• Sergio Volodia CREMASCHI Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici Università “Amedeo Avogadro”


Sidgwick, Henry, moral epistemology, common sense morality, coherentism, applied ethics


I 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.

Author Biography

Sergio Volodia CREMASCHI, Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici Università “Amedeo Avogadro”

Sergio Volodia CREMASCHI (Bergamo 1949) is Associate professor of Moral Philosophy at the "Amedeo Avogadro" University (Vercelli). His research interests are the history of ethics, Kantian ethics, Utilitariansim, and economics and philosophy. He authored, besides a number of papers in such journals as Journal of Pragmatics, History of Political Economy, European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Science in Context, books in English (Normativity Within the Bounds of Plural Reasons. The Applied Ethics Revolution, Uppsala: Northern Summer University Press, 2007) and in Italian (A Short History of Ethics, Rome: Carocci 2012); Modern ethics, Rome: Carocci, 2007; Nineteenth-century ethics, Rome: Carocci, 2005; The Wealth System. Political Economy and Method in Adam Smith, Milan: Angeli, 1984; Automaton spiritual. Spinoza's Theory of Mind and Passions, Milan: Vita e Pensiero, 1979).


Blanshard, B. (1974). “Sidgwick the Man ”.The Monist , 58, pp. 349-70. Cremaschi, S. (2006a). “Sidgwick e il progetto di un’etica scientifica”. Etica e Politica/Ethics & Politics , 7/1, pp. 1-36 available at

Cremaschi, S. (2006b). “The Mill-Whew ell controversy on ethics and its bequest to analytic philosophy”. In E. Baccarini - S. Prijic Samaržja (eds.), Rationality in Belief and Action, Rijeka: University of Rijeka, Faculty of Arts and Sciences - Croatian Society for Analytic Philosophy, pp. 45-62. Cremaschi, S. (2007). “Il relativismo etico fra antropologia culturale e filosofia analitica”. in I. Tolomio ed., Rileggere l'etica tra contingenza e principi, Padova: CLUEP, pp. 15-45. Cremaschi, S. (2008), “Nothing to invite or to reward a separate examination. Sidgwick and Whewell”. Etica e Politica/Ethics &Politics, 10/2, pp. 137-181 available at

Cremaschi, S. (2011), “Like Boys Pursue the Rainbow. Whewell’s

Independent Morality vs. Sidgwick’s Dogmatic Intuitionism”. In P. Bucolo,

R. Crisp, B. Schultz (eds.), Proceedings of the Second World Congress on

Henry Sidgwick. Ethics, Psychics, Politics,CUECM, Catania, pp. 146-235.

Donagan, A. (1974). “Whewell’s Elements of Morality”. Journal of

Philosophy, 71, pp. 724-736.

Gauthier, D. 1970. “Introduction”. In Gauthier, D. (ed.), Morality and

Rational Self-Interest, Englewood Cliffs (

NJ): Prentice-Hall.

Grote, J. (1870). An Examination of the Utilitarian Philosophy, ed. by J.B.

Mayor. Cambridge,

Grote, J. (1876). A Treatise on the Moral Ideals, ed. by J.B. Mayor.


Mill, J.S. (1838). “Bentham”. In Mill (1967-), vol.

X, pp. 75-116.

Mill, J.S. (1861), “Utilitarianism”. In Mill (1967-), vol.

X, pp. 203-259.

Mill, J.S. (1873). Autobiography. London: Longman.

Mill, J.S. (1967-). Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, ed. by J.M. Robson

et al. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Mori, M. (1995). “Il significato dei Metodi dell’etica di Henry Sidgwick per

la morale contemporanea”. In H. Sidgwick, I metodi dell’etica, Milan: Il

Saggiatore 1995, pp. vii- xlv.

Schneewind, J.B. (1977). Sidgwick’s Ethics and Victorian Moral Philosophy. Oxford: Clarendon.

Sidgwick, H. (1874). Methods of Ethics. In Sidgwick (1996).

Sidgwick, H. (1907). Methods of Ethics. 7 th edition. In Sidgwick (1996).

Sidgwick, H. (1906). Henry Sidgwick A Memoir. In Sidgwick (1996).

Sidgwick, H. (1889). “On some fundamental ethical controversies”. In Sidgwick (2000), pp. 35-46.

Sidgwick, H. (1876). “Professor Calderwood on intuitionism in morals”. In Sidgwick (2000), pp. 23-26.

Sidgwick, H. (1902). Philosophy. In Sidgwick (1996).

Sidgwick, H. (1996). Works, 15 vols. Thoemmes Press, Bristol 1996.

Sidgwick, H. (2000). Essays on Ethics and Method, ed. by M.G. Singer. Oxford: Clarendon.

Rawls, J., (1981). “Introduction”. In H. Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, Indianapolis. Hackett.

Schultz, B. (2004). Henry Sidgwick. Eye of the Universe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Singer, P., 1974, “Sidgwick and Reflective Equilibrium”. The Monist, 583, pp. 490-517.

Whewell. W. (1845 [1861]), Elements of Morality, 1 st ed., 2 vols. Harper,

New York.

Whewell. W. (1865). Elements of Morality , 4 th ed., 2 vols. London, Parker.