By William C. Havard
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Additional info for Henry Sidgwick, And Later Utilitarian Political Philosophy
They appear to their opponents to forget the limits in their practical conclusions/'4 The all-embracing nature of the system is reflected strongly in the sweeping practical reforms urged by the utilitarians. Bentham and the two Mills were the philosophers of the English reform m ove ment in the early nineteenth century and, in consequence, m ay b e regarded as the founders of m odem English liberalism. T hey furnished the intellectual ammunition with which the Philosophical R adicals in Parliament attacked what they believed to b e the strongholds o f reaction.
His change was due mainly to the Liberal party’s handling of the Irish question; he felt that either coercion or home rule was necessaiy in place of what he regarded as vacillating policy. In 1885 he was asked to stand as a Liberal candidate at the next election. His conscientiousness led him to make this comment: “I was tempted; but I communed with my political conscience and discovered that I could not come forward as a Liberal at this juncture without hypocrisy. I am a Utilitarian, and would be a hypocrite if I 26 Educator 6* Philosopher were convinced that the country required this sacrifice; but I cannot rate my political value so high.
Utilitarianism is above all a theory of morals/*22 and the basis of its moral theory m ay be stated in very sim ple terms; the sole good is the greatest happiness of the greatest number. However, the apparent sim plicity of this doctrine covers an extraordinarily complex system of ethics, a system m ade more diffi cult by the failure of its central exponent, Bentham, to clarify his terms and m ake explicit his assum ptions. Bentham s strength as a thinker m ay be found in his vigorous application of utilitarian prin ciples, especially in the field of legal reform; his weakness lies in his inadequate philosophical formulation of the very principles on which his specific rules of action are based.
Henry Sidgwick, And Later Utilitarian Political Philosophy by William C. Havard