefinitely variable not only in kind but in quantity. Some people’s complex idea of the class is extremely meagre, that of others very ample. Sometimes we know a class only from its definition, i.e. from an enumeration of its class-attributes, as in the case of an object which we have only read of in scientific books: in such a case the idea raised by the class-name will not be limited to the class-attributes, for we are unable to conceive any object otherwise than clothed with miscellaneous attributes: but these, not being derived from experience of the objects, may be such as the objects never had, nor could have; while nevertheless the class, and the class-name, answer their proper purpose; they cause us to group together all the things possessing the class-attributes, and they inform us that we may expect those attributes in anything of which that name is predicated.

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The defect, as it seems to me, of the view taken of General Names in the text, is that it ignores this distinction between the meaning of a general name, and the remainder of the idea which the general name calls up. That remainder is uncertain, variable, scanty in some cases, copious in others, and connected with the name by a very slight tie of association, continually overcome by counter-associations. The only part of the complex idea that is permanent in the same mind, or common to several minds, consists of the distinctive attributes marked by the class-name. Nothing else is universally present, though something else is always present: but whatever else be present, it is through these only that the class-name does its work, and effects the end of its existence. We need not therefore be surprised that these attributes, being all that is of importance in the complex idea, should for a long time have been supposed to be all that is contained in it. The truest doctrine which can be laid down on the subject seems to be this—that the idea corresponding to a class-name is the idea of a certain constant combination of class-attributes, accompanied by a miscellaneous and indefinitely variable collection of ideas of individual objects belonging to the class. (Vol. I, pp. 287-93.)

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[In treating of “Abstraction” (Chap. ix), James Mill turns to the generalizing of adjectives that serve to differentiate.] Let us take the word “black” for an example; and let us suppose that we apply this adjective first to the word man. We say “black man.” But we speedily see that for the same reason for which we say black man we may say black horse, black cow, black coat, and so on. The word black is thus associated with innumerable modifications of the sensation black. By frequent repetition, and the gradual strengthening of the association, these modifications are at last called up in such rapid succession that they appear commingled, and no longer many ideas, but one. Black is therefore no longer an individual but a general name. It marks not the particular black of a particular individual; but the black of every individual, and of all individuals.

The example which the author has here selected of a general name, sets in a strong light the imperfection of the theory of general names, laid down by him in the preceding chapter. A name like “black,” which marks a simple sensation, is an extreme case of the inapplicability of the theory. Can it be maintained that the idea called up in our minds by the word black, is an idea compounded of ideas of black men, black horses, black cows, black coats, and the like? If I can trust my own consciousness, the word need not, and generally does not, call up any idea but that of a single black surface. It is still not an abstract idea, but the idea of an individual object. It is not a mere idea of colour; it is that, combined with ideas of extension Edition: current; Page: [148] and figure, always present but extremely vague, because varying, even from one moment to the next. These vague ideas of an uncertain extension and figure, combined with the perfectly definite idea of a single sensation of colour, are, to my consciousness, the sole components of the complex idea associated with the word black. I am unable to find in that complex idea the ideas of black men, horses, or other definite things, though such ideas may of course be recalled by it.

In such a case as this, the idea of a black colour fills by itself the place of the inner nucleus of ideas knit together by a closer association, which I have described as forming the permanent part of our ideas of classes of objects, and the meaning of the class-names. (Vol. I, p. 297.)

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[James Mill returns to the term connotative, saying:] I shall find much convenience in using the term notation to point out the sensation or sensations which are peculiarly marked by such words, the term connotation to point out the clusters which they mark along with this their principal meaning.

Thus the word, black, notes that of which black is more peculiarly the name, a particular colour; it connotes the clusters with the names of which it is joined: in the expression, black man, it connotes man; black horse, it connotes horse; and so of all other cases. The ancient Logicians used these terms, in the inverse order; very absurdly, in my opinion.

The word Connote, with its substantive Connotation, was used by the old logicians in two senses; a wider, and a narrower sense. The wider is that in which, up to this place, the author of the Analysis has almost invariably used it; and is the sense in which he defined it, in a note to section 5 of his first chapter.

There is a large class of words which denote two things both together; but the one perfectly distinguishable from the other. Of these two things, also, it is observable, that such words express the one primarily as it were; the other in a way which may be called secondary. Thus white, in the phrase white horse, denotes two things, the colour and the horse; but it denotes the colour primarily, the horse secondarily. We shall find it very convenient to say, therefore, that it notes the primary, connotes the secondary signification.66

This use of terms is attended with the difficulty, that it may often be disputed which of the significations is primary and which secondary. In the example given, most people would agree with the author that the colour is the primary signification; the word being associated with the objects, only through its previous association with the colour. But take the other of the two words, horse. That too is connotative, and in the same manner. It signifies any and every individual horse, Edition: current; Page: [149] and it also signifies those attributes common to horses, which led to their being classed together and receiving that common name. Which, in this case, is the primary, and which the second signification? The author would probably say, that in this case, unlike the other, horse is the primary signification, the attributes the secondary. Yet in this equally with the former case, the attributes are the foundation of the meaning: a thing is called a horse to express its resemblance to other horses; and the resemblance consists of the common attributes. The question might be discussed, pro and con, by many arguments, without any conclusive result. The difference between primary and secondary acceptations is too uncertain, and at best too superficial, to be adopted as the logical foundation of the distinction between the two modes of signification.

The author, however, has, throughout the preceding chapters, regarded words as connoting any number of things which though included in their signification, are not, in his judgment, what they primarily signify. He said, for example, that a verb notes an action, and connotes the agent (as either me, thee, or some third person), the number of agents (as one or more), the time (as past, present, or future), and three modes, “that in which there is no reference to anything preceding, that in which there is a reference to something preceding, and that in which reference is made to the will of one of the Persons.”67 I cite this complicated case, to shew by a striking example the great latitude with which the author uses the word Connote.

But in the present chapter he follows the example of some of the old logicians in adopting a second and more restricted meaning, expressive of the peculiar connotation which belongs to all concrete general names; viz. that twofold manner of signification, by which every name of a class signifies, on the one hand, all and each of the individual things composing the class, and on the other hand the common attributes, in consideration of which the class is formed and the name given, and which we intend to affirm of every object to which we apply the name. It is difficult to overrate the importance of keeping in view this distinction, or the danger of overlooking it when not made prominent by an appropriate phrase. The word Connote, which had been employed for this purpose, had fallen into disuse. But, though agreeing with the old logicians in using the word Connote to express this distinction, the author exactly reverses their employment of it. In their phraseology, the class-name connotes the attributes: in his, it notes the attributes, and connotes the objects. And he declares that in his opinion, their mode of employing the term is very absurd.68

We have now to consider which of these two modes of employing it is really the most appropriate.

A concrete general name may be correctly said to be a mark, in a certain way, Edition: current; Page: [150] both for the objects and for their common attributes. But which of the two is it conformable to usage to say that it is the name of? Assuredly, the objects. It is they that are called by the name. I am asked, what is this object called? and I answer, a horse. I should not make this answer if I were asked what are these attributes called. Again, I am asked, what is it that is called a horse? and I answer, the object which you see; not the qualities which you see. Let us now suppose that I am asked, what is it that is called black; I answer, all things that have this particular colour. Black is a name of all black things. The name of the colour is not black, but blackness. The name of a thing must be the name which is predicated of the thing, as a proper name is predicated of the person or place it belongs to. It is scarcely possible to speak with precision, and adhere consistently to the same mode of speech, if we call a word the name of anything but that which it is predicated of. Accordingly the old logicians, who had not yet departed widely from the custom of common speech, considered all concrete names as the names of objects, and called nothing the name of an attribute but abstract names.

Now there is considerable incongruity in saying that a word connotes, that is, signifies secondarily, the very thing which it is a name of. To connote, is to mark something along with, or in addition to, something else. A name can hardly be said to mark the thing which it is a name of in addition to some other thing. If it marks any other thing, it marks it in addition to the thing of which it is itself the name. In the present case, what is marked in addition, is that which is the cause of giving the name; the attributes, the possession of which by a thing entitles it to that name. It therefore seems more conformable to the original acceptation of the word Connote, that we should say of names like man or black that they connote humanity or blackness, and denote, or are names of, men and black objects; rather than, with the author of the Analysis, that they note the attributes, and connote the things which possess the attributes.

If this mode of using the terms is more consonant to propriety of language, so also is it more scientifically convenient. It is of extreme importance to have a technical expression exclusively consecrated to signify the peculiar mode in which the name of a class marks the attributes in virtue of which it is a class, and is called by the name. The verb “to note,” employed by the author of the Analysis as the correlative of “to connote,” is far too general to be confined to so specific a use, nor does the author intend so to confine it. “To connote,” on the contrary, is a phrase which has been handed down to us in this restricted acceptation, and is perfectly fitted to be used as a technical term. There is no more important use of a term than that of fixing attention upon something which is in danger of not being sufficiently taken notice of. This is emphatically the case with the attribute-signification of the names of objects. That signification has not been seen clearly, and what has been seen of it confusedly has bewildered or misled some of the most distinguished philosophers. From Hobbes to Hamilton, those who have attempted to penetrate the secret of the higher logical operations of the intellect have Edition: current; Page: [151] continually missed the mark for want of the light which a clear conception of the connotation of general names spreads over the subject. There is no fact in psychology which more requires a technical name; and it seems eminently desirable that the words Connote and Connotative should be exclusively employed for this purpose; and it is for this purpose that I have myself invariably employed them.

In studying the Analysis, it is of course necessary to bear in mind that the author does not use the words in this sense, but sometimes in a sense much more vague and indefinite, and, when definite, in a sense the reverse of this. It may seem an almost desperate undertaking, in the case of an unfamiliar term, to attempt to rectify the usage introduced by the actual reviver of the word: and nothing could have induced me to attempt it, but a deliberate conviction that such a technical expression is indispensable to philosophy, and that the author’s mode of employing these words unfits them for the purpose for which they are needed, and for which they are well adapted. I fear, however, that I have rarely succeeded in associating the words with their precise meaning, anywhere but in my own writings.69 The word Connote, not unfrequently meets us of late in philosophical speculations, but almost always in a sense more lax than the laxest in which it is employed in the Analysis, meaning no more than to imply. To such an extent is this the case, that able thinkers and writers do not always even confine the expression to names, but actually speak of Things as connoting whatever, in their opinion, the existence of the Things implies or presupposes. (Vol. I, pp. 299-304.)

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[James Mill asserts that he has shown] the real nature of abstract terms; a subject which has in general presented such an appearance of mystery. They are simply the concrete terms, with the connotation dropped. And this has in it, surely, no mystery at all.

After having said that a concrete general name notes an attribute, that is, one of the sensations in a cluster, and connotes the objects which have the attribute, i.e. the clusters of which that sensation forms a part;70 the author proceeds to say that an abstract name is the concrete name with the connotation dropped.

This seems a very indirect and circuitous mode of making us understand what an abstract name signifies. Instead of aiming directly at the mark, it goes round it. It tells us that one name signifies a part of what another name signifies, leaving us to Edition: current; Page: [152] infer what part. A connotative name with the connotation dropped, is a phrase requiring to be completed by specifying what is the portion of signification left. The concrete name with its connotation signifies an attribute, and also the objects which have the attribute. We are now instructed to drop the latter half of the signification, the objects. What then remains? The attribute. Why not then say at once that the abstract name is the name of the attribute? Why tell us that x is a plus b with b dropped, when it was as easy to tell us that x is a?

The noticeable thing however is that if a stands merely for the sensation, x really is a little more than a: the connotation (in the author’s sense of the term) of the concrete name is not wholly dropped in the abstract name. The term blackness, and every other abstract term, includes in its signification the existence of a black object, though without declaring what it is. That is indeed the distinction between the name of an attribute, and the name of a kind or type of sensation. Name of sensations by themselves are not abstract but concrete names. They mark the type of the sensation, but they do not mark it as emanating from any object. “The sensation of black” is a concrete name, which expresses the sensation apart from all reference to an object. “Blackness” expresses the same sensation with reference to an object, by which the sensation is supposed to be excited. Abstract names thus still retain a limited amount of connotation in both the author’s senses of the term—the vaguer and the more specific sense. It is only in the sense to which I am anxious to restrict the term, that any abstract name is without connotation.

An abstract name, then, may be defined as the name of an attribute; and, in the ultimate analysis, as the name of one or more of the sensations of a cluster; not by themselves, but considered as part of any or all of the various clusters, into which that type of sensations enters as a component part. (Vol. I, pp. 304-5.)

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[James Mill says that the “infinitive mood” is an “abstract term,”] with this peculiarity, that, though it leaves out the connotation of the actor, it retains the connotation of time.

The infinitive mood does not always express time. At least, it often expresses it aoristically, without distinction of tense. “To love” is as abstract a name as “love,” “to fear,” as “fear”: they are applied equally to past, present, and future. The infinitives of the past and future, as amavisse, amaturus esse, do, however, include in their signification a particular time. (Vol. I, p. 306.)

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[James Mill suggests that in Latin the formation of abstract terms from verbs (by the addition of tio) is the cause of their having both active and passive signification, and laments that the defect has been handed on to English.] This ambiguity the Greek language happily avoided: thus it had πρα̑χις and πρα̑γμα, the first for the active signification of actio, the latter the passive.

I apprehend that πραγμα is not an abstract but a concrete term, and does not express the attribute of being done, but the thing done—the effect which results from the completed action. (Vol. I, p. 308.)

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[To James Mill’s discussion in Chap. x, “Memory,” of the act of trying to remember, Bain adds the following note, to which J.S. Mill’s note, in square brackets, is appended:] This process seems best expressed by laying down a law of Compound or Composite Association; under which a plurality of feeble links of connexion may be a substitute for one powerful and self-sufficing link.

The laws of compound association are the subject of one of the most original and profound chapters of Mr. Bain’s treatise.* (Vol. I, p. 323.)

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That words alone, without ideas, suggest one another in a train, is proved by our power of repeating a number of words of an unknown language.

There is here a lapse, of mere expression. The meaning is not that words suggest one another without ideas; words do not suggest words, but the ideas of words. The author intended to say that words, or the ideas of them, often suggest the ideas of other words (forming a series) without suggesting along with them any ideas of the things which those words signify. (Vol. I, p. 327.)

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[James Mill asserts that, in memory,] there is not only the idea of the thing remembered; there is also the idea of my having seen it. Now these two, 1, the idea Edition: current; Page: [154] of the thing, 2, the idea of my having seen it, combined, make up, it will not be doubted, the whole of that state of consciousness which we call memory.

The doctrine which the author thinks “will not be doubted” is more than doubted by most people, and in my judgment rightly. To complete the memory of seeing the thing, I must have not only the idea of the thing, and the idea of my having seen it, but the belief of my having seen it; and even this is not always enough; for I may believe on the authority of others that I have seen a thing which I have no remembrance of seeing. (Vol. I, p. 329.)

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[J.S. Mill’s note is appended to the end of Chap. x, “Memory.”]

The only difficulty about Memory, when once the laws of Association are understood, is the difference between it and Imagination; but this is a difference which will probably long continue to perplex philosophers. The author finds in Memory, besides the idea of the fact remembered, two other ideas: “the idea of my present self, the remembering self, and the idea of my past self, the remembered or witnessing self:”71 and a supposed rapid repetition in thought, of the whole of the impressions which I received between the time remembered and the time of remembering. But (apart from the question whether we really do repeat in thought, however summarily, all this series) explaining memory by Self seems very like explaining a thing by the thing. For what notion of Self can we have, apart from Memory? The fact of remembering, i.e. of having an idea combined with the belief that the corresponding sensation was actually felt by me, seems to be the very elementary fact of Self, the origin and foundation of the idea; presupposed in our having the very complex notion of a Self, which is here introduced to explain it. As, however, the author admits that the phenomenon of Belief, and the notions of Time and of Personal Identity, must be taken into account in order to give a complete explanation of Memory, any further remarks had better be deferred until these subjects have been regularly brought under our consideration.72 (Vol. I, pp. 339-40.)

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I take memory first, and judgment last, from no other principle of arrangement, Edition: current; Page: [155] than facility of exposition; and I have in this way found it convenient to treat of judgment as a case of belief.

How is it possible to treat of Belief without including in it Memory and Judgment? Memory is a case of belief. In what does Memory differ from Imagination, except in the belief that what it represents did really take place? Judgment, in its popular acceptation, is Belief resulting from deliberate examination, in other words, Belief grounded on evidence: while in its philosophical sense it is coextensive, if not synonymous, with Belief itself. I do not know how it is possible to distinguish a judgment from any other process of the mind, except by its being an act of belief. (Vol. I, p. 342.)

* * * * *

[James Mill argues that] to have a sensation, and to believe that we have it, are not distinguishable things. When I say “I have a sensation,” and say, “I believe that I have it,” I do not express two states of consciousness, but one and the same state. A sensation is a feeling; but a feeling, and the belief of it are the same thing. The observation applies equally to ideas. When I say I have the idea of the sun, I express the same thing, exactly, as when I say, that I believe I have it. The feeling is one, the names, only, are two. [A note to this passage by Bain, which is followed by J.S. Mill’s note, reads:] In the case of a present reality, belief has no place; it can be introduced only by a fiction or a figure. The believing state comes into operation when something thought of is still remote, and attainable by an intermediate exertion. The fact “I see the sun” is full fruition: the fact that I can see the sun by going out of doors affords scope for belief or disbelief.

The difference between Mr. Bain and the author is but in language and classification. It is necessary for the reader of the Analysis to remember, that the author uses the word Belief as the most general term for every species of conviction or assurance; the assurance of what is before our eyes, as well as of that which we only remember or expect; of what we know by direct perception, as well as of what we accept on the evidence of testimony or of reasoning: all this we are convinced or persuaded of; all this, in the author’s language, we believe. Mr. Bain, on the other hand, like Sir William Hamilton and many others, restricts the term to those cases of conviction which are short of direct intuition.73 (Vol. I, p. 343.)

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Besides the sensation of colour, I have . . . the belief of a certain distance, at which I see the rose; and that of a certain figure, consisting of leaves disposed in a certain form. I believe that I see this distance and form; in other words, perceive it by the eye, as immediately as I perceive the colour. Now this last part of the process has been explained by various philosophers. There is no dispute, or uncertainty, about the matter. All men admit, that this, one of the most remarkable of all cases of belief, is wholly resolvable into association.

“All men admit.” Certainly not all men; though, at the time when the author wrote, it might be said, with some plausibility, all psychologists. Unfortunately this can no longer be said: Mr. Samuel Bailey has demanded a rehearing of the question, and has pronounced a strong and reasoned opinion on the contrary side; and his example has been followed by several other writers: but without, in my opinion, at all weakening the position which since the publication of Berkeley’s Essay on Vision, had been almost unanimously maintained by philosophers.74 (Vol. I, p. 345.)

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That a cause means, and can mean nothing to the human mind, but constant antecedent, is no longer a point in dispute.

Here again the author takes too sanguine a view of the amount of agreement hitherto attained among metaphysical philosophers. “That a cause means, and can mean, nothing to the human mind but constant antecedent” is so far from being “no longer a point in dispute” that it is denied with vehemence by a large numerical majority of philosophers; and its denial is perhaps the principal badge of one of the Edition: current; Page: [157] two schools which at this, as at most other times, bisect the philosophical world—the intuitional school and the experiential. (Vol. I, p. 352.)

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[James Mill asserts that the name given to the “supposed cause of supposed causes” is the “Substratum,” and comments that in a regressive search there is no reason to stop there.] The Barbarian, in accounting for the support of the earth, placed it on the back of a great elephant, and the great elephant on the back of a great tortoise; but neither himself, nor those whom he instructed, were carried by their habits of association any farther.

It is a question worth considering, why that demand for a cause of everything, which has led to the invention of so many fabulous or fictitious causes, so generally stops short at the first step, without going on to imagine a cause of the cause. But this is quite in the ordinary course of human proceedings. It is no more than we should expect, that these frivolous speculations should be subject to the same limitations as reasonable ones. Even in the region of positive facts—in the explaining of phenomena by real, not imaginary, causes—the first semblance of an explanation generally suffices to satisfy the curiosity which prompts the inquiry. The things men first care to inquire about are those which meet their senses, and among which they live; of these they feel curious as to the origin, and look out for a cause, even if it be but an abstraction. But the cause once found, or imagined, and the familiar fact no longer perplexing them with the feeling of an unsolved enigma, they do not, unless unusually possessed by the speculative spirit, occupy their minds with the unfamiliar antecedent sufficiently to be troubled respecting it with any of the corresponding perplexity. (Vol. I, p. 354.)

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[James Mill says:] There are certain things which I consider as marks or signs of sensations in other creatures. The Belief follows the signs, and with a force, not exceeded in any other instance. But the interpretation of signs is wholly a case of association, as the extraordinary phenomena of language abundantly testify. [Bain comments, in a note to which J.S. Mill’s comment is appended (in square brackets):] This is true in by far the greater number of instances. Nevertheless, there are some of the signs of feeling that have an intrinsic efficacy, on very manifest grounds. While the meanings of the smile and the frown could have been reversed, if the association had been the other way, there is an obvious suitability Edition: current; Page: [158] in the harsh stunning tones of the voice to signify anger and to inspire dread, and a like suitability in the gentle tones to convey affection and kindly feeling. We might have contracted the opposing associations, had the facts been so arranged, just as in times of peace, we associate joy with deafening salvos of artillery; and as loud, sharp-pealing laughter serves in the expression of agreeable feeling. But there is a gain of effect when the signs employed are such as to chime in, by intrinsic efficacy, with the associated meanings. On this coincidence depend the refinements of elocution, oratory, and stage display.

The fact here brought to notice by Mr. Bain is, that certain of the natural expressions of emotion have a kind of analogy to the emotions they express, which makes an opening for an instinctive interpretation of them, independently of experience. But if this be so (and there can be little doubt that it is so) the suggestion takes place by resemblance, and therefore still by association. (Vol. I, p. 356.)

* * * * *

[James Mill says (Vol. I, p. 362):] The fundamental law of association is, that when two things have been frequently found together, we never perceive or think of the one without thinking of the other. [He goes on to elucidate, ending the passage with the remark:] I can no more have the idea of a stone let go in the air, and not have the idea of its dropping to the ground, than I can have the idea of the stone, and not have it, at the same time.

The theory maintained so powerfully and with such high intellectual resources by the author, that Belief is but an inseparable association, will be examined at length in a note at the end of the chapter.75 Meanwhile let it be remarked, that the case of supposed inseparable association given in this passage, requires to be qualified in the statement. We cannot, indeed, think of a stone let go in the air, without having the idea of its falling; but this association is not so strictly inseparable as to disable us from having the contrary idea. There are analogies in our experience which enable us without difficulty to form the imagination of a stone suspended in the air. The case appears to be one in which we can conceive both opposites, falling and not falling; the incompatible images not, of course, combining, but alternating in the mind. Which of the two carries belief with it, depends on what is termed Evidence. (Vol. I, p. 364.)

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[In a footnote, James Mill comments:] Locke, at a period subsequent to the publication of his Essay, seems to have become more sensible of the importance of association. These are his words:—“I think I shall make some other additions to be put into your Latin translation, and particularly concerning the connexion of ideas, which has not, that I know, been hitherto considered, and has, I guess, a greater influence upon our minds, than is usually taken notice of.”* [J.S. Mill’s note is appended, in square brackets.]

aWhen Locke wrote the letter here quoted, he had not yet written the chapter of his Essay which treats of the Association of Ideas. That chapter did not appear in the original edition, but was first inserted in the fourth, published in 1690.76 The intention, therefore, which he expressed to Molineux, has received its fulfilment; and the passage quoted further on in the text, is part of the “addition” which he contemplated.a (Vol. I, p. 377.)

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[To the end of Chap. xi, “Belief,” a note by Bain is appended, followed by J.S. Mill’s.]

The analysis of Belief presented in this chapter, brings out the conclusion that all cases of Belief are simply cases of indissoluble association: that there is no generic distinction, but only a difference in the strength of the association, between a case of belief and a case of mere imagination: that to believe a succession or coexistence between two facts is only to have the ideas of the two facts so strongly and closely associated, that we cannot help having the one idea when we have the other.

If this can be proved, it is the greatest of all the triumphs of the Association Psychology. To first appearance, no two things can be more distinct than thinking of two things together, and believing that they are joined together in the outward world. Nevertheless, that the latter state of mind is only an extreme case of the former, is, as we see, the deliberate doctrine of the author of the Analysis; and it has also in its favour the high psychological authority of Mr. Herbert Spencer.77 Edition: current; Page: [160] Mr. Bain, in the preceding note, as well as in his systematic work, looks at the phenomenon from another side, and pronounces that what constitutes Belief is the power which an idea has obtained over the Will.78 It is well known and understood that a mere idea may take such possession of the mind as to exercise an irresistible control over the active faculties, even independently of Volition, and sometimes in opposition to it. This, which Mr. Bain calls the power of a Fixed Idea, is exemplified in the cases of what is called fascination: the impulse which a person looking from a precipice sometimes feels to throw himself down it; and the cases of crimes said to have been committed by persons who abhor them, because that very horror has filled their minds with an intense and irrepressible idea of the act. Since an idea is sometimes able to overpower volition, it is no wonder that an idea should determine volition; as it does whenever we, under the influence of the idea of a pleasure or of a pain, will that which obtains for us the pleasure or averts the pain. In this voluntary action, our conduct is grounded upon a relation between means and an end; (that is, upon a constant conjunction of facts in the way of causation, ultimately resolvable into a case of resemblance and contiguity): in common and unanalytical language, upon certain laws of nature on which we rely. Our reliance is the consequence of an association formed in our minds between the supposed cause and its effect, resulting either from personal experience of their conjunction, from the teachings of other people, or from accidental appearances. Now, according to Mr. Bain, when this association between the means and the end, the end calling up the idea of the means, arrives at the point of giving to the idea thus called up a command over the Will, it constitutes Belief. We believe a thing, when we are ready to act on the faith of it; to face the practical consequences of taking it for granted: and therein lies the distinction between believing two facts to be conjoined, and merely thinking of them together.79 Thus far Mr. Bain: and with this I fully agree. But something is still wanting to the completeness of the analysis. The theory as stated, distinguishes two antecedents, by a difference not between themselves, but between their consequents. But when the consequents differ, the antecedents cannot be the same. An association of ideas is or is not a Belief, according as it has or has not the power of leading us to voluntary action: this is undeniable: but when there is a difference in the effects there must be a difference in the cause: the association which leads to action must be, in some respect or other, different from that which stops at thought. The question, therefore, raised, and, as they think, resolved, by the author of the Analysis and by Mr. Spencer, still demands an answer. Does the difference between the two cases consist in this, that in the one case the association is dissoluble, in the other it is so much more closely riveted, by repetition, or by the intensity of the associated feelings, as to be no longer dissoluble? This is the question we are compelled to face.

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In the first place, then, it may be said—If Belief consisted in an indissoluble association, Belief itself would be indissoluble. An opinion once formed could never afterwards be destroyed or changed. This objection is good against the word indissoluble. But those who maintain the theory do not mean by an indissoluble association, one which nothing that can be conceived to happen could possibly dissolve. All our associations of ideas would probably be dissoluble, if experience presented to us the associated facts separate from one another. If we have any associations which are, in practice, indissoluble, it can only be because the conditions of our existence deny to us the experiences which would be capable of dissolving them. What the author of the Analysis means by indissoluble associations, are those which we cannot, by any mental effort, at present overcome. If two ideas are, at the present time, so closely associated in our minds, that neither any effort of our own, nor anything else which can happen, can enable us now to have the one without its instantly raising up the other, the association is, in the author’s sense of the term, indissoluble. There would be less risk of misunderstanding if we were to discard the word indissoluble, and confine ourselves to the expression which the author employs as its equivalent, inseparable. This I will henceforth do, and we will now enquire whether Belief is nothing but an inseparable association.

In favour of this supposition there is the striking fact, that an inseparable association very often suffices to command belief. There are innumerable cases of Belief for which no cause can be assigned, except that something has created so strong an association between two ideas that the person cannot separate them in thought. The author has given a large assortment of such cases, and has made them tell with great force in support of his theory. Locke, as the author mentions, had already seen, that this is one of the commonest and most fertile sources of erroneous thought;80 deserving to be placed high in any enumeration of Fallacies. When two things have long been habitually thought of together, and never apart, until the association between the ideas has become so strong that we have great difficulty, or cannot succeed at all, in separating them, there is a strong tendency to believe that the facts are conjoined in reality; and when the association is closer still, that their conjunction is what is called Necessary. Most of the schools of philosophy, both past and present, are so much under the influence of this tendency, as not only to justify it in principle, but to erect it into a Law of Things. The majority of metaphysicians have maintained, and even now maintain, that there are things which, by the laws of intelligence, cannot be separated in thought, and that these things are not only always united in fact, but united by necessity: and, again, other things, which cannot be united in thought—which cannot be thought of together, and that these not only never do, but it is impossible they ever Edition: current; Page: [162] should, coexist in fact. These supposed necessities are the very foundation of the Transcendental schools of metaphysics, of the Common Sense school, and many others which have not received distinctive names. These are facts in human nature and human history very favourable to the supposition that Belief is but an inseparable association, or at all events that an inseparable association sufficies to create Belief.

