Elements Of Political Economy (With Active Table of Contents)
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Paperback , pages. Published December 7th by Cosimo Classics first published To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Elements of Political Economy , please sign up. Be the first to ask a question about The Elements of Political Economy.
Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Elements of Political Economy by James Mill Cosimo Books added it Jan 12, Marts Thinker marked it as to-read May 14, North Loop Capital Management added it Jan 01, David marked it as to-read Feb 15, Ryan Thornton marked it as to-read Aug 20, Rene Kriisa marked it as to-read Aug 29, Justin Deluca marked it as to-read Nov 23, It is the object which the logicians propose to attain by what they call definitions; but in my opinion they fall into several errors relatively to definitions, and they greatly mistake their effects and properties.
They believe that there are definitions of words, and definitions of things, while in truth there are none but definitions of ideas. When I explain the sense of a word, I do nothing but explain the idea which I have when I pronounce that word, and when I explain what a being is, I still do nothing but explain the idea I have of that being, and which I express when I pronounce its name. They aver that definitions are principles, and that we cannot dispute about definitions. These two assertions are contraries, and yet both of them false.
In the first place they are contradictory, for if definitions are principles, we can and we ought frequently to question their truth, as we ought never to recognise any principle as true without a previous examination, and if we cannot contest definitions, they cannot be principles, since every principle should be proved before it is admitted. Again, these two assertions are both false. Definitions are not principles; for facts are the only true principles; and definitions are not facts, but simple explanations founded on facts, as all our other propositions whatsoever.
Now we may contest a definition, as every other proposition; for Edition: So also when I explain the idea which I have of the sense of a word, I do not solely pretend that I have this idea, I pretend further that it does not affect the real relations of this word with an infinity of others, that we may employ it in this sense without inconvenience and without inconsequence; now this is what again may be contested with reason. In fine, if I should pretend by a definition only to explain the complex and compound idea that I have actually in my head, yet it should always be allowed to show me that this idea is badly formed, that it is composed of judgments inconsequent the one to the other, and that it includes contradictory elements.
Then definitions never are principles, and yet they always are contestible. The logicians have believed that the definition is good, and that the idea defined is perfectly explained when they have determined it, per genus proximum et differentiam specificam, as they say; that is to say, when they have expressed that one of its elements which constitutes it of such a genus, and the one which in this genus distinguishes it from the ideas of the neighbouring species. Now this is still false, and is only founded on the fantastical doctrine, in virtue of which they believed they were able to distribute all our ideas into different arbitrary classes called categories.
That is false, first, because these arbitrary classifications never represent nature. Our ideas are connected the one to the other by a thousand different relations. Seen under one aspect they are of one genus, and under another they are of another genus; subsequently each of them depends on an innumerable multitude of proximate ideas, by an infinity of relations, of natures so different that we cannot compare them together, to decide which is the least remote. Thus we can never, or almost never find really the proximate genus or specific difference which deserves exclusively to characterise an idea.
Moreover, if we should have found in this idea the elements which in fact determine the genus and species in which it is reasonably permitted to class it, the idea would still be far from sufficiently explained, to be well known. These two elements might even be absolutely foreign to the decision of the question which may have given place to the definition.
Assuredly when I say that gold is a metal, and the heaviest of metals except platina, I have correctly ranged gold in the genus of beings to which it belongs, and I have distinguished it by a characteristic difference from those nearest to it in that genus. Yet this does not help me to know whether the use of gold, as money, is useful to commerce, or pernicious to morality, nor even whether it is the most ductile of metals. The two first questions depend on ideas too foreign to those which fix gold in a certain place amongst metals; and though the latter may be less distant, yet we do not know the direct and necessary relation between weight and ductility.
Logicians have been mistaken respecting the nature, the effects and properties of definitions. They are incapable of answering the end which they propose to attain by their means, that of presenting the idea of which we are to judge in such a manner that we cannot avoid forming a just judgment. The only mean of attaining this is to make the best description possible of the idea, and with the precautions which we have indicated. It is necessary to observe that all that we have advised in the 8th, 9th and 10th aphorisms, and also what we shall advise hereafter to be done, to know well the idea, the subject of the judgment in question is equally applicable to the idea which is the attribute of the same judgment, a knowledge of which is equally essential, and can only be acquired by the same mean.
