- Paperback: 560 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press (February 20, 1986)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 019824908X
- ISBN-13: 978-0198249085
- Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 1 x 5.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,711 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Reasons and Persons
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"Very few works in the subject can compare with Parfit's in scope, fertility, imaginative resource, and cogency of reasoning."--P.F. Strawson, The New York Review of Books
"Complex, brilliant, and entertaining....This book is chock-full of impressive arguments, many of which seem destined to become part of the standard analytic repertory....It is an understatement to say that it is well worth reading."--International Studies in Philosophy
"Extraordinary...Brilliant...Astonishingly rich in ideas...A major contribution to philosophy: it will be read, honoured, and argued about for many years to come."--Samuel Scheffler, Times Literary Supplement
"A brilliantly clever and imaginative book...Strange and excitingly intense."--Alan Ryan, Sunday Times (London)
"Not many books reset the philosophical agenda in the way that this one does....Western philosophy, especially systematic ethics, will not be the same again."--Philosophical Books
From the Back Cover
Reasons and persons challenges, with several powerful arguments, some of our deepest beliefs about rationality, morality, and personal identity.
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Top Customer Reviews
Derek Parfit exploded onto the scene with this book in 1984. His work is a goldmine of helpful reflections on, and criticisms of, our ordinary notions of moral behavior, rationality, and personality.
The work is divided into four major parts. In the first, he argues that many of our common-sense moral theories are "self-defeating" in the manner of a Prisoner's Dilemma (which, by the way, is the part that first interested me in the book). In the second, he considers the relations between rationality and time and worries about how we should take the past and the future into ethical account. In the third, he offers a theory of personal identity and its relations to morality. In the fourth, he considers the role that future generations ought to play in our moral deliberations.
Well, sure enough, that's _not_ an adequate summary. I haven't even begun to convey the sheer virtuousity with which Parfit raises objections, makes distinctions, brings out difficulties that are so un-obvious that nobody ever noticed them before, and generally develops his arguments with clarity and vigor. Heck, I haven't even adequately conveyed his views themselves.
So I guess you'll just have to do what I did: read the book. If you have any interest in ethics, you're going to have to read it _sometime_. So get a copy, put it on your bookshelf, take it down and browse through it once in a while.Read more ›
Anyone who has read and enjoyed books by John Searle and Daniel Dennett will probably appreciate Parfit's work.
The four parts are quite independent, but connected by an attack on the Self-interest theory (as defined on the first page).
Parfit reaches many conclusions, but also leaves many questions open. In some cases he says he hasn't found a solution yet (as in the "Theory X" that would "solve" the paradoxes about future generations), in other cases he says that both competing theories can be convincingly defended.
Many examples and counter examples are presented throughout the book, and the thought experiments are always cleverly constructed. Even when a "solution" is not reached, Parfit brings his attacks on the various theories with such a brilliance that makes the book a work of art.
It's not always easy to tell where the author stands on many issues, and I found myself re-reading several times some key parts in order to see the bigger picture to understand where he ways going.
The only negative remark is that in quite a few cases Parfit makes forward references to subsequent chapters "to save words" as he says, and I didn't find that to be very reader friendly. But I'm sure he had his good reasons, and that it was difficult to do otherwise without duplicating the arguments.
The questions are complex, and we are often invited to test our deepest moral intuitions and to follow intricate thought experiments, but I found the book to be extremely rewarding.
Make sure you read the appendixes.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The aim and result of "Reasons and Persons" may perhaps be best described as the dissolution of the idea of persons, at least as the term 'person' is ordinarily understood. Read morePublished 18 days ago by HH
I spent the afternoon reading/skimming it. Mr. Parfit is brilliant, without question, BUT-his premises and conclusions could have been made in a book (essay) a tenth as long. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Frank G. Feldman
By coincidence I had thought of some of these ideas myself. Or, maybe I had browsed the book one time and forgot that I read it. Read morePublished 8 months ago by N. Coppedge
Recommended by another book, but not what I expected or wanted.Published 15 months ago by Amazon Customer
First, pardom my english. Is not even my 2nd language...
Well, I have to agree with other readers about the physical quality of the book. It's bad. Read more
A rigorously argued work of genius as it has proven to be in the philosophic community. Clearly, this is a book that is a fundamental read for students at the undergraduate and... Read morePublished on January 25, 2014 by Gary P. Benjamin