A System of Logic

John Stuart Mill

Book 1, Chapter 3, Footnote #05
Some challanges to this doctrine

This doctrine, which is the most complete form of the philosophical theory known as the Relativity of Human Knowledge, has, since the recent revival in this country of an active interest in metaphysical speculation, been the subject of a greatly increased amount of discussion and controversy; and dissentients have manifested themselves in considerably greater number than I had any knowledge of when the passage in the text was written. The doctrine has been attacked from two sides. Some thinkers, among whom are the late Professor Ferrier, in his Institutes of Metaphysic, and Professor John Grote, in his Exploratio Philosophica, appear to deny altogether the reality of Noumena, or Things in themselves---of an unknowable substratum or support for the sensations which we experience, and which, according to the theory, constitute all our knowledge of an external world. It seems to me, however, that in Professor Grote's case at least, the denial of Noumena is only apparent, and that he does not essentially differ from the other class of objectors, including Mr. Bailey in his valuable Letters on the Philosophy of the Human Mind, and (in spite of the striking passage quoted in the text) also Sir William Hamilton, who contend for a direct knowledge by the human mind of more than the sensations---of certain attributes or properties as they exist not in us, but in the Things themselves.

With the first of these opinions, that which denies Noumena, I have, as a metaphysician, no quarrel; but whether it be true or false, it is irrelevant to Logic. And since all the forms of language are in contradiction to it, nothing but confusion could result from its unnecessary introduction into a treatise, every essential doctrine of which could stand equally well with the opposite and accredited opinion. The other and rival doctrine, that of a direct perception or intuitive knowledge of the outward object as it is in itself, considered as distinct from the sensations we receive from it, is of far greater practical moment. But even this question, depending on the nature and laws of Intuitive Knowledge, is not within the province of Logic. For the grounds of my own opinion concerning it, I must content myself with referring to a work already mentioned---An Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy; several chapters of which are devoted to a full discussion of the questions and theories relating to the supposed direct perception of external objects.

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Sol, Book 1, Chapter 3 Of the Things Denoted by Names.