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Reasons and Persons Reading Group: Virtual Meeting 3

May 31, 2023 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

The third meeting of the EA DC reading group for Reasons and Persons by Derek Parfit


Please feel free to join even if you weren’t with us for the first discussion!

Info on the reading group: EA DC will meet to read and discuss Reasons and Persons, one of the most influential texts both in mainstream ethical philosophy and in effective altruism. In my (Andy’s) opinion the book is one of the best examples of analytic philosophy writing period. While the writing and arguments are dense and sometimes difficult, the book requires no background in philosophy and the author clearly spells out the arguments without relying on the reader to be familiar with prior books. Among other things the book’s arguments cover ethical issues involving possible future people, the philosophy of personal identity and wellbeing, and arguments against ethical egoism. A lot of what developed into contemporary longtermism originated in this book.

The book is available among other places on Amazon, including used copies. I would strongly recommend not buying the audiobook. Reasons and Persons is accessible but dense and does not convert well to audio, and we will be reading it out of order which may make following along with an audiobook more difficult.

What to read before Meeting #3 (page numbers refer to the 1987 paperback edition)

Chapters 1-5 – pages 3-114 – We’ll circle back and begin Part 1 of the book on self-defeating ethical theories. In this first section Parfit addresses problems in each popular ethical theory, and begins an argument that runs throughout the book that acting rationally does not always imply acting in your self interest. This section can be difficult but rewarding reading and we’ll be able to unpack it together during the meeting!

Reach out to me to talk if you’re having any trouble with the reading

Reasons and Persons can be a challenging read! If you’re finding that there are sections of the book or ideas that are giving you trouble please feel free to email me at Andy@EffectiveAltruismDC.org or schedule a Zoom meeting using my Calendly. Please don’t hesitate to reach out, talking about this stuff is always extremely fun for me.


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