Sophie Botros

I have, perhaps unusually among professional philosophers today, who tend to concentrate their intellectual energies on one, or at most, two specialist areas of philosophy, made contributions to the ongoing debate in at least three distinct fields of philosophical endeavour.  I will accordingly present my academic career in terms of  these large divides rather than chronologically.

I am first a Hume scholar, having published the well received Hume, Reason and Morality:  A Legacy of Contradiction (Routledge, 2006), paperback (2008).   This book grew out of ideas which I originally presented in Lectures I gave in Moral Philosophy for the Philosophy Department of  Birkbeck College, University of London, where at the time I held an Honorary  Research Fellowship.  Soon after my book was published, I was invited to chair a session at the 33rd International Hume Conference in Koblenz, Germany  (August 2006).   My book was the subject of a workshop in the Philosophy Department of Michigan State University USA  (June 15-17 2007) . Professor Don Garrett of New York University, and Professor Geoffery Sayre-McCord of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were, with myself, invited participants.  My expertise in the field has since been acknowledged in several ways.  I have been invited to contribute articles to special issues on Hume’s Ethics  by international  journals, such as  the Polish on line philosophy journal,  Diametros,  published by the Jagiellonian University, Krakow, for which I wrote “Hume, Justice and Sympathy:  A Reversal of the Natural Order” (2012).   I have also reviewed  books on Hume’s Ethics for  such leading journals as the Philosophical Review, Hume Studies,  and the Review of Metaphysics, in the USA, and been  consulted by  publishers, such as  Routledge, and Cambridge University Press.   I have just completed  (September, 2019)  for the Czech Scientific Foundation, in Prague, a review of  an ambitious  three year project on Hume’s virtue ethics.

Prior to my work on Hume,  and after lecturing in the philosophy Departments of  Essex, and Stirling Universities, I took up a Lectureship  in Medical Ethics, at the Centre of Medical Law and Ethics, at King’s College, London University (1987-1995).  This Centre had recently been set up  by the far sighted Professor of Medical Law at King’s, Sir Ian Kennedy.  I was appointed to run the Medical Ethics part of the MA Degree Course in Medical Law and Ethics.   As a result of my research, both at the Strand Campus,  and at King’s College Hospital, where I had the privilege of teaching the eminent physician, Sir Eric Scowen,   I wrote several articles,  of which the most noted, particularly amongst medical professionals,  is  “Equipoise, Consent and the Ethics of Randomized Clinical Trials” in Ethics and Law in Health Care Ethics (John Wiley, 1990).  I was instructed in the complex Bayesian statistical issues involved by the  statistician, A.R. Jonckheere, originator of  the Jonckheere Trend Test.   In 1992, I was invited, amongst other invitations,  to  present a paper “Informed Consent, Autonomy and Rights” at a Conference,  entitled “Moral and Political Philosophy: French and American Perspectives”, organized in Paris by Columbia University, USA.   My paper “Acts,  Omissions and Keeping Patients Alive in a Persistent Vegetative State” appeared in Philosophy and Technology, Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplementary Volume, 38 (1995).    More practically, I  established a Public Affairs Unit, and organized, and chaired, meetings in the Houses of Commons and Lords, during the passage of the Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill through Parliament. (The need for Parliament to receive independent ethical advice and be apprised of relevant arguments, which I identified, and sought informally to cater for in 1990 with my  Unit, was officially recognized the following year, 1991, when the Nuffield Council for Bioethics was founded.)

Most recently,  my interests  have turned   to  Epistemology and Metaphysics, often held  to constitute  the central core and back bone  of philosophy.   My journey  ‘to the interior’   has doubtless been protracted – perhaps because of the early influence of  the distinguished  Wittgensteinian,  Peter Winch, my  Ph.D  supervisor, who, following the later Wittgenstein, rejected the conception of   philosophy as consisting in  a privileged core, and less important penumbra.   Concentrating primarily  on the ontological status of the past and  the dynamical nature of time,  then  broadening the  context to consider  the  role of historians, seeking to  give a truthful account of  their evanescent subject matter,  I published in 2017   Truth, Time and History:  A Philosophical Inquiry, (Bloomsbury Academic), paperback (2019).  A most  favourable review  appears in Philosophy, the Journal of the Royal Institute of Philosophy.

During this last period, I have been, and remain,  an Honorary Research Associate of the Institute of Philosophy, School of Advanced Studies, University of London.  (I am  also a Recognized Teacher of the University.)

None of the above takes account of the fact that my most read, and cited,  article  is “Freedom, Causality and Fatalism in Early Stoic Philosophy,  Phronesis, Volume XXX, No.2 (1985)   This led the editor, Jonathan Barnes. to invite me to  write  the Critical Notice of  Martha Nussbaum’s  The Fragility of Goodness.  This long review article appeared in  Phronesis   under the title “Precarious Virtue” (1987).



Conference Papers

1984: Dr Botros was a discussant at the invitation of Professor Peter Winch in the reading group, directed by him, on Wittgenstein’s Blue Book held in Vienna from 23rd to 30th September, 1984 in conjunction with the Institut Fur Die Wissenschaften Vom Menschen.

1990: “Moral philosophers and Medical Ethics” presented at a

Conference entitled “La Semaine de Reflexion Ethique” Paris, organized by UNESCO in co-operation with le Centre Culturel Alleman Geothe-Institut.

1990: “A philosopher’s perspective” in Medical Scientific Advance, Its Challenge to Society, Report of Ciba Foundation discussion meeting.

1992: “Informed Consent, Autonomy and Rights” presented at a Conference entitled “Moral and Political Philosophy: French and American Perpectives” organized in Paris by Columbia University in co-operation with the Sterling Currier Fund.

Public Projects and Conference Organisation / Chairing

Dr Botros established (April 1989) a Public Affairs Unit as a project of the Centre of Medical Law and Ethics and obtained a grant of £10,000 from King’s Research Development Fund enabling the Unit to hire a research assistant and run seminars in the Houses of Parliament to coincide with the passage through Parliament of the Human Embryology and Fertilization Bill.

Between January and June 1990 she organized, and spoke at, four meetings on the Human Embryology and Fertilization Bill, two in the House of Lords, and two in the House of Commons. She also chaired the last two meetings.

She also gave private briefing during this period to Members of Parliament, for instance, on the Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill, and on the ethics of animal research and experimentation.

1991-2: Dr Botros was Co-Director of King’s College Centre for Philosophical Studies, Philosophy Dept., King’s College London.

Working Parties

1991: Dr Botros was a member of the Working Party on Clinical Trials and Randomization, set up by cancer specialist Michael Baum (Royal Marsden).

1991-1993: Dr Botros was Medical Ethics Adviser to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Aids.