Why It Does Not Matter What Matters: Relation R, Personal Identity, and Moral Theory

Philosophical Quarterly 70 (278):178-198 (2020)
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Derek Parfit famously argued that personal identity is not what matters for prudential concern about the future. Instead, he argues what matters is Relation R, a combination of psychological connectedness and continuity with any cause. This revisionary conclusion, Parfit argued, has profound implications for moral theory. It should lead us, among other things, to deny the importance of the separateness of persons as an important fact of morality. Instead, we should adopt impersonal consequentialism. In this paper, I argue that Parfit is mistaken about this last step. His revisionary arguments about personal identity and rationality have no implications for moral theory. We need not decide whether Relation R or personal identity contain what matters if we want to retain the importance of the separateness of persons.



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Bastian Steuwer
Ashoka University

Citations of this work

What We Owe Past Selves.Lauritz Aastrup Munch - 2023 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 40 (5):936-950.

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Anarchy, State, and Utopia.Robert Nozick - 1974 - Philosophy 52 (199):102-105.

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