Henry Sidgwick (/ˈsɪdʒwɪk/; 31 May 1838 – 28 August 1900) was an
English utilitarian philosopher and economist; he held the
Knightbridge Professor of Moral Philosophy from the year 1883 until
his death. He was one of the founders and first president of the
Society for Psychical Research
Society for Psychical Research and a member of the Metaphysical
Society and promoted the higher education of women. His work in
economics has also had a lasting influence.
He also founded
Newnham College in 1875, a women-only constituent
college of the University of Cambridge. It was the second Cambridge
college to admit women after Girton College. The co-founder of the
college was Millicent Garrett Fawcett.
He joined the
Cambridge Apostles intellectual secret society in 1856.
2 Exposure of fraud of Palladino
5 See also
7 Further reading
8 External links
He was born at
Skipton in Yorkshire, where his father, the Reverend W.
Sidgwick (d. 1841), was headmaster of the local grammar school,
Ermysted's Grammar School. His mother was Mary Sidgwick, née Crofts
Henry himself was educated at Rugby (where his cousin, subsequently
his brother-in-law, Edward White Benson, later Archbishop of
Canterbury, was a master), and at Trinity College, Cambridge. While at
Trinity, Sidgwick became a member of the
Cambridge Apostles. In 1859,
he was senior classic, 33rd wrangler, chancellor's medallist and
Craven scholar. In the same year, he was elected to a fellowship at
Trinity and soon afterwards he became a lecturer in classics there, a
post he held for ten years. The Sidgwick Site, home to several of
the university's arts and humanities faculties, is named after him.
In 1869, he exchanged his lectureship in classics for one in moral
philosophy, a subject to which he had been turning his attention. In
the same year, deciding that he could no longer in good conscience
declare himself a member of the Church of England, he resigned his
fellowship. He retained his lectureship and in 1881 he was elected an
honorary fellow. In 1874 he published
The Methods of Ethics (6th ed.
1901, containing emendations written just before his death), by common
consent a major work, which made his reputation outside the
John Rawls called it the "first truly academic work in
moral theory, modern in both method and spirit".
In 1875, he was appointed praelector on moral and political philosophy
at Trinity, and in 1883 he was elected Knightbridge Professor of
Philosophy. In 1885, the religious test having been removed, his
college once more elected him to a fellowship on the foundation.
Besides his lecturing and literary labours, Sidgwick took an active
part in the business of the university and in many forms of social and
philanthropic work. He was a member of the General Board of Studies
from its foundation in 1882 to 1899; he was also a member of the
Council of the Senate of the
Indian Civil Service
Indian Civil Service Board and the Local
Examinations and Lectures Syndicate and chairman of the
for Moral Science.
He married Eleanor Mildred Balfour, who was a member of the Ladies
Dining Society in Cambridge, with 11 other members, and was sister to
A 2004 biography of Sidgwick by
Bart Schultz sought to establish that
Sidgwick was a lifelong homosexual, but it is unknown whether he ever
consummated his inclinations. According to the biographer, Sidgwick
struggled internally throughout his life with issues of hypocrisy and
openness in connection with his own forbidden desires.
He was one of the founders and first president of the Society for
Psychical Research, and was a member of the Metaphysical Society.
He also took in promoting the higher education of women. He helped to
start the higher local examinations for women, and the lectures held
Cambridge in preparation for these. It was at his suggestion and
with his help that
Anne Clough opened a house of residence for
students, which developed into Newnham College, Cambridge. When, in
1880, the North Hall was added, Sidgwick, who, in 1876, had married
Eleanor Mildred Balfour
Eleanor Mildred Balfour (sister of A. J. Balfour), lived there for two
years. His wife became principal of the college after Clough's death
in 1892, and they lived there for the rest of his life. During this
whole period, Sidgwick took the deepest interest in the welfare of the
college. In politics, he was a liberal, and became a Liberal Unionist
(a party that later effectively merged with the Conservative party) in
Early in 1900 he was forced by ill-health to resign his professorship,
and died a few months later. Sidgwick, who died an
agnostic, is buried in
Terling All Saints Churchyard, Terling,
Essex, with his wife.
Exposure of fraud of Palladino
In July 1895, the medium
Eusapia Palladino was invited to England to
Frederic William Henry Myers's house in
Cambridge for a series of
investigations into her mediumship. According to reports by the
investigators, Myers and Oliver Lodge, all the phenomena observed in
Cambridge sittings were the result of trickery. Her fraud was so
clever, according to Myers, that it "must have needed long practice to
bring it to its present level of skill."
