I admire Harris' philosophy, research and writing. But this book could benefit from a professional narrator.
In an interview, Harris claimed that "read by author" was desirable because one can hear the writer's inflection and intent. IMO, that's quixotic. "Read by author" has always been a red flag for me and this book proves my point. Harris is a brilliant man and this audio book is well worth having but he doesn't sustain the narrative the way a pro could. After a while, he's just reading aloud. He's not really telling us what he wants us to know. His narrative lacks the passion of his words and ideas. Alas. I, nevertheless, recommend it.
I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^
“The fact that millions of people use the term "morality" as a synonym for religious dogmatism, racism, sexism, or other failures of insight and compassion should not oblige us to merely accept their terminology until the end of time.”
― Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape
I've avoided Sam Harris probably from a bit of prejudice. Although I've always enjoyed Christopher Hitchens, I've thought others of the New Atheists a bit shrill. I just assumed Sam Harris was going to be more hammer and less scalpel. I was wrong. I really enjoyed this book. While there is little doubt what Sam Harris feels about religion, his method here is more an attempt to 'cut a third path' through the wilderness between those educated liberals who think there is no universal foundation for human values AND the claim that a universal morality requires the support of faith-based religion. Obviously, being able to criticize religion plays a part of this effort, but Sam Harris (in this book at least) seems more interested in pushing people to think that a scientific approach to morality is at least an important step. I agree. The idea that science has an important thing to say about values and morals is fundamental.
Let me start with what is good about this book. It is well written and easy to follow; at no point did I find the discussion confusing or have to rewind and relisten. Sam Harris does a decent job narrating the book as well, though I do think it would be better if a professional reader had read the text instead.
The bad, unfortunately, is the actual content of the book. First, let me answer the big question; what kind of moral philosophy is Sam Harris putting forth? It's nothing fundamentally new; it's just utilitarianism. His arguments contain all of the strengths and flaws of utilitarianism. He fails to adequately address any of the flaws. Harris also often resorts to the "Can anyone doubt...?" tactic to avoid defending or discussing key premises or assumptions in ethical thought.
I think anyone that is moderately well read in ethical philosophy will gain little from this book. If you're looking to learn about ethics, and you're not well read on the subject, I'd recommend A History of Ethical Thought (also on Audible) over this any day.
A fellow listener inclined to share my opinion on these productions. Maybe even inspire someone toward a powerful, or educational audiobook!
As the title was ending anxiety arose for I again didn't want it to. So many different thinking points covered and still no Idea where to go from here. I decided to just listen to it again.
I especially enjoyed the controversial section about the non-existence of 'freewill'. I have come across this previously in physics books but never with a clear concise argument against it as found here in this masterpiece.
P.S. If you actually read this far and make it here, the title of this review is a meaningless non-sequitur. lol
Buy this book you will like it regardless of your religious biases...I hope.
Private intellectual, writer, and retired academic. Currently R&D director for Gravitational Systems Engineering, Inc.
I was really disappointed with this book from the start, but after reading a couple of similar texts I decided to go back and give it a fair hearing. I left with the conclusion that this guy is as inflexible in his thinking as a Nazi. He assumes that his knowledge is complete and infallible, he makes fun of people who don't support his conclusions as apodictic. He makes the same mistakes that the 14th century priests made in believing that the bible contained all knowledge of value. He quotes many studies and hangs on their results as fact, as opposed to pathways.
My daughter asked me if I believed in the supernatural, like spells, witches, etc.. I responded that I did believe that there was tremendous knowledge that I don't have, but that I think that the concept of supernatural is a contradiction in that if it occurred then it is, by definition, not supernatural. In other words if someone figures out how to fly around on a broom stick, then broom stick flight is just something that someone else has figured out how to do...not magic, not supernatural.
I digress because Dr. Harris has truly missed this lesson. Knowledge is a direction not a destination. And as a non-religious scientist, who respects all knowledge, I find that his certainty on so many issues makes me doubt either his credibility or his sanity.
However, if you are looking for someone to confirm that science is the new God, then this is the book for you.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and its content. The author's thesis is incredibly important to todays society. I did however find the book a little dense for the audiobook platform. This book requires your full atention at all times. If you're like me and engage in activities (ie. working or cleaning) while listening then this book might be difficult to get theough. There were numerous instances where i had to rewind because i was focused on something else and had become lost to what was happening in the book.
I would reccomend purchasing a copy of this book and reading it over the audio version due to the overall attention required to synthesize all the data presented.
What would you get if you mixed the compassion of an enlightened eastern mystic with the incisive reasoning of a neuroscientist?
Sam has a way of putting things that make them seem clear and incontrovertible. He gently disintegrates the counter arguments that once seemed almost plausible if only because of their ubiquity.
This book is a well founded, well intentioned and well executed attempt at remaining rational, factual, and scientific. It succeeds!
If I had read the manuscript and could have offered advice I would have suggested that Sam point out the ramifications for us if we fail to adopt a rational model for ethical reasoning. It isn't an exaggeration to say that all life on earth could be extinguished in what amounts to a delusional cult reacting to voodoo warnings of an imaginary enemy. By definition the only differences are that cults are newer and have fewer adherents, delusion excludes religious believe, and instead of spells, people use prayers.
I think you should read this book if you are on the fence. It will likely knock you off onto the correct side.
I love Sam and I think he is doing great work. This book is no exception. Buy it.
A seminal work, Sam Harris includes many original insights and weaves a tight argument that universal morality exists and science is not only an endeavor to uncover what is, but what ought to be.