On the contrary side of the question it may be urged, that the inseparable associations which are so often found to generate Beliefs, do not generate them in everybody. Analytical and philosophical minds often escape from them, and resist the tendency to believe in an objective conjunction between facts merely because they are unable to separate the ideas. The author’s typical example of an inseparable association, (and there can be none more suited to the purpose,) is the association between sensations of colour and the tangible magnitudes, figures, and distances, of which they are signs, and which are so completely merged with them into one single impression, that we believe we see distance, extension, and figure, though all we really see is the optical effects which accompany them, all the rest being a rapid interpretation of natural signs.81 The generality of mankind, no doubt, and all men before they have studied the subject, believe what the author says they do; but a great majority of those who have studied the subject believe otherwise: they believe that a large portion of the facts which we seem to see, we do not really see, but instantaneously infer. Yet the association remains inseparable in these scientific thinkers as in others: the retinal picture suggests to them the real magnitude, in the same irresistible manner as it does to other people. To take another of the author’s examples: when we look at a distant terrestrial object through a telescope, it appears nearer; if we reverse the telescope it appears further off.82 The signs by which we judge of distance from us, here mislead, because those signs are found in conjunction with real distances widely different from those with which they coexist in our ordinary experience. The association, however, persists, and is irresistible, in one person as much as in another; for every one recognises that the object, thus looked at, seems nearer, or farther off, than we know it to be. But does this ever make any of us, except perhaps an inexperienced child, believe that the object is at the distance at which we seem to see it? The inseparable association, though so persistent and powerful as to create in everybody an optical illusion, creates no delusion, but leaves our belief as conformable to the realities of fact as if no such illusive appearance had presented itself. Cases similar to this are so frequent, that cautious and thoughtful minds, enlightened by experience on the misleading character of inseparable associations, learn to distrust them, and do not, even by a first impulse, believe a connexion in fact because there is one in thought, but wait for evidence.

Following up the same objection, it may be said that if belief is only an Edition: current; Page: [163] inseparable association, belief is a matter of habit and accident, and not of reason. Assuredly an association, however close, between two ideas, is not a sufficient ground of belief; is not evidence that the corresponding facts are united in external nature. The theory seems to annihilate all distinction between the belief of the wise, which is regulated by evidence, and conforms to the real successions and coexistences of the facts of the universe, and the belief of fools, which is mechanically produced by any accidental association that suggests the idea of a succession or coexistence to the mind: a belief aptly characterized by the popular expression, believing a thing because they have taken it into their heads.

Indeed, the author of the Analysis is compelled by his theory to affirm that we actually believe in accordance with the misleading associations which generate what are commonly called illusions of sense. He not only says that we believe we see figure and distance—which the great majority of psychologists since Berkeley do not believe;83 but he says, that in the case of ventriloquy “we cannot help believing” that the sound proceeds from the place, of which the ventriloquist imitates the effect; that the sound of bells opposed by the wind, not only appears farther off, but is believed to come from farther off, although we may know the exact distance from which it comes; that “in passing on board ship, another ship at sea, we believe that she has all the motion, we none:” nay even, that when we have turned ourselves round with velocity several times, “we believe that the world is turning round.”84 Surely it is more true to say, as people generally do say, “the world seems to us to turn round.” To me these cases appear so many experimental proofs, that the tendency of an inseparable association to generate belief, even when that tendency is fully effectual in creating the irresistible appearance of a state of things that does not really exist, may yet be impotent against reason, that is, against preponderant evidence.

In defence of these paradoxes, let us now consider what the author of the Analysis might say. One thing he would certainly say: that the belief he affirms to exist in these cases of illusion, is but a momentary one; with which the belief entertained at all other times may be at variance. In the case, for instance, of those who, from an early association formed between darkness and ghosts, feel terror in the dark though they have a confirmed disbelief in ghosts, the author’s opinion is that there is a temporary belief, at the moment when the terror is felt.85 This was also the opinion of Dugald Stewart:86 and the agreement (by no means a solitary one) between two thinkers of such opposite tendencies, reminds one of the saying “Quand un Français et un Anglais sont d’accord, il faut bien qu’ils aient raison.”87 Edition: current; Page: [164] Yet the author seems to adopt this notion not from observation of the case, but from an antecedent opinion that “dread implies belief, and an uncontrollable belief,” which, he says, “we need not stay to prove.”88 It is to be wished, in this case, that he had staid to prove it: for it is harder to prove than he thought. The emotion of fear, the physical effect on the nervous system known by that name, may be excited, and I believe often is excited, simply by terrific imaginations. That these imaginations are, even for a moment, mistaken for menacing realities, may be true, but ought not to be assumed without proof. The circumstance most in its favour (one not forgotten by the author) is that in dreams, to which may be added hallucinations, frightful ideas are really mistaken for terrible facts. But dreams are states in which all other sensible ideas are mistaken for outward facts. Yet sensations and ideas are intrinsically different, and it is not the normal state of the human mind to confound the one with the other.

Besides, this supposition of a momentary belief in ghosts breaking in upon and interrupting an habitual and permanent belief that there are no ghosts, jars considerably with the doctrine it is brought to support, that belief is an inseparable association. According to that doctrine, here are two inseparable associations, which yet are so far from exclusively possessing the mind, that they alternate with one another, each Inseparable implying the separation of the other Inseparable. The association of darkness with the absence of ghosts must be anything but inseparable, if there only needs the presence of darkness to revive the contrary association. Yet an association so very much short of inseparable, is accompanied, at least in the absence of darkness, by a full belief. Darkness is in this case associated with two incompatible ideas, the idea of ghosts and that of their absence, but with neither of them inseparably, and in consequence the two associations alternately prevail, as the surrounding circumstances favour the one or the other; agreeably to the laws of Compound Association, laid down with great perspicuity and reach of thought by Mr. Bain in his systematic treatise.89

To the argument, that the inseparable associations which create optical and other illusions, do not, when opposed by reason, generate the false belief, the author’s answer would probably be some such as the following. When the rational thinker succeeds in resisting the belief, he does so by more or less completely overcoming the inseparableness of the association. Associations may be conquered by the formation of counter-associations. Mankind had formerly an inseparable association between sunset and the motion of the sun, and this inseparable association compelled them to believe that in the phenomenon of sunset the sun moves and the earth is at rest. But Copernicus, Galileo,90 and after Edition: current; Page: [165] them, all astronomers, found evidence, that the earth moves and the sun is at rest: in other words, certain experiences, and certain reasonings from those experiences, took place in their minds, the tendency of which was to associate sunset with the ideas of the earth in motion and the sun at rest. This was a counter-association, which could not coexist, at least at the same instant, with the previous association connecting sunset with the sun in motion and the earth at rest. But for a long time the new associating influences could not be powerful enough to get the better of the old association, and change the belief which it implied. A belief which has become habitual, is seldom overcome but by a slow process. However, the experiences and mental processes that tended to form the new association still went on; there was a conflict between the old association and the causes which tended to produce a new one; until, by the long continuance and frequent repetition of those causes, the old association, gradually undermined, ceased to be inseparable, and it became possible to associate the idea of sunset with that of the earth moving and the sun at rest; whereby the previous idea of the sun moving and the earth at rest was excluded for the time, and as the new association grew in strength, was at last thrown out altogether. The argument should go on to say that after a still further prolongation of the new experiences and reasonings, the old association became impossible and the new one inseparable; for, until it became inseparable, there could, according to the theory, be no belief. And this, in truth, does sometimes happen. There are instances in the history of science, even down to the present day, in which something which was once believed to be impossible, and its opposite to be necessary, was first seen to be possible, next to be true, and finally came to be considered as necessarily true, and its opposite (once deemed necessary) as impossible, and even inconceivable; insomuch that it is thought by some that what was reputed an impossibility, might have been known to be a necessity. In such cases, the quality of inseparableness has passed, in those minds at least, from the old association to the new one. But in much the greatest number of cases the change does not proceed so far, and both associations remain equally possible. The case which furnished our last instance is an example. Astronomers, and all educated persons, now associate sunset with motion confined to the earth, and firmly believe this to be what really takes place; but they have not formed this association with such exclusiveness and intensity as to have become unable to associate sunset with motion of the sun. On the contrary, the visible appearance still suggests motion of the sun, and many people, though aware of the truth, find that they cannot by any effort make themselves see sunset any otherwise than as the sinking of the sun below the earth. My own experience is different: I find that I can represent the phenomenon to myself in either light; I can, according to the manner in which I direct my thoughts, see sunset either as the Edition: current; Page: [166] earth tilting above the sun, or as the sun dipping below the earth: in the same manner as when a railway train in motion passes another at rest, we are able, if we prevent our eyes from resting on any third object, to imagine the motion as being either in the one train or in the other. How, then, can it be said that there is an inseparable association of sunset with the one mode of representation, and a consequent inability to associate it with the other? It is associated with both, and the one of the two associations which is nearest to being inseparable is that which belief does not accompany. The difference between different people in the ability to represent to themselves the phenomenon under either aspect, depends rather on the degree of exercise which they have given to their imagination in trying to frame mental pictures conformable to the two hypotheses, than upon those considerations of reason and evidence which yet may determine their belief.

The question still remains, what is there which exists in the hypothesis believed, and does not exist in the hypothesis rejected, when we have associations which enable our imagination to represent the facts agreeably to either hypothesis? In other words, what is Belief?

I think it must be admitted, that when we can represent to ourselves in imagination either of two conflicting suppositions, one of which we believe, and disbelieve the other, neither of the associations can be inseparable; and there must therefore be in the fact of Belief, which exists in only one of the two cases, something for which inseparable association does not account. We seem to have again come up, on a different side, to the difficulty which we felt in the discussion of Memory, in accounting for the distinction between a fact remembered, and the same fact imagined. There is a close parallelism between the two problems. In both, we have the difference between a fact and a representation in imagination; between a sensation, or combination of sensations, and an idea, or combination of ideas. This difference we all accept as an ultimate fact. But the difficulty is this. Let me first state it as it presents itself in the case of Memory. Having in our mind a certain combination of ideas, in a group or a train, accompanying or succeeding one another; what is it which, in one case, makes us recognize this group or train as representing a group or train of the corresponding sensations, remembered as having been actually felt by us, while in another case we are aware that the sensations have never occurred to us in a group or train corresponding to that in which we are now having the ideas? This is the problem of Memory. Let me now state the problem of Belief, when the belief is not a case of memory. Here also we have ideas connected in a certain order in our own mind, which makes us think of a corresponding order among the sensations, and we believe that this similar combination of the sensations is a real fact: i.e. whether we ever felt it or not, we confidently expect that we should feel it under certain given conditions. In Memory, we believe that the realities in Nature, the sensations and combinations of sensations presented to us from without, have occurred to us in an order which agrees with that in which we are representing them to ourselves in thought: in those Edition: current; Page: [167] cases of Belief which are not cases of Memory, we believe, not that they have occurred, but that they would have occurred, or would occur, in that order.

What is it that takes place in us, when we recognize that there is this agreement between the order of our ideas and the order in which we either had or might have had the sensations which correspond to them—that the order of the ideas represents a similar order either in our actual sensations, or in those which, under some given circumstances, we should have reason to expect? What, in short, is the difference to our minds between thinking of a reality, and representing to ourselves an imaginary picture? I confess that I can perceive no escape from the opinion that the distinction is ultimate and primordial. There is no more difficulty in holding it to be so, than in holding the difference between a sensation and an idea to be primordial. It seems almost another aspect of the same difference. The author himself says, in the chapter on Memory, that, a sensation and an idea being different, it is to be expected that the remembrance of having had a sensation should be different from the remembrance of having had an idea, and that this is a sufficient explanation of our distinguishing them.91 If this, then, is an original distinction, why should not the distinction be original between the remembrance of having had a sensation, and the actually having an idea (which is the difference between Memory and Imagination); and between the expectation of having a sensation, and the actually having an idea (which is the difference between Belief and Imagination)? Grant these differences, and there is nothing further to explain in the phenomenon of Belief. For every belief is either the memory of having had a sensation (or other feeling), or the expectation that we should have the sensation or feeling in some given state of circumstances, if that state of circumstances could come to be realized.


That all belief is either Memory or Expectation, will be clearly seen if we run over all the different objects of Belief. The author has already done so, in order to establish his theory; and it is now necessary that we should do the same.

The objects of Belief are enumerated by the author in the following terms:—1. Events, real existences. 2. Testimony. 3. The truth of propositions.92 He intended this merely as a rough grouping, sufficient for the purpose if it includes everything: for it is evident that the divisions overlap one another, and it will be seen presently that the last two are but cases of the first.

Belief in events he further divides into belief in present events, in past events, and in future events. Belief in present events he subdivides into belief in immediate existences present to my senses, and belief in immediate existences not present to Edition: current; Page: [168] my senses. We see by this that he recognises no difference, in a metaphysical sense, between existences and events, because he regards, with reason, objects as merely the supposed antecedents of events. The distinction, however, requires to be kept up, being no other than the fundamental difference between simultaneousness, and succession or change.

Belief in immediate existences present to my senses, is either belief in my sensations, or belief in external objects. Believing that I feel what I am at this moment feeling, is, as the author says, only another name for having the feeling;93 with the idea, however, of Myself, associated with it; of which hereafter.

The author goes on to analyse Belief in external objects present to our senses; and he resolves it into a present sensation, united by an irresistible association with the numerous other sensations which we are accustomed to receive in conjunction with it. The Object is thus to be understood as a complex idea, compounded of the ideas of various sensations which we have, and of a far greater number of sensations which we should expect to have if certain contingencies were realized. In other words, our idea of an object is an idea of a group of possibilities of sensation, some of which we believe we can realize at pleasure, while the remainder would be realized if certain conditions took place, on which, by the laws of nature, they are dependent. As thus explained, belief in the existence of a physical object, is belief in the occurrence of certain sensations, contingently on certain previous conditions. This is a state of mind closely allied to Expectation of sensations. For—though we use the name Expectation only with reference to the future, and even to the probable future—our state of mind in respect to what may be future, and even to what might have been future, is of the same general nature, and depends on the same principles, as Expectation. I believe that a certain event will positively happen, because the known conditions which always accompany it in experience have already taken place. I believe that another event will certainly happen if the known conditions which always accompany it take place, and those conditions I can produce when I please. I believe that a third event will happen if its conditions take place, but I must wait for those conditions; I cannot realize them at pleasure, and may never realize them at all. The first of these three cases is positive expectation, the other two are conditional expectation. A fourth case is my belief that the event would have happened at any former time if the conditions had taken place at that time. It is not consonant to usage to call this Expectation, but, considered as a case of belief, there is no essential difference between it and the third case. My belief that I should have heard Cicero had I been present in the Forum, and my belief that I shall hear Mr. Gladstone if I am present in the House of Commons,94 can nowise be regarded as essentially different phenomena. The one Edition: current; Page: [169] we call Expectation, the other not, but the mental principle operative in both these cases of belief is the same.

The author goes on to say, that the belief that we should have the sensations if certain conditions were realized, that is, if we had certain other sensations, is merely an inseparable association of the two sets of sensations with one another, and their inseparable union with the idea of ourselves as having them.95 But I confess it seems to me that all this may exist in a case of simple imagination. The author would himself admit that the complex idea of the object, in all its fulness, may be in the mind without belief. What remains is its association with the idea of ourselves as percipients. But this also, I cannot but think, we may have in the case of an imaginary scene, when we by no means believe that any corresponding reality exists. Does the idea of our own personality never enter into the pictures in our imagination? Are we not ourselves present in the scenes which we conjure up in our minds? I apprehend we are as constantly present in them, and as conscious of our presence, as we are in contemplating a real prospect. In either case the vivacity of the other impressions eclipses, for the most part, the thought of ourselves as spectators, but not more so in the imaginary, than in the real, spectacle.

It appears to me, then, that to account for belief in external objects, we must postulate Expectation; and since all our expectations, whether positive or contingent, are a consequence of our Memory of the past (as distinguished from a representation in fancy), we must also postulate Memory. The distinction between a mere combination of ideas in thought, and one which recals to us a combination of sensations as actually experienced, always returns on our hands as an ultimate postulate.

The author proceeds to shew how this idea of a mere group of sensations, actual or contingent, becomes knit up with an idea of a permanent Something, lying, as it were, under these sensations, and causing them; this further enlargement of the complex idea taking place through the intimate, or, as he calls it, inseparable association, generated by experience, which makes us unable to imagine any phenomenon as beginning to exist without something anterior to it which causes it.96 This explanation seems to me quite correct as far as it goes; but, while it accounts for the difficulty we have in not ascribing our sensations to some cause or other, it does not explain why we accept, as in fact we do, the group itself as the cause. I have endeavoured to clear up this difficulty elsewhere (Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy), and in preference to going over the ground a second time, I subjoin, at the end of the volume, the chapter containing the explanation.97 That chapter supplies all that appears to me to be further necessary Edition: current; Page: [170] on the subject of belief in outward objects; which is thus shewn to be a case of Conditional Expectation.

It is unnecessary to follow the author into the minute consideration of Belief in the existence of objects not present, since the explanation already given equally applies to them. My belief in the present existence of St. Paul’s is correctly set forth by the author as consisting of the following elements: I believe that I have seen St. Paul’s: I believe that I shall see St. Paul’s, when I am again in St. Paul’s Churchyard: I believe that I should see St. Paul’s, if I were in St. Paul’s Churchyard at this instant.98 All this, as he justly remarks, is Memory or Expectation. And this, or some part of this, is the whole of what is in any case meant by belief in the real existence of an external object. The author adds, I also believe that if any creature whose senses are analogous to my own, is now in St. Paul’s Churchyard, it has the present sensation of that edifice. But this belief is not necessary to my belief in the continued existence of St. Paul’s. For that, it suffices that I believe I should myself see it. My belief that other creatures would do so, is part of my belief in the real existence of other creatures like myself; which is no more mysterious, than our belief in the real existence of any other objects some of whose properties rest not on direct sensation, but on inference.

Belief in past existences, when those existences have been perceived by ourselves, is Memory.99 When the past existences are inferred from evidence, the belief of them is not Memory, but a fact of the same nature as Expectation; being a belief that we should have had the sensations if we had been cotemporary with the objects, and had been in the local position necessary for receiving sensible impressions from them.

We now come to the case of Belief in testimony.100 But testimony is not itself an object of belief. The object of belief is what the testimony asserts. And so in the last of the author’s three cases, that of assent to a proposition.101 The object of belief, in both these cases, is an assertion. But an assertion is something asserted, and what is asserted must be a fact, similar to some of those of which we have already treated. According to the author, belief in an assertion is belief that two names are both of them names of the same thing: but this we have felt ourselves obliged to discard, as an inadequate explanation of the import of any assertions, except those which are classed as merely verbal. Every assertion concerning Things, whether in concrete or in abstract language, is an assertion that some fact, or group of facts, has been, is, or may be expected to be, found, wherever a certain other fact, or group of facts, is found. Belief in this, is therefore either remembrance that we did have, or expectation that we shall have, or a belief of the same nature with expectation that in some given circumstances we should have, or Edition: current; Page: [171] should have had, direct perception of a particular fact. Belief, therefore, is always a case either of Memory or of Expectation; including under the latter name conditional as well as positive expectation, and the state of mind similar to expectation which affects us in regard to what would have been a subject of expectation, if the conditions of its realization had still been possible.

It may be objected, that we may believe in the real existence of things which are not objects of sense at all. We may. But we cannot believe in the real existence of anything which we do not conceive as capable of acting in some way upon our own or some other being’s consciousness; though the state of consciousness it produces may not be called a sensation. The existence of a thing means, to us, merely its capacity of producing an impression of some sort upon some mind, that is, of producing some state of consciousness. The belief, therefore, in its existence, is still a conditional expectation of something which we should, under some supposed circumstances, be capable of feeling.

To resume: Belief, as I conceive, is more than an inseparable association, for inseparable associations do not always generate belief, nor does belief always require, as one of its conditions, an inseparable association: we can believe that to be true which we are capable of conceiving or representing to ourselves as false, and false what we are capable of representing to ourselves as true. The difference between belief and mere imagination, is the difference between recognising something as a reality in nature, and regarding it as a mere thought of our own. This is the difference which presents itself when Memory has to be distinguished from Imagination; and again when Expectation, whether positive or contingent (i.e. whether it be expectation that we shall, or only persuasion that in certain definable circumstances we should, have a certain experience) has to be distinguished from the mere mental conception of that experience.


Let us examine, once more, whether the speculations in the text afford us any means of further analysing this difference.

The difference presents itself in its most elementary form in the distinction between a sensation and an idea. The author admits this distinction to be ultimate and primordial. “A sensation is different from an idea, only because it is felt to be different.”102 But, after having admitted that these two states of consciousness are distinguishable from each other in and by themselves, he adds, that they are also distinguishable by their accompaniments. “The accompaniments of a sensation are always generically different from those of an idea. . . . The accompaniments of a sensation, are all the simultaneous objects of sensation, together with all those which, to a certain extent, both preceded and followed it. The accompaniments of Edition: current; Page: [172] an idea are not the simultaneous objects of sensation, but other ideas; namely, the neighbouring parts, antecedent and consequent, of the mental train.”103 There can be no doubt that in those individual cases in which ideas and sensations might be confounded, namely, when an idea reaches or approaches the vivacity of a sensation, the indication here pointed out helps to assure us that what we are conscious of is, nevertheless, only an idea. When, for instance, we awake from a dream, and open our eyes to the outward world, what makes us so promptly recognise that this and not the other is the real world, is that we find its phenomena connected in the accustomed order of our objects of sensation. But though this circumstance enables us, in particular instances, to refer our impression more instantaneously to one or the other class, it cannot be by this that we distinguish ideas at first from sensations; for the criterion supposes the distinction to be already made. If we judge a sensation to be a sensation because its accompaniments are other sensations, and an idea to be an idea because its accompaniments are other ideas, we must already be able to distinguish those other sensations from those other ideas.

A similar remark is applicable to a criterion between sensations and ideas, incidentally laid down by Mr. Bain in the First Part of his systematic treatise. “A mere picture or idea remains the same whatever be our bodily position or bodily exertions; the sensation that we call the actual is entirely at the mercy of our movements, shifting in every possible way according to the varieties of action that we go through.”* This test, like the author’s, may serve in cases of momentary doubt; but sensations in general must have been already distinguished from ideas, before we could have hit upon this criterion between them. If we had not already known the difference between a sensation and an idea, we never could have discovered that one of them is “at the mercy of our movements,” and that the other is not.

It being granted that a sensation and an idea are ipso facto distinguishable, the author thinks it no more than natural that “the copy of the sensation should be distinguishable from the revival of the idea, when they are both brought up by association.”104 But he adds, that there is another distinction between the memory of a sensation, and the memory of an idea, and it is this. In all Memory the idea of self forms part of the complex idea; but in the memory of sensation, the self which enters into the remembrance is “the sentient self, that is, seeing and hearing:” in the memory of an idea, it is “not the sentient self, but the conceptive self, self having an idea. But” (he adds) “myself percipient, and myself imagining, or conceiving, are two very different states of consciousness: of course the ideas of these states of consciousness, or these states revived by association, are very different ideas.”105

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Concerning the fact there is no dispute. Myself percipient, and myself imagining or conceiving, are different states, because perceiving is a different thing from imagining; and being different states, the remembrance of them is, as might be expected, different. But the question is, in what does the difference between the remembrances consist? The author calls one of them the idea of myself perceiving, and the other the idea of myself imagining, and thinks there is no other difference. But how do the idea of myself having a sensation, and the idea of myself having an idea of that sensation, differ from one another? since in either case an idea of the sensation is all that I am having now. The thought of myself perceiving a thing at a former time, and the thought of myself imagining the thing at that former time, are both at the present moment facts of imagination—are now merely ideas. In each case I have an ideal representation of myself, as conscious in a manner very similar in the two cases; though not exactly the same, since in the one case I remember to have been conscious of a sensation, in the other, to have been conscious only of an idea of that sensation: but, in either case, that past consciousness enters only as an idea, into the consciousness I now have by recollection. In what, then, as far as mere ideas are concerned, do my present mental representations of the two cases differ? Will it be said, that the idea of the sensation is one thing, the idea of the idea of the sensation another thing? Or are they both the same idea, namely, the idea of the sensation; and is the element that is present in the one case, but absent in the other, not an idea but something else? A difference there is admitted to be between the remembrance of having had a sensation, and the remembrance of having merely thought of the sensation, i.e. had the idea of it: is this difference a difference in the ideas I have in the two cases, or is the idea the same, but accompanied in the one case by something not an idea, which does not exist in the other? for if so, this something is a Belief.

I have touched upon this question in a former note,106 and expressed my inability to recognise, in the idea of an idea, anything but the idea itself; in the thought of a thought, anything but a repetition of the thought. My thought of Falstaff, as far as I can perceive, is not a copy but a repetition of the thought I had of him when I first read Shakespeare: not indeed an exact repetition, because all complex ideas undergo modification by time, some elements fading away, and new ones being added by reverting to the original sources or by subsequent associations; but my first mental image of Falstaff, and my present one, do not differ as the thought of a rose differs from the sight of one; as an idea of sensation differs from the sensation. On this point the author was perhaps of the same opinion, since we found him contrasting the “copy” of the sensation with the “revival” of the idea, as if the latter was a case of simple repetition, the former not. It would have been well if he had made this point a subject of express discussion; for if his opinion upon it was what, from this passage, we may suppose it to have been, it involves a serious difficulty. If (he says) a sensation and an idea “are Edition: current; Page: [174] distinguishable in the having, it is likely that the copy of the sensation should be distinguishable from the revival of the idea.” But the copy of the sensation is the idea; so that, on this shewing, the idea is distinguishable from its own revival, that is, from the same idea when it occurs again. The author’s theory would thus require him to maintain that an idea revived is a specifically different idea, and not the same idea repeated: since otherwise the two states of mind, so far as regards the ideas contained in them, are undistinguishable, and it is necessary to admit the presence in Memory of some other element.

Let us put another case. Instead of Falstaff, suppose a real person whom I have seen: for example General Lafayette.107 My idea of Lafayette is almost wholly, what my idea of Falstaff is entirely, a creation of thought: only a very small portion of it is derived from my brief experience of seeing and conversing with him. But I have a remembrance of having seen Lafayette, and no remembrance of having seen Falstaff, but only of having thought of him. Is it a sufficient explanation of this difference to say, that I have an idea of myself seeing and hearing Lafayette, and only an idea of myself thinking of Falstaff? But I can form a vivid idea of myself seeing and hearing Falstaff. I can without difficulty imagine myself in the field of Shrewsbury, listening to his characteristic soliloquy over the body of Hotspur; or in the tavern in the midst of his associates, hearing his story of his encounter with the men in buckram.108 When I recal the scene, I can as little detach it from the idea of myself as present, as I can in the case of most things of which I was really an eye-witness. The spontaneous presence of the idea of Myself in the conception, is always that of myself as percipient. The idea of myself as in a state of mere imagination, only substitutes itself for the other when something reminds me that the scene is merely imaginary.

I cannot help thinking, therefore, that there is in the remembrance of a real fact, as distinguished from that of a thought, an element which does not consist, as the author supposes, in a difference between the mere ideas which are present to the mind in the two cases. This element, howsoever we define it, constitutes Belief, and is the difference between Memory and Imagination. From whatever direction we approach, this difference seems to close our path. When we arrive at it, we seem to have reached, as it were, the central point of our intellectual nature, presupposed and built upon in every attempt we make to explain the more recondite phenomena of our mental being. (Vol. I, pp. 402-23.)

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[J.S. Mill’s note is appended to Chap. xii, “Ratiocination.”]

This chapter, which is of a very summary character, is a prolongation of the portion of the chapter on Belief, which examines the case of belief in the truth of a proposition; and must stand or fall with it. The question considered is, how, from belief in the truth of the two premises of a syllogism, we pass into belief in the conclusion. The exposition proceeds on the untenable theory of the import of propositions, on which I have so often had occasion to comment. That theory, however, was not necessary to the author for shewing how two ideas may become inseparably associated through the inseparable association of each of them with a third idea: and inasmuch as an inseparable association between the subject and predicate, in the author’s opinion, constitutes belief, an explanation of ratiocination conformable to that given of belief follows as a matter of course.

Although I am unable to admit that there is nothing in belief but an inseparable association, and although I maintain that there may be belief without an inseparable association, I can still accept this explanation of the formation of an association between the subject and predicate of the conclusion, which, when close and intense, has, as we have seen, a strong tendency to generate belief. But to shew what it is that gives the belief its validity, we must fall back on logical laws, the laws of evidence. And independently of the question of validity, we shall find in the reliance on those laws, so far as they are understood, the source and origin of all beliefs, whether well or ill founded, which are not the almost mechanical or automatic products of a strong association—of the lively suggestion of an idea. We may therefore pass at once to the nature of Evidence, which is the subject of the next chapter.

I venture to refer, in passing, to those chapters in my System of Logic, in which I have maintained, contrary to what is laid down in this chapter, that Ratiocination does not consist of Syllogisms; that the Syllogism is not the analysis of what the mind does in reasoning, but merely a useful formula into which it can translate its reasonings, gaining thereby a great increase in the security for their correctness.109 (Vol. I, pp. 426-7.)

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[J.S. Mill’s note is appended to Chap. xiii, “Evidence.”]

This chapter on Evidence is supplementary to the chapter on Belief, and is intended to analyse the process of weighing and balancing opposing grounds for believing.

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Evidence is either of individual facts (not actually perceived by oneself), or of general truths. The former is the only case to which much attention is paid in the present chapter; which very happily illustrates it, by the case of navigators having to decide on the existence or non-existence of inhabitants in a newly discovered island. The process of balancing the evidence for and against, is depicted in a very lively manner. Let us see whether the mental facts set down in the exposition, are precisely those which take place.

When the sailors have seen prints of a foot, resembling those of a man, the idea is raised of a man making the print. When they afterwards see a monkey, whose feet leave traces almost similar, the idea is also raised of a monkey making the print, and the state of their minds, the author says, is doubt. Of this state he gives the following analysis.

