Sidgwick’s The Methods of Ethics: A Guide




2022.10.05 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews

David Phillips, Sidgwick’s The Methods of Ethics: A Guide, Oxford University Press, 2022, 254pp., $99.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780197539613.

Reviewed by Anthony Skelton, University of Western Ontario

David Phillips’s book is a beautifully written and expertly curated aid to studying Henry Sidgwick’s The Methods of Ethics. Although some consider it one of the best books ever written in philosophical ethics (see Broad 1930, 143, Smart 1956, 347, and Parfit 2011, xxxiii), the Methods has a reputation (even amongst admirers) for being heavy going and at times dull and boring. And it’s long. It therefore presents a challenge to readers. Phillips aims to assist those new to the Methods to meet this challenge. 

The difficulty encountered in reading the Methods can in part be traced to Sidgwick’s presentation style and, in particular, to his penchant for constantly refining and qualifying his conclusions in reply to numerous objections. Commenting on…

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