SENIOR'S INTRODUCTORY LECTURES ON POLITICAL EC NO 31 Y.* THE
fitness of these lectures for their immediate purpose diminishes their effect to the mature economist. That which is appropriate when addressed to Oxford tyroes, assumed to be not only unac- quainted with political economy, but even with what political economy is, must of necessity appear elementary when brought to any other test. Whether political economy is a mental study— whether it is a science, or an art, or both—if both, what is the best mode of teaching it, and what mode the lecturer intends to follow —whether the scientific part is a positive science, dependent upon observation and historical induction, or en hypothetical sci- ence, best illustrated by invented abstractions—are all questions which, discussed without any particular novelty of view or acumen of thought, are not very attractive even to advanced
• Four Introductory Lectures on Political Economy, delivered before the 'Univer- sity of Oxford. By Nassau W. Senior, A.M., late Fellow of Magdalen College, Pro- fessor of Political Economy. Published by Longman and Co. students. When assigned a too prominent position, and treated in too expansive a manner, it is possible that such topics may not be altogether unworthy of a place in the first lecture, wheels handles the " Causes that have retarded the Progress of Political Economy." We have no present means of measuring the capacity of the youth of Oxford, or their power of application. We suspect, how- ever, that the object of the lecturer could have been better attained by a more rapid and condensed exposition. A judicious expansion of Adam Smith's title the " Wealth of Nations would have de- scribed with sufficient distinctness the subject of political economy. The distinction between science and art is clear and common enough. A science treats of principles and general laws, an art of their application; though in an elementary exposition it may be difficult to illustrate the science without something of the art, be- cause the proof of principles generally rests upon observation either avowed or referred to, as the application of an art involves some reference to scientific principle. The first lecture contains a brief review of the history of political economy, and a sketch of the pro- minent writers upon the subject, clearly and pleasantly done. The last lecture, as to whether political economy is a positive not an hypo- thetical science, arrives at the sound conclusion that it should be based on facts, not on suppositions or inventions. For pupils, we think this conclusion might have been stated more dogmatically : the largeness of the question itself is such that it might be worth fuller treatment in a special treatise. In their literary character, Mr. Senior's Lectures are distinguished by sufficient mastery of his subjects; but indicating a mind more disposed to acquire and illustrate received knowledge than prone to new discovery or to the investigation of hidden truth. The know- ledge is presented clearly ; the diffusion which will doubtless be found in the lectures, mostly arising from the introduction of illus- trative and secondary topics, of which it is a moot question whether they will more divert by variety than distract by surplusage. The following passage, on the sources of all art and all science, has some of the philosophical manner of Cousin ; but the conclusion might perhaps have been reached by a nearer road, and the pupil con- sequently more quickly brought to the real matter of his studies.
" The distinction between physical and mental is important, not only with respect to the subjects treated by the sciences and arts in each class, but also with respect to the principal sources from which they respectively draw their premises.
" In all sciences and in all arts these sources are but three,—observation, consciousness, and hypothesis. The physical sciences, being only secondarily conversant with mind, draw their premises almost exclusively from observa- tion or hypothesis. Those which treat only of magnitude and number, or, as they are usually called, the pure sciences, draw them altogether from hy- pothesis. The mathematician does not measure the radii of a circle in order to ascertain that they are all equal : he infers their equality from the defi- nition with which he sets out. Those which abstain from hypothesis depend. on observation. It is by observation that the astronomer ascertains the mo- tions of the planets, the botanist classifies plants, and the chemist discovers the affinities of different bodies. They disregard almost entirely, the pine- nomena of consciousness. The physical arts are almost exclusively based on observation. As their object is to produce positive effects, they trust as little as possible to hypothesis ; and the mental phienomena which they have to consider are generally, few and simple. The art of navigation, the art of mining, or the art of fortification, might be taught by a man who had never studied seriously the operations of his own mind.
" On the other hand, the mental sciences and the mental arts draw their premises principally from consciousness. The subjects with which they are chiefly conversant are the workings of the human mind. And the only mind whose workings a man really knows is his own. When he wishes to ascertain the thoughts and the feelings of others, his first impulse al- ways is, to endeavour to suppose himself in what 'he believes to be their situation, and to consider how he himself would then think and feel. His next impulse is to infer that similar moral and intellectual processes are taking place in them. If he be a cautious observer, he endeavours to correct this inference by examining their countenances, their words, and their ac- tions. But these are uncertain symptoms, often occasioned by a state of mind different from that which they appear to indicate ; and often employed for the purpose of concealment or of deception.
" When a man endeavours to discover what is passing in the mind of an- other, by reflecting on what has passed or is passing in his own, the cer- tainty of the result depends of course on the degree in which the two minds coincide. The educated man, therefore, estimates ill the feelings and the faculties of the uneducated, the adult those of the child, the sane those of the insane, the civilized man those of the savage. And this accounts for
the constant mismanagement of the lower orders, and of children madmen, and savages, by their intellectual and moral superiors. The student of men- tal science is in the situation of an anatomist, allowed to dissect only a single subject, and forced to conjecture the internal conformation of other men b assuming that it resembles that of the subject which he has dissected, and correcting that assumption only by observing the forms of their bones and the outward play of their muscles. The mental peculiarities of other men are likely to mislead ,him in particular instances. His own mental pecu- liarities are likely to mislead lulu on all occasions. "Another important difference between mental and physical studies, is the degree and the manner in which they respectively can be aided by ex- periment. When we are dealing with matter, we frequently are able to combine its particles at will, and to ascertain the results of the combination. If we find that, all other things remaining the same, the presence or ab-
sence of a given element is followed by the presence or absence of a given result, we ascribe to that element and to that result the relation of cause and effect, or at least of condition and result.
"But we can scarcely be said to be able to make experiments on the minds of others. It is necessary to an experiment, that the observer should know accurately the state of the thing observed before the experiment, and
its state immediately after it. But when the minds of other men are the subject, we can know but little of either the one state or of the other. We
are forced, therefore, to rely not on experiment, but on experience,—that is
to say, not on combinations of known elements effected for the purpose of testing the result of each different combination, but on our observa-
tion of actual occurrences, the results of the combination of numerous ele- ments, only a few of which are within our own knowledge. And the con- sequence is, that we frequently connect facts which are really independent of one another, and not unfrequently mistake obstacles for causes."