Judith Jarvis Thomson

Judith Jarvis Thomson

The philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson (1929-2020) has died. She was a philosophical giant. You may know her from her landmark 1971 paper in defense of abortion or for one of her papers on the trolley problem. Or maybe you know the 1997 amicus brief on assisted suicide she co-authored with Dworkin, Nagel, Nozick, Rawls, and Scanlon.

Thomson’s philosophical work was careful, profound, and wide-ranging. She wrote on topics in practical ethics (obviously), including the right to privacy, self-defense, and preferential hiring. And she wrote on more abstract issues in ethics and meta-ethics, including papers on the right and the good, moral luck, and the metaphysics of harm. She also wrote extensively (and provocatively) about a range of topics in metaphysics and legal philosophy, including personal identity, the metaphysics of ordinary objects, parthood and identity over time, the nature of action, causation by absence or omission (one of my personal favorites), causation in the law, causation and liability, and liability and evidence. For good measure, she also wrote on private languages, time, space, and objects, and the riddles of induction.

She left the field better than she found it.

posted by Jonathan Livengood (17 comments total)

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