<!DOCTYPE html><HTML lang="en"> <head><meta charset="utf-8"> <title>On What Matters: Volume One (Parfit (Derek)) - Theo Todman's Book Collection (Book-Paper Abstracts)</title> <link href="../../../TheosStyle.css" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css"><link rel="shortcut icon" href="../../../TT_ICO.png" /> </head> <a name="Top"></a> <BODY> <div id="header"> <HR><H1>Theo Todman's Book Collection (Book-Paper Abstracts)</H1></div> <hr><CENTER><TABLE class = "Bridge" WIDTH=950><tr><td colspan =3><A HREF = "../BookSummary_6355.htm">On What Matters: Volume One</A></td></tr><tr><td colspan =3><A HREF = "../../../Authors/P/Author_Parfit (Derek).htm">Parfit (Derek)</a></td></tr><tr><td colspan =3>This Page provides (where held) the <b>Abstract</b> of the above <b>Book</b> and those of all the <b>Papers</b> contained in it.</td></tr><tr><td><A HREF="#ColourConventions">Text Colour-Conventions</a></td><td><A HREF = "../BookCitings_6355.htm">Books / Papers Citing this Book</A></td><td><A HREF = "../BooksToNotes_6355.htm">Notes Citing this Book</A></td></tr></tr></TABLE></CENTER><hr> <P ALIGN = "Justify"><FONT Size = 2 FACE="Arial"><FONT COLOR = "0000FF"><B>BOOK ABSTRACT: </B><BR><BR><u>Inner Cover Blurb</u><FONT COLOR = "800080"><ol type="1"><li>The <em>Tanner Lectures on Human Values</em> were established by the American scholar, industrialist, and philanthropist Obert Clark <U><A HREF="#On-Page_Link_B6355_1">Tanner</A></U><SUB>1</SUB><a name="On-Page_Return_B6355_1"></A>; they are presented annually at <U><A HREF="#On-Page_Link_B6355_2">nine</A></U><SUB>2</SUB><a name="On-Page_Return_B6355_2"></A> universities in the United States and England. </li><li>The University of California, Berkeley became a permanent host of annual Tanner Lectures in the academic year 2000-2001. </li><li>This two-volume work is the sixth in a series of books based on the Berkeley Tanner Lectures. The volumes include a substantially revised and expanded version of the lectures that Derek Parfit presented at Berkeley in November of 2002, together with the responses of the three invited commentators on that occasion, <a name="4"></a><A HREF = "../../../Authors/S/Author_Scanlon (T.M.).htm">T.M. Scanlon</A>, <a name="5"></a><A HREF = "../../../Authors/W/Author_Wolf (Susan).htm">Susan Wolf</A>, and <a name="6"></a><A HREF = "../../../Authors/W/Author_Wood (Allen).htm">Allen Wood</A>; there is also a fourth set of comments, by Barbara Herman, as well as replies to the comments and additional material by Derek Parfit. </li><li>The volumes are edited by <a name="7"></a><A HREF = "../../../Authors/S/Author_Scheffler (Samuel).htm">Samuel Scheffler</A>, who also contributes an introduction. </li><li>The Berkeley Tanner Lecture Series was established in the belief that these distinguished lectures, together with the lively debates stimulated by their presentation in Berkeley, deserve to be made available to a wider audience. Additional volumes are in preparation. </li></ol></FONT><BR><U>Amazon Book Description</U><FONT COLOR = "800080"><ol type="1"><li><em>On <a name="1"></a><A HREF="../../../Notes/Notes_1/Notes_108.htm">What Matters</A><SUP>3</SUP></em> is a major work in moral philosophy. It is the long-awaited follow-up to Derek Parfit's 1984 <a name="14"></a>"<A HREF = "../../../BookSummaries/BookSummary_00/BookPaperAbstracts/BookPaperAbstracts_41.htm">Parfit (Derek) - Reasons and Persons</A>", one of the landmarks of twentieth-century philosophy. </li><li>In this first volume Parfit presents a powerful new treatment of reasons and rationality, and a critical examination of three systematic moral theories  Kant's ethics, contractualism, and consequentialism  leading to his own ground-breaking synthetic conclusion. Along the way he discusses a wide range of moral issues, such as the significance of consent, treating people as a means rather than an end, and free will and responsibility.</li><li><em>On <a name="2"></a><A HREF="../../../Notes/Notes_1/Notes_108.htm">What Matters</A><SUP>4</SUP></em> is already the most-discussed work in moral philosophy: its publication is likely to establish it as a modern classic which everyone working on moral philosophy will have to read, and which many others will turn to for stimulation and illumination. </li></ol></FONT><BR><u>Notes</u> <ol type="1"><li>The Tanner Lectures underlying this book are available for download as podcasts from the Berkeley website here: <a name="W2558W"></a><A HREF = "http://tannerlectures.berkeley.edu/2002-2003/" TARGET = "_top">Link</A>. The links below will launch the relevant podcast but not perform downloads.