Monday, April 19, 2021

Get Parfit's Ethics Free (till May 3)

Cambridge University Press is offering free PDF downloads of Parfit's Ethics until May 3. (After that, you can always access the pre-print from PhilPapers, which has the same essential content but differs wildly in pagination and doesn't reflect subsequent copyediting.)

At just 55 pages of main text, it's the most concise introduction you'll find to Parfit's wide-ranging ethical thought. Perfect for grad seminars, or anyone interested in highlights from the greatest moral philosopher of the past century (or, indeed, ever).

There's a lot of content packed into those few pages:

1. Introduction

2. Rationality and Objectivity - A simple summary of Parfit's arguments against Rational Egoism and Normative Subjectivism.  Briefly evaluates the arguments against Parfit's non-naturalist normative realism.

3. Distributive Justice - Explains Parfit's priority view, and suggests a way to improve upon it (that basic goods or welfare contributors, rather than welfare itself, might have diminishing marginal value).  Explains away the arguments of anti-aggregationists.  Summarizes Parfit's views on "moral mathematics" and collective harm.
4. Character and Consequence - Explains "rational irrationality", and extends it to critique Parfit's understanding of "blameless wrongdoing" (or virtuously-acquired viciousness). Defends self-effacing moral theories.  Assesses Parfit's argument that common-sense morality is directly self-defeating.
5. The Triple Theory - Assesses Parfit's Triple Theory, including a critique of the underlying motivation for his convergence-seeking project.
6. Personal Identity - Summarizes Parfit's key arguments for reductionism about personal identity, and adds a related "container/content" argument of my own (in section 6.1).  Along the way, also argues (i) that Parfit was mistaken to view reductionism as metaphysically contingent, and (ii) that Lewis' 4-D view is just a terminological variant of Parfit's reductionism.
7. Population Ethics - Briefly surveys the Non-Identity Problem and the Repugnant Conclusion (specifically, whether it can be avoided without having even worse implications).


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