• Back to Profile

  • In sum, if it seems that I have simply misunderstood what Kant and deontology are all about,
    it's because I am advancing an alternative hypothesis to the standard Kantian/deontological understanding
    of what Kant and deontology are all about. I am putting forth an empirical hypothesis
    about the hidden psychological essence of deontology, and it cannot be dismissed a priori
    for the same reason that tropical islanders cannot know a priori whether ice is a form of water.
    - Joshua Greene's (2008, p. 74) 'The secret joke of Kant's soul'

    Ethical Implications

    Footbridge dilemma

    Trolley dilemma

    Image source: http://www.joshua-greene.net/research/moral-cognition

    1. Recall the general structure of an evolutionary debunking argument (Kahane, 2011):
    2. P1 (Causal): Agent X's belief that p is explained by process S.
    3. P2 (Epistemic): S is an off-track (i.e. non-truth-tracking) process.
    4. P3 (Conditional): If S is an off-track process and X's belief that p is explained by S, then X's belief that p is unjustified.
    5. C: ∴ X's belief that p is unjustified. (modus ponens)

    6. Q: Can we save any of our moral beliefs from evolutionary debunking arguments?

    Peter Singer

    Joshua Greene

    1. According to Singer (2005) and Greene (2008), we can save at least some of our moral beliefs
    2. Characteristically deontological responses to the footbridge dilemma suggest that deontology is implicated in the distorting influences and pressures of our evolutionary history
    3. If we conduct a doxastic purge, we should not expect deontology to survive this purge

    4. However, characteristically consequentialist responses to the trolley dilemma suggest that consequentialism is more immune to the force of the evolutionary debunking argument
    5. According to Singer (2005) and Greene (2008), we have good reason to expect consequentialism to survive this purge

    fMRI (or functional magnetic resonance imaging) scan of increased brain activity in the DLPFC (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) for consequentialist moral judgments. Images are reversed right to left in accordance with radiologic convention (Greene et al, 2004, p. 394)