|Hardcover, 622 pages|
Published 1970 (originally 1843)
Borrowed from the library
Read September 2012
by John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill is a smart man. Maybe even too smart, as this book reveals, with its 622 pages on the workings of science. Mill traces how science can go from observations to inductions to deductions. It's solid, if exhausting, work, never missing a step, concept, or idea along the way. I find it interesting the way that Mill splits out the act of observation from logic, saying that it precedes reasoning. A useful warning, I think, for those of us who might want to think that all scientific acts are logical ones.
His dedication to the human and the ethical in all this is the most striking; he hopes science will show us that men and women are not all that different, and he argues that many generalizations about man and society assume that human nature never changes-- an argument that would later be one of the bases of On Liberty.
I used a lot of judicious skimming to get through this book quickly (I was reading it for my qualifying exams), but when I read some of the prose aloud to explain its tortured quality to comrades, I realized it wasn't tortured at all. Despite some difficult, theoretical subject matter, Mill writes attractively. Who else could make logic sound so beautiful?