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)
& science. I've never read any book before that breaks down the basics of what humans have been questioning for centuries
Will have to listen a third time to be sure I grasped all of the intended meaning. What I did understand seemed absolute factual and truthful. I'm a high IQ grandma that just wants a safe world for my grandchildren, no different than any other grandmother of any race creed or country. The highest goal for any one should be the truth.
This book was an absolute revelation. I have always felt that in someway morality must be understandable on an empirical level. To have it laid out so six singly and cleanly is, in a word, revelation.
Actions have consequences.
When I read this book I had lapsed from religion only eight months prior and I was under the illusion that morality was subjective because there was no god to dictate morality. However, Harris argues that because actions affect the well-being of conscious creatures, some actions lead to an increase or decrease in happiness. This makes actions objectively moral or immoral. For example, Saudi Arabia's treatment of women is objectively worse than America's. Furthermore, even if there was a god, its commands would have no affect on whether actions increased or decreased well-being, so Harris's view of morality would still stand.
Harris precedes to argue that science is the way that we can determine the effects of actions on well-being, that is, their morality. Even if we do not know exactly how to measure well-being, science is the best way to try. Therefore, we should develop a science of morality.
While it comes with the expected healthy dose of indignant sarcasm and borderline arrogant confidence that can be offensive to some, Sam Harris does an incredible job explaining/defending his specific type of moral realism and consequentialism, in his smart, witty, and blunt style. The book seamlessly transitions from philosophical arguments to real world empirical application and back with brilliant ease and humor. I can give no higher praise to any author than to say that there were several times throughout listening when a point was articulated in a way that made me feel as if my own thoughts on a topic had been transcribed by someone more eloquent. It may be the best book I've read/listened to all year.
Sam Harris rocks!
Letter to a christian nation by Sam Harris. Primarily because it's by Sam Harris
I wouldn't. I often enjoy books that contemplate the fine line of scientific principles and religion but some of the points made are just far too extreme for me to relate too or even appreciate.
fine. nothing significant to contribute.
The psychopath chapter nearly had me doubled over in disgust. I realize the content was presented to make a point but I was horrified by the use of the specific example used and had I had this book in paperback it would have gone in the trash after that. I could barely pay attention to the rest of the content after that. Maybe not an objective review but if you are at all sensitive to this type of content. Be warned.
I listened to it twice. It demands attention in some parts which I can't always give while listening.
Sam Harris. He is handsome genius.
He is such strong man. He make me feel safe.
The Moral Landscape. You've seen these ideas before, but not from such a handsome, genius man.
Speaking as an atheist and a humanist there is much that I agree with in this book. Hence the four stars, what he says many need to hear. However, I didn't need to hear it, I don't know the difference between Harris' paradigm of ethics and humanism. I would have liked to hear more credit given to humanism. I would disagree that the paradigm is utilitarianism because Harris raises questions that lead me to think he would not always prefer the greatest good for the greatest number. I'm guessing he would allow many people to die before allowing his family to come to harm. That's just a guess though.
He states that a science of morality should be based in promotion of "human well being." Then he suggest that science and reason should be employed to answer questions of morality. So, "good" is what promotes "human well being." That is Harris' categorical imperative. How does he support this? By stating that "human well being" is the only topic of interest to humans. Although that's not really proof. That doesn't stop Harris from carrying on as if promotion of "human well being" has been proven to be a moral absolute.So this "absolute truth" is really just another "subjective truth." I guess I was put off by the level of certainty he had in asserting this. He could have just said, "I don't know, but this is my best guess - and a guess that benefits humanity anyway. So let's just go with this assumption." I would have respected that more. I can imagine many scenarios where "human well being" would not be "good." It all hinges on what kind of a universe we really live in. For instance, in a solipsistic universe the happiness of only myself matters. No point in giving to unicef if other people don't really exist. If god really does exist, then the divine will is the only good (Euthyphro argument aside). It has always been my position that in order to understand what is good, we need to know what kind of universe this is and why we are here. Harris seems to make assumptions about this as well. He seems to be going with the materialistic universe. It is fine to make these assumptions - just be honest about what they are - assumptions.
What really bugs me is that Harris does not believe in free will, he is a determinist. (I am also a determinist - I thought Harris' book on free will was brilliant). Therefore everything in the universe is predetermined or predestined. If this is the case, then wouldn't everything that happens be considered "good" as it conforms to the order of the universe. One could argue this would make the holocaust "good." Another might counter that if the holocaust was always supposed to happen, could not have possibly been avoided and had to happen just the way it did happen. Then in some sense, it is "good" because it is part of the order from which all life flows.
Maybe I'm thinking too hard about this. I would have liked it if Harris addressed these questions in the book.
Lastly, "moral relativism" gets a bad wrap in this book. Am I the only one who understands the purpose of moral relativism is to try to understand that a rational compassionate person will act differently in various moral environments? George Washington owned slaves, but this is mitigated by the morals of his time. A primitive tribesman raids villages and kills children, but "everybody else does it," and he could be a good man emerged in this system. The purpose of "moral relativism" never seemed to be a means to prove that "cult A sees promiscuity as an imperative, and cult B sees chastity as an imperative, " so therefore both are correct. I don't know why Harris goes after moral relativism in this book, I guess he just wanted to show that he was not in the pocket of pointy headed academics.
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