Philippa Foot (née Bosanquet) was born in 1920 and studied PPE at Sommerville College, Oxford (1937-42). During the war (1942-7) she worked as an economist in London, living with Iris Murdoch. She returned to Somerville College in 1947 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!

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Philippa Ruth Foot (1920-2010)

(3 October) Born to Esther Cleveland and Captain William Sidney Bence Bosanquet.

Studied PPE at Somerville College, Oxford. She graduated in 1942, with first-class honours

Married the historian, Michael Richard Daniel Foot

Became a lecturer at Somerville College. She remained there until 1950

Became Somerville College’s first philosophy Tutorial Fellow

Publication: ‘The Philosopher’s Defence of Morality,’ Philosophy, 27(103), pp. 311-28

Publication: ‘Symposium: When Is a Principle a Moral Principle?’ (with Jonathan Harrison), Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volumes, 28, pp. 95-134

Publication: Review of N. R. Murphy, The Interpretation of Plato’s Republic, Mind 63(250), pp. 270-4

Publication: Review of D. H. Monro, Godwin’s Moral Philosophy, Mind 66(262), pp. 279-80

Publication: ‘Free Will As Involving Determinism’, The Philosophical Review, 66(4), pp. 439-50

Publication: ‘Moral Beliefs’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 59, pp. 83-104

Publication: ‘Moral Arguments’, Mind, 67(268), pp. 502-13


Publication: ‘Symposium: Goodness and Choice’ (with Alan Montefiore), Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume, 35, pp. 45-80

Publication: ‘Hart and Honoré Causation in the Law’. Review of H. L. A. Hart and A. M. Honore, Causation in the Law. In Philosophical Review, 72(4), pp. 505-15

Publication: ‘Hume on Moral Judgement’ in David Pears (ed.), David Hume: A Symposium (London: MacMillan)

Publication: Review of Georg Henrik von Wright, The Varieties of Goodness. In The Philosophical Review, 74(2), pp. 240-4

Publication: ‘Immoralist’. Review of R.J. Hollingdale, Nietzsche: The Man and His Philosophy and Arthur Danto, Nietzsche as Philosopher. In New York Review of Books, 6(2)

Became Somerville College’s Vice-Principle (until 1969)

Publication: Theories of Ethics (edited, with intro). (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Publication: ‘The Problem of Abortion and the Doctrine of the Double Effect’. Oxford Review, 5

Publication: ‘Self-Reliance’. Review of Hazel E. Barnes, An Existentialist Ethics. In New York Review of Books, 9(8)

Becomes Somerville College’s Senior Resident Fellow (until 1988)

Publication: ‘Abortion’ in Archibald Clow (ed.), Morals and Medicine: Five Discussions from the BBC Third Programme (London: BBC)

Publication: ‘Morality and Art’ in Proceedings of the British Academy, 56, pp. 131-44

Publication: ‘In Defence of the Hypothetical Imperative’, Philosophic Exchange, 2(1)

Publication: ‘Reasons for Action and Desires’ (with Michael Woods). Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume, 46

Publication: ‘Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives’, The Philosophical Review, 81(3), pp. 305-16

Publication: ‘Nietzsche: The Revaluation of Values’. In Robert C. Solomon (ed.), Nietzsche: A Collection of Critical Essays(New York)

Publication: ‘Sincerely Yours’. Review of Lionel Trilling, Sincerity and Authenticity. New York Review of Books, 20(3)

Publication: ‘Is Morality a System of Hypothetical Imperatives?: A Reply to Mr. Holmes’. Analysis, 35(2), pp. 53-6

Publication: ‘How Good is our Morality?’ Encyclopaedia Moderna 10 (Zagreb: Yugoslav Academy of Sciences)

Publication: ‘A Reply to Professor Frankena’, Philosophy, 50(194), pp. 455-9

Elected a Fellow of the British Academy

Joined the philosophy department of the University of California. She remained there until her retirement in 1991

Publication: ‘Approval and Disapproval’ in P.M.S. Hacker and J.J. Raz (eds), Law, Morality, and Society: Essays in Honour of H.L.A. Hart (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 229-46

Publication: ‘Euthanasia’, in Philosophy and Public Affairs, 6(2), pp. 85-112

Publication: ‘Ethics XI: Moral Reasoning’ in Warren T. Reich (ed.), Encyclopaedia of Bioethics, Volume One (New York: The Free Press)

Publication: Virtues and Vices and Other Essays in Moral Philosophy (Oxford: Blackwell)

Publication: ‘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

Publication: ‘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

Publication: ‘The Brave Immoralist’. Review of Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche Volume One: The Will to Power as Art; Harold Alderman, Nietzsche’s Gift; and J. P. Stern, Friedrich Nietzsche. In New York Review of Books, 27(7)

Publication: ‘Killing, Letting Die and Euthanasia: A Reply to Holly Smith Goldman’, Analysis, 41(3), pp. 159-60

Publication: ‘William Frankena’s Carus Lectures’, The Monist, 64(3), pp. 305-12

Publication: ‘Goods and Practices’. Review of Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory. In Times Literary Supplement

Becomes President of the Pacific Division of the American Philosophical Association

Publication: ‘Think Tank’. Review of Robert Nozick’s Philosophical Explanations, Partisan Review, 49(4), pp. 609-12

Publication: ‘For Lack of a Rationale’. Review of Samuel Scheffler, The Rejection of Consequentialism: A Philosophical Investigation of the Considerations Underlying Rival Moral Conceptions. In Times Literary Supplement

