Talk:Derek Parfit

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old merge proposal[edit]

This really needs a merge with Reasons and Persons.... Evercat 00:43, 30 Oct 2004 (UTC)


In general: this (good) article could use guideline-std info such as year of birth, nationality, etc; and a little more NPOV (vs eg "bury").

Re Ethics and Rationality: I just finished a copyedit, but paragraph 6 had two things that confused me: 1] Sentence 1 mentions "directly collectively self defeating", but only "indirectly" has yet been addressed, and nothing on individually/collectively (explicitly, at least). 2] Sentence 3 speaks of "The appeal to full relativity" when all that has been mentioned is "partial relativity".

Thx, and hope this helps, "alyosha" 06:50, 22 December 2005 (UTC)

Suggestions 2, check my edits[edit]

I did the best i could (quickly) with the future section, but a couple things were unclear enough that i'd like someone expert in parfit or attached to the article to check that i got the right sense of things. The article and future section could use more work, esp the last sentence, IMO. Thx and hope this helps, "alyosha" 04:17, 24 December 2005 (UTC)

"something close to a work of genius"[edit]

This is also quoted on the book cover of "Reasons and Persons" and I find it rather lowering. What would be required to call it a "genuine work of genius"? I know this is not the Derek Parfit discussion board but I would'nt know where else to ask. Herbert heart 07:00, 30 August 2006 (UTC)


Parfit's knowledge and study of Kant, as seen in Climbing the Mountain should be noted. -- 21:33, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

Influence diminished[edit]

This man had the great misfortune of being used as a source for Richard Dawkins, and now his influence has suddenly diminished. Poor guy! --Merzul 12:06, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

In any case, anyone who would look at the over 2000 google scholar hits, and just look at how people refer to his book, e.g. "the fascinating and ingenious arguments of part 3 of Derek Parfit's Reasons and Persons", and "the most thorough and authoritative treatment of this subject is in Derek Parfit's Reasons and Persons (1984, Part IV), which also gives references to..." could easily verify that this book has been highly influential in the field. I'm putting the statement back.
(In case anyone wonders what this is all about, then it has nothing to do with Derek Parfit, but is a little edit dispute that has spilled over from Darwin's Angel. --Merzul 12:27, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

Lacking Sources[edit]

This article sorely needs some source references. Cosmic Philosopher (talk) 02:58, 13 June 2008 (UTC)Cosmic Philosopher

Agreed. Also, note that the change made by was actually me (I forgot to log in). I changed the name of the forthcoming book to On What Matters (this is the title given in the updated manuscript given by Parfit to a reading group I'm participating in). The linked pdf is still called Climbing the Mountain - I don't know if there's a newer copy under the other title floating around on the web somewhere. The announcement of Parfit's Tanner Lectures at Berkeley mentions three book projects, one of which is On What Matters (since these lectures were in 2002 it suggests the book has had that title for several years now).

Also, I'd be happy to start incorporating some of the material from OWM into the article as soon as our reading group ends, but I'm not sure if that's appropriate. The book hasn't been published yet; however, it's also been freely distributed by Parfit himself for commentary. Thoughts? I could just start working on a section about the book and withhold putting it on WP until the book is being published. Anthony Mohen (talk) 21:55, 27 July 2008 (UTC)

Personal Identity[edit]

I've just finished Part 3 of Reasons and Persons (on personal identity) and I'm going to revise this section in light of it. It misdescribes Parfit in some key respects as written. Anthony Mohen (talk) 15:18, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Self interest theory as self-defeating[edit]

I don't understand this passage:

For instance, it might be in my own self interest to become trustworthy in order to participate in mutually beneficial agreements, despite the fact that in maintaining the agreement I will be doing, ceteris paribus, what will be worse for me. In many cases S instructs us precisely not to follow S, thus fitting the definition of an indirectly self-defeating theory.

Is there not more to this? The obvious response would seem to be that under self interest theory, you just subtract the cost from the benefit, and then do whatever puts you more ahead. I can only guess his real argument has to do with discontinuous identity over time... but as far as I can see this passage goes right ahead to assuming that future benefit can't be taken into account without explaining why or even clarifying if that's what is self-defeating. Sestibel (talk) 09:35, 6 August 2009 (UTC)

Besides that, if self interest theory tells you to go ahead and break promises for immediate gain, then how is that self-defeating? That's the answer, then: break the promises. It would only be contradictory if it simultaneously told you to ignore immediate gain for future gain, but that isn't in the explanation. Sestibel (talk) 09:47, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
The idea, which is not made very clear in this article, is that deliberately trying to achieve the aims S gives us causes these aims to be worse achieved; i.e. if we consciously try to maximize our self-interest, this is worse for us than having some other disposition. In the long run we might be better off being honest, even (especially?) in cases where, if we were consciously thinking in terms of following S, we would break promises or otherwise act dishonestly. To whatever extent that this is true, S tells us not to believe S, but some other theory, because this will make us more successful in achieving the aims S gives us. This does not mean S is self-contradictory or anything but it is a strange result that might be seen as a problem with S.
It is a familiar, though disputed, claim that utilitarianism is self-defeating in this same sense (Williams had some rather famous things to say about this). Parfit is showing that S has the same problem, if it is a problem. (talk) 07:32, 27 September 2009 (UTC)

Reviews of R&P[edit]

My copy of Reasons and Persons has three reviews of the book tucked in the cover (I bought it second hand). The citations are below:

  • P. F. Strawson, "The Parfit Connection", The New York Review, June 14, 1984, p 42-44
  • Bernard Williams, "Personal Identity", London Review of Books, 7-20 June 1984, p. 14-15
  • Steven Lukes, "The expendable I", The Observer, Sunday 24 June 1984, (page number is possibly p.97; on the reverse is the television schedule)

If anyone is interested in refactoring the article, I can help by quoting material from the reviews (as for Parfit's book? It's on my long list of things to read.) —Tom Morris (talk) 09:09, 27 May 2011 (UTC)