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Reasons and Persons (Oxford Paperbacks) Paperback – 20 Feb 1986
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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)
From the Back Cover
Reasons and persons challenges, with several powerful arguments, some of our deepest beliefs about rationality, morality, and personal identity.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
I first read it in 1992, while studying philosophy at university and finding the entire subject frustrating. So much philosophy in the anglo-german tradition is a game of semantics. Reasons and Persons is different - it is a well reasoned argument that can have life-changing consequences.
His discussion of personal identity - what makes a person the same person across a spatio-termporal path - was revelatory. By explaining that, frankly, we do not have a consistent identity over time the implications for ethics become explosive.
I don't want to make it sound like some drippy self-help book, it certainly isn't, but it had a profound and life-changing effect on me and my notions of justice, punishment and my own identity.
In short, if you are interested in the question of how to make decisions and what morality says you should do - which is a pretty universal issue - this book is essential reading.
Parfit's work is as wonderful as it is for three reasons:
1. He relentless uses logical argument to force the careful reader to accept deeply counter-intuitive conclusions about our reasons for action and the nature of personal identity over time. It's rare to be gripped by philosophy in the way that I was gripped as I read the latter half of Part Three of this book.
2. Parfit writes incredibly lucidly. Whilst the concepts in Reasons and Persons will at times tax even those with a background in philosophy, the language is admirably simple, clear and fluid. Parfit rarely uses jargon and never unnecessarily.
3. The conclusions that Parfit reaches are not esoteric, but rather have deep and immediate implications for how each of us lives our everyday life. Without wanting to be too glib, if we all accepted what Parfit argues (and we should) we'd need to throw out most economic theory, and transform our attitudes towards personal autonomy, abortion, and the ethics surrounding death.
A work of philosophy that can do each of the above three things deserves, in my mind, to rank up there with the very best.
I do have one reservation about Reasons and Persons, though. This is that Parfit uses a range of imaginary cases to argue his point. I am not a good enough philosopher to know whether there is a flaw in use of such cases, or to know what the flaw is even if there is one.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have wanted to read this book for some time and I am pleased I bought it, but it is going to be a challenge for a non-philosopher!Published on 8 Sept. 2013 by jo
This person while claiming not to believe in the self is an embodiment of something far bigger - the ego. Read morePublished on 27 April 2013 by Joe Sen