An Interview with Derek Parfit
Parfit (Derek)
Source: Cogito, vol. 9, no. 2 (August, 1995), pp. 115-125
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Author’s Introduction

  1. Derek Parfit is a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and author of the controversial and widely acclaimed book "Parfit (Derek) - Reasons and Persons".
  2. Derek Parfit (interview 1995) is the subject of a volume of papers "Dancy (Jonathan), Ed. - Reading Parfit" (1997), in the series, Philosophers and their Critics.
  3. Cogito: We usually start these interviews by asking our interviewees something about what turned their interests towards philosophy. Was there some particular person, or problem, or work, that made you a philosopher?
  4. Parfit: Yes, there was. As an undergraduate, I did only modern history. Then I read "Wiggins (David) - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity", and in particular his discussion of the actual cases in which the hemispheres of people’s brains have been disconnected, in attempts to treat epilepsy. As a result, these people seem to have two quite separate streams of thoughts and experience, in having each of which they are unaware of the other. Wiggins then imagined a case in which the two halves of our brain would be successfully transplanted into a pair of empty skulls, and there would later be two people each of whom has half our brain and is fully psychologically continuous with us. Since these would be two different people, it can’t be true that each of them is us. So how should we regard our relation to these people? I found that a fascinating question. It was this imagined case that drew me into philosophy.

Comment:

For the full text, see Cogito - An Interview with Derek Parfit.

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