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I WILL first give an account of the circumstances of the publication of these 'rough notes', and then of the system of philosophy, if so it is to be called, contained in them.
They represent a continued general thinking on the subjects to which they relate, though they are rather hastily put together as regards their particular form. But there is nothing hasty or extemporaneous in such thought as they may contain.
A not inconsiderable portion of them was written two years since, on the following occasion.
After the publication of Mr Mill's small book on Utilitarianism, I had the intention of writing something in answer to him on that subject, and had actually begun the printing of the result of this intention. I was led, in connexion with this, to put together the intellectual views on which the moral view rested, or which had something of the character of ‘prolegomena' to it, and had meant if they should come within reasonable limits, to publish them in an Appendix.
Being of a nature hesitating and irresolute, I altered my mind as to this : and though at first stimulated to controversy, which of itself I do not think I should have shrunk from, I thought that what, in regard of the subject, was likely to be most useful was another course, and accordingly determined rather
to put together, in an uncontroversial form, what seemed to me the truth, in opposition to what I thought error.
This, if it please God, is in the way of being accomplished, subject to all the delays which interest in other employments, uncertain health, and some not, I think, uncalled for scrupulousness and anxiety as to what one writes on a subject so important, may throw in the way of it. But in the meantime, I have thought it might be as well to return upon the intellectual views with which the moral view connects itself, and to re-examine them and test them.
The result is the publication of these pages: to which, for reasons which will appear, I have not attempted to give any very regular form or artistic completeness. This explanation is almost necessary for the understanding of the beginning of them, which is abrupt, and refers, it will be seen, to something as going before, and which I thought it was as well to leave so referring. But I have carefully avoided in the following pages all reference to Morals or Ethics, and (except most incidentally) all approbation or disapprobation of anything in a moral view or as to moral tendency. I have endeavoured to bring together, for comparison, views, the respective holders of which would probably thank me very little for my trouble : but philosophical controversy is a worse confusion than a battle without generals or discipline, and as we come more to morals and ethics the dust and smoke become tenfold worse. I have wished therefore to examine some things in the earlier and clearer atmosphere. I have nothing to do here with any results to which opinions may lead, or with any supposed opinions held by any one beyond what the books which I notice contain.