In Micah Lott (ed.), Philippa Foot on Goodness and Virtue. Palgrave-Macmillan. pp. 1-23 (2018)

John Hacker-Wright
University of Guelph
This introductory chapter will frame the volume by discussing Foot’s work on goodness in terms of her approach to morality. It is often assumed that Foot’s approach to morality is that of a virtue ethicist in the contemporary sense of this view. Yet Foot distances herself from such approaches. Morality, for Foot, is closely associated with a system of moral norms adopted by a society. These codes do not follow straightforwardly from reflection on the virtues. There are norms for the construction of such codes, and for these she seems to think that contractualism of the sort advocated by John Rawls and Tim Scanlon provides the best model. What then, is the role of virtues and human goodness in relation to morality on Foot’s view? In cases such as her famous Trolley problem, we are clearly dealing with matters of justice, but how do we get from the virtue of justice to a determinate answer on the morality of turning the trolley? Not, it seems, by reflection on justice alone, but perhaps through reflection on societies shaped by codes embodying differing conceptions of justice. Foot seems then to have had in mind a view according to which the human good sets limits on what could count as a moral code: but how determinate are these? Does it, as Foot clearly hoped, rule out of court the codes of racist societies?
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DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-91256-1_1
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