NYU Stern

Joshua Greene


Abstract of Conference Paper

Beyond Point-And-Shoot Morality: The Scientific Case for Utilitarianism

Does the "is" of empirical moral psychology have implications for the "ought" of normative ethics?   I'll argue that it does.  One cannot deduce moral truths form scientific truths, but cognitive science, including cognitive neuroscience, may nevertheless influence moral thinking in profound ways.  First, I'll review evidence for the dual-process theory of moral judgment, according to which characteristically deontological judgments tend to be driven by automatic emotional responses while characteristically consequentialist  judgments tend  to be driven by controlled cognitive processes.  I'll then consider the respective functions of automatic and controlled processes.  Automatic processes are like the point-and-shoot settings on a camera, efficient but inflexible.  Controlled processes are like a camera's manual mode, inefficient but flexible.  Putting these theses together, I'll argue that deontological philosophy is essentially a rationalization of automatic responses that are too inflexible to handle our peculiarly modern moral problems.  I'll recommend utilitarian/consequentialist thinking as a better alternative for modern moral problem-solving.

Conference Paper

ISUS 2012 UnderConstruction 
Biography and Publications
JOSHUA D. GREENE is the John and Ruth Hazel Associate Professor of the Social Sciences and the director of the Moral Cognition Laboratory, Department of Psychology, Harvard University.

His primary research interest is the psychological and neuroscientific study of moral judgment, focusing on the interplay between emotion and reasoning in moral decision-making.  His broader interests cluster around the intersection of philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience. His research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the MacArthur Foundation.  His publications have appeared in Science, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, Neuron, Cognition, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Nature Reviews Neuroscience, and the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London.
He is currently writing a book entitled, For the Greater Good: How the Moral Brain Works and How it Can Work Better, about the philosophical implications of our emerging scientific understanding of morality. 

Recent Publications by Greene:
Amit, E., Greene, J.D. (2012) You see, the ends don't justify the means: Visual imagery and moral judgment. Psychological Science, XX(X) 1-8.

Cushman, F.A., Murray, D., Gordon-McKeon, S., Wharton, S., Greene, J.D. (2011 ePub) Judgment before principle: Engagement of the frontoparietal control network in condemning harms of omission. Social, Cognitive, and Affective Neuroscience.

Cushman, F.A. and Greene, J.D. (2012) Finding faults: How moral dilemmas illuminate cognitive structure. Social Neuroscience, 7(3-4), 269-279.

Paxton, J.M. Ungar, L., Greene, J.D., (2011 ePub) Reflection and reasoning in moral judgment. Cognitive Science.

Shenav, A.S., Greene, J.D. (2010). Moral judgments recruit domain-general valuation mechanisms to integrate representations of probability and magnitude. Neuron, 67, 667-677.

Bazerman, M.H. and Greene, J.D. (2010). In favor of clear thinking: Incorporating moral rules into wise cost-benefit analysis. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 5(2), 209-212.

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