First 2010 Royal Institute of Philosophy Lecture

Royal Institute of Philosophy

The first 2010 Royal Institute of Philosophy lecture will be on Tuesday, 2 February: 6:00-7:30 pm, Chancellor’s Building, Room CBA 0.060

Professor Maximilian de Gaynesford, University of Reading

Integrity and Time: Parfit’s Russian Nobleman

All welcome! Wine!

Discussions of integrity tend to focus on cases – like Jim and the Indians, or George and the Laboratory – which restrict themselves to a particular choice on a particular occasion (whether to shoot a person; whether to accept a job). In so doing, they make time figure in an incidental way only; it is merely that in the course of which the relevant persons have developed the character and attitudes relevant to making their choices; it would not matter to the way these cases are usually discussed if – somehow – the person acquired both instantaneously. But it would be strange to rule out the possibility that time can feature as an essential factor- that we sometimes need to take temporal relations into account, for example, in determining when and whether persons act with integrity. So it is worth considering integrity in the light of cases which turn on relations between persons, states of affairs and events with different temporal locations. Parfit’s ‘Russian Nobleman’ story provides such a case and I discuss it here. One aim is to examine how four positions on the criteria of integrity deal with time: the Unity criterion; the Authenticity criterion; the Constancy criterion; and the Incorruptibility criterion. Another aim is to question the very possibility of integrity over time, given that this may seem both to require and to disallow openness to the possibility of deep change in one’s attitudes and outlooks.


Professor de Gaynesford specialises in philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, philosophy of logic and the problem of the self. He wrote I: The Meaning of the First-Person Term (OUP 2006), Hilary Putnam (McGill Queens University Press/Acumen 2006) and John McDowell (Blackwell/Polity Press 2004), and published numerous articles in these and related areas.