“When we consider either the history of opinion or the ordinary conducf of human life, to what is it to be ascribed that the one and the other are no worse than they are?”

I am confused by what this quote means. The source of my confusion lies in “no worse than they are” and ambiguity as to whether the history of both opinion and conduct is being referred to or just opinion.

  • You need to provide a source and date; this seems to be written some time ago. Also a link, if you have one. Your text has at least one typo.
    – Xanne
    Aug 20, 2019 at 5:03
  • 'The one and the other' makes it clear that the writer is referring to both. They are implied to be in a bad state, but might be much worse. Aug 20, 2019 at 7:54
  • It is John Stuart Mill, The Formation of Rational Opinion.
    – Bremer
    Aug 20, 2019 at 10:32

1 Answer 1


"[N]o worse than they are" refers, I believe, to both opinions and forms of human conduct. We know this because he says "[w]hen we consider either...": the 'either' implies that his thought will refer to both sets of things.

Mill is saying that we cannot really know what opinions and what forms of human conduct - in the history of opinions and human conduct - are better or worse than they (actually) are.

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