</li><li>The lectures were: <ol type="i"><li><em>Kant s Formula of Ends-in-Themselves</em>: Podcast - <a name="W2563W"></a><A HREF = "http://www.language.berkeley.edu/SA_MP3files/Tanner/1836_1.mp3" TARGET = "_top">Link</A>; Monday, November 4, 2002<BR>With commentary by <a name="8"></a><A HREF = "../../../Authors/W/Author_Wood (Allen).htm">Allen Wood</A></li><li><em>Kant s Formula of Universal Law</em>: Podcast - <a name="W2564W"></a><A HREF = "http://www.language.berkeley.edu/SA_MP3files/Tanner/1836_2.mp3" TARGET = "_top">Link</A>; Tuesday, November 5, 2002<BR>With commentary by <a name="9"></a><A HREF = "../../../Authors/W/Author_Wolf (Susan).htm">Susan Wolf</A></li><li><em>Contractualism</em>: Podcast - <a name="W2565W"></a><A HREF = "http://www.language.berkeley.edu/SA_MP3files/Tanner/1836_3.mp3" TARGET = "_top">Link</A>; Wednesday, November 6, 2002<BR>With commentary by <a name="10"></a><A HREF = "../../../Authors/S/Author_Scanlon (T.M.).htm">T.M. Scanlon</A></li><li>Seminar and Discussion: Podcast - <a name="W2566W"></a><A HREF = "http://www.language.berkeley.edu/SA_MP3files/Tanner/1836_4.mp3" TARGET = "_top">Link</A>; Thursday, November 7, 2002<BR>With commentary by <a name="11"></a><A HREF = "../../../Authors/W/Author_Wood (Allen).htm">Allen Wood</A>, <a name="12"></a><A HREF = "../../../Authors/W/Author_Wolf (Susan).htm">Susan Wolf</A>, and <a name="13"></a><A HREF = "../../../Authors/S/Author_Scanlon (T.M.).htm">T.M. Scanlon</A>. </ol></li><li>The lectures and the seminar were free and open to the public. Each was scheduled for 2 hrs 20 mins. </li><li>See:- <ul type="disc"><li><a name="15"></a>"<A HREF = "../../../BookSummaries/BookSummary_06/BookPaperAbstracts/BookPaperAbstracts_6356.htm">Parfit (Derek) - On What Matters: Volume Two</A>" for Volume 2.</li><li><a name="16"></a>"<A HREF = "../../../BookSummaries/BookSummary_06/BookPaperAbstracts/BookPaperAbstracts_6551.htm">Singer (Peter), Ed. - Does Anything Really Matter? Essays on Parfit on Objectivity</A>" for a collection of essays engaging with the first two volumes, and</li><li><a name="17"></a>"<A HREF = "../../../BookSummaries/BookSummary_06/BookPaperAbstracts/BookPaperAbstracts_6550.htm">Parfit (Derek) - On What Matters: Volume Three</A>" for Volume 3, Parfit s response to his critics</li></ul></li><li>See <a name="18"></a>"<A HREF = "../../../BookSummaries/BookSummary_01/BookPaperAbstracts/BookPaperAbstracts_1472.htm">Parfit (Derek) - Climbing the Mountain</A>" for a pre-publication version. </li><li>See <a name="3"></a>"<A HREF = "../../../Abstracts/Abstract_20/Abstract_20118.htm">Blackburn (Simon) - Review of Derek Parfit's 'On What Matters'</A>" for two versions of a rather dismissive review. </li></ol><BR><HR><BR><U><B>In-Page Footnotes</U> (<a name="19"></a>"<A HREF = "../../../BookSummaries/BookSummary_06/BookPaperAbstracts/BookPaperAbstracts_6355.htm">Parfit (Derek) - On What Matters: Volume One</A>")</B><a name="On-Page_Link_B6355_1"></A><BR><BR><U><A HREF="#On-Page_Return_B6355_1"><B>Footnote 1</B></A></U>: Pronounced, it seems, as  Tenner  but in an American rather than posh English accent!<a name="On-Page_Link_B6355_2"></A><BR><BR><U><A HREF="#On-Page_Return_B6355_2"><B>Footnote 2</B></A></U>: <ul type="disc"><li>See Wikipedia (<a name="W2555W"></a><A HREF = "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanner_Lectures_on_Human_Values" TARGET = "_top">Link</A>) for a rather poor explanation & list of the Tanner Lecture Universities. There are 10 Universities on the list (but two are in Utah, in which the Tanner foundation is located, so count as one). </li><li>It looks to me that, rather than the lectures being a roadshow, they are independent. So there is one at each University each year, but they are not the same lectures at each. </li><li>Compare Clare Hall (<a name="W2556W"></a><A HREF = "https://www.clarehall.cam.ac.uk/events/tanner-lectures/" TARGET = "_top">Link</A>) with Berkeley (<a name="W2557W"></a><A HREF = "http://tannerlectures.berkeley.edu/archive/" TARGET = "_top">Link</A>) where Parfit s lectures were held. </li></ul><FONT COLOR = "0000FF"><HR><B>BOOK COMMENT: </B><BR><BR>OUP Oxford (2011), hardback</P> <P ALIGN = "Justify"><FONT Size = 2 FACE="Arial"><FONT COLOR = "0000FF"><HR><BR>"<B><A HREF = "../../../PaperSummaries/PaperSummary_20/PaperSummary_20118.htm">Blackburn (Simon) - Review of Derek Parfit's 'On What Matters'</A></B>"<BR><BR><B>Source</B>: Personal Website.<BR><FONT COLOR = "0000FF"><BR><BR><U>Author s Introduction</U><FONT COLOR = "800080"><ol type="1"><li>This review was commissioned originally by the Financial Times. But they did not like it, and it was not published in this form. However a version more suitable for the general reader (and perhaps slightly less irritated in tone) was published eventually, and I have added this for comparison, at the end. Only connoisseurs of rhetoric need bother reading both versions. </li><li>For more reservations about Parfit s treatment of expressivism, see my "<A HREF = "../../../Abstracts/Abstract_20/Abstract_20110.htm">Blackburn (Simon) - All Souls Night - Parfit on Expressivism</A>". </li></ol></FONT><BR>Despite Simon Blackburn s suggestion, I ve included the two versions side-by-side for comparison. <BR><h3>Derek Parfit <em>On <A HREF="../../../Notes/Notes_1/Notes_108.htm">What Matters</A><SUP>1</SUP></em>, Vols I & II. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1,440 pages, 30.00.