Philippa Foot

Philippa Bosanquet was born in 1920 and studied PPE at Somerville College, Oxford (1939-42). During the war (1943-5) she worked as an economist in London, living with Iris Murdoch. She returned to Somerville College in 1945 and remained there until 1969. She then held visiting professorships at Los Angeles and Berkley, Washington, Princeton, Stanford and CUNY. She spent 15 years at University of California, LA (1976-91), before returning to Oxford. She died in 2010. Between 1945 and 1960 she was married to historian MRD Foot.

Foot is best known for two important early articles, ‘Moral Beliefs’ and ‘Moral Arguments’ (1959) and her last monograph Natural Goodness (2001). Her life’s work is an attempt to overcome ethical noncognitivism through a form of ethical naturalism. In an exchange with GEM Anscombe about abortion and the doctrine of double-effect (1967), Foot illustrated a distinction between negative and positive rights with the example of a runaway trolley, an example that has (regrettably) spurned an entire branch of moral philosophy!

Philippa Foot


Philippa Foot (1920-2010)

1920 3 October: Born to Esther Cleveland and Captain William Sidney Bence Bosanquet.
1939 Studied PPE at Somerville College, Oxford. She graduated in 1942, with first-class honours.
1945 Married the historian, Michael Richard Daniell Foot.
1947 Became a lecturer, at Somerville College. She remained there until 1950.
1949 Became Somerville College’s first philosophy Tutorial Fellow.[1].
1952 October: Publication of “The Philosopher’s Defence of Morality," Philosophy, 27 (103), pp.311-28.
1954 Publication of "Symposium: When Is a Principle a Moral Principle?" (with Jonathan Harrison), Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes, 28, pp.95-134.
  April: Publication of a review of The Interpretation of Plato’s Republic, by N. R. Murphy, Mind, 63 (250), pp.270-4.
1957 April: Publication of a review of Godwin’s Moral Philosophy, by D. H. Monro, Mind, 66, (262), pp.279-80.
  October: Publication of "Free Will As Involving Determinism," The Philosophical Review, 66 (4), pp.439-50.
1958 Publication of "Moral Beliefs," Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 59, pp.83-104.[2].
  October: Publication of "Moral Arguments," Mind, 67 (268), pp.502-13.
[Note: at some point in the 1960’s (possibly the late 1960’s), Foot and Iris Murdoch supposedly had a brief affair. They communicated extensively throughout their lifetimes via letters, which are now owned by Kingston University’s Centre for Iris Murdoch Studies]
1960 Divorced.
1961 Publication of "Symposium: Goodness and Choice" (with Alan Montefiore), Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes, 35, pp.45-80.
1963 Publication of “Hart and Honoré Causation in the Law" (a review of H. L. A. Hart and A. M. Honore’s Causation in the Law), Philosophical Review, 72 (4), pp.505-15.
  Publication of "Hume on Moral Judgement" in David Hume: A Symposium, David Pears (ed), (London: MacMillan).
1965 April: Publication of a review of The Varieties of Goodness, by Georg Henrik von Wright, The Philosophical Review, 74 (2), pp.240-4.
1966 February: Publication of "Immoralist" (a review of R.J. Hollingdale’s Nietzsche: The Man and His Philosophy, and Arthur Danto’s Nietzsche as Philosopher), New York Review of Books, 6 (2).
1967 Became Somerville College’s Vice-Principle (until 1969).
  Publication of Theories of Ethics, (edited, with intro), (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
  Publication of "The Problem of Abortion and the Doctrine of the Double Effect," Oxford Review,5.
  November: Publication of "Self-Reliance" (a review of Hazel E. Barnes’ An Existentialist Ethics), New York Review of Books, 9 (8).
1968 Publication of "Moral Arguments" and "Moral Beliefs" in Ethics, Judith Jarvis Thomson and Gerald Dworkin (eds), (New York: Harper & Row), pp.7-21 and 239-60.
1970 Became Somerville College’s Senior Resident Fellow (until 1988).
  Publication of "Abortion" in Morals and Medicine: Five Discussions from the BBC Third Programme, Archibald Clow (ed), (London: BBC).
  Publication of "Morality and Art," Proceedings of the British Academy, 56, pp.131-44.
1971 Summer: Publication of "In Defence of the Hypothetical Imperative," Philosophic Exchange, 2 (1).
1972 Publication of "Reasons for Action and Desires" (with Michael Woods), Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes, 46.
  July: Publication of "Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives," The Philosophical Review, 81 (3), pp.305-16.
1973 Publication of "Nietzsche: The Revaluation of Values" in Nietzsche: A Collection of Critical Essays, Robert C. Solomon (ed), (New York).
  March: Publication of "Sincerely Yours" (a review of Lionel Trilling’s Sincerity and Authenticity), New York Review of Books, 20 (3).
1974 December: Publication of "Is Morality a System of Hypothetical Imperatives?’: A Reply to Mr. Holmes," Analysis, 35 (2), pp.53-6.
1975 Publication of "How Good is our Morality," Encyclopaedia Moderna 10, (Zagreb: Yugoslav Academy of Sciences).
  October: Publication of "A Reply to Professor Frankena," Philosophy, 50 (194), pp.455-9.
1976 Elected a Fellow of the British Academy.
  Joined the philosophy department of the University of California. She remained there until her retirement in 1991.
1977 Publication of "Approval and Disapproval" in Law, Morality, and Society: Essays in Honour of H.L.A. Hart, P.M.S. Hacker and J.J. Raz (eds), (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp.229-46.
  Winter: Publication of "Euthanasia," Philosophy and Public Affairs, 6 (2), pp.85-112.
1978 Publication of "Ethics XI: Moral Reasoning" in Encyclopedia of Bioethics, Volume One, Warren T. Reich (ed), (New York: The Free Press).
  Publication of Virtues and Vices and Other Essays in Moral Philosophy, (Oxford: Blackwell).
