The Moral Landscape

Author: Sam Harris

Publisher: Random House

ISBN: 1409011143

Category: Philosophy

Page: 384

View: 3247


Sam Harris's first book, The End of Faith, ignited a worldwide debate about the validity of religion. In the aftermath, Harris discovered that most people - from religious fundamentalists to nonbelieving scientists - agree on one point: science has nothing to say on the subject of human values. Indeed, our failure to address questions of meaning and morality through science has now become the primary justification for religious faith. In this highly controversial book, Sam Harris seeks to link morality to the rest of human knowledge. Defining morality in terms of human and animal well-being, Harris argues that science can do more than tell how we are; it can, in principle, tell us how we ought to be. In his view, moral relativism is simply false - and comes at an increasing cost to humanity. And the intrusions of religion into the sphere of human values can be finally repelled: for just as there is no such thing as Christian physics or Muslim algebra, there can be no Christian or Muslim morality. Using his expertise in philosophy and neuroscience, along with his experience on the front lines of our 'culture wars', Harris delivers a game-changing book about the future of science and about the real basis of human cooperation.

Epistle to a Sam Harris Nation

Debunking the Moral Landscape

Author: Bill Whitehouse

Publisher: CreateSpace

ISBN: 9781456586225

Category: Religion

Page: 268

View: 3702


Takes on the ideas of Sam Harris using his own chosen tools, namely, reason and science.

Debunking a Moral Landscape

Author: Anab Whitehouse

Publisher: Bilquees Press


Category: Philosophy

Page: 304

View: 442


Debunking A Moral Landscape takes on the ideas of Sam Harris using his own chosen tools -- namely, reason and science. When those tools are turned back on his book, The Moral Landscape, one comes to understand that his perspective is very much like an onion since, after one peels away the various decaying layers of philosophy, reasoning, and science, there is really nothing left at the heart of his worldview. Sam Harris has been raised by many his many followers and admirers to an emperor-like status. Nonetheless, in reality, this would-be emperor has no genuine clothes of royalty since the material from which his conceptual garments are woven are fairly common, if not threadbare. In fact, his ideas are clothed in a way that gives them the appearance of being fashioned in a very sturdy and reliable manner, but such appearances are little more than an illusion. He often claims that his kingdom is ruled through reason and science. Yet, when the topography of his ideas are carefully explored, there are many problems to be found hiding in the nooks and crannies of his thought processes. His reasoning is not always rational; his science is not always factual; and his explanations are often problematic. Furthermore, he asserts that faith is for the naive and foolish, but his perspective is glued together by a variety of different grades of faith -- some of them quite faulty -- which he calls by other names such as: well-being, probability, theory, hypothesis, science, randomness, evolution, neurobiology, reason, and so on. Sam Harris has harsh words for religious extremists -- as well he should. However, he apparently fails to understand how his own position incorporates a brand of irreligious fundamentalism that is inclined to be just as blind and unyielding as the religious people whom he wishes to criticize. Debunking A Moral Landscape doesn't just criticize the perspective which is developed in Sam Harris' latest book, The Moral Landscape, the former book introduces a variety of constructive ideas with respect to moral philosophy, political philosophy, evolution, science, the process of reasoning, and methodology that grows out of the process through which the problems and errors that are present in Sam Harris' The Moral Landscape are corrected and refined.

