Study-Discussion Questions on Chapters 1-3 of Mill

Study Questions

1. How does Mill propose to answer questions concerning what methods scientists ought to employ?

2. What in Mill's view is a correct statement of the doctrine of "Philosophical Necessity?"

3. In Mill's view, is it sufficient to have free will that one would have done otherwise if one had chosen to do otherwise?

4. What are the differences between meteorology, astronomy, and "tidology" (the science of tides)?

Discussion Questions:

A. Mill maintains that "We are exactly as capable of making our own character, if we will, as others are of making it for us." In response he raises the objection that "these words, "if we will", surrender the whole point, since the will to alter our own character is given us, not by any efforts of ours, but by circumstances which we cannot help;" What is his response? How adequate do you think it is?

B. Mill believes that causal relations are deterministic. Nowadays, owing to the results of physics, most people think that many relationships are only probabilistic: nature determines a specific probability that a radioactive element will decay. It then either decays or doesn't decay and there is nothing more to be said about why. How much should the recognition of indeterministic relationships such as this one change Mill's discussion of freedom?

C Why does Mill think that the social sciences resemble tidology rather than either meterology or astronomy? Do you think he is right?