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Derek Parfit
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On What Matters: Volume One

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  96 Ratings  ·  8 Reviews
On What Matters is a major work in moral philosophy. It is the long-awaited follow-up to Derek Parfit's 1984 book Reasons and Persons, one of the landmarks of twentieth-century philosophy. In this first volume Parfit presents a powerful new treatment of reasons and rationality, and a critical examination of three systematic moral theories -- Kant's ethics, contractualism, ...more
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Published May 26th 2011 by OUP Oxford
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Sep 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Parfit argues for an objective theory of ethics; one in which objects, acts, and so forth, generate sufficient reasons for action, not merely our desires. He starts by arguing against the insufficiency of subjectivist accounts saying that they lead to manifest absurdities such as a person desiring to waste his life in trivialities is not wrong, nor is someone who desires pain for no particular reason (and not because they get pleasure from it). He then goes on to argue for his triple theory comb ...more
Heather Pagano
Sep 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
As an amateur philosopher I loved the first half of this book. It convinced me that ethics could be approached with the same rigor as analytic philosophy. Parfit's style of building a case slowly and methodically, then suddenly ending the chapter with simple statement of thesis, took me awhile to get used to, but I learned to expect these abrupt chapter conclusions. This tendency toward abrupt conclusions was amplified in the overall structure of the volume, which for me rushed to thesis stateme ...more
Kramer Thompson
Another very clearly written, rigorously argued book from Parfit, as you would expect. I was initially ambivalent about the contention between objective and subjective reasons, but have been strongly convinced by Parfit that there are objective reasons. Although his Kantian argument was well-argued, I am not so convinced that it is necessary (or perhaps relevant) for two reasons: (1) I am unconvinced that there are any reasons in addition to agent-neutral or impartial reasons, and (2) I am uncon ...more
Aug 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Two great passages:

-"... the Golden Rule is theoretically inferior [to 2 other principles]. But this rule may be, for practical purposes, the best of these three principles. By requiring us to imagine ourselves in other people's position, the Golden Rule may provide what is psychologically the most effective way of making us more impartial, and morally motivating us. That may be why this rule has been the world's most widely accepted fundamental moral idea" (330).

- quoting Williams: "deep attach
May 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Since I started studying philosophy, only three books have given me the feeling that drew me to philosophy in the first place: the feeling that every cell in my brain is completely engaged. Two of them are by Derek Parfit, which is a particularly impressive record, considering he's only written two books.

The third is by G.A. Cohen, incidentally, who was a colleague, if that’s the word, of Parfit’s at All Souls, Oxford. Whether that’s an argument for the value of total immersion in scholarly res
Hannah Grace
Apr 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't agree with all the arguments Parfit presents (he's a cognitive realist about both reasons and morals, a believer in normative, objective truths, which I find difficult to swallow) but his prose is clear and concise and he's really freaking smart. Also, this tumblr exists, which just makes me happy:
Mar 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
a little thing about me: the loneliest point in my life was when i asked for this for christmas and had to work over the holiday break and spent new years eve in a cubicle alone reading this book
Richard Anderson
Tough going for me, but worth it.
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Derek Parfit was a British Professor of Philosophy at Oxford University specializing in personal identity, rationality, ethics, and the relations between them.
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