In praise of Brigid Brophy

John Bayley

  • Baroque ’n’ Roll by Brigid Brophy
    Hamish Hamilton, 172 pp, £10.95, February 1987, ISBN 0 241 12037 3

In his recent book Reasons and Persons the Oxford philosopher Derek Parfit is inclined to decide that persons have no existence, and that the motives to morality are for that reason clearer and more cogent. So-called personality is a matter of self-interest: bees in a hive have no moral problems. Examining their own world and using their own vocabulary, empirical and linguistic philosophers quite naturally and rightly come to such conclusions. Hume could perceive only a bundle of sensations, and Parfit finds in himself only a quantity of experiences. Death is that much easier to accept, because it is simply a matter of there being ‘no future experiences which will be related in certain ways to these present experiences’, and personal self-interest easily becomes ‘rational altruism’.

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