Study/Discussion Questions on Mill, Book VI, Chapters 4-6

Study questions:

1.  What does Mill take psychology to be?  How does he think it relates to physiology?

2.  What are Mill's examples of laws of mind?  Do they seem to you to be psychological laws?

3.  What does Mill mean when he talks about mental "chemistry"?

4.  Does Mill agree with Smith that differences in people's characters and abilities are the result of differences in their education and environment?

5.  What is "ethology"?

6.  What, according to Mill, is an "empirical law"?  What are examples of empirical laws?

Discussion questions:

1.  Why is knowledge of empirical laws inadequate to the purposes for which psychology and ethology are needed?

2.  What is the right method to use to construct the science of ethology?  Why?

Mill writes (p. 22):

This science of Ethology may be called the Exact Science of Human Nature; for its truths 
are not, like the empirical laws which depend on them, approximate generalisations, but real 
laws. It is, however, (as in all cases of complex phenomena), necessary to the exactness of the 
propositions that they should be hypothetical only, and affirm tendencies, not facts. They must 
not assert that something will always or certainly happen, but only that such and such will be 
the effect of a given cause, so far as it operates uncounteracted. It is a scientific proposition 
that bodily strength tends to make men courageous; not that it always makes them so: that 
an interest on one side of a question tends to bias the judgment; not that it invariably does so: 
that experience tends to give wisdom; not that such is always its effect. These propositions, 
being assertive only of tendencies, are not the less universally true because the tendencies may 
be frustrated. 

What does he mean?  Do you think he is right?

3.  Mill writes (p. 27):

All phenomena of society are phenomena of human nature, generated by the action of 
outward circumstances upon masses of human beings: and if, therefore, the phenomena of 
human thought, feeling, and action, are sub ject to fixed laws, the phenomena of society cannot 
but conform to fixed laws, the consequence of the preceding.

Does this passage commit Mill to an individualistic view of society and of the social sciences?