There is here a double association with the print of the foot. There is the association of a man, and there is the association of a monkey. First, the print raises the idea of a man, but the instant it does so, it raises also the idea of a monkey. The idea of the monkey, displacing that of the man, hinders the first association from the fixity which makes it belief; and the idea of man, displacing that of monkey, hinders the second association from that fixity which constitutes belief.110

This passage deserves to be studied; for without having carefully weighed it, we cannot be certain that we are in complete possession of the author’s theory of Belief.

There are two conflicting associations with the print of the foot. The picture of a man making it, cannot co-exist with that of a monkey making it. But the two may alternate with one another. Had the association with a man been the only association, it would, or might (for on this point the author is not explicit) have amounted to belief. But the idea of the monkey and that of the man alternately displacing one another, hinder either association from having the fixity which would make it belief.

This alternation, however, between the two ideas, of a monkey making the footprint and of a man making it, may very well take place without hindering one of the two from being accompanied by belief. Suppose the sailors to obtain conclusive evidence, testimonial or circumstantial, that the prints were made by a monkey. It may happen, nevertheless, that the remarkable resemblance of the foot prints to those of a man, does not cease to force itself upon their notice: in other words, they continue to associate the idea of a man with the footsteps; they are reminded of a man, and of a man making the footsteps, every time they see or think of them. The double association, therefore, may subsist, and the one which does not correspond with the fact may even be the most obtrusive of the two, while yet the other conception may be the one with which the men believe the real facts to have corresponded.

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All the rest of the exposition is open to the same criticism. The author accounts very accurately for the presence of all the ideas which the successive appearance of the various articles of evidence arouses in the mind. But he does not shew that the belief, which is ultimately arrived at, is constituted by the expulsion from the mind of one set of these ideas, and the exclusive possession of it by the other set. It is quite possible that neither of the associations may acquire the “fixity” which, according to the apparent meaning of the author, would defeat the other association altogether, and drive away the conception which it suggests; and yet, one of the suppositions may be believed and the other disbelieved, according to the balance of evidence, as estimated by the investigator. Belief, then, which has been already shewn not to require an inseparable association, appears not to require even “fixity”—such fixity as to exclude the idea of the conflicting supposition, as it does exclude the belief.

The problem of Evidence divides itself into two distinguishable enquiries: what effect evidence ought to produce, and what determines the effect that it does produce: how our belief ought to be regulated, and how, in point of fact, it is regulated. The first enquiry—that into the nature and probative force of evidence; the discussion of what proves what, and of the precautions needed in admitting one thing as proof of another—are the province of Logic, understood in its widest sense: and for its treatment we must refer to treatises on Logic, either inductive or ratiocinative.111 All that would be in place here, reduces itself to a single principle: In all cases, except the case of what we are directly conscious of (in which case, as the author justly observes, the evidence and the belief are one and the same thing)—in all cases, therefore, in which belief is really grounded on evidence, it is grounded, in the ultimate result, on the constancy of the course of nature. Whether the belief be of facts or of laws, and whether of past facts or of those which are present or future, this is the basis on which it rests. Whatever it is that we believe, the justification of the belief must be, that unless it were true, the uniformity of the course of nature would not be maintained. A cause would have occurred, not followed by its invariable effect; an effect would have occurred, not preceded by any of its invariable causes; witnesses would have lied, who have always been known to speak the truth; signs would have proved deceptive, which in human experience have always given true indication. This is obvious, whatever case of belief on evidence we examine. Belief in testimony is grounded on previous experience that testimony is usually conformable to fact: testimony in general (for even this may with truth be affirmed); or the testimony of the particular witness, or the testimony of persons similar to him. Belief that the sun will rise and set to-morrow, or that a stone thrown up into the air will fall back, rests on experience that this has been invariably the case, and reliance that what has hitherto occurred Edition: current; Page: [178] will continue to occur hereafter. Belief in a fact vouched for by circumstantial evidence, rests on experience that such circumstances as are ascertained to exist in the case, never exist unaccompanied by the given fact. What we call evidence, whether complete or incomplete, always consists of facts or events tending to convince us that some ascertained general truths or laws of nature must have proved false, if the conclusion which the evidence points to is not true.

Belief on evidence is therefore always a case of the generalizing process; of the assumption that what we have not directly experienced resembles, or will resemble, our experience. And, properly understood, this assumption is true; for the whole course of nature consists of a concurrence of causes, producing their effects in a uniform manner; but the uniformity which exists is often not that which our first impressions lead us to expect. Mr. Bain has well pointed out, that the generalizing propensity, in a mind not disciplined by thought, nor as yet warned by its own failures, far outruns the evidence, or rather, precedes any conscious consideration of evidence; and that what the consideration of evidence has to do when it comes, is not so much to make us generalize, as to limit our spontaneous impulse of generalization, and restrain within just bounds our readiness to believe that the unknown will resemble the known.112 When Mr. Bain occasionally speaks of this propensity as if it were instinctive, I understand him to mean, that by an original law of our nature, the mere suggestion of an idea, so long as the idea keeps possession of the mind, suffices to give it a command over our active energies. It is to this primitive mental state that the author’s theory of Belief most nearly applies. In a mind which is as yet untutored, either by the teachings of others or by its own mistakes, an idea so strongly excited as for the time to keep out all ideas by which it would itself be excluded, possesses that power over the voluntary activities which is Mr. Bain’s criterion of Belief;113 and any association that compels the person to have the idea of a certain consequence as following his act, generates, or becomes, a real expectation of that consequence. But these expectations often turning out to have been ill grounded, the unduly prompt suggestion comes to be associated, by repetition, with the shock of disappointed expectation; and the idea of the desired consequent is now raised together with the idea not of its realization, but of its frustration: thus neutralizing the effect of the first association on the belief and on the active impulses. It is in this stage that the mind learns the habit of looking out for, and weighing, evidence. It presently discovers that the expectations which are least often disappointed are those which correspond to the greatest and most varied amount of antecedent experience. It gradually comes to associate the feeling of disappointed expectation with all those promptings to expect, which, being the result of accidental associations, have no, or but little, previous experience Edition: current; Page: [179] conformable to them: and by degrees the expectation only arises when memory represents a considerable amount of such previous experience; and is strong in proportion to the quantity of the experience. At a still later period, as disappointment nevertheless not unfrequently happens notwithstanding a considerable amount of past experience on the side of the expectation, the mind is put upon making distinctions in the kind of past experiences, and finding out what qualities, besides mere frequency, experience must have, in order not to be followed by disappointment. In other words, it considers the conditions of right inference from experience; and by degrees arrives at principles or rules, more or less accurate, for inductive reasoning. This is substantially the doctrine of the author of the Analysis. It must be conceded to him, that an association, sufficiently strong to exclude all ideas that would exclude itself, produces a kind of mechanical belief; and that the processes by which this belief is corrected, or reduced to rational bounds, all consist in the growth of a counter-association, tending to raise the idea of a disappointment of the first expectation: and as the one or the other prevails in the particular case, the belief, or expectation, exists or does not exist, exactly as if the belief were the same thing with the association. It must also be admitted that the process by which the belief is overcome, takes effect by weakening the association; which can only be effected by raising up another association that conflicts with it. There are two ways in which this counter-association may be generated. One is, by counter-evidence; by contrary experience in the specific case, which, by associating the circumstances of the case with a contrary belief, destroys their association with the original belief. But there is also another mode of weakening, or altogether destroying, the belief, without adducing contrary experience: namely, by merely recognising the insufficiency of the existing experience; by reflecting on other instances in which the same amount and kind of experience have existed, but were not followed by the expected result. In the one mode as in the other, the process of dissolving a belief is identical with that of dissolving an association; and to this extent—and it is a very large extent—the author’s theory of Belief must be received as true.

I cannot, however, go beyond this, and maintain with the author that Belief is identical with a strong association; on account of the reason already stated, viz. that in many cases—indeed in almost all cases in which the evidence has been such as required to be investigated and weighed—a final belief is arrived at without any such clinging together of ideas as the author supposes to constitute it; and we remain able to represent to ourselves in imagination, often with perfect facility, both the conflicting suppositions, of which we nevertheless believe one and reject the other. (Vol. I, pp. 433-9.)

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[J.S. Mill’s note is appended to the introductory paragraph of Chap. xiv, “Some Names Which Require a Particular Explanation”:] We have now seen that, in what we call the mental world, Consciousness, there are three grand classes of phenomena, the most familiar of all the facts with which we are acquainted,sensations, ideas, and the train of ideas. We have examined a number of the more complicated cases of Consciousness; and have found, that they all resolve themselves into the three simple elements, thus enumerated. We also found it necessary to shew, for what ends, and in what manner, marks were contrived of sensations and ideas, and by what combinations they were made to represent, expeditiously, trains of those states of consciousness. Some marks or names, however, could not be explained, till some of the more complicated states of consciousness were unfolded; these also are names so important, and so peculiar in their mode of signification, that a very complete understanding of them is required. It is to the consideration of these remarkable cases of Naming that we now proceed.

Under the modest title of an explanation of the meaning of several names, this chapter presents us with a series of discussions of some of the deepest and most intricate questions in all metaphysics. Like Plato, the author introduces his analysis of the most obscure among the complex general conceptions of the human mind, in the form of an enquiry into the meaning of their names.114 The title of the chapter gives a very inadequate notion of the difficulty and importance of the speculations contained in it, and which make it, perhaps, the profoundest chapter of the book. It is almost as if a treatise on chemistry were described as an explanation of the names air, water, potass, sulphuric acid, etc. (Vol. II, p. 2.)

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[J.S. Mill’s note is appended to Sect. 1, “Names of Names,” of Chap. xiv.]

A right understanding of the words which are names of names, is of great importance in philosophy. The tendency was always strong to believe that whatever receives a name must be an entity or being, having an independent existence of its own; and if no real entity answering to the name could be found, Edition: current; Page: [181] men did not for that reason suppose that none existed, but imagined that it was something peculiarly abstruse and mysterious, too high to be an object of sense. The meaning of all general, and especially of all abstract terms, became in this way enveloped in a mystical haze; and none of these have been more generally misunderstood, or have been a more copious source of futile and bewildering speculation, than some of the words which are names of names. Genus, Species, Universal, were long supposed to be designations of sublime hyperphysical realities; Number, instead of a general name of all numerals, was supposed to be the name, if not of a concrete thing, at least of a single property or attribute.

This class of names was well understood and correctly characterized by Hobbes, of whose philosophy the distinction between names of names and of things was a cardinal point.115 (Vol. II, p. 5.)

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[In Chap. xiv, Sect. 2, “Relative Terms,” James Mill says:] If it is asked, why we give names in pairs? The general answer immediately suggests itself; it is because the things named present themselves in pairs; that is, are joined by association. But as many things are joined in pairs by association, which do not receive relative names, the cause may still be inquired of the classification. What is the reason that some pairs do, while many more do not, receive relative names? The cause is the same by which we are guided in imposing other names. As the various combinations of ideas are far too numerous for naming, and we are obliged to make a selection, we name those which we find it of most importance to have named, omitting the rest. It is a question of convenience, solved by experience. It will be seen more distinctly hereafter, that relative names are one of the contrivances for epitomising; and that they enable us to express ourselves with fewer words than we should be able to do without them.

No part of the Analysis is more valuable than the simple explanation here given of a subject which has seemed so mysterious to some of the most enlightened and penetrating philosophers, down even to the present time. The only difference between relative names and any others consists in their being given in pairs; and the reason of their being given in pairs is not the existence between two things, of a mystical bond called a Relation, and supposed to have a kind of shadowy and abstract reality, but a very simple peculiarity in the concrete fact which the two names are intended to mark.

In order to make quite clear the nature of this peculiarity, it will be desirable to advert once more to the double mode of signification of concrete general names, Edition: current; Page: [182] viz. that while they denote (or are names of) objects, they connote some fact relating to those objects. The fact connoted by any name, relative or not, is always of the same nature; it is some bodily or mental feeling, or some set of bodily or mental feelings, accompanying or produced by the object. But in the case of the ordinary names of objects, this fact concerns one object only, or rather only that one object and the sentient mind. The peculiarity in the case of relative names is, that the fact connoted concerns two objects, and cannot be understood without thinking of them both. It is a phenomenon in which two objects play a part. There is no greater mystery in a phenomenon which concerns two objects, than in a phenomenon which concerns only one. For example; the fact connoted by the word cause, is a fact in which the thing which is the cause, is implicated along with another thing which is the effect. The facts connoted by the word parent, and also by the word son or daughter, are a long series of phenomena of which both the parent and the child are parts; and the series of phenomena would not be that which the name parent expresses, unless the child formed a part of it, nor would it be that which the name son or daughter expresses, unless the parent formed a part of it. Now, when in a series of phenomena of any interest to us two objects are implicated, we naturally give names expressive of it to both the objects, and these are relative names. The two correlative names denote two different objects, the cause and the effect, or the parent and son; but though what they denote is different, what they connote is in a certain sense the same: both names connote the same set of facts, considered as giving one name to the one object, another name to the other. This set of facts, which is connoted by both the correlative names, was called by the old logicians the ground of the relation, fundamentum relationis. The fundamentum of any relation is the facts, fully set out, which are the reason of giving to two objects two correlative names. In some cases both objects seem to receive the same name; in the relation of likeness, both objects are said to be like; in the relation of equality, both are said to be equal. But even here the duality holds, on a stricter examination: for the first object (A) is not said to be like, absolutely, but to be like the second object (B); the second is not said to be like absolutely, but to be like the first. Now though “like” is only one name, “like A” is not the same name as “like B,” so that there is really, in this case also, a pair of names.

From these considerations we see that objects are said to be related, when there is any fact, simple or complex, either apprehended by the senses or otherwise, in which they both figure. Any objects, whether physical or mental, are related, or are in a relation, to one another, in virtue of any complex state of consciousness into which they both enter; even if it be a no more complex state of consciousness than that of merely thinking of them together. And they are related to each other in as many different ways, or in other words, they stand in as many distinct relations to one another, as there are specifically distinct states of consciousness of which they both form parts. As these may be innumerable, the possible relations not only Edition: current; Page: [183] of any one thing with others, but of any one thing with the same other, are infinitely numerous and various. But they may all be reduced to a certain number of general heads of classification, constituting the different kinds of Relation: each of which requires examination apart, to ascertain what, in each case, the state of consciousness, the cluster or train of sensations or thoughts, really is, in which the two objects figure, and which is connoted by the correlative names. This examination the author accordingly undertakes: and thus, under the guise of explaining names, he analyses all the principal cases which the world and the human mind present, of what are called Relations between things. (Vol. II, pp. 7-10.)

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[James Mill analyzes Relative Terms into groups (Vol. II, pp. 8-10):]

I. The only, or at least the principal, occasions, for naming simple sensations, or simple ideas, in pairs, seem to be these:

1. When we take them into simultaneous view, as such and such;

2. When we take them into simultaneous view, as antecedent and consequent.

II. The principal occasions on which we name the complex ideas, called objects, in pairs, are these four:

1. When we speak of them as having an order in space;

2. When we speak of them as having an order in time;

3. When we speak of them as agreeing or disagreeing in quantity;

4. As agreeing or disagreeing in quality.

III. The occasions on which we name the complex ideas of our own formation in pairs, are,

1. When we speak of them as composed of the same or different simple ideas;

2. When we speak of them as antecedent and consequent.

[He then (Vol. II, p. 10) turns to the first:]

I. 1. We speak of two sensations, as Same or Different, Like or Unlike.

[J.S. Mill’s note comes at the end of the discussion of I, 1.]

The author commences his survey of Relations with the most universal of them all, Likeness and Unlikeness; and he examines these as subsisting between simple sensations or ideas; for whatever be the true theory of likeness or unlikeness as between the simple elements, the same, in essentials, will serve for the likenesses or unlikenesses of the wholes compounded of them.

Examining, then, what constitutes likeness between two sensations (meaning two exactly similar sensations experienced at different times); he says, that to feel the two sensations to be alike, is one and the same thing with having the two sensations. Their being alike is nothing but their being felt to be alike; their being Edition: current; Page: [184] unlike is nothing but their being felt to be unlike. The feeling of unlikeness is merely that feeling of change, in passing from the one to the other, which makes them two, and without which we should not be conscious of them at all. The feeling of likeness, is the being reminded of the former sensation by the present, that is, having the idea of the former sensation called up by the present, and distinguishing them as sensation and idea.

It does not seem to me that this mode of describing the matter explains anything, or leaves the likenesses and unlikenesses of our simple feelings less an ultimate fact than they were before. All it amounts to is, that likeness and unlikeness are themselves only a matter of feeling: and that when we have two feelings, the feeling of their likeness or unlikeness is inextricably interwoven with the fact of having the feelings. One of the conditions, under which we have feelings, is that they are like and unlike: and in the case of simple feelings, we cannot separate the likeness or unlikeness from the feelings themselves. It is by no means certain, however, that when we have two feelings in immediate succession, the feeling of their likeness is not a third feeling which follows instead of being involved in the two. This question is expressly left open by Mr. Herbert Spencer, in his Principles of Psychology;116 and I am not aware that any philosopher has conclusively resolved it. We do not get rid of any difficulty by calling the feeling of likeness the same thing with the two feelings that are alike: we have equally to postulate likeness and unlikeness as primitive facts—as an inherent distinction among our sensations; and whichever form of phraseology we employ makes no difference in the ulterior developments of psychology. It is of no practical consequence whether we say that a phenomenon is resolved into sensations and ideas, or into sensations, ideas, and their resemblances, since under the one expression as under the other the resemblance must be recognised as an indispensable element in the compound.

When we pass from resemblance between simple sensations and ideas, to resemblance between complex wholes, the process, though not essentially different, is more complicated, for it involves a comparison of part with part, element with element, and therefore a previous discrimination of the elements. When we judge that an external object, compounded of a number of attributes, is like another external object; since they are not, usually, alike in all their attributes, we have to take the two objects into simultaneous consideration in respect to each of their various attributes one after another: their colour, to observe whether that is similar; their size, whether that is similar; their figure, their weight, and so on. It comes at last to a perception of likeness or unlikeness between simple sensations: but we reduce it to this by attending separately to one of the simple sensations forming the one cluster, and to one of those forming the other cluster, and if possible adjusting our organs of sense so as to have these two sensations in immediate juxtaposition: as when we put two objects, of which we wish to Edition: current; Page: [185] compare the colour, side by side, so that our sense of sight may pass directly from one of the two sensations of colour to the other. This act of attention directed successively to single attributes, blunts our feeling of the other attributes of the objects, and enables us to feel the likeness of the single sensations almost as vividly as if we had nothing but these in our mind. Having felt this likeness, we say that the sensations are like, and that the two objects are like in respect of those sensations: and continuing the process we pronounce them to be either like or unlike in each of the other sensations which we receive from them. (Vol. II, pp. 17-20.)

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[The next section, I, 2, begins (Vol. II, p. 18):] 2. The only other relative terms applicable to simple sensations and ideas, are those which denote them as Antecedent and Consequent. [Once more J.S. Mill’s note appears at the end of the discussion.]

The next relation which the author examines is that of succession, or Antecedent and Consequent. And here again we have one of the universal conditions to which all our feelings or states of consciousness are subject. Whenever we have more feelings than one, we must have them either simultaneously or in succession; and when we are conscious of having them in succession, we cannot in any way separate or isolate the succession from the feelings themselves. The author attempts to carry the analysis somewhat farther. He says that when we have two sensations in the order of antecedent and consequent, the consequent calls up the idea of the antecedent; and that this fact, that a sensation calls up the idea of another sensation directly, and not through an intermediate idea, constitutes that other sensation the antecedent of the sensation which reminds us of it—is not a consequence of the one sensation’s having preceded the other, but is literally all we mean by the one sensation’s having preceded the other. There seem to be grave objections to this doctrine. In the first place, there is no law of association by which a consequent calls up the idea of its antecedent. The law of successive association is that the antecedent calls up the idea of the consequent, but not conversely; as is seen in the difficulty of repeating backwards even a form of words with which we are very familiar. We get round from the consequent to the antecedent by an indirect process, through the medium of other ideas; or by going back, at each step, to the beginning of the train, and repeating it downwards until we reach that particular link. When a consequent directly recalls its antecedent, it is by synchronous association, when the antecedent happens to have been so prolonged as to coexist with, instead of merely preceding, the consequent.

The next difficulty is, that although the direct recalling of the idea of a past Edition: current; Page: [186] sensation by a present, without any intermediate link, does not take place from consequent to antecedent, it does take place from like to like: a sensation recalls the idea of a past sensation resembling itself, without the intervention of any other idea. The author, however, says, that “when two sensations in a train are such that if one exists, it has the idea of the other along with it by its immediate exciting power, and not through any intermediate idea; the sensation, the idea of which is thus excited, is called the antecedent, the sensation which thus excites that idea is called the consequent.”117 If this therefore were correct, we should give the names of antecedent and consequent not to the sensations which really are so, but to those which recall one another by resemblance.

Thirdly and lastly, to explain antecedence, i.e. the succession between two feelings, by saying that one of the two calls up the idea of the other, that is to say, is followed by it, is to explain succession by succession, and antecedence by antecedence. Every explanation of anything by states of our consciousness, includes as part of the explanation a succession between those states; and it is useless attempting to analyse that which comes out as an element in every analysis we are able to make. Antecedence and consequence, as well as likeness and unlikeness, must be postulated as universal conditions of Nature, inherent in all our feelings whether of external or of internal consciousness. (Vol. II, pp. 22-4.)

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[Abstract terms, James Mill argues,] derive their meaning wholly from their concretes. . . . The same, in its abstract sense, is the case with line, though we have not words by which we can convey the conception with equal clearness. If we had an abstract term, separate from the concrete, the troublesome association in question would have been less indissoluble, and less deceptive. If we had such a word as Lineness, or Linth, for example, we should have much more easily seen, that our idea is the idea of the physical line; and that linth without a line, as breadth without something broad, length without something long, are just nothing at all.

This conception of a geometrical line, as the abstract, of which a physical line is the corresponding concrete, is scarcely satisfactory. An abstract name is the name of an attribute, or property, of the things of which the concrete name is predicated. It is, no doubt, the name of some part, some one or more, of the sensations composing the concrete group, but not of those sensations simply and in themselves; it is the name of those sensations regarded as belonging to some group. Whiteness, the abstract name, is the name of the colour white, considered as the colour of some physical object. Now I do not see that a geometrical line is Edition: current; Page: [187] conceived as an attribute of a physical object. The attribute of objects which comes nearest to the signification of a geometrical line, is their length: but length does not need any name but its own; and the author does not seem to mean that a geometrical line is the same thing as length. He seems to have fallen into the mistake of confounding an abstract with an ideal. The line which is meant in all the theorems of geometry I take to be as truly concrete as a physical line; it denotes an object, but one purely imaginary; a suppositious object, agreeing in all else with a physical line, but differing from it in having no breadth. The properties of this imaginary line of course agree with those of a physical line, except so far as these depend on, or are affected by, breadth. The lines, surfaces, and figures contemplated by geometry are abstract, only in the improper sense of the term, in which it is applied to whatever results from the mental process called Abstraction. They ought to be called ideal. They are physical lines, surfaces, and figures, idealized, that is, supposed hypothetically to be perfectly what they are only imperfectly, and not to be at all what they are in a very slight, and for most purposes wholly unimportant, degree. (Vol. II, pp. 28-9.)

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[In his discussion of relative terms that apply to the synchronous order, that is, in space, James Mill comments:] We never perceive, what we call an object, except in the synchronous order. Whatever other sensations we receive, the sensations of the synchronous order, are always received along with them. When we perceive a chair, a tree, a man, a house, they are always situated so and so, with respect to other objects. As the sensations of position are thus always received with the other sensations of an object, the idea of Position is so closely associated with the idea of the object, that it is wholly impossible for us to have the one idea without the other. It is one of the most remarkable cases of indissoluble association; and is that feeling which men describe, when they say that the idea of space forces itself upon their understandings, and is necessary.

Under the head, as before, of Relative Terms, we find here an analysis of the important and intricate complex ideas of Extension and Position. It will be convenient to defer any remarks on this analysis, until it can be considered in conjunction with the author’s exposition of the closely allied subjects of Motion and Space.118 (Vol. II, p. 36.)

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[Turning to relative terms in the successive order, that is, in time, James Mill says:] Of successions, that is, the order of objects as antecedent and consequent, some are constant, some not constant. Thus, a stone dropped in the air always falls to the ground. This is a case of constancy of sequence. Heavy clouds drop rain, but not always. This is a case of casual sequence.

This is surely an improper use of the word Casual. Sequences cannot be exhaustively divided into invariable and casual, or (as by the author a few pages further on) into constant and fortuitous. Heavy clouds, though they do not always drop rain, are not connected with it by mere accident, as the passing of a waggon might be. They are connected with it through causation: they are one of the conditions on which, when united, rain is invariably consequent, though it is not invariably consequent on that single condition. This distinction is essential to any system of Inductive Logic, in which it recurs at every step. (Vol. II, pp. 37-8.)

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[Continuing his account of relative terms in the successive order, James Mill says, after treating Doctor and Patient as properly “one name, though made up of two parts,” that Father and Son are similarly] the two extremities of a train of great length and intricacy, very imperfectly understood. They also, both together, compose, as may easily be seen, but one name. Father is a word which connotes Son, and whether Son is expressed or not, the meaning of it is implied. In like manner Son connotes Father; and, stripped of that connotation, is without a meaning. Taken together, therefore, they are one name, the name of the complex idea of that train of which father is the one extremity, son the other.

It seems hardly a proper expression to say that Physician and Patient, or that Father and Son, are one name made up of two parts. When one of the parts is a name of one person and the other part is the name of another, it is difficult to see how the two together can be but one name. Father and Son are two names, denoting different persons: but what the author had it in his mind to say, was that they connote the same series of facts, which series, as the two persons are both indispensable parts of it, gives names to them both, and is made the foundation or fundamentum of an attribute ascribed to each.

With the exception of this questionable use of language, which the author had recourse to because he had not left himself the precise word Connote, to express what there is of real identity in the signification of the two names; the analysis which follows of the various complicated cases of relation seems philosophically unexceptionable. The complexity of a relation consists in the complex composition of the series of facts or phenomena which the names connote, and which is the fundamentum relationis. The names signify that the person or thing, of which they Edition: current; Page: [189] are predicated, forms part of a group or succession of phenomena along with the other person or thing which is its correlate: and the special nature of that group or series, which may be of extreme complexity, constitutes the speciality of the relation predicated. (Vol. II, pp. 39-40.)

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[J.S. Mill’s note comes at the end of James Mill’s third subsection on relative terms, dealing with quantity.]

After analysing Position and Extension under the head of Relative Terms, the author now, under the same head, gives the analysis of Quantity and Quality. To what he says on the subject of Quantity it does not appear necessary to add anything. He seems to have correctly analysed the phenomenon down to a primitive element, beyond which we have no power to investigate. As Likeness and Unlikeness appeared to be properties of our simple feelings, which must be postulated as ultimate, and which are inseparable from the feelings themselves, so may this also be said of More and Less. As some of our feelings are like, some unlike, so there is a mode of likeness or unlikeness which we call Degree: some feelings otherwise like are unlike in degree, that is one is unlike another in intensity, or one is unlike another in duration; in either case one is distinguished as more, or greater, the other as less. And the fact of being more or less only means that we feel them as more or less. The author says in this case, as he had said in the other elementary cases of relation, that the more and the less being different sensations, to trace them and to distinguish their difference are not two things but one and the same thing. It matters not, since there the difference still is, unsusceptible of further analysis. The author’s apparent simplification amounts only to this, that differences of quantity, like all other differences of which we take cognizance, are differences merely in our feelings; they exist only as they are felt. But (as we have already said of resemblance, and of antecedence and consequence) they must be postulated as elements. The distinction of more and less is one of the ultimate conditions under which we have all our states of consciousness. (Vol. II, pp. 53-4.)

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[James Mill’s fourth subsection on relative terms, on quality, is followed by J.S. Mill’s note:]

As in the case of Quantity, so in that of Quality, it is needless to add anything to the Edition: current; Page: [190] author’s very sufficient elucidation. I merely make the usual reserves with respect to the use of the word Connotation. The concrete names which predicate qualities (for of abstract relative names the author is not yet speaking) are said by him to be the names of our sensations; green, for instance, and red. But it is the abstract names alone which are this: the names greenness, and redness. And even the abstract names signify something more than only the sensations: they are names of the sensations considered as derived from an object which produces them. The concrete name is a name not of the sensation, but of the object, of which alone it is predicable: we talk of green objects, but not of green sensations. It however connotes the quality greenness, that is, it connotes that particular sensation as produced by, or proceeding from, the object; as forming one of the group of sensations which constitutes the object. This, however, is but a difference, though a very important one, in terminology. It is strictly true, that the real meaning of the word is the sensations; as, in all cases, the meaning of a connotative word resides in the connotation (the attributes signified by it), though it is the name of, or is predicable of, only the objects which it denotes. (Vol. II, pp. 60-1.)

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[J.S. Mill’s note is appended to a clause, “In the case of objects, that which is named, is, clusters of ideas,” in James Mill’s discussion of “clusters, formed by arbitrary association,” that “receive names in pairs,” when “they consist of the same or different simple ideas”:]

Say rather, in the case of objects, what is named is clusters of sensations, supplemented by possibilities of sensation. If an object is but a cluster of ideas, what is there to distinguish it from a mere thought? (Vol. II, p. 62.)

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[Continuing the discussion of arbitrarily associated simple ideas giving rise to relative terms, James Mill deals (Vol. II, pp. 63-4) with equal and unequal, greater and less. J.S. Mill’s note comes at the end of the discussion.]

