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Ethical Implications of the Dual Process Theory

The loose reconstruction of Greene’s argument (see Greene contra Ethics (Railgun Remix)) does not favour one type (e.g. deontological vs consequentialist) of ethical theory. But can it be extended, by means of an additional argument, to favour one type of ethical theory?

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Singer (2005) and Greene suggest that Greene’s argument (see Greene contra Ethics (Railgun Remix)) can be used to make a positive case for (one from of) consequentialism (by eliminating all viable rivals).

Here is how Greene puts one idea for an argument:

‘my point is simply that act consequentialism should get points for not chasing intuitions and that some of its competitors […] should lose points for doing so. Note that the present argument also casts doubt on theories that, rather than chasing intuitions with codifying principles, simply allow our intuitions roam free. Likewise, it casts doubt on theories that purport to derive from first principles, but that are in fact intuition chasing—that is, theories that are actually attempts to get from first principles to the intuitively right answers rather than attempts to get from first principles to wherever those principles happen to lead. (And, if you’re like me, you suspect that this covers most, if not all, of act consequentialism’s competition.)’ (Greene, 2014, p. 725)

Even if this ambitious further argument does not work, it appears that the conclusion of the loose reconstruction does remove some otherwise pressing objections to consequentialism.


Greene, J. D. (2014). Beyond Point-and-Shoot Morality: Why Cognitive (Neuro)Science Matters for Ethics. Ethics, 124(4), 695–726.
Singer, P. (2005). Ethics and Intuitions. The Journal of Ethics, 9(3), 331–352.