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 most common justification for religious faith. It is also the primary reason why so many secularists and religious moderates feel obligated to "respect" the hardened superstitions of their more devout neighbors.
In this explosive new book, Sam Harris tears down the wall between scientific facts and human values, arguing that most people are simply mistaken about the relationship between morality and the rest of human knowledge. Harris urges us to think about morality in terms of human and animal well-being, viewing the experiences of conscious creatures as peaks and valleys on a "moral landscape". Because there are definite facts to be known about where we fall on this landscape, Harris foresees a time when science will no longer limit itself to merely describing what people do in the name of "morality"; in principle, science should be able to tell us what we ought to do to live the best lives possible.
Bringing a fresh perspective to age-old questions of right and wrong and good and evil, Harris demonstrates that we already know enough about the human brain and its relationship to events in the world to say that there are right and wrong answers to the most pressing questions of human life. Because such answers exist, moral relativism is simply false—and comes at 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.
©2010 Sam Harris (P)2010 Simon & Schuster, Inc.
“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)
“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)
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 have always esteemed Harris for his almost supernaturally astute insights, and this book is of no exception. I commend Harris for spearheading the seldomly discussed issue of morality as determined through scientific precepts; he never ceases to amaze me with his seemingly unfaltering appetite for truth, even in light of potential alienation and estrangement. Harris is a true trailblazer, especially when it counts, and I'd recommend not only this book, but all his works to anyone considering this purchase.
I'm a bit of a Sam Harris fanboy, so I obviously enjoyed the book, but I agree with some of his critics on how it isn't completely clear on how science is supposed to guide us in terms of morality, so in that regard there's a certain allure of manifesto to his thesis.
I see it as a starter's pistol on breaking the taboos protecting ''questionnable'' morality from criticism, akin to how The End Of Faith started the new atheist movement. Sam Harris has never shied away from his mission as a hopeful primer for honest conversation and The Moral Landscape certainly fits this M.O.
I would also ad that, as it is always the case, I find that author reading his/her own work ads to the experience.
I absolutely loved it. Good argumentation to convey that there are moral truths we can discover. He expressed the need for a science of morality which I am on board with, yet also presented that at the very least we could have a moral system that maybe is less science like and more economics like (not a science yet not guesses).
With an uncanny ability to make his case in clear powerful language and examples he again makes the case for universal morality on a continuum in this book. His work should stand the test of time.
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