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What was the Sidgwick's interest in the paranormal?

Henry Sidgwick helped found the Society for Psychical Research in 1892, and his wife, Eleanor, was an active participant. The Sidgwicks believed that the work of society could help confirm religious claims, such as life after death. They believed that an afterlife was necessary as a motivation for morality in this life. However, their investigations were inconclusive, even though Eleanor believed that Henry communicated with her after his death in 1900.

What is moral theory?

Moral theory is the intellectual assessment and comparison of different moral or ethical systems. For instance, if we compare consequentialism and deontology, then we are working within moral theory. To some extent, anyone who argues for their own moral system does some amount of moral theory. For example, Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) in his dismissal of human rights as "nonsense upon stilts," wanted to replace discourse about rights with calculations about pleasure, and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) in distinguishing between hypothetical and categorical judgments and elevating the latter, were both engaged in moral theory.

What did Henry Sidgwick contribute to moral theory?

First, Sidgwick is considered to have offered the clearest exposition of the classic utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) to such an extent that he is often counted as a utilitarian himself. But second, it is his comparative assessment of egoism, utilitarianism, and intuitionism that remains most instructive. ("Egoism" is the moral system according to which we should always act in our own self-interest.)

Sidgwick examined both common sense moral principles and the main claims of all three systems and concluded that none is self-evident or certain according to intuition. He thought that utilitarianism could be useful when we do not know what to do and seek guidance, but that the basic principles of utilitarianism depend on intuition for their acceptance. But egoism also seems self-evident, and it often conflicts with utilitarianism. Sidgwick admitted that he could not resolve this contradiction.

Who was James Martineau?

James Martineau (1805-1900) was an English religious intuitionist. His main works were Types of Ethical Theory (1885) and A Study of Religion (1888). His distinct contribution was to develop a specifically religious interpretation of Immanuel Kant's (1724-1804) metaphysics.

How did James Martineau make Immanuel Kant's metaphysics religious?

Martineau relied on intuition to claim that the phenomenal world mirrors a nominal world (the world of things we cannot experience) in which real objects are causally related. He held that this reality is the result of God's will. In ethics he claimed that we choose our motives first and then our actions. Intuition tells us which ones are the higher motives and that the highest one is reverence. (He meant that the desire to revere motivates our best actions.)

Who was Henri Bergson?

Henri Bergson (1859-1941) was professor at the Collège de France and winner of the 1927 Nobel Prize for Literature. He is most famous for his Time and Free Will (1889) in which he argued that objective

Henri Bergson is most famous for arguing that objective measurable time is not the same as real time (Library of Congress).

Henri Bergson is most famous for arguing that objective measurable time is not the same as real time (Library of Congress).

What did Henri Bergson have to say about laughter and the human sense of humor?

Bergson wrote a 1900 analysis of laughter, which shows he was pretty interested in the concept of humor. He thought that the comical is a part of life that cannot be fully understood by reason alone. Laughter requires a state of indifference, according to Bergson, "for laughter has no greater foe than emotion." He went on to say that "the comic demands something like a momentary anesthesia of the heart.... [I]t's appeal is to intelligence pure and simple."

To be comical, something must be rigid, like a facial grimace or a mechanical walk. Our perception of this rigidity is broken up by our laughter. Ordinary language bears Bergson out on this because we talk about being "cracked up," or "broken up" when something is funny. Anything that switches our attention from the soul or moral realm to the body can be comical, said Bergson: for example, a speaker sneezing at a dramatic moment in his presentation. Bergson saw the overall purpose of comedy as a reassertion of life in an age of machines.

measurable time, which can be divided into equal segments, is not the same as real time, which we experience directly. In Matter and Memory (1896) he offered a mind-body theory consistent with his later work on evolution in which he argued that a creative urge, rather than Darwinian natural selection, is what causes evolution. In An Introduction to Metaphysics (1903) he provided further support for his theory of time. In Creative Evolution (1907) he claimed that a life force is necessary to explain evolution, and in Two Sources of Morality and Religion (1935) he claimed that there are two kinds of society: one free and allowing for reform and creativity, the other stagnant, conservative, and repressive.

How did Henri Bergson relate real time to free will?

Real time, according to Bergson, cannot be imagined as points on a line in space, like scientific clock time. Real time is intuited directly and within us; it is the ground of spontaneous free acts. Our free will is our spontaneous free acts, which are unpredictable. Intuition and analysis parallel this distinction. Intuition apprehends duration directly and examines it, whereas analysis breaks duration up into unchanging concepts.

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