Sidgwick's Ethical Maxims

Philosophy 34 (130):217 - 228 (1959)

Utilitarianism has been attacked many times and from many points of view. Among other objections has been the charge that it cannot account for the moral phenomena connected with justice; we are interested, it is said, not only in producing as much good as possible, but also in distributing it in a certain way. The Utilitarian usually replies that these phenomena either can be deduced from Utilitarianism or are illusory, but a natural reluctance to go against the data of our moral experience usually inclines him to the first alternative. One of the most interesting of the Utilitarians from this point of view is Sidgwick, because he makes Utilitarianism his philosophical basis, but at the same time he has a set of maxims 2 part of whose purpose is to cover the common-sense views on justice. In this article I shall consider the relations between these maxims and Utilitarianism, and shall try to show by means of an example that some of them do go beyond Utilitarianism, and that in so far, at any rate, as these maxims do represent the common-sense view, it and Utilitarianism are not in all cases strictly reconcilable
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DOI 10.1017/S0031819100037189
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