Becomes a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Science

Publication: ‘Peacocke on Wittgenstein and Experience’ in The Philosophical Quarterly, 33(131), pp. 187-91

Publication: ‘Moral Realism and Moral Dilemma’, The Journal of Philosophy, 80(7), pp. 379-98

Publication: ‘Utilitarianism and the Virtues’, Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, 57(2), pp. 273-83

Publication: ‘Killing and Letting Die’. In Jay L. Garfield and Patricia Hennessey (eds), Abortion: Moral and Legal Perspectives (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press)

Publication: ‘Morality, Action and Outcome’ in Ted Honderich (ed.), Morality and Objectivity: A Tribute to J. L. Mackie (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul), pp.  23-38

Publication: ‘Utilitarianism and the Virtues’ [an expanded version of the 1983 publication, of the same name], Mind, 94(374), pp. 196-209

Publication: ‘Knowing What to Do’. Review of Bernard Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy. In Times Literary Supplement

Publication: ‘Life and Death’. Review of James Rachel, The End of Life; A. B. Downing and Barbara Smoker, Voluntary Euthanasia; and Michael Lockwood, Moral Dilemmas in Moral Medicine. In London Review of Books, 8(14), pp. 3-5

Appointed the first holder of the Paul and Gloria Griffin Chair in philosophy

Becomes an Honorary Fellow of Somerville College

Publication: ‘von Wright on Virtue’ in Lewis Edwin Kahn and Paul Arthur Schilpp (eds), The Philosophy of Georg Henrik von Wright: The Library of Living Philosophers Volume XIX (Open Court)

Publication: ‘Ethics and the Death Penalty: Participation by Forensic Psychiatrists in Capital Trials’ in Richard Rosner and Robert Weinstock (eds), Ethical Practice in Psychiatry and the Law (New York: Plenum Press), pp. 207-17

Publication: ‘Locke, Hume, and Modern Moral Theory: A Legacy of Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Philosophies of Mind’. In G. S. Rousseau (ed.), The Languages of Psyche: Mind and Body in Enlightenment Thought: Clark Library Lectures 1985-1986 (Berkeley: University of California Press), pp. 81-104

Retired from teaching

Publication: ‘Nietzsche’s Immoralism’, New York Review of Books, 38(11)

Invited to give the Gilbert Murray Memorial Lecture to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Her topic was ‘Justice and Charity’

Publication: Morality and Action: Collected Papers of Warren Quinn, edited, with intro (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Publication: ‘Rationality and Virtue’ in Herlinde Pauer-Studer (ed.), Vienna Circle Institute Yearbook, 2, pp. 205-16

Publication: ‘Conscience’ and ‘Fact-Value Distinction’. In Ted Honderich (ed.), The Oxford Companion to Philosophy (New York: Oxford University Press)

Publication: ‘Moral Dilemmas Revisited’. In Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Diana Raffman and Nicholas Asher (eds), Modality, Morality and Belief: Essays in Honor of Ruth Barcan Marcus (New York: Cambridge University Press), pp. 117-28

Publication: ‘Does Moral Subjectivism Rest on a Mistake’, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 15(1), pp. 1-14

Publication: ‘Nietzsche: The Revaluation of Values’ in John Richardson & Brian Leiter (eds), Nietzsche (New York: Oxford University Press), pp. 210-20

Publication: Natural Goodness (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Publication: Moral Dilemmas: and Other Topics in Moral Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Publication: ‘The Natural’, The Philosophers’ Magazine, 21, pp. 40-3

Publication: ‘The Grammar of Goodness: an Interview with Philippa Foot’ (by Alex Voorhoeve). Harvard Review of Philosophy, 11, pp. 32-44

Publication: ‘Rationality and Goodness’, Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement, 54, pp. 1-13

(3 October) Death


Sarah Lewin (26/10/16)

My name is Sarah Lewin. Last year, during my final year of study for a BA in Philosophy at Durham, I was fortunate enough to begin working on the In Parenthesis project, as a Research Associate. My fundamental task was to compile comprehensive timelines for each of the women studied by the project: Mary Midgley, Philippa Foot, Elizabeth Anscombe, Iris Murdoch and Mary Warnock. These timelines aimed to chronicle all the significant life events and philosophical publications of the women, as well as any details of their interactions with one another. As straightforward as this task initially sounded, compiling the timelines proved to be much more challenging than anticipated. Each of the women were incredibly prolific, with Mary Midgley in particular producing 4-5 philosophical essays and reviews each month, from the early 1970’s, until present. The other four women had similarly staggering bibliographies to contend with, and many hours were spent consolidating this information into cohesive chronologies. Ultimately, I wanted to make the timelines as accurate as possible, and spent a great deal of time tracing each publication back to its original source, in order to ensure that all the bibliographical information presented in my work was correct. Despite being challenging, it was an absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to research these incredible women, and to gain an insight into both their personal, and academic lives. Perhaps the greatest pleasure of all was hearing that Mary Midgley herself had read my chronicle of her life and works, and was able to add a few personal details that were not available through any amount of research. This additional input from Midgley ensures that her completed timeline offers a significantly comprehensive biographical account, and I am confident that the other four timelines are similarly illuminating, and accurate. Above all, the opportunity to do my own research for the In Parenthesis project has really confirmed to me that philosophy is something I would love to continue pursuing. This year I will be returning to Durham to do an MA in philosophy, and my work on the project has undoubtedly been a great factor in the success of my application. I’ve also been very fortunate to receive a scholarship from Durham University to help cover the tuition fees, and again, I am grateful to the In Parenthesis project for putting me in such a strong position for this award.