The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values

Author: Sam Harris

Publisher: Books Online



Page: N.A

View: 7050

DOWNLOAD NOW » Review Richard Dawkins on The Moral Landscape Beautifully written as they were (the elegance of his prose is a distilled blend of honesty and clarity) there was little in Sam Harris's previous books that couldn't have been written by any of his fellow "horsemen" of the "new atheism." This book is different, though every bit as readable as the other two. I was one of those who had unthinkingly bought into the hectoring myth that science can say nothing about morals. To my surprise, The Moral Landscape has changed all that for me. It should change it for philosophers too. Philosophers of mind have already discovered that they can't duck the study of neuroscience, and the best of them have raised their game as a result. Sam Harris shows that the same should be true of moral philosophers, and it will turn their world exhilaratingly upside down. As for religion, and the preposterous idea that we need God to be good, nobody wields a sharper bayonet than Sam Harris. --Richard Dawkins Amazon Exclusive: Q & A – Sam Harris Q: Are there right and wrong answers to moral questions? Harris: Morality must relate, at some level, to the well-being of conscious creatures. If there are more and less effective ways for us to seek happiness and to avoid misery in this world—and there clearly are—then there are right and wrong answers to questions of morality. Q: Are you saying that science can answer such questions? Harris: Yes, in principle. Human well-being is not a random phenomenon. It depends on many factors—ranging from genetics and neurobiology to sociology and economics. But, clearly, there are scientific truths to be known about how we can flourish in this world. Wherever we can act so as to have an impact on the well-being of others, questions of morality apply. Q: But can’t moral claims be in conflict? Aren’t there many situations in which one person’s happiness means another’s suffering? Harris: There as some circumstances like this, and we call these contests ?zero-sum.? Generally speaking, however, the most important moral occasions are not like this. If we could eliminate war, nuclear proliferation, malaria, chronic hunger, child abuse, etc.—these changes would be good, on balance, for everyone. There are surely neurobiological, psychological, and sociological reasons why this is so—which is to say that science could potentially tell us exactly why a phenomenon like child abuse diminishes human well-being. But we don’t have to wait for science to do this. We already have very good reasons to believe that mistreating children is bad for everyone. I think it is important for us to admit that this is not a claim about our personal preferences, or merely something our culture has conditioned us to believe. It is a claim about the architecture of our minds and the social architecture of our world. Moral truths of this kind must find their place in any scientific understanding of human experience. Q: What if some people simply have different notions about what is truly important in life? How could science tell us that the actions of the Taliban are in fact immoral, when the Taliban think they are behaving morally? Harris: As I discuss in my book, there may be different ways for people to thrive, but there are clearly many more ways for them not to thrive. The Taliban are a perfect example of a group of people who are struggling to build a society that is obviously less good than many of the other societies on offer. Afghan women have a 12% literacy rate and a life expectancy of 44 years. Afghanistan has nearly the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world. It also has one of the highest birthrates. Consequently, it is one of the best places on earth to watch women and infants die. And Afghanistan’s GDP is currently lower than the world’s average was in the year 1820. It is safe to say that the optimal response to this dire situation—that is to say, the most moral response—is not to throw battery acid in the faces of little girls for the crime of learning to read. This may seem like common sense to us—and it is—but I am saying that it is also, at bottom, a claim about biology, psychology, sociology, and economics. It is not, therefore, unscientific to say that the Taliban are wrong about morality. In fact, we must say this, the moment we admit that we know anything at all about human well-being. Q: But what if the Taliban simply have different goals in life? Harris: Well, the short answer is—they don’t. They are clearly seeking happiness in this life, and, more importantly, they imagine that they are securing it in a life to come. They believe that they will enjoy an eternity of happiness after death by following the strictest interpretation of Islamic law here on earth. This is also a claim about which science should have an opinion—as it is almost certainly untrue. There is no question, however, that the Taliban are seeking well-being, in some sense—they just have some very strange beliefs about how to attain it. In my book, I try to spell out why moral disagreements do not put the concept of moral truth in jeopardy. In the moral sphere, as in all others, some people don’t know