</h3><CENTER><TABLE WIDTH=1200><TR><TH WIDTH="50%">Original Version</TH><TH WIDTH="50%">Published Version</TH></TR><TR><td WIDTH="50%"><FONT COLOR = "800080"><ol type="1"><li>Together weighing two kilos or just under five pounds, these two colossal volumes represent many years of work by one of the most influential moral philosophers of our time. They have been long in the making, and the subject of much pre-publication discussion on the web and elsewhere. Indeed, the first volume starts with an extensive introduction by one colleague, while the second volume includes four quite lengthy essays by commentators on other parts of the work, as well as replies by Parfit to those commentaries. And in the acknowledgements Parfit lists, by my count, some 260 other philosophers whom he claims to have helped him. Oxford University Press is especially to be congratulated for being able to price the result at just over 2p a page, an astonishing figure when the norm for academic books is probably nearer 20p a page. Other Oxford authors must hope that no element of cross-subsidy has taken place.</li><li>So is this, as Peter Singer hailed in the TLS, the most significant contribution to moral philosophy since 1874, when Henry Sidgwick sculpted his own great tombstone, <em>The Methods of Ethics</em>? Or is it a long voyage down a stagnant backwater? Like most work on moral philosophy, it is divided between two distinct areas. There are theories within ethics, telling us what our values should be, or what are the contours of our rights and duties. This is known as first-order moral philosophy. Then there are second-order theories, telling us something about the status of first-order pronouncements. In this area, often called metaethics, notions such as objectivity, knowledge, truth, proof, and reason are used to debate the nature of first-order claims. If I pronounce, for example, that vanity is a sin, could my remark count as objective and perhaps true, or even known to be true, by the light of reason? This is Parfit s view, rationalism. Or am I more in the business of expressing an attitude, or encouraging a sentiment of disapprobation of vanity, voicing a stance rather than describing a fact?</li><li>This alternative, ( Humeanism ) is the view held by philosophers from Augustine ( in the pull of the will and of love appears the worth of everything to be sought or avoided, to be thought of greater or less value ) to Hume, Adam Smith, and Wittgenstein. It is also the view implicit in all the fascinating work on actual decision-making that has exploded in recent years, with writers such as Antonio Damasio, Jonathan Haidt, Jesse Prinz, Joshua Green, Pat Churchland, and others showing, in illuminating detail, how we actually work. But Parfit wishes to uproot and stamp out Humeanism.</li><li>  We are the animals that can both understand and respond to reasons , he says in the first sentence of the book, launching his attempt to demonstrate that Humeans cannot do justice to this fact. The stick he uses to beat what he condescendingly calls  these people is that reasons are  object-given , that is, they exist in virtue of the properties of the things said to give reasons. So far so good: that there is a bull in a field might be a nice solid fact, and one that gives some of us a reason to stick close to the perimeter. But now, the argument continues, the reason, being object-given, would exist whether we are aware of it or not, or whether we respond to it or not. This contrasts with what he thinks is said by  subject-given views in which reasons exist only in the light of our desires. And as the work unfolds the objectivity and independence of reasons from mere human desires and preferences are ever more firmly asserted, with Humeans and others banished from any kind of commerce with these  object-given reasons, Parfit s own private hunting preserve. Thus after four hundred pages, Parfit roundly forbids Humeans even from saying that when we are forming desires or plans, our standpoint would be improved if we knew more of the relevant facts about the environment, such as it s not being a bull but a cow. Silly old Hume.</li><li>In fact, Humeans must say that there are no reasons for anything  nothing matters. They are rank nihilists! Nicely illustrating how to combine poverty of imagination with vulgarity of tone, one of the commentators included here, Allen Wood, describes them as  either radically defective specimens of humanity who are incapable of feeling respect for anyone or anything, or else every time they do feel it they commit themselves to contradicting their own metaethical theories . Golly.</li><li>Vice Chancellors bent on finding excuses to close philosophy departments must be rubbing their hands if not one of Parfit s 260 helpers smelled a rat in all this. Philosophers do say funny things, but none that I can call to mind has ever denied that we respond to facts about objects, such as the bull in the field, when we decide what to do. Nor have they doubted that if we get those facts wrong, our decisions and desires are likely to be worse. What Humeans have said is that to take the bull s presence as a reason for sticking to the edge of the field is indeed to go beyond merely perceiving it, that it will require a particular profile of concerns, fears, and desires, and that this profile is not simply given by anything like our capacity for such things as mathematics and logic. This is the point of Hume s famously provocative remark that reason is and ought only to be the slave of the passions. What has gone wrong is that Parfit s strategy of erecting a binary opposition between  object-given and  subject-given theories is completely ludicrous. Any sensible theorist has both elements, working in harmony. So the Titanic hits its iceberg before leaving port, although, if one may abuse the metaphor, it hits plenty more before the end of the voyage.