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Mill, John Stuart <1806 - 1873>: Moral Influences in Early Youth (Autobiography). -- 1873. -- Fassung vom 2007-11-17. -- URL: http://www.payer.de/religionskritik/mill03.htm
Erstmals publiziert: 2007-11-17
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Dieser Text ist Teil der Abteilung Religionskritik von Tüpfli's Global Village Library
Mill, John Stuart <1806-1873>: Autobiography. -- London : Longmans, 1873. -- 313 S. -- S. 38 - 51. -- Online: http://www.archive.org/details/autobiographymil00milluoft. -- Zugriff am 2007-11-16
Mill, 1) James, engl. Historiker und Nationalökonom, geb. 6. April 1773 in der schottischen Grafschaft Forfarshire, gest. 23. Juni 1836, studierte in Edinburg Theologie, widmete sich seit 1802 in London der Schriftstellerei und ward Mitarbeiter an mehreren Zeitschriften. Seine »History of British India« (Lond. 1818–19, 6 Bde.; neue Ausg. 1872. 10 Bde.) ward mit allgemeinem Beifall aufgenommen, und obwohl sie die Missbräuche der indischen Verwaltung schonungslos aufdeckte, erhielt ihr Verfasser 1819 von der Ostindischen Kompanie einen einträglichen Posten im India House. Mill schrieb ferner: »Elements of political economy« (Lond. 1821, neue Ausg. 1846) und eine Anzahl philosophischer Werke, darunter »Analysis of the phenomena of the human mind« (1829; neue Ausg., mit Anmerkungen von John Stuart Mill, 1869; 2. Aufl. 1878, 2 Bde.). Eine Charakteristik von ihm liefert die Autobiographie seines Sohnes (s. unten). Vgl. Bain, James Mill (2. Aufl., Lond. 1887).
2) John Stuart, Philosoph und Nationalökonom, Sohn des vorigen, geb. 20. Mai 1806 in London, gest. 8. Mai 1873 in Avignon, wurde von seinem Vater mit völliger Beiseitelassung jedes Religionsunterrichts erzogen, zeigte bereits mit 14 Jahren eine solche Frühreife, dass ein Mann wie Jer. Bentham ihn seines Umganges würdigte, und vollendete seit 1820 seine Ausbildung in Frankreich. Von 1823–1858 war er Beamter der Ostindischen Kompanie, 1865–68 Mitglied des Unterhauses. Benthams Hauptwerk übte einen großen Einfluss auf ihn aus, so dass er schon als Jüngling eine »utilitarische« Gesellschaft gründete, von der sich der Name »Utilitarier« herschreibt. Seinen Ruhm als Philosoph verdankt Mill vorzüglich seinem Hauptwerk: »System of logic, ratiocinative and inductive«, das er 1832 begann und 1841 vollendete, worauf es 1843 im Druck erschien (9. Aufl. 1875, 2 Bde.; auch Ausg. in 1 Bd.; deutsch von Schiel, 4. Aufl., Braunschw. 1877, und mit Anmerkungen von T. Gomperz, 2. Aufl., Leipz. 1884–87, 3 Bde.). Es steht dieses auf dem Boden des englischen Empirismus und geht darauf aus, »den induktiven Prozess auf strenge Regeln und einen wissenschaftlichen Probierstein, wie es der Syllogismus für das Schließen ist, zurückzuführen«. Die entgegenstehende Ansicht hat er in seiner »Examination of Sir E-Hamilton's philosophy« (5. Aufl. 1878) zu widerlegen gesucht. Mills Theorie der Induktion war in ihren Grundzügen fertig, als er ð Comtes (s. d.) »Cours de philosophie positive« kennen lernte und durch ihn für eine Reihe von Jahren ein ebenso feuriger Anhänger der positiven Philosophie wie später entschiedener Gegner der positiven Politik desselben wurde. Letztere hat er in seiner Schrift »Auguste Comte and the positivism« (Lond. 1865, 4. Aufl. 1890; deutsch von Elise Gomperz, Leipz. 