When I was doing my undergraduate degree in Philosophy at UCL I spent a lot of time thinking about how insights from Wittgenstein’s philosophy can help us think about ethics and moral philosophy. This led to me writing an essay on ‘Dismissing the moral sceptic: a Wittgensteinian approach’. This looks at how Wittgenstein’s way of rejecting of Cartesian scepticism by appeal to a kind of practical certainty about the existence of other minds could also apply to forms of moral scepticism which reject moral statements as meaningless or false.

Shortly after completing my BA, I discovered Iris Murdoch’s Sovereignty of Good and fell in love with Murdoch. This also quickly led to me reading Simone Weil and revisiting Plato’s dialogues, and I fell in love with them too. It was then that I first got involved with the In Parenthesis project by setting up a reading group on the Quartet at Oxford. I also worked on a short paper with Sam Cooper on the theme of moral corruption in Anscombe’s writings.

The following academic year, I worked as a research assistant for the In Parenthesis project, and learned more about the connections between the four women. I also set up the Zoom In Parenthesis reading group when the pandemic started, and learned so much from talking to collaborators all over the world!

During my MA, I am working on a paper on ‘Wittgenstein and moral vision’ for a forthcoming book on Wittgenstein and Contemporary Moral Philosophy, which involves looking at some connections between Wittgenstein, Murdoch, and Anscombe. I am also co-writing an introductory essay on ‘Murdoch’s Moral Vision’ for the journal Think with Sam Cooper.

I’ll be starting a PhD at Durham next term with Clare MacCumhaill as my primary supervisor. I will be looking at the how Simone Weil and Iris Murdoch understand the role of obedience in ethics. Obedience is an important concept in the history of Christianity, with theologians such as Aquinas and St Benedict emphasising the importance of obeying superiors as a way of obeying God and the natural law. Murdoch and Weil both want to retain the central place of obedience in ethics, but neither is fully committed to all the metaphysical doctrines of Christianity. Instead, they appeal to a Platonic metaphysic, where we are called to be “obedient to reality”(1951;1970). This obedience involves recognising the existence of a reality which transcends our will, and obeying and attending to that reality rather living according to our own fantasies/prejudices. Obeying societal laws and practices are needed for the recognition of this reality because they provide us with a framework for distinguishing between truth and fantasy.

Relevant papers

Lawson-Frost, S. (Forthcoming: 2022). ‘Wittgenstein and moral vision’. In Wittgenstein and Contemporary Moral Philosophy. Beale, J & Rowland, R. London: Routledge.

Cooper, S & Lawson-Frost, S. (Forthcoming: 2021). ‘Iris Murdoch on moral vision’. Think. Cambridge University Press