On What Matters
by Derek Parfit
(Oxford University Press, 2017)
Derek Parfit presents the third volume of On What Matters, his landmark work of moral philosophy. Parfit develops further his influential treatment of reasons, normativity, the meaning of moral discourse, and the status of morality. He engages with his critics, and shows the way to resolution of their differences.
This volume is partly about what it is for things to matter, in the sense that we all have reasons to care about these things. Much of the book discusses three of the main kinds of meta-ethical theory: Normative Naturalism, Quasi-Realist Expressivism, and Non-Metaphysical Non-Naturalism, which Derek Parfit now calls Non-Realist Cognitivism. This third theory claims that, if we use the word 'reality' in an ontologically weighty sense, irreducibly normative truths have no mysterious or incredible ontological implications. If instead we use 'reality' in a wide sense, according to which all truths are truths about reality, this theory claims that some non-empirically discoverable truths-such as logical, mathematical, modal, and some normative truths-raise no difficult ontological questions.
Parfit discusses these theories partly by commenting on the views of some of the contributors to Peter Singer's collection Does Anything Really Matter? Parfit on Objectivity (Oxford University Press, 2017).
Part Seven: Irreducibly Normative Truths
37. How Things Might Matter
38. Normative and Natural Truths
39. Gibbard's Offer to Non-Naturalists
40. Railton's Defence of Soft Naturalism
41. Railton's Resolution of our Disagreements
42. Jackson's Non-Empirical Normative Truths
43. Schroeder's Conservative Reductive Thesis
Part Eight: Expressivist Truths
44. Quasi-Realist Expressivism
45. Gibbard's Resolution of our Disagreements
46: Another Triple Theory
Part Nine: Normative and Psychological Reasons
47. Expressivist Reasons
48. Subjectivist Reasons
49. Street's Meta-Ethical Constructivism
50. Morality, Blame, and Internal Reasons
51: Nietzsche's Mountain
52. What Matters and Universal Reasons
53. Act Consequentialism, Reasons, and Morality
Derek Parfit died on January 1, 2017.
He was a Senior Research Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford. He was the author of "Reasons and Persons" (Oxford University Press, 1984), and "On What Matters" Volume One and Volume Two (Oxford University Press, 2011).
See two recent papers by Derek Parfit:
* "Conflicting Reasons" (Etica & Politica, 2016)
* "Personal and Omnipersonal Duties" (The Harvard Review of Philosophy, 2016).
See also Larissa MacFarquhar's portrait of Derek Parfit in "The New Yorker" September 2011: "How to be Good".