Joshua Greene, John & Ruth Hazel Associate Professor of the Social Sciences Department of Psychology, Harvard University
Does the "is" 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 consequentialist thinking as a better alternative for modern moral problem-solving.