The means indicated above of knowing well the idea of which we are to judge, are the only really efficacious ones in bringing us to the formation of just judgments; but they may very possibly be insufficient to give us a certitude of having succeeded. We must therefore add subsidiary means. The best and most useful of our secondary means is to see, on the one hand, if the judgment we are to form is not in opposition to anterior judgments, Edition: The first point is that which has so strongly accredited the usage of general propositions; for, as we can confront them with a number of particular propositions, we have frequently had recourse thereto, and we have habituated ourselves to remount no further, and to believe that they are the primitive source of truth.
The second is the motive of all those reasonings which consist in a reduction to what is absurd. The process recommended in this aphorism is a species of proof to which we submit the projected operation. It is very useful to avoid error, for if the judgment we examine is found in opposition to anterior ones which are just, or necessarily connected with false consequences, it is evidently necessary to reject it; but this same process does not lead us directly and necessarily to truth, for it may be that no determining motive for the affirmative may result from the research.
In a case in which we want decisive reasons to determine us, no other resource is left us but to endeavour to obtain new lights, that is to say, to introduce new elements into the idea which is the subject Edition: This can be done in two ways only, either by seeking to collect new facts, or by endeavouring to make of those already known combinations which had not previously occurred to us, and thence to draw consequences which we had not before remarked.
The advice contained in this aphorism, is only the developement of the first part of aphorism 9th, and it can be nothing else; for when we are assured that we are not sufficiently acquainted with a subject to judge of it, there is no other resource but to study it more. Finally, when the motives of determination fail us invincibly, we should know how to remain in complete doubt, and to suspend absolutely our judgment, rather than rest it on vain and confused appearances, since in these we can never be sure that there are not some false elements.
This is the last and most essential of logical principles; for in following it we may possibly remain in ignorance, but we can never fall into error; all our errors arising always from admitting into that which we know elements which are not really there, and which lead us to consequences which ought not to follow from those that are there effectively. In effect, if from our first impressions the most simple to our most general ideas, and their most complicated combinations, we have never recognized in our successive perceptions but what is there, our last combinations would be as irreproachable as the first act of our sensibility.
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Thus, in logical rigour, it is very certain that we ought never to form a judgment but when we see clearly that the subject includes the attributes: But at the same time it is also very certain that in the course of life we seldom arrive at certitude, and are frequently obliged, nevertheless, to form a resolution provisionally; to form none being often to adopt one of the most decisive character, without renouncing the principle we have just laid down, or in any manner derogating from it.
It is now proper to speak of the theory of probability. It is a subject I encounter with reluctance. First, because it is very difficult, and as yet very little elucidated; next, because one cannot hope to treat it profoundly when one is not perfectly familiar with the combinations of the science of quantities, and of the language proper to them.
Finally, because even with these means the nature of the subject deprives us of the hope of arriving at almost any certain result, and leaves us only that of a good calculation of chances. Let us, however, endeavour to form to ourselves an accurate and just idea of it; this will perhaps be already to contribute to its progress. The science of probability is not a part of logic, and ought not even to be regarded as forming a supplement Edition: Logic teaches us to form just judgments, and to make series of judgments: Now, properly speaking, there are no judgments or series of judgments which are probable.
When we judge that an opinion or a fact is probable, we judge it positively; and this judgment is just, false, or presumptuous, according as we have perfectly or imperfectly observed the principles of the art of logic. But it will be said, that the science of probability in teaching us to estimate this probability of an opinion, teaches us to judge justly whether this opinion is or is not probable.
Nevertheless we cannot say, and we do not say, that they are but parts of logic, nor even that they are supplements to it. They all on the contrary throw light on the subjects of which they treat only in consequence of the means and processes with which they are furnished by sound logic. This is useful to all the sciences; but none of them either aid it immediately, supply its place, make a part of it, or are supplements to it.
