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Andrea Borghini

Parfit, Kitcher, and Enlightenment

By January 28, 2012

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Philosopher Philip Kitcher has a review out of Derek Parfit's On What Matters, a work that I blogged about a few weeks ago.

Kitcher's review is pungent and deserves to be read in its entirety. Here, I wish to bring to attention one point that particularly struck me. Towards the end of the article, Kitcher stresses the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to the quest ethical truths; the intellectual project that many ethicists are embarked on nowadays is collectively shared with biologists, cognitive psychologists, economists, political scientists, and so on. Parfit completely missed this point: his volume is filled with imaginary and approximative examples.

Kitcher's suggestion owes much to the lesson of American pragmatism. But there is another ancestor which deserves being brought into the picture: Enlightenment. Authors such as Voltaire and Rousseau innovated philosophy by opening up their quest for philosophical truth to disciplines such as geology, physics, chemistry, biology, but also to the knowledge typical of crafts, such as gardening and cooking. Perhaps, this way a novel approach to ethics and the self could be fostered.

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