Moral Dilemmas and Other Topics in Moral Philosophy

Moral Dilemmas and Other Topics in Moral Philosophy

Moral Dilemmas and Other Topics in Moral Philosophy

Moral Dilemmas and Other Topics in Moral Philosophy

Synopsis

Moral Dilemmas is the second volume of collected essays by the eminent moral philosopher Philippa Foot, gathering the best of her work from the late 1970s to the 1990s. It fills the gap between her famous 1978 collection Virtues and Vices (now reissued) and her acclaimed monograph Natural Goodness, published in 2001. In this new collection Professor Foot develops further her critique of the dominant ethical theories of the last fifty years, and discusses such topics as the nature of moral judgement, practical rationality, and the conflict of virtue with desire and self-interest. Moral Dilemmas, alongside her other two books, completes the summation of her distinctive and lasting contribution to twentieth-century moral philosophy.

Excerpt

This volume contains papers published between the second half of 1978 and February 2001, when my book Natural Goodness came out. In this Introduction I shall try to save readers' time and perhaps some annoyance by mentioning a few continuities and discontinuities between the views expressed in these two volumes as well as in an earlier collection called Virtues and Vices. During the 1980s I changed my beliefs considerably, beginning to work towards the general position described in Natural Goodness, and circulating, though not publishing, the script of a talk sometimes referred to as the Romanell Lecture, as well as that of some lectures given at Princeton. One theme—my dissatisfaction with the 'non-cognitivism' that has dominated moral philosophy in the analytic tradition for over fifty years—has remained constant throughout. For, with the help of my colleague at Somerville, Elizabeth Anscombe, I was early able to query the idea of a logical gulf between 'is' and 'ought', and the supposed distinction between 'evaluative' and 'descriptive' language. I raised doubts about the relevance, and even the sense, of talk about 'fact' as opposed to 'value' in two articles called 'Moral Arguments' and 'Moral Beliefs' (reprinted in Virtues and Vices), and what is said there still seems to me to be basically correct.

It was not, however, until the 1980s that I came to see why it had been a mistake to try to identify a special, 'moral' use of language found in a special kind of judgement bearing a defining relation to the attitudes, feelings, and choices of the individual user of this language, or to the expression of a special 'psychological state'. I came instead to see thoughts about goodness of human will and action that were the subject of moral philosophy as a particular case of the evaluation of other operations of human beings, and indeed of all living things

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