Sidgwick, Henry

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Sidgwick, Henry

Sidgwick, Henry (sĭjˈwĭk), 1838–1900, English philosopher. He studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, and taught moral philosophy there from 1869 until 1900. The basis of his thought was British utilitarianism. Analyzing the intuitionist and utilitarian arguments, he indicated their interrelationship by showing how the doctrine of common sense rests on the principles of utilitarianism. In The Methods of Ethics (1874) he distinguished between actions performed with a view toward the general happiness and those performed with a view toward the agent's own self-interest. After comparing ethical systems based on intuitionism, and utilitarianism, and egoism, he concluded that intuitionism and utilitarianism could be integrated into a single ethical system, but that no rational explanation could be found for preferring it to egoism. Sidgwick was interested in the advancement of women's rights, aiding in the planning and founding of Newnham College for women. He was also a founder of the Society of Psychical Research. Other major published works are Principles of Political Economy (1883), Philosophy: Its Scope and Relations (1902), and The Development of European Polity (1903).


See J. B. Schneewind, Sidgwick's Ethics and Victorian Moral Philosophy (1977).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Sidgwick, Henry


Born May 31, 1838, in Skipton, Yorkshire; died Aug. 29, 1900, in Cambridge. English philosopher and economist.

Educated at Rugby and at Cambridge University, Sidgwick was a teacher from 1859 and from 1883, professor of ethics at Cambridge University. He approached philosophy, ethics, and political economy from the standpoint of utilitarianism. In his principal work, The Methods of Ethics, which was published in 1874, he regarded utilitarianism as the basic method of resolving moral problems. He was not sufficiently consistent, however, and he sometimes tended toward intuitivism. Sidgwick believed that most moral judgments are mainly arrived at empirically rather than a priori. An ethical orientation is evident in his views on political economy, which he presented in the Principles of Political Economy (1883). At the same time, Sidgwick attempted to separate the ethical and political aspects of political economy, which he characterized as the sphere of “art,” from the purely economic aspects, which he characterized as the sphere of “science.” According to Sidgwick, science differs from art in that it describes what is, whereas art describes what ought to be. He declared induction the basic method of science, and deduction the preferred method for art. Sidgwick devoted a great deal of attention to the economic role of the state. In his presentation of the major categories of political economy (production, distribution, exchange, value, and capital), he closely followed J. S. Mill.


Seligman, B. Osnovnye lecheniia sovremennoi ekonomicheskoi mysli. Moscow, 1968. (Translated from English.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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(4) In order: Alfred Russel Wallace, Charles Richet, Richard Hodgson, Nora Sidgwick, Henry Sidgwick, and William Barrett, William Crookes, and Oliver Lodge.
Sidgwick, Henry Sidgwick: a memoir (hereafter Memoir) (London, 1906), 199.
Sidgwick, Henry 1963: The Methods of Ethics 7th Edition.