Derek Parfit’s On What Matters is widely recognized as elegant, profound, and destined to change the landscape of moral philosophy. In Volume One, Parfit argues that the distinct—indeed, powerfully conflicting—theories of deontology and contractualism can be woven together in a way so as to yield utilitarian conclusions. Husain Sarkar in this book calls this, The Ultimate Derivation. Sarkar argues, however, that this derivation is untenable. To underwrite this conclusion, this book traverses considerable Parfitian terrain. Sarkar shows why Parfit hasn’t quite solved what Sidgwick had called "the profoundest problem in ethics"; he offers a reading of Kant, Rawls, and Scanlon that reveals Parfit’s keen utilitarian bias; and he demonstrates why Parfit’s Triple Theory does not succeed in its task of unifying conflicting moral theories (without making substantial utilitarian assumptions). The final chapter of the book is about meta-ethics. It shows that Parfit’s Convergence Principle is mistaken even though it unveils Parfit’s utterly humane concerns: Moral philosophers are not, as Parfit thinks, climbing the same mountain. But for all that, Sarkar maintains, Parfit’s book is arguably the greatest consequential tract in the history of moral philosophy.

part I|99 pages

The Framework for the Ultimate Derivation

chapter 1|33 pages

Sidgwick’s Dualism

chapter 2|35 pages

Kant’s Ideal: The Consent Principle

part II|46 pages

The Goal: The Greatest Good

chapter 4|44 pages

Whither Shall We Go?

part III|98 pages

Pathway to the Ultimate Derivation

chapter 5|30 pages

The Universal Law

chapter 7|16 pages


Rawls and Kant

chapter 8|22 pages


Scanlon 1

part IV|77 pages

The Ultimate Derivation

chapter 9|12 pages

The Ultimate Derivation I

The Base and the Argument

chapter 10|33 pages

The Ultimate Derivation II

The Four Objections

chapter 11|30 pages

The Ultimate Derivation III

The Convergence Argument and the Triple Theory

part V|36 pages

What Matters, Ultimately?

chapter 12|34 pages

The Deep Divide