Page:The Harvard Classics Vol. 51; Lectures.djvu/207
It enabled Mill to begin work as a mature writer at an unusually early age. But even so it does not follow that he was consequently able to do more or better work during his life than he would have otherwise accomplished. The addition of five or ten years at the outset of a life of normal length, and the work accomplished during those particular years, are not necessarily a net addition to its total achievement. Before drawing this conclusion we should need to be sure that physical strength and mental alertness were not prematurely lessened in consequence of the early training. After all, for continuous constructive intellectual work, the keeping of the mind open to new impressions and ideas is the one thing fundamentally important; and, while Mill was far superior to many of the world's great thinkers in this respect, this trait does not seem to have been due to the character of his education.
THE DEFECTS OF MILL'S EDUCATION
That he was deprived of the ordinary activities and pleasures of childhood and youth does not seem to have been an occasion of regret to Mill. As a philosopher and psychologist he might have been expected to recognize that his exclusive absorption in study during his early years must have narrowed the range of his knowledge of life and his capacity to act with and to lead other men. Mill's attitude toward life was always, and especially in the earlier years of his career, excessively intellectual. He exaggerated the force of reasoned conclusions as a factor in individual conduct and as a means of bringing about social improvement. One cannot but feel that the few years saved by Mill in the acquiring of knowledge from books involved some sacrifice of knowledge and understanding of the ordinary impulses and motives of men and women.
Still another defect in an education such as Mill received remains for consideration, though happily he escaped its threatened consequences. His father was one of the foremost of the utilitarian philosophers. He applied the principles of that school to the various problems of individual and of social improvement earnestly and with no lack of dogmatism. He impressed his views upon the mind of his son when he was far too young to subject them to critical analysis and to form an independent judgment regarding them