Derek Parfit was one of the world’s leading philosophers. His On What Matters was the most eagerly awaited book in philosophy for many years. Reading Parfit: On What Matters is an essential overview and assessment of volumes 1 and 2 of Parfit’s monumental work by a team of international contributors, and includes responses by Parfit himself. It discusses central features of Parfit’s book, including the structure and nature of reasons; the ideas underlying moral principles; Parfit’s discussions of consequentialism, contractualism and Kantian deontology; and his metaethical ideas and arguments.
Reading Parfit will be central reading for students of ethics and anyone seeking a deeper understanding of one of the most important works of philosophy published in the last fifty years.
Table of Contents
Notes on contributors
1. Reflections from Wolf and Wood: Incommensurability, Guidance, and the ‘Smoothing Over’ of Ethical Life
2. Normative Naturalism and Normative Nihilism: Parfit’s Dilemma for
3. On what it is to Matter
4. The Buck-Passing Account of Value: Assessing the Negative Thesis
5. Normativity, Reasons and Wrongness: How to be a Two-Tiered Theorist
DAVID McNAUGHTON and PIERS RAWLING
6. Wrong-making Reasons
7. Parfit on Reasons and Rule Consequentialism
DOUGLAS W. PORTMORE
8. Advice for Non-analytic Naturalists
J. L. DOWELL and DAVID SOBEL
9. Contingency and Constructivism
Contributors: David Copp, J.L. Dowell and David Sobel, Julia Driver, Simon Kirchin, David McNaughton and Piers Rawling, Julia Markovits, Derek Parfit, Douglas W. Portmore, Kieran Setiya and Philip Stratton-Lake.
Simon Kirchin is Reader in Philosophy at the University of Kent. He is the author of Metaethics (2012) and is the editor of Arguing about Metaethics (with Andrew Fisher) (Routledge, 2006).
Derek Parfit (1942–2017) was for many years a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, retiring as Senior Research Fellow in 2010, whereupon he became an Emeritus Fellow. He also held visiting professorships at New York University, Harvard and Rutgers.
"Derek Parfit’s On What Matters is a major contribution to moral philosophy. The timely essays of this wonderful volume both clarify and evaluate Parfit’s central arguments. Anyone interested in Parfit’s work should study them carefully." Jussi Suikkanen, University of Birmingham, UK
"Reading Parfit features an impressive group of ethicists and metaethicists offering well-aimed critiques of Parfit’s many arguments from his book, On What Matters. Parfit reacts in his characteristic style in a long response essay. The discussion illuminates many of the most important features of his argument and position. Mark van Roojen, University of Nebraska - Lincoln, USA
Derek Parfit was one of the world’s leading philosophers. His On What Matters is the most eagerly-awaited book in philosophy for many years and heralded by Peter Singer in the Times Literary Supplement as "the most significant work in ethics since Sidgwick’s masterpiece, The Methods of Ethics, was published in 1873."