Parfit (Derek)
Source: Simon Kirchin (ed.) Reading Parfit: On What Matters, New York: Routledge, 2017, pp. 189-236
Paper - Abstract

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  1. Response to Simon Kirchin: Simon Kirchin’s wide-ranging and thought-provoking chapter describes and discusses several of my moral and metaethical claims. Rather than trying to write a unifed response, I shall discuss Kirchin’s claims under several headings.
    • Incommensurability
    • The singular sense of ‘best’
    • The Triple Theory
    • Actual consent
    • Undefended assumptions
    • Conflicting moral theories
    • Moral methodology
  2. Response to David Copp: Near the start of his very helpful chapter, David Copp writes:
      If Derek Parft is correct . . . the naturalist’s project is deeply misguided. Indeed, he makes the astonishing claim that normative naturalism is “close to nihilism” . . . He holds that if normative naturalists are correct that there are no “irreducibly normative facts,” then normativity is “an illusion.”
    There are, I believe, some normative naturalists whose views are close to nihilism. These people claim that, because all facts are natural facts, there are no irreducibly normative non-natural facts. If there were no such facts, nothing would matter, since we would have no reason to care about anything. But Copp’s version of Naturalism is not, I am glad to learn, of this kind.
  3. Response to Julia Markovits: In much of her impressive chapter, Julia Markovits defends what I call Subjectivism about reasons. On this view, all practical reasons are given by facts about how we might fulfil either our actual present desires or the desires that we would now have after informed deliberation.
  4. Response to Philip Stratton-Lake: I am convinced by all of the arguments, and I accept all of the claims, in Philip Stratton-Lake’s wonderfully precise and helpful chapter.
  5. Responses to David McNaughton and Piers Rawling and to Kieran Setiya:
    • Given the similarities between some of the main claims and arguments in Kieran Setiya’s chapter and in the chapter jointly written by David McNaughton and Piers Rawling, I shall discuss these chapters together.
    • These chapters both discuss two kinds of reason. Some reasons I call deontic in the sense that these reasons are provided by the fact that some act is morally wrong. All other reasons I call non-deontic. Our reasons to act in some way are decisive when they are stronger than any conflicting reasons, so that, if we know the relevant reason-giving facts, we ought rationally to act in this way.
  6. Response to Douglas W. Portmore: In his impressive, rigorously argued chapter, Douglas Portmore criticizes some of my claims about Rule Consequentialism.
  7. Response to J.L. Dowell and David Sobel: Those whom I call Soft Naturalists believe that, though there are no irreducibly normative properties or truths, we need to make some irreducibly normative claims, since such claims, when they are true, can help us to make good decisions and to act well. Soft Naturalism, I argued, cannot be true.
  8. Response to Julia Driver: In her agreeably humane and sensible chapter, Julia Driver writes that she is not criticizing my defence of the view that there are some irreducibly normative truths, such as the truth that some things matter in a reason-implying sense. Driver aims instead to describe and defend a view according to which there are moral truths without the mysterious underpinnings of non-naturalism. On these views, she holds, “things still matter as much as anything can be said to ‘matter’”.


For the full text, see Parfit - Responses.

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1:

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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