The science of probability has in this respect no particular privileges under this aspect; it is a science similar to all the others. But I go further; the science to which we have given the name of the science of probability, is not a science: In effect, that which is called commonly the science of probability comprehends two very distinct parts, of which one is the research, and the valuation of data, the other is the calculation, or the combination of these same data.
Now the success of the research and valuation of data, if the question is on the probability of a narration, consists in a knowledge of the circumstances, proper to the fact in itself, and to all those who have spoken of it: If the question is on the probability of a physical event, this research of data consists in acquiring a knowledge of anterior facts and of their connection: If the question is on the probable results of a social institution, or of the deliberations of an assembly of men, the anterior facts are the details of the social organization, or of the intellectual dispositions and operations of these men: Finally, when it is only to foresee the chances of the play of cross and pile, the data would be the construction of the piece, the manner of resistance of the medium in which it moves, that of the bodies against which it may strike, the motion proper to the Edition: Thus these data would still depend on the physical constitution of animate and inanimate bodies.
Then as to the research of data, and to the fixation of their importance, the pretended science of probability is composed of a multitude of different sciences, according to the subject on which it is employed; and consequently it is not a particular science. As to the combination of the data once established, the science of probability is nothing, when we employ calculation therein, but the science of quantity or of calculation itself; for the difficulty does not consist in giving to abstract unity any concrete value whatever, and sometimes one and sometimes another, but in knowing all the resources which perfect calculation furnishes to make of this unity and of all its multiplied combinations the most complicated, and to connect them regularly without losing their clue.
We see then that neither in regard to the research and valuation of data, nor in regard to the combinations of these same data, the pretended science of probability is not a particular science distinct from every other. We might rather consider it either as a branch of the science of quantities, and as an employment which we make of it in certain parts of several different sciences which are susceptible of this application, or as the reunion of scattered portions of many sciences, strangers the one to the other, which have only so much in common as to give place to such questions as can only be resolved by a very Edition: Nevertheless this manner of considering and decomposing what is called the science of probability explains to us already many of the things which concern it, and puts us in the way of forming to ourselves an accurate and complete idea of it.
We see first why it is the mathematicians who have had the idea of it, and who have, if we may so say, created and made it entirely. It is because such as they have conceived it, it consists principally in the employment of a powerful agent which was at their disposal; they have been able to push to a great length speculations which other men have been obliged to abandon in consequence of a want of means to pursue them.
We also see why these mathematicians principally and almost entirely employed themselves on subjects of which the data are very simple, such as the chances of games of hazard, and of lotteries, or the effects of the interest of money lent; it is because their principal advantage consisting in their great skill in calculation, they have with reason preferred the objects where this art is almost every thing, and where the choice and valuation of data present scarcely any difficulty; and it is in fact in cases of this kind that they have obtained a success both curious and useful.
We moreover see why it is that all the efforts of these mathematicians, even the most skilful, when they have undertaken to treat in the same manner subjects of which the data were numerous, subtile and complicated, have produced little else than witty conceits which may be called difficiles nugae, learned trifles. It is because the farther they have pursued the consequences resulting from the small number of data which they have been able to obtain, the farther they have departed from the consequences which these same data would have produced, united with all those often more important, which they have been obliged to neglect from inability to unravel and appreciate them.
This is the cause why we have seen great calculators, after the most learned combinations, give us forms of balloting the most defective, not having taken into account a thousand circumstances, inherent in the nature of men and of things, attending only to the circumstance of the number of the one and of the other. It is the reason why Condorcet himself, when he undertook to apply the theory of probabilities to the decisions of assemblies, and particularly to the judgments of tribunals, either has not ventured to decide any thing on actual institutions, and has confined himself to reasoning on imaginary hypothesis, or has often been led to expedients absolutely impracticable, or which would have inconveniencies more serious than those he wished to avoid.
