Graham Greene's Utilitarian By Default

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Greene seems to consider himself a utilitarian by default, but what is utilitarianism? Utilitarianism is the belief that given the option of a bad outcome and a good outcome, rational people will choose the good outcome. Further they will try to weigh costs and benefits to get the best outcome the perceive as possible. It is a theory that believes that humans ought to act to produce the most good. A utilitarian is more likely to say that the one individual should be sacrificed to save the five. A “good” utilitarian is one who would say that the the one should be sacrificed to save the five even if that one is their most beloved child. It is a theory that praises logic beyond almost everything else, however it has a persistent thorn in it’s …show more content…
This is the view that the best moral system is one that is consistent with itself and with our non moral beliefs. This is why I call Greene a utilitarian by default. He does not agree with all it requires, he believes it is approaching truth but it is not quite there yet, and this is why Greene does not feel conflicted by breaking the system. This lack of confliction can be seen when Greene is discussing the idea that he would not press a button to become a better utilitarian solely because he values his sense of self to much (Sommers, 302-303). Greene expresses this idea himself not being a utilitarian when he says “I don’t think utilitarianism is the right theory, the true theory, but I do have utilitarian values.” (Sommers, 298). Despite these utilitarian values Greene can’t free himself from emotions, and though he does not care for their presence in most things he is logical enough to acknowledge that they are not always a bad thing. Greene talks of different types of emotions. The type that he seems to care the least for are the flighty, non-foundational emotion that we experience in the short term. The other type which he is more accepting of are deep, inflexible …show more content…
For example if you can definitely save the life of a stranger’s drowning child or maybe save the life of your own beloved child then what do you do? This is an example similar to ones used by Peter Singer who is featured in chapter 9 of this book. Utilitarian theory says save the stranger’s child because that is a sure thing and your child isn’t more important than them. Humans with normal emotional responses in America would say “Of course I would save my own child. I don’t even know the other child. That is clearly the moral thing to do.” Greene is a lot more understanding of this view, but the use of the phrase “Clearly the moral thing to do” just irks me. How can this be the obvious moral thing to do? It is the normal thing to do in our society but we can in no way state that it is the moral thing to do it, and definitely not state that it is the obviously moral thing to do. A statement of morality like this requires an explanation. Greene partially agrees with me. He offers forth the idea that impartiality is the more morally rational thing to do, but chases it with the caveat that it would not be rational to try and convince our culture that they should stop behaving as they do (Sommers, 300-301). That is to try to convince them that it is not the

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