The “Most Cerebral Marriage”


“Derek Parfit and Janet Radcliffe-Richards believe that philosophy should guide behaviour. Their marriage shows that it can.” Prospect Magazine has the story. (via Doug Portmore)

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Oscar
Oscar
6 years ago

I can’t resist pointing out that, in this story, Parfit is the “well-intentioned single guy” we were all attacking a few weeks ago. Anyone willing to repeat the charges of wrongdoing against him?Report

LH
LH
Reply to  Oscar
6 years ago

The fact that a happy relationship can emerge from a dynamic that tends to be inappropriate doesn’t magically make it okay to perpetuate that dynamic. There are happy relationships that began when one was a student of the other, too.Report

Oscar
Oscar
Reply to  LH
6 years ago

Gosh, It’s as though Williams’ “Moral Luck” never happened. Anyway, it’s my strong impression that people will happily moralize about these things when the target is a faceless jerk at a conference, but when real-life situations like this are portrayed for them in all their messy particularity, they’ll be less willing to make judgments of categorical wrongness.Report

Matt
6 years ago

Some of these issues were discussed in the very interesting _New Yorker_ piece on Parfit from a couple of years ago. I recommend it to people who have not read it. One thing that you can learn with absolute certainty, from that piece, is that philosophical genius is absolutely no guide to gustatory genius, or even minimal gustatory common sense. Once that is clear (and the piece really does make it crystal clear), I think there is some reason to doubt (though, of course, not be certain) that philosophical genius is a good guide to many areas of life outside of philosophy itself. (If you are wondering about this, think about taking sartorial advice from Diogenes.)Report

justinrweinberg
Reply to  Matt
6 years ago

The New Yorker is temporarily providing free access to its 2007-present material, including the profile on Parfit. For those who missed it the first time around, you can read it here: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/09/05/how-to-be-goodReport

anon
Reply to  Matt
6 years ago

‘philosophical genius’? Please let’s not throw around that tired ‘genius’ myth any longer. It is so old.

Sarah-Jane Leslie has done amazing empirical work on how philosophy is exceptionally caught up on this whole ‘innate talent’ explanation of good work (as compared to other academic disciplines) and how this fact predicts under-representation of women in philosophy more than a lot of other plausible hypotheses.

I think if I hear some philosopher described as a genius again, I will scream. Innate talent is required, sure, but anyone who does philosophy knows talent isn’t enough. You have to put in the grueling, gut-wrenching, numbing, painstaking, inhumanly hard work to produce anything half-way good. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar.

Parfit’s work is absolutely excellent, so you can can bet he’s poured his guts into it.Report

Andrew Sepielli
Andrew Sepielli
6 years ago

Edmonds writes:

“I suggest to Derek that it is unlikely that a person’s meta-ethical views will sway their actual conduct one way or the other.”

However, this study by Liane Young and AJ Durwin:
http://moralitylab.bc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/YoungDurwin2013.pdf
…and this one by Tage Rai and Keith Holyoak:
http://reasoninglab.psych.ucla.edu/KH%20pdfs/Rai_Holyoak.2013.pdf
…would seem to suggest otherwise.Report

Angel P.
Angel P.
Reply to  Andrew Sepielli
6 years ago

Hi Andrew, the studies you cite are priming studies: exposure to a certain argument or stimulus with meta-ethical content seems to affect moral conduct. It is unclear to me if these studies further support the idea that *accepting* a meta-ethical thesis affects moral conduct.Report

Andrew Sepielli
Andrew Sepielli
Reply to  Angel P.
6 years ago

Hey Angel, I understand that — hence the very weak “suggest” 😉 — but these results do raise my confidence that acceptance affects moral conduct — at least to the extent that a person’s accepting a meta-ethical view tends to increase the relative frequency with which that view, as opposed to other views, becomes salient to her. It seems at least plausible to me that it does.Report