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The Cosmos of DutyHenry Sidgwick's Methods of Ethics$
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Roger Crisp

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198716358

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198716358.001.0001

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The Nature of Ethics

The Nature of Ethics

(p.1) 1 The Nature of Ethics
The Cosmos of Duty

Roger Crisp

Oxford University Press

This chapter covers some of the major background issues in Sidgwick’s Methods of Ethics. Sidgwick’s own philosophical development is described, in the light of his own description of it in his ‘Preface’, and his modest ‘quietist’ metaethics examined. Sidgwick’s objections to several forms of naturalism are explained, and an account is offered of Sidgwick’s non-naturalism and of his rationalist views on justification and his internalism about motivation. Methods are distinguished from principles, and Sidgwick’s focus on only three ethical theories is defended. Sidgwick is criticized for seeking excessive precision in ethics, and for use of unnecessary ethical concepts. The chapter ends with a section on Sidgwick’s views of politics, where it is argued that there is a stronger case than Sidgwick allows for seeing political theory as a branch of ethics.

Keywords:   Henry Sidgwick, metaethics, epistemology, nature of ethics, methods of ethics, precision in ethics, ethical concepts

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