“Nothing to invite or to reward a separate examination”: Sidgwick and Whewell
In this paper I discuss Sidgwick’s reaction to Whewell’s moral philosophy. I show how, to Sidgwick’s eyes, Whewell’s philosophy looked as an emblem of the set of beliefs, primarily religious, into which he had been socialised, and that his reaction was over-determined by both his own ambivalent feelings to his own Anglican upbringing and his subtle rhetorical strategy practised by presenting new shocking ideas hidden between an amount of platitudes and playing the neutral observer or the ‘philosopher of morality’ instead than acting the part of the preacher of a new morality. Then I discuss Sidgwick’s assessment of Whewell’s doctrine as an idle systematisation of received opinion and the reasons why in the Methods he feels entitled to dismiss historically given intuitionism as ‘dogmatic intuitionism’ without detailed criticism and discusses instead a so-called ‘intuitional method’ as one of the procedures allegedly used by common sense. Besides, I show how individual instances of detailed criticism to Whewell’s doctrines are meant to be not ‘real’ criticism of a rival outlook but instead illustrations of the limits of ‘common-sense morality’. My final claims are: first, Sidgwick ends with a short-circuit between a inner dialectic of his own argument and discussion of rival doctrines; second, the weight of Whewell’s legacy in Sidgwick’s ethics has been heavily underemphasized.
Etica & Politica / Ethics & Politics
X (2008) 2
EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Sergio Cremaschi, "“Nothing to invite or to reward a separate examination”: Sidgwick and Whewell", in: Etica & Politica / Ethics & Politics, X (2008) 2, pp. 137-184.