Sidgwick and the Morality of Purity

Abstract

The aim of this work is to bring analytically to light Sidgwick’s complex views on sexual morality. Sidgwick saw nothing intrinsically, self-evidently, and even derivatively wrong in getting sexual pleasure for its own sake. However, the overall consequences of attempting to modify common sense in matters of sexual ethics seemed to him to be worse, at his time, than retaining the moral category of purity. Sidgwick’s view is then contrasted with John Stuart Mill’s, whom he directly mentions in this connection. Finally, I discuss how Sidgwick’s ethics of sex relates closely to his claims about esoteric morality and to the dualism of practical reason.

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