Autobiography HTML version

At the end of 1841, the book being ready for the press, I offered it to Murray, who kept it
until too late for publication that season, and then refused it, for reasons which could just
as well have been given at first. But I have had no cause to regret a rejection which led to
my offering it to Mr. Parker, by whom it was published in the spring of 1843. My original
expectations of success were extremely limited. Archbishop Whately had, indeed,
rehabilitated the name of Logic, and the study of the forms, rules, and fallacies of
Ratiocination; and Dr. Whewell's writings had begun to excite an interest in the other part
of my subject, the theory of Induction. A treatise, however, on a matter so abstract, could
not be expected to be popular; it could only be a book for students, and students on such
subjects were not only (at least in England) few, but addicted chiefly to the opposite
school of metaphysics, the ontological and "innate principles" school. I therefore did not
expect that the book would have many readers, or approvers; and looked for little
practical effect from it, save that of keeping the tradition unbroken of what I thought a
better philosophy. What hopes I had of exciting any immediate attention, were mainly
grounded on the polemical propensities of Dr Whewell; who, I thought, from observation
of his conduct in other cases, would probably do something to bring the book into notice,
by replying, and that promptly, to the attack on his opinions. He did reply but not till
1850, just in time for me to answer him in the third edition. How the book came to have,
for a work of the kind, so much success, and what sort of persons compose the bulk of
those who have bought, I will not venture to say read, it, I have never thoroughly
understood. But taken in conjunction with the many proofs which have since been given
of a revival of speculation, speculation too of a free kind, in many quarters, and above all
(where at one time I should have least expected it) in the Universities, the fact becomes
partially intelligible. I have never indulged the illusion that the book had made any
considerable impression on philosophical opinion. The German, or a priori view of
human knowledge, and of the knowing faculties, is likely for some time longer (though it
may be hoped in a diminishing degree) to predominate among those who occupy
themselves with such inquiries, both here and on the Continent. But the "System of
Logic" supplies what was much wanted, a text-book of the opposite doctrine--that which
derives all knowledge from experience, and all moral and intellectual qualities principally
from the direction given to the associations. I make as humble an estimate as anybody of
what either an analysis of logical processes, or any possible canons of evidence, can do
by themselves towards guiding or rectifying the operations of the understanding.
Combined with other requisites, I certainly do think them of great use; but whatever may
be the practical value of a true philosophy of these matters, it is hardly possible to
exaggerate the mischiefs of a false one. The notion that truths external to the mind may
be known by intuition or consciousness, independently of observation and experience, is,
I am persuaded, in these times, the great intellectual support of false doctrines and bad
institutions. By the aid of this theory, every inveterate belief and every intense feeling, of
which the origin is not remembered, is enabled to dispense with the obligation of
justifying itself by reason, and is erected into its own all-sufficient voucher and
justification. There never was such an instrument devised for consecrating all deep-seated
prejudices. And the chief strength of this false philosophy in morals, politics, and
religion, lies in the appeal which it is accustomed to make to the evidence of mathematics
and of the cognate branches of physical science. To expel it from these, is to drive it from
its stronghold: and because this had never been effectually done, the intuitive school,