Reply to Sobel
By Allen Wood

I am grateful that my post on Ethics Etc. finally reached David Sobel, and that he has taken the trouble to respond to it. On the face of it, his response looks pretty devastating – I am sure it must seem so to him. But I offer the following rejoinder:

I suppose I should have anticipated this reply, given the way Parfit presents what he calls ‘the agony argument’ and the way in which Sobel in his article exploits the notions of liking and disliking. Nor can it be my aim to speak for Parfit or defend the letter of his texts (he is surely more able to do that for himself than I could possibly be on his behalf). My aim, however, was to criticize the strategy Sobel uses in defending subjectivism about reasons against Parfit’s objections. In a short post, it was impossible for me to do this in a way that avoids misunderstanding. For this reason, the present note is quite a bit longer, because it will take longer to explain what I believe to be at issue. I agree that Sobel’s reply seems quite apt in relation to the letter of what Parfit says. However, this reply also perpetuates the fatal confusion on which I believe the argument of Sobel’s article rests.