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If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support? Learn more about Amazon Prime. Schneewind presents a selection of his published essays on ethics, the history of ethics and moral psychology, together with a new piece offering an intellectual autobiography. The volume ranges across the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries: These writings provide excellent introductions to Schneewind's two long books, and supplement them in important ways.

Read more Read less. Customers who viewed this item also viewed. Page 1 of 1 Start over Page 1 of 1. Moral Philosophy from Montaigne to Kant. Sidgwick's Ethics and Victorian Moral Philosophy. The Invention of Autonomy: A History of Modern Moral Philosophy. Nor does Schneewind express any doubts about Sidgwick's firmly objectivist views in meta-ethics.

Similarly, Schneewind does not dissent from Sidgwick's views on the history of ethics. Sidgwick holds a timeless view in so far as he takes the views of past moralists to be open to evaluation as attempts to grasp truths about ethics that are not relative to a particular society or historical situation. According to Sidgwick, we can trace in the history of ethics the main methods of ethics that he discusses in Methods , and reflexion on the views of past philosophers will reveal the inadequacy of the methods he rejects and the superiority of the method he accepts.

Essays on the History of Moral Philosophy

This interpretation of the history of ethics underlies both Sidgwick's Methods and his Short History of Ethics. One might, then, reasonably suppose that Schneewind's book on Sidgwick shares Sidgwick's approach to the history of ethics. Schneewind examines the controversies among Sidgwick's immediate predecessors, whom Sidgwick does not usually confront directly.

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He argues that Sidgwick's contribution to these controversies marks an advance on the work of Whewell and others. On this point Schneewind defends Sidgwick's view of his place in the history of ethics. In some ways the outlook of The Invention of Autonomy is similar. Here Kant replaces Sidgwick as the central figure, and Kant's moral philosophy is the decisive advance in the history of ethics.

According to Barbeyrac, Grotius marked the age 'where in the science of morality was, if I may so say, raised again from the dead'.


This is an exaggeration of Schneewind's view of Grotius, but it corresponds approximately to the narrative of Invention , with some important differences. In Schneewind's view, moral philosophy was alive, but imprisoned by the theologians, until Grotius released it Invention Grotius was the starting-point for Pufendorf's reflexions on natural law, and Pufendorf 'raised questions that Kant eventually thought he had to answer' In this respect Kant completes the process initiated by Grotius.

The Grotian version of natural-law theory is relevant to a situation in which we have to 'handle serious disagreements among equals' An Aristotelian theory is irrelevant or unhelpful in this sort of situation because 'it must treat disagreement with the virtuous agent as showing a flaw of character', and because 'it encourages each … to impugn the character of the other rather than listen to the other's case' It is reasonable for Schneewind to make Kant the central figure of his history; for he believes that 'his [sc. Kant's] conception of morality as autonomy provides a better place to start working out a contemporary philosophical understanding of morality than anything we can get from other past philosophers' Invention xiv.

Essays on the History of Moral Philosophy, by J. B. Schneewind | Mind | Oxford Academic

Just as Sidgwick answers the questions raised by his 18th-and 19th-century predecessors, Kant answers the questions raised in the 17th and 18th centuries. Apparently, then, Schneewind's treatments of Sidgwick and Kant express the same conviction about moral philosophy as a progressive discipline. His two long books seem to present two periods in the history of ethics as periods of philosophical progress. They might also appear to reflect some change of mind about what counts as genuine progress; for the judgment that I quoted about Kant suggests that Kant is superior to Sidgwick, and that some of Schneewind's earlier judgments on Sidgwick might need to be revised.

But at any rate this conception of the progressive character of moral philosophy is not alien to Sidgwick. We might, therefore, expect Schneewind's conception of the history of moral philosophy to reveal agreement with Sidgwick. This, however, is not exactly what we find.

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The essays on historiography are intended to cast doubt on 'the supposition that there is enough significant continuity in the concerns of moral philosophers to warrant discussions of progress and regress in the discipline' Supporters of this supposition are said to believe in a 'single aim' of moral philosophers throughout history.

In opposition to the belief in a single aim Schneewind maintains that Aristotle, Sidgwick, the Stoics, Hobbes, Bentham, and Parfit have different aims He argues that these different aims make it futile to treat the Socratic question 'How should one live? Schneewind is right to say that the aims of moral philosophers have differed. But people who have different aims can also share a single aim. Different members of a football team may have different aims, if they play the game for different reasons, but they still play the same game, with its constitutive aims, and their playing can be evaluated without reference to their ulterior reasons for playing it.

But even if Schneewind were to concede this point, he would still not be satisfied, because he has a further objection to a single-aim outlook: The historian will have a further problem with this outlook. It implies that since we and past moral philosophers share aims and goals, the best way to understand the work of our predecessors is to look at them in the light of our own view of the truth about morality … The historian will complain that insistence on describing the views of past thinkers in our own terminology forces us into anachronism.

If we are interested in what our predecessors were doing and thinking, we must try to understand them in terms they themselves had available.

Schneewind seems to argue, on behalf of the 'historian', that a single-aim outlook encourages truth-based evaluation of past philosophers i. This complaint of the 'historian' is difficult to understand. Perhaps Schneewind wants to remind us that we should, among other things, try to understand our predecessors in their own terms. But that reminder does not conflict with understanding through truth-based evaluation.

The attitude of the 'historian' conflicts with truth-based evaluation only if it claims that the only legitimate way to understand our predecessors is to use their own terms. Such a claim, however, is implausible. If Nepalese climbers in climbed to the top of Mount Everest, they reached the summit of the highest mountain in the world. This is a true statement of their achievement whether or not they knew or believed that this was the highest mountain in the world.

First principles and common-sense morality in Sidgwick's ethics ; Moral problems and moral philosophy in the Victorian Period -- On the historiography of moral philosophy. Moral crisis and the history of ethics ; Modern moral philosophy: No discipline, no history: The divine corporation and the history of ethics ; Natural law ; The misfortunes of virtue ; Voluntarism and the foundations of ethics ; Hume and the religious significance of moral rationalism -- On Kant.

Why study Kant's Groundwork ; Autonomy, obligation, and virtue: Kant and the sources of darkness ; Kantian unsocial sociability: The active powers -- Afterword. Sixty years of philosophy in a life. History of Ethics in Value Theory, Miscellaneous. Autonomy in Social and Political Philosophy. Find it on Scholar.