Whatever respect I bear to the great intelligence and high capacity of this truly superior and ever to be regretted man, I do not fear to pass so bold a Edition: I believe, then, that I have advanced nothing rash in observing that in subjects difficult by the number, subtility, complexity and intimate connexion of the circumstances to be considered, without the omission of any of them, the great talent of well combining those, not sufficiently numerous, which have been perceived, has not been sufficient to preserve the most skilful calculators from important errors and great misreckonings.
We perceive that that was to be expected. But now I must go further, and Edition: Observe in what this observation consists. The principal object of the theory of probability and its great utility, is in setting out from the reunion of a certain number of given causes, to determine the degree of the probability of the effects which ought to follow; and setting out from the reunion of a certain number of known effects, to determine the degree of the probability of the causes, which have been able to produce them.
We may even say that all the results of this theory are but different branches of this general result, and may be traced to be nothing more than parts of it. Now we have previously seen, and on different occasions, that for beings of any kind, to be successfully submitted to the action of calculation, it is necessary they should be susceptible of adaptation to the clear, precise and invariable divisions of the ideas of quantity, and to the series of the names of numbers and of cyphers, which express them.
This is a condition necessary to the validity of every calculation from which that which has probability for its object, cannot be any more exempt, than that which conducts to absolute certainty. Hence it rigorously follows, that there is a multitude of subjects of which it would be absolutely impossible to calculate the data, if even which is not always the case it should be possible to collect them all without overlooking any.
Assuredly the degrees of the capacity, of the probity of men, those of the energy and the power of their passions, prejudices and habits, cannot possibly be estimated in numbers. It is the same as to the degrees of influence of certain institutions, or of certain functions, of the degrees of importance of certain establishments, of the degrees of difficulty of certain discoveries, of the degrees of utility of certain inventions, or of certain processes. I know that of these quantities, truly inappreciable and innumerable in all the rigour of the word, we seek and even attain to a certain point, in determining the limits, by means of number, of the frequency and extent of their effects; but I also know that in these effects which we are obliged to sum and number together as things perfectly similar, in order to deduce results, it is almost always and I may say always impossible to unravel the alterations and variations of concurrent causes, of influencing circumstances, and of a thousand essential considerations, so that we are necessitated to arrange together as similar a multitude of things very different, to arrive only at those preparatory results which are afterwards to lead to others which cannot fail to become entirely fantastical.
Is an example desired, very striking, drawn from a subject which surely does not present as many difficulties of this kind as moral ideas? Certainly none of those who have undertaken to estimate the effort of the muscles of the heart, have erred against the rules of calculation, nor, what is more, against the laws of animated mechanics, the certainty of which should still preserve them from many errors.
Yet some have been led to estimate this effort at several thousands of pounds, and others only at some ounces; and nobody knows with certainty which are nearest to truth. What succour then can we derive from calculation, when even availing ourselves properly of it we are subject to such aberrations and to such prodigious incertitude?
It is then true, and I repeat it, that there is a multitude of things to which the calculation of probabilities like every other calculation is completely inapplicable. These things are much more numerous than is generally believed, and even by many very skilful men, and the first step to be taken in the science of probability is to know how to distinguish them. It is for the science of the formation of our ideas, for that of the operations of our intelligence, in a word for sound ideology, to teach us the number of these things, to enable us to know their nature, and to show us the reasons why they are so refractory.
And it is a great service which it will render to the human mind, by preventing it in future from making a pernicious use of one of its most excellent instruments. It already shows us that the science of probability is a thing very distinct from the calculation of probability with which it has been confounded, since it extends to many objects to which the other cannot attain. This is what I principally proposed to elucidate. Finally, as I have before announced, this observation does not destroy the great hopes which the pirecing genius of Condorcet had made him conceive from the employment of calculation in general, and from that of probability in particular, in the advancement of the moral sciences; for if the different shades of our moral ideas cannot be expressed in numbers, and if there are many other things relative to social science, which are equally incapable of being estimated and calculated directly, these things depend on others which often render them reducible to calculable quantities, if we may use the expression.
