Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 69.djvu/455

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
451
JOHN STUART MILL

JOHN STUART MILL
By PERCY F. BICKNELL

"I FIND it hard to say why I dislike John Stuart Mill," writes Lowell to Leslie Stephen, "but I have an instinct that he has done lots of harm."

"For the sake of the House of Commons at large," says Gladstone in a letter to Mr. W. L. Courtney, Mill's biographer, "I rejoiced in his advent, and deplored his disappearance. He did us all good. In whatever party, whatever form of opinion, I sorrowfully confess that such men are rare." "A wiser, more virtuous man I have never known, and never hope to know," was Mr. John Morley's pronouncement in a speech delivered soon after Mill's death.

To continue a little further these contrasting opinions concerning a philosopher and reformer, the centennial recurrence of whose birthday directs our thoughts upon him at this time, we find Professor Jevons somewhat petulantly exclaiming: "For my part I will no longer consent to live silently under the incubus of bad logic and bad philosophy winch Mill's works have laid upon us. . . . In one way or another Mill's intellect was wrecked. The cause of injury may have been the ruthless training which his father imposed upon him in tender years; it may have been his own life-long attempt to reconcile a false empirical philosophy with conflicting truth. But however it arose, Mill's mind was essentially illogical."

"Mill's intellect was essentially of the logical order," declares his biographer and expounder, Sir Leslie Stephen. The late E. L. Godkin called him "the most accomplished of modern dialecticians." Herbert Spencer, referring to Mill's influence on current English philosophical speculation, was of opinion that "by his 'System of Logic' Mr. Mill probably did more than any other writer to awaken it." Henry Sidgwick praised "the unequalled mastery of method which his logical speculations developed."

Now that Mill has been dead a third of a century, it may be worth while to take the occasion of this hundredth anniversary of his birth to review briefly the estimation in which he was held by his contemporaries, and to consider how much and what part of his fame of thirty-three years ago is now alive and likely to survive. His lasting influence, whether for good or for ill, is of course not accurately determinable; for, as Professor Bain has well said, "no calculus can integrate the