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The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values | [Sam Harris]

The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values

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".
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Publisher's Summary

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.

What the Critics Say

“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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    mexikat okotuil, costa maya, mx. 07-28-15
    mexikat okotuil, costa maya, mx. 07-28-15 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Complicated stuff..."

    Interesting and enlightening, if not fun. Feeling a little depressed but that's just me. Maybe.
    One comment. It's ET cetera.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alex 07-02-15
    Alex 07-02-15 Member Since 2015
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    "really good argument."

    Sam sometimes whistles on his s's and it hurts my ears sometimes. I really enjoyed the book however.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William Seattle, WA, United States 10-18-10
    William Seattle, WA, United States 10-18-10
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    "Mind-blowing"

    Although very tough on Catholics, I find the book makes compelling arguments and begins great conversations.

    13 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    david chesapeake, VA, United States 11-08-10
    david chesapeake, VA, United States 11-08-10 Member Since 2015

    A fellow listener inclined to share my opinion on these productions. Maybe even inspire someone toward a powerful, or educational audiobook!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Schadenfreuder!"

    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.

    10 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Vrad Vodrazka Huntersville, NC United States 02-20-11
    Vrad Vodrazka Huntersville, NC United States 02-20-11 Member Since 2009
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    "Very Intellectual and Thought Provoking"

    Some of the concepts aren't necessarily new, but Sam Harris is able to beautifully articulate how morality can be studied by science. I especially appreciate the recognition that there are many gray areas in discussions of morality, unlike the rigid and sometimes harmful morality that is derived from various religious texts. At times, the book does seem to be treating religious texts as a pinata, but mostly it's required to demonstrate the validity of arguments being made.
    If you are willing to listen to philosophical thinking on morality with an open mind, you will love this audiobook. But, if you want to set your thoughts in concrete because you're terrified of change, then you probably should skip this book.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shawn Riverside, CA, United States 01-23-11
    Shawn Riverside, CA, United States 01-23-11 Member Since 2015
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    "Nothing New"

    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.

    16 of 28 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dan 05-28-13
    Dan 05-28-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Illogical Mumbo-Jumbo"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    The thesis was not thought through very well at all. The author uses the term "SCIENCE", as though he were speaking about a religion and not a structured method of determining cause and effect. For example he writes, [Athough SCIENCE has sometimes exhibited racist or sexist ideas...."]. Science does not exhibit any ideas; people do. But, if you replace the word SCIENCE, with any of the world's religions, the sentence may have some validity.The author uses words like SCIENCE, MORALITY, ETHICS, WELL-BEING, all as uppercase nouns [Science ordered a BLT sandwich at the Deli, even as Islam still maintains it is wrong to eat pork; and by-the-way, some people are still circumcising there little girls]. This kind of thing goes on thoughout the book. I bought this book because I really enjoyed his other book "The End of Faith". But I really wish someone close (such as a friend or editor), would have given him a few constructive boots in the pants.


    6 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Enemy O' the State 11-21-11

    Proud possessor of the lowest boredom threshhold in North America

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    "Astonishingly Bad"

    For a book that purports to be one of philosophy, I was astonished how conclusory the author's arguments were. The arguments against the credibilty of "religious" sources for moral teachings amounted to little more than stating that (a) early chapters of the old testament advocated killing your children and slavery (not a peep about the new testament) and (b) many Catholoc priests have been pedophiles. I'm not kidding that's the argument. No one's a fan of child abuse, but you can't dismiss Christianity as a source of moral teaching simply be establishing that certain of its adherents were demonstrably moral failures - can you say ad hominem attack? (For the record, I'm not religious.)
    I never read a word from the author in support of his central argument that ethical and moral rules can be derived from "science." I read nothing associated with the scientific method in this book. I agree with the reviewer who stated that the author's views amounted to a form of utilitarianism. Is that new? Is that somehow science-based? If so, the author never explained how.

    15 of 29 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peter 08-11-15
    Peter 08-11-15 Member Since 2014
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    "...not what, but how you think."

    Clearly reasoned, written, and read, the Moral Landscape takes obscure and sensitive subject matter seriously. Sam expresses his concerns and critiques without obscurantist rhetoric and, while some readers will inevitably detect condescension toward certain world views, Sam never relies on tone or characterization to do more than give color his arguments which are always backed up with examples and sensible comparisons. When discussing scientific particularities, such as brain structures and experimental procedures, he is explicit without getting bogged down in jargon, minutia or interminable lists. All sources are clearly cited. I personally believe that anyone who takes morality and questions of social good seriously is obligated to read this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ArtC 08-07-15
    ArtC 08-07-15 Member Since 2010

    Mysteries, classics, non-fiction, time travel, Bounty hunters, grim reapers... anything but vampires, please!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Harsh realities make this a disturbing read"

    While I agree with the premise of the book, many harsh realities such as child abuse, and rape are handled without sensitivity to the reader.

    If you are looking for relaxation, or a family road trip book, you should avoid. Several scenarios kept me from falling asleep after a late night listen, and were definitely not suitable for kids.

    There is nothing wrong with the logic, and it presents the realities of our world, the approach is just clinical and harsh.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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