Friday, 6 January 2017

Derek Parfit RIP

Forget all the sad deaths of 2016, 2017 has already seen the death of Derek Parfit.

The Times' obituary here is a good place to find out why you should care about Parfit. (He cared about you, but I don't think he would consider that a sufficient reason for you to care about him.) This is the New Yorker's profile of him. It is a tour de force, certainly, but it left me with not quite a bad taste but a funny taste in my mouth. One can imagine Bernard Williams laughing out loud at it.

If you have not read Reasons and Persons then you are missing - I was going to say "a treat", but that would be quite wrong - an intellectual feast.


  1. RIP. I went to some of his lectures, principally because they were in All Souls which was not somewhere grubby undergraduates usually went. I remember he carefully distinguished between "it being reasonable" and "having a reason" to do something. If you think the hotel is on fire, he said, you have a reason to jump out of the window but it is not reasonable to do so unless the hotel is in fact on fire. (Perhaps he had been listening to "Smoke on the Water"). A little later in the lecture he used one or other of the distinguished phrases with no regard for the distinction. I didn't have the nerve to pull him up and ask him to clarify. One didn't do that sort of thing. That is also one of the occasions which led me to formulate my bearded American theorem.