</li><li>All that Hume holds is that our passions are part of whatever mental state is revealed by our taking something as mattering to us. Far from implying that there are no reasons for anything or that nothing matters this is the only plausible account of why we think that there are reasons for things, and find that things do matter. Hume never bars himself from using the word  reasonable as a term of praise, and indeed peppers all his works with it, talking happily of reasonable precautions, demands, policies, traits and feelings.</li><li>It s not as if Parfit has an alternative account that is much help. In his view reasons play roughly the role of Plato s Form of the Good, and are in many ways just as elusive. Reasons are not part of the natural, causally interlocking world. We do not perceive them or respond to them in anything like the way we gain sensory information about our physical environment. Parfit compares our knowledge of them to our knowledge of mathematics, forgetting Frege s insight that numerals start life as adjectives describing the empirical magnitudes of collections, and forgetting as well that it is quite easy to describe why we might be interested in those magnitudes. But in Parfit s account, reasons are kept within a tight circle of evaluative terms (good, right, obligation), linked up in eternal verities whose intelligible connection with anything outside the circle, such as actual human decision-making, has to be left utterly mysterious. Parfit frequently presents himself as having an  account of ethical truth, but since the account simply consists of restating value judgments in terms drawn from the tight little circle, it is not an account, and it is not unavailable to Humeans.</li><li>When he turns from this shipwreck to first-order ethics, Parfit s aim is to find a reconciliation between two philosophies that are often opposed: utilitarianism and Kantianism. This has also been the aim of many other philosophers, notably J. S. Mill, and R. M. Hare. From the Kantian tradition Parfit draws the idea of principles that could be universally willed. From distinguished modern followers of Kant, such as Rawls, and especially Thomas Scanlon, he draws the idea of principles that nobody could reasonably reject. Such abstract formulae need a great deal of filling out, so from the utilitarian tradition he draws the idea of principle whose universal acceptance would make things go best. Putting all these together we get that  an act is wrong just when such acts are disallowed by some principle that is optimific, uniquely universally willable, and not reasonably rejectable . There are scholarly questions, some of which are pursued by the four commentators, of the extent to which this formula is a true offspring of either Kant or utilitarians, such as Mill. But the fidelity to both traditions, or to previous reconciling attempts, is not Parfit s prime interest. Instead, with relentless, indeed obsessive, concentration he steers his principle through such urgent questions as whether we ought to send a lifeboat that can only make one trip to a rock where it can pick up five people rather than to a rock where there is only one, or whether a fat man might reasonably object to being pushed off a bridge to stop a trolley hurtling towards five others.</li><li>The image, then, is of a unique principle from which we can deduce which actions are wrong, thereby revealing the one true morality. A strange aspect of this approach is that it is entirely modeled on the judicial problem of coming to a verdict: was this something that it was permissible to do? But legal verdicts matter: they have consequences attached to them. Yet Parfit has no explanation why the moral verdict, and the scholastic apparatus necessary to deduce it, similarly matter to anyone. Suppose someone says,  OK, I did wrong. So what? Set all the forces that move people to zero, and people do not move. Moral emotions, such as pride, guilt and shame must be recruited to add some motivational pushes, but then we are back in the world of Hume and Smith, and the rationalism supposed to get us there has been nothing but a mirage, a fifth wheel.</li><li>The classical traditions in moral philosophy, and the great philosophers who followed it, see the subject very differently. In the Aristotelian and Ciceronian view, what matters+XX+ is the character of the agent, and the virtues that make it up. Yet  character is a word that does not appear in the index to either of these volumes, presumably because it has no more to do with the rationalist aim of proving theorems about eternal reasons than do emotion or desire. Indeed, it is contestable whether a good character should need to make room for much of a notion of a  principle at all, let alone a deduction of judicial verdicts from such things. A well-tuned sense of shame or necessity, and with it a well-tuned sensitivity to the needs of others, go a long way before any principles loom into view. A sense of what will do and what will not, exercised on individual real, messy, human cases, and refined through education, experience, imagination, and sympathy, might never result in any urge to write everything down into a complete code. Any principles that might in some way summarize or assist the work of practical reasoning are likely to be provisional, liable to exceptions and qualifications without end, and to require interpretation and tact in their application.