Review Of "Sidgwick's 'The Methods Of Ethics': A Guide" By D. Phillips

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Henry Sidgwick’s Methods of Ethics (first published in 1874) is undoubtedly the most thorough and measured book in moral philosophy published in the 19th century. It not only influenced those who followed Sidgwick in the early 20th century but continues to inform and inspire moral philosophers today. It is no exaggeration to say that Sidgwick has a philosophical fan club! In recent years more than a half-dozen full-length books have engaged with Methods. David Phillips’s guide is not just the latest, it is one of the best. Unlike Sidgwick’s own leaden style, Phillips’s writing is engaging and perspicuous. In contrast to Roger Crisp’s excellent The Cosmos of Duty: Henry Sidgwick’s Methods of Ethics ( 2015), Phillips’s book takes a more neutral approach. These two books together will prove steady guides for those working their way through Sidgwick’s masterpiece. In this reviewer's opinion the better pick of the two for someone reading Sidgwick for the first time would be Phillips: his guidance enables one to see the winding train through Sidgwick’s thought more easily. The likely readers for Phillips’s book (as for Crisp’s) will be those who already know a fair amount of philosophy but are engaging with Sidgwick for the first time. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.


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