Sidgwick's Moral Epistemology

David Phillips

in Sidgwickian Ethics

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199778911
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919093 | DOI:
Sidgwick's Moral Epistemology

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In this Chapter I do three things: first, I focus on Sidgwick's argument for intuitionism and argue (a) contra Shaver that it is both crucial to Sidgwick and depends crucially on his nonnaturalism, and (b) that it is a powerful argument for intuitionism, though not directly for the form of foundationalism Sidgwick embraces. Then, second, I turn to (what I argue is) the central puzzle in his moral epistemology: the puzzle that Methods IV ii is in a crucial way apparently inconsistent with “The Establishment of Ethical First Principles” and with Methods III. I argue against resolving the puzzle in favor of the material in IV ii and thus taking Sidgwick to be (more of) a coherentist; and I suggest a resolution of the puzzle compatible with my foundationalist reading of Sidgwick. But I suggest that the puzzle is hard to resolve, and that, though previous commentators have not presented it fully, it helps explain the controversy over Sidgwick's moral epistemology. Third, I defend my favored moderate foundationalist interpretation of Sidgwick's moral epistemology.

Keywords: epistemology; intuitionism; foundationalism; coherentism; Shaver

Chapter.  17722 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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