Greene 2010 – Associate Professor of the Social Sciences Department of Psychology Harvard University (Joshua, Moral Psychology: Historical and Contemporary Readings, “The Secret Joke of Kant’s Soul”, www.fed.cuhk.edu.hk/~lchang/material/Evolutionary/Developmental/Greene-KantSoul.pdf, WEA)
What turn-of-the-millennium science is telling us is that human moral judgment is not a pristine rational enterprise, that our moral judgments are driven by a hodgepodge of emotional dispositions, which themselves were shaped by a hodgepodge of evolutionary forces, both biological and cultural. Because of this, it is exceedingly unlikely that there is any rationally coherent normative moral theory that can accommodate our moral intuitions. Moreover, anyone who claims to have such a theory, or even part of one, almost certainly doesn't. Instead, what that person probably has is a moral rationalization.
It seems then, that we have somehow crossed the infamous "is"-"ought" divide. How did this happen? Didn't Hume (Hume, 1978) and Moore (Moore, 1966) warn us against trying to derive an "ought" from and "is?" How did we go from descriptive scientific theories concerning moral psychology to skepticism about a whole class of normative moral theories? The answer is that we did not, as Hume and Moore anticipated, attempt to derive an "ought" from and "is." That is, our method has been inductive rather than deductive. We have inferred on the basis of the available evidence that the phenomenon of rationalist deontological philosophy is best explained as a rationalization of evolved emotional intuition (Harman, 1977).
Missing the Deontological Point
I suspect that rationalist deontologists will remain unmoved by the arguments presented here. Instead, I suspect, they will insist that I have simply misunderstood whatKant and like-minded deontologists are all about. Deontology, they will say, isn't about this intuition or that intuition. It's not defined by its normative differences with consequentialism. Rather, deontology is about taking humanity seriously. Above all else, it's about respect for persons. It's about treating others as fellow rational creatures rather than as mere objects, about acting for reasons rational beings can share. And so on (Korsgaard, 1996a; Korsgaard, 1996b).This is, no doubt, how many deontologists see deontology. But this insider's view, as I've suggested, may be misleading. The problem, more specifically, is that it defines deontology in terms of values that are not distinctively deontological, though they may appear to be from the inside. Consider the following analogy with religion. When one asks a religious person to explain the essence of his religion, one often gets an answer like this: "It's about love, really. It's about looking out for other people, looking beyond oneself. It's about community, being part of something larger than oneself." This sort of answer accurately captures the phenomenology of many people's religion, but it's nevertheless inadequate for distinguishing religion from other things. This is because many, if not most, non-religious people aspire to love deeply, look out for other people, avoid self-absorption, have a sense of a community, and be connected to things larger than themselves. In other words, secular humanists and atheists can assent to most of what many religious people think religion is all about. From a secular humanist's point of view, in contrast, what's distinctive about religion is its commitment to the existence of supernatural entities as well as formal religious institutions and doctrines. And they're right. These things really do distinguish religious from non-religious practices, though they may appear to be secondary to many people operating from within a religious point of view.
In the same way, I believe that most of the standard deontological/Kantian self-characterizatons fail to distinguish deontology from other approaches to ethics. (See also Kagan (Kagan, 1997, pp. 70-78.) on the difficulty of defining deontology.) It seems to me that consequentialists, as much as anyone else, have respect for persons, are against treating people as mere objects, wish to act for reasons that rational creatures can share, etc. A consequentialist respects other persons, and refrains from treating them as mere objects, by counting every person's well-being in the decision-making process. Likewise, a consequentialist attempts to act according to reasons that rational creatures can share by acting according to principles that give equal weight to everyone's interests, i.e. that are impartial. This is not to say that consequentialists and deontologists don't differ. They do. It's just that the real differences may not be what deontologists often take them to be.
What, then, distinguishes deontology from other kinds of moral thought? A good strategy for answering this question is to start with concrete disagreements between deontologists and others (such as consequentialists) and then work backward in search of deeper principles. This is what I've attempted to do with the trolley and footbridge cases, and other instances in which deontologists and consequentialists disagree. If you ask a deontologically-minded person why it's wrong to push someone in front of speeding trolley in order to save five others, you will getcharacteristically deontological answers. Some will be tautological: "Because it's murder!"Others will be more sophisticated: "The ends don't justify the means." "You have to respect people's rights." But, as we know, these answers don't really explain anything, because if you give the same people (on different occasions) the trolley case or the loop case (See above), they'll make the opposite judgment, even though their initial explanation concerning the footbridge case applies equally well to one or both of these cases. Talk about rights, respect for persons, and reasons we can share are natural attempts to explain, in "cognitive" terms, what we feel when we find ourselves having emotionally driven intuitions that are odds with the cold calculus of consequentialism. Although these explanations are inevitably incomplete, there seems to be "something deeply right" about them because they give voice to powerful moral emotions. But, as with many religious people's accounts of what's essential to religion, they don't really explain what's distinctive about the philosophy in question.
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