This is a major work in moral philosophy, the long-awaited follow-up to Parfit's 1984 classic Reasons and Persons, a landmark of twentieth-century philosophy. Parfit now presents a powerful new treatment of reasons and a critical examination of the most prominent systematic moral theories, leading to his own ground-breaking conclusion.
Challenging, with several powerful arguments, some of our deepest beliefs about rationality, morality, and personal identity, Parfit claims that we have a false view about our own nature. It is often rational to act against our own best interersts, he argues, and most of us have moral views that are self-defeating. We often act wrongly, although we know there will be no one with serious grounds for complaint, and when we consider future generations it is very hard to avoid (...) conclusions that most of us will find very disturbing. (shrink)
One of the central debates within contemporary Anglo-American political philosophy concerns how to formulate an egalitarian theory of distributive justice which gives coherent expression to egalitarian convictions and withstands the most powerful anti-egalitarian objections. This book brings together many of the key contributions to that debate by some of the world’s leading political philosophers: Richard Arneson, G.A. Cohen, Ronald Dworkin, Thomas Nagel, DerekParfit, John Rawls, T.M. Scanlon, and Larry Temkin.
We can start with some science fiction. Here on Earth, I enter the Teletransporter. When I press some button, a machine destroys my body, while recording the exact states of all my cells. This information is sent by radio to Mars, where another machine makes, out of organic materials, a perfect copy of my body. The person who wakes up on Mars seems to remember living my life up to the moment when I pressed the button, and is in every (...) other way just like me. (shrink)
When we have a normative reason, and we act for that reason, it becomes our motivating reason. But we can have either kind of reason without having the other. Thus, if I jump into the canal, my motivating reason was provided by my belief; but I had no normative reason to jump. I merely thought I did. And, if I failed to notice that the canal was frozen, I had a reason not to jump that, because it was unknown to (...) me, did not motivate me. Though we can have normative reasons without being motivated, and vice versa, such reasons are closely related to our motivation. There are, however, very different views about what this relation is. This disagreement raises wider questions about what normative reasons are, and about which reasons there are. After sketching some of these views, I shall discuss some arguments by Williams, and then say where, in my opinion, the truth lies. [...] I [will] suggest why, as I believe, we should be non-reductive normative realists, and should regard all reasons as external. (shrink)
According to the Repugnant Conclusion: Compared with the existence of many people who would all have some very high quality of life, there is some much larger number of people whose existence would be better, even though these people would all have lives that were barely worth living. I suggest some ways in which we might be able to avoid this conclusion. I try to defend a strong form of lexical superiority.
Suppose we discover how we could live for a thousand years, but in a way that made us unable to have children. Everyone chooses to live these long lives. After we all die, human history ends, since there would be no future people. Would that be bad? Would we have acted wrongly? Some pessimists would answer No. These people are saddened by the suffering in most people’s lives, and they believe it would be wrong to inflict such suffering on others (...) by having children. In earlier centuries, this bleak view was fairly plausible. But our successors would be able to prevent most human suffering. Some optimists would also answer No . . . These [views] are, I believe, deeply mistaken. Given what our successors could achieve in the next million or billion years, here and elsewhere in our galaxy, it would be likely to be very much worse if there were no future people. (shrink)
How many people should there be? Can there be overpopulation: too many people living? I shall present a puzzling argument about these questions, show how this argument can be strengthened, then sketch a possible reply.
We can start with some science fiction. Here on Earth, I enter the Teletransporter. When I press some button, a machine destroys my body, while recording the exact states of all my cells. The information is sent by radio to Mars, where another machine makes, out of organic materials, a perfect copy of my body. The person who wakes up on Mars seems to remember living my life up to the moment when I pressed the button, and he is in (...) every other way just like me. Of those who have thought about such cases, some believe that it would be I who would wake up on Mars. They regard Teletransportation as merely the fastest way of travelling. Others believe that, if I chose to be Teletransported, I would be making a terrible mistake. On their view, the person who wakes up would be a mere Replica of me. (shrink)
How many people should there be? Can there be overpopulation: too many people living? I shall present a puzzling argument about these questions, show how this argument can be strengthened, then sketch a possible reply.
