Mill Versus Hamilton -- By: Joseph Haven

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 025:99 (Jul 1868)
Article: Mill Versus Hamilton
Author: Joseph Haven


Mill Versus Hamilton1

Rev. Joseph Haven

Two conflicting systems of philosophy are contending at the present day for the mastery in Great Britain and America. The issues are by no means unimportant. It is a question of no little moment, which shall command the cultivated mind of the age and direct its thinking, for the next generation. It is the custom of some to speak lightly of metaphysical differences and discussions as of no practical importance. But consequences of greatest moment are often involved in systems of merely speculative philosophy. Such is the case in the present instance. Not the philosopher, the metaphysician, merely, but, directly or indirectly, every man of intellectual culture, and through these the still larger class whose opinions are influenced and whose conduct is guided by them, is personally concerned in this matter. No educated man, of whatever calling or profession, at the present day, — certainly no Christian minister, — can afford to be uninformed or misinformed as to the controversy now going on between these two conflicting modes of thought. Many, however, especially professional men, who desire to pronounce an intelligent opinion on the subject, have not the time which is required for such investigations, or, perhaps, the previous metaphysical training which would qualify them to sit in judgment on questions of this nature. It may be of service to such in their inquiries to point out in the following Article the essential points of difference of the two systems, and also some of the defects of each.

Before proceeding to our main purpose, however, a few

words seem necessary respecting the men themselves whose systems we are to compare and discuss. It is known to most that Hamilton, having received in early life the most complete classical training,—first at Glasgow and afterwards at Oxford,—became a student of law, was subsequently appointed professor of History, afterwards of Logic and Metaphysics, in the University of Edinburgh, which post he filled with honor and increasing reputation for many years. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the man is his wonderful erudition. Few men, ancient or modern, have ever equalled him in this. He was complete master of the opinions of men of all ages and nations. The literature and whole history of any subject which he had occasion to discuss, of any idea or doctrine which he wished either to advance or to reject, lay before his glance in all its completeness; so that whatever position he assumed, he was master of the situation. Aristotle and his chief commentators, the writings of the schoolmen and of the early church Fathers, the mediaeval writers, the mod...

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