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Derek Parfit dies

I learnt this morning that the philosopher Derek Parfit died on 1 January. His book Reasons and Persons knocked me sideways when I first encountered it. It will take me the rest of my life to absorb the ideas it contains, or begin to. To do so fully would require a radical reconstruction in the whole way I think.

From my review:


It seems to be a basic human characteristic to speculate on the characters and motives of people we know (and, increasingly nowadays, people we don't know who are in the public eye). We also readily make judgements. To all this activity we bring a set of largely implicit assumptions about the nature of personality and the motives of our behaviour. In his long book, Parfit makes a detailed analysis of both of these things and comes to some surprising conclusions - conclusions which, he believes, can considerably alter the way we think of such important matters as the prospect of our own death. "I believe that most of us have false beliefs about our own nature, and our identity over time, and that, when we see the truth, we ought to change some of our beliefs about what we have reason to do."

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