1874) hauptsächlich ihrer hierarchischen Tendenzen halber einer vernichtenden Kritik unterzogen. In seiner Abhandlung »Utilitarianism« (1863) gibt er Regeln, deren Befolgung zu einer möglichst leidlichen und genussreichen Existenz in möglichst großer Ausdehnung führen soll. Als Nationalökonomen haben Mill zuerst seine 1844 erschienenen »Essays on some unsettled questions of political economy« (2. Aufl. 1874) Ruf verschafft, die Vorläufer seiner 1848 zuerst erschienenen »Principles of political economy« (7. Aufl. 1871; deutsch von Soetbeer, 4. Ausg., Leipz. 1881–85, 2 Bde.), die in England sich als das neben den Werken von Macculloch verbreitetste und angesehenste Lehrbuch der Nationalökonomie behauptet haben. Wesentlich an die Gedanken von Adam Smith und Ricardo anknüpfend, hat Mill nach Vollständigkeit und Systematik gestrebt, sich indessen sozialistischen Anwandlungen, zu denen er durch den Schüler Saint-Simons, G. d'Eichthal, Anregung empfing, nicht verschlossen. Von den zahlreichen politischen Schriften Mills sind zu nennen die »Considerations on representative government« (1861, 3. Aufl. 1865; Index 1904; deutsch von Wessel, Leipz. 1873), ferner der »Essay on liberty« (1859 u. ö.; deutsch in Reclams Universal-Bibliothek). Mill stand als Politiker durchaus auf dem Boden der radikalen Parteien und ist, nicht ohne Beeinflussung durch seine geistreiche und hochgesinnte Freundin und nachherige Frau (Mrs. Taylor), die auf ihn einen ähnlichen Zauber ausübte wie Madame de Vaux auf Aug. Comte, ein eifriger Anhänger des Frauenstimmrechts gewesen, für das er namentlich in der »Subjection of women« (1869, 5. Aufl. 1883; deutsch von Jenny Hirsch, 3. Aufl., Berl. 1891) eintrat. Seine »Dissertations and discussions« erschienen gesammelt in 4 Bänden (2. Aufl., Lond. 1875). Nach seinem Tode wurden herausgegeben seine »Autobiography« (1873; deutsch von Kolb, Stuttg. 1874), in der er seine Erziehung ausführlich schildert, und drei religiöse Aufsätze: »Nature, the utility of religion, and Theism« (1874, 3. Aufl. 1885; deutsch von Lehmann, Berl. 1875), die eine ernstliche Hinneigung zum Manichäismus verraten, ferner Mills »Correspondance inédite avec Gustave d'Eichthal« (Par. 1897) und »Lettres inédites de James Stuart Mill à Auguste Comte, avec les réponses d'Aug. Comte« (mit Einleitung von Lévy-Bruhl, das. 1899). Die von T. Gomperz redigierte deutsche Ausgabe von Mills »Gesammelten Werken« (Leipz. 1873–80, 12 Bde.) enthält außer den oben angeführten Hauptwerken auch die vermischten kleinern Schriften (Bd. 10–12)."
[Quelle: Meyers großes Konversations-Lexikon. -- DVD-ROM-Ausg. Faksimile und Volltext der 6. Aufl. 1905-1909. -- Berlin : Directmedia Publ. --2003. -- 1 DVD-ROM. -- (Digitale Bibliothek ; 100). -- ISBN 3-89853-200-3. -- s.v.]
CHAPTER II.MORAL INFLUENCES IN EARLY YOUTH. MY FATHERS CHARACTER AND OPINIONS.
IN my education, as in that of everyone, the moral influences, which are somuch more important than all others, are also the most complicated, and the most difficult to specify with any approach to completeness. Without attempting the hopeless task of detailing the circumstances by which, in this respect, my early character may have been shaped, I shall confine myself to a few leading points, which form an indispensable part of any true account of my education.
