Tuesday, May 24, 2011

New Book: "On What Matters" by Derek Parfit

On What Matters vol. 1 + 2

by Derek Parfit

(Oxford University Press, 2011)

540 + 825 pages


On What Matters is a major work in moral philosophy. It is the long-awaited follow-up to Derek Parfit's 1984 book Reasons and Persons, one of the landmarks of twentieth-century philosophy. Parfit now presents a powerful new treatment of reasons, rationality, and normativity, 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.

Parfit's book is dedicated to Thomas Nagel and T. M. Scanlon.



Introduction, Samuel Scheffler


Part I: Reasons

- Normative Concepts
- Objective Theories
- Subjective Theories
- Further Arguments
- Rationality
- Morality
- Moral ConceptsPart II: Principles
- Possible Consent
- Merely As A Means
- Respect And Value
- Free Will And Desert
Part III: Theories
- Universal Laws
- What If Everyone Did That?
- Impartiality
- Contractualism
- Consequentialism
- Conclusions
Appendices A-C



Part IV: Commentaries
- Hiking The Range, Susan Wolf
- Humanity As An End In Itself, Allen Wood
- A Mismatch of Methods, Barbara Herman
- How I Am Not A Kantian, T. M. Scanlon

Part V: Responses
Part VI: Normativity
- Analytical Naturalism And Subjectivism
- Non-Analytical Naturalism
- The Triviality Objection
- Naturalism And Nihilism
- Non-Cognitivism And Quasi-Realism
- Normativity And Truth
- Normative Truths
- Metaphysics
- Epistemology
- Rationalism
- Agreement
- Nietzsche
- What Matters Most

Appendices D-J

Various draft manuscripts of the book have been available online. See an early draft, entitled "Climbing the Mountain", here (pdf, 310 pages), and a draft from December 2008 here (pdf, 750 pages). Five chapters in Part II and Part III are adapted from Parfit's Tanner Lectures in 2002: "What We Could Rationally Will" (pdf).

See Ratio's special issue on Parfit's "On What Matters" here.

See a reading group of the draft manuscript "Climbing The Mountain" here.

See a bibliography of Derek Parfit's publications here.

Derek Parfit is Emeritus Fellow at All Souls College, University of Oxford.

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