</li><li>Parfit is of a different temperament.  It would be a tragedy he tells us on page 2,  if there is no single true morality . Well, outside the charmed walls of All Souls College, there actually are tragedies. Often the messy pluralities of conflicting moral demands  one might have said, the conflicting demands on human life itself  are part of the cause. Inside the charmed walls I fear that the tragedy is more like that of Ajax slaying sheep, or perhaps it is the comedy of Don Quixote tilting at windmills. </li></ol></FONT></TD><td WIDTH="50%"><FONT COLOR = "800080"><ol type="1"><li>Together weighing two kilos, or just under five pounds, these two colossal volumes represent many years of work by one of the most influential moral philosophers of our time. They have been long in the making: it is over twenty five years since Parfit impressed the world with "<A HREF = "../../../BookSummaries/BookSummary_00/BookPaperAbstracts/BookPaperAbstracts_41.htm">Parfit (Derek) - Reasons and Persons</A>", a work that made his reputation, and firmly ensconced him behind the walls of All Souls. The intervening years have seen very little more. But Parfit has not entirely secluded himself: in the acknowledgements he lists, by my count, some 260 other philosophers whom he claims to have helped him. Oxford University Press is especially to be congratulated for being able to price the result at just over 2p a page, an astonishing figure when the norm for academic books is probably nearer 20p a page.</li><li>Like most work on moral philosophy, Parfit s book it is divided between two distinct areas. There are theories within ethics, telling us what our values should be, or what are the contours of our rights and duties. These are theories in what is known as first-order moral philosophy. Its aim has often been to reduce the teeming plurality of rights and duties, obligations and benefits to some kind of order. At the limit there might be either a small number of principles, or even one unique principle, from which everything else could be derived. Hence we find suggestions such as the Golden Rule, John Stuart Mill s principle of Maximizing Utility, or Kant s Categorical Imperative. But we also find writers like Isaiah Berlin, or Bernard Williams, who mistrust all this tidiness, and insist instead on the irreducible plurality of virtues, or the inevitability of insoluble dilemmas as different obligations conflict and jar against each other. Classical tragedy is especially concerned with such conflicts and their insoluble nature.</li><li>The other branch of the subject consists of second-order theories, telling us something about the status of first-order pronouncements. In this area, often called meta-ethics, notions such as objectivity, knowledge, truth, proof, and reason are used to debate the nature of first-order claims. If I pronounce, for example, that vanity is a sin, could my remark count as objective and perhaps true, or even known to be true, by the light of reason? This is Parfit s view, rationalism. Or am I more in the business of expressing an attitude, or encouraging a sentiment of disapprobation of vanity, voicing a stance rather than describing a fact?</li><li>This is the view held by philosophers from Augustine ( in the pull of the will and of love appears the worth of everything to be sought or avoided, to be thought of greater or less value ) to Hobbes, Hume, and Adam Smith. It is also the view implicit in a huge amount of fascinating work on actual decision-making that draws on cognitive science, neurophysiology, evolutionary psychology and other disciplines. This has exploded in recent years, with writers such as Antonio Damasio, Jonathan Haidt, Jesse Prinz, Joshua Green, Pat Churchland, and others showing, in illuminating detail, how we actually work.</li><li>The battle between rationalism and its more emotional competitor may sound to be only of academic interest. But it spills into the real world. Rationalism more readily consorts with absolutism, with untroubled conviction that our own moral views are uniquely correct, so that other cultures that do not share them are defective, sunk in unreason, irrational, and perhaps after all best governed by us. It is the view of a mandarin class, and in international politics, a colonial or imperial view. Its particular horror is the  relativism that it associates with the alternative: the idea that our morality is just the haphazard creature of our particular culture, upbringing, emotional makeup, or prejudice.