Sunday, October 10, 2010

Death of an ethicist

We are belated in noting the death of Philippa Foot, mainly out of sheer ignorance about her. Kenneth Anderson, who has better taste than any other boot-licking enthusiast for unlimited executive power in my cognizance, has a nice appreciation. And the NYT obit (via 3QD) gives some notion as to her importance:
In her early work, notably in the essays “Moral Beliefs” and “Moral Arguments,” published in the late 1950s, Ms. Foot took issue with philosophers like R. M. Hare and Charles L. Stevenson, who maintained that moral statements were ultimately expressions of attitude or emotion, because they could not be judged true or false in the same way factual statements could be.

Ms. Foot countered this “private-enterprise theory,” as she called it, by arguing the interconnectedness of facts and moral interpretations. Further, she insisted that virtues like courage, wisdom and temperance are indispensable to human life and the foundation stones of morality. Her writing on the subject helped establish virtue ethics as a leading approach to the study of moral problems.

“She’s going to be remembered not for a particular view or position, but for changing the way people think about topics,” said Lawrence Solum, who teaches the philosophy of law at the University of Illinois and studied under Ms. Foot. “She made the moves that made people see things in a fundamentally new way. Very few people do that in philosophy.”
The obit goes on to discuss her notorious contribution to ethical philosophy, The Trolley Problem.

As her maiden name was Bosanquet, and she like the philosopher Bernard Bosanquet was English, it beggars imagination that the two were completely unrelated, but I find nothing on point.

No comments:

Post a Comment