Parfit's Case against Subjectivism<sup>1</sup>

David Sobel

in Oxford Studies in Metaethics

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780199606375
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729478 | DOI:
Parfit's Case against Subjectivism1

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Derek Parfit, 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.

Keywords: Parfit; reasons; Subjectivism; desires; liking; Agony Argument; On What Matters; Reasons Transfer Principle

Chapter.  12890 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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