I did not, as James Sterba writes, claim to have explained "the asymmetry view." I claimed that, since my suggested explanation makes it impossible to solve the Paradox of Future Individuals, "we must abandon" one of its essential premises (my p. i52). Sterba's main claim is that my suggested explanation "does not so much explain or justify the [asymmetry] view as simply restate it." Is this so? My explanation assumed (W) that an act cannot be wrong if it will not (...) be bad for any of the people who ever live.' Sterba asks why we should not appeal instead to one of my Wide Principles, which are concerned with possible effects on people who might have lived. And he suggests that, since "the only ground" for preferring (W) is that it explains the asymmetry view, (W) cannot explain this view. There are other grounds for appealing to (W), such as those provided by certain theories about the nature of moral reasoning. On Scanlon's theory, for example, our fundamental moral motive is "to be able to justify one's actions to others on grounds that they could not reasonably reject.'" We may claim that, on such a theory, an act cannot be wrong unless it will affect someone in a way that cannot be justified unless there will be some complainant whose complaint cannot be answered. Similarly, Brandt suggests that, by the phrase "is morally wrong," we should mean "would be prohibited by any moral code which all fully rational persons would tend to support... for the society of the agent, if they expected to spend a lifetime in that society."> It seems likely that, on the chosen.. (shrink)
DEREKPARFIT is senior research fellow at All Souls College, Oxford. He regularly teaches there and is also afŠliated with New York University and Harvard. He was educated at Oxford and was a Harkness Fellow at Columbia and Harvard. He has been a visiting professor at Princeton, Temple, Rice, and the University of Colorado at Boulder, and is a fellow of the British Academy and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has made major contributions to (...) our understanding of personal identity, philosophy of the mind, and ethics, and he is thought to be one of the most important moral philosophers of the past century. His many academic articles include “Personal Identity” (1971), “Overpopulation and the Quality of Life” (1986), “The Unimportance of Identity” (1995), and “Equality and Priority” (1997). Rationality and Morality and Rediscovering Reasons are forthcoming from Oxford University Press. His book Reasons and Persons (1984) has been described by Alan Ryan of The Sunday Times as “something close to a work of genius.”. (shrink)
In section 96 of Reasons and Persons, DerekParfit offers his now familiar tripartite distinction among candidates for ‘what matters’: (1) Relation R with its normal cause; (2) R with any reliable cause; (3) R with any cause. He defends option (3). This paper tries to show that there is important ambiguity in this distinction and in Parfit's defence of his position. There is something strange about Parfit's way of dividing up the territory: I argue that (...) those who have followed him in viewing the choice among (1)–(3) as the (or an) important question in thinking about ‘what matters’ are mistaken, and that they bypass what seems to be a more important, even crucial, set of options and considerations. I am less concerned with what he does say than with what he ought to say, given his intuitions and arguments, and the general framework within which he is working. And I am particularly concerned to show that whether or not I am correct about what he is doing with his tripartite distinction, it is a distinction with which we should not be particularly concerned in the analysis either of what matters or of psychological continuity. (shrink)
In Reasons and Persons, DerekParfit cannot find a theory of well-being that solves the Non-Identity Problem, the Repugnant Conclusion, the Absurd Conclusion, and all forms of the Mere Addition Paradox. I describe a “Quasi-Maximizing” theory that solves them. This theory includes (i) the denial that being better than is transitive and (ii) the “Conflation Principle,” according to which alternative B is hedonically better than alternative C if it would be better for someone to have all the B-experiences. (...) (i) entails that Quasi-Maximization is not a maximizing theory, but (ii) ensures that its evaluations will often coincide with such theories. (shrink)
When is a moral theory self-defeating? I suggest the following. There are certain things we ought to try to achieve. Call these our moral aims. Our moral theory would be self-defeating if we believed we ought to do what will cause our moral aims to be worse achieved. Is this ever true? If so, what does it show?
