A System of Logic

John Stuart Mill



Section 2

Preface to the Third and Fourth Editions.

Several criticisms, of a more or less controversial character, on this work, have appeared since the publication of the second edition; and Dr. Whewell has lately published a reply to those parts of it in which some of his opinions were controverted.

I have carefully reconsidered all the points on which my conclusions have been assailed; but I have not to announce a change of opinion on any matter of importance. Such minor oversights as have been detected, either by myself or by my critics, I have, in general silently, corrected; but it is not to be inferred that I agree with the objections which have been made to a passage in every instance in which I have altered or cancelled it. I have often done so, merely that it might not remain a stumbling-block, when the amount of discussion necessary to place the matter in its true light would have exceeded what was suitable to the occasion.

To several of the arguments which have been urged against me, I have thought it useful to reply with some degree of minuteness; not from any taste for controversy, but because the opportunity was favourable for placing my own conclusions, and the grounds of them, more clearly and completely before the reader. Truth on these subjects is militant, and can only establish itself by means of conflict. The most opposite opinions can make a plausible show of evidence while each has the statement of its own case; and it is only possible to ascertain which of them is in the right after hearing and comparing what each can say against the other, and what the other can urge in its defence.

Even the criticisms from which I most dissent have been of great service to me, by showing in what places the exposition most needed to be improved or the argument strengthened. And I should have been well pleased if the book had undergone a much greater amount of attack, as in that case I should probably have been enabled to improve it still more than I believe I have now done.

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