Abstract for Markovits’ talk

Derek Parfit worries that Subjectivism about what matters – the view that our reasons for acting depend in some way on facts about what we desire – entails a bleak and nihilistic picture of the normative world.  He argues that we’re misled into accepting Subjectivism by a series of considerations, none of which actually support the view, though they may at first appear to.  Understanding why many of us believe Subjectivism will, he thinks, debunk that belief.

I will argue that Parfit’s debunking arguments are less debunking than he thinks, and indeed supply a way in to what is missing from his discussion: a sketch of the some stronger arguments for a subjectivist theory of reasons.  Subjectivism is, moreover, not as bleak a view as Parfit fears; and indeed, I will argue, Parfit’s own conciliatory ambitions for moral philosophy should make him much more sympathetic to the subjectivist project than he is.