Skip to main content Accessibility help

Some Further Thoughts on Sidgwick's Epistemology

  • JOHN DEIGH (a1)


This article is a reply to Anthony Skelton's ‘On Sidgwick's Demise: A Reply to Professor Deigh’. Professor Skelton, in his article, makes several objections to the account of Sidgwick's epistemology I presented in my earlier article ‘Sidgwick's Epistemology’. I answer these objections by further explaining my account.



Hide All

1 Schultz, Bart, Henry Sidgwick: Eye of the Universe (Cambridge, 2004).

2 Hobbes, Thomas, Leviathan, ed. Tuck, Richard (Cambridge, 1991), p. 28.

3 Hobbes, Leviathan, p. 111. See my ‘Reason and Ethics in Hobbes's Leviathan’, Journal of the History of Philosophy 34 (1996), pp. 33–60.

4 The Methods of Ethics, 7th edn. (London, 1907; reprint edn.; Indianapolis, 1981), p. 384.

5 Methods, p. 384 n. 3. See also Henry Sidgwick, Outlines of the History of Ethics (Indianapolis, 1988), pp. 170–9, where Sidgwick also includes Cudworth among the English moral philosophers in this lineage.

6 Methods, p. 384.

7 Methods, p. 205, where Locke is further quoted as expressing the conviction that ‘from self-evident propositions, by necessary consequences, as incontestable as those in mathematics, the measures of right and wrong might be made out’. See Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, bk. IV, ch. 3, sec. 18.

8 Methods, p. 103 n.

9 ‘On Sidgwick's Demise: A Reply to Professor Deigh’, MS, p. 6.

10 Methods, p. 342.

11 Methods, p. 102.

12 Methods, p. 383.

13 Methods, p. 383.

14 Methods, p. 78.

15 Methods, p. 387.

16 ‘On Sidgwick's Demise’, MS, p. 6.

17 Methods, p. 383.

18 Methods, p. 228. I am correcting my earlier classification of Moore as a perceptional intuitionist. Sidgwick is best read as restricting perceptional intuitionism to views on which the rightness of particular actions is directly perceived by intuition. Since Moore thinks rightness is a matter of producing the best consequences, and its perception is thus a matter of ordinary judgment of causation as applied to the production of intrinsic value, he should not count as a perceptional intuitionist.

19 Methods, p. 341.

20 Ross, W. D., The Right and the Good (Oxford, 1931), p. 32. For Ross both the principles of prima facie duty and mathematical axioms are generalizations in whose truth we acquire confidence by induction over the particular judgments we make. The propositions we affirm in making these latter judgments are self-evident, and we somehow then come to grasp the self-evidence of the generalizations they instantiate. Accordingly, Ross took self-evidence to be a relation between a proposition and a person. Thus, he held that with respect to each of us, one and the same proposition may be self-evident at some times and not self-evident at others. On Ross's understanding of self-evidence, then, it is hard to see how a proposition's being self-evident justifies believing it and so how self-evidence has import as a property of normative epistemology. See Ross, The Right and the Good, pp. 32–3. This difficulty, though, appears to be peculiar to Ross. Moore, by contrast, is clear about self-evidence's being a property of a proposition that justifies believing it. See Moore, G. E., Principia Ethica, paperback edn. (Cambridge, 1959), pp. 143–4.

21 On this point see my ‘Sidgwick on Ethical Judgment’, Essays on Henry Sidgwick, ed. Bart Schultz (Cambridge, 1992), pp. 241–58.

22 To quote Charles Parsons, ‘A powerful tradition in philosophy has regarded mathematics, or at least a part of it, as a central case of a priori knowledge.’ See his ‘Foundations of Mathematics’, The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Paul Edwards (New York, 1967), vol. 5, p. 192.

23 Encyclopedia Britannica, ed. Chisholm (Cambridge, 1911), vol. 9, p. 845.

25 Bernard Williams, ‘The Point of View of the Universe: Sidgwick and the Ambitions of Ethics’, in Williams, Making Sense of Humanity and Other Philosophical Papers 1982–1993 (Cambridge, 1995), p. 153.

26 Henry Sidgwick: Eye of the Universe, pp. 3–9.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Some Further Thoughts on Sidgwick's Epistemology

  • JOHN DEIGH (a1)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.