</li><li>Out in the world of politics, perhaps the most dangerous people of all are those self-righteously confident that reason alone determines their courses, but whose actual motivations are made up from the turbulent stew of their own emotional natures. Tyrants and democratic politicians alike claim the mantle of reason, when in actuality ambition, narcissism, vanity and lack of imagination propel their courses. One can think of cases in recent British history.</li><li>Parfit is an unashamed rationalist.  We are the animals that can both understand and respond to reasons , he says in the first sentence of the book, launching his attempt to demonstrate that those who side with Hobbes or Hume cannot do justice to this fact. The stick he uses to beat what he condescendingly calls  these people is that reasons are  object-given , that is, they exist in virtue of the properties of the things said to give reasons. So far so good: that there is a bull in a field might be a nice solid fact, and one that gives some of us a reason to detour around it. But now, the argument continues, the reason, being object-given, would exist whether we are aware of it or not, or whether we respond to it or not. Parfit contrast this with  subject-given views in which reasons exist only in the light of our desires, as Augustine said. As the work unfolds the objectivity and independence of reasons from mere human desires and preferences are ever more firmly asserted, with Hume and others banished from any kind of commerce with these  object-given reasons, Parfit s own private hunting preserve.</li><li>It s a very idiosyncratic way of drawing the battle lines, so much so that Vice-Chancellors bent on finding excuses to close philosophy departments must be rubbing their hands if not one of Parfit s 260 helpers smelled a rat in it. Philosophers do say funny things, but none that I can call to mind has ever denied that we respond to facts about objects, such as the bull in the field, when we decide what to do. Nor have they doubted that if we get those facts wrong, our decisions and desires are likely to be worse. If it wasn t a bull but a cow, the arduous detour was unnecessary. What Hume and others have said is that to take the bull s presence as a reason for going around the field is indeed to go beyond merely perceiving it, that doing so will depend upon some profile of fear and desire, and that this profile is not simply given by anything like our capacity for such things as mathematics and logic. This is the point of Hume s famously provocative remark that reason is and ought only to be the slave of the passions.</li><li>Parfit does notice that Hume happily uses the word  reasonable as a term of praise, and indeed peppers all his works with it, talking happily of reasonable precautions, demands, policies, traits and feelings. He uncharitably supposes that Hume constantly forgot his own theory. But there is no forgetfulness and no inconsistency. The section of his Treatise in which the remark comes is called  Of the Influencing Motives of the Will . It is about the explanation of choice and action, not about praise or blame. When he turns to those Hume can indeed happily go on to commend all kinds of things as reasonable or to criticize them as unreasonable. A person who fills with rage when overtaken on the motorway is unreasonable. But it is his passions and temperament that are at fault, not his awareness of the road nor his capacity for logic.</li><li>When he turns from this disastrous engagement with the Humean tradition to first-order ethics, Parfit is on less shaky ground. His aim is to find a reconciliation between two philosophies that are often opposed: one that talks of costs and benefits, utilitarianism, and one that talks of rigid duties and principles, Kantianism. Such reconciliation has also been the aim of many other philosophers, notably John Stuart Mill, and R. M. Hare. From the Kantian tradition Parfit draws the idea of principles that could be universally willed. From distinguished modern followers of Kant, such as Rawls, and especially Thomas Scanlon, he draws the idea of principles that nobody could reasonably reject. As Hegel noticed shortly after Kant wrote, such abstract formulae need a great deal of filling out, so from the utilitarian tradition Parfit draws the idea of principle whose universal acceptance would make things go best. Putting all these together we get that  an act is wrong just when such acts are disallowed by some principle that is optimific, uniquely universally willable, and not reasonably rejectable .</li><li>The image, then, is of a unique principle from which we can deduce which actions are wrong, thereby revealing the one true morality. Parfit is assiduous, obsessive even, in pitting his principle against an exhausting variety of <A HREF="../../../Notes/Notes_0/Notes_32.htm">thought experiments</A><SUP>2</SUP> designed to test which answer it is right to give in various circumstances. Yet a strange aspect of this approach is that it is entirely modeled on the judicial problem of coming to a verdict: was this something that it was permissible to do? But legal verdicts matter: they have consequences attached to them. Yet these volumes offer no explanation why the moral verdict, and the scholastic apparatus necessary to deduce it, similarly matter to anyone. Suppose someone says,  OK, you can deduce from your principle that I did wrong. So what? Moral emotions, such as a sense of honour, self-respect, pride, guilt, or shame must be recruited to add some motivational pushes, but then we are back in the world of Hume and Smith, and the rationalism supposed to go beyond them has been nothing but a mirage, a fifth wheel.