what they are missing. In fact, I suspect that most of us don’t know what we are missing: It must be possible to change human experience in ways that would uncover levels of human flourishing that most of us cannot imagine. In every area of genuine discovery, there are horizons past which we cannot see. Q: What do you mean when you talk about a moral landscape? Harris: This is the phrase I use to describe the space of all possible experience—where the peaks correspond to the heights of well-being and valleys represent the worst possible suffering. We are all someplace on this landscape, faced with the prospect of moving up or down. Given that our experience is fully constrained by the laws of the universe, there must be scientific answers to the question of how best to move upwards, toward greater happiness. This is not to say that there is only one right way for human beings to live. There might be many peaks on this landscape—but there are clearly many ways not to be on a peak. Q: How could science guide us on the moral landscape? Harris: Insofar as we can understand human wellbeing, we will understand the conditions that best secure it. Some are obvious, of course. Positive social emotions like compassion and empathy are generally good for us, and we want to encourage them. But do we know how to most reliably raise children to care about the suffering of other people? I’m not sure we do. Are there genes that make certain people more compassionate than others? What social systems and institutions could maximize our sense of connectedness to the rest of humanity? These questions have answers, and only a science of morality could deliver them. Q: Why is it taboo for a scientist to attempt to answer moral questions? Harris: I think there are two primary reasons why scientists hesitate to do this. The first, and most defensible, is borne of their appreciation for how difficult it is to understand complex systems. Our investigation of the human mind is in its infancy, even after nearly two centuries of studying the brain. So scientists fear that answers to specific questions about human well-being may be very difficult to come by, and confidence on many points is surely premature. This is true. But, as I argue in my book, mistaking no answers in practice for no answers in principle is a huge mistake. The second reason is that many scientists have been misled by a combination of bad philosophy and political correctness. This leads them to feel that the only intellectually defensible position to take when in the presence of moral disagreement is to consider all opinions equally valid or equally nonsensical. On one level, this is an understandable and even noble over-correction for our history of racism, ethnocentrism, and imperialism. But it is an over-correction nonetheless. As I try to show in my book, it is not a sign of intolerance for us to notice that some cultures and sub-cultures do a terrible job of producing human lives worth living. Q: What is the difference between there being no answers in practice and no answers in principle, and why is this distinction important in understanding the relationship between human knowledge and human values? Harris: There are an infinite number of questions that we will never answer, but which clearly have answers. How many fish are there in the world’s oceans at this moment? We will never know. And yet, we know that this question, along with an infinite number of questions like it, have correct answers. We simply can’t get access to the data in any practical way. There are many questions about human subjectivity—and about the experience of conscious creatures generally—that have this same structure. Which causes more human suffering, stealing or lying? Questions like this are not at all meaningless, in that they must have answers, but it could be hopeless to try to answer them with any precision. Still, once we admit that any discussion of human values must relate to a larger reality in which actual answers exist, we can then reject many answers as obviously wrong. If, in response to the question about the world’s fish, someone were to say, ?There are exactly a thousand fish in the sea.? We know that this person is not worth listening to. And many people who have strong opinions on moral questions have no more credibility than this. Anyone who thinks that gay marriage is the greatest problem of the 21st century, or that women should be forced to live in burqas, is not worth listening to on the subject of morality. Q: What do you think the role of religion is in determining human morality? Harris: I think it is generally an unhelpful one. Religious ideas about good and evil tend to focus on how to achieve well-being in the next life, and this makes them terrible guides to securing it in this one. Of course, there are a few gems to be found in every religious tradition, but in so far as these precepts are wise and useful they are not, in principle, religious. You do not need to believe that the Bible was dictated by the Creator of the Universe, or that Jesus Christ was his son, to see the wisdom and utility of following the Golden Rule. The problem with religious morality is that it often causes people to care about the wrong things, leading them to make choices that needlessly perpetuate human suffering. Consider the Catholic Church: This is an institution that excommunicates women who want to become priests, but it does not excommunicate male priests who rape children. The Church is more concerned about stopping contraception than stopping genocide. It is more worried about gay marriage than about nuclear proliferation. When we realize that morality relates to questions of human and animal well-being, we can see that the Catholic Church is as confused about morality as it is about cosmology. It is not offering an alternative moral framework; it is offering a false one. Q: So people don’t need religion to live an ethical life? Harris: No. And a glance at the lives of most atheists, and at the most atheistic societies on earth—Denmark, Sweden, etc.