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Thus for example, the degrees of the value of all things useful and agreeable, that is to say, the degrees of interest we attach to their possession cannot be noted directly by figures, but all those which can be represented by quantities of weight or extension of a particular thing, become calculable and even comparable the one with the other; in like manner the energy and durability of the secret springs which cause and preserve the action of the organs constituting our life are not susceptible of direct appreciation, but we judge of them by their effects.
Time and different kinds of resistance and waste are susceptible of very exact divisions. This is sufficient for us, and we derive thence a great multitude of results and of valuable combinations; now there is an infinity of things in the moral sciences which offer us similar resources; but there are also many which offer none, and once more it is of great importance to discriminate perfectly between them: For first, in respect to these latter, every employment of calculation is abusive; Edition: As to these two latter cases we may say of calculation what has been said of the syllogistic art as to all our reasonings whatsoever; that is, that it conducts our mind much less correctly than the simple light of good sense aided by sufficient attention.
This is all I had to observe on the science and calculation of probability, and I draw from it the following consequences: The theory of probability is neither a part of nor a supplement to logic. This theory moreover is not a science separate and distinct from all others. All sciences have a positive and a conjectural part. In all of them the positive part consists in distinguishing the effects which always and necessarily follow certain causes, and the causes which always and necessarily produce certain effects.
In all of them also the conjectural part consists in proceeding from the reunion of a certain number of given causes to determine the degrees of probability of the effects which ought to follow from them, and in proceeding from the reunion of a certain number of known effects to determine the degree of probability of the causes which have been able to produce them. In these two parts, when the ideas compared are not of a nature to comport with Edition: In these two parts equally when the ideas compared by the clearness, constancy, and precision of their subdivisions are susceptible of adaptation to the divisions of the series of the names of numbers, and of figures, we can employ with great advantage, instead of the ordinary instruments of reasoning, the instruments proper to the science of the ideas of quantity, that is to say, the language of calculation, its formulas, and its signs.
It is this which constitutes in respect to the conjectural part the calculation of probability. It is necessary to distinguish it carefully from the science of probability; for the one is of use in all cases in which the object is a likelihood of any kind whatsoever; it is properly the conjectural part of all other sciences, whereas the other calculation has place only in those cases in which we can employ the language of calculation; it is but an instrument, of which unhappily the science of probability cannot always avail itself. The science of probability consists in the talent and sagacity necessary to know the data, to chuse them, to perceive their degrees of importance, to arrange them in convenient order, a talent to which it is very difficult to prescribe precise rules, because it is often the product of a multitude of unperceived judgments.
On the contrary, the calculation of probability, properly so called, consists only in following correctly the general rules of the language of Edition: This calculation is often extremely useful and extremely learned; but it is necessary carefully to distinguish the occasions on which we can avail ourselves of it, for however little the ideas which we attempt to calculate are mingled with those which I have named refractory, and which are truly incalculable, we are inevitably led into the most excessive misreckonings. It is what I think has happened but too frequently to skilful men, who by their knowledge, and even by their mistakes, have put us into the way of discovering their cause.
I will limit myself to this small number of results. I perceive that it is to diffuse but little direct light on a subject, which is so much the more important and the more extensive, as unfortunately certitude is for the most part far from us. But if I have contributed to the formation of a just and clear idea of it I shall not have been useless. Not wishing to occupy myself longer with the conjectural part of our knowledge, and not believing it necessary to add to the small number of principles which I have established before this long digression, and which embrace in my opinion every thing of importance in the logical art, such as it proceeds from true logical science; it only remains for me to endeavour to make a happy application of this art to the study of our will and its effects.
It is this I am going to undertake, with a hope that my instruments being better, I may better succeed than perhaps men more skilful but not so well armed. What has been now read is the end of all that I had to say of human intelligence, considered under the relation of its means of knowing and understanding.