</li><li>The classical traditions in moral philosophy, and the great philosophers who followed it, see the subject very differently. In the Aristotelian and Ciceronian view, what matters+XX+ is the character of the agent, and the virtues that make it up. Yet  character is a word that does not appear in the index to either of these volumes, presumably because it has no more to do with the rationalist aim of proving theorems about eternal reasons than do emotion or desire.</li><li>It is actually contestable to what extent a virtuous character will be structured by hard-and-fast principles. A well-tuned sense of shame or necessity, and with it a well-tuned sensitivity to the needs of others, go a long way before any such principles loom into view. A sense of what will do and what will not, exercised on individual real, messy, human cases, and refined through education, experience, imagination, and sympathy, might never result in any urge to codify everything. Any principles that might in some way summarize or assist the work of practical reasoning are likely to be provisional, liable to exceptions and qualifications without end, and to require interpretation, judgment and tact in their application.</li><li>Parfit is of a different temperament.  It would be a tragedy he tells us on page 2,  if there is no single true morality . Well, as tragedies go, this one seems quite supportable. Often the messy pluralities of conflicting moral demands  one might have said, the conflicting demands on human life itself  are part of the cause. But none of that implies that  anything goes . Human life imposes demands on all of us. When people fall short, it may be our contingent, culturally formed natures that make us feel aversion to them, but the aversion is real enough. And we endlessly discuss and modify and rearrange the pieces on the moral board: in our own time attitudes to homosexuality, equality, race, gender, and childhood have all changed for the better. Others, such as our attitudes to greed and wealth may have gone into a trough, but perhaps there are welcome signs of recovery. </li></ol></FONT></TD></TR></TABLE></CENTER><BR><BR><FONT COLOR = "0000FF"><B>COMMENT: </B><ul type="disc"><li>Review of "<A HREF = "../../../BookSummaries/BookSummary_06/BookPaperAbstracts/BookPaperAbstracts_6355.htm">Parfit (Derek) - On What Matters: Volume One</A>" and "<A HREF = "../../../BookSummaries/BookSummary_06/BookPaperAbstracts/BookPaperAbstracts_6356.htm">Parfit (Derek) - On What Matters: Volume Two</A>". </li><li>See <A HREF = "http://www2.phil.cam.ac.uk/~swb24/reviews/Parfitfinal.htm" TARGET = "_top">Link</A>. </li></ul></P> <P ALIGN = "Justify"><FONT Size = 2 FACE="Arial"><FONT COLOR = "0000FF"><HR><BR>"<B><A HREF = "../../../PaperSummaries/PaperSummary_20/PaperSummary_20990.htm">Scheffler (Samuel) - On What Matters: Volume One - Introduction</A></B>"<BR><BR><B>Source</B>: Parfit (Derek) - On What Matters: Volume One (The Berkeley Tanner Lectures)<BR></P> <P ALIGN = "Justify"><FONT Size = 2 FACE="Arial"><FONT COLOR = "0000FF"><HR><BR>"<B><A HREF = "../../../PaperSummaries/PaperSummary_20/PaperSummary_20963.htm">Parfit (Derek) - On What Matters: Volume One - Preface & Summary</A></B>"<BR><BR><B>Source</B>: Parfit (Derek) - On What Matters: Volume One (The Berkeley Tanner Lectures)<BR></P> <P ALIGN = "Justify"><FONT Size = 2 FACE="Arial"><FONT COLOR = "0000FF"><HR><BR>"<B><A HREF = "../../../PaperSummaries/PaperSummary_20/PaperSummary_20979.htm">Parfit (Derek) - On What Matters: Volume One - Part 1: Reasons</A></B>"<BR><BR><B>Source</B>: Parfit (Derek) - On What Matters: Volume One (The Berkeley Tanner Lectures)<BR><FONT COLOR = "0000FF"><BR><BR><u>Chapters & Sections</u><FONT COLOR = "800080"><ol type="1"><li>Normative Concepts  31<ul type="disc"><li>1. Normative Reasons  31</li><li>2. Reason-Involving Goodness  38</li></ul></li><li>Objective Theories  43<ul type="disc"><li>3. Two Kinds of Theory  43</li><li>4. Responding to Reasons  47</li><li>5. State-Given Reasons  50</li><li>6. Hedonic Reasons  52</li><li>7. Irrational Preferences  56</li></ul></li><li>Subjective Theories  58<ul type="disc"><li>8. Subjectivism about Reasons  58</li><li>9. Why People Accept Subjective Theories  65</li><li>10. Analytical Subjectivism  70</li><li>11. The Agony Argument  73</li></ul></li><li>Further Arguments  83<ul type="disc"><li>12. The All or None Argument  83</li><li>13. The Incoherence Argument  91</li><li>14. Reasons, Motives, and Well-Being  101</li><li>15. Arguments for Subjectivism  107</li></ul></li><li>Rationality  111<ul type="disc"><li>16. Practical and Epistemic Rationality  111</li><li>17. Beliefs about Reasons  118</li><li>18. Other Views about Rationality  