John Stuart Mill's Philosophy of Scientific Method

John Stuart Mill's Philosophy of Scientific Method

John Stuart Mill's Philosophy of Scientific Method

John Stuart Mill's Philosophy of Scientific Method

Excerpt

Like many other major works in philosophy, the contributions of John Stuart Mill to logic, scientific method, and the theory of knowledge are the clarified and matured expressions of an intellectual tradition that did not begin with him. Mill was not a thinker gifted with great originality, and while he modified and expanded the ideas he acquired from his predecessors, he did not radically transform them. He was the heir and champion of a philosophy that has its source in Locke, Berkeley, and Hume, and that was developed further by Hartley, Bentham, and his own father, James Mill. And though he was sensitive to winds of doctrine for which his teachers showed little sympathy, his writings on logic and related subjects were primarily an articulate and systematic formulation of the principles involved in the philosophy of British sensationalistic empiricism and utilitarianism.

However, Mill was not a secluded academic thinker, intellectually aloof from the political, economic, and religious issues that agitated his age. On the contrary, most of his published work was the fruit of discussions and controversies centering around burning practical problems, and even his more technical theoretical analyses were controlled by the aim of removing the obstacles which false philosophies placed in the path of social progress. His intense and abiding preoccupation with public questions explains many of the specific turns of his philosophical writings, and is the source of much of their strength as well as of their limitations.

Mill's life fell into the period when modern science was producing not only basic alterations in the outlook of a relatively small group of professional thinkers, but through its alliance with industrial technology was changing the physical face of England and effectively modifying the positions of masses of people in the social economy. Conceptions of nature, man, and society that had been developed in earlier centuries and had come to be regarded as . . .

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