Philippa Foot, 7 August 1986
Most professional philosophers think of themselves primarily as scholars, as hunters and gatherers in the field of understanding with no particular commitment to serve society in any other role. Yet some philosophers have lately found to their delight that they can be useful: indeed that their advice is actually sought by those who have to take decisions of policy or practice. So now in England we have the Warnock Report, while in America philosophers advising hospital ethics committees have been known to carry bleepers to summon them to conferences on matters of life and death. Medical ethics – a subject unheard of only a few decades ago – is lately the main growth area in philosophical publishing, with books, anthologies and journals on subjects such as abortion, euthanasia and medical experimentation tumbling out at a prodigious rate.