Comments on Parfit's 'Personal Identity and Rationality'
Regan (Donald)
Source: Synthese, Vol. 53, No. 2, Matters of the Mind (Nov., 1982), pp. 243-249
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introductions (to the two parts of his Reply to Parfit)

  1. I will begin by saying that I am persuaded by most of Derek's claims and arguments. That may tend to make for rather uninteresting commentary, but I shall try to find something to say. I shall offer only one criticism of the main part of Derek's paper, and then I shall discuss at somewhat greater length the questions he raises in the last section of his paper.
  2. In the main body of the paper, Derek attempts to prove that if we accept what he calls the Complex View of personal identity, then we must abandon what he calls the Equal Concern Claim of Classical Prudence. The basic argument is simple. On the Complex View, personal identity is a matter of degree. But it is not irrational to think that a fact which is a matter of degree is of lesser importance when it holds to a lesser degree. Therefore, it is not irrational to think that one's identity with oneself in the distant future may be of lesser importance than one's identity with oneself in the near future. It follows that it is not irrational to give greater weight to one's interests in the near future. Classical Prudence is not a requirement of rationality.
  3. My only criticism of this argument may seem, and indeed may be, niggling. […]
  4. […]
  5. Everything else I shall have to say is about the last section of Derek's paper. If Classical Prudence is defeated - and despite my carping I agree with Derek that it is - we are left with the issue of how to justify a kind of criticism we are strongly disposed to make, namely criticism of an agent for showing insufficient concern for his own future interests. Derek suggests that if we cannot base our criticism on an appeal to rationality, then morality must step in to fill the gap. He makes no attempt to conceal the fact that this suggestion is in one respect highly counterintuitive. We are accustomed to think of morality as imposing restrictions on an agent for the protection of others. To the extent that we have traditionally recognized self regarding moral duties, they have been duties of perfection - duties to cultivate one's talents or to preserve one's purity, to use Derek's examples. We have not generally thought of morality as the source of a duty to look out for one's own general future happiness. But that is what Derek proposes.
  6. […]


Response to "Parfit (Derek) - Personal Identity and Rationality".

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