Natural Goodness

Natural Goodness

Natural Goodness

Natural Goodness


Philippa Foot has for many years been one of the most distinctive and influential thinkers in moral philosophy. Long dissatisfied with the moral theories of her contemporaries, she has gradually evolved a theory of her own that is radically opposed not only to emotivism and prescriptivism but also to the whole subjectivist, anti-naturalist movement deriving from David Hume. Dissatisfied with both Kantian and utilitarian ethics, she claims to have isolated a special form of evaluation that predicates goodness and defect only to living things considered as such; she finds this form of evaluation in moral judgements. Her vivid discussion covers topics such as practical rationality, erring conscience, and the relation between virtue and happiness, ending with a critique of Nietzsche's immoralism. This long-awaited book exposes a highly original approach to moral philosophy and represents a fundamental break from the assumptions of recent debates. Foot challenges many prominent philosophical arguments and attitudes; but hers is a work full of life and feeling, written for anyone intrigued by the deepest questions about goodness and human.


I have been writing this book for many years, and have benefited greatly from discussions with colleagues, especially at Oxford and ucla, but also at many other universities. If I have here repeated other people's arguments without acknowledgement I only hope they will blame a defective memory rather than professional thievishness.

It will be obvious that I owe most to the work of Elizabeth Anscombe, and to early discussions with her. But I must also give special thanks to Christopher Coope, Peter Conradi, and Michael Thompson who read the whole of a first draft of the book and sent me wonderful comments. Anselm Müller has also read some chapters for me and helped me a great deal, and I have had many good discussions with John Campbell, Rosalind Hursthouse, and Gavin Lawrence.

Finally, I am extraordinarily grateful to Peter Momtchiloff at the Oxford University Press for his unfailing encouragement and patience, and to Angela Blackburn, whose editing has saved me from many blunders.


Oxford, May 2000 . . .

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