Archive for the ‘International Congress: henry Sidgwick Happiness and Re’ Category

Publication on Henry Sidgwick’s website

Samedi, septembre 12th, 2009


The papers of the first international congress, organised by the University of Catania : Henry Sidgwick : Happiness and Religion are now available at the address : // .
There are interesting papers written by Placido Bucolo from the University of Catania, Bart Schults from Chicago University (USA), Roger Crisp from St. Anne’s College Oxford, Alan Ryan from Oxford University, Carmelo Vigna from Ca’Foscari University (Venice), John Skorupski from St. Andrews University (U.K.), Mariko Nakano-Okuno from Ohio State University (USA). As soon as possible the Debate and the Appendix will be published. The italian version of these papers will be published as soon as possible.

Philip Schofield, Director of the Bentham project, Associate Editor, Utilitas, said about this first congress that:

« Students of Utilitarianism will be grateful to the University of Catania (…) who made possible this important collection of new essays on Sidgwick’s religious thought. The variety of nationalities and traditions from which the contributors are drawn is itself striking testimony to the continuing, and indeed increasing, relevance of Sidgwick’s philosophy to a global audience. » 

In the Victorian period (during the reign of Queen Victoria, from 1837 untill 1901) Religion is a important issue. Henry Sidgwick himself resigned his fellowship at Trinity College Cambridge because his religious doubts were too strong to let him agree to the 39 articles of the Church of England.
Knowing this fact, it becomes very usefull and interesting to consult and read these papers written by eminent scholars from our time.
It seems that Sidgwick’s time was a period of transition as well as our is. In fact, as the intellectuals of the late 19th century were having doubts about their way of life we do have today similar doubts, concerning this set of notions which seem imposible to considered apart from each other such as religion, ethics, happiness and morality. In fact there are many subjects nowadays which concern our life in a very modern and technological society. This materialistic life we are living give us doubts concerning our relationship to religion, to happiness as we are living a transition as well as Sidgwick and every one who lived in the same period. In Sidgwick’s time the British Upire starts to collaps and the old institutions are falling appart. It seems that we are living the same same kind of economical, social and ethical transition, as we are living a new chapter of industrial history in which utilitarianism had and still have a strong influence.

In the introduction of the volume it is said that :

« Bucolo sees Sidgwick as a theist, who sought in religion the ultimate moral “sanction”, and demonstrates the links between Sidgwick’s Anglo-Saxon Utilitarianism and pragmatic attitude to ethics with Italian Idealism and Spiritualism. Acocella considers whether the notion of divine justice can be made consistent with Sidgwick’s conception of ethical experience, considering some broader issues of the relationship between theism and morality. Sidgwick, of course, was deeply concerned with the effects of any particular morality, and Vigna wonders whether this leads to too dispersed a conception of goodness, while Mangion is more positively inclined towards Sidgwick, asking whether his open-minded attitude towards theism might not serve humanity better in the twenty-first century than fundamentalist theism on the one hand or secular materialism on the other. That open- mindedness, and its relation to the empiricist world view and methodology more generally, is brought out in Gauld’s piece.  »
All the introduction is available here:

There always have been religious doubts but it seems that for Sidgwick they were amplified by the new horizons opened by scientific analysis, which was potentially capable of explaining so many things that unexplainable before. Many intelectuals sow in science a new way to solve those eternal religious doubts that we all have (consciously or not) deep inside of us. After many years of analysis and research, Sidgwick considered himself as a theist who belived that there is something above us, something unexplainable that dominates the world. In Sidgwick’s theism we can see the wiseness and the humbleness of a man who tried to understand the mysteries of the world, trying, as Descartes said, « to master nature » . But facing evidence, Sidgwick probably ended up by considering his unsolved doubts as being a proof of the existence of something above our understanding. These permanent doubts become a religious or a theistic sentiment when we accept that we can’t understand everything.

Hortense GENINET

I had the great honnor to participate to the Second International Congress : Henry Sidgwick: Ethics, Psychics, Politics at the end of May 2009. My paper was entitled: « Sidgwick and Richet ». This text is about the relationship between psychical research in France and England, and their respective leaders: Sidgwick in UK and Richet in France. An article in « La Sicilia » is available in english here :
I am very thankfull to Bart Schultz and Placido Bucolo who gave me this wonderfull opportunity to participate to the 2nd International Congress organised by Placido Bucolo Associate Professor at the University of Catania.