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Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics Volume 10$
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Mark Timmons

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780198867944

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198867944.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 07 December 2021

Parfit on the Irrelevance of Deontological Distinctions

Parfit on the Irrelevance of Deontological Distinctions

(p.9) 1 Parfit on the Irrelevance of Deontological Distinctions
Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics Volume 10

F. M. Kamm

Oxford University Press

This chapter concerns Derek Parfit’s discussion in his On What Matters, volume 3 of the irrelevance of deontological distinctions. Parfit begins by expressing his concern that morality will be undermined because practical reason, which tells us all things considered what to do, will often conflict with what we consider to be morally right. Unlike Sidgwick, Parfit does not begin by identifying morality with a part of impartial practical reason but rather with what he considers common sense deontology. Also, unlike Sidgwick, he thinks it is clear that sometimes self-interest (which provides some reason even impartially considered) is overridden by (other) impartial practical reasons (e.g., there is decisive reason to give one’s penny to save millions of other people). This chapter first considers how Parfit thinks one’s practical reason should reconcile concerns about self-sacrifice, pursuing the greater good, and morality. It then considers his use of case-based reasoning to undermine moral principles embodying such distinctions as harming versus not aiding, harming as a mere means versus as a side effect, and redirecting threats (as in the Trolley Problem) versus starting new ones.

Keywords:   Parfit, deontology, practical reason, supererogation, harm, not aid, mere means, side effect, Trolley Problem, Doctrine of Double Effect

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