Derek Parfit Oxford University
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  • Faculty, Oxford University

Areas of specialization

Areas of interest

My philosophical views


My philosophical views

The answers shown here are not necessarily the same provided as part of the 2009 PhilPapers Survey. These answers can be updated at any time.

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A priori knowledge: yes or no?Accept: no
Abstract objects: Platonism or nominalism?Reject bothI believe that, though nothing could be truer than the truths of arithmetic, these truths have no ontological implications. I am a Non-Metaphysical Cognitivist about arithmetic, about normative truths, and several other areas of our thinking. Such truths involve entities and properties that have no ontological status. Numbers, for example, are neither real nor unreal, and neither actual nor merely possible. Even if nothing had ever existed, in the ontological sense, there would have been various truths, and abstract entities, in a non-ontological sense
Aesthetic value: objective or subjective?Accept another alternativeintersubjectivism
Analytic-synthetic distinction: yes or no?Accept: no
Epistemic justification: internalism or externalism?Lean toward: internalism
External world: idealism, skepticism, or non-skeptical realism?Accept: non-skeptical realism
Free will: compatibilism, libertarianism, or no free will?Accept: no free willI believe that there is no conceivable form of freedom that could justify the view that we can deserve to suffer, but that we have the freedom implied in the doctrine 'ought' implies 'can'.
God: theism or atheism?Accept: atheism
Knowledge: empiricism or rationalism?Accept: rationalism
Knowledge claims: contextualism, relativism, or invariantism?Insufficiently familiar with the issue
Laws of nature: Humean or non-Humean?Accept: non-Humean
Logic: classical or non-classical?Lean toward: non-classicalI believe there must be indeterminacy, which classical logic may not allow
Mental content: internalism or externalism?Insufficiently familiar with the issue
Meta-ethics: moral realism or moral anti-realism?Accept: moral realism
Metaphilosophy: naturalism or non-naturalism?Accept: non-naturalism
Mind: physicalism or non-physicalism?Lean toward: non-physicalism
Moral judgment: cognitivism or non-cognitivism?Accept: cognitivism
Moral motivation: internalism or externalism?Reject bothThis disagreement seems to me fundamentally misconceived. If we believe that there are object-given value-based external reasons, we shall believe that people can't have a moral duty without having a reason to do their duty, but we aren't thereby accepting either internalism or externalism about moral motivation as this is generally conceived, since this conception assumes that reasons are subjective and desire-based.
Newcomb's problem: one box or two boxes?Accept: two boxes
Normative ethics: deontology, consequentialism, or virtue ethics?Accept another alternativeI believe that these main systematic theories all need to be revised, in ways that would bring them together.
Perceptual experience: disjunctivism, qualia theory, representationalism, or sense-datum theory?Insufficiently familiar with the issue
Personal identity: biological view, psychological view, or further-fact view?Accept another alternativeThe most plausible account of personal identity would involve the continued existence of enough of the brain, in a way that combines versions of the psychological and biological views.
Politics: communitarianism, egalitarianism, or libertarianism?Accept more than one
Proper names: Fregean or Millian?Insufficiently familiar with the issue
Science: scientific realism or scientific anti-realism?Accept: scientific realism
Teletransporter (new matter): survival or death?Reject bothI wouldn't survive teletransportation, but this prospect would be as good as, or as bad as, ordinary survival.
Time: A-theory or B-theory?Accept: B-theory
Trolley problem (five straight ahead, one on side track, turn requires switching, what ought one do?): switch or don't switch?Accept: switchBut it makes a crucial difference whether we are the driver or a bystander. I believe that even the bystander ought to switch the trolley.
Truth: correspondence, deflationary, or epistemic?Insufficiently familiar with the issue
Zombies: inconceivable, conceivable but not metaphysically possible, or metaphysically possible?Accept: metaphysically possible