In this passage the author has got as near as it is perhaps possible to get, to an analysis of the ideas of More and Less. We say there is more of something, when, to what there already was, there has been superadded other matter of the same kind. And when there is no actual superadding, but merely two independent masses of the same substance, we call that one the greater which produces the same impression on our senses which the other would produce if an addition were made Edition: current; Page: [191] to it. So with differences of intensity. One sweet taste is called sweeter than another because it resembles the taste which would be produced by adding more sugar: and so forth. In all these cases there is presupposed an original difference in the sensations produced in us by the greater mass and by the smaller: but according to the explanation now offered, the idea which guides the application of the terms is that of physical juxtaposition. (Vol. II, pp. 64-5.)

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[James Mill continues his discussion of relative terms by considering (Vol. II, pp. 65-9) successive ideas, which call forth terms such as antecedent and consequent, prior and posterior, first and second. In the course of the argument, he asks (p. 67):] if thoughts are reciprocally Cause and Effect, that is to say, if, in trains of thought, the same antecedent is regularly followed by the same consequent, how happens it that all trains of thought are not the same? [His answer is that the sensations giving rise to the ideas, and contributing to the “trains,” vary greatly. J.S. Mill’s note is appended to the end of this argument.]

The author may seem to be anticipating a difficulty which few will feel, when he asks how it happens that all trains of thought are not the same. But what he is enquiring into is not why this happens, but how its happening is consistent with the doctrine he has just laid down. He is guarding against a possible objection to his proposition, that “the succession of two thoughts” has “that constancy to which we apply the terms Cause and Effect.”119 If (he says) it is by direct causation that an idea raises up another idea with which it is associated; and if it be the nature and the very meaning of a cause, to be invariably followed by its effect; how is it, he asks, that any two minds, which have once had the same idea, do not coincide in their whole subsequent history? And how is it that the same mind, when it gets back to an idea it has had before, odes not go on revolving in an eternal round?

Of this difficulty he gives a solution, good as far as it goes—that it is because the train of ideas is interrupted by sensations, which are not the same in different minds, nor in the same mind at every repetition, and which even when they are the same, are connected in different minds with different associations. This is true, but is not the whole truth, and a still more complete explanation of the difficulty might have been given. The author has overlooked a part of the laws of association, of which he was perfectly aware, but to which he does not seem to have been always sufficiently alive. The first point overlooked is, that one idea seldom, perhaps never, entirely fills and engrosses the mind. We have almost always a considerable number of ideas in the mind at once; and it must be a very rare occurrence for any two persons, or for the same person twice over, to have exactly the same collection Edition: current; Page: [192] of ideas present, each in the same relative intensity. For this reason, were there no other, the ideas which the mental state excites by association are almost always more or less different.

A second point overlooked is, that every sensation or idea is far from recalling, whenever it occurs, all the ideas with which it is associated. It never recalls more than a portion of them, and a portion different at different times. The author has not, in any part of the Analysis, laid down any law that determines which among the many ideas associated with an idea or sensation, shall be actually called up by it in a given case. The selection which it makes among them depends on the truth already stated, that we seldom or never have only one idea at a time. When we have several together, they all exercise their suggesting power, and each of them aids, impedes, or modifies the suggesting power of the others. This important case of Association has been treated in a masterly manner by Mr. Bain, both in his larger treatise and in his Compendium, under the name of Compound Association, and he lays down the following as its most general law. “Past actions, sensations, thoughts, or emotions, are recalled more easily when associated either through contiguity or similarity, with more than one present object or impression.”* It follows that when we have several ideas in our mind, none of which is able to call up all the ideas associated with it, those ideas will usually have the preference which are associated with more than one of the ideas already present. An idea A, coexisting in the mind with an idea B, will not select the same idea from among those associated with it, that it would if it occurred alone or with a different accompaniment. If there be any one of the ideas associated with A which is also associated with B, this will probably be one of those called up by their joint action. If there be any idea associated with A which not only is not associated with B, but whose negation is associated with B, this idea will probably be prevented from arising. If there are any sensations which have usually been presented in conjunction, not with A alone, or with B alone, but with the combination AB, still more likely is it that the ideas of these will be recalled when A and B are thought of together, even though A or B by themselves might in preference have recalled some other.

These considerations will be found of primary importance in explaining and accounting for the course of human thought. They enable us, for example, to understand what it is that keeps a train of thought coherent, i.e. that maintains it of a given quality, or directs it to a given purpose. The ideas which succeed one another in the mind of a person who is writing a treatise on some subject, or striving to persuade or conciliate a tribunal or a deliberative assembly, are suggested one by another according to the general laws of association. Yet the ideas recalled are not those which would be called up on any common occasion by the same antecedents, but are those only which connect themselves in the writer’s Edition: current; Page: [193] or speaker’s mind with the end which he is aiming at. The reason is, that the various ideas of the train are not solitary in his mind, but there coexists with all of them (in a greater or less degree of constancy according to the quality of the mind) the highly interesting idea of the end in view: and the presence of this idea causes each of the ideas which pass through his mind while so engaged, to suggest such of the ideas associated with them as are also associated with the idea of the end, and not to suggest those which have no association with it. The ideas all follow one another in an associated train, each calling up by association the one which immediately follows it; but the perpetual presence or continual recurrence of the idea of the end, determines, within certain limits, which of the ideas associated with each link of the chain shall be aroused and form the next link. When we come to the author’s analysis of the power of the Will over our ideas, we shall find him taking exactly this view of it.

Concerning the simultaneous existence of many ideas in the mind, and the manner in which they modify each other’s exercise of the suggesting power, there is an able and instructive passage in Cardaillac’s Etudes Elémentaires de Philosophie, which has been translated and quoted by Sir William Hamilton in his Lectures, and which, being highly illustrative of the preceding remarks, I think it useful to subjoin.

Among psychologists, those who have written on Memory and Reproduction with the greatest detail and precision, have still failed in giving more than a meagre outline of these operations. They have taken account only of the notions which suggest each other with a distinct and palpable notoriety. They have viewed the associations only in the order in which language is competent to express them; and as language, which renders them still more palpable and distinct, can only express them in a consecutive order, can only express them one after another, they have been led to suppose that thoughts only awaken in succession. Thus, a series of ideas mutually associated, resembles, on the doctrine of philosophers, a chain in which every link draws up that which follows; and it is by means of these links that intelligence labours through, in the act of reminiscence, to the end which it proposes to attain.

There are some, indeed, among them, who are ready to acknolwedge, that every actual circumstance is associated to several fundamental notions, and consequently to several chains, between which the mind may choose; they admit even that every link is attached to several others, so that the whole forms a kind of trellis,—a kind of network, which the mind may traverse in every direction, but still always in a single direction at once,—always in a succession similar to that of speech. This manner of explaining reminiscence is founded solely on this,—that, content to have observed all that is distinctly manifest in the phenomenon, they have paid no attention to the under-play of the latescent activities,—paid no attention to all that custom conceals, and conceals the more effectually in proportion as it is more completely blended with the natural agencies of mind.

Thus their theory, true in itself, and setting out from a well-established principle, the Association of Ideas, explains in a satisfactory manner a portion of the phenomena of Reminiscence; but it is incomplete, for it is unable to account for the prompt, easy, and varied operation of this faculty, or for all the marvels it performs. On the doctrine of the philosophers, we can explain how a scholar repeats, without hesitation, a lesson he has learned, for all the words are associated in his mind according to the order in which he has studied them; how he demonstrates a geometrical theorem, the parts of which are connected Edition: current; Page: [194] together in the same manner; these and similar reminiscences of simple successions present no difficulties which the common doctrine cannot resolve. But it is impossible, on this doctrine, to explain the rapid and certain movement of thought, which, with a marvellous facility, passes from one order of subjects to another, only to return again to the first; which advances, retrogrades, deviates, and reverts, sometimes marking all the points on its route, again clearing, as if in play, immense intervals; which runs over, now in a manifest order, now in a seeming irregularity, all the notions relative to an object, often relative to several, between which no connection could be suspected; and this without hesitation, without uncertainty, without error, as the hand of a skilful musician expatiates over the keys of the most complex organ. All this is inexplicable on the meagre and contracted theory on which the phenomena of reproduction have been thought explained. . . .

To form a correct notion of the phenomena of Reminiscence, it is requisite that we consider under what conditions it is determined to exertion. In the first place it is to be noted that, at every crisis of our existence, momentary circumstances are the causes which awaken our activity, and set our recollection at work to supply the necessaries of thought. In the second place, it is as constituting a want, (and by want I mean the result either of an act of desire or of volition) that the determining circumstance tends principally to awaken the thoughts with which it is associated. This being the case, we should expect, that each circumstance which constitutes a want, should suggest, likewise, the notion of the object, or objects, proper to satisfy it; and this is what actually happens. It is, however, further to be observed, that it is not enough that the want suggests the idea of the object; for if that idea were alone, it would remain without effect, since it could not guide me in the procedure I should follow. It is necessary, at the same time, that to the idea of this object there should be associated the notion of the relation of this object to the want, of the place where I may find it, of the means by which I may procure it, and turn it to account, etc. For instance, I wish to make a quotation: This want awakens in me the idea of the author in whom the passage is to be found which I am desirous of citing; but this idea would be fruitless, unless there were conjoined, at the same time, the representation of the volume, of the place where I may obtain it, of the means I must employ, etc.

Hence I infer, in the first place, that a want does not awaken an idea of its object alone, but that it awakens it accompanied with a number, more or less considerable, of accessory notions, which form, as it were, its train or attendance. This train may vary according to the nature of the want which suggests the notion of an object; but the train can never fall wholly off, and it becomes more indissolubly attached to the object, in proportion as it has been more frequently called up in attendance.

I infer, in the second place, that this accompaniment of accessory notions, simultaneously suggested with the principal idea, is far from being as vividly and distinctly represented in consciousness as that idea itself; and when these accessories have once been completely blended with the habits of the mind, and its reproductive agency, they at length finally disappear, becoming fused, as it were, in the consciousness of the idea to which they are attached. Experience proves this double effect of the habits of reminiscence. If we observe our operations relative to the gratification of a want, we shall perceive that we are far from having a clear consciousness of the accessory notions; the consciousness of them is, as it were, obscured, and yet we cannot doubt that they are present to the mind, for it is they that direct our procedure in all its details.

We must, therefore, I think, admit that the thought of an object immediately suggested by a desire, is always accompanied by an escort more or less numerous of accessory thoughts, equally present to the mind, though, in general, unknown in themselves to consciousness; that these accessories are not without their influence in guiding the operations elicited by the principal notion; and it may even be added that they are so much the more calculated to exert Edition: current; Page: [195] an effect in the conduct of our procedure, in proportion as, having become more part and parcel of our habits of reproduction, the influences they exert are further withdrawn, in ordinary, from the ken of consciousness. . . . The same thing may be illustrated by what happens to us in the case of reading. Originally each word, each letter, was a separate object of consciousness. At length, the knowledge of letters and words and lines being, as it were, fused into our habits, we no longer have any distinct consciousness of them, as severally concurring to the result, of which alone we are conscious. But that each word and letter has its effect,—an effect which can at any moment become an object of consciousness,—is shewn by the following experiment. If we look over a book for the occurrence of a particular name or word, we glance our eye over a page from top to bottom, and ascertain, almost in a moment, that it is or is not to be found therein. Here the mind is hardly conscious of a single word, but that of which it is in quest; but yet it is evident, that each other word and letter must have produced an obscure effect, which effect the mind was ready to discriminate and strengthen, so as to call it into clear consciousness, whenever the effect was found to be that which the letters of the word sought for could determine. But if the mind be not unaffected by the multitude of letters and words which it surveys, if it be able to ascertain whether the combination of letters constituting the word it seeks, be or be not actually among them, and all this without any distinct consciousness of all it tries and finds defective; why may we not suppose,—why are we not bound to suppose, that the mind may, in like manner, overlook its book of memory, and search among its magazines of latescent cognitions for the notions of which it is in want, awakening these into consciousness, and allowing the others to remain in their obscurity?

A more attentive consideration of the subject will show, that we have not yet divined the faculty of Reminiscence in its whole extent. Let us make a single reflection. Continually struck by relations of every kind, continually assailed by a crowd of perceptions and sensations of every variety, and, at the same time, occupied by a complement of thoughts; we experience at once, and we are more or less distinctly conscious of, a considerable number of wants,—wants, sometimes real, sometimes factitious or imaginary,—phenomena, however, all stamped with the same characters, and all stimulating us to act with more or less of energy. And as we choose among the different wants which we would satisfy, as well as among the different means of satisfying that want which we determine to prefer; and as the motives of this preference are taken either from among the principal ideas relative to each of these several wants, or from among the accessory ideas which habit has established into their necessary escorts;—in all these cases it is requisite, that all the circumstances should at once, and from the moment they have taken the character of wants, produce an effect, correspondent to that which, we have seen, is caused by each in particular. Hence we are compelled to conclude, that the complement of the circumstances by which we are thus affected, has the effect of rendering always present to us, and consequently of placing at our disposal, an immense number of thoughts; some of which certainly are distinctly recognised, being accompanied by a vivid consciousness, but the greater number of which, although remaining latent, are not the less effective in continually exercising their peculiar influence on our modes of judging and acting.

We might say, that each of these momentary circumstances is a kind of electric shock which is communicated to a certain portion, to a certain limited sphere, of intelligence; and the sum of all these circumstances is equal to so many shocks which, given at once at so many different points, produce a general agitation. We may form some rude conception of this phenomenon by an analogy. We may compare it, in the former case, to those concentric circles which are presented to our observation on a smooth sheet of water, when its surface is agitated by throwing in a pebble; and, in the latter case, to the same surface when agitated by a number of pebbles thrown simultaneously at different points.

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To obtain a clearer notion of this phenomenon, I may add some observations on the relation of our thoughts among themselves, and with the determining circumstances of the moment.

1° Among the thoughts, notions, or ideas which belong to the different groups attached to the principal representations simultaneously awakened, there are some reciprocally connected by relations proper to themselves; so that, in this whole complement of coexistent activities, these tend to excite each other to higher vigour, and consequently to obtain for themselves a kind of pre-eminence in the group or particular circle of activity to which they belong.

2° There are thoughts associated, whether as principals or accessories, to a greater number of determining circumstances, or to circumstances which recur more frequently. Hence they present themselves oftener than the others, they enter more completely into our habits, and take, in a more absolute manner, the character of customary or habitual notions. It hence results, that they are less obtrusive, though more energetic, in their influence, enacting, as they do, a principal part in almost all our deliberations; and exercising a stronger influence on our determinations.

3° Among this great crowd of thoughts, simultaneously excited, those which are connected with circumstances which more vividly affect us, assume not only the ascendant over others of the same description with themselves, but likewise predominate over all those which are dependent on circumstances of a feebler determining influence.

From these three considerations we ought, therefore, to infer, that the thoughts connected with circumstances on which our attention is more specially concentrated, are those which prevail over the others; for the effect of attention is to render dominant and exclusive the object on which it is directed, and during the moment of attention it is the circumstance to which we attend that necessarily obtains the ascendant.

Thus, if we appreciate correctly the phenomena of Reproduction or Reminiscence, we shall recognise, as an incontestable fact, that our thoughts suggest each other not one by one successively, as the order to which language is astricted might lead us to infer; but that the complement of circumstances under which we at every moment exist, awakens simultaneously a great number of thoughts; these it calls into the presence of the mind, either to place them at our disposal, if we find it requisite to employ them, or to make them co-operate in our deliberations by giving them, according to their nature and our habits, an influence, more or less active, on our judgments and consequent acts.

It is also to be observed, that in this great crowd of thoughts always present to the mind, there is only a small number of which we are distinctly conscious: and that in this small number we ought to distinguish those which, being clothed in language, oral or mental, become the objects of a more fixed attention; those which hold a closer relation to circumstances more impressive than others; or which receive a predominant character by the more vigorous attention we bestow on them. As to the others, although not the objects of clear consciousness, they are nevertheless present to the mind, there to perform a very important part as motive principles of determination; and the influence which they exert in this capacity is even the more powerful in proportion as it is less apparent, being more disguised by habit.*

(Vol. II, pp. 69-79.)

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[In dealing with abstract relative terms, James Mill calls attention to a peculiarity in “abstract terms formed from the relative concrete terms”; the abstract of one relative term “always connotes the abstract of the other,” for example, priority and posteriority “connote” one another. He continues (Vol. II, pp. 82-3):] This constitutes a distinction, worth observing, between the force of the abstracts formed from the pairs of relatives which consist of different names, as prior, posterior; cause, effect; father, son; husband, wife;—and those which consist of the same name, as equal, equal; like, like; brother, brother; friend, friend; and so on. Priority and Posteriority make together a compound name of something, of which, taken separately, each is not a name; Causingness and Causedness, the abstracts of cause and effect, make up between them the name of something, of which each by itself is not a name, and so of the rest. The case is different with such abstracts as likeness, equality, friendship, formed from pairs which consist of the same name. When we call A like, and B like; the Abstract, likeness, formed from the one, connotes merely the abstract, likeness, formed from the other. Thus, as priority and posteriority make a compound name, so likeness and likeness, make a compound name. But as likeness and likeness are merely a reduplication of the same word, likeness taken once very often signifies the same as likeness taken twice. Priority never signifies as much as priority and posteriority taken together; but likeness taken alone very often signifies as much as likeness, likeness, taken both together. Likeness has thus a sort of a double meaning. Sometimes it signifies only what is marked by the abstract of one of the pair, “like, like;” sometimes it signifies what is marked by the abstracts of both taken together. The same observation applies to the abstracts equality, inequality; sameness, difference; brotherhood, sisterhood; friendship, hostility; and so on.

The exposition here given of the meaning of abstract relative names is in substance unexceptionable; but in language it remains open to the criticism I have, several times, made. Instead of saying, with the author, that the abstract name drops the connotation of the corresponding concrete, it would, in the language I prefer, be said to drop the denotation, and to be a name directly denoting what the concrete name connotes, namely, the common property or properties that it predicates: the likeness, the unlikeness, the fact of preceding, the fact of following, etc.

When the author says that abstract relative names differ from other abstract names in not being wholly void of connotation, inasmuch as they connote their correlatives, priority connoting posteriority, and posteriority priority, he deserts the specific meaning which he has sought to attach to the word connote, and falls back upon the loose and general sense in which everything implied by a term is said to be connoted by it. But in this large sense of the word (as I have more than once remarked) it is not true that non-relative abstract names have no connotation. Every abstract name—every name of the character which is given by the terminations ness, tion, and the like—carries with it a uniform implication that what it is predicated of is an attribute of something else; not a sensation or a thought Edition: current; Page: [198] in and by itself, but a sensation or thought regarded as one of, or as accompanying or following, some permanent cluster of sensations or thoughts. (Vol. II, p. 83.)

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[James Mill comments that] Causation has the same meaning with Power, except that it connotes present time; Power connotes indefinite time.

The term Causation, as the author observes, signifies causingness and causedness taken together, but I do not see on what ground he asserts that it connotes present time. To my thinking, it is as completely aoristic as Power. Power, again, seems to me to express, not causingness and causedness taken together, but causingness only. Some of the older philosophers certainly talked of passive power, but neither in the precise language of modern philosophy nor in common speech is an effect said to have the power of being produced, but only the capacity or capability. The power is always conceived as belonging to the cause only. When any co-operating power is supposed to reside in the thing said to be acted upon, it is because some active property in that thing is counted as a con-cause—as a part of the total cause. (Vol. II, p. 85.)

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[Near the end of “Abstract Relative Terms,” Sect. 2 of Chap. xiv, James Mill avers (Vol. II, pp. 86-7) that just as Noun is] the name of a certain class of words, so Relation, is the name of a certain class of words.

It is not, however, meant to be affirmed, that relative and relation, are not names which are also applied to things. In a certain vague, and indistinct way, they are very frequently so applied. This, however, is, strictly speaking, an abuse of the terms, and an abuse which has been a great cause of confusion of ideas. In this way, it is said, of two brothers, that they are relative; of father and son, that they are relative; of two objects, that they are relative in position, relative in time; we speak of the relation between two men, when they are father and son, master and servant; between two objects, when they are greater, less, like, unlike, near, distant, and so on.

What, however, we really mean, when we call two objects relative (and that is a thing which it is of great importance to mark) is, that these objects have, or may have, relative names. [J.S. Mill’s note comes at the end of the Section.]

The application of the word Relative to Things is not only an offence against philosophy, but against propriety of language. The correct designation for Things Edition: current; Page: [199] which are called by relative names, is not Relative, but Related. A Thing may, with perfect propriety both of thought and of language, be said to be related to another thing, or to have a relation with it—indeed to be related to all things, and to have a prodigious variety of relations with all; because every fact that takes place, either in Nature or in human thought, which includes or involves a plurality of Things, is the fundamentum of a special relation of those Things with one another: not to mention the relations of likeness or unlikeness, of priority or posteriority, which exist between each Thing and all other Things whatever. It is in this sense that it is said, with truth, that Relations exhaust all phenomena, and that all we know, or can know, of anything, is some of its relations to other things or to us. (Vol. II, p. 88.)

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[In “Numbers,” Sect. 3 of Chap. xiv, James Mill says that Numbers “are not names of objects,” but of “a certain process,” that of addition.] One, is the name of this once performed, or of the aggregation begun; two, the name of it once more performed; three, of it once more performed; and so on. The words, however, in these concrete forms, beside their power in noting this process, connote something else, namely, the things, whatever they are, the enumeration of which is required.

In the case of these connotative, as of other connotative marks, it was of great use to have the means of dropping the connotation; and in this case, it would have been conducive to clearness of ideas, if the non-connotative terms had received a mark to distinguish them from the connotative. This advantage, however, the framers of numbers were not sufficiently philosophical to provide. The same names are used both as connotative, and non-connotative; that is, both as abstract, and concrete; and it is far from being obvious, on all occasions, in which of the two senses they are used. They are used in the connotative sense, when joined as adjectives with a substantive; as when we say two men, three women; but it is not so obvious that they are used in the abstract sense, when we say three and two make five; or when we say fifty is a great number, five is a small number. Yet it must, upon consideration, appear, that in these cases they are abstract terms merely; in place of which, the words oneness, twoness, threeness, might be substituted. Thus we might say, twoness and threeness are fiveness. [The words “to be a name of” do not occur in this part of the Analysis, though attributing them to James Mill, as J.S. Mill does in the following note appended to the passage, fairly represents his usage.]

The vague manner in which the author uses the phrase “to be a name of” (a vagueness common to almost all thinkers who have not precise terms expressing the two modes of signification which I call denotation and connotation, and employed for nothing else) has led him, in the present case, into a serious misuse Edition: current; Page: [200] of terms. Numbers are, in the strictest propriety, names of objects. Two is surely a name of the things which are two, the two balls, the two fingers, etc. The process of adding one to one which forms two is connoted, not denoted, by the name two. Numerals, in short, are concrete, not abstract, names: they denote the actual collections of things, and connote the mental process of counting them. It is not twoness and threeness that are fiveness: the twoness of my two hands and the threeness of the feet of the table cannot be added together to form another abstraction. It is two balls added to three balls that make, in the concrete, five balls. Numerals are a class of concrete general names predicable of all things whatever, but connoting, in each case, the quantitative relation of the thing to some fixed standard, as previously explained by the author. (Vol. II, pp. 92-3.)

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[The first paragraph of “Privative Terms,” Sect. 4 of Chap. xiv, to which J.S. Mill’s note is attached, reads:] Privative terms are distinguished from other terms, by this; that other terms are marks for objects, as present or existent; privative terms are marks for objects, as not present or not existent.

The author gives the name of Privative terms to all those which are more commonly known by the designation of Negative; to all which signify nonexistence or absence. It is usual to reserve the term Privative for names which signify not simple absence, but the absence of something usually present, or of which the presence might have been expected. Thus blind is classed as a privative term, when applied to human beings. When applied to stocks and stones, which are not expected to see, it is an admitted metaphor.

This, however, being understood, there is no difficulty in following the author’s exposition by means of his own language. (Vol. II, p. 99.)

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[James Mill chooses silence as an example of a “privative term,” saying (Vol. II, p. 103):] Silence is the absence of sound, either all sound, which is sometimes its meaning; or of some particular sound, which at other times is its meaning. Sound is the name of a well-known something, as present. Silence is the name of the same well-known something, as absent. The first word, is the name of the thing, and its presence. The second, is the name of the thing, and its absence. In the case of the combination marked by the first, namely, the thing and its presence, the thing is the prominent part, and the presence generally escapes attention. In the case of the second, the thing and its absence, the absence is the important part, and the thing is feebly, if at all, attended to. [James Mill also discusses ignorance, and absent Edition: current; Page: [201] (joined with a “particular name”), and concludes with the following passage, to which J.S. Mill’s note is appended:] The word Nothing, Nihil, is another generical Privative Term. That this word has a very important marking power, every man is sensible in the use which he makes of it. But if it marks, it names; that is, names something. Yet it seems to remove every thing; that is, not to leave anything to be named.

The preceding explanations, however, have already cleared up this mystery. The word Nothing is the Privative Term which corresponds to Every Thing. Every Thing is a name of all possible objects, including their existence. Nothing is a name of all possible objects, including their non-existence.

The analysis of the facts, in all these cases, is admirable, but I still demur to the language. I object to saying, for instance, that silence is “the name of sound and its absence.” It is not the name of sound, since we cannot say Sound is silence. It is the name of our state of sensation when there is no sound. The author is quite right in saying that this state of sensation recalls the idea of sound; to be conscious of silence as silence, implies that we are thinking of sound, and have the idea of it without the belief in its presence. In another of its uses, Silence is the abstract of Silent; which is a name of all things that make no sound, and of everything so long as it makes no sound; and which connotes the attribute of not sounding. So of all the other terms mentioned. Nothing is not a name of all possible objects, including their non-existence. If Nothing were a name of objects, we should be able to predicate of those objects that they are Nothing. Nothing is a name of the state of our consciousness when we are not aware of any object, or of any sensation. (Vol. II, pp. 105-6.)

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[James Mill remarks in his discussion of privative terms, that space has been] regarded as singularly mysterious. The difficulty which has been found in explaining the term, even, by those philosophers who have approached the nearest to its meaning, seems to have arisen, from their not perceiving the mode of signification of Abstract Terms; and from the obscurity of that class of sensations, a portion of which we employ the word extended to mark. The word space is an abstract, differing from its concrete, like other abstracts, by dropping the connotation. Much of the mystery, in which the idea has seemed to be involved, is owing to this single circumstance, that the abstract term, space, has not had an appropriate concrete. We have observed, that, in all cases, abstract terms can be explained only through their concretes; because they note or name a part of what the concrete names, leaving out the rest. If we were to make a concrete term, corresponding to the abstract term space, it must be a word equivalent to the terms “infinitely extended.” From the ideas included under the name “infinitely Edition: current; Page: [202] extended,” leave out resisting, and you have all that is marked by the abstract Space.

There is great originality as well as perspicacity in the explanation here given of Space, as a privative term, expressing, when analysed, the absence of the feeling of resistance in the circumstances in which resistance is frequently felt, namely, after the sensations of muscular action and motion. The only part of the exposition to which I demur is the classing of Space among abstract terms. I have already objected to calling the word line, when used in the geometrical sense, an abstract term. I hold it to be the concrete name of an ideal object possessing length but not breadth. In like manner a Space may be said to be the concrete name of an ideal object, extended but not resisting. The sensations connoted by this concrete name, are those which accompany the motion of our limbs or of our body in all directions: and along with these sensations is connoted the absence of certain others, viz. of the muscular sensations which accompany the arrest of that motion by a resisting substance. This being the meaning of a Space, Space in general must be a name equally concrete. It denotes the aggregate of all Spaces. (Vol. II, p. 111.)

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[Connecting the idea of infinity with that of space, James Mill discusses its origins, and concludes:] The idea of a portion more, adhering, by indissoluble association, to the idea of every increase, in any or in all directions, is the idea of “infinitely extended,” and the idea of “infinitely extended,” the connotation dropped, is the idea of Infinite Space. It has been called a simple idea (so little has the real nature of it been understood); while it is thus distinctly seen, to be one of the most complex ideas, which the whole train of our conscious being presents. Extreme complexity, with great closeness of association, has this effect—that every particular part in the composition is overpowered by the multitude of all the other parts, and no one in particular stands marked from the rest; but all, together, assume the appearance of one. Something perfectly analogous occurs, even in sensation. If two or three ingredients are mixed, as wine and honey, we can distinguish the taste of each, and say it is compound. But if a great many are mixed, we can distinguish no one in particular, and the taste of the whole appears a simple peculiar taste.

This explanation of the feeling of Infinity which attaches itself to Space, is one of the most important thoughts in the whole treatise; and, obvious as its truth is to a mind prepared by the previous exposition, it has great difficulty in finding entrance into other minds.

Every object is associated with some position: not always with the same Edition: current; Page: [203] position, but we have never perceived any object, and therefore never think of one, but in some position or other, relative to some other objects. As, from every position, Space extends in every direction (i.e. the unimpeded arm or body can move in any direction), and since we never were in any place which did not admit of motion in every direction from it, when such motion was not arrested by a resistance; every idea of position is irresistibly associated with extension beyond the position: and we can conceive no end to extension, because the place which we try to conceive as its end, raises irresistibly the idea of other places beyond it. This is one of the many so-called Necessities of Thought which are necessities only in consequence of the inseparableness of an association: but which, from unwillingness to admit this explanation, men mistake for original laws of the human mind, and even regard them as the effect and proof of a corresponding necessary connexion between facts existing in Nature. (Vol. II, pp. 113-14.)

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[In “Time,” Sect. 5 of Chap. xiv, James Mill remarks:] Of time itself we conceive, that it is never still. It is a perpetual flow of instants, of which only one can ever be present. The very idea of Time, therefore, is an idea of successions. It consists of this, and of nothing else.

