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 Vice (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. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
"Foot stands out among contemporary ethical theorists because of her conviction that virtues and vices are more central ethical notions than rights, duties, justice, or consequences--the primary focus of most other contemporary moral theorists....[These] essays embody to some extent her commitment to an ethics of virtue. Foot's style is straightforward and readable, her arguments subtle..."--Choice.
One of the reasons why most of us feel puzzled about the problem of abortion is that we want, and do not want, to allow to the unborn child the rights that belong to adults and children. When we think of a baby about to be born it seems absurd to think that the next few minutes or even hours could make so radical a difference to its status; yet as we go back in the life of the fetus we (...) are more and more reluctant to say that this is a human being and must be treated as such. No doubt this is the deepest source of our dilemma, but it is not the only one. For we are also confused about the general question of what we may and may not do where the interests of human beings conflict. We have strong intuitions about certain cases; saying, for instance, that it is all right to raise the level of education in our country, though statistics allow us to predict that a rise in the suicide rate will follow, while it is not all right to kill the feeble-minded to aid cancer research. It is not easy, however, to see the principles involved, and one way of throwing light on the abortion issue will be by setting up parallels involving adults or children once born. So we will be able to isolate the “equal rights” issue and should be able to make some advance... (shrink)