Ideas of Philippa Foot, by Theme

[British, 1920 - 2010, At Somerville College, Oxford University.]

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24. Applied Ethics / A. Decision Conflicts / 5. Omissions
It is not true that killing and allowing to die (or acts and omissions) are morally indistinguishable
     Full Idea: Many philosophers (e.g. Rachels) have argued that there is no morally relevant distinction between killing and allowing to die (or the related 'acts and omissions'),..as in not sending food, or sending poisoned food. I disagree.
     From: Philippa Foot (Killing and Letting Die [1985], p.78)
     A reaction: It appears that some omissions are worse than acts. It is more honest to just shoot an injured person, than to walk away and leave them to die. A range of cases.
Making a runaway tram kill one person instead of five is diverting a fatal sequence, not initiating one
     Full Idea: If a runaway tram is heading towards a track on which five people are standing, and there is someone who can switch the points, diverting it onto a track where there is one person,...this is diverting a fatal sequence, not starting a new one.
     From: Philippa Foot (Killing and Letting Die [1985], p.85)
     A reaction: Suppose the one person was of immense community value, or someone you personally hated? Clearly she is interested in the agent's virtue, rather than the actual consequences.
25. Society / C. Social Justice / 4. Legal Rights / a. Basis of rights
The right of non-interference (with a 'negative duty'), and the right to goods/services ('positive')
     Full Idea: There are rights to non-interference (and their corresponding "negative duties"), and the rights to goods and services (with corresponding "positivie duties"). Interference usually needs more justification than withholding goods.
     From: Philippa Foot (Killing and Letting Die [1985], p.82)
     A reaction: This invites the question of which is the stronger, and whether paternalism can overrule non-interference, or an expectation of self-sufficiency overrule the positive rights.