Philippa Foot

19 May, 2024 170 Ethics

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the most significant philosophers of the twentieth century, Philippa Foot (1920 - 2010). Her central question was, “Why be moral?” Drawing on Aristotle and Aquinas, Foot spent her life working through her instinct that there was something lacking in the prevailing philosophy of the 1950s and 1960s which held that values could only be subjective. Could there really be no objective response to the horrors of the concentration camps that she had seen on newsreels, no way of saying that such acts were morally wrong? Foot developed an ethics based on virtues, in which humans needed virtues to flourish as surely as plants needed light and water. While working through her ideas she explored applied ethics and the difference between doing something and letting it happen, an idea she illustrated with what became The Trolley Problem.

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  • Anil Gomes 3 episodes
    Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at Trinity College, University of Oxford
  • Sophie Grace Chappell No other episodes
    Professor of Philosophy at the Open University
  • Rachael Wiseman 2 episodes
    Reader in Philosophy at the University of Liverpool

Reading list

  • Virtues and Vices
    Philippa Foot (Oxford University Press, 1978) Google Books →
  • Moral Dilemmas
    Philippa Foot (Oxford University Press, 2002) Google Books →
  • Natural Goodness
    Philippa Foot (Oxford University Press, 2001) Google Books →
  • Philippa Foot's Moral Thought
    John Hacker-Wright (Bloomsbury, 2013) Google Books →
  • The Women Are Up To Something
    Benjamin Lipscomb (Oxford University Press, 2021) Google Books →
  • Metaphysical Animals: How Four Women Brought Philosophy Back to Life
    Clare Mac Cumhaill and Rachael Wiseman (Chatto, 2022) Google Books →
  • The Cambridge Companion to Virtue Ethics
    Dan Russell (ed.) (Cambridge University Press ) Google Books →

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