But there are no real successions, save successions of objects, that is of feelings in our minds.

There is an unusual employment of language here, which if attention is not formally drawn to it, may embarrass the reader. By objects are commonly meant, those groups or clusters of sensations and possibilities of sensation, that compose what we call the external world. A single sensation, even external, and still less if internal, is not called an object. In a somewhat larger sense, whatever we think of, as distinguished from the thought itself and from ourselves as thinking it, is called an object; this is the common antithesis of Object and Subject. But in this place, the author designates as objects, all things which have real existence, as distinguished from the instants of mere Time, which, as he is pointing out, have not; and a puzzling effect is produced by his applying the name Object, in even an especial manner, to sensations: to the tickings of a watch, or the beatings of a patient’s pulse.120 (Vol. II, p. 117.)

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[J.S. Mill’s note is attached to the end of the section on time.]

As is shewn in the text, Time is a name for the aggregate of the successions of our feelings, apart from the feelings themselves. I object, however, in the case of Time, as I did in the case of Space, to considering it as an abstract term. Time does not seem to me to be a name (as the author says) for the pastness, the presentness, and the futureness of our successive feelings.121 It is rather, I think, a collective name for our feeling of their succession—for what the author called, in a previous section, the part of the process “which consists in being sensible of their successiveness,” for which part, he then said, “we have not a name.”122 This taking notice of the successiveness of our feelings, whether we prefer to call it a part of the feelings themselves, or another feeling superadded to them, is yet something which, in the entire mass of feeling which the successive impressions give us, we are able to discriminate, and to name apart from the rest. A perception of succession between two feelings is a state of consciousness per se, which though we cannot think of it separately from the feelings, we can yet think of as a completed thing in itself, and not as an attribute of either or both of the two feelings. Its name, if it had one, would be a concrete name. But the entire series of these perceptions of succession has a name, Time; which I therefore hold to be a concrete name.

However inextricably these feelings of succession are mixed up with the feelings perceived as successive, we are so perfectly able to attend to them, and make them a distinct object of thought, that we can compare them with one another, without comparing the successive feelings in any other respect. We can judge two or more successions to be of equal, or of unequal, rapidity. And if we find any series of feelings of which the successive links follow each other with uniform rapidity, such as the tickings of a clock, we can make this a standard of comparison for all other successions, and measure them as equal to one, two, three, or some other number of links of this series: whereby the aggregate Time is said to be divided into equal portions, and every event is located in some one of those portions. The succession of our sensations, therefore, however closely implicated with the sensations themselves, may be abstracted from them in thought, as completely as any quality of a thing can be abstracted from the thing.

The apparent infinity of Time the author, very rightly, explains in the same manner as that of Space. (Vol. II, pp. 133-5.)

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[At the end of “Motion,” Sect. 6 (pp. 142-6) of Chap. xiv, a lengthy note by Bain appears (pp. 146-51); J.S. Mill’s note follows Bain’s.]

It will be both useful and interesting to the inquiring reader, if I add to the analysis of these very complex ideas by the author of the present treatise, and to that by Mr. Bain, the analysis given of them by the other great living master of the Association psychology, Mr. Herbert Spencer. The following passages are from his Principles of Psychology. First, of Resistance:

On raising the arm to a horizontal position and keeping it so, and still more on dealing similarly with the leg, a sensation is felt, which, tolerably strong as it is at the outset, presently becomes unbearable. If the limb be uncovered, and be not brought against anything, this sensation is associated with no other, either of touch or pressure.

This is the sensation of Muscular Tension.

Allied to the sensation accompanying tension of the muscles, is that accompanying the act of contracting them—the sensation of muscular motion. . . . While, from the muscles of a limb at rest, no sensation arises; while, from the muscles of a limb in a state of continuous strain, there arises a continuous sensation which remains uniform for a considerable time; from the muscle of a limb in motion, there arises a sensation which is ever undergoing increase or decrease, or change of composition.

When we express our immediate experiences of a body by saying that it is hard, what are the experiences implied? First, a sensation of pressure, of considerable intensity, is implied; and if, as in most cases, this sensation of pressure is given to a finger voluntarily thrust against the object, then there is simultaneously felt a correspondingly strong sensation of muscular tension. But this is not all: for feelings of pressure and muscular tension may be given by bodies which we call soft, provided the compressing finger follows the surface as fast as it gives way. In what then consists the difference between the perceptions? In this; that whereas when a soft body is pressed with increasing force, the synchronous sensations of increasing pressure and increasing muscular tension are accompanied by sensations of muscular movement; when a hard body is pressed with increasing force these sensations of increasing pressure and tension are not accompanied by sensations of muscular movement. Considered by itself, then, the perception of softness may be defined as the establishment in consciousness of a relation of simultaneity between three series of sensations—a series of increasing sensations of pressure; a series of increasing sensations of tension; and a series of sensations of motion. And the perception of hardness is the same, with omission of the last series.

(Pp. 212-13.)

Of Extension; and first, of Form or Figure:

It is an anciently established doctrine that Form or Figure, which we may call the most complex mode of extension, is resolvable into relative magnitude of parts. An equilateral triangle is one of which the three sides are alike in magnitude. An ellipse is a symmetrical closed curve, of which the transverse and conjugate diameters are one greater than the other. A cube is a solid, having all its surfaces of the same magnitude, and all its angles of the same magnitude. A cone is a solid, successive sections of which, made at right angles to the axis, are circles regularly decreasing in magnitude as we progress from base to apex. Any object described as narrow is one whose breadth is of small magnitude when compared with its length. A symmetrical figure is a figure in which the homologous parts on opposite sides are equal in magnitude. Figures which we class as similar to each other, are such that the Edition: current; Page: [206] relation of magnitude between any two parts of the one, is equal to the relation of magnitude between the corresponding parts of the other. Add to which, that an alteration in the form of anything, is an alteration in the comparative sizes of some of its parts—a change in the relations of magnitude subsisting between them and the other parts, and that by continuously altering the relative magnitudes of its parts, any figure may be changed indefinitely. Hence, figure being wholly resolvable into relations of magnitude we may go on to analyze that out of which these relations are formed—magnitude itself.

(Pp. 224-5.)

Next, therefore, of Magnitude:

What is a magnitude, considered analytically? The reply is, It consists of one or more relations of position. When we conceive anything as having a certain bulk, we conceive its opposite limiting surfaces as more or less removed from each other; that is, as related in position. When we imagine a line of definite length, we imagine its termini as occupying points in space having some positive distance from each other; that is, as related in position. As a solid is decomposable into planes; a plane into lines; lines into points; and as adjacent points can neither be known nor conceived as distinct from each other, except as occupying different places in space—that is, as occupying not the same position, but relative positions—it follows that every cognition of magnitude, is a cognition of one or more relations of position, which are presented to consciousness as like or unlike one or more other relations of position.

(P. 226.)

And finally, of Position:

This analysis of itself brings us to the remaining space-attribute of body—Position. Like magnitude, Position cannot be known absolutely; but can be known only relatively. The notion of position is, in itself, the notion of relative position. The position of a thing is inconceivable, save by thinking of that thing as at some distance from one or more other things. The essential element of the idea will be best seen, on observing under what conditions only, it can come into existence. Imagine a solitary point A, in infinite space; and suppose it possible for that point to be known by a being having no locality. What now can be predicated respecting its place? Absolutely nothing. Imagine another point B to be added. What can now be predicated respecting the two? Still nothing. The points having no attributes save position, are not comparable in themselves; and nothing can be said of their relative position, from lack of anything with which to compare it. The distance between them may be either infinite or infinitesimal, according to the measure used; and as, by the hypothesis, there exists no measure—as space contains nothing save these two points; the distance between them is unthinkable. But now imagine that a third point C is added. Immediately it becomes possible to frame a proposition respecting their positions. The two distances, A to B, and A to C, serve as measures to each other. The space between A and B may be compared with the space between A and C; and the relation of position in which A stands to B becomes thinkable, as like or unlike the relation in which A stands to C. Thus, then, it is manifest that position is not an attribute of body in itself, but only in its connection with the other contents of the universe.

It remains to add, that relations of position are of two kinds: those which subsist between subject and object; and those which subsist between either different objects, or different parts of the same object. Of these the last are resolvable into the first. It needs but to remember, on the one hand, that in the dark a man can discover the relative positions of two objects only by touching first one and then the other, and so inferring their relative positions from his own position towards each; and on the other hand, that by vision no knowledge of their relative positions can be reached save through a perception of the distance of each from Edition: current; Page: [207] the eye; to see that ultimately all relative positions may be decomposed into relative positions of subject and object.

These conclusions—that Figure is resolvable into relative magnitudes; that Magnitude is resolvable into relative positions; and that all relative positions may finally be reduced to positions of subject and object—will be fully confirmed on considering the process by which the space-attributes of body become known to a blind man. He puts out his hand, and touching something, thereby becomes cognizant of its position with respect to himself. He puts out his other hand, and meeting no resistance above or on one side of the position already found, gains some negative knowledge of the thing’s magnitude—a knowledge which three or four touches on different sides of it serve to render positive. And then, by continuing to move his hands over its surface, he acquires a notion of its figure. What, then, are the elements out of which, by synthesis, his perceptions of magnitude and figure are framed? He has received nothing but simultaneous and successive touches. Each touch established a relation of position between his centre of consciousness and the point touched. And all he can know respecting magnitude and figure—that is, respecting the relative position of these points to each other—is necessarily known through the relative positions in which they severally stand to himself.

Our perceptions of all the space-attributes of body being thus decomposable into perceptions of position like that gained by a single act of touch; we have next to inquire what is contained in a perception of this kind. A little thought will make it clear that to perceive the position of anything touched, is really to perceive the position of that part of the body in which the sensation of touch is located. Whence it follows that our knowledge of the positions of objects, is built upon our knowledge of the positions of our members towards each other—knowledge both of their fixed relations, and of those temporary relations they are placed in by every change of muscular adjustment. That this knowledge is gained by a mutual exploration of the parts—by a bringing of each in contact with the others—by a moving over each other in all possible ways; and that the motions involved in these explorations, are known by their reactions upon consciousness; are propositions that scarcely need stating. But it is manifestly impossible to carry the analysis further without analysing our perception of motion. Relative position and motion are two ideas of the same experience. We can neither conceive motion without conceiving relative position, nor discover relative position without motion. In the present, therefore, we must be content with the conclusion that, whether visual or tactual, the perception of every statical attribute of body is resolvable into perceptions of relative position which are gained through motion.

(Pp. 226-9.)

In further prosecution of the analysis:

How do we become cognizant of the relative positions of two points on the surface of the body? Such two points, considered as coexistent, involve the germinal idea of Space. Such two points disclosed to consciousness by two successive tactual sensations proceeding from them, involve the germinal idea of Time. And the series of muscular sensations by which, when self-produced, these two tactual sensations are separated, involve the germinal idea of Motion. The questions to be considered then are—In what order do these germinal ideas arise? and—How are they developed?

. . . Taking for our subject a newly-born infant, let us call the two points on its body between which a relation is to be established, A and Z. Let us assume these points to be anywhere within reach of the hands—say upon the cheek. By the hypothesis, nothing is at present known of these points; either as coexisting in Space, as giving successive sensations in Time, or as being brought into relation by Motion. If, now, the infant moves its arm in such a way as to touch nothing, there is a certain vague reaction upon its consciousness—a Edition: current; Page: [208] sensation of muscular tension. This sensation has the peculiarity of being indefinite in its commencement; indefinite in its termination; and indefinite in all its intermediate changes. Its strength is proportionate to the degree of muscular contraction. Whence it follows that as the limb starts from a state of rest, in which there is no contraction; and as it can reach a position requiring extreme contraction only by passing through positions requiring intermediate degrees of contraction; and as the degrees of contraction must therefore form a series ascending by infinitesimal increments from zero; the sensations of tension must also form such a series. And the like must be the case with all subsequent movements and their accompanying sensations; seeing that, be it at rest or in action, a muscle cannot pass from any one state to any other without going through all the intermediate states. Thus, then, the infant, on moving its arm backwards and forwards without touching anything, is brought to what we may distinguish as a nascent consciousness—a consciousness not definitely divisible into states; but a consciousness the variations of which pass insensibly into each other, like undulations of greater or less magnitude. And while the states of consciousness are thus incipient—thus indistinctly separated, there can be no clear comparison of them; no thought, properly so called; and consequently no ideas of Motion, Time, or Space, as we understand them. Suppose, now, that the hand touches something. A sudden change in consciousness is produced—a change that is incisive in its commencement, and, when the hand is removed, equally incisive in its termination. In the midst of the continuous feeling of muscular tension, vaguely rising and falling in intensity, there all at once occurs a distinct feeling of another kind. This feeling, beginning and ending abruptly, constitutes a definite state of consciousness; becomes, as it were a mark in consciousness. By similar experiences other such marks are produced; and in proportion as they are multiplied, there arises a possibility of comparing them, both in respect to their degrees and their relative positions; while at the same time, the feelings of muscular tension being, as it were, divided out into lengths by these superposed marks, become similarly comparable; and so there are acquired materials for a simple order of thought. Observe, also, that while these tactual sensations may, when several things are touched in succession, produce successive marks in consciousness, separated by intervening muscular sensations, they may also become continually coexistent with these muscular sensations; as when the finger is drawn along a surface. And observe further, that when the surface over which the finger is drawn is not a foreign body, but some part of the subject’s body, these muscular sensations, and the continuous tactual sensation joined with them, are accompanied by a series of tactual sensations proceeding from that part of the skin over which the finger is drawn. Thus, then, when the infant moves its finger along the surface of its body from A to Z, there are simultaneously impressed upon consciousness three sets of sensations—the varying series of sensations proceeding from the muscles in action; the series of tactual sensations proceeding from the points of the skin successively touched between A and Z; and the continuous sensation of touch from the finger-end. . . . As subsequent motions of the finger over the surface from A to Z always result in the like simultaneous sets of sensations, these, in course of time, become indissolubly associated. Though the series of tactual sensations, A to Z, being producible by a foreign body moving over the same surface, can be dissociated from the others; and though, if the cheek be withdrawn by a movement of the head, the same motion of the hand, with its accompanying muscular sensations, may occur without any sensation of touch; yet, when these two series are linked by the tactual sensation proceeding from the finger-end, they necessarily proceed together; and become inseparably connected in thought. Whence it obviously results that the series of tactual sensations A to Z, and the series of muscular sensations which invariably accompanies it when self-produced, serve as mutual equivalents; and being two sides of the same experience, suggest each other in consciousness.

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Due attention having been paid to this fact, let us go on to consider what must happen when something touches, at the same moment, the entire surface between A and Z. This surface is supplied by a series of independent nerve-fibres, each of which at its peripheral termination becomes fused into, or continuous with, the surrounding tissue; each of which is affected by impressions falling within a specific area of the skin; and each of which produces a separate state of consciousness. When the finger is drawn along this surface these nerve-fibres A, B, C, D . . . Z, are excited in succession; that is—produce successive states of consciousness. And when something covers, at the same moment, the whole surface between A and Z, they are excited simultaneously; and produce what tends to become a single state of consciousness. Already I have endeavoured to shew in a parallel case, how, when impressions first known as having sequent positions in consciousness are afterwards simultaneously presented to consciousness, the sequent positions are transformed into coexistent positions, which, when consolidated by frequent presentations, are used in thought as equivalent to the sequent positions.* . . . As the series of tactual impressions A to Z, known as having sequent positions in consciousness, are, on the one hand, found to be equivalent to the accompanying series of muscular impressions; and on the other hand, to the simultaneous tactual impressions A to Z, which, as presented together, are necessarily presented in coexistent positions; it follows that these two last are found to be the equivalents of each other. A series of muscular sensations becomes known as equivalent to a series of coexistent positions; and being habitually joined with it, becomes at last unthinkable without it. Thus, the relation of coexistent positions between the points A and Z (and by implication all intermediate points) is necessarily disclosed by a comparison of experiences: the ideas of Space, Time, and Motion, are evolved together. When the successive states of consciousness A to Z, are thought of as having relative positions, the notion of Time becomes nascent. When these states of consciousness, instead of occurring serially, occur simultaneously, their relative positions, which were before sequent, necessarily become coexistent; and there arises a nascent consciousness of space. And when these two relations of coexistent and sequent positions are both presented to consciousness along with a series of sensations of muscular tension, a nascent idea of Motion results.

The development of these nascent ideas, arising as it does from a still further accumulation and comparison of experiences, will be readily understood. What has been above described as taking place with respect to one relation of coexistent positions upon the surface of the skin—or rather, one linear series of such coexisting positions, is, during the Edition: current; Page: [210] same period, taking place, with respect to endless other such linear series, in all directions over the body. The like equivalence between a series of coexistent impressions of touch, a series of successive impressions of touch, and series of successive muscular impressions, is being established between every pair of points that can readily be brought into relation by movement of the hands. Let us glance at the chief consequences that must ultimately arise from this organization of experiences.

Not only must there gradually be established a connection in thought between each particular muscular series, and the particular tactual series, both successive and simultaneous, with which it is associated; and not only must there, by implication, arise a knowledge of the special muscular adjustments required to touch each special part, but, by the same experiences, there must be established an indissoluble connection between muscular series in general and series of sequent and coexistent positions in general, seeing that this connection is repeated in every one of the particular experiences. And when we consider the infinite repetition of these experiences, we shall have no difficulty in understanding how their components become so consolidated, that even when the hand is moved through empty space, it is impossible to become conscious of the muscular sensations, without becoming conscious of the sequent and coexistent positions—the Time and Space, in which it has moved.

Observe again, that as, by this continuous exploration of the surface of the body, each point is put in relation not only with points in some directions around it, but with points in all directions—becomes, as it were, a centre from which radiate lines of points known first in their serial positions before consciousness, and afterwards in their coexistent positions—it follows, that when an object of some size, as the hand, is placed upon the skin, the impressions from all parts of the area covered being simultaneously presented to consciousness, are placed in coexistent positions before consciousness: whence results an idea of the superficial extension of that part of the body. The idea of this extension is really nothing more than a simultaneous presentation of all the impressions proceeding from the various points it includes, which have previously had their several relative positions measured by means of the series of impressions separating them. Anyone who hesitates respecting this conclusion, will, I think, adopt it, on critically considering the perception he has when placing his open hand against his cheek—on observing that the perception is by no means single, but is made up of many elements which he cannot think of all together—on observing that there is always one particular part of the whole surface touched, of which he is more distinctly conscious than of any other—and on observing that to become distinctly conscious of any other part, he has to traverse in thought the intervening parts; that is, he has to think of the relative positions of these parts by vaguely recalling the series of states of consciousness which a motion over the skin from one to the other would involve.

(Pp. 257-63.)

These three different expositions of the origin of our ideas of Motion and Extension, by three eminent thinkers, agreeing in essentials, and differing chiefly in the comparative degrees of development which they give to different portions of the detail, will enable any competent reader of such a work as the present to fill up any gaps by his own thoughts. Many pages of additional commentary might easily be written; but they would not add any important thought to those of which the reader is now in possession; and belonging rather to the polemics of the subject than to its strictly scientific exposition, they would jar somewhat with the purely expository character of the present treatise.

I will only further recommend to particular attention, the opinion of Mr. Edition: current; Page: [211] Spencer, also adopted by Mr. Bain, that our ascribing simultaneous existence to things which excite successive sensations, is greatly owing to our being able to vary or reverse the order of the succession. When we pass our hands over an object, we can have the tactual and muscular sensations in many different orders, and after having them in one order, can have them in another exactly the reverse. They do not, therefore, become associated with each other in a fixed order of succession, but are called up in any order with such extreme rapidity, that the impression they leave is that of simultaneousness, and we therefore hold the parts of tangible objects to be simultaneous. (Vol. II, pp. 151-63.)

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[J.S. Mill’s note comes at the end of “Identity,” Sect. 7 of Chap. xiv.]

The author has avoided an error in the mode and order of the enquiry, which has greatly contributed to make the explanations given by psychologists of Personal Identity, so eminently unsatisfactory as they are. Psychologists have almost always begun with the most intricate part of the question. They have set out by enquiring, what makes me the same person to myself? when they should first have enquired what makes me the same person to other people? or, what makes another person the same person to me? The author of the Analysis has done this, and he easily perceived, that what makes me the same person to others, is precisely what makes a house, or a mountain, the same house or mountain to them to-day which they saw yesterday. It is the belief of an uninterrupted continuity in the series of sensations derivable from the house, or mountain, or man. There is not this continuity in the actual sensations of a single observer: he has not been watching the mountain unintermittedly since yesterday, or from a still more distant time. But he believes, on such evidence as the case affords, that if he had been watching, he should have seen the mountain continuously and unchanged during the whole intervening time (provided the other requisites of vision were present—light to see it by, and no cloud or mist intervening): and he further believes that any being, with organs like his own, who had looked in that direction at any moment of the interval during which he himself was not looking, would have seen it in the same manner as he sees it. All this applies equally to a human object. I call the man I see to-day the same man whom I saw yesterday, for the very reason which makes me call the house or the mountain the same, viz., my conviction that if my organs had been in the same position towards him all the time as they are now, and the other conditions necessary for seeing had been present, my perception of the man would have continued all the time without interruption.

If we now change the point of view, and ask, what makes me always the same person to myself, we introduce, in addition to what there was in the other case, the Edition: current; Page: [212] entire series of my own past states of consciousness. As the author truly says, the evidence on which I accept my own identity is that of memory. But memory reaches only a certain way back, and for all before that period, as well as for all subsequent to it of which I have lost the remembrance, the belief rests on other evidence. As an example of the errors and difficulties in which psychologists have involved themselves by beginning with the more complex question without having considered the simpler one, it is worth remembering that Locke makes personal identity consist in Consciousness, which in this case means Memory;123 and has been justly criticized by later thinkers for this doctrine, as leading to the corollary, that whatever of my past actions I have forgotten, I never performed—that my forgotten feelings were not my feelings, but were (it must therefore be supposed) the feelings of somebody else. Locke, however, had seen one part of the true state of the case; which is, that to myself I am only, properly speaking, the same person, in respect of those facts of my past life which I remember; but that I nevertheless consider myself as having been, at the times of which I retain no remembrance, the same person I now am, because I have satisfactory evidence that I was the same to other people; that an uninterrupted continuity in the sensations of sight and touch caused or which could have been caused to other people, existed between my present self and the infant who I am told I was, and between my present self and the person who is proved to me to have done the acts I have myself forgotten.

These considerations remove the outer veil, or husk, as it were, which wraps up the idea of the Ego. But after this is removed, there remains an inner covering, which, as far as I can perceive, is impenetrable. My personal identity consists in my being the same Ego who did, or who felt, some specific fact recalled to me by memory. So be it: but what is Memory? It is not merely having the idea of that fact recalled: that is but thought, or conception, or imagination. It is, having the idea recalled along with the Belief that the fact which it is the idea of, really happened, and moreover happened to myself. Memory, therefore, by the very fact of its being different from Imagination, implies an Ego who formerly experienced the facts remembered, and who was the same Ego then as now. The phenomenon of Self and that of Memory are merely two sides of the same fact, or two different modes of viewing the same fact. We may, as psychologists, set out from either of them, and refer the other to it. We may, in treating of Memory, say (as the author says) that it is the idea of a past sensation associated with the idea of myself as having it. Or we may say, in treating of Identity, (as the author also says), that the meaning of Self is the memory of certain past sensations. But it is hardly allowable to do both. At least it must be said, that by doing so we explain neither. We only show that the two things are essentially the same; that my memory of having ascended Skiddaw on a given day, and my consciousness of being the same person who Edition: current; Page: [213] ascended Skiddaw on that day, are two modes of stating the same fact: a fact which psychology has as yet failed to resolve into anything more elementary.

In analysing the complex phenomena of consciousness, we must come to something ultimate; and we seem to have reached two elements which have a good prima facie claim to that title. There is, first, the common element in all cases of Belief, namely, the difference between a fact, and the thought of that fact: a distinction which we are able to cognize in the past, and which then constitutes Memory, and in the future, when it constitutes Expectation; but in neither case can we give any account of it except that it exists; an inability which is admitted in the most elementary case of the distinction, viz. the difference between a present sensation and an idea. Secondly, in addition to this, and setting out from the belief in the reality of a past event, or in other words, the belief that the idea I now have was derived from a previous sensation, or combination of sensations, corresponding to it, there is the further conviction that this sensation or combination of sensations was my own; that it happened to myself. In other words, I am aware of a long and uninterrupted succession of past feelings going as far back as memory reaches, and terminating with the sensations I have at the present moment, all of which are connected by an inexplicable tie, that distinguishes them not only from any succession or combination in mere thought, but also from the parallel successions of feelings which I believe, on satisfactory evidence, to have happened to each of the other beings, shaped like myself, whom I perceive around me. This succession of feelings, which I call my memory of the past, is that by which I distinguish my Self. Myself is the person who had that series of feelings, and I know nothing of myself, by direct knowledge, except that I had them. But there is a bond of some sort among all the parts of the series, which makes me say that they were feelings of a person who was the same person throughout, and a different person from those who had any of the parallel successions of feelings; and this bond, to me, constitutes my Ego. Here, I think, the question must rest, until some psychologist succeeds better than any one has yet done in shewing a mode in which the analysis can be carried further. (Vol. II, pp. 172-5.)

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[Chap. xv, “Reflection,” is concluded by J.S. Mill’s note.]

To reflect on any of our feelings or mental acts is more properly identified with attending to the feeling, than, (as stated in the text) with merely having it.124 The author scarcely recognises this as a difference. He sometimes indeed seems to Edition: current; Page: [214] consider attention as mental repetition; but in his chapter on the Will, we shall find that he there identifies attending to a feeling with merely having the feeling. I conceive, on the contrary, (with the great majority of psychologists) that there is an important distinction between the two things; the ignoring of which has led the author into errors. What the distinction is, I have endeavoured to shew in my note to the chapter on Consciousness; and the subject will return upon us hereafter.125 (Vol. II, pp. 179-80.)

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[Chap. xvii, “Pleasurable and Painful Sensations,” consists of only four short paragraphs; J.S. Mill’s note is appended at the end.]

In the case of many pleasurable or painful sensations, it is open to question whether the pleasure or pain, especially the pleasure, is not something added to the sensation, and capable of being detached from it, rather than merely a particular aspect or quality of the sensation. It is often observable that a sensation is much less pleasurable at one time than at another, though to our consciousness it appears exactly the same sensation in all except the pleasure. This is emphatically the fact in cases of satiety, or of loss of taste for a sensation by loss of novelty. It is probable that in such cases the pleasure may depend on different nerves, or on a different action of the same nerves, from the remaining part of the sensation. However this may be, the pleasure or pain attending a sensation is (like the feelings of Likeness, Succession, etc.) capable of being mentally abstracted from the sensation, or, in other words, capable of being attended to by itself. And in any case Mr. Bain’s distinction holds good, between the emotional part or property of a sensation (in which he includes the pleasure or pain belonging to it) and its intellectual or knowledge-giving part.126 It must be remembered, however, that these are not exclusive of one another; the knowledge-giving part is not necessarily emotional, but the emotional part is and must be knowledge-giving. The pleasure or pain of the feeling are subjects of intellectual apprehension; they give the knowledge of themselves and of their varieties. (Vol. II, pp. 185-6.)

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[Again J.S. Mill’s note appears at the end of a chapter, “Ideas of the Pleasurable and Painful Sensations, and of the Causes of Them” (Chap. xix).]

The principal doctrine of this chapter is, that Desire, and Aversion, are nothing but the Idea of a pleasurable sensation, and the Idea of a painful sensation: which doctrine is then qualified by saying, that a desire is the idea of a pleasure associated with the future, an aversion the idea of a pain associated with the iuture.127

But according to the whole spirit of the author’s speculations, and to his express affirmation in the beginning of the next chapter,128 the idea of any sensation associated with the future, constitutes the Expectation of it: and if so, it rested with him to prove that the expectation of a pleasure, or of a pain, is the same thing with the desire, or aversion. This is certainly not conformable to common observation. For, on the one hand, it is commonly understood that there may be desire or aversion without expectation; and on the other, expectation of a pleasure without any actual feeling of desire: one may expect, and even look forward with satisfaction to, the pleasure of a meal, although one is not, but only expects to be, hungry. So perfectly is it assumed that expectation, and desire or aversion, are not necessarily combined, that the case in which they are combined is signified by a special pair of names. Desire combined with expectation, is called by the name of Hope; Aversion combined with expectation is known by the name of Fear.

I believe the fact to be that Desire is not Expectation, but is more than the idea of the pleasure desired, being, in truth, the initiatory stage of Will. In what we call Desire there is, I think, always included a positive stimulation to action; either to the definite course of action which would lead to our obtaining the pleasure, or to a general restlessness and vague seeking after it. The stimulation may fall short of actually producing action: even when it prompts to a definite act, it may be repressed by a stronger motive, or by knowledge that the pleasure is not within present reach, nor can be brought nearer to us by any present action of our own. Still, there is, I think, always, the sense of a tendency to action, in the direction of pursuit of the pleasure, though the tendency may be overpowered by an external or an internal restraint. So also, in aversion, there is always a tendency to action of the kind which repels or avoids the painful sensation. But of these things more fully under the head of Will.129 (Vol. II, pp. 194-5.)

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[In Chap. xx, “The Pleasurable and Painful Sensations, Contemplated as Passed or as Future,” James Mill says (Vol. II, p. 197) that in] anticipation, as in memory, there is, first, the complex idea . . .; next, the passage of the mind forwards from the present state of consciousness, the antecedent, to one consequent after another, till it comes to the anticipated sensation. [He illustrates by the anticipation of an inflicted burn, and concludes (p. 198) by mentioning] the association with this idea of the events, one after another, which are to fill up the intermediate time, and terminate with his finger placed in the flame of the candle. The whole of this association, taken together, comprises the idea of the pain as his pain, after a train of antecedents.