125</li></ul></li><li>Morality  130<ul type="disc"><li>19. Sidgwick's Dualism  130</li><li>20. The Profoundest Problem  141</li></ul></li><li>Moral Concepts  150<ul type="disc"><li>21. Acting in Ignorance or with False Beliefs  150</li><li>22. Other Kinds of Wrongness  164</li></ul> </li></ol> </FONT></P> <P ALIGN = "Justify"><FONT Size = 2 FACE="Arial"><FONT COLOR = "0000FF"><HR><BR>"<B><A HREF = "../../../PaperSummaries/PaperSummary_20/PaperSummary_20980.htm">Parfit (Derek) - On What Matters: Volume One - Part 2: Principles</A></B>"<BR><BR><B>Source</B>: Parfit (Derek) - On What Matters: Volume One (The Berkeley Tanner Lectures)<BR><FONT COLOR = "0000FF"><BR><BR><u>Chapters & Sections</u><FONT COLOR = "800080"><ol start = "8" type="1"><li>Possible Consent  177<ul type="disc"><li>23. Coercion and Deception  177</li><li>24. The Consent Principle  179</li><li>25. Reasons to Give Consent  182</li><li>26. A Superfluous Principle?  189</li><li>27. Actual Consent  191</li><li>28. Deontic Beliefs  200</li><li>29. Extreme Demands  207</li></ul></li><li>Merely As A Means  212<ul type="disc"><li>30. The Mere Means Principle  212</li><li>31. As a Means and Merely as a Means  221</li><li>32. Harming as a Means  228</li></ul></li><li>Respect And Value  233 <ul type="disc"><li>33. Respect for Persons  233</li><li>34. Two Kinds of Value  235</li><li>35. Kantian Dignity  239</li><li>36. The Right and the Good  244</li><li>37. Promoting the Good  250 </li></ul></li><li>Free Will And Desert  258<ul type="disc"><li>38. The Freedom that Morality Requires  258</li><li>39. Why We Cannot Deserve to Suffer  263 </li></ul></li></ol> </FONT></P> <P ALIGN = "Justify"><FONT Size = 2 FACE="Arial"><FONT COLOR = "0000FF"><HR><BR>"<B><A HREF = "../../../PaperSummaries/PaperSummary_20/PaperSummary_20981.htm">Parfit (Derek) - On What Matters: Volume One - Part 3: Theories</A></B>"<BR><BR><B>Source</B>: Parfit (Derek) - On What Matters: Volume One (The Berkeley Tanner Lectures)<BR><FONT COLOR = "0000FF"><BR><BR><u>Chapters & Sections</u><FONT COLOR = "800080"><ol start = "12" type="1"><li>Universal Laws  275<ul type="disc"><li>40. The Impossibility Formula  275</li><li>41. The Law of Nature and Moral Belief Formulas  284</li><li>42. The Agent's Maxim  289</li></ul></li><li>What If Everyone Did That?  301<ul type="disc"><li>43. Each-We Dilemmas  301</li><li>44. The Threshold Objection  308</li><li>45. The Ideal World Objections  312</li></ul></li><li>Impartiality  321<ul type="disc"><li>46. The Golden Rule  321</li><li>47. The Rarity and High Stakes Objections  330</li><li>48. The Non-Reversibility Objection  334</li><li>49. A Kantian Solution  338</li></ul></li><li>Contractualism  343 <ul type="disc"><li>50. The Rational Agreement Formula  343</li><li>51. Rawlsian Contractualism  346</li><li>52. Kantian Contractualism  355</li><li>53. Scanlonian Contractualism  360</li><li>54. The Deontic Beliefs Restriction  366 </li></ul></li><li>Consequentialism  371<ul type="disc"><li>55. Consequentialist Theories  371</li><li>56. Consequentialist Maxims  375</li><li>57. The Kantian Argument  377</li><li>58. Self-Interested Reasons  380</li><li>59. Altruistic and Deontic Reasons  385</li><li>60. The Wrong-Making Features Objection  389</li><li>61. Decisive Non-Deontic Reasons  394</li><li>62. What Everyone Could Rationally Will  398</li></ul></li><li>Conclusions  404<ul type="disc"><li>63. Kantian Consequentialism  404</li><li>64. Climbing the Mountain  411 </li></ul> </li></ol> </FONT></P> <P ALIGN = "Justify"><FONT Size = 2 FACE="Arial"><FONT COLOR = "0000FF"><HR><BR>"<B><A HREF = "../../../PaperSummaries/PaperSummary_20/PaperSummary_20982.htm">Parfit (Derek) - On What Matters: Volume One - Appendices & Notes</A></B>"<BR><BR><B>Source</B>: Parfit (Derek) - On What Matters: Volume One (The Berkeley Tanner Lectures)<BR><FONT COLOR = "0000FF"><BR><BR><u>Chapters & Sections</u><FONT COLOR = "800080"><ol type="A"><li>State-Given Reasons  420</li><li>Rational Irrationality and Gauthier s Theory  433 </li><li>Deontic Reasons  448 </li></ol> </FONT></P> <a name="ColourConventions"></a><hr><br><B><U>Text Colour Conventions</U> (see <A HREF="../../../Notes/Notes_10/Notes_1025.htm">disclaimer</a>)</B><OL TYPE="1"><LI><FONT COLOR = "0000FF">Blue</FONT>: Text by me; &copy; Theo Todman, 2018</li><LI><FONT COLOR = "800080">Mauve</FONT>: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); &copy; the author(s)</li></OL> </center> <BR><HR><BR><center> <TABLE class = "Bridge" WIDTH=950> <TR><TD WIDTH="30%">&copy; Theo Todman, June 2007 - August 2018.</TD> <TD WIDTH="40%">Please address any comments on this page to <A HREF="mailto:theo@theotodman.com">theo@theotodman.com</A>.</TD> <TD WIDTH="30%">File output: <time datetime="2018-08-02T05:15" pubdate>02/08/2018 05:15:34</time> <br><A HREF="../../../Notes/Notes_10/Notes_1010.htm">Website Maintenance Dashboard</A> </TD></TR><TD WIDTH="30%"><A HREF="#Top">Return to Top of this Page</A></TD> <TD WIDTH="40%"><A HREF="../../../Notes/Notes_11/Notes_1140.htm">Return to Theo Todman's Philosophy Page</A></TD> <TD WIDTH="30%"><A HREF="../../../index.htm">Return to Theo Todman's Home Page</A></TD> </TR></TABLE></CENTER><HR> </BODY> </HTML>