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Derek Parfit
Derek Parfit at Harvard-April 21, 2015-Effective Altruism (cropped).jpg
Derek Parfit at Harvard University, April 2015
Born (1942-12-11)11 December 1942
Died 1 January 2017(2017-01-01) (aged 74)
London, England
Education Eton
Alma mater University of Oxford
Spouse(s) Janet Radcliffe Richards
Awards Rolf Schock Prizes in Logic and Philosophy (2014)
Era Contemporary philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Analytic philosophy
Main interests
Ethics, personal identity, rationalism, consequentialism, philosophy of mind
Notable ideas

Derek Parfit (11 December 1942 – 1 January 2017) was a British philosopher. He specialized in problems of personal identity, rationality, ethics, and the relations among them.

Early life

Parfit was born in Chengdu, China. His parents, Jessie and Norman Parfit, were British medical doctors who moved to Western China. After a year in China, Parfit moved to Oxford, England where he was raised. He studied at the University of Oxford.


Parfit's 1984 book Reasons and Persons has been very well known to other philosophers. His last book, On What Matters (2011), was widely published and discussed for many years before its publication.

Parfit worked at Oxford University for all of his academic career. He was an Emeritus Senior Research Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford. He was also a visiting professor of philosophy at New York University, Harvard University, and Rutgers University. He was awarded the 2014 Rolf Schock Prize "for his groundbreaking contributions concerning personal identity, regard for future generations, and analysis of the structure of moral theories."

Personal life

Parfit was an experienced photographer and a poet. He was married to the philosopher Janet Radcliffe Richards.

Parfit died in London, England on 1 January 2017, aged 74.

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