Cambridge sittings, the results proved disastrous for her
mediumship. During the séances, Palladino was caught cheating to free
herself from the physical controls of the experiments. Palladino
was found liberating her hands by placing the hand of the controller
on her left on top of the hand of the controller on her right. Instead
of maintaining any contact with her, the observers on either side were
found to be holding each other's hands, which made it possible for her
to perform tricks. Richard Hodgson had observed Palladino free a
hand to move objects and use her feet to kick pieces of furniture in
the room. Because of the discovery of fraud, the British SPR
investigators such as Sidgwick and
Frank Podmore considered
Palladino's mediumship to be permanently discredited and because of
her fraud she was banned from any further experiments with the SPR in
British Medical Journal
British Medical Journal on 9 November 1895 an article was
published titled Exit Eusapia!. The article questioned the scientific
legitimacy of the SPR for investigating Palladino, a medium who had a
reputation of being a fraud and imposture. Part of the article
read: "It would be comic if it were not deplorable to picture this
sorry Egeria surrounded by men like Professor Sidgwick, Professor
Lodge, Mr. F. H. Myers, Dr. Schiaparelli, and Professor Richet,
solemnly receiving her pinches and kicks, her finger skiddings, her
sleight of hand with various articles of furniture as phenomena
calling for serious study." This caused Sidgwick to respond in a
published letter to the British Medical Journal, 16 November 1895.
According to Sidgwick SPR members had exposed the fraud of Palladino
Cambridge sittings, Sidgwick wrote "Throughout this period we
have continually combated and exposed the frauds of professional
mediums, and have never yet published in our Proceedings, any report
in favour of the performances of any of them." The response from
the Journal questioned why the SPR wastes time investigating phenomena
that are the "result of jugglery and imposture" and not urgently
concerning the welfare of mankind.
In 1898, Myers was invited to a series of séances in Paris with
Charles Richet. In contrast to the previous séances in which he had
observed fraud, he claimed to have observed convincing phenomena.
Sidgwick reminded Myers of Palladino's trickery in the previous
investigations as "overwhelming" but Myers did not change his
position. That enraged Richard Hodgson, then editor of SPR
publications, to ban Myers from publishing anything on his recent
sittings with Palladino in the SPR journal. Hodgson was convinced
Palladino was a fraud and supported Sidgwick in the "attempt to put
that vulgar cheat Eusapia beyond the pale". It was only in the
1908 sittings in Naples that the SPR reopened the Palladino file.
Part of a series on
Claude Adrien Helvétius
John Stuart Mill
Richard Mervyn Hare
Types of utilitarianism
Mere addition paradox
Paradox of hedonism
Rational choice theory
Sidgwick was a famous teacher. He treated his pupils as fellow
students. He was deeply interested in psychical phenomena, but his
energies were primarily devoted to the study of religion and
Brought up in the Church of England, he drifted away from orthodox
Christianity, and as early as 1862 he described himself as a theist,
independent from established religion. For the rest of his life,
although he regarded Christianity as "indispensable and irreplaceable
– looking at it from a sociological point of view," he found himself
unable to return to it as a religion.
In political economy he was a utilitarian on the lines of John Stuart
Mill and Jeremy Bentham.
His work was characterised by its careful investigation of first
principles, as in his distinction of positive and normative reasoning,
and by critical analysis, not always constructive. His influence was
such that for example Alfred Marshall, founder of the
of economics, would describe him as his "spiritual mother and
father." In philosophy, he devoted himself to ethics, and
especially to the examination of the ultimate intuitive principles of
conduct and commonsense morality, which he probes with great depth and
subtlety in his major work,
The Methods of Ethics (1874).
He adopted a position that may be described as ethical hedonism,
according to which the criterion of goodness in any given action is
that it produces the greatest possible amount of personal pleasure.
The hedonism, however, is not confined to the self (egoistic), but
involves a due regard to the pleasure of others, and is, therefore,
distinguished further as universalistic (a version of utilitarianism).
As Sidgwick sees it, one of the central issues of ethics is whether
self-interest and duty always coincide. To a great extent they do,
Sidgwick argues, but it cannot be proved that they never conflict,
except by appeal to a divine system of punishments and rewards that
Sidgwick believes is out of place in a work of philosophical ethics.
The upshot is that there is a "dualism of practical reason."
Arthur & Eleanor Mildred Sidgwick, Henry Sidgwick, 1906
Ethics of Conformity and Subscription. 1870.
The Methods of Ethics. London, 1874, 7th edition 1907.
The Theory of Evolution in its application to Practice, in Mind,
Volume I, Number 1 January 1876, 52–67,
Principles of Political Economy. London, 1883, 3rd edition 1901.
