James Fitzjames Stephen

Men have an all but incurable propensity to try to prejudge all the great questions which interest them by stamping their prejudices upon their language.

Sir James Fitzjames Stephen (March 3, 1829March 11, 1894) was an English lawyer and judge, created 1st Baronet Stephen by Queen Victoria. Through his rebuttal of John Stuart Mill's On Liberty, titled Liberty, Equality, Fraternity he established himself as a conservative philosopher.

QuotesEdit

Parliamentary government is simply a mild and disguised form of compulsion.
Of course language can never be made absolutely neutral and colourless; but unless its ambiguities are understood, accuracy of thought is impossible, and the injury done is proportionate to the logical force and general vigour of character of those who are misled.

Liberty, Equality, Fraternity (1873-1874)Edit

Online text
  • I am not the advocate of Slavery, Caste, and Hatred, nor do I deny that a sense may be given to the words, Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, in which they may be regarded as good. I wish to assert with respect to them two propositions.
    First, that in the present day even those who use those words most rationally — that is to say, as the names of elements of social life which, like others, have their advantages and disadvantages according to time, place, and circumstance — have a great disposition to exaggerate their advantages and to deny the existence, or at any rate to underrate the importance, of their disadvantages.
    Next, that whatever signification be attached to them, these words are ill-adapted to be the creed of a religion, that the things which they denote are not ends in themselves, and that when used collectively the words do not typify, however vaguely, any state of society which a reasonable man ought to regard with enthusiasm or self-devotion.
    • Ch. 1
  • Parliamentary government is simply a mild and disguised form of compulsion. We agree to try strength by counting heads instead of breaking heads, but the principle is exactly the same... The minority gives way not because it is convinced that it is wrong, but because it is convinced that it is a minority.
    • Ch. 2 : The Liberty of Thought and Discussion
  • To me this question whether liberty is a good or a bad thing appears as irrational as the question whether fire is a good or a bad thing. It is both good and bad according to time, place, and circumstance, and a complete answer to the question, In what cases is liberty good and in what cases is it bad? would involve not merely a universal history of mankind, but a complete solution of the problems which such a history would offer.
    • Ch. 2
  • Originality consists in thinking for yourself, not in thinking differently from other people.
  • Persuasion, indeed, is a kind of force. It consists in showing a person the consequences of his actions. It is, in a word, force applied through the mind.
    • Ch. 3 : The Distinction Between the Temporal and Spiritual Power
  • To try to regulate the internal affairs of a family, the relations of love or friendship, or many other things of the same sort, by law or by the coercion of public opinion, is like trying to pull an eyelash out of a man’s eye with a pair of tongs. They may put out the eye, but they will never get hold of the eyelash
    • Ch. 4 : The Doctrine of Liberty in its Application to Morals
  • Men have an all but incurable propensity to try to prejudge all the great questions which interest them by stamping their prejudices upon their language. Law, in many cases, means not only a command, but a beneficent command. Liberty means not the bare absence of restraint, but the absence of injurious restraint. Justice means not mere impartiality in applying general rules to particular cases, but impartiality in applying beneficent general rules to particular cases. Some people half consciously use the word "true" as meaning useful as well as true. Of course language can never be made absolutely neutral and colourless; but unless its ambiguities are understood, accuracy of thought is impossible, and the injury done is proportionate to the logical force and general vigour of character of those who are misled.
    • Ch. 4
  • To try to make men equal by altering social arrangements is like trying to make the cards of equal value by shuffling the pack.
    • Ch. 5 : Equality
  • The result of cutting [political power] up into little bits is simply that the man who can sweep the greatest number into one heap will govern the rest... In a pure democracy the ruling men will be the wirepullers and their friends; but they will no more be on an equality with the voters than soldiers of Ministers of State are on an equality with the subjects of monarchy.
    • Ch. 5
  • To say that the law of force is abandoned because force is regular, unopposed, and beneficially exercised, is to say that day and night are now such well-established institutions that the sun and moon are mere superfluities.
    • Ch. 5

A General View Of The Criminal Law Of England (1863)Edit

  • The criminal law stands to the passion of revenge in much the same relation as marriage to the sexual appetite.

External linksEdit

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Last modified on 28 February 2013, at 08:19