Reforming Philosophy: A Victorian Debate on Science and Society

University of Chicago Press, 15.11.2010 . - 386
The Victorian period in Britain was an age of reform. It is therefore not surprising that two of the eras most eminent intellects described themselves as reformers. Both William Whewell and John Stuart Mill believed that by reforming philosophyincluding the philosophy of sciencethey could effect social and political change. But their divergent visions of this societal transformation led to a sustained and spirited controversy that covered morality, politics, science, and economics. Situating their debate within the larger context of Victorian society and its concerns, Reforming Philosophy shows how two very different men captured the intellectual spirit of the day and engaged the attention of other scientists and philosophers, including the young Charles Darwin.

Millphilosopher, political economist, and Parliamentarianremains a canonical author of Anglo-American philosophy, while WhewellAnglican cleric, scientist, and educatoris now often overlooked, though in his day he was renowned as an authority on science. Placing their teachings in their proper intellectual, cultural, and argumentative spheres, Laura Snyder revises the standard views of these two important Victorian figures, showing that both mens concerns remain relevant today.

A philosophically and historically sensitive account of the engagement of the major protagonists of Victorian British philosophy, Reforming Philosophy is the first book-length examination of the dispute between Mill and Whewell in its entirety. A rich and nuanced understanding of the intellectual spirit of Victorian Britain, it will be welcomed by philosophers and historians of science, scholars of Victorian studies, and students of the history of philosophy and political economy.

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Prologue
1
Reforming the Philosophy of the Age
7
Chapter 1 Whewell and the Reform of Inductive Philosophy
33
Chapter 2 Mills Radicalization of Induction
95
Chapter 3 Reforming Science
156
Morality and Politics
204
Chapter 5 Reforming Political Economy
267
The Debates Legacy
323
Bibliography
335
Index
365

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240 - That principle is that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number is self-protection.
76 - Those who have handled sciences have been either men of experiment or men of dogmas. The men of experiment are like the ant; they only collect and use: the reasoners resemble spiders, who make cobwebs out of their own substance. But the bee takes a middle course; it gathers its material from the flowers of the garden and of the field, but transforms and digests it by a power of its own.
93 - To conclude therefore, let no man, upon a weak conceit of sobriety or an ill-applied moderation, think or maintain that a man can search too far or be too well studied in the book of God's word or in the book of God's works ; divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavour an endless progress or proficience in both...
132 - The table I write on I say exists, that is I see and feel it, and if I were out of my study I should say it existed, meaning thereby that if I was in my study I might perceive it, or that some other spirit actually does perceive it.
77 - The men of experiment are like the ant; they only collect and use: the reasoners resemble spiders, who make cobwebs out of their own substance. But the bee takes a middle course; it gathers its material from the flowers of the garden and of the field, but transforms and digests it by a power of its own. Not unlike this is the true business of philosophy...
116 - Necessity is simply this: that, given the motives which are present to an individual's mind, and given likewise the character and disposition of the individual, the manner in which he will act may be unerringly inferred : that if we knew the person thoroughly, and knew all the inducements which are acting upon him, we could foretell his conduct with as much certainty as we can predict any physical event.
93 - For man by the fall fell at the same time from his state of innocency and from his dominion over creation. Both of these losses however can even in this life be in some part repaired ; the former by religion and faith, the latter by arts and sciences.

 (2010)

Laura J. Snyder is a Fulbright Scholar, professor of philosophy at St. Johns University in New York City, past president of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science, and author of The Philosophical Breakfast Club: Four Remarkable Friends Who Transformed Science and Changed the World.