The process of anticipation is so precisely the same, when the sensation is of the pleasurable kind, that I deem it unnecessary to repeat it.

This is the first place in which the author gives his analysis of Expectation; and his theory of it is, as all theories of it must be, the exact counterpart of the same person’s theory of Memory. He resolves it into the mere Idea of the expected event, accompanied by the “idea of the events, one after another,” which are to begin with the present moment, and end with the expected event. But in this case, as in that of Memory, the objection recurs, that all this may exist in the case of mere Imagination. A man may conceive himself being hanged, or elevated to a throne, and may construct in his mind a series of possible or conceivable events, through which he can fancy each of these results to be brought about. If he is a man of lively imagination, this idea of the events “which are to fill up the intermediate time” may be at least as copious, as the idea of the series of coming events for a year from the present time, which according to the author’s theory I have in my mind when I look forward to commencing a journey twelve months hence. Yet he neither expects to be hanged, nor to be made a king, still less both, which, to bear out the theory, it would seem that he ought.

The difference between Expectation and mere Imagination, as well as between Memory and Imagination, consists in the presence or absence of Belief; and though this is no explanation of either phenomenon, it brings us back to one and the same real problem, which I have so often referred to, and which neither the author nor any other thinker has yet solved—the difference between knowing something as a Reality, and as a mere Thought; a distinction similar and parallel to that between a Sensation and an Idea. (Vol. II, pp. 198-9.)

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[The penultimate paragraph of Chap. xx reads:] When a pleasurable sensation is contemplated as future, but not certainly, the state of consciousness is called Edition: current; Page: [217] Hope. When a painful sensation is contemplated as future, but not certainly, the state of consciousness is called Fear.

The author’s definitions of Hope and Fear differ from those offered in my note (p. 194).130 He considers these words to signify that the pleasure or the pain is contemplated as future, but without certainty. It must be admitted that the words are often applied to very faint degrees of anticipation, far short of those which in popular language would be spoken of as Expectation: but I think the terms are not inconsistent with the fullest assurance. A man is about to undergo a painful surgical operation. He has no doubt whatever about the event; he fully intends it; there are no other means, perhaps, of saving his life. Yet the feeling with which he looks forward to it, and with which he contemplates the preparations for it, are such as would, I think, by the custom of language, be designated as fear. Death, again, is the most certain of all future events, yet we speak of the fear of death. It is perhaps more doubtful whether the fully assured anticipation of a desired enjoyment would receive, in ordinary parlance, the name of Hope; yet some common phrases seem to imply that it would. We read even on tombstones “the sure hope of a joyful immortality.”

A still more restricted application of the word Fear, also justified by usage, is to the case in which the feeling amounts to a disturbing passion; and to this meaning Mr. Bain, as will be seen in a future note, thinks it desirable to confine it.131 (Vol. II, pp. 199-200.)

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[In Sect. 1 of Chap. xxi, “The Causes of Pleasurable and Painful Sensations, Contemplated as Passed, or as Future,” James Mill considers the “immediate causes.” He remarks (Vol. II, p. 201):] It may be regarded as remarkable, that though the idea or thought of a disagreeable sensation, as passed, is nearly indifferent, the thought of the cause of a painful passed sensation is often a very interesting state of consciousness. [He continues (p. 202):] The idea of the cause of a painful sensation is so closely associated with that of the sensation, that the one never exists without the other. But this is not all. The anticipation of the future from the passed, is so strong an association, that, in interesting cases, it is indissoluble. The thought of the Cause of a passed painful sensation, is the idea of an antecedent and a consequent. The idea of the passed antecedent and consequent is instantly followed by that of a future antecedent and consequent; and thus the feeling partakes of the nature of the anticipation of a future painful Edition: current; Page: [218] sensation. [J.S. Mill’s note appears at the end of the paragraph from which these sentences are taken.]

The difference here brought to notice between the very slight emotion excited in most cases by the idea of a past pain, and the strong feeling excited by the idea of the cause of a past pain, will be confirmed by every one’s experience; and is rightly explained by the author, as arising from the fact that what has caused a past pain has an interest affecting the future, since it may cause future pains. It is noticeable that the author nowhere explains why the thought of a pain as future is so much more painful, than the thought of a past pain when detached from all apprehension for the future; why the expectation of an evil is generally so much worse than the remembrance of one. This fact might have made him doubt the sufficiency of his theory of Memory and Expectation; since, according to his analysis, neither of them is anything but the idea of the pain itself, associated in each case with a series of events which may be intrinsically indifferent; and if there were no elements in the case but those which he has pointed out, no sufficient reason is apparent why there should be any inequality of painfulness between the remembrance and the expectation. (Vol. II, pp. 202-3.)

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[Pointing out that the opinion was first expressed by Dugald Stewart, James Mill affirms] that there is no conception, that is, idea, without the momentary belief of the existence of its object.

This is the place where the author most clearly enunciates the doctrine which is the indispensable basis of his theory of Belief, viz. that there is no idea “without the momentary belief of the existence of its object.” This opinion, as the author observes, is maintained also by Dugald Stewart;132 but I have never seen any positive evidence in its favour. All which has been established is, that the belief may have momentarily existed, although immediately afterwards forgotten, and replaced by disbelief. But no proof of this momentary existence has been given, except that it is supposed that what is not believed to be real cannot cause strong emotion (terror, for instance), nor prompt to outward action. Yet nothing can be more certain than that a mere idea can exercise direct power over our nerves of motion, and through them, over the muscles; as the author shows by examples further on.133 It is true that, as Mr. Bain has pointed out,134 this power of an idea over the active energies is the only germ of belief which exists originally, and the Edition: current; Page: [219] foundation of the power of Belief in after life; but it is not the less true that the power of Belief as it exists in after life, stands broadly distinguished from the power of the Fixed Idea, and that this last may operate not only without, but in defiance of, a positive Belief. That a contrary belief has momentarily intervened is a mere conjecture, which can neither be refuted nor proved. (Vol. II, p. 211.)

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[In Sect. 2 of Chap. xxi, in dealing with remote causes of pleasure and pain, James Mill says:] The idea of a man enjoying a train of pleasures, or happiness, is felt by every body to be a pleasurable idea. The idea of a man under a train of sufferings or pains, is equally felt to be a painful idea. This can arise from nothing but the association of our own pleasures with the first idea, and of our own pains with the second. We never feel any pains and pleasures but our own. The fact, indeed, is, that our very idea of the pains or pleasures of another man is only the idea of our own pains, or our own pleasures, associated with the idea of another man. This is one not of the least important, and curious, of all cases of association, and instantly shews how powerfully associated trains of ideas of our pains and pleasures must be with a feeling so compounded.

That the pleasures or pains of another person can only be pleasurable or painful to us through the association of our own pleasures or pains with them, is true in one sense, which is probably that intended by the author, but not true in another, against which he has not sufficiently guarded his mode of expression. It is evident, that the only pleasures or pains of which we have direct experience being those felt by ourselves, it is from them that our very notions of pleasure and pain are derived. It is also obvious that the pleasure or pain with which we contemplate the pleasure or pain felt by somebody else, is itself a pleasure or pain of our own. But if it be meant that in such cases the pleasure or pain is consciously referred to self, I take this to be a mistake. By the acts or other signs exhibited by another person, the idea of a pleasure (which is a pleasurable idea) or the idea of a pain (which is a painful idea) are recalled, sometimes with considerable intensity, but in association with the other person as feeling them, not with one’s self as feeling them. The idea of one’s Self is, no doubt, closely associated with all our experiences, pleasurable, painful, or indifferent; but this association does not necessarily act in all cases because it exists in all cases. If the mind, when pleasurably or painfully affected by the evidences of pleasure or pain in another person, goes off on a different thread of association, as for instance, to the idea of the means of giving the pleasure or relieving the pain, or even if it dismisses the subject and relapses into the ordinary course of its thoughts, the association with its own self may be, at the time, Edition: current; Page: [220] defeated, or reduced to something so evanescent that we cannot tell whether it was momentarily present or not. (Vol. II, pp. 217-18.)

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[The first two sub-sections of Chap. xxi, Sect. 2, are entitled “Wealth, Power, and Dignity, and Their Contraries, Contemplated as Causes of Our Pleasures and Pains” (Vol. II, pp. 207-14), and “Our Fellow-Creatures Contemplated as Causes of Our Pleasures and Pains” (pp. 214-30). A note by Bain is appended at the end of the latter; J.S. Mill’s note follows immediately.]

The two preceding subsections are almost perfect as expositions and exemplifications of the mode in which, by the natural course of life, we acquire attachments to persons, things, and positions, which are the causes or habitual concomitants of pleasurable sensations to us, or of relief from pains: in other words, those persons, things, and positions become in themselves pleasant to us by association; and, through the multitude and variety of the pleasurable ideas associated with them, become pleasures of greater constancy and even intensity, and altogether more valuable to us, than any of the primitive pleasures of our constitution. This portion of the laws of human nature is the more important to psychology, as they show how it is possible that the moral sentiments, the feelings of duty, and of moral approbation and disapprobation, may be no original elements of our nature, and may yet be capable of being not only more intense and powerful than any of the elements out of which they may have been formed, but may also, in their maturity, be perfectly disinterested: nothing more being necessary for this, than that the acquired pleasure and pain should have become as independent of the native elements from which they are formed, as the love of wealth and of power not only often but generally become, of the bodily pleasures, and relief from bodily pains, for the sake of which, and of which alone, power and wealth must have been originally valued. No one thinks it necessary to suppose an original and inherent love of money or of power; yet these are the objects of two of the strongest, most general, and most persistent passions of human nature; passions which often have quite as little reference to pleasure or pain, beyond the mere consciousness of possession, and are in that sense of the word quite as disinterested, as the moral feelings of the most virtuous human being.

The author, then, has furnished a most satisfactory and most valuable explanation of certain of the laws of our affections and passions, and has traced the origin and generation of a great number of them. But it must be remarked of the whole exposition, that it accounts truly, but only partially, for this part of human nature. It affords a sufficient theory of what we may call the mental, or intellectual element of the feelings in question. But it does not furnish, nor does the author Edition: current; Page: [221] anywhere furnish, any theory of what may be called the animal element in them. Yet this is no unimportant ingredient in the emotional and active part of human nature: and it is one greatly demanding analysis. Let us take the case of any of the passions: and as one of the simplest as well as one of the most powerful of them, let us take the emotion of Fear. The author gives no account of Fear but that it is the idea of a painful sensation, associated with the idea of its being (more or less uncertainly) future. Undoubtedly these elements are present in it; but do they account for the peculiar emotional character of the passion, and for its physiological effects, such as pallor, trembling, faltering of the voice, coldness of the skin, loss of control over the secretions, and general depression of the vital powers? The case would be simpler if these great disturbances of the animal functions by the expectation of a pain were the same in kind as the smaller modifications produced by the mere idea. This, however, is by no means the case; Ideas do produce effects on the animal economy, but not those particular effects. The idea of a pain, if it acts on the bodily functions at all, has an action the same in kind (though much less in degree) as the pain itself would have. But the passion of fear has a totally different action. Suppose the fear to be that of a flogging. The flogging itself, if it produced any physical demonstrations, would produce cries, shrinkings, possibly muscular struggles, and might by its remoter effects disturb the action of the brain or of the circulation; and if the fear of a flogging produced these same effects, in a mitigated degree, the power of fear might be merely the power of the idea of the pain. But none of these are at all like the characteristic symptoms of fear: while those characteristic symptoms are much the same whatever be the particular pain apprehended, and whether it be a bodily or a purely mental pain, provided it be sufficiently intense and sufficiently proximate. No one has ever accounted for this remarkable difference, and the author of the Analysis does not even mention it. The explanation of it is one of those problems, partly psychological and partly physiological, which our knowledge of the laws of animal sensibility does not yet enable us to resolve. In whatever manner the phenomena are produced, they are a case of the quasi-chemistry of the nervous functions, whereby the junction of certain elements generates a compound whose properties are very different from the sum of the properties of the elements themselves.

This is the point which the author’s explanations of the emotional part of human nature do not reach, and, it may even be said, do not attempt to reach. Until, however, it is reached, there is no guarantee for the completeness of his analysis of even the mental element in the passions: for when the effect exhibits so much which has not, in the known properties of the assigned cause, anything to account for it, there is always room for a doubt whether some part of the cause has not been left out of the reckoning. This doubt, however, does not seriously affect the most important of the author’s analyses, viz. those which, without resolving the emotions themselves into anything more elementary, expound their transfer by Edition: current; Page: [222] association from their natural objects to others; with the great increase of intensity and persistency which so often accompanies the transfer, and which is in general quite sufficiently accounted for by the causes to which the author refers it. (Vol. II, pp. 233-6.)

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[In discussing the views of Archibald Alison (1757-1839), expounded in his Essays on the Nature and Principles of Taste (Edinburgh: Bell and Bradfute; London: Robinson, 1790), James Mill says:] I shall not follow Mr. Alison in his illustrations of the beauty and sublimity felt in the tones of the human voice, or in the composition of sounds, called Music; because I have no doubt but it will be allowed that they derive the whole of what is called their expression,—in other words, their power of pleasing,—from the associations connected with them.

What the author thinks himself dispensed from either proving or illustrating because he has no doubt that it will be allowed, is, on the contrary, one of the most disputable parts of his theory. That very much of the pleasure afforded by Music is the effect of its expression, i.e. of the associations connected with sound, most people will admit: but it can scarcely be doubted that there is also an element of direct physical and sensual pleasure. In the first place, the quality of some single sounds is physically agreeable, as that of others is disagreeable. Next, the concord or harmony of pleasant sounds adds a further element of purely physical enjoyment. And thirdly, certain successions of sounds, constituting melody or tune, are delightful, as it seems to me, to the mere sense. With these pleasures those of the associated ideas and feelings are intimately blended, but may, to a certain extent, be discriminated by a critical ear. It is possible to say, of different composers, that one (as Beethoven) excels most in that part of the effect of music which depends on expression, and another (as Mozart) in the physical part.135

That the full physical pleasure of tune is often not experienced at the first hearing, is a consequence of the fact, that the pleasure depends on succession, and therefore on the coexistence of each note with the remembrance of a sufficient number of the previous notes to constitute melody: a remembrance which, of course, is not possessed in perfection, until after a number of repetitions proportioned to the complexity and to the unfamiliar character of the combination. (Vol. II, pp. 241-2.)

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[James Mill quotes approvingly Alison’s views on the associations contributing to the pleasures of colour.]

The elements contributed by association are certainly more predominant in the pleasure of colours than in that of musical sounds; yet I am convinced that there is a direct element of physical pleasure in colours, anterior to association. My own memory recals to me the intense and mysterious delight which in early childhood I had in the colours of certain flowers; a delight far exceeding any I am now capable of receiving from colour of any description, with all its acquired associations. And this was the case at far too early an age, and with habits of observation far too little developed, to make any of the subtler combinations of form and proportion a source of much pleasure to me. This last pleasure was acquired very gradually, and did not, until after the commencement of manhood, attain any considerable height. The examples quoted from Alison do not prove that there is no original beauty in colours, but only that the feeling of it is capable, as no one doubts that it is capable, of being overpowered by extraneous associations.

Whether there is any similar organic basis of the pleasure derived from form, so far at least as this depends on proportion, I would not undertake to decide.

The susceptibility to the physical pleasures produced by colours and musical sounds, (and by forms if any part of the pleasure they afford is physical), is probably extremely different in different organisations. In natures in which any one of these susceptibilities is originally faint, more will depend on association. The extreme sensibility of this part of our constitution to small and unobvious influences, makes it certain that the sources of the feelings of beauty and deformity must be, to a material extent, different in different individuals. (Vol. II, pp. 246-7.)

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[J.S. Mill’s note appears at the end of “The Objects Called Sublime and Beautiful, and Their Contraries, Contemplated as Causes of Our Pleasures and Pains.” Sect. 3 (Vol. II, pp. 230-52) of Chap. xxi.]

The objection commonly made to the psychological analyses which resolve Beauty into association, is that they confound the Beautiful with the merely agreeable. This objection is urged, for example, by Coleridge, in his Biographia Literaria.136 He admits, with every one else, that things not in themselves agreeable, are often made agreeable by association; that is, the pleasantness which Edition: current; Page: [224] belongs to the ideas with which they are associated, adheres to themselves: but this cannot, it is asserted, be the cause of their producing the particular emotion to which we attach the name of Beauty; because, as no feeling of beauty belongs to the ideas that are supposed to generate the emotion, no such feeling can be transferred from them to what they are associated with.

Any one who has studied the Analysis up to this point, is aware of the inconclusiveness of this last argument. That a complex feeling generated out of a number of single ones, should be as unlike to any of those from which it is generated, as the sensation of white is unlike the sensations of the seven prismatic colours, is no unexampled or rare fact in our sensitive nature.

But it will also, I think, be found, in the case of our feelings of Beauty, and still more, of Sublimity, that the theory which refers their origin mainly to association, is not only not contradictory to facts, but is not even paradoxical. For if our perceptions of beauty and sublimity are of a more imposing character than the feelings ordinarily excited in us by the contemplation of objects, it will be found that the associations which form those impressions are themselves of a peculiarly imposing nature. This is apparent even from Alison; and if the author of the Analysis had written later, he might have referred to a deeper thinker than Alison, and a more valuable because an unconscious witness to the truth of the Association theory. Mr. Ruskin, with profounder and more thoughtful views respecting the beauties both of Nature and of Art than any psychologist I could name, undertakes, in the second volume of Modern Painters, to investigate the conditions of Beauty.137 The result he brings out is, that every thing which gives us the emotion of the Beautiful, is expressive and emblematic of one or other of certain lofty or lovely ideas, which are, in his apprehension, embodied in the universe, and correspond to the various perfections of its Creator. He holds these ideas to be, Infinity, Unity, Repose, Symmetry, Purity, Moderation, and Adaptation to Ends. And he is, in my judgment, to a very considerable degree successful in making out his case. Mr. Ruskin, it is true, never thinks of inferring that our feelings of Beauty are the actual consequence of our having those elevating or cheering ideas recalled to us through manifold channels of association. He deems the emotion to be arbitrarily attached to these ideas by a pre-established harmony. But the evidence which he adduces goes far to prove the other point. If he succeeds, as I think he does, in showing that the things which excite the emotions of beauty or sublimity are always things which have a natural association with certain highly impressive and affecting ideas (whether the catalogue which he has made of those ideas is correct and complete or not), we need no other mode of accounting for the peculiar character of the emotions, than by the actual, though vague and confused, recal of the ideas. It cannot be deemed surprising that a state of consciousness made up of Edition: current; Page: [225] reminiscences of such ideas as Mr. Ruskin specifies, and of the grand and interesting objects and thoughts connected with ideas like those, must be of a more elevated character, and must stir our nature to a greater depth, than those associations of common-place and every-day pleasures, which often combine with them as parts of the mass of pleasurable feeling set up in us by the objects of Nature and Art. In a windy country, a screen of trees so placed as to be a barrier against the prevailing winds, excites ideas of warmth, comfort, and shelter, which belong to the “agreeable,” as distinguished by Coleridge from the Beautiful; and these enter largely into the pleasurable feeling with which we contemplate the trees, without contributing to give them the peculiar character distinctive of aesthetic feelings. But besides these there are other elements, constituting the beauty, properly speaking, of the trees, which appeal to other, and what we are accustomed, not without meaning, to call higher, parts of our nature; which give a stronger stimulus and a deeper delight to the imagination, because the ideas they call up are such as in themselves act on the imagination with greater force.

As is observed by the author of the Analysis, the exposition in detail of the associations which enter into our various feelings of the sublime and beautiful, would require the examination of the subject on a scale not suited to the character nor proportioned to the dimensions of this Treatise.138 Of all our feelings, our acquired pleasures and pains, especially our pleasures, are the most complex; resulting from the whole of our nature and of our past lives, and involving, consequently, a greater multitude and variety of associations than almost any other phenomena of the mind. And among our various pleasures, the aesthetic are without doubt the most complex. It may also be remarked, and is a considerable confirmation of the association theory, that the feelings of beauty or sublimity with which different people are affected by the contemplation of the same object, are evidently as different, as the pleasurable associations of different persons with the same object are likely to be. But there are some ingredients which are universally, or almost universally, present, when the emotions have their characteristic peculiarity; and to which they seem to be mainly indebted for the extraordinary power with which they act on the minds which have the greatest susceptibility to them. These ingredients are probably more numerous and various than is commonly suspected; but some of the most important and powerful of them are undoubtedly pointed to, and illustrated with great force, in the discussion which I have mentioned, by Mr. Ruskin; to whose work I willingly refer the psychological student, as a copious source of at least far-reaching suggestions, and often of much more.

Supposing that all Beauty had been successfully analysed into a lively suggestion of one or more of the ideas to which it is referred by Mr. Ruskin, the question would still remain for psychologists, why the suggestion of those ideas is Edition: current; Page: [226] so impressive and so delightful. But this question may, in general, be answered with little difficulty. It is no mystery, for example, why anything which suggests vividly the idea of infinity, that is, of magnitude or power without limit, acquires an otherwise strange impressiveness to the feelings and imagination. The remaining ideas in Mr. Ruskin’s list (at least if we except those which, like Moderation, are chiefly ancillary to the others, by excluding what would jar with their effect) all represent to us some valuable or delightful attribute, in a completeness and perfection of which our experience presents us with no example, and which therefore stimulates the active power of the imagination to rise above known reality, into a more attractive or a more majestic world. This does not happen with what we call our lower pleasures. To them there is a fixed limit at which they stop: or if, in any particular case, they do acquire, by association, a power of stirring up ideas greater than themselves, and stimulate the imagination to enlarge its conceptions to the dimensions of those ideas, we then feel that the lower pleasure has, exceptionally, risen into the region of the aesthetic, and has superadded to itself an element of pleasure of a character and quality not belonging to its own nature. (Vol. II, pp. 252-5.)

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[J.S. Mill’s note appears at the end of Chap. xxii, “Motives,” Sect. 1, “Pleasurable or Painful States, Contemplated as Consequents of Our Own Acts” (Vol. II, pp. 256-62).]

A Motive is that which influences the will; and the Will is a subject we have not yet arrived at the consideration of. Meanwhile, it is here shewn that a motive to an act consists in the association of pleasure with the act; that a motive to abstain from an act, is the association of pain with it; and we are prepared to admit the truth deduced therefrom, that the one or the other motive will prevail, according as the pleasurable or the painful association is the more powerful. What makes the one or the other more powerful, is (conformably to the general laws of association) partly the intensity of the pleasurable or painful ideas in themselves, and partly the frequency of repetition of their past conjunction with the act, either in experience or in thought. In the latter of these two consists the efficacy of education in giving a good or a bad direction to the active powers.

In further elucidation of Motives, I cite the following passages from the First Appendix to the author’s Fragment on Mackintosh139 (pp. 389-90):

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A motive is something which moves—moves to what? To action. But all action, as Aristotle says, (and all mankind agree with him) is for an end.140 Actions are essentially means. The question, then, is, what is the end of action? Actions, taken in detail, have ends in detail. But actions, taken in classes, have ends which may be taken in classes. Thus the ends of the actions which are subservient to the pleasures of sense, are combined in a class, to which, in abstract, we give the name sensuality. The class of actions which tend to the increase of power, have a class of ends to which we give the name ambition, and so on. When we put all these classes together, and make a genus; that is, actions in general; can we in like manner make a genus of the ends; and name ends in general?

If we could find what the several classes of ends; sensuality for example; ambition; avarice; glory; sociality, etc.; have in common, we could.

Now, they have certainly this in common, that they are all agreeable to the agents. A man acts for the sake of something agreeable to him, either proximately or remotely. But agreeable to, and pleasant to; agreeableness, and pleasantness, are only different names for the same thing; the pleasantness of a thing is the pleasure it gives. So that pleasure, in a general way, or speaking generically; that is, in a way to include all the species of pleasures, and also the abatement of pains; is the end of action.

A motive is that which moves to action. But that which moves to action is the end of the action, that which is sought by it; that for the sake of which it is performed. Now that, generically speaking, is the pleasure of the agent. Motive, then, taken generically is pleasure. The pleasure may be in company or connection with things infinite in variety. But these are the accessaries; the essence, is the pleasure. Thus, in one case, the pleasure may be connected with the form, and other qualities of a particular woman; in another, with a certain arrangement of colours in a picture; in another, with the circumstances of some fellow-creature. But in all these cases, what is generical, that is the essence, is the pleasure, or relief from pain.

A motive, then, is the idea of a pleasure; a particular motive, is the idea of a particular pleasure; and these are infinite in variety.

Another question is, in what circumstances does the idea of a pleasure become a motive? For it is evident, that it does not so in all. It is only necessary here to illustrate, not to resolve the question. First, the pleasure must be regarded as attainable. No man wills an act, which he knows he cannot perform, or which he knows cannot effect the end. In the next place, the idea of the particular pleasure must be more present to the mind, than any other of equal potency. That which makes the idea of one pleasure more potent than another; or that which makes one idea more present to the mind than another, is the proximate cause of the motive, and a remote cause of the volition. The cause of that superior potency, or of that presence to the mind, is a cause of the volition, still more remote, and so on.

(Vol. II, pp. 262-4.)

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[Discussing the idea of Country as a motive, James Mill says:] There are cases, though rare, in which this motive has existed in extraordinary force; in which men have been found capable of sacrificing every thing for their country. This happens Edition: current; Page: [228] most readily in times of great excitement; that is, when public opinion holds out a great reward; and when the object rather is, to ward off some great calamity, than to obtain an accession of good.

It is too limited a view of the effect of “times of great excitement” in intensifying the patriotic feelings, to identify it with the influence of a more than usual reward held out by public opinion. That fact often contributes its share, but there are other causes fully as effectual. In times of excitement, the idea of Country, the ideas of all the interests involved in it, and of the manner in which those interests will be affected by our action or by our forbearance to act, exist in the mind in greater intensity, and are recalled with far greater frequency, than in ordinary times. Moreover, the fact that a feeling is shared by all or many of those with whom we are in frequent intercourse, strengthens, by an obvious consequence, all the associations, both of resemblance and of contiguity, which give that feeling its force. This is the well-known influence of sympathy, so strikingly evinced by the vehement feelings of a crowd. To these might be added another influence, belonging rather to physiology than to psychology. When the nervous system has been highly strung up by the influence of any strong feeling, it seems to become more acutely sensible to feeling of any sort, those feelings excepted which jar with, and are counteracted by, the prevailing tone of the system. (Vol. II, pp. 274-5.)

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[J.S. Mill’s note is appended to the end of Chap. xxii, Sect. 2.]

This Section is devoted to an exposition of the manner in which facts which are not pleasures or pains, but causes of pleasures or of pains, become so closely associated in thought with the pains and pleasures of which they are causes, as not only to become themselves pleasurable or painful, but to become also, by their association with acts of our own by which they may be brought about, motives of the greatest strength. The value of a due understanding of this fact, both for the purposes of psychological science and for those of practical education, is evidently very great: and the author, to whose mind the bearings of speculative philosophy on the practical interests of the human race were ever present, has not failed to make some ethical and political applications of the psychological truth which he has here so excellently illustrated. (Vol. II, pp. 278-9.)

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[James Mill, discussing love of fame as a motive, comments:] That we have pleasurable associations of great potency, with this manifestation of the favourable disposition of others towards us, is matter of common and constant experience. It is called, in its more remarkable states, the Love of Fame, and is known to operate as one of the most powerful motives in our nature. One of its cases is a remarkable exemplification of that high degree of association, which has been already explained, and to which we have frequently had occasion to advert, in explaining other phenomena; the degree which constitutes belief, and which gives to that belief, even when momentary, and instantly overruled by other associations, a powerful effect on our actions.

Not only that Praise of us, which is diffused in our lives, and from which agreeable consequences may arise to us, is delightful, by the associated ideas of the pleasures resulting from it; but that Praise, which we are never to hear, which will be diffused only when we are dead, and from which no actual effects can ever accrue to us, is often an object of intense affection, and acts as one of the most powerful motives in our nature.

The habit which we form, in the case of immediate praise, of associating the idea of the praise with the idea of pleasurable consequences to ourselves, is so strong, that the idea of pleasurable consequences to ourselves becomes altogether inseparable from the idea of our Praise. It is one of those cases in which the one Idea never can exist without the other. The belief, thus engendered, is of course encountered immediately by other belief, that we shall be incapable of profiting by any consequences, which posthumous fame can produce: as the fear, that is, the belief of ghosts, in a man passing through a churchyard at midnight, may be immediately encountered by his settled, habitual belief that ghosts have no existence; and yet his terror, not only remains for a time, but is constantly renewed, as often as he is placed in circumstances with which he has been accustomed to associate the existence of ghosts.

The case here put, that of the desire of posthumous fame, affords no real support to the author’s doctrines, that a high degree of association constitutes belief, and that belief is always present when we are determined to action. The case is merely one of many others, in which something not originally pleasurable (the praise and admiration of our fellow-creatures) has become so closely associated with pleasure as to be at last pleasurable in itself. When it has become a pleasure in itself, it is desired for itself, and not for its consequences; and the most confirmed knowledge that it can produce no ulterior pleasurable consequences to ourselves will not interfere with the pleasure given by the mere consciousness of possessing it, nor hinder that pleasure from becoming, by its association with the acts which produce it, a powerful motive. It is a frequent mode of talking, to speak of the desire of posthumous fame in a kind of pitying way, as grounded on a delusion; as a desire which implies a certain infirmity of the understanding. Those who thus Edition: current; Page: [230] speak must be prepared to apply the same disparaging phrases to the interest taken in the welfare of others after our own death; for in that case also, no beneficial consequences to ourselves personally can ever follow from the realization of the object of our desire. But there is nothing at variance with reason in the associations which make us value for themselves, things which we at first cared for only as means to other ends; associations to which we are indebted for nearly the whole both of our virtues, and of our enjoyments. That he who acts with a view to posthumous fame has a belief, however momentary, that this fame will produce to him some extraneous good, or that he shall be conscious of it after he is dead, I shall not admit without better evidence than I have ever seen or heard of. (Vol. II, pp. 295-6.)

