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Sidgwick's Feminism

  • Bart Schultz (a1)

Henry Sidgwick shared many of the feminist concerns of John Stuart Mill and was an active reformer in the cause of higher education for women, but his feminism has never received the attention it deserves and he has in recent times been criticized for promulgating a masculinist epistemology. This essay is a prolegomenon to a comprehensive account of Sidgwick's feminism, briefly setting out various elements of his views on epistemology, equality, gender, and sexuality in order to provide some initial sense of how he carried on and developed the Millian project.

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1 See Morales Maria, Perfect Equality, Lanham, ME, 1996, and Boralevi Lea Campos, Bentham and the Oppressed, New York, 1984.

2 For example, there is no mention of him in the recent Cambridge Companion to Feminism in Philosophy, ed. Fricker M. and Hornsby J., Cambridge, 2000.

3 Walker M. U., Moral Understandings, New York, 1998.

4 Ibid., p. 20.

5 Ibid., pp. 37 f.

6 Ibid., pp. 8 f.

7 Ibid., pp. 9 f.

8 Ibid., p. 203.

9 Ibid., p. 217.

10 Ibid., p. 220.

11 Ibid., pp. 222, 210.

12 Ibid., p. 44.

13 Ibid., pp. 45 f.

14 This essay is reprinted in Williams, Making Sense of Humanity, New York, 1995, pp. 152–71.

15 Walker, Understandings, p. 43.

16 Ibid., p. 43.

17 Banks Olive, ‘Sidgwick, Henry’, in Dictionary, ed. Banks O., New York, 1985, p. 187.

18 Sidgwick Henry, A Memoir, ed. Sidgwick E. M. and Sidgwick A., London, 1906, remains important, but for a less guarded account see The Complete Works and Select Correspondence of Henry Sidgwick, 2nd edn., ed. Schultz B., Charlottesville, VA, 1999.

19 ‘The Verification of Beliefs’, p. 1, reproduced in Schultz, ed., Complete Works.

20 Ibid., p. 4.

21 Roger Crisp's recent ‘Griffin's Pessimism’ is suggestive of the complexity of Sidgwick's approach — see Weil-Being and Morality: Essays in Honour of James Griffin, ed. Crisp R. and Hooker B., Oxford, 2000 as is Schneewind's J. B. classic study, Sidgwick's Ethics and Victorian Moral Philosophy, Oxford, 1977.

22 Sidgwick, Practical Ethics, ed. Bok S., New York, 1998, p. 27.

23 Sidgwick's approach resembles John Skorupski's recent claims that the ‘connection between morality and reason cannot be quite as simple as a pure rationalism about morality would suggest’, that cognitivism in ethics need not be realism, and that the epistemology of the normative is ‘discursive or dialogical’. See his Ethical Explorations, Oxford, 1999, pp. 29, 3.

24 Sidgwick and Sidgwick, Memoir, pp. 34 f.

25 See Allen Peter, The Cambridge Apostles: The Early Years, Cambridge, 1978, and Dowling Linda, Hellenism and Homosexuality in Victorian Oxford, Ithaca, 1994.

26 Conformity and Subscription', p. 49, reproduced in Complete Works, ed. Schultz. Similar passages occur in his later writings.

27 Practical Ethics, p. 52.

28 Hobsbawm, Age of Empire, New York, 1987, p. 88.

29 Shanley, ‘Subjection’, in The Cambridge Companion to Mill, ed. Skorupski J., NewYork, 1998, p. 419.

30 Mill, ‘Subjection’, in Sexual Equality: Writings by John Stuart Mill, Harriet Taylor Mill, and Helen Taylor, ed. Robson A. P. and Robson J. M., Toronto, 1994, pp. 327 f.

31 On pragmatist feminism, see Seigfried Charlene, ‘Socializing Democracy: Jane Addams and John Dewey”, Philosophy of the Social Sciences, xxix (1999).

32 Thus, his views are distorted by those feminists, such as Catharine MacKinnon, who disregard his critique of laissez-faire; see Morales, ch. 5.

33 Initial Society Papers', Sidgwick Papers, Wren Library, Cambridge University, Add.Ms.c.96.4.46–48.

34 See Sidgwick and Sidgwick, Memoir, p. 73.

35 Sidgwick, Elements, 2nd edn., London, p. 385.

36 ‘Initial Society Papers’, Add.Ms.c.96.4.29 f.

37 Sidgwick and Sidgwick, Memoir, p. 205.

38 Tullberg McWilliams, Women at Cambridge, Cambridge, rev. edn., 1998.

39 Ibid., p. 53.

40 Hunt F. and Barker C., Women at Cambridge: A Brief History, Cambridge, 1998, p. 9.

41 SeeSidgwick Sidgwick and, Memoir, pp. 394–6.

42 Tullberg McWilliams, Women, p. 104.

43 Sidgwick E. M., Flysheet dated 12 February 1896, Newnham College Archives, reproduced in Ethel Sidgwick, Mrs. Henry Sidgwick: A Memoir, London, 1938.

44 Oppenheim, ‘A Mother's Role, a Daughter's Duty: Lady Blanche Balfour, Eleanor Sidgwick, and Feminist Perspectives’, Journal of British Studies, xxxiv (1995), 198.

45 Sidgwick E. M., ‘University Education of Women’, Manchester, 1913, pp. 16 f.

46 Ibid., p. 20.

47 Ibid., p. 7.

48 Ibid., p. 18.

49 The foregoing passages are from Eleanor's 1913 pamphlet, but identical claims are made in such earlier works as University Education of Women’, Cambridge, 1897. Henry was in full accord with these views.

50 Oppenheim, ‘Daughter's Duty’, 226.

51 Sidgwick and Sidgwick, Memoir, pp. 522 f.

52 Sidgwick, Practical Ethics, pp. 22 f.

53 Ibid., p. 24.

54 In Eye of the Universe: Henry Sidgwick and the Quest for Certainty, unpubl., I deal at length with Sidgwick's views on civilization, race, and imperialism, including his connections to such figures as Sir John Seeley and Charles Henry Pearson.

55 Sidgwick's journal for 14 May 1888, reproduced in Complete Works, ed. Schultz.

56 Quoted in Karl F. R., George Eliot, Voice of a Century, New York, 1995, p. 428.

57 See my ‘Truth and Its Consequences: Symonds and Sidgwick’ Henry, John Addington Symonds: Culture and the Demon Desire, ed. Pemble J., London, 2000.

58 Dowling, Hellenism, pp. xiv f.

59 Dowling, Hellenism, p. xv.

60 SeeSmith-Rosenberg's C. classic, Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America, New York, 1985. I am also much indebted to Hidden From History: Reclaiming the Gay & Lesbian Past, ed. Dubennan M., Vicinus M., and Chauncey G., New York, 1989, on gay/straight binarism and twentieth century homophobia.

61 The Bloomsberries never fully understood these connections; their general attitude is captured by Holryod's Michael Lytton Strachey: The New Biography, New York, 1994.

62 One told in my forthcoming works, such as Strange Audacious Life: John Addington Symonds and His Friends, with Dakyns A. and Robinson B., Chicago, 2001.

63 My warmest thanks to all of the contributors-especially John Skorupski-for their help, but a very special thanks to Roger Crisp, who made SIDGWICK 2000 possible.

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