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An exchange of correspondence with Charles Fried. Parfit's section begins: "I am puzzled. Consider Case One: I could save either one stranger or five others. Both acts would involve a heroic personal sacrifice. I choose, for no reason, to save the one rather than the five. Fried argues: (i ) Since both acts would involve a heroic sacrifice, I could not be criticized if I chose to do neither. (2) If I could not be criticized for choosing to do (...) neither, I cannot be criticized for choosing to do one rather than the other. Therefore (3) When I choose to save the one rather than the five, my choice cannot be criticized. Fried rejects (3). Though my act is heroic, he concedes that my choice is 'perverse' and 'morally deficient.'". (shrink)
For nearly a generation, DerekParfit's arguments in his 1984 book Reasons and Persons have shaped debates about our moral responsibilities to future people. Struggling to accommodate Parfit's insights, philosophers and bioethicists have minimized or accentuated obligations to the future in ways that defy ordinary moral intuitions. In this issue, Robert Sparrow develops the troubling implications of the views of two leading theorists whose work favoring human genetic enhancement is influenced by Parfit. Sparrow believes they return (...) us to the horrors of early twentieth-century eugenics. But the real problem may be a purely theoretical one: the unfortunate influence of Parfit.This is no place to review all of .. (shrink)
DerekParfit argues that everyone ought to follow the principles whose universal acceptance would make things go best. I present a counterexample: a world in which no one's moral beliefs have any motivating force. I explain how Parfit's metaethical commitments imply that such a world is possible, and why this possibility is a problem for Parfit's project of reconciling Kantianism, contractualism, and consequentialism. I consider two of Parfit's responses to my counterexample.
Resumen: DerekParfit en Personas, racionalidad y tiempo sostiene que si bien es posible concebir experiencias sin referir a personas, las experiencias dependen para su existencia de las personas, y a su vez, las experiencias dependerían para su identidad de cierta otra entidad no idéntica con la entidad persona. Tal tesis, que deviene de determinado experimentos mentales de Parfit, específicamente del argumento Mi División y el Argumento del Hospital, se revisará desde ciertas nociones metafísicas de E. J. (...) Lowe, en específico, desde la tesis que supone que dependencia de identidad implica dependencia existencial, de forma que si x depende para su identidad de y, x dependería, de igual forma, para su existencia de y. Tal supuesto permitirá desarrollar ciertas problemáticas para lo que Parfit sostiene en su esquema sobre la dependencia de las experiencias.: DerekParfit in People, rationality and time argues that although it is possible to conceive experiences without referring to people, experiences depend on people for their existence, and in turn, experiences would depend on certain other entity not identical to the person entity for their identity. This thesis, which comes from certain mental experiments of Parfit, specifically from My Division argument and the Hospital Argument, will be reviewed from certain metaphysical notions of E. J. Lowe, specifically, from the thesis that assumes that identity dependence implies existential dependence, so that if x depends on the identity of y, x would depend, in the same way, on the existence of y. This assumption will bring to developing certain problems concerning what Parfit holds in his scheme on the dependence of experiences. (shrink)
Do our lives have meaning? Should we create more people? Is death bad? Should we commit suicide? Would it be better if we were immortal? Should we be optimistic or pessimistic? Life, Death, and Meaning brings together key readings, primarily by English-speaking philosophers, on such 'big questions.'.
The reasoning in this anthology shows how hard it is to form acceptable theories in cases that involve different numbers of people. That's highly important. And it gives us ground for worry about our appeal to particular theories in the other two kinds of case: those which involve the same numbers, in the different outcomes, though these are not all the same people, and those which do involve all and only the same people. But there is still a clear distinction (...) between these three kinds of case. And there may be some hope of 'quarantining' the impossibility, and the resulting scepticism, to Different Number Choices. Her's a partial analogy, which may be worth mentioning. It's very difficult to formulate acceptable welfarist theories that could apply to cases that involve infinite quantities of such things as suffering and happiness. That's a worry, but it doesn't undermine our confidence in the theories that can handle cases with only finite quantities. (shrink)
In his discussion of normative concepts in the first part of On What Matters (2011), Parfit holds that apart from the ‘ought’ of decisive reason, there are other senses of ‘ought’ which do not imply any reasons. This claim poses a dilemma for his ‘reason-involving conception’ of normativity: either Parfit has to conclude that non-reason-implying ‘oughts’ are not normative. Or else he is forced to accept that normativity needs only to involve ‘apparent reasons’ – a certain kind of (...) hypothetical truths about reasons. I argue that both of these options are inacceptable. In the course of the discussion, I present a general objection to ‘apparent reason accounts’ of the normativity of rationality as advocated not only by Parfit, but also by Schroeder (2009) and Way (2009). (shrink)
