Derek Parfit's 'On What Matters'
Have you read any of On What Matters? If so, what did you think of it?

Derek Parfit's 'On What Matters'
Dingbat92
Philosophy Nerd

Usergroup: Members
Joined: Mar 26, 2012

Total Topics: 3
Total Posts: 16
#1 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Mar 26, 2012 - 4:50 PM:
Subject: Derek Parfit's 'On What Matters'
Has anyone else read any of On What Matters by Derek Parfit? For those of you who don't know about it, it's been talked about to be the first major philosophical text of our century. It has been been described as the most anticipated work in philosophy since Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations. Peter Singer's described it as being the most important contribution to ethics since Henry Sedgwick's The Methods of Ethics. In short, especially at the moment, it's pretty exciting stuff. In the book, Parfit rigorously defends his metaethical position of non-naturalist realism. His normative theory is the real attention seeker though. He provides a substantive new normative theory, synthesising rule utilitarianism (derived from consequentialist investigations), Kantian deontology and contractualism. In a work as big as it is there's other bits and pieces, but the main ideas are what I've written.

I'm currently reading through Part 6: Normativity. It's here where his main arguing for non-naturalism takes place, and it's pretty interesting stuff. Personally, I think he provides great food for thought with his arguments against naturalism but I think he falls short when criticising expressivism. I haven't read any other parts and have just provided an outline concerning his position in normative ethics.

Has anyone else read this book? And if so, what did you think of it? I'm not necessarily looking for arguments, but I would be interested in hearing the responses of others to Parfit's work.
stew
Resident
Avatar

Usergroup: Members
Joined: Nov 29, 2008
Location: Point Break

Total Topics: 10
Total Posts: 414
#2 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Mar 26, 2012 - 6:54 PM:

I've been reading it. Jumping back and forth between his chapters on Reasons, Objective & Subjective Theories and Normativity.

I was drawn to it as I am interested in non-natural value realism, abd besides Parfit is pretty badass. Hard not to take his arguments seriously.

His attempt in finding convergence in current normative theories is admirable as well.
Proxistic
Metacognitive Apathy

Usergroup: Members
Joined: Dec 22, 2011
Location: The Blessed City of Meh

Total Topics: 8
Total Posts: 306
#3 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Mar 26, 2012 - 8:07 PM:

Maybe a current day 'major work of philosophy' won't be such a drag to read.
Caldwell
Humanite
Avatar

Usergroup: Moderators
Joined: Apr 18, 2006

Total Topics: 10
Total Posts: 1103
#4 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Mar 28, 2012 - 4:00 AM:

Dingbat92 wrote:
In the book, Parfit rigorously defends his metaethical position of non-naturalist realism.

Can you define his "non-naturalist realism", for those of us who haven't read Parfit or don't know what non-naturalist realism is? Thanks.




busycuttingcrap
malcontent
Avatar

Usergroup: Moderators
Joined: Jul 15, 2011

Total Topics: 42
Total Posts: 1875
#5 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Mar 28, 2012 - 1:33 PM:

Caldwell wrote:

Can you define his "non-naturalist realism", for those of us who haven't read Parfit or don't know what non-naturalist realism is? Thanks.



The name kind of says it all- presumably someone who thinks there are real, non-natural, moral facts or laws...
theemezz0
Initiate

Usergroup: Members
Joined: May 08, 2011

Total Topics: 21
Total Posts: 49
#6 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Mar 28, 2012 - 11:05 PM:

I am also in the process of reading Parfit's 'On What Matters', but have much difficulty in trying to understand some of the objections and arguments without much of a background in Kant, normativity, or ethics in general. I considered myself a non-cognitivist before reading his book, but I'm beginning to rethink my stance on morality after reading some of his objections in Ch. 28...
Caldwell
Humanite
Avatar

Usergroup: Moderators
Joined: Apr 18, 2006

Total Topics: 10
Total Posts: 1103
#7 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Mar 29, 2012 - 3:11 AM:

busycuttingcrap wrote:


The name kind of says it all- presumably someone who thinks there are real, non-natural, moral facts or laws...

Does he give examples?


Dingbat92
Philosophy Nerd

Usergroup: Members
Joined: Mar 26, 2012

Total Topics: 3
Total Posts: 16
#8 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Mar 29, 2012 - 4:55 AM:

Caldwell wrote:

Can you define his "non-naturalist realism", for those of us who haven't read Parfit or don't know what non-naturalist realism is? Thanks.


Certainly.

1) Ethical statements express propositions (statements that can be true or false. 'I am 120' is a false proposition; 'turn the TV off' isn't a proposition).
2) Some of these propositions are true.
3) Those propositions are made true by objective features of the world, independent of human opinion.
4) These moral features of the world are not reducible to any set of non-moral facts.

These statements combined give a brief picture of what non-naturalism argues for. Naturalists, for the most part I believe, differ at (4), saying that moral features can be reduced or are equivalent with certain sets of non-moral facts.

Caldwell wrote:

Does he give examples?


I'd presume he establishes his metaethics to give his normative theory some grounding. That said, I haven't read the parts concerning his normative ethics.

theemezz0 wrote:

I am also in the process of reading Parfit's 'On What Matters', but have much difficulty in trying to understand some of the objections and arguments without much of a background in Kant, normativity, or ethics in general. I considered myself a non-cognitivist before reading his book, but I'm beginning to rethink my stance on morality after reading some of his objections in Ch. 28...


Personally I found him to be simply begging the question against non-cognitivists. I could imagine someone such as Simon Blackburn coming back at him and saying 'yes, but these aren't what I believe moral disagreements to be', for example.

Edited by Dingbat92 on Mar 29, 2012 - 5:04 AM
stew
Resident
Avatar

Usergroup: Members
Joined: Nov 29, 2008
Location: Point Break

Total Topics: 10
Total Posts: 414
#9 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Mar 29, 2012 - 11:35 PM:

One thought might be to get a reading group going where we can work through the two books together. Maybe start a google group or something, or do it here if possible. I would definitely participate.
Caldwell
Humanite
Avatar

Usergroup: Moderators
Joined: Apr 18, 2006

Total Topics: 10
Total Posts: 1103
#10 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Mar 30, 2012 - 3:31 AM:

Dingbat92 wrote:


Certainly.

1) Ethical statements express propositions (statements that can be true or false. 'I am 120' is a false proposition; 'turn the TV off' isn't a proposition).
2) Some of these propositions are true.
3) Those propositions are made true by objective features of the world, independent of human opinion.
4) These moral features of the world are not reducible to any set of non-moral facts.

These statements combined give a brief picture of what non-naturalism argues for. Naturalists, for the most part I believe, differ at (4), saying that moral features can be reduced or are equivalent with certain sets of non-moral facts.


That sounds like "objective morality", which has been, at times, vilified because of its being the same as factual occurrence in the world. Anyway, no time to read it now, but if you guys continue this discussion here, it will be good.
locked
Download thread as
  • 0/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5



This thread is closed, so you cannot post a reply.