Phenomenalism and the Metaphysical Question of the External World. The Strange Case of John St. Mill

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Constantin Stoenescu

Abstract

Although John St. Mill seems to be a philosopher easy to be classified in the history of philosophy as an empiricist who has overstated the epistemological role of induction, if we take into account his metaphysical commitments then we’ll find an unexpected approach which has to be explained. I think that in his book about Hamilton, especially in chapter 11, “The Psychological Theory of the Belief in an External World”, Mill tried to find a new way in metaphysics, mediated by his empiricist epistemology, namely, a new solution to the problem of external world and an alternative to metaphysical realism and subjective idealism. Starting from the conviction that the difficulties of metaphysics lie at the root of all sciences, Mill developed an unusual theory of physical object and phenomenon and he claimed that we can infer their existence from the sensations which are understood as permanent possibilities of experience. Historically, by his own version of a “Copernican metaphysics”, Mill tried to find a conceptual path between British empiricists, Locke, Berkeley and Hume on the one hand, and Kant and Reid on the other hand, and to escape from the tension between the two tenets.

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STOENESCU, Constantin. Phenomenalism and the Metaphysical Question of the External World. The Strange Case of John St. Mill. Annals of the University of Bucharest - Philosophy Series, [S.l.], v. 67, n. 2, p. 157-176, apr. 2019. ISSN 0068-3175. Available at: <http://annals.ub-filosofie.ro/index.php/annals/article/view/284>. Date accessed: 26 apr. 2019.
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