SOPhiA 2021

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Utilitarianism as a Pragmatic Choice in Joshua Greene's Ethics
(Ethics, )

A Joshua Greene is an American psychologist and philosopher who become well known for his psychological experiments with trolley problems. His controversial conclusion from these experiments in that they offer empirical support for utilitarianism over deontology led to the huge discussion that overshadows his other pragmatic arguments for utilitarianism introduced in his dissertation and a book Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them. These pragmatic arguments are based on the rejection of moral realism and redefinition of the purpose of ethics as a search for those moral norms and principles that fulfill our practical need to resolve moral conflicts in the most successful way. According to Greene, utilitarian moral norms and theories are more suitable for resolving moral conflicts than deontological ones. Specifically, Greene highlights the ability of utilitarians to resolve moral conflicts with an empirically accessible cost-benefit analysis of direct and indirect consequences of the action, while deontologists, he claims, often use incorrect realistic language with frequent appeals to duty, guilt, or obligation. The thesis of my contribution is that stated arguments do not give sufficiently justified grounds for favoring utilitarianism over deontology. I consider it an unjustified belief that the aim of ethics should be the search for the most successful way to resolve our moral conflicts. There is at least one competitive position according to which the role of ethics is to find the best way to deal with our human vulnerability and dependence on other members of society. Possible acceptance of this interpretation of ethics would inevitably lead to the deontological language of appeals to moral duties and obligations, which Greene rejects.

Chair: Damiano Ranzenigo
Time: 19:30-20:00, 09 September 2021 (Thursday)
Location: SR 1.004
Remark: (Online Talk)

Stanislav Spodniak  
(Matej Bel University in Banska Bystrica, )



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