Ethical Judgments

  • Henry Sidgwick


§ 1. In the first chapter I spoke of actions that we judge to be right and what ought to be done as being “reasonable,” or “rational,” and similarly of ultimate ends as “prescribed by Eeason”: and I contrasted the motive to action supplied by the recognition of such reasonableness with “non-rational” desires and inclinations. This manner of speaking is employed by writers of different schools, and seems in accordance with the common view and language on the subject. For we commonly think that wrong conduct is essentially irrational, and can be shown to be so by argument; and though we do not conceive that it is by reason alone that men are influenced to act rightly, we still hold that appeals to the reason are an essential part of all moral persuasion, and that part which concerns the moralist or moral philosopher as distinct from the preacher or moral rhetorician. On the other hand it is widely maintained that, as Hume says, “Reason, meaning the judgment of truth and falsehood, can never of itself be any motive to the Will”; and that the motive to action is in all cases some Non-rational Desire, including under this term the impulses to action given by present pleasure and pain.


Moral Judgment Moral Obligation Ethical Judgment Moral Rule Moral Truth 
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1962

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henry Sidgwick
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CambridgeUK

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