—proves that this is so. Even the faithful can’t really get their deepest moral principles from religion—because books like the Bible and the Qur’an are full of barbaric injunctions that all decent and sane people must now reinterpret or ignore. How is it that most Jews, Christians, and Muslims are opposed to slavery? You don’t get this moral insight from scripture, because the God of Abraham expects us to keep slaves. Consequently, even religious fundamentalists draw many of their moral positions from a wider conversation about human values that is not, in principle, religious. We are the guarantors of the wisdom we find in scripture, such as it is. And we are the ones who must ignore God when he tells us to kill people for working on the Sabbath. Q: How will admitting that there are right and wrong answers to issues of human and animal flourishing transform the way we think and talk about morality? Harris: What I’ve tried to do in my book is give a framework in which we can think about human values in universal terms. Currently, the most important questions in human life—questions about what constitutes a good life, which wars we should fight or not fight, which diseases should be cured first, etc.—are thought to lie outside the purview of science, in principle. Therefore, we have divorced the most important questions in human life from the context in which our most rigorous and intellectually honest thinking gets done. Moral truth entirely depends on actual and potential changes in the well-being of conscious creatures. As such, there are things to be discovered about it through careful observation and honest reasoning. It seems to me that the only way we are going to build a global civilization based on shared values—allowing us to converge on the same political, economic, and environmental goals—is to admit that questions about right and wrong and good and evil have answers, in the same way the questions about human health do. Review “Sam Harris breathes intellectual fire into an ancient debate. Reading this thrilling, audacious book, you feel the ground shifting beneath your feet. Reason has never had a more passionate advocate.” —Ian McEwan Beautifully written as they were (the elegance of his prose is a distilled blend of honesty and clarity) there was little in Sam Harris's previous books that couldn't have been written by any of his fellow 'horsemen' of the 'new atheism'. This book is different, though every bit as readable as the other two. I was one of those who had unthinkingly bought into the hectoring myth that science can say nothing about morals. To my surprise, The Moral Landscape has changed all that for me. It should change it for philosophers too. Philosophers of mind have already discovered that they can't duck the study of neuroscience, and the best of them have raised their game as a result. Sam Harris shows that the same should be true of moral philosophers, and it will turn their world exhilaratingly upside down. As for religion, and the preposterous idea that we need God to be good, nobody wields a sharper bayonet than Sam Harris. --Richard Dawkins “Reading Sam Harris is like drinking water from a cool stream on a hot day. He has the rare ability to frame arguments that are not only stimulating, they are downright nourishing, even if you don’t always agree with him! In this new book he argues from a philosophical and a neurobiological perspective that science can and should determine morality. His discussions will provoke secular liberals and religious conservatives alike, who jointly argue from different perspectives that there always will be an unbridgeable chasm between merely knowing what is and discerning what should be. As was the case with Harris’ previous books, readers are bound to come away with previously firm convictions about the world challenged, and a vital new awareness about the nature and value of science and reason in our lives.” —Lawrence M. Krauss, Foundation Professor and Director of the ASU Origins Project at Arizona State University_, author of The Physics of Star Trek,_ and_, Quantum Man: Richard Feynman’s Life in Science _ “A lively, provocative, and timely new look at one of the deepest problems in the world of ideas. Harris makes a powerful case for a morality that is based on human flourishing and thoroughly enmeshed with science and rationality. It is a tremendously appealing vision, and one that no thinking person can afford to ignore.” --Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works and The Blank Slate.