This analysis of our understanding, and of that of every other animated being, such as we conceive and imagine it, is not perhaps either as perfect or as complete as might be desired; but I believe at least that it discovers clearly to us the origin and the source of all our knowledge, and the true intellectual operations which enter into its composition, and that it shows us plainly the nature and species of certitude of which this knowledge is susceptible, and the disturbing causes which render it uncertain or erroneous.
Strengthened with these data we can therefore endeavour to avail ourselves of them, and employ Edition: I think for the reasons before adduced, that it is the first of these two researches which ought to occupy us in the first place. Consequently I shall go back to the point at which I endeavoured to trace the plan; and I shall permit myself to repeat here what I then said in my logic, chap.
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Obliged to be consequent, I must be pardoned for recalling the point from whence I set out. Doubtless we could conceive man as only receiving impressions, recollecting, comparing and combining them always with a perfect indifference. He would then be only a being, knowing and understanding without passion, properly so called relatively to himself and without action relatively to other beings, for he would have no motive to will, and no reason and no means to act; and certainly on this supposition whatever were his faculties for judging and knowing they would rest in great stagnation, for want of a stimulant and agent to exercise them.
But this is not man; he is a being willing in consequence of his impressions and of his knowledge, and acting in consequence Edition: It is that which causes him to have wants and means, and consequently rights and duties, either merely when he has relation with inanimate beings only, or more still when he is in contact with other beings, susceptible also of enjoying and suffering; for the rights of a sensible being are all in its wants, and its duties in its means; and it is to be remarked that weakness in all its forms is always and essentially the principle of rights; and that power, in whatsoever sense we take this word, is not and can never be but the source of duties, that is to say of rules for the manner of employing this power.
That is very true. Wants and means, rights and duties, arise then from the faculty of will; if man willed nothing he would have nothing of all these. But to have wants and means, rights and duties, is to have, is to possess, something. These are so many species of property, taking this word in its most extensive Edition: They are things which appertain to us. Our means are even a real property, and the first of all, in the most restrained sense of the term. Thus the ideas, wants and means, rights and duties, imply the idea of property; and the ideas of riches and deprivation, justice and injustice, which are derived from them, could not exist without that of property.
We must begin then by explaining this latter; and this can only be done by remounting to its origin. Now this idea of property can only be founded on the idea of personality. For if an individual had not a consciousness of his own existence, distinct and separate from every other, he could possess nothing, he could have nothing peculiar to himself. We must first therefore examine and determine the idea of personality; but before proceeding on this examination, there is yet a necessary preliminary; it is to explain with clearness and precision what the willing faculty is, from which we maintain that all these ideas arise, and on account of which we wish to give its history.
We have no other means of seeing clearly how this faculty produces these ideas, and how all the consequences which result from it may be regarded as its effects It is thus that always by remounting, or rather by descending step by step, we are inevitably led to the study and observation of our intellectual faculties, whenever we wish to penetrate to the bottom of whatever subject engages us.
This truth is perhaps more precious in itself than all those we shall be able to collect in the course of our work. I will commence then by an exposition of that in which the willing faculty consists. This faculty, or the will, is one of the four primordial faculties, which we have recognized in the human understanding, and even in that of all animated beings, and into which we have seen that the faculty of thinking or of feeling necessarily resolves itself when we decompose it into its true elements, and when we admit into it nothing factitious.
We have considered the faculty of willing as the fourth and last of these four primitive and necessary subdivisions of sensibility; because in every desire, in every act of willing or volition, in a word, in every propensity whatsoever, we can always conceive the act of experiencing an impression, that of judging it good either to seek or avoid, and even that of recollecting it to a certain point, since by the very nature of the act of judging we have seen that the idea, which is the subject of every judgment, can always be considered as a representation of the first impression which this idea has made.
Thus more or less confusedly, more or less rapidly, an animated being has always felt, recollected and judged, previously to willing. It must not be concluded from this analysis that I consider the willing faculty as only that of having definitive and studied sentiments which are specially called desires, and which may be called express and formal acts of the will. On the contrary I believe that to have a just idea of it, we must form one much more extensive; and nothing previously established prevents us from it: I even think it is necessary to do so, and that the will is really and properly the general and universal faculty of finding one thing preferable to another, that of being so affected as to love better such an impression, such a sentiment, such an action, such a possession, such an object, than such another.