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[Concerning “dispraise,” James Mill comments:] It not unfrequently happens, that the idea of the unfavourable sentiments of mankind, becomes more intolerable than all the consequences which could result from them; and men make their escape from life, in order to escape from the tormenting idea of certain consequences, which, at most, would only diminish the advantages of living.

They do not seek death to escape from the idea of any consequences of the unfavourable sentiments of mankind. The mere fact of having incurred those unfavourable sentiments has become, by the adhesive force of association, so painful in itself, that death is sometimes preferred to it. There is often no thought of the consequences that may arise from the unfavourable sentiments; and when consequences are thought of, they are usually rather those which are mere demonstrations of feeling, and owe their painfulness to the sentiment of which they are demonstrations, than those which directly grate upon our senses or are injurious to our interests. It is true that a vague conception of the many unpleasant consequences liable to arise from the evil opinion of others, was the crude matter out of which the horror of the thing itself was primitively formed: but, once formed, it loses its connexion with its original source. (Vol. II, p. 297.)

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[James Mill asserts, on the authority of Adam Smith,141 that] in minds happily trained, the love of Praiseworthiness, the dread of Blameworthiness, is a stronger Edition: current; Page: [231] feeling, than the love of actual Praise, the dread of actual Blame. It is one of those cases, in which, by the power of the association, the secondary feeling becomes more powerful than the primary. In all men, the idea of praise, as consequent, is associated with the idea of certain acts of theirs, as antecedent; the idea of blame, as consequent, with the idea of certain acts of theirs, as antecedent. This association constitutes what we call the feeling, or notion, or sentiment, or idea (for it goes by all those names), of Praiseworthiness, and Blameworthiness.

This paragraph, unexplained, might give the idea that the author regarded praiseworthiness and blameworthiness as having the meaning not of deserving praise or blame, but merely of being likely to obtain it. But what he meant is, that the idea of deserving praise is but a more complex form of the association between our own or another person’s acts or character, and the idea of praise. To deserve praise, is, in the great majority of the cases which occur in life, the principal mode of obtaining it; though the praise is seldom accurately proportioned to the desert. And the same may be said of blame. A powerful association is thus, if circumstances are favourable, generated between deserving praise and obtaining it; and hence between deserving praise, and all the pleasurable influences on our lives, of other people’s good opinion. And this association may become sufficiently strong to overcome the direct motive of obtaining praise, where it is to be obtained by other means than desert; the rather, as the desire of undeserved praise is greatly counteracted by the thought that people would not bestow the praise if they knew all. That what has now been stated was really the author’s meaning, is proved by his going on to say, that praiseworthiness and blameworthiness, as motives to action, have reference “not to what is, or to what shall be, but to what ought to be, the sentiments of mankind.” (Vol. II, pp. 298-9.)

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[At the end of Chap. xxiii, “The Acts of Our Fellow-Creatures, Which Are Causes of Our Pains and Pleasures, Contemplated as Consequents of Our Own Acts” (the running title is “Moral Sense”), a long note by Bain (Vol. II, pp. 302-7) is followed by J.S. Mill’s.]


It had been pointed out, in a preceding chapter, that Wealth, Power, Dignity, and many other things which are not in their own nature pleasures, but only causes of pleasures and of exemption from pains, become so closely associated with the pleasures of which they are causes, and their absence or loss becomes so closely associated with the pains to which it exposes us, that the things become objects of Edition: current; Page: [232] love and desire, and their absence an object of hatred and aversion, for their own sake, without reference to their consequences.142 By virtue of the same law of association, it is pointed out in the present chapter that human actions, both our own and those of other people, standing so high as they do among the causes both of pleasure and of pain to us (sometimes by their direct operation, and sometimes through the sentiments they give birth to in other persons towards ourselves) tend naturally to become inclosed in a web of associated ideas of pleasures or of pains at a very early period of life, in such sort that the ideas of acts beneficial to ourselves and to others become pleasurable in themselves, and the ideas of acts hurtful to ourselves and to others become painful in themselves: and both kinds of acts become objects of a feeling, the former of love, the latter of aversion, which having, in our minds, become independent of any pleasures or pains actually expected to result to ourselves from the acts, may be truly said to be disinterested. It is no less obvious that acts which are not really beneficial, or not really hurtful, but which, through some false opinion prevailing among mankind, or some extraneous agency operating on their sentiments, incur their praise or blame, may and often do come to be objects of a quite similar disinterested love or hatred, exactly as if they deserved it. This disinterested love and hatred of actions, generated by the association of praise or blame with them, constitute, in the author’s opinion, the feelings of moral approbation and disapprobation, which the majority of psychologists have thought it necessary to refer to an original and ultimate principle of our nature. Mr. Bain, in the preceding note, makes in this theory a correction, to which the author himself would probably not have objected, namely, that the mere idea of a pain or pleasure, by whomsoever felt, is intrinsically painful or pleasurable, and when raised in the mind with intensity is capable of becoming a stimulus to action, independent, not merely of expected consequences to ourselves, but of any reference whatever to Self; so that care for others is, in an admissible sense, as much an ultimate fact of our nature, as care for ourselves; though one which greatly needs strengthening by the concurrent force of the manifold associations insisted on in the author’s text. Though this of Mr. Bain is rather an account of disinterested Sympathy, than of the moral feeling, it is undoubtedly true that the foundation of the moral feeling is the adoption of the pleasures and pains of others as our own: whether this takes place by the natural force of sympathy, or by the association which has grown up in our mind between our own good or evil and theirs. The moral feeling rests upon this identification of the feelings of others with our own, but is not the same thing with it. To constitute the moral feeling, not only must the good of others have become in itself a pleasure to us, and their suffering a pain, but this pleasure or pain must be associated with our own acts as producing it, and must in this manner have become a motive, Edition: current; Page: [233] prompting us to the one sort of acts, and restraining us from the other sort. And this is, in brief, the author’s theory of the Moral Sentiments.

The exhaustive treatment of this subject would require a length and abundance of discussion disproportioned to the compass and purposes of a treatise like the present, which was intended to expound what the author believed to be the real mode of formation of our complex states of consciousness, but not to say all that may and ought to be said in refutation of other views of the subject. There are, however, some important parts of the author’s own theory, which are not stated in this work, but in a subsequent one, of a highly polemical character, the Fragment on Mackintosh: and it may be both instructive and interesting to the reader to find the statement here. I therefore subjoin the passages containing it.

Nature makes no classes. Nature makes individuals. Classes are made by men; and rarely with such marks as determine certainly what is to be included in them.

Men make classifications, as they do every thing else, for some end. Now, for what end was it that men, out of their innumerable acts, selected a class, to which they gave the name of moral, and another class, to which they gave the name of immoral? What was the motive of this act? What its final cause?

Assuredly the answer to this question is the first step, though Sir James saw it not, towards the solution of his two questions, comprehending the whole of ethical science; first, what makes an act to be moral? and secondly, what are the sentiments with which we regard it?143

We may also be assured, that it was some very obvious interest which recommended this classification; for it was performed, in a certain rough way, in the very rudest states of society.

Farther, we may easily see how, even in very rude states, men were led to it, by little less than necessity. Every day of their lives they had experience of acts, some of which were agreeable, or the cause of what was agreeable, to them; others disagreeable, or the cause of what was disagreeable to them, in all possible degrees.

They had no stronger interest than to obtain the repetition of the one sort, and to prevent the repetition of the other.

The acts in which they were thus interested were of two sorts; first, those to which the actor was led by a natural interest of his own; secondly, those to which the actor was not led by any interest of his own. About the first sort there was not occasion for any particular concern. They were pretty sure to take place, without any stimulus from without. The second sort, on the contrary, were not likely to take place, unless an interest was artificially created, sufficiently strong to induce the actor to perform them.

And here we clearly perceive the origin of that important case of classification . . . the classification of acts as moral and immoral. The acts, which it was important to other men that each individual should perform, but in which the individual had not a sufficient interest to secure the performance of them, were constituted one class. The acts, which it was important to other men that each individual should abstain from, but in regard to which he had not a personal interest sufficiently strong to secure his abstaining from them, were constituted another class. The first class were distinguished by the name moral acts; the second by the name immoral.

The interest which men had in securing the performance of the one set of acts, the Edition: current; Page: [234] non-performance of the other, led them by a sort of necessity to think of the means. They had to create an interest, which the actor would not otherwise have, in the performance of the one sort, the non-performance of the other. And in proceeding to this end, they could not easily miss their way. They had two powers applicable to the purpose. They had a certain quantity of good at their disposal; and they had a certain quantity of evil. If they could apply the good in such a manner as to afford a motive both for the performance and non-performance which they desired, or the evil, in such a manner as to afford a motive against the performance and non-performance which they wished to prevent, their end was attained.

And this is the scheme which they adopted; and which, in every situation, they have invariably pursued. The whole business of the moral sentiments, moral approbation, and disapprobation, has this for its object, the distribution of the good and evil we have at command, for the production of acts of the useful sort, the prevention of acts of the contrary sort. Can there be a nobler object?

But though men have been thus always right in their general aim, their proceedings have been cruelly defective in the detail; witness the consequence,—the paucity of good acts, the frequency of bad acts, which there is in the world.

A portion of acts having been thus classed into good and bad; and the utility having been perceived of creating motives to incite to the one, and restrain from the other, a sub-classification was introduced. One portion of these acts was such, that the good and evil available for their production and prevention, could be applied by the community in its conjunct capacity. Another portion was such, that the good and evil available could be applied only by individuals in their individual capacity. The first portion was placed under the control of what is called law; the other remained under the control of the moral sentiments; that is, the distribution of good and evil, made by individuals in their individual capacity.

No sooner was the class made, than the rule followed. Moral acts are to be performed; immoral acts are to be abstained from.

Beside this the general rule, there was needed, for more precise direction, particular rules.

We must remember the fundamental condition, that all rules of action must be preceded by a corresponding classification of actions. All moral rules, comprehended in the great moral rule, must relate to a class of actions comprehended within the grand class, constituted and marked by the term moral. This is the case with grand classes in general. They are subdivided into minor classes, each of the minor classes being a portion of the larger. Thus, the grand class of acts called moral has been divided into certain convenient portions, or sub-classes, and marked by particular names, Just, Beneficent, Brave, Prudent, Temperate; to each of which classes belongs its appropriate rule that men should be just, that they should be beneficent, and so on. . . .

In the performance of our duties two sets of cases may be distinguished. There is one set in which a direct estimate of the good of the particular act is inevitable; and the man acts immorally who acts without making it. There are other cases in which it is not necessary.

The first are those, which have in them so much of singularity, as to prevent their coming within the limits of any established class. In such cases a man has but one guide; he must consider the consequences, or act not as a moral, or rational agent at all.

The second are cases of such ordinary and frequent occurrence as to be distinguished into classes. And everybody knows . . . that when a class of acts are performed regularly and frequently, they are at last performed by habit; in other words, the idea of the act and the performance of it follow so easily and speedily that they seem to cohere, and to be but one operation. It is only necessary to recall some of the more familiar instances, to see the mode Edition: current; Page: [235] of this formation. In playing on a musical instrument, every note, at first, is found by an effort. Afterwards, the proper choice is made so rapidly as to appear as if made by a mechanical process in which the mind has no concern. The same is the case with moral acts. When they have been performed with frequency and uniformity, for a sufficient length of time, a habit is generated. . . .

When a man acts from habit, he does not act without reflection. He only acts with a very rapid reflection. In no class of acts does a man begin to act by habit. He begins without habit; and acquires the habit by frequency of acting. The consideration, on which the act is founded, and the act itself, form a sequence. And it is obvious from the familiar cases of music and of speaking, that it is a sequence at first not very easily performed. By every repetition, however, it becomes easier. The consideration occurs with less effort; the action follows with less effort; they take place with greater and greater rapidity, till they seem blended. To say, that this is acting without reflection, is only ignorance, for it is thus seen to be a case of acting by reflection so easily and rapidly, that the reflection and the act cannot be distinguished from one another. . . .

Since moral acts are not performed at first by habit, but each upon the consideration which recommends it; upon what considerations, we may be asked, do moral acts begin to be performed?

The question has two meanings, and it is necessary to reply to both. It may be asked, upon what consideration the men of our own age and country, for example, at first, and before a habit is formed, perform moral acts? Or, it may be asked, upon what consideration did men originally perform moral acts?

To the first of these questions every one can reply from his own memory and observation. We perform moral acts at first, from authority. Our parents tell us that we ought to do this, ought not to do that. They are anxious that we should obey their precepts. They have two sets of influences, with which to work upon us; praise and blame; reward and punishment. All the acts which they say we ought to do, are praised in the highest degree, all those which they say we ought not to do, are blamed in the highest degree. In this manner, the ideas of praise and blame become associated with certain classes of acts, at a very early age, so closely, that they cannot easily be disjoined. No sooner does the idea of the act occur than the idea of praise springs up along with it, and clings to it. And generally these associations exert a predominant influence during the whole of life.

Our parents not only praise certain kinds of acts, blame other kinds; but they praise us when we perform those of the one sort, blame us when we perform those of the other. In this manner other associations are formed. The idea of ourselves performing certain acts is associated with the idea of our being praised, performing certain other acts with the idea of our being blamed, so closely that the ideas become at last indissoluble. In this association consist the very important complex ideas of praise-worthiness, and blame-worthiness. An act which is praiseworthy, is an act with the idea of which the idea of praise is indissolubly joined; an agent who is praiseworthy is an agent with the idea of whom the idea of praise is indissolubly joined. And in the converse case, that of blame-worthiness, the formation of the idea is similar.

Many powerful circumstances come in aid of these important associations, at an early age. We find, that not only our parents act in this manner, but all other parents. We find that grown people act in this manner, not only towards children, but towards one another. The associations, therefore, are unbroken, general, and all-comprehending.

Our parents administer not only praise and blame, to induce us to perform acts of one sort, and abstain from acts of another sort, but also rewards and punishments. They do so directly; and, further, they forward all our inclinations in the one case, baulk them in the other. So does everybody else. We find our comforts excessively abridged by other people, Edition: current; Page: [236] when we act in one way, enlarged when we act in another way. Hence another most important class of associations; that of an increase of well-being from the good-will of our fellow-creatures, if we perform acts of one sort, of an increase of misery from their ill-will, if we perform those of another sort.

In this manner it is that men, born in the social state, acquire the habits of moral acting, and certain affections connected with it, before they are capable of reflecting upon the grounds which recommend the acts either to praise or blame. Nearly at this point the greater part of them remain, continuing to perform moral acts and to abstain from the contrary, chiefly from the habits they have acquired, and the authority upon which they originally acted; though it is not possible that any man should come to the years and blessing of reason, without perceiving, at least in an indistinct and general way, the advantage which mankind derive from their acting towards one another in one way, rather than another.

We come now to the second question, viz. what are the considerations upon which men originally performed moral acts? The answer to this question is substantially contained in the explanation already given of the classification of acts as moral and immoral.

When men began to mark the distinction between acts, and were prompted to praise one class, blame another, they did so, either because the one sort benefited, the other hurt them; or for some other reason. If for the first reason, the case is perfectly intelligible. The men had a motive, which they understood, and which was adequate to the end. If it was not on account of utility that men classed some acts as moral, others as immoral, on what other account was it?

To this question, an answer, consisting of anything but words, has never been returned.

It has been said, that there is a beauty, and a deformity, in moral and immoral acts, which recommended them to the distinctions they have met with.

It is obvious to reply to this hypothesis, that the mind of a savage, that is, a mind in the state in which the minds of all men were, when they began to classify their acts, was not likely to be much affected by the ideal something called the beauty of acts. To receive pain or pleasure from an act, to obtain, or be deprived of, the means of enjoyment by an act; to like the acts and the actors, whence the good proceeded, dislike those whence the evil proceeded; all these were things which they understood.

But we must endeavour to get a little nearer to the bottom of this affair.

In truth, the term beauty, as applied to acts, is just as unintelligible to the philosopher, as to the savage. Is the beauty of an act one thing; the morality of it another? Or are they two names for the same thing? If they are two things, what is the beauty, distinct from the morality? If they are the same thing, what is the use of the name morality? It only tends to confusion.

But this is not all. The beautiful is that which excites in us the emotion of beauty, a state of mind with which we are acquainted by experience. This state of mind has been successfully analysed, and shewn to consist of a train of pleasurable ideas, awakened in us by the beautiful object.

But is it in this way only that we are concerned in moral acts? Do we value them for nothing, but as we value a picture, or a piece of music, for the pleasure of looking at them, or hearing them? Everybody knows the contrary. Acts are objects of importance to us, on account of their consequences, and nothing else. This constitutes a radical distinction between them and the things called beautiful. Acts are hurtful or beneficial, moral or immoral, virtuous or vicious. But it is only an abuse of language, to call them beautiful or ugly.

That it is jargon, the slightest reflection is sufficient to evince; for what is the beauty of an act, detached from its consequences? We shall be told, perhaps, that the beauty of an act was never supposed to be detached from its consequences. The beauty consists in the Edition: current; Page: [237] consequences. I am contented with the answer. But observe to what it binds you. The consequences of acts are the good or evil they do. According to you, therefore, the beauty of acts is either the utility of them, or it is nothing at all;—a beautiful ground on which to dispute with us, that acts are classed as moral, not on account of their utility, but on account of their beauty.

It will be easily seen, from what has been said, that they who ascribe the classification of acts, as moral, and immoral, to a certain taste, an agreeable or disagreeable sentiment which they excite (among whom are included the Scottish professors Hutcheson, and Brown, and David Hume himself, though on his part with wonderful inconsistency)144—hold the same theory with those who say, that beauty is the source of the classification of moral acts. Things are classed as beautiful, or deformed, on account of a certain taste, or inward sentiment. If acts are classed in the same way, on account of a certain taste or inward sentiment, they deserve to be classed under the names beautiful, and deformed; otherwise not.

I hope it is not necessary for me to go minutely into the exposure of the other varieties of jargon, by which it has been endeavoured to account for the classification of acts, as moral and immoral. “Fitness” is one of them. Acts are approved on account of their fitness. When fitness is hunted down, it is brought to bay exactly at the place where beauty was. Fitness is either the goodness of the consequences, or it is nothing at all.

The same is the case with “Right Reason,” or “Moral Reason.” An act according to moral reason, is an act, the consequences of which are good. Moral reason, therefore, is another name, and not a bad name, for the principle of utility.*

The following passage from another part of the same work, is also very much to the purpose.

The terms moral and immoral were applied by men, primarily, not to their own acts, but the acts of other men. Those acts, the effects of which they observed to be beneficial, they desired should be performed. To make them be performed, they, among other things they did, affixed to them marks of their applause; they called them, good, moral, well-deserving; and behaved accordingly.

Such is the source of the moral approbation we bestow on the acts of other men. The source of that which we bestow on our own is twofold. First, every man’s beneficial acts, like those of every other man, form part of that system of beneficial acting, in which he, in common with all other men, finds his account. Secondly, he strongly associates with his own beneficial acts, both that approbation of other men, which is of so much importance to him, and that approbation which he bestows on other men’s beneficial acts.

It is also easy to shew what takes place in the mind of a man, before he performs an act, which he morally approves or condemns.

What is called the approbation of an act not yet performed, is only the idea of future approbation: and it is not excited by the act itself; it is excited by the idea of the act. The idea of approbation or disapprobation is excited by the idea of an act, because the approbation would be excited by the act itself. But what excites moral approbation or disapprobation of Edition: current; Page: [238] an act, is neither the act itself, nor the motive of the act; but the consequences of the act, good or evil, and their being within the intention of the agent.

Let us put a case. A man with a starving wife and family is detected wiring a hare on my premises. What happens? I call up the idea of sending him to prison. I call up the ideas of the consequences of that act, the misery of the helpless creatures whom his labour supported; their agonizing feelings, their corporal wants, their hunger, cold, their destitution of hope, their despair: I call up the ideas of the man himself in jail, the sinking of heart which attends incarceration; the dreadful thought of his family deprived of his support; his association with vicious characters; the natural consequences,—his future profligacy, the consequent profligacy of his ill-fated children, and hence the permanent wretchedness and ruin of them all. I next have the idea of my own intending all these consequences. And only then am I in a condition to perform, as Sir James says, the “operation of conscience.” I perform it. But in this case, it is, to use another of his expressions, “defeated.”145 Notwithstanding the moral disapprobation, which the idea of such intended consequences excites in me, I perform the act.

Here, at all events, any one may see, that conscience, and the motive of the act, are not the same, but opposed to one another. The motive of the act, is the pleasure of having hares; not in itself a thing anywise bad. The only thing bad is the producing so much misery to others, for securing that pleasure to myself.

The state of the case, then, is manifest. The act of which I have the idea, has two sets of consequences; one set pleasurable, another hurtful. I feel an aversion to produce the hurtful consequences. I feel a desire to produce the pleasurable. The one prevails over the other. . . .

. . . Nothing in an act is voluntary but the consequences that are intended. The idea of good consequences intended, is the pleasurable feeling of moral approbation; the idea of bad consequences intended is the painful feeling of moral disapprobation. The very term voluntary, therefore, applied to an act which produces good or evil consequences, expresses the antecedence of moral approbation or disapprobation.*

I will quote one short passage more, in correction of the very vulgar error, that to analyse our disinterested affections and resolve them into associations with the ideas of our own elementary pleasures and pains, is to deny their reality.

Sir James must mean, if he means anything, that to trace up the motive affections of human nature to pain and pleasure, is to make personal advantage the only motive. This is to affirm, that he who analyses any of the complicated phenomena of human nature, and points out the circumstances of their formation, puts an end to them.

Sir James was totally ignorant of this part of human nature. Gratitude remains gratitude, resentment remains resentment, generosity generosity in the mind of him who feels them, after analysis, the same as before. The man who can trace them to their elements does not cease to feel them, as much as the man who never thought about the matter. And whatever effects they produce, as motives, in the mind of the man who never thought about the matter, they produce equally, in the minds of those who have analysed them the most minutely.

They are constituent parts of human nature. How we are actuated, when we feel them, is matter of experience, which every one knows within himself. Their action is what it is, whether they are simple or compound. Does a complex motive cease to be a motive whenever it is discovered to be complex? The analysis of the active principles leaves the Edition: current; Page: [239] nature of them untouched. To be able to assert, that a philosopher, who finds some of the active principles of human nature to be compound and traces them to their origin, does on that account exclude them from human nature, and deny their efficiency as constituent parts of that nature, discovers a total incapacity of thinking upon these subjects. When Newton discovered that a white ray of light is not simple but compound,146 did he for that reason exclude it from the denomination of light, and deny that it produced its effects, with respect to our perception, as if it were of the same nature with the elementary rays of which it is composed?*


The reluctance of many persons to receive as correct this analysis of the sentiments of moral approbation and disapprobation, though a reluctance founded more on feeling than on reasoning, is accustomed to justify itself intellectually, by alleging the total unlikeness of those states of mind to the elementary ones, from which, according to the theory, they are compounded. But this is no more than what is observed in every similar case. When a complex feeling is generated out of elements very numerous and various, and in a corresponding degree indeterminate and vague, but so blended together by a close association, the effect of a long series of experiences, as to have become inseparable, the resulting feeling always seems not only very unlike any one of the elements composing it, but very unlike the sum of those elements. The pleasure of acquiring, or of consciously possessing, a sum of money (supposed not to be desired for application to some specific purpose,) is a feeling, to our consciousness, very different from the pleasure of protection against hunger and cold, the pleasure of ease and rest from labour, the pleasure of receiving consideration from our fellow-creatures, and the other miscellaneous pleasures, the association with which is admitted to be the real and only source of the pleasure of possessing money. In the case, then, of the moral sentiments, we have, on the one hand, a vera causa or set of causes, having a positive tendency to generate a sentiment of love for certain actions, and of aversion for certain others; and on the other hand, those sentiments of love and aversion, actually produced. This coincidence between the sentiments and a power adequate to produce them, goes far towards proving causation. That the sentiments are not obviously like the causes, is no reason for postulating the existence of another cause, in the shape of an original principle of our nature.

In a case, however, of so great interest and importance, a rigid adherence to the canons of inductive proof must be insisted on. Those who dispute the theory are entitled to demand that it shall conform strictly to the general law of cause and effect, which is, that the effect shall occur with the cause, shall not occur without the cause, and shall bear some proportion to the cause. Unless it can be shown that Edition: current; Page: [240] when the effect is not produced, the cause is either absent, or counteracted by some more powerful agency; and unless, when there is any marked difference in the effect, a difference can be shown in the cause, sufficient to account for it; the theory must give way, or at least, cannot be considered as proved.

The principal case in which the effect is absent, notwithstanding the apparent presence of the cause assigned for it, is anticipated by the author, and provided for after his manner, in the first of the passages quoted from the Fragment on Mackintosh. There are actions (he observes) as beneficial as any others, which yet do not excite the moral sentiment of approbation; but it is because the spontaneous motives to those beneficial acts are in general sufficient: as to eat when we are hungry, or to do a service for which we are to be amply paid. There are, again, actions of a very hurtful character, but such that the spontaneous motives for abstaining from them may be relied on, without any artificial addition: such, in general, are acts destructive of one’s own life or property. But even in these cases the hurtful acts may become objects of moral reprobation, when, in any particular case, the natural deterrents prove insufficient for preventing them.

The author seems to think that the difference here pointed out, is explained by the fact that the moral sentiment is in the one case needed, in the other not needed, for producing the useful or averting the hurtful act; that, in short, we are made to have the feeling, by a foresight that our having it will operate usefully on the conduct of our fellow-creatures. I cannot accept this explanation. It seems to me to explain everything about the moral feelings, except the feelings themselves. It explains praise and blame, because these may be administered with the express design of influencing conduct. It explains reward and punishment, and every other distinction which we make in our behaviour between what we desire to encourage, and what we are anxious to check. But these things we might do from a deliberate policy, without having any moral feeling in our minds at all. When there is a moral feeling in our minds, our praise or blame is usually the simple expression of that feeling, rather than an instrument purposely employed for an end. We may give expression to the feeling without really having it, in the belief that our praise or blame will have a salutary effect; but no anticipation of salutary effects from our feeling will ever avail to give us the feeling itself: except indeed, what may be said of every other mental feeling—that we may talk ourselves into it; that the habitual use of the modes of speech that are associated with it, has some tendency to call up the feeling in the speaker himself, and a great tendency to engender it in other people.

I apprehend, however, that there is another, and more adequate reason why the feeling of moral approbation is usually absent in the case of actions (or forbearances) for which there are sufficient motives without it. These actions are done, and are seen to be done, by everybody alike. The pleasant associations derived from their usefulness merge, therefore, in our feelings towards human life and towards our fellow-creatures generally, and do not give rise to any special Edition: current; Page: [241] association of pleasure with given individuals. But when we find that a certain person does beneficial acts which the general experience of life did not warrant us in counting upon—acts which would not have been done by everybody, or even by most people, in his place; we associate the pleasure which the benefit gives us, with the character and disposition of that individual, and with the act, conceived as proceeding from that specially beneficent disposition. And obversely, if a person acts in a manner from which we suffer, but which is such as we should expect from most other people in a parallel case, the associations which his acts create in our minds are associations with human life, or with mankind in general; but if the acts, besides being of a hurtful kind, betoken a disposition in the agent, more hurtful than we are accustomed to look for in average men, we associate the injury with that very man, and with that very disposition, and have the feeling of moral disapprobation and repugnance.

There is, as already intimated, another condition which those who hold the Association theory of the moral sentiments are bound to fulfil. The class of feelings called moral embraces several varieties, materially different in their character. Wherever this difference manifests itself, the theory must be required to show that there is a corresponding difference in the antecedents. If pleasurable or painful associations are the generating cause, those associations must differ in some proportion to the difference which exists in what they generate.

The principal case in point is the case of what is called Duty, or Obligation. It will probably be admitted that beneficial acts, when done because they are beneficial, excite in us favourable sentiments towards the agent, for which the utility or beneficial tendency of the actions is sufficient to account. But it is only some, not all, of these beneficial acts, that we regard as duties; as acts which the agent, or we ourselves if we are the persons concerned, are bound to do. This feeling of duty or obligation, it is contended, is a very different state of mind from mere liking for the action and good will to the agent. The association theory may account for the two last, but not for the former.

I have examined this question in the concluding chapter of a short treatise entitled Utilitarianism. The subject of the chapter is “the connexion between Justice and Utility.”147 I have there endeavoured to shew what the association is, which exists in the case of what we regard as a duty, but does not exist in the case of what we merely regard as useful, and which gives to the feeling in the former case the strength, the gravity, and pungency, which in the other case it has not.

I believe that the element in the association, which gives this distinguishing character to the feeling, and which constitutes the difference of the antecedents in the two cases, is the idea of Punishment. I mean the association with punishment, not the expectation of it.

