Joshua Greene

American psychologist

Joshua Greene is an American experimental psychologist, neuroscientist, and philosopher. He is a Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, specializing in moral judgment, decision-making and cognitive science.

We have no non-question-begging way of figuring out who has which rights and which rights outweigh others. (...) When we appeal to rights, we're not making an argument; we're declaring that the argument is over. ~ Joshua Greene
We can summarize utilitarianism thus: Happiness is what matters, and everyone's happiness counts the same. This doesn't mean that everyone gets to be equally happy, but it does mean that no one's happiness is inherently more valuable than anyone else's. ~ Joshua Greene

QuotesEdit

  • Utilitarianism is a great idea with an awful name. It is, in my opinion, the most underrated and misunderstood idea in all of moral and political philosophy.
    • Joshua Greene, Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them (2013), p. 106
  • We can summarize utilitarianism thus: Happiness is what matters, and everyone's happiness counts the same. This doesn't mean that everyone gets to be equally happy, but it does mean that no one's happiness is inherently more valuable than anyone else's.
    • Joshua Greene, Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them (2013), p. 170
  • It's plausible that the goodness and badness of everything ultimately cashes out in terms of the quality of people's experience. On this view, there are many worthy values: family, education, freedom, bravery, and all the rest of the values listed on the chalkboard. But, says utilitarianism, these things are valuable because, and only because, of their effects on our experience. Subtract from these things their positive effects on experience and their value is lost. In short, if it doesn't affect someone's experience, then it doesn't really matter.
    • Joshua Greene, Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them (2013), p. 160
  • We face two fundamentally different kinds of moral problems: Me versus Us (Tragedy of the Commons) and Us versus Them (Tragedy of Commonsense Morality). We also have two fundamentally different kinds of moral thinking: fast (using emotional automatic settings) and slow (using manual-mode reasoning). And, once again, the key is to match the right kind of thinking to the right kind of problem: When it's Me versus Us, think fast. When it's Us versus Them, think slow.
    • Joshua Greene, Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them (2013), p. 349
  • Utilitarianism is a very egalitarian philosophy, asking the haves to do a lot for the have-nots. Were you to wake up tomorrow as a born-again utilitarian, the biggest change in your life would be your newfound devotion to helping unfortunate others.
    • Joshua Greene, Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them (2013), p. 275
  • The utilitarian argument for giving is straightforward: Going skiing instead of camping (or whatever) may increase your happiness, but it's nothing compared with the increase in happiness that a poor African child gains from clean water, food, and shelter. (...) Thus, says utilitarianism, you should spend that money helping desperately needy people rather than on luxuries for yourself.
    • Joshua Greene, Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them (2013), p. 207
  • We have no non-question-begging way of figuring out who has which rights and which rights outweigh others. We love rights (and duties, rights' frumpy older sister), because they are handy rationalization devices, presenting our subjective feelings as perceptions of abstract moral objects. (...) We can use "rights" as shields, protecting the moral progress we've made. And we can use "rights" as rhetorical weapons, when the time for rational argument has passed. But we should do this sparingly. And when we do, we should know what we're doing: When we appeal to rights, we're not making an argument; we're declaring that the argument is over.
    • Joshua Greene, Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them (2013), p. 350
  • From a utilitarian perspective, a good decision-making system is one in which the decision makers are more likely than otherwise to make decisions that produce good results. In principle, this could be one in which all decision-making power is vested in a single philosopher king. But everything we know of history and human nature suggests that this is a bad idea. Instead, it seems we're better off with representative democracy, coupled with a free press and widely accessible education, and so on, and so forth.
    • Joshua Greene, Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them (2013), p. 169

External linksEdit