To love and to hate are words solely relative to this faculty, which would have no signification if it did not exist; and its action takes place on every occasion on which our sensibility experiences any attraction or repulsion whatsoever. At least it is thus I conceive the will in all its generality; and it is by proceeding from this manenr of conceiving it that I will attempt to explain its effects and consequences. Without doubt the will, thus conceived, is a part of sensibility. The faculty of being affected in a particular manner cannot but be a part of the faculty of being affected in general.
But it is a distinct mode, of it, and one which may be separated from it in thought.
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We cannot will without a cause, this is a thing very necessary to be remarked, and never to be forgotten, thus we cannot will without having felt, but we may always feel in such a manner as never to will. We have already said that Edition: On this supposition an animated and sensible being would yet be a feeling being. He could even be discerning and knowing, that is to say judging. It will be sufficient for this that he should feel the difference of his various perceptions, and the different circumstances of each, although incapable of a predilection for any of them, or for any of the combinations of them which he can make; only, and we have before made the remark, the knowledge of the animated being thus constituted would necessarily be very limited.
Because his faculty of knowing would have no motive of action; and his faculty of acting, if even it existed, could not exercise itself with intention, since to have an intention he must have a desire, and every desire supposes a preference of some sort. I will observe, by the way, that this supposition of a perfect indifference in sensibility shows very clearly, in my opinion, that it is erroneously that certain persons have wished to make of what they call our sentiments and affections, modifications of our being essentially different from those which they name perceptions or ideas, and refuse to comprehend them under those general denominations of perceptions or ideas; for the quality of being effective, Edition: But they would not be the less, as they are in effect perceptions, that is to say things perceived or felt.
The proof is that some of these modifications, after having possessed the quality of being effective, lose it by the effect of habit, and others which acquire it through reflection, all without ceasing to be perceived, and consequently without ceasing to be perceptions. I think therefore that the word perception is truly the generic term. As to the distinction established between the words perception and idea, I do not think it more legitimate if founded on the pretended property of an idea being an image.
For the idea of a peartree is no more the image of a tree, than the perception of the relation of three to four is the image of the difference of these two figures, and no one of the modifications of our sensibility is the image of any thing which takes place around us. I think then, that we may regard the words perception and idea as synonimous in their most extensive signification, and for the same reasons the words think and feel as equivalent also when taken in all their generality: For all our thoughts are things felt; and if they were not felt they would be nothing; and sensibility is the general phenomenon which constitutes and comprehends the whole existence of an animated being, at least for himself; and inasmuch as he is an animated being, it is the only condition which can render him a thinking being.
However this may be, none of the animated beings which we know, nor even of those we can imagine, are indifferent to all their perceptions. It is always comprised in their sensibility, in their faculty of being affected, of their being so affected as that certain perceptions appear to them what we call agreeable, and certain others disagreeable. Now it is this which constitutes the faculty of willing. Now that we have formed to ourselves a perfectly clear idea of it we shall easily be able to see how this faculty produces the ideas of personality and property.
Every man who pronounces the word I myself without being a metaphysician understands very well what he means to say, and yet being a metaphysician he often succeeds very badly in giving an account of it, or in explaining it. We will endeavour to accomplish this by the aid of some very simple reflections. It is not our body such as it is to others, and such as it appears to them which we call our self.
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- James Mill (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).
- Dictionnaire amoureux du Golf (DICT AMOUREUX) (French Edition).
The proof is that we know very well to say how our body will be when we shall exist no more, that is to say when our self shall be no more. There are then two very distinct beings. It is not moreover any of the particular faculties we possess, which is for us the same thing as our Edition: Thus I or my self, who possess, am a thing distinct from the thing possessed. Is it the same with the general faculty of feeling? At the first glance it appears that the answer must be yes, since I say in the same manner I have the faculty of feeling.