I was brought up from the first without any religious belief, in the ordinary acceptation of the term. My father, educated in the creed of Scotch Presbyterianism, had by hisown studies and reflections been early led to reject not only the belief in Revelation, but the foundations of what is commonly called Natural Religion. I have heard him say, that the turning point of his mind on the subject was reading Butler's Analogy. That work, of which he always continued to speak with respect, kept him, as he said, for some considerable time, a believer in the divine authority of Christianity ; by proving to him, that whatever are the difficulties in believing that the Old and New Testaments proceed from, or record the acts of, a perfectly wise and good being, the same and still greater difficulties stand in the way of the belief, that a being of such a character can have been the Maker of the universe. He considered Butler's argument as conclusive against the only opponents for whom it was intended. Those who admit an omnipotent as well as perfectly just and benevolent maker and ruler of such a world as this, can say little against Christianity but what can, with at least equal force, be retorted against themselves. Finding, therefore, no halting place in Deism, he remained in a state of perplexity, until, doubtless after many struggles, he yielded to the conviction, that, concerning the origin of things nothing whatever can be known. This is the only correct statement of his opinion ; for dogmatic atheism he looked upon as absurd ; as most of those, whom the world has considered Atheists, have always done. These particulars are important, because they show that my father's rejection of all that is called religious belief, was not, as many might suppose, primarily a matter of logic and evidence : the grounds of it were moral, still more than intellectual. He found it impossible to believe that a world so full of evil was the work of an Author combining infinite power with perfect goodness and righteousness. His intellect spurned the subtleties by which men attempt to blind themselves to this open contradiction. The Sabaean, or Manichaean theory of a Good and an Evil Principle, struggling against each other for the government of the universe, he would not have. equally condemned ; and I have heard him express surprise, that no one revived it in our time. He would have regarded it as a mere hypothesis ; but he would have ascribed to it no depraving influence. As it was, his aversion to religion, in the sense usually attached to the term, was of the same kind with that of Lucretius : he regarded it with the feelings due not to a mere mental delusion, but to a great moral evil. He looked upon it as the greatest enemy of morality : first, by setting up fictitious excellences, belief in creeds, devotional feelings, and ceremonies, not connected with the good of human-kind, and causing these to be accepted as substitutes for genuine virtues : but above all, by radically vitiating the standard of morals; making it consist in doing the will of a being, on whom it lavishes indeed all the phrases of adulation, but whom in sober truth it depicts as eminently hateful. I have a hundred times heard him say, that all ages and nations have represented their gods as wicked, in a constantly increasing progression, that mankind have gone on adding trait after trait till they reached the most perfect conception of wickedness which the human mind can devise, and have called this God, and prostrated themselves before it. This ne plus ultra of wickedness he considered to be embodied in what is commonly presented to mankind as the creed of Christianity. Think (he used to say) of a being who would make a Hell who would create the human race with the infallible foreknowledge, and therefore with the intention, that the great majority of them were to be consigned to horrible and everlasting torment. The time, I believe, is drawing near when this dreadful conception of an object of worship will be no longer identified with Christianity ; and when all persons, with any sense of moral good and evil, will look upon it with the same indignation with which my father regarded it. My father was as well aware as any one that Christians do not, in general, undergo the demoralizing consequences which seem inherent in such a creed, in the manner or to the extent which might have been expected from it. The same slovenliness of thought, and subjection of the reason to fears wishes, and affections, which enable them to accept a theory involving a contradiction in terms, prevents them from perceiving the logical consequences of the theory. Such is the facility with which mankind believe at one and the same time things inconsistent with one another, and so few are those who draw from what they receive as truths, any consequences but those recommended to them by their feelings, that multitudes have held the undoubting belief in an Omnipotent Author of Hell, and have nevertheless identified that being with the best conception they were able to form of perfect goodness. Their worship was not paid to the demon which such a Being as they imagined would really be, but to their own ideal of excellence. The evil is, that such a belief keeps the ideal wretchedly low ; and opposes the most obstinate resistance to all thought which has a tendency to raise it higher. Believers shrink from every train of ideas which would lead the mind to a clear conception and an elevated standard of excellence, because they feel (even when they do not distinctly see) that such a standard would conflict with many of the dispensations of nature, and with much of what they are accustomed to consider as the Christian creed. And thus morality continues a matter of blind tradition, with no consistent principle, nor even any consistent feeling, to guide it.
It would have been wholly inconsistent with my father's ideas of duty to allowme to acquire impressions contrary to his convictions and feelings respecting religion : and he impressed upon me from the first, that the manner in which the world came into existence was a subject on which nothing was known : that the question, "Who made me ?" cannot be answered, because we have no experience or authentic information from which to answer it ; and that any answer only throws the difficulty a step further bock, since the question immediately presents itself, "Who made God?" He, at the same time, took care that I should be acquainted with what had been thought by mankind on these impenetrable problems. I have mentioned at how early an age he made me a reader of ecclesiastical history ; and he taught me to take the strongest interest in the Reformation, as the great and decisive contest against priestly tyranny for liberty of thought.
