For Derek Parfit, getting it right was more important than getting it out, to the frustration of publishers and editors but to the long-term benefit of readers and scholars. When he published, it mattered, and so as a philosopher, he is one of the few of his generation who unquestionably mattered.
For the community of reason to thrive, we need to regain our respect for reason and also to bring it closer down to earth. And it is only by using our reason that as a society we can debate our differences and come to, if not agreement, then at least a respectful accommodation.
Virtue is finding the balance between giving appropriate value to our inheritance and the need to move forward and change. In other words, both radicals and traditionalists see things that are of value, but go wrong when they give weight to only one of them and so end up pursuing it to excess.
Many have emphasised the importance of certain institutions, such as parliaments and courts of justice, but exactly how they should be built has generally been seen as a matter of irrelevant detail. As is often the case, theoreticians ignore what practitioners know to be important…
Some people just find the whole idea too fanciful to even think about. But many other find it terrifying, exciting or both. Why would such an apparently outlandish idea have this effect?
What we all need is not best described as faith. It is simply more than can be proven by logic and science. We need to believe in things that are not entirely justified by reason, but that does not require us to embrace creeds that reason tells against.
Does the world need my book? It might sound conceited even to ask the question, since strictly speaking the answer is almost always no…
In Hollywood, every failure simply serves to make the eventual success more inevitable. In real life, every past failure should be a reminder that a happy outcome was never guaranteed. Our failed relationships, terrible jobs and bad holidays reflect our characters and the reality of our lives at least as much as the good times, which often hang on a thread.
In recent years many have expressed a concern that Western individualism has created a society of atomised, isolated selves. At the same time, the values of personal choice and autonomy remain sacrosanct. Individualism is thus seen as both the great achievement and bane of Western civilisation.
A balancing act needs to be pulled off, acknowledging what populism identifies correctly as deep problems in our politics while resisting the often conspiratorial details and simplistic, unworkable solutions. This requires neither dismissing the populists out of hand nor granting too much to them. Most of all, it requires making the case that society can only hold together and make progress if it adopts a more moderate, consensual, boring, mainstream kind of politics.