DerekParfit (1942–2017) is widely considered to be one of the most important moral philosophers of the twentieth century. Reasons and Persons is arguably the most influential of the two books published in his lifetime and hailed as a classic work of ethics and personal identity. DerekParfit’s Reasons and Persons: An Introduction and Critical Inquiry is an outstanding introduction to and assessment of Parfit’s book, with chapters by leading scholars of ethics, metaphysics and of (...)Parfit’s work. Part I provides a much-needed introduction to key topics and themes in Reasons and Persons that will be useful for those new to Parfit’s complex work. These include Parfit’s idea of self-defeating theories, rationality and time, personal identity, future generations and well-being. Part II explores various debates generated by Reasons and Persons, including its connections with Buddhism, metaethics, theory of rationality, transformative choices and further developments in personal identity and metaphysics such as conativism. Combining clear exposition of the major topics and arguments in Reasons and Persons with scholarly perspectives on more advanced themes, this book is ideal for students of ethics, metaethics, metaphysics and anyone interested in DerekParfit’s philosophy. (shrink)
In this essay I take issue with DerekParfit's reductionist account of personal identity.Parfit is concerned to respond to what he sees as flaws in the conception of the role of 'person' in self-interest theories. He attempts to show that the notion of a person as something over and above a totality of mental and physical states and events (in his words, a 'further fact'), is empty, and so, our ethical concerns must be based on something other (...) than this. My objections centre around the claim that Parfit employs an impoverished conception of 'life'. Parfit misconceives the connection between 'I' and one's body, and, so, despite his rejection of a metaphysical conception of 'self', remains within the logic of Cartesianism. What Parfit and other reductionists call an 'impersonal' perspective, I shall call the third-person perspective: a perspective which one in general may take. Against Parfit I shall offer a more complex conception of 'self' through the concept of 'bodily perspective'. I emphasize the irreducible ambiguities of human embodiment in order to show the presuppositions and the limitations of Parfit's view. Of interest is the conception of time and the model of continuity that is appropriate to an embodied subject's life. I employ Paul Ricoeur's concept of 'human time' to argue that the reflective character of human experience demands a model of temporality and continuity that differs significantly from the one Parfit employs. (shrink)
One theory about rationality is the Self-interest Theory, or S. S claims that what each of us has most reason to do is whatever would be best for himself. And it is irrational for anyone to do what he knows would be worse for himself. When morality conflicts with self-interest, many people would reject the Self-interest Theory. But most of these people would accept one of the claims that S makes. This is the claim that we should not care less (...) about our further future, simply because it is further in the future. We should not, for example, postpone pains at the foreseen cost of making them much worse. In our concern for our own self-interest, we should give equal weight to all the parts of our future. In this paper I shall discuss how a Self-interest Theorist should defend this claim. (shrink)
World–renowned British philosopher DerekParfit′s On What Matters is certain to change the face of some of the most fundamental concerns of moral philosophy – including the nature of practical reasons and rationality, and the interpretation of Kantian Ethics and its relation to consequentialism. It will also initiate new debates about the freedom of the will, the nature of moral attitudes and properties, the relationship between prudentiality and ethics, and the significance of desiring. -/- In Essays on (...) class='Hi'>DerekParfit s On What Matters, seven leading moral philosophers offer critical evaluations of the central ideas presented in this greatly anticipated new work. Authored by a team including Princeton′s Michael Smith, one of the world′s leading meta–ethicists, the papers address a variety of topics relating to Parfit′s work, including his central thesis that the main ethical theories can agree on what matters, and his defense of moral realism. (shrink)
DerekParfit's Reasons and Persons (1984) mounted a striking defense of Act Consequentialism against a Rawls-inspired Kantian orthodoxy in moral philosophy. On What Matters (2011) is notable for its serious engagement with Kant's ethics and for its arguments in support of the “Triple Theory,” which allies Rule Consequentialism with Kantian and Scanlonian Contractualism against Act Consequentialism as a theory of moral right. This critical notice argues that what underlies this change is a view of the deontic concept of (...) moral rightness that ties it closely to blameworthiness and accountability in a way that effectively concedes a Rawlsian publicity condition. It is also argued that Parfit's arguments that Kantian and Scanlonian Contractualism entail Rule Consequentialism can be resisted. Two elements of Parfit's metaethics are critically discussed. First, concerning Parfit's arguments against subjectivist theories of practical reason, it is argued that a form of subjectivist theory exists that is not only consistent with Parfit's claim that all reasons for acting are object rather than state given, but that can support that claim. Second, it is argued that Parfit's arguments against identifying normative with natural statements and facts do not transfer seamlessly to identifying normative with natural properties. (shrink)
The purpose of the present article is to disentangle both Parfit’s and Whitehead’s views on personal identity. Issues regarding what it means to be a singular individual, how a person can remain the same over time, and what makes an individual an original being with specific characteristics will be examined.
