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Sidgwick's The Methods of Ethics

A Guide

David Phillips

Publication Date - 13 May 2022

ISBN: 9780197539613

266 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches


Henry Sidgwick's The Methods of Ethics has been a central part of the utilitarian canon since its publication in 1874. This book, part of the Oxford Guides to Philosophy series, is a concise companion to Sidgwick's masterpiece, written primarily to aid advanced undergraduate students and interested general readers in navigating and interpreting the original text. Author David Phillips connects Sidgwick's work to work in contemporary moral philosophy and in the history of moral philosophy, paying particular attention to his relationships with key predecessors, including Kant and Mill, and with Moore and Ross, his most influential successors in the British intuitionist tradition.

The book's first eight chapters end with brief suggestions for further reading. At the end of the final three chapters there are more substantial overviews of the secondary literature on the aspects of Sidgwick's work that have generated the most interest among his commentators: metaethics and moral epistemology; consequentialism versus deontology; and egoism and the dualism of practical reason. The result is an Oxford Guide that will be a helpful resource for both students and scholars.


  • Written in a clear and accessible style
  • Features section-by-section commentary of Sidgwick's original text and his peers and predecessors
  • Offers a synthesis of secondary literature on Sidgwick

About the Author(s)

David Phillips is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Houston. His research interests are in ethics and the history of ethics with a particular focus on British moral philosophers. He is the author of Sidgwickian Ethics (OUP, 2011) and of Rossian Ethics: W.D. Ross and Contemporary Moral Theory (OUP, 2019).


"A beautifully written and expertly curated aid to studying Henry Sidgwick's The Methods of Ethics...Phillips covers Sidgwick's non-naturalist meta-ethics, his intuitionist epistemology, his argument for utilitarianism and for hedonism, his dismissal of common-sense morality, and his dualism of practical reason...In every case, Phillips's discussions are excellent." -- Anthony Skelton, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

Table of Contents

    Chapter One: Introduction (Methods Prefaces)
    Chapter Two: Sidgwick's Project and the Three Methods (Methods I.I and I.VI)
    Chapter Three: Meaning, Motivation, and Free Will (Methods I.III, I.IV, and I.V)
    Chapter Four: Intuitionism and Goodness (Methods I.VIII and I.IX)
    Chapter Five: The Method of Egoism (Methods I.VII and Book II)
    Chapter Six: The Critique of Common-Sense Morality (Methods III.I-III.XI)
    Chapter Seven: Philosophical Intuitionism (Methods III.XIII)
    Chapter Eight: Hedonism (Methods III.XIV)
    Chapter Nine: Utilitarianism: Meaning and Proof (Methods IV.I and IV.II)
    Chapter Ten: Utilitarianism and Common-Sense Morality (Methods IV.III, IV.IV, and IV.V)
    Chapter Eleven: The Dualism of Practical Reason (Methods Concluding Chapter)

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