  September: Publication of "The Problem of Abortion and Negative and Positive Duty: A Reply to James LeRoy Smith," Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, 3 (3), pp.253-5.
1979 October: Publication of "Case Studies in Bioethics: Active Euthanasia with Parental Consent" (with Hunter C. Leake and James Rachels), The Hastings Center Report, 9 (5), pp.19-21.
1980 May: Publication of "The Brave Immoralist" (a review of Martin Heidegger’s Nietzsche Volume One: The Will to Power as Art, Harold Alderman’s Nietzsche’s Gift and J. P. Stern’s Friedrich Nietzsche), New York Review of Books, 27 (7).
1981 June: Publication of "Killing, Letting Die and Euthanasia: A Reply to Holly Smith Goldman," Analysis, 41 (3), pp.159-60.
  July: Publication of "William Frankena’s Carus Lectures," The Monist, 64 (3), pp.305-12.
  September: Publication of "Goods and Practices" (a review of Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory), Times Literary Supplement.[3].
1982 Became President of the Pacific Division of the American Philosophical Association.
  Autumn: Publication of "Think Tank" (a review of Robert Nozick’s Philosophical Explanations), Partisan Review, 49 (4), pp.609-12.
  November: Publication of "For Lack of a Rationale" (a review of Samuel Scheffler’s The Rejection of Consequentialism: A Philosophical Investigation of the Considerations Underlying Rival Moral Conceptions), Times Literary Supplement.[4].
1983 Became a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Science.
  April: Publication of "Peacocke on Wittgenstein and Experience," The Philosophical Quarterly, 33 (131), pp.187-91.
  July: Publication of "Moral Realism and Moral Dilemma," The Journal of Philosophy, 80 (7), pp.379-98.
  November: Publication of "Utilitarianism and the Virtues," Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, 57 (2), pp.273-83.
1984 Publication of "Killing and Letting Die" in Abortion: Moral and Legal Perspectives, Jay L. Garfield and Patricia Hennessey (eds), (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press).
1985 Publication of "Morality, Action and Outcome" in Morality and Objectivity: A Tribute to J.L. Mackie, Ted Honderich (ed), (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul), pp.23-38.
  April: Publication of "Utilitarianism and the Virtues" [an expanded version of the 1983 publication, of the same name], Mind, 94 (374), pp.196-209.
  July: Publication of "Knowing What to Do" (a review of Bernard Williams’ Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy), Times Literary Supplement.[5].
1986 August: Publication of "Life and Death" (a review of James Rachel’s The End of Life, A. B. Downing and Barbara Smoker’s Voluntary Euthanasia, and Michael Lockwood’s Moral Dilemmas in Moral Medicine), London Review of Books, 8 (14), pp.3-5.
1988 Appointed the first holder of the Paul and Gloria Griffin Chair in philosophy.
  Became an Honorary Fellow of Somerville College.
1989 Publication of "von Wright on Virtue" in The Philosophy of Georg Henrik von Wright: The Library of Living Philosophers Volume XIX, Lewis Edwin Kahn and Paul Arthur Schilpp (eds), (Open Court).
1990 Publication of "Ethics and the Death Penalty: Participation by Forensic Psychiatrists in Capital Trials" in Ethical Practice in Psychiatry and the Law, Richard Rosner and Robert Weinstock (eds), (New York: Plenum Press), pp.207-17.
  Publication of "Locke, Hume, and Modern Moral Theory: A Legacy of Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Philosophies of Mind" in The Languages of Psyche: Mind and Body in Enlightenment Thought: Clark Library Lectures 1985-1986, G. S. Rousseau (ed), (Berkeley: University of California Press), pp.81-104.
1991 Retired from teaching.
  June: Publication of "Nietzsche’s Immoralism," New York Review of Books, 38 (11).
1992 Invited to give the Gilbert Murray Memorial Lecture to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Her topic was "Justice and Charity."
1993 Publication of Morality and Action: Collected Papers of Warren Quinn, (edited, with intro), (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
1994 Publication of "Rationality and Virtue" in Vienna Circle Institute Yearbook, Herlinde Pauer-Studer (ed), 2, pp.205-16.
1995 Publication of "Conscience" and "Fact-Value Distinction" in The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, Ted Honderich (ed), (New York: Oxford University Press).
  Publication of "Moral Dilemmas Revisited" in Modality, Morality and Belief: Essays in Honor of Ruth Barcan Marcus, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Diana Raffman and Nicholas Asher (eds), (New York: Cambridge University Press), pp.117-28.
  Publication of "Does Moral Subjectivism Rest on a Mistake," Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 15 (1), pp.1-14.
2001 Publication of "Nietzsche: The Revaluation of Values" in Nietzsche, John Richardson & Brian Leiter (eds), (New York: Oxford University Press), pp.210-20.
2002 Publication of Moral Dilemmas: and Other Topics in Moral Philosophy, (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
2003 Publication of "The Natural," The Philosophers’ Magazine, 21, pp.40-3.
  Publication of "The Grammar of Goodness: an Interview with Philippa Foot" (with Alex Voorhoeve), Harvard Review of Philosophy, 11, pp.32-44.
2004 March: Publication of "Rationality and Goodness," Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements, 54, pp.1-13.
2010 3 October: Death.

Sarah Lewin (26/10/16)

[1] Note that some sources say 1950; I’m not sure which is correct.

[2] Official date of publication is 1958-9.

[3] This might want double-checking as I cannot access the archive online.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

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