Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 16.djvu/531

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

to write so complete a demolition of a brother philosopher after he is dead, not having done it while he was alive."

During my stay in London in the summer of 1864, he showed me the finished MS. of a large part of the book. I offered a variety of minor suggestions, and he completed the work for the press the same autumn.

Of the many topics comprised in the volume, I shall advert only to one or two of the principal. After following Hamilton's theories through ten chapters, he advances his own positive view of the belief in an external world. Having myself gone over the same ground, I wish to remark on what is peculiar in his treatment of the question.

I give him full credit for his uncompromising idealism, and for his varied and forcible exposition of it. In this respect he has contributed to educate the thinking public in what I regard as the truth. But in looking at his analysis in detail, while I admit he has seized the more important things, I do not exactly agree with him either as to the order of statement or as to the relative stress put upon the various elements of the object and subject distinction.

In the first place, I would remark on the omission of the quality of "Resistance," and of the muscular energies as a whole, from his delineation of the object or external world. In this particular, usage and authority are against him to begin with. The connection of an external world with the primary qualities has been so long prevalent that there must be some reason or plausibility in it. His own father and Mansel are equally emphatic in setting forth resistance as the primary fact of externality. Mill himself, however, allows no place for resistance in his psychological theory. In a separate chapter on the "Primary Qualities of Matter," he deals with extension and resistance as products of muscular sensibility, and as giving us our notions of matter, but he thinks that simple tactile sensibility mingles with resistance, and plays as great a part as the purely muscular ingredient; thus frittering away the supposed antithesis of muscular energy and passive sensibility. Now, for my own part, I incline to the usage and opinion of our predecessors in putting forward the contrast of active energy and passive feeling as an important constituent of the subject and object distinction; and, if it is to be admitted at all, I am disposed to begin with it, instead of putting it last as Mr. Spencer does, or leaving it out as Mill does. It does not give all that is implied in matter, but it gives the nucleus of the composite feeling as well as the fundamental and defining attribute.

The stress of Mill's exposition rests on the fixity of order in our sensations leading to a constancy of recurrence, and a belief in that constancy going the length of assuming independent existence. Although he shows a perfect mastery of his position, I do not consider that he has done entire justice to it from not carrying along with him the contrast of the objective and the subjective—the sensation and the