Do our lives have meaning? Should we create more people? Is death bad? Should we commit suicide? Would it be better to be immortal? Should we be optimistic or pessimistic? Since Life, Death, and Meaning: Key Philosophical Readings on the Big Questions first appeared, David Benatar's distinctive anthology designed to introduce students to the key existential questions of philosophy has won a devoted following among users in a variety of upper-level and even introductory courses.
DerekParfit famously defends a number of surprising views about "fission." One is that, in such a scenario, it is indeterminate whether I have survived or not. Another is that the fission case shows that it does not matter, in itself, whether I survive or not. Most critics of the first view contend that fission makes me cease to exist. Most opponents of the second view contend that fission does not preserve everything that matters in ordinary survival. In (...) this paper I shall provide a critique that does not rely on either of these contentions. There are other, interrelated reasons to reject Parfit's defense of the two theses. In particular, the availability of the following view creates trouble for Parfit: I determinately survive fission, but it is indeterminate which fission product I am. (shrink)
This article concentrates on the critique by John Rawls and DerekParfit of the use of a discount rate in economics. In a presentation of the basic economics underlying the use of a discount rate, the inherently problematic nature of people’s preferences with respect to time are highlighted. The second part discusses the role of the discount rate in economic optimal growth models. An outline of the economic theory of optimal growth is provided, pointing out how Rawls’s analysis (...) of justice between generations fits nicely into this economic discussion, thus explaining his interest in the discount rate. For Rawls the basic problem with the discount rate is that one variable is caught between two objectives: guaranteeing an efficient and at the same time a fair solution. Finally DerekParfit’s analysis of the use of discount rates is examined. Parfit points out that a discount rate is often used as a crude rule of thumb which wrongly represents our reasons for discounting. The article concludes with a discussion of a study undertaken by a number of respected economists for the IPCC which exhibits all the mistakes that Parfit warns us against. (shrink)
According to constitutive reductionism of DerekParfit, a subject/person is not a separate existing being but his existence consists in the existence of a brain and body, performance of actions, thinking and occurrence of other physical and mental events. The identity of the subject in time comes down only to “Relation R” - mental consistency and/or connectedness – elicited by appropriate reasons. In the following article, I will try, relying on Frank Johnson's Knowledge Argument, to argue in favour (...) of the following conclusions: a person/subject is a “fact”irreducible to body and physical relations with the environment and a subject is something/”fact” non-reducible to mental occurrences. (shrink)
DerekParfit, in On What Matters, argues that all subjective accounts of normative reasons for action are false. This chapter focuses on his “Agony Argument.” The first premise of the Agony Argument is that we necessarily have current reasons to avoid our own future agony. Its second premise is that subjective accounts cannot vindicate this fact. So, the argument concludes, subjective accounts must be rejected. This chapter accepts the first premise of this argument and that it is valid. (...) The main thesis of this chapter is that subjectivists can account for our reasons to get pleasure and avoid agony. The chapter concludes that the Agony Argument does not justify the rejection of subjective accounts. The chapter also examines Parfit's understanding of the distinction between objective and subjective theories. The chapter claims Parfit offers a surprisingly narrow understanding of subjectivism such that even if his critique were successful, this would be bad news for fewer theories than we might have thought. Finally, the chapter replies to some possible worries about the arguments of this chapter. (shrink)
The paper takes a close look at DerekParfit’s example of the Nineteenth Century Russian in 'Reasons and Persons'. Parfit presents it as an example which illustrates the moral consequences of adopting his reductionist view of personal identity in a positive light. I argue that things turn out to be more complex than he envisages, and that it might be far more difficult to live in his world than he allows.
