[lit-ideas] Re: Virtue Ethicists & Relishing Cubans ("It's a cookbook!")

  • From: Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 08 Jan 2007 20:19:38 -0800

Walter writes, in reply to something I wrote:

I may have confused Anscombe with Foot; all the Aristotelian virtue-ethicists
are located in the same module of my cerebral cortex. One of them wrote an
essay awhile back in which she bemoaned the exclusion of women from a
"gentlemen only" faculty lounge. She was considering this as a maxim in Kant's
sense, I believe. Can't remember at which university, but it could have been
Oxford. RP surely knows and will enlighten us on the details. He may even have
smoked Cubans in that very lounge. (And applied the relish liberally :-)

It doesn't sound familiar but then nothing does these days. In
'Morality Considered as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives,'
published in 1972 when she believed that morality (justice e.g.) had
to be shown to benefit the just person, (e.g.) or else morality was a
'fraud,' she compares moral injunctions with the rules of ettiquette
(governing some club) and suggests that although we may choose not to
be bound by the rules of latter ('What do I care about their stuffy
rules?') it is much harder to opt out of morality. Or so it seems. Yet
while the rules of ettiquette appear to be only hypothetical
imperatives, moral 'imperatives' typically are thought to have more
'force.' Yet, where do moral oughts get their force, except through
the question-begging explanation that they're _moral_ oughts, don't
you see? I'm sure I've got much of this wrong, and the language I've
used isn't Foot's, but perhaps this is the source of Walter's memory.
(I should add that sometime between then and now, Foot had an epiphany
which led to her book, 'Natural Goodness,' in which she sees that
'Does morality pay?' is the wrong question.) 'Certain mystical
conclusions follow,' as Max Black said about the Tractatus, in 1942.

This is from Anscombe's obituary in the Guardian, in 2001.


'Once, threatened by a mugger in Chicago, she told him that that was no
way to treat a visitor. They soon fell into conversation and he
accompanied her, admonishing her for being in such a dangerous
neighbourhood. She chain-smoked for some years, but bargained with
God, when her second son was seriously ill, that she would give up
smoking cigarettes if he recovered. Feeling the strain of this the
following year, she decided that her bargain had not mentioned cigars
or pipes, and took to smoking these.

'Except when pregnant, she wore trousers, often under a tunic, which,
in the 50s and 60s, was often disapproved of. Once, entering a smart
restaurant in Boston, she was told that ladies were not admitted in
trousers. She simply took them off. When she threatened one of her
children, "If you do that again, I'll put you on the train to
Bicester", and he did, she felt obliged, given her views on fulfilling
promises, actually to put him on the train. Bluff, courageous,
determined, loyal, she argued that the word "I" does not refer to
anything, but she certainly believed in the soul.'

Robert Paul
The Reed Institute

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