Notwithstanding, here we find a great difference if we penetrate further. For if I ask myself how I know that I have the faculty of walking? I answer I know it because I feel it, or because I experience it, because I see it, which is still to feel it. The faculty of feeling is then that which manifests to us all the others, without which none of them would exist for us, whilst it manifests itself that it is its own principle to itself; that it is that beyond which we are not able to remount, and which constitutes our existence; that it is every thing for us; that it is the same thing as ourselves.
I feel because I feel: I feel because I exist; and I do not exist but because I feel. Then my existence and my sensibility are one and the same thing. Or in other words the existence of myself and the sensibility of myself are two identical beings.
If we pay attention that in discourse I or myself signifies always the moral being or person who speaks, we shall find that to express ourselves with exactness instead of saying I have the faculty of walking I ought to say the faculty of feeling, which constitutes the moral person who speaks to you has the property of reacting on his legs in such Edition: And instead of saying I have the faculty of feeling, I ought to say the faculty of feeling which constitutes the moral person who speaks to you exists in the body by which he speaks to you.
These modes of expression are odd and unusual I agree, but in my opinion they paint the fact with much truth; for in all our conversations, as in all our relations, it is always one faculty of feeling which addresses itself to another. The self of each of us is therefore for him his proper sensibility, whatsoever be the nature of this sensibility; or what he calls his mind, if he has a decided opinion of the nature of the principle of this same sensibility.
It is so true that it is this that we all understand by our self, that we all regard apparent death as the end of our being, or as a passage to another existence, according as we think that it extinguishes or does not extinguish all sentiment.
It is then the sole fact of sensibility which gives us the idea of personality, that is to say which makes us perceive that we are a being, and which constitutes for us ourself, our being. Yet it eludes our senses and can be apprehended only by reason. Any one can distinguish at a glance, it may be said, between a pyramid and a mountain, or a city and a forest. But not by the senses uninterpreted by reason. The animals, whose senses are even keener than ours, seem incapable of making the distinction. In the actions of the most intelligent dog you will find no evidence that he recognizes any difference between a statue and a stone, a tobacconist's wooden Indian and the stump of a tree.
And things are now manufactured and sold as to which it requires an expert to tell whether they are products of man or products of nature. For the essential thing that in the last analysis distinguishes man from nature can, on the material plane that is cognizable by the senses, appear only in the garb and form of the material. Whatever man makes must have for its substance preexisting matter; whatever motion he exerts must be drawn from a preexisting stock of energy. Take away from man all that is contributed by external nature, all that belongs to the economic factor land, and you have, what?
Something that is not tangible by the senses, yet which is the ultimate recipient and final cause of sensation; something which has no form or substance or direct power in or over the material world, but which is yet the originating impulse which utilizes motion to mold matter into forms it desires, and to which we must look for the origin of the pyramid, the caravel, the industrial palaces of Chicago and the myriad marvels they contained.
I do not wish to raise, or even to refer further than is necessary, to those deep problems of being and genesis where the light of reason seems to fail us and twilight deepens into dark. But we must grasp the thread at its beginning if we are to hope to work our way through a tangled skein. And into what fatal confusions those fall who do not begin at the beginning may be seen in current economic works, which treat capital as though it were the originator in production, labor as though it were a product, and land as though it were a mere agricultural instrument -- a something on which cattle are fed and wheat and cabbages raised.
We cannot really consider the beginning of things, so far as a true political economy is forced to concern itself with them, without seeing that when man came into the world the sum of energy was not increased nor that of matter added to; and that so it must be today. In all the changes that man brings about in the material world, he adds nothing to and subtracts nothing from the sum of matter and energy. He merely brings about changes in the place and relation of what already exists, and the first and always indispensable condition to his doing anything in the material world, and indeed to his very existence therein, is that of access to its material and forces.
So far as we can see, it is universally true that matter and energy are indestructible, and that the forms in which we apprehend them are but transmutations from forms they have held before; that the inorganic cannot of itself pass into the organic; that vegetable life can only come from vegetable life; animal life from animal life; and human life from human life.