Frank Jackson claims that consequentialists should hold the view that DerekParfit labels the second ‘mistake in moral mathematics’, which is the view that “If some act is right or wrong because of . . . effects, the only relevant effects are the effects of this particular act.” But each of the three arguments that Jackson offers is unsound. The root of the problem is that in order to argue for the conclusion Jackson aims to establish (that consequentialists (...) should not regard the second “mistake” as a mistake), one must presuppose an overly narrow, and hence distorted, understanding of what consequentialism is. (shrink)
Challenging the idea of personal identity, DerekParfit has argued that persons are replicable and that personal identity does not really matter. In a recent paper Parfit again defends the idea of personal replicability. Challenging this idea in turn, I explain why persons are absolutely not replicable. To prove this I rely on two arguments—the Author Argument and the Love Argument. The irreplicability of persons relies upon the singularity of each person and thus entails that personal identity (...) is irreducible and that it really does matter. (shrink)
Consider our attitude toward painful and pleasant experiences depending on when they occur. A striking but rarely discussed feature of our attitude which DerekParfit has emphasized is that we strongly wish painful experiences to lie in our past and pleasant experiences to lie in our future. Our asymmetrical attitudes toward future and past pains and pleasures can be forcefully illustrated by means of a thought-experiment described by Parfit (1984, 165) which I will paraphrase as follows: You (...) are in the hospital to have an extremely painful but completely safe operation for which you can be given no anaesthetic. In order to ease recovery, you know that the hospital will give you drugs that cause you to forget your operation as soon as it is completed. You wake up, not remembering having gone to sleep, and ask the nurse if your operation has been completed. She tells you that there were two patients for this operation and she cannot remember which you are: either you already had your operation and it was the longest such operation ever performed, lasting ten hours, or else you are the other patient in which case your operation is imminent, but will last only one hour. 1. I wish to thank Sarah Broadie for comments on a version of this paper and DerekParfit for conversations on this subject. (shrink)
Thomas Scanlon and DerekParfit have recently defended a meta-ethical view that is supposed to satisfy realistic intuitions about morality, without the metaphysical implications that many find hard to accept in other realist views. Both philosophers argue that truths in the normative domain do not have ontological implications, while truths in the scientific domain presuppose a metaphysical reality. What distinguishes Scanlon and Parfit’s approach from other realistic meta-ethical theories is that they maintain that normative entities exist in (...) a way that is different from (some) non-normative entities. Moreover, they think that this view about the way normative entities exist helps to answer the metaphysical worries that are often thought to plague non-naturalism. To make sense of this idea, I develop their view as a version of alethic pluralism: the position that there is more than one truth property. I argue, however, that when their view is developed in this way it fails to satisfy realistic intuitions about morality. This shows that on a plausible and initially promising reading of what it takes for a normative entity to exist in a way that is different from non-normative entities, Parfit’s and Scanlon’s non-metaphysical moral realism fails to be more realistic than contemporary versions of anti-realism. (shrink)
Das Thema des Beitrages bildet der „neue“ Non-Naturalismus, welcher exemplarisch am metaethischen Ansatz von DerekParfit untersucht wird. Parfits Ansatz zeichnet sich durch das Ziel aus, eine neue Theorienoption zu ermöglichen, die einerseits von der Existenz normativer Tatsachen ausgeht, ohne jedoch andererseits auf die ontologischen Verpflichtungen der klassischen Vertreter des Non-Naturalismus festgelegt zu sein. Hierfür wird der Begriff der „nicht-ontologischen Existenz“ eingeführt und von robusten ontologischen Existenzweisen unterschieden. In diesem Beitrag wird dafür argumentiert, dass Parfit bisher nur (...) Explikationen dieses zentralen Begriffs geliefert hat, die a.) uninformativ sind, b.) mit dem Ziel der Ausgangstheorie in Konkurrenz geraten oder c.) den eigenen Absatz bereits unter der Hand aufgeben. Darüber hinaus werden die dialektischen Möglichkeiten durchgespielt, die Parfit bleiben, um auf diese Diagnose zu reagieren. In der Konsequenz wird aber auch diesbezüglich aufgezeigt, dass mit Blick auf deren Erfolgsaussichten eine gewisse Skepsis angebracht ist. (shrink)
DerekParfit's Reasons and Persons is a long, difficult and fascinating book, inside which three shorter, clearer and better books are struggling to get out. The third of these shorter but better books deals with the problem of Future Generations, and that is the book I want to discuss. In it Parfit tries, but fails, to find a theory—Theory X, he calls it—which will deal with various problems and issues which he develops, and in particular the issue (...) which I will call the Parfit Population Problem, the problem of how many people there ought to be. In this paper I offer not so much a theory as a suggestion as to what the solution might be. (shrink)