The methods of J. B. Schneewind

Utilitas 16 (2):146-167 (2004)


J. B. Schneewind's Sidgwick's Ethics and Victorian Moral Philosophy was the single best philosophical commentary on Henry Sidgwick's Methods of Ethics produced in the twentieth century. Although Schneewind was primarily concerned to read Sidgwick's ethical theory in its historical context, as reflecting the controversies generated by such figures as J. S. Mill, F. D. Maurice, and William Whewell, his reading also ended up being highly neo-Kantian, reflecting various Rawlsian priorities. As valuable as such an interpretation of Sidgwick surely is, Schneewind's approach has always been in some key respects too narrowly conceived in its construction of Sidgwick's philosophical and cultural context, failing to grapple with such troubling, philosophically relevant issues as the possible racism of Sidgwick's ethical and political views, or the sexual politics manifest in his collaboration with such figures as John Addington Symonds. Correspondence:c1 [email protected]

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Bart Schultz
University of Chicago

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