The Scope and Method of Economic Science. 1885.
Outlines of the History of
Ethics for English Readers. 1886 5th
edition 1902 (enlarged from his article ethics in the Encyclopædia
The Elements of Politics. London, 1891, 4th edition 1919.
"The Philosophy of Common Sense", in Mind, New Series, Volume IV,
Number 14, April 1895, 145–158.
Economic science and economics, Palgrave's Dictionary of Political
Economy, 1896, v. 1, reprinted in The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of
Economics, 1987, v. 2, 58–59.
Practical Ethics. London, 1898, 2nd edition 1909.
Philosophy; its Scope and Relations. London, 1902.
Lectures on the
Ethics of T. H. Green, Mr Herbert Spencer and J.
The Development of European Polity. 1903, 3rd edition 1920
Miscellaneous Essays and Addresses. 1904.
Lectures on the Philosophy of Kant and other philosophical lectures
and essays. 1905.
Sidgwick's writings available online
Palm Sunday Case
^ Bryce, James (1903). "Henry Sidgwick". Studies in Contemporary
Biography. New York: Macmillan. pp. 327–342.
^ Schultz 2004
^ "Sidgwick, Henry (SGWK855H)". A
Cambridge Alumni Database.
University of Cambridge.
^ Rawls, J. 1980. 'Kantian Constructivism in Moral Theory'. Journal of
Philosophy 77 (1980).
^ Schultz, B. (2004). Henry Sidgwick, eye of the universe. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
^ Schultz's book reviewed: Martha Nussbaum, "The Epistemology of the
Closet." The Nation, 6 June 2005.
^ Christopher Nugent Lawrence Brooke, Damian Riehl Leader (1988). "1:
Prologue". A History of the University of Cambridge: 1870–1990.
Cambridge University Press. p. 1. ISBN 9780521343503. In
1869 Henry Sidgwick, who had become a devout agnostic, made protest
against the survival of religious tests in
Cambridge by resigning his
^ Joseph McCabe. (1920). Is Spiritualism Based on Fraud?: The Evidence
Given by Sir A.C. Doyle and Others. London, Watts & Co. p. 14
^ Walter Mann. (1919). The Follies and Frauds of Spiritualism.
Rationalist Association. London: Watts & Co. pp. 115–130
^ a b M. Brady Brower. (2010). Unruly Spirits: The Science of Psychic
Phenomena in Modern France. University of Illinois Press. p. 62.
^ a b The British Medical Journal. (9 November 1895). Exit Eusapia!.
Volume. 2, No. 1819. p. 1182.
^ a b The British Medical Journal. (16 November 1895). Exit Eusapia.
Volume 2, No. 1820. pp. 1263–1264.
^ a b Janet Oppenheim. (1985). The Other World: Spiritualism and
Psychical Research in England, 1850–1914.
Press. pp. 150–151. ISBN 978-0521265058
^ Massimo Polidoro. (2003). Secrets of the Psychics: Investigating
Paranormal Claims. Prometheus Books. p. 61. ISBN 978-1591020868
^ "Losing My Religion":Sidgwick, Theism, and the Struggle for
Ethics in Economic Analysis by Steven G. Medema:
^ Phyllis Deane, "Sidgwick, Henry," The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of
Economics, 1987, v. 4, pp. 328–29.
Schultz, Bart. Henry Sidgwick: Eye of the Universe. An Intellectual
Cambridge University Press, 2004.
Schultz, Bart. "Henry Sidgwick". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
5 October 2004.
Ghost Hunters. Arrow Books, 2007.
Dawes, Ann. "Henry Sidgwick". Biograph, 2007
(in French) Geninet, Hortense. POLITIQUES COMPAREES,
Henry Sidgwick et
la politique moderne dans les Éléments Politiques, Edited by
Hortense Geninet, France, September 2009. ISBN 978-2-7466-1043-9
Nakano-Okuno, Mariko. Sidgwick and Contemporary Utilitarianism.
Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. ISBN 978-0-230-32178-6
Phillips, David. Sidgwickian Ethics. Oxford University Press, 2011.
Schneewind, Jerome. Sidgwick's
Ethics and Victorian Moral Philosophy.
Clarendon Press, 1977.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Henry Sidgwick
Wikisource has original works written by or about:
Henry Sidgwick Website
Official website of the 2nd International congress : Henry
Sidgwick Ethics, Psychics, Politics. University of Catania – Italy
Henry Sidgwick. Comprehensive list of online writings by and about
Contains Sidgwick's "Methods of Ethics", modified for easier reading
This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Sidgwick, Henry".
Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.).
Cambridge University Press.
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