Climb every mountain?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The central thesis of Derek Parfit's On What Matters is that three of the most important secular moral traditions – Kantianism, contractualism, and consequentialism – all actually converge in a way onto the same view. It is in this sense that he suggests that we may all be ‘climbing the same mountain, but from different sides’. In this paper, I argue that Parfit's argument that we are all metaphorically climbing the same mountain is unsound. One reason his argument does not work is that he has misunderstood the way in which a plausible rule-consequentialism should understand the supervenience of rightness on all possible acceptance levels of the ideal moral code. In place of Parfit's own understanding of this, I develop a view I call ‘variable-rate rule-utilitarianism’, which I argue shares the key insight of Parfit's view but avoids a fatal objection to his own articulation of that insight. Finally, I explore how this modification might allow us to still make a case that we are all ‘climbing the same mountain’, albeit in a very different way and for very different reasons than the ones Parfit had in mind.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-77
Number of pages19
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009


Dive into the research topics of 'Climb every mountain?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this