Analysis of Sidgwick's Third Axiom Essay examples

Analysis of Sidgwick's Third Axiom Essay examples

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This paper will object to Sidgwick’s axiom that from the point of view of the universe, the good of one is no more important than the good of another on the ground that it is analytic. I present the purpose and content of the axiom with a further explanation of what I take ‘the point of view of the universe’ to mean. I then consider the response of the Egoist to the axiom and Sidgwick’s counter-response to illustrate the tautology of the argument. The tautology of the argument brings it in line with other axioms that Sidgwick rejects as insignificant. Thus, I argue that the third axiom fails to meet Sidgwick’s own standards, making its utility and significance questionable. In response to this, I consider that the axiom may be analytic but in a nontrivial way and thus still valuable. However, given that the axiom is still easily refuted by the Egoist I ultimately conclude that it fails to be significant in a meaningful way.
During his examination of Common Sense Morality, Sidgwick puts forth a series of propositions he believes pass his tests for achieving the highest possible certainty. Additionally, these axioms provide the bases of his argument for the adoption of Utilitarianism. Arguably the most important of these axioms is the third, which holds that “the good of any one individual is of no more importance, from the point of view... of the Universe, than the good of any other; unless, that is, there are special grounds for believing that more good is likely to be realised in the one case than in the other.” What Sidgwick meant by the “point of view of the universe” is not explained in the methods, though in a later paper he suggests that it is “what all rational beings, as such, ought to aim at realizing.” By this, I tak...


... middle of paper ...


...nt of view of the universe, its utility and significance is limited to those who would likely not have originally objected to it. Thus, I do not think that the axiom represents a “self-evident moral principle of real significance” , as Sidgwick intended, unless one is already inclined to accept the axiom, as, say, a Utilitarian likely would.


Works Cited
Henry Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 1981), p. 379
Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, p. 382
Class lecture, Feb. 25, 2010
Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, p. 382
Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, p. 382
Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, p. 420
Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, p. 374
Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, p. 375
Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, p. 379
Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, p. 379
Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, p. 379

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