SIDGWICK'S COHERENTIST MORAL EPISTEMOLOGY
Keywords:Sidgwick, Henry, moral epistemology, common sense morality, coherentism, applied ethics
AbstractI discuss the ideas of common sense and common sense morality in Sidgwick. I argue that, far from aiming at overcoming common-sense morality, Sidgwick aimed purposely at grounding a consist code of morality by methods allegedly taken from the natural sciences, in order to reach also in the moral field the same kind of “mature” knowledge as in the natural sciences. His whole polemics with intuitionism was vitiated by the a priori assumption that the widespread ethos of the educated part of humankind, not the theories of the intuitionist philosophers, was what was rea lly worth considering as the expression of intuitionist ethics. In spite of the naïve positivist starting point Sidgwick was encouraged by his own approach in exploring the fruitfulness of coherentist methods for normative ethics. Thus Sidgwick left an ambivalent legacy to twentieth-century ethics: the dogmatic idea of a “new” morality of a consequentialist kind, and the fruitful idea that we can argue rationally in normative ethics albeit without shared foundations.
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