Gender and Landscape

Renegotiating the Moral Landscape

Author: Josephine Carubia,Lorraine Dowler,Bonj Szczygiel

Publisher: Routledge

ISBN: 0203449193

Category: Social Science

Page: 288

View: 1673


Gender and Landscape is a feminist inquiry into a long-ignored area of study: the landscape. Although there has been an exhaustive investigation into issues of gender as they intersect with space and place, very little has been written about the gendering of the landscape. This volume provides a bridge between feminist discussions of space and place as something 'lived' and landscape interpretations as something 'viewed'.

Subjects on the World's Stage

Essays on British Literature of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

Author: David G. Allen,Robert A. White

Publisher: University of Delaware Press

ISBN: 9780874135442

Category: Literary Criticism

Page: 319

View: 9035


"In this collection eighteen scholars offer various readings on British literature of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Although the period covered ranges from the thirteenth through the seventeenth centuries, the essays are tied together by a common interest in one of three topics: poetic personae, dramatic production, and the influence of social context upon authors or dramatists. Common to these topics is the crucial point of contact between an artist and society that prompts the literary imagination to respond either with the creation of a new character or with the demonstration of change in an old one."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Supervenience and Normativity

Author: Bartosz Brożek,Antonino Rotolo,Jerzy Stelmach

Publisher: Springer

ISBN: 3319610465

Category: Law

Page: 175

View: 4145


The present collection represents an attempt to bring together several contributions to the ongoing debate pertaining to supervenience of the normative in law and morals and strives to be the first work that addresses the topic comprehensively. It addresses the controversies surrounding the idea of normative supervenience and the philosophical conceptions they generated, deserve a recapitulation, as well as a new impulse for further development. Recently, there has been renewed interest in the concepts of normativity and supervenience. The research on normativity – a term introduced to the philosophical jargon by Edmund Husserl almost one hundred years ago – gained impetus in the 1990s through the works of such philosophers as Robert Audi, Christine Korsgaard, Robert Brandom, Paul Boghossian or Joseph Raz. The problem of the nature and sources of normativity has been investigated not only in morals and in relation to language, but also in other domains, e.g. in law or in the c ontext of the theories of rationality. Supervenience, understood as a special kind of relation between properties and weaker than entailment, has become analytic philosophers’ favorite formal tool since 1980s. It features in the theories pertaining to mental properties, but also in aesthetics or the law. In recent years, the ‘marriage’ of normativity and supervenience has become an object of many philosophical theories as well as heated debates. It seems that the conceptual apparatus of the supervenience theory makes it possible to state precisely some claims pertaining to normativity, as well as illuminate the problems surrounding it.

Internet Security: Hacking, Counterhacking, and Society

Author: Kenneth Einar Himma

Publisher: Jones & Bartlett Learning

ISBN: 9780763735364

Category: Computers

Page: 292

View: 1325


The frequency of digital attacks and intrusions has steadily increased over the years as the number of people with the appropriate motivation and technical ability continues to grow. Internet Security: Hacking, Counterhacking, and Society is a modern survey of the recent ethical policy issues arising in connection with Internet and network security. This exciting collection of papers, articles, and monographs discusses a number of important ethical questions arising in many distinct areas of Internet and network security, including: Are hacker attacks and hacktivism morally justified? Is hacking justified as self-defense? How should professionals respond to security issues? Is publishing malicious code protected by moral rights to free speech? Is it morally permissible for the government or individuals to actively conceal e-content? Internet Security: Hacking, Counterhacking, and Society is a valuable addition to the library of anyone concerned with the growing number of Internet security issues and intrusions facing society today.

The Moral Arc

How Science Makes Us Better People

Author: Michael Shermer

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

ISBN: 0805096930

Category: Science

Page: 560

View: 9566


Bestselling author Michael Shermer's exploration of science and morality that demonstrates how the scientific way of thinking has made people, and society as a whole, more moral From Galileo and Newton to Thomas Hobbes and Martin Luther King, Jr., thinkers throughout history have consciously employed scientific techniques to better understand the non-physical world. The Age of Reason and the Enlightenment led theorists to apply scientific reasoning to the non-scientific disciplines of politics, economics, and moral philosophy. Instead of relying on the woodcuts of dissected bodies in old medical texts, physicians opened bodies themselves to see what was there; instead of divining truth through the authority of an ancient holy book or philosophical treatise, people began to explore the book of nature for themselves through travel and exploration; instead of the supernatural belief in the divine right of kings, people employed a natural belief in the right of democracy. In The Moral Arc, Shermer will explain how abstract reasoning, rationality, empiricism, skepticism--scientific ways of thinking--have profoundly changed the way we perceive morality and, indeed, move us ever closer to a more just world.

Religion and Belief

A Moral Landscape

Author: Malcolm Heath,Christopher T Green,Fabio Serranito

Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing

ISBN: 1443860069

Category: History

Page: 196

View: 9053


Religion and Belief: A Moral Landscape is a collection of essays from the 4th Annual Postgraduate Interdisciplinary Conference at the Department of Classics, University of Leeds. The book collates a wide range of issues and initiates a discussion on the nuances and multifaceted concepts of religion and belief. The topics range from ancient Greek religion and philosophy, through the Roman world and early Judeo-Christian beliefs, to modern burial practices and 21st century ‘New-Atheism’. By presenting religion and belief in this macrocosmic landscape, simple conceptions and caricatures of religion and belief are shown to be mis-leading and ultimately redundant. This book engages with the complex and multi-faceted nature of religion and belief across time.