No case can be pointed out in which we consider anything as a duty, and any act Edition: current; Page: [242] or omission as immoral or wrong, without regarding the person who commits the wrong and violates the duty as a fit object of punishment. We think that the general good requires that he should be punished, if not by the law, by the displeasure and ill offices of his fellow-creatures: we at any rate feel indignant with him, that is, it would give us pleasure that he should suffer for his misconduct, even if there are preponderant reasons of another kind against inflicting the suffering. This feeling of indignation, or resentment, is, I conceive, a case of the animal impulse (I call it animal because it is common to us with the other animals) to defend our own life and possessions, or the persons whom we care for, against actual or threatened attack. All conduct which we class as wrong or criminal is, or we suppose it to be, an attack upon some vital interest of ourselves or of those we care for, (a category which may include the public, or the whole human race): conduct which, if allowed to be repeated, would destroy or impair the security and comfort of our lives. We are prompted to defend these paramount interests by repelling the attack, and guarding against its renewal; and our earliest experience gives us a feeling, which acts with the rapidity of an instinct, that the most direct and efficacious protection is retaliation. We are therefore prompted to retaliate by inflicting pain on the person who has inflicted or tried to inflict it upon ourselves. We endeavour, as far as possible, that our social institutions shall render us this service. We are gratified when, by that or other means, the pain is inflicted, and dissatisfied if from any cause it is not. This strong association of the idea of punishment, and the desire for its infliction, with the idea of the act which has hurt us; is not in itself a moral sentiment; but it appears to me to be the element which is present when we have the feelings of obligation and of injury, and which mainly distinguishes them from simple distaste or dislike for any thing in the conduct of another that is disagreeable to us; that distinguishes, for instance, our feeling towards the person who steals our goods, from our feeling towards him who offends our senses by smoking tobacco. This impulse to self-defence by the retaliatory infliction of pain, only becomes a moral sentiment, when it is united with a conviction that the infliction of punishment in such a case is conformable to the general good, and when the impulse is not allowed to carry us beyond the point at which that conviction ends. For further illustration I must refer to the little Treatise already mentioned. (Vol. II, pp. 307-26.)

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[In Chap. xxiv, “The Will,” when distinguishing between the effects of external and internal sensations, James Mill remarks:] in general, as it is easy to conceive, the internal sensations are a leading cause of such actions as take place in the internal organs of the Body. Edition: current; Page: [243] The actions which take place in the interior of the body are not always, nor perhaps even generally, produced by sensations. A large portion of them are not preceded by any sensation of which we are aware, and have been ascertained to depend on nerves not terminating in the brain, which is the seat of sensation, but stopping at the spinal cord. These actions are inferred to be the results of a mere physical stimulus, operating either upon the local nerves, or upon the spinal ganglions with which those nerves communicate, and not attended with any consciousness.

Many of the instances which the author goes on to enumerate, of muscular action excited by sensation, are, in all probability, cases of this description. The muscular action is directly excited by the physical irritation of the nerves, and any sensation which accompanies it is not its cause, but a simultaneous effect. (Vol. II, p. 331.)

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[James Mill (Vol. II, pp. 352-4) calls attention to a “double operation” in] the formation and execution of motives. The first association starts from the pleasure. The idea of the pleasure is associated with its immediate cause, that cause with its cause, and so on, till it reaches that act of ours which is the opposite end of the train. The process may stop here, and in that case the motive does not excite to action. If it excites to action, the process is exactly reversed. In the first process of association, the pleasure was the first link in the chain, the action the last; in the second process, the action is the first, the pleasure the last. When the first process only is performed, the association is called motive. When the second is performed it is called will.

A difficulty, however, presents itself. The first process terminates in an Idea of the action. The second process commences with an Idea of the action. The Idea of the action is thus excited twice. But the first time it is not followed by the action; the second time it is. How is this to be reconciled with the supposed constancy of connexion between the muscular action and the Idea which produces it? The difficulty is solved by observing, that the phrase, “Idea of the action,” has two meanings. There are two Ideas, very different from one another, to both of which we give the name, “Idea of the action.” Of these Ideas, one is the outward appearance of the action, and is always a very obvious Idea. The other is the copy of those internal sensations which originally called the muscles into action, to which, from habit of not attending to them, we have lost the power of attending. This last is by no means an obvious Idea. And the mind passes from it so quickly, intent upon the action which is its result, that it is almost always swallowed up in the mass of association. It constitutes, in fact, one of the most remarkable instances of that class of links in a chain, which, how important soever to the Edition: current; Page: [244] existence of the chain, are passed over so rapidly, that the existence of them is hardly ever recognised.

This last Idea alone, is that upon which the contraction of the muscle is consequent. In the process of association which we call the motive, as described above, the first of the two above-mentioned ideas of the action, that of its outward appearance, is the idea excited. If the association stops there, the motive is inoperative; if the association does not stop there, but the idea of the outward appearance of the action, calls up that other, the idea of the internal feelings of the action, the motive is then operative, and we are said to will.

If we are asked, how an Idea, as that of the outward appearance of an act, should at one time excite an idea, as that of the internal feelings of the act, at another time not excite it, we can only refer to the laws of association, as far as they have been ascertained. We know there are certain cases of association, so strong, that the one Idea never exists without calling up the other. We know there are other cases in which an Idea sometimes does, and sometimes does not, call up such or such an Idea. Sometimes it is easy to trace the cause of this variety; sometimes difficult.

This analysis of the power of the Will over muscular action is substantially that of Hartley, though more clearly and forcibly stated, and more amply illustrated. In the field of mental philosophy this is the point at which Hartley approached nearest to the most advanced thoughts of his successors, and left least for them to do beyond the task of commentators and defenders.148

The doctrine of Hartley on the Will may be summed up in the following propositions. 1. All our voluntary movements were originally automatic: meaning by automatic, involuntary, and excited directly by sensations. 2. When a sensation has the power of exciting a given muscular action, the idea of that sensation, if sufficiently vivid, will excite it likewise. 3. The idea of the sensation which excites an automatic action of the muscles, persists during the action, and becomes associated with it by contiguity, in such a manner as to be itself, in its turn, excited by any vividly recalled idea of the muscular act. 4. The following is what takes place in voluntary motion. The idea of the end we desire, excites by association the idea of the muscular act which would procure it for us. The idea of this muscular act excites, by association, the idea of the sensation which originally excited the same muscular action automatically. And lastly, the idea of this sensation excites the action, as the sensation itself would have done. 5. These associations being formed gradually, and progressively strengthened by repetition, this gives us the explanation of the gradual and slow process whereby we gain what is called command of our muscles; i.e. the process by which the actions, originally produced automatically by sensations; come to be produced, Edition: current; Page: [245] and at last, to be easily and rapidly produced, by the ideas of the different pleasurable ends to which those muscular actions are the means. 6. In this chain of association, as is so often the case in chains of association, the links which are no otherwise interesting to us than by introducing other links, gradually drop out of consciousness, being, after many repetitions, either forgotten as soon as felt, or altogether thrown out; the latter being the supposition which Hartley apparently favours. The link that consists in the idea of the internal sensations which excited the muscular action when it was still automatic, being the least interesting part of the whole series, is probably the first which we cease to be aware of. When the succession of the ideas has become, by frequent repetition, extremely prompt, rapid, and certain, another link tends to disappear, namely, the ideas of the muscular feelings that accompany the act. A practised player, for example, on a keyed instrument, becomes less and less conscious of the motions of his fingers, until there at last remains nothing in his consciousness to shew that the muscular acts do not arise without any intermediate links, from the purpose, i.e. the idea in his mind, which made him begin playing. At this stage the muscular motion, which, from automatic, had become voluntary, has become, from voluntary, what, in Hartley’s phraseology, is called secondarily automatic; and it seems to be his opinion that the ideas which have disappeared from consciousness, or at all events from memory, have not been (as maintained by Stewart)149 called up, and immediately afterwards forgotten, but have ceased to be called up; being, as it were, leapt over by the rapidity with which the succeeding links rush into consciousness.

This theory, as we have seen, is adopted, and more fully worked out, by the author of the Analysis. He proves, by many examples, that sensations excite muscular actions; that ideas excite muscular actions; and that, when a sensation has power to excite a particular muscular action, the idea of the sensation tends to do the same. It is true that many, if not most, of what he presents as instances of muscular action excited by sensations, are cases in which both the sensation and the muscular action are probably joint effects of a physical cause, a stimulus acting on the nerves. This misapprehension by the author reaches its extreme point when he declares traumatic tetanus to be produced not by the wound but by the pain of the wound; and cramps to be produced by sensations, instead of merely producing them.150 But the error is quite immaterial to the theory of the Will; the two suppositions being equivalent, as a foundation for the power which the idea of the muscular sensation acquires over the muscular action. Whether the sensation is the cause of the automatic action, or its effect, or a joint effect of the cause which produces it—on all these hypotheses the sensation and the action are conjoined in such a manner, as to form so close an association by contiguity that the idea of the Edition: current; Page: [246] sensation becomes capable of exciting the action. This being conceded, it follows, by the ordinary laws of association, that whatever recals the idea of the sensation, tends, through the idea, to produce the action.

Now, there is nothing so closely associated with the idea of the muscular sensation, as the idea of the muscular act itself, such as it appears to outward observation. Whatever, therefore, calls up strongly the idea of the act, is likely to call up the idea of the accompanying muscular sensation, and so produce the act. But the idea of the act is called up strongly by anything which makes us desire to perform it; that is, by an association between it as a means, and any coveted pleasure as an end. The act is thus produced by our desire of the end; that is (according to the author’s theory of desire) by our idea of the end, when pleasurable; which, if an end, it must be. The pleasurable association may be carried over from the ultimate end to the idea of the muscular act, through any number of intermediate links, consisting of the successive operations, probably in themselves indifferent, by which the end has to be compassed; but this transfer is strictly conformable to the laws of association. When the pleasurable association has reached the muscular act itself, and has caused it to be desired, the series of effects terminates in the production of the act. What has now been described is, in the opinion of the author, the whole of what takes place in any voluntary action of the muscles. At the close of the chapter we shall consider whether there is any part of the facts, for which this theory does not sufficiently account.151 (Vol. II, pp. 354-8.)

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[In his chapter on the will, James Mill examines (Vol. II, pp. 362-72) the process of “Attention.” He initially explains it thus (p. 362):] We seem to have the power of attending, or not attending to any object; by which is meant, that we can Will to attend to it, or not to attend. By attending to an object, we give it the opportunity of exciting all the ideas with which it is associated. By not attending to it we deprive it of more or less of that opportunity. And if the will has this power over every idea in a train, it has thence a power, which may be called unlimited, over the train. [He later remarks (p. 363):] A painful or a pleasurable sensation is a peculiar state of mind. A man knows it, only by having it; and it is impossible that by words he can convey his feeling to others. The effort, however, to convey the idea of it, has given occasion to various forms of expression, all of which are greatly imperfect. The state of mind under a pleasurable or painful sensation is such, that we say, the sensation engrosses the mind; but this really means no more than that it is a painful or pleasurable sensation; and that such a sensation is a state of mind very different Edition: current; Page: [247] from an indifferent sensation. The phrase, engrossing the mind, is sometimes exchanged for the word Attention. [J.S. Mill’s note comes at the end of the further analysis of the process.]

The account here given of Attention, though full of instructive matter, I cannot consider to be at all adequate. When it is said that a sensation, by reason of its highly pleasurable or painful character, engrosses the mind, more is meant than merely that it is a highly pleasurable or painful sensation. The expression means, first, that when a sensation is highly pleasurable or painful, it tends, more or less strongly, to exclude from consciousness all other sensations less pleasurable or painful than itself, and to prevent the rising up of any ideas but those which itself recals by its associations. This portion of the facts of the case is noticed by the author, though not sufficiently prominent in his theory. But there is another portion, altogether untouched by him. Through this power which the sensation has, of excluding other sensations and ideas, it tends to prolong its own existence; to make us continue conscious of it, from the absence of other feelings which if they were present would either prevent us from feeling it, or would make us feel it less intensely; which is called diverting our attention from it. This is what we mean when we say that a pleasurable or painful idea tends to fix the attention. We mean, that it is not easy to have, simultaneously with it, any other sensation or idea; except the ideas called up by itself, and which in turn recal it by association, and so keep it present to the mind. Becoming thus a nearly exclusive object of consciousness, it is both felt with greater intensity, and acquires greater power of calling up, by association, other ideas. There is an increase both in the multitude, the intensity, and the distinctness of the ideas it suggests; as is always the case when the suggesting sensation or idea is increased in intensity. In this manner a sensation which gets possession of our consciousness because it is already intense, becomes, by the fact of having taken possession, still more intense, and obtains still greater control over the subsequent train of our thoughts. And these also are precisely the effects which take place when, the sensation not being so pleasurable or painful as to produce them of itself, or in other words to fix the attention, we fix it voluntarily. All this is as true of Ideas as of Sensations. If a thought is highly painful, or pleasurable, it tends to exclude all thoughts which have no connexion with it, and which if aroused would tend to expel it—to make us (as we say) forget the pain or the pleasure. By thus obtaining exclusive possession of the mind, the pleasurable or painful thought is made more intense, more painful or pleasurable; and, as is the nature of pains and pleasures, acquires, in consequence, a greater power of calling up whatever ideas are associated with it. All this is expressed by saying that it fixes the attention. And ideas which are not of themselves so painful or pleasurable as to fix the attention, may have it fixed on them by a voluntary act. In other words, the will has power over the attention.

But how is this act of will excited, and in what does it consist? On this point the Edition: current; Page: [248] author’s analysis is conclusive, and admirable. The act, like other voluntary acts, is excited by a motive; by the desire of some end, that is, of something pleasurable; (including in the word pleasurable, as the author does, exemption from pain). What happens is, that, the idea on which we are said to fix our attention not being of itself sufficiently pleasurable to fix it spontaneously, we form an association between it and another pleasurable idea, and the result then is that the attention is fixed. This is the true account of all that we do when we fix our attention voluntarily; there is no other possible means of fixing it. It thus appears, that the fixing of attention by an act of will depends on the same law, as the fixing it by the natural pleasantness or painfulness of the idea. Of itself the idea is not pleasant or painful, or not sufficiently so to fix the attention; but if it were considerably more pleasant or painful than it is, it would do so. It becomes considerably more pleasurable by being associated with the motive—that is, by a fresh association of pleasure with it—and the attention is fixed. This explanation seems complete.

It may be said, however, by an objector, that this accounts only for the case in which the voluntary attention flows easy and unimpeded, almost as if it were spontaneous; when the mere perception that the idea is connected with our purpose—with the pleasurable end which suggested the train of thought, at once and without difficulty produces that exclusive occupation of the mind with it, which is called fixing the attention. But it often happens that the mere perception of its connexion with our purpose is not sufficient: the mind still wanders from the thought: and there is then required a supplementary force of will, in aid of association; an effort, which expends energy, and is often both painful and exhausting.

Let us examine, then, what takes place in this case. The association of the thought with the pleasurable end in view, is sufficient to influence the attention, but not sufficient to command it. The will, therefore, has to be called in, to heighten the effect. But in this case, as in every case, the will is called into action by a motive. The motive, like all other motives, is a desire. The desire must be either the same desire which was already felt, but made more effectual than before, or another desire superadded to the first. The former case presupposes the latter: for the desire which was not sufficient to fix the attention firmly on that which is the means to its fulfilment, cannot be sufficient to call forth the voluntary effort necessary for fixing it: some other desire must come to its assistance. What, then, is this other desire? The question is not difficult. The present is one of the complex cases, in which we desire a different state of our own desires. By supposition, we do not care enough for the immediate end, that is the idea of it is not sufficiently pleasurable, or the idea of its frustration sufficiently painful, to exert the force of association required. But we are dissatisfied with this infirmity of our desires: we wish that we cared more for the end: we think that it would be better for us if either this particular end, or our ends generally, had greater command over our thoughts and actions than they have. There is thus called up, by our sense of the Edition: current; Page: [249] insufficiency of our attention in the particular case, the idea of another desirable end—greater vigour and certainty in our mental operations. That idea superadds itself to the idea of the immediate end, and this reinforcement of the associating power at last suffices to fix the attention. Or (which is the same thing in effect) the painful idea is called up, of being unable to fix our attention, and being in consequence thwarted generally in our designs; and this pain operates, in the same manner as a pleasure, in fixing our attention upon the thought which, if duly attended to, will relieve us from the oppressive consciousness.

It will be asked, whence come the sense of laborious effort, and the subsequent feeling of fatigue, which are experienced when the attention does not fix itself spontaneously, but is fixed with more or less difficulty by a voluntary act? I conceive them to be consequences of the prolongation of the state designated by the author, in the text, as a state of unsatisfied desire.152 That state, whatever view the psychologist takes of it, is a condition of the brain and nerves, having physiological consequences of great importance, and drawing largely on that stock of what we call nervous energy, any unusual expenditure or deficiency of which produces the feeling of exhaustion. The waste of energy, and the subsequent exhaustion, are greatest when the desire seems continually on the point of obtaining its gratification, but the gratification constantly eludes it. And this is what actually happens in the case supposed. The attention continually fastens on the idea which we desire to attend to, but, from the insufficient strength of the pleasurable or painful association, again deserts it; and the incessant alternation of hope and disappointment produces, as in other cases, the nervous disturbance which we call the sense of effort, and which is physiologically followed by the sensations of nervous exhaustion. It is probable that whatever is not muscular in the feeling which we call a sense of effort, is the physical effect produced by a more than usual expenditure of nervous force: which, reduced to its elements, means a more than usually rapid disintegration and waste of nervous substance.

Let me here remark, that the recognition, by the author of the Analysis, of a peculiar state of consciousness called a state of unsatisfied desire, conflicts with his doctrine that desire is nothing but the idea of the desired pleasure as future. In what sense is it possible to speak of an unsatisfied idea? If even we insert the omitted element of Belief, and resolve desire not into the mere idea, but into the expectation of a pleasure; though we might rationally speak of an unsatisfied expectation, it would only mean an expectation not fulfilled, in other words, an expectation of pleasure not followed by the pleasure; an expectation followed by a mere negation. How a pleasant idea, followed, not by a pain, but by nothing at all, is converted into a pain, the pain of unsatisfied desire, remains to be explained: and the author has not pointed out any associations which account for it. If it be said that the expectation is perpetually renewed and perpetually disappointed, this is Edition: current; Page: [250] true, but does not account for more than a continual alternation between a pleasant idea and no idea at all. That an element of pain should enter into unsatisfied desire, is a fact not explained by the author’s theory; and it stands as evidence that there is in a desire something inherently distinct from either an idea or an expectation. (Vol. II, pp. 372-7.)

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[J.S. Mill’s note (which is followed, pp. 382-95, by an extensive one of Bain’s) comes at the end of the chapter on the will.]

The analysis contained in this chapter affords, as it appears to me, a sufficient theory of the manner in which all that we denominate voluntary, whether it be a bodily action or a modification of our mental state, comes to be produced by a motive, i.e. by the association of an idea of pleasure or of exemption from pain with the act or the mental modification. But there is still an unexplained residuum which has not yet been brought to account. There are some bodily movements the consequence of which is not pleasure, but pain. Painful states of consciousness, no less than pleasurable ones, tend to form strong associations with their causes or concomitants. The idea, therefore, of a pain, will, no less than that of a pleasure, become associated with the muscular action that would produce it, and with the muscular sensations that accompany the action; and, as a matter of fact, we know that it does so. Why, then, is the result not merely different, but contrary? Why is it that the muscular action excited by association with a pleasure, is action towards the pleasure, while that excited by association with a pain is away from the pain? As far as depends on the law of association, it might seem that the action, in both cases, would be towards the fact with which the action is associated. There are some remarkable phenomena in which this really happens. There are cases in which a vivid imagination of a painful fact, seems really to produce the action which realizes the fact. Persons looking over a precipice are said to be sometimes seized with a strong impulse to throw themselves down. Persons who have extreme horror of a crime, if circumstances make the idea of committing it vividly present to their mind, have been known, from the mere intensity of their horror, to commit the crime without any assignable motive; and have been unable to give any account of why they committed it, except that the thought struck them, that the devil tempted them, and the like. This is the case of what is sometimes called a fixed idea; which has a sort of fascinating influence, and makes people seek what they fear or detest, instead of shunning it. Why is not this extremely exceptional case the common one? Why does the association of pain with an act, usually excite not to that act, but to the acts which tend to prevent the realization of the dreaded evil?

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It seems, that as the author has had to admit as an ultimate fact, the distinction between those of our sensations which we call pleasures and those which we call pains, considered as states of our passive sensibility, so also he would be compelled to admit, as a fact unreached by his explanations, a difference between the two in their relation to our active faculty; an attraction in the one case, and a repulsion in the other. That is, he must admit that the association of a pleasurable or painful idea (at all events when accompanied by a feeling of expectation) with a muscular act, has a specific tendency to excite the act when the idea is that of a pleasure, but, when it is the idea of a pain, has a specific tendency to prevent that act, and to excite the acts that are associated with the negation of the pain. This is precisely what we mean when we say that pleasure is desired, that pain is an object of aversion, and the absence of pain an object of desire. These facts are of course admitted by the author: and he admits them even as ultimate: but, with his characteristic dislike to multiply the number of ultimate facts, he merges them in the admitted ultimate fact of the difference between pleasure and pain. It is chiefly in cases of this sort—in leading him to identify two ultimate facts with one another, that his love of simplification, in itself a feeling highly worthy of a philosopher, seems to mislead him. Even if we consent to admit that the desire of a pleasure is one and the same thing with the idea of a pleasure, and aversion to a pain the same thing with the idea of a pain—it remains true that the difference which we passively feel, between the consciousness of a pleasure and that of a pain, is one fact, and our being stirred to seek the one and avoid the other is another fact; and it is just this second fact that distinguishes a mere idea of something as future, from a desire or aversion. It is this conscious or unconscious reference to action, which distinguishes the desire of a pleasure from the idea of it. Desire, in short, is the initiatory stage of volition. The author might indeed say, that this seeking of the sensation is involved in the very fact of conceiving it as pleasant; but this, when looked into, only means that the two things are inseparable; not that they are, or that they can ever be thought of, as identical; as one and the same thing.

It appears, then, that there is a law of voluntary action, the most important one of all, which the author’s explanations do not attempt to reach. Yet there is no necessity for accepting that law as ultimate. A theory resolving itself into laws still more fundamental, has been propounded by Mr. Bain in his writings, and a masterly statement of it will be found in the succeeding note. If, as I expect, this theory makes good its footing, Mr. Bain will be the first psychologist who has succeeded in effecting a complete and correct analysis of the Will.

In the same note will be found an analysis of the case of an idée fixe—the most striking case of which, is that of a terrific idea, exceptionally drawing the active power into the direction which leads towards the dreaded catastrophe, instead of, as usual, into the opposite direction. This peculiar case obliges us to acknowledge the coexistence of two different modes in which action may be excited. There is the normal agency of the ideas of a pleasure and a pain, the one determining an action Edition: current; Page: [252] towards the pleasure, the other an action away from the pain; and there is the general power of an extremely strong association of any kind, to make the action follow the idea. The reason why the determination of action towards a pain by the idea of the pain is only exceptional, is, that in order to produce it, the general power of a strong association to excite action towards the fact which it recals, has to overcome the specific tendency of a painful association to repel action from that fact. But the intensity of the painful idea may be so great, and the association of the act with it so strong, as to overpower this repulsive force by a greater attractive force: and it is then that we find the painful idea operating on action in a mode contrary to the specific property which is characteristic of it, and which it usually obeys.

It has been suggested, that the intensity with which the mind sometimes fixes upon a frightful idea, may operate by paralysing for the time being the usual voluntary efforts to avoid pain, and so allowing the natural impulse to act on a predominant idea to come into play. (Vol. II, pp. 379-82.)

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[Chap. xxv, “Intention,” concludes the Analysis. J.S. Mill’s note comes at the end of the examination of the term, and before the final five paragraphs in which, by way of peroration, James Mill places this theoretical work in relation to the practical studies that would complete the “Doctrine of the Human Mind.”]

This chapter is devoted to clearing up the confusion and disentangling the ambiguity connected with the word Intention. And it fully attains the purpose, save where the refusal to admit any difference between expectation and a strong association, throws a certain haze over an operation into which they both enter.

Intention, when the word is used in reference to our future conduct, is well characterized by the author as “the strong anticipation of a future will.”153 It is an unfaltering present belief that we shall hereafter will a particular act, or a particular course of action. There may be, over and above this belief, an intention “that nothing shall occur to hinder that intention of its effect;” “the intention not to frustrate an existing intention.” The author thinks that “this second intention is included in the first:” but it is not necessarily so. It is the first intention, fortified by some additional motive which creates a special desire that this particular desire and intention should continue. It is another case of what the author never recognizes, the desire of a desire.

Intention, when we are said to intend the consequences of our actions, means the foresight, or expectation of those consequences; which is a totally different thing Edition: current; Page: [253] from desiring them. The particular consequences in question, though foreseen, may be disagreeable to us: the act may be done for the sake of other consequences. Intention, and motive, are two very different things. But it is the intention, that is, the foresight of consequences, which constitutes the moral rightness or wrongness of the act. Which among the many consequences of a crime, are those, foresight of which constitutes guilt, and non-foresight entitles to acquittal, depends on the particular nature of the case. We may say generally, that it is the hurtful consequences. When the question arises judicially, we must say it is the consequences which the law intended to prevent. Reverting to the author’s illustration;154 a person who gives a drug to a patient, who dies in consequence, is not guilty (at least of an intentional crime) if he expected good consequences, or no consequences at all, from its administration. He is guilty, if he expected that the consequence would be death; because that was the consequence which the legislator intended to prevent. He is guilty, even if he thought that the death of the patient would be a good to the world: because, though the law did not intend to prevent good to the world, it did intend to prevent persons from killing one another. Judged by a moral instead of a legal standard, the man may be innocent; or guilty of a different offence, that of not using his thinking faculty with sufficient calmness and impartiality, to perceive that in such a case as that of taking life, the general presumption of pernicious consequences ought to outweigh a particular person’s opinion that preponderant good consequences would be produced in the particular instance. (Vol. II, pp. 401-2.)

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Botanical Writings

Calendar of Odours
APRIL 1840

Memories of Old Friends, Being Extracts from the Journals and Letters of Caroline Fox, from 1835 to 1871, ed. H.N. Pym, 2nd ed., 2 vols. (London: Smith, Elder, 1882), Vol. I, pp. 166-7. Headed: “A Calendar of Odours, Being in Imitation of the Various Calendars of Flora by Linnaeus and Others.” Concluded: “To Miss Caroline Fox, from her grateful friend, J.S. Mill.” As unpublished, not in Mill’s bibliography. Mill, accompanied by his mother and his sisters Clara and Harriet, was at Falmouth from 16 March to 10 April 1840, during the last illness of his brother Henry, who died there of tuberculosis on 4 April. He prepared the calendar for Caroline Fox during the last week of his stay.

the brilliant colouring of Nature is prolonged, with incessant changes, from March till October; but the fragrance of her breath is spent before the summer is half ended. From March to July an uninterrupted succession of sweet odours fills the air by day and still more by night, but the gentler perfumes of autumn, like many of the earlier ones here for that reason omitted, must be sought ere they can be found. The Calendar of Odours, therefore, begins with the laurel, and ends with the lime.

March—Common laurel.

April—Violets, furze, wall-flower, common broad-leaved willow, apple-blossom.

May—Lilac, night-flowering stocks and rockets, laburnum, hawthorn, seringa, sweet-briar.

June—Mignonette, bean-fields, the whole tribe of summer roses, hay, Portugal laurel, various species of pinks.

July—Common acacia, meadow-sweet, honeysuckle, sweetgale or double myrtle, Spanish broom, lime.

In latest autumn, one stray odour, forgotten by its companions, follows at a modest distance—the creeping clematis which adorns cottage walls; but the thread of continuity being broken, this solitary straggler is not included in the Calendar of Odours.

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Rare Plants in West Surrey
JUNE 1841

Phytologist, I (June 1841), 30. No. 3 in Art. IX, “Varieties; Original and Select”; under this heading appeared the editor’s selection of extracts from correspondents’ letters listing stations at which specimens were found. Signed “J.S. Mill; Kensington, June 1, 1841.” Not republished. Identified in Mill’s bibliography only in the general note, “Various lists of plants found in different parts of England, in a monthly publication, called the Phytologist during 1841” (MacMinn, p. 53).

ribes rubrum and nigrum, the former in many places, the latter abundantly in one place, by the side of the Mole near Esher: perfectly wild and completely naturalized. Turritis glabra, abundant and fine by the road-side between Hampton and Sunbury. Diplotaxis tenuifolia, a rare plant in Surrey, is very abundant above Walton Bridge. Cerastium arvense, on banks by the side of the Thames below Walton Bridge.

Isatis Tinctoria
JUNE 1841

Phytologist, I (June 1841), 30. No. 4 in Art. IX, “Varieties; Original and Select.” Signed “Id. [i.e., J.S. Mill; Kensington,] June 8, 1841.” Not republished. For the identification in Mill’s bibliography, see “Rare Plants in West Surrey” above. The square brackets are those of the Phytologist’s editor.

isatis tinctoria is now growing in prodigious luxuriance in the chalk-quarries close to the town [of Guildford]. It grows (in many instances) out of clefts in the precipitous chalk cliff, and makes almost a bush of flowers from the same root. Geranium lucidum I again found in my old locality, near St. Catherine’s Hill.

Notes on Plants Growing in the Neighbourhood of Guildford, Surrey

Phytologist, I (Aug. 1841), 40-1. Art. XIV. Signed “J.S. Mill, Esq.” Not republished. For the identification in Mill’s bibliography, see “Rare Plants in West Surrey” above.

impatiens fulva. At whatever period introduced, this plant is now so thoroughly naturalized, that it would be pedantry any longer to refuse it that place in the Edition: current; Page: [259] English Flora, which has been accorded on less strong grounds to many plants originally introduced from abroad. For many miles by the side o