Joshua Greeen on utiltiarianism as “deep pragmatism”
With a little perspective, we can use manual-mode thinking to reach agreements with our “heads” despite the irreconcilable differences in our “hearts.” This is the essence of deep pragmatism: to seek common ground not where we think it ought to be, but where it actually is.
We all want to be happy. None of us wants to suffer. And our concern for happiness and suffering lies behind nearly everything else that we value, though to see this requires some reflection. We can take this kernel of personal value and turn it into a moral value by valuing it impartially, thus injecting the essence of the Golden Rule: your happiness and your suffering matter no more, and no less, than anyone else’s. Finally, we can turn this moral value into a moral system by running it through the outcome-optimizing apparatus of the human prefromal cortex. This yields a moral philosophy that no one loves but that everyone “gets” -a second moral language that members of all tribes can speak.
If we acknowledge that our tribal feelings can’t all be right, and yet aspire to resolve our differences in a principled way, then we need some kind of “ism,” an explicit moral standard to guide us when our emotional compasses fail.