Henry Sidgwick - Eye of the Universe: An Intellectual Biography

Cambridge University Press
Free sample

Henry Sidgwick was one of the great intellectual figures of nineteenth-century Britain. He was first and foremost a great moral philosopher, whose masterwork The Methods of Ethics is still widely studied today. He also wrote on economics, politics, education and literature. He was deeply involved in the founding of the first college for women at the University of Cambridge. He was also much concerned with the sexual politics of his close friend John Addington Symonds, a pioneer of gay studies. Through his famous student, G. E. Moore, a direct line can be traced from Sidgwick and his circle to the Bloomsbury group. Bart Schultz has written a magisterial overview of this great Victorian sage. This biography will be eagerly sought out by readers interested in philosophy, Victorian literary studies, the history of ideas, the history of psychology and gender and gay studies.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Cambridge University Press
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Published on
Jun 7, 2004
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Pages
858
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ISBN
9781139453929
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / General
Literary Criticism / General
Philosophy / Ethics & Moral Philosophy
Philosophy / History & Surveys / Modern
Philosophy / Political
Social Science / LGBT Studies / Lesbian Studies
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A colorful history of utilitarianism told through the lives and ideas of Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, and its other founders

In The Happiness Philosophers, Bart Schultz tells the colorful story of the lives and legacies of the founders of utilitarianism—one of the most influential yet misunderstood and maligned philosophies of the past two centuries.

Best known for arguing that "it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong," utilitarianism was developed by the radical philosophers, critics, and social reformers William Godwin (the husband of Mary Wollstonecraft and father of Mary Shelley), Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart and Harriet Taylor Mill, and Henry Sidgwick. Together, they had a profound influence on nineteenth-century reforms, in areas ranging from law, politics, and economics to morals, education, and women's rights. Their work transformed life in ways we take for granted today. Bentham even advocated the decriminalization of same-sex acts, decades before the cause was taken up by other activists. As Bertrand Russell wrote about Bentham in the late 1920s, "There can be no doubt that nine-tenths of the people living in England in the latter part of last century were happier than they would have been if he had never lived." Yet in part because of its misleading name and the caricatures popularized by figures as varied as Dickens, Marx, and Foucault, utilitarianism is sometimes still dismissed as cold, calculating, inhuman, and simplistic.

By revealing the fascinating human sides of the remarkable pioneers of utilitarianism, The Happiness Philosophers provides a richer understanding and appreciation of their philosophical and political perspectives—one that also helps explain why utilitarianism is experiencing a renaissance today and is again being used to tackle some of the world's most serious problems.

Henry Sidgwick's The Methods of Ethics is one of the most important books in the history of moral philosophy. But it has not hitherto received the kind of sustained scholarly attention its stature merits. David Phillips aims in Sidgwickian Ethics to do something that has (surprisingly) not been done before: to interpret and evaluate the central argument of the Methods, in a way that brings out the important conceptual and historical connections between Sidgwick's views and contemporary moral philosophy. Sidgwick distinguished three basic methods: utilitarianism, egoism, and dogmatic intuitionism. And he focused on two conflicts: between utilitarianism and dogmatic intuitionism and between utilitarianism and egoism. Sidgwick believed he could largely resolve the conflict between utilitarianism and dogmatic intuitionism, but could not resolve the conflict between utilitarianism and egoism. Phillips suggests that the best way to approach Sidgwick's ideas is to start with his views on these two conflicts, and with the metaethical and epistemological ideas on which they depend. Phillips interprets and largely defends Sidgwick's non-naturalist metaethics and moderate intuitionist moral epistemology. But he argues for a verdict on the two conflicts different from Sidgwick's own. Phillips claims that Sidgwick is less successful than he thinks in resolving the conflict between utilitarianism and dogmatic intuitionism, and that Sidgwick's treatment of the conflict between utilitarianism and egoism is more successful than he thinks in that it provides the model for a plausible view of practical reason. Phillips's book will be of interest to two different groups of readers: to students seeking a brief introduction to Sidgwick's most important ideas and a guidebook to the Methods, and to scholars in ethics and the history of ideas concerned with Sidgwick's seminal contribution to moral philosophy.
A New York Times bestseller: The “magnificent” memoir by one of the bravest and most original writers of our time—“A tour de force of literature and love” (Vogue).
 
One of the New York Times’ “50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years”
 
Jeanette Winterson’s bold and revelatory novels have established her as a major figure in world literature. Her internationally best-selling debut, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, tells the story of a young girl adopted by Pentecostal parents, and has become a staple of required reading in contemporary fiction classes.
 
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a “singular and electric” memoir about a life’s work to find happiness (The New York Times). It is a book full of stories: about a girl locked out of her home, sitting on the doorstep all night; about a religious zealot disguised as a mother who has two sets of false teeth and a revolver in the dresser, waiting for Armageddon; about growing up in a north England industrial town now changed beyond recognition; about the universe as a cosmic dustbin. It is the story of how a painful past, rose to haunt the author later in life, sending her on a journey into madness and out again, in search of her biological mother. It is also a book about the power of literature, showing how fiction and poetry can form a string of guiding lights, or a life raft that supports us when we are sinking.
 
Witty, acute, fierce, and celebratory, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a tough-minded story of the search for belonging—for love, identity, home, and a mother.
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