I am thus one of the very few examples, in this country, of onewho has, not thrown off religious belief, but never had it : I grew up in a negative state with regard to it. I looked upon the modern exactly as I did upon the ancient religion, as some thing which in no way concerned me. It did not seem to me more strange that English people should believe what I did not, than that the men I read of in Herodotus should have done so. History had made the variety of opinions among mankind a fact familiar to me, and this was but a prolongation of that fact. This point in my early education had, however, incidentally one bad consequence deserving notice. In giving me an opinion contrary to that of the world, my father thought it necessary to give it as one which could not prudently be avowed to the world. This lesson of keeping my thoughts to myself, at that early age, was attended with some moral disadvantages ; though my limited intercourse with strangers, especially such as were likely to speak to me on religion, prevented me from being placed in the alternative of avowal or hypocrisy. I remember two occasions in my boyhood, on which I felt myself in this alternative, and in both cases I avowed my disbelief and defended it. My opponents were boys, considerably older than myself: one of them I certainly staggered at the time, but the subject was never renewed between us : the other who was surprised and somewhat shocked, did his best to convince me for some time, without effect.
The great advance in liberty of discussion, which is one of the most important differences between the present time and that of my childhood, has greatly altered the moralities of this question ; and I think that fewmen of my father s intellect and public spirit, holding with such intensity of moral conviction as he did, unpopular opinions on religion, or on any other of the great subjects of thought, would now either practise or inculcate the withholding of them from the world, unless in the cases, becoming fewer every day, in which frankness on these subjects would either risk the loss of means of subsistence, or would amount to exclusion from some sphere of usefulness peculiarly suitable to the capacities of the individual.
On religion in particular the time appears tome to have come, when it is the duty of all who being qualified in point of knowledge, have on mature consideration satisfied themselves that the current opinions are not only false but hurtful, to make their dissent known ; at least, if they are among those whose station or reputation, gives their opinion a chance of being attended to. Such an avowal would put an end, at once and for ever, to the vulgar prejudice, that what is called, very improperly, unbelief, is connected with any bad qualities either of mind or heart. The world would be astonished if it knew how great a proportion of its brightest ornaments of those most distinguished even in popular estimation for wisdom and virtue are complete sceptics in religion ; many of them refraining from avowal, less from personal considerations, than from a conscientious, though now in my opinion a most mistaken apprehension, lest by speaking out what would tend to weaken existing beliefs, and by consequence (as they suppose) existing restraints, they should do harm instead of good.
Of unbelievers (so called) as well as of believers, there are many species, including almost every variety of moral type. But the best among them, as no one who has had opportunities of really knowing them will hesitate to affirm, are more genuinely religious, in the best sense of the word religion, than those who exclusively arrogate to themselves the title. The liberality of the age, or in other words the weakening of the obstinate prejudice which makes men unable to see what is before their eyes because it is contrary to their expectations, has caused it to be very commonly admitted that a Deist may be truly religious : but if religion stands for any graces of character and not for mere dogma, the assertion may equally be made of many whose belief is far short of Deism. Though they may think the proof incomplete that the universe is a work of design, and though they assuredly disbelieve that it can have an Author and Governor who is absolute in power as well as perfect in goodness, they have that which constitutes the principal worth of all religions whatever, an ideal conception of a Perfect Being, to which they habitually refer as the guide of their conscience ; and this ideal of Good is usually far nearer to perfection than the objective Deity of those, who think themselves obliged to find absolute goodness in the author of a world so crowded with suffering and so deformed by injustice as ours.
My father s moral convictions, wholly dissevered from religion, were very much of the character of those of the Greek philosophers ; and were delivered with the force and decision which characterized all that came from him. Even at the very early age at which I read with him the Memorabilia of Xenophon, I imbibed from that work and from his comments a deep respect for the character of Socrates ; who stood in my mind as a model of ideal excellence : and I well remember how my father at that time impressed upon me the lesson of the "Choice of Hercules." At a somewhat later period the lofty moral standard exhibited in the writings of Plato operated upon me with great force. My father s moral inculcations were at all times mainly those of the "Socratici viri ;" justice, temperance (to which he gave a very extended application), veracity, perseverance, readiness to encounter pain and especially labour ; regard for the public good ; estimation of persons according to their merits, and of things according to their intrinsic usefulness ; a life of exertion in contradiction to one of self-indulgent ease and sloth. These and other moralities he conveyed in brief sentences, uttered as occasion arose, of grave exhortation, or stem reprobation and contempt.
