Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert
Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz
Chapter 42: Henry Sidgwick (1838–1900)
The modern reputation of Henry Sidgwick is that of a later nineteenth-century Cambridge moral philosopher, whose 1874 Methods of Ethics is a landmark text in the consideration of the moral foundations of human action: whether there were any general principles governing how one should act. This is the view of modern philosophers, among whom Sidgwick’s stock has been rising in recent years; but the scope of Sidgwick’s work and influence is greater than this reputation might suggest. As Knightbridge Professor of Moral Philosophy at Cambridge from 1883 until his death in 1900, Sidgwick was chiefly responsible for the Moral Sciences Tripos, the tripos on which Alfred Marshall taught from 1885 until the establishment of his own, Independent Economics Tripos in 1902. Most of the young men that Marshall regarded as his brightest students – Sydney Chapman (1898), Alfred Flux (1889), Joseph Shield Nicholson (1876), D.H. Macgregor (1901) and of course A.C. Pigou (1900) – were products of the Moral Sciences Tripos, which was the means through which Marshall created the first generation of Cambridge economists. Sidgwick also wrote a substantial treatise on political economy, Principles of Political Economy (1883), which inter alia laid the foundations for Pigou’s welfare economics and introduced the conception of externalities. Further, in 1891 he published The Elements of Politics, building upon Bentham and Mill. And so, in later nineteenthcentury Cambridge, Sidgwick represented philosophy, politics and economics, all rolled into one. Henry Sidgwick was born in Skipton, West Riding, on 31 May 1838, the fourth of six children...
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