This month we’ll look at Philippa Foot’s moral philosophy. We already know she’s a great letter-writer!

We’ve chosen three pieces from both ends of her philosophical career. The first two are from the 1950s. ‘When is a principle a moral principle?’ (recommended to us by Cora Diamond – see her comment below), and ‘Moral Arguments‘. These are attacks on the non-cognitivism of R. M. Hare – the same target we saw in Anscombe’s work of the same time. Note that the second paper was written the same year as Anscombe’s ‘Modern Moral Philosophy’ and four-years before Murdoch’s ‘The Idea of Perfection’.  You might also want to look at ‘Moral Beliefs’, a sister paper written by Foot in the same year. Don’t be fooled by the polite tone of these papers – this is a gloves-off attack on her colleagues’ work. Finally, are going to look again at Natural Goodness, this time, chs 1 and 2.

  • 1954. ‘When is a principle a moral principle?’. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes Vol. 28, Belief and Will, pp. 95-134
  • 1958 ‘Moral Arguments’. Mind, Vol. 67. Reprinted in her Virtues and Vices.
  • 2001. Natural Goodness, chs 1 and 2. Oxford University Press.

We’ll be meeting to discuss them on 30th September 2016 and will post live on twitter #InParenthesisRG. Join us!


Join in the conversation by tweeting to @parenthesis_in. Or by leaving a comment below.

2 thoughts on “3. Philippa Foot

  1. Foot’s essay “When is a principle a moral principle?” is much less known than many of her later works. Perhaps she left it out of the collection “Virtues and Vices” because she thought it less good than the essays she did include. But it is worth more attention than it usually gets.


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