Analytic philosophers are often accused of not taking existential questions seriously. This may be true of some (many?) of them, but it is certainly not true of the contemporary Oxford philosopher Derek Parfit. He has revived an interest in existential questions within analytic philosophy. He has discussed the nature of personal identity, why there is something rather than nothing and, in particular, questions to do with our own existence, and the existence of creatures like us. From the point of view of morality, is it a good thing that I exist? Is it a good thing that other creatures like me exist? Is it better if there are more creatures like me rather than less? Is it possible to make the world a better place, not only by making existing creatures happier, but also by creating additional happy creatures? Obviously, the answers to these questions have a clear and direct bearing on our own lives, on our most intimate reproductive decisions. These questions used to be neglected in philosophy, but Derek Parfit has placed them at the centre of the discussion.
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