Butthough direct moral teaching does much, in direct does more ; and the effect my father produced on my character, did not depend solely on what he said or did with that direct object, but also, and still more, on what manner of man he was. In his views of life he partook of the character of the Stoic, the Epicurean, and the Cynic, not in the modern but the ancient sense of the word. In his personal qualities the Stoic predominated. His standard of morals was Epicurean, inasmuch as it was utilitarian, taking as the exclusive test of right and wrong, the tendency of actions to produce pleasure or pain. But he had (and this was the Cynic element) scarcely any belief in pleasure ; at least in his later years, of which alone, on this point, I can speak confidently. He was not insensible to pleasures ; but he deemed very few of them worth the price which, at least in the present state of society, must be paid for them. The greater number of miscarriages in life, he considered to be attributable to the overvaluing of pleasures. Accordingly, temperance, in the large sense intended by the Greek philosophers stopping short at the point of moderation in all indulgences was with him, as with them, almost the central point of educational precept. His inculcations of this virtue fill a large place in my childish remembrances. He thought human life a poor thing at best, after the freshness of youth and of unsatisfied curiosity had gone by. This was a topic on which he did not often speak, especially, it may be supposed, in the presence of young persons : but when he did, it was with an air of settled and profound conviction. He would sometimes say, that if life were made what it might be, by good government and good education, it would be worth having : but he never spoke with any thing like enthusiasm even of that possibility. He never varied in rating intellectual enjoyments above all others, even in value as pleasures, independently of their ulterior benefits. The pleasures of the benevolent affections he placed high in the scale ; and used to say, that he had never known a happy old man, except those who were able to live over again in the pleasures of the young. For passionate emotions of all sorts, and for everything which has been said or written in exaltation of them, he professed the greatest contempt. He regarded them as a form of madness. "The intense" was with him a bye-word of scornful disapprobation. He regarded as an aberration of the moral standard of modern times, compared with that of the ancients, the great stress laid upon feeling. Feelings, as such, he considered to be no proper subjects of praise or blame. Right and wrong, good and bad, he regarded as qualities solely of conduct of acts and omissions ; there being no feeling which may not lead, and does not frequently lead, either to good or to bad actions : conscience itself, the very desire to act right, often leading people to act wrong. Consistently carrying out the doctrine, that the object of praise and blame should be the discouragement of wrong conduct and the encouragement of right, he refused to let his praise or blame be influenced by the motive of the agent. He blamed as severely what he thought a bad action, when the motive was a feeling of duty, as if the agents had been consciously evil doers. He would not have accepted as a plea in mitigation for inquisitors, that they sincerely believed burning heretics to be an obligation of conscience. But though he did not allow honesty of purpose to soften his disapprobation of actions, it had its full effect on his estimation of characters. No one prized conscientiousness and rectitude of intention more highly, or was more incapable of valuing any person in whom he did not feel assurance of it. But he disliked people quite as much for any other deficiency, provided he thought it equally likely to make them act ill. He disliked, for instance, a fanatic in any bad cause, as much or more than one who adopted the same cause from self-interest, because he thought him even more likely to be practically mischievous. And thus, his aversion to many intellectual errors, or what he regarded as such, partook, in a certain sense, of the character of a moral feeling. All this is merely saying that he, in a degree once common, but now very unusual, threw his feelings into his opinions ; which truly it is difficult to understand how any one who possesses much of both, can fail to do. None but those who do not care about opinions, will confound this with intolerance. Those, who having opinions which they hold to be immensely important, and their contraries to be prodigiously hurtful, have any deep regard for the general good, will necessarily dislike, as a class and in the abstract, those who think wrong what they think right, and right what they think wrong : though they need not therefore be, nor was my father, insensible to good qualities in an opponent, nor governed in their estimation of individuals by one general presumption, instead of by the whole of their character. I grant that an earnest person, being no more infallible than other men, is liable to dislike people on account of opinions which do not merit dislike ; but if he neither himself does them any ill office, nor connives at its being done by others, he is not intolerant : and the forbearance which flows from a conscientious sense of the importance to mankind of the equal freedom of all opinions, is the only tolerance which is commendable, or, to the highest moral order of minds, possible.
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