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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

4.3 (786 )
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  •  
    gerald Amarillo, TX, United States 10-31-10
    gerald Amarillo, TX, United States 10-31-10
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    "The book says what many feel, but fear to say"

    I was expecting an anti-religious dialogue; however, I found myself repeatedly saying, “I feel the same way”.

    The author clearly makes the point that religions have so many contradictions in their message that thinking people cannot understand what the message really is; while others pick and choose what they believe from the contradictions. These people often become a part of the religious fringe that drives so many others from the good things that many religions offer.

    I enjoyed and learned much about religions that I had not known. I also found the Mr. Harris had done his research well when I checked his statements.

    26 of 28 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul Seattle, WA, United States 11-23-10
    Paul Seattle, WA, United States 11-23-10 Member Since 2008
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    "Read it"

    This will probably go down in history as a sentinal piece of literature. Harris is extremely capable with the English language and introduces many ideas and arguments in this book that require quite a bit of thought to digest fully. I am about to start the audiobook again. In short, this is a must listen.

    Having said that, there are a few warnings I would add to temper ones expectations. First, I think he would have been better off to give the narration over to a professional reader rather than do it himself. I have heard Sam Harris give public speaches, and he is a fine speaker. However, he is a bit monotone here and at times comes across a little lifeless when it would seem to have been easy for him to be more entertaining. Second, some of the material is so intellectually dense, that you will feel like stopping the tape to ponder and think. Third, his overuse of "etc" is maddening.

    Minor quibbles with a ground breaking book. Listen to or read this book!

    18 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    04-23-11
    04-23-11
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    "My Second Epiphany"

    After reading Christopher Hitchens "God is not Great" I had an epiphany about the realities and contemptibility of dogmatic religions. It was like taking blinders off. Now I have had that experience again after reading "The Moral Landscape". Of course, morality should be looked at objectively and be allowed to develop in the light of empirical analysis and thinking.

    11 of 12 people found this review helpful
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    Prairie Prairie du Sac, WI 11-20-10
    Prairie Prairie du Sac, WI 11-20-10
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    "Right On"

    Sam Harris is spot on. As I listened to ???The Moral Landscape???, I cannot help but think of the frustration that so many intelligent people throughout history have felt when confronted by the masses that refuse to listen to simple fact and reason. Whether trying to convince people that the world is round or that skin color does not matter, changing the minds of the majority has never been easy - or popular. Thankfully there are people like Sam who challenge us and aren't afraid to try to sail around the world.

    19 of 22 people found this review helpful
  •  
    deborah Palm Coast, FL, United States 01-01-12
    deborah Palm Coast, FL, United States 01-01-12 Member Since 2011

    Online Grad Student, I prefer audiobooks to bound books. Preferences: history, disasters, Preston/Child, Lee Child

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    "A "New" Atheist makes a prescient argument"

    Sam Harris is considered one of the new atheists, beside Christopher Hitchins and Richard Dawkins, in that they try to scientifically prove the failings of religiosity. Harris goes in a different direction and tries to frame morality in terms of fairness, personal and community well-being, and best choice scenaries. He succeeds. He does not berate those who are religious believers; he just makes different analogies: not good and evil, but fair and unfair, selfishness and caring for others.

    Though he succeeds in not offending those who are faith believers, he does speak out on the premise that religiosity has no place in the study or leadership of science, especially where it intersects with bioethics regarding stem cell research. I agree. Well written, brief enough to sustain my interest, and well narrated, I would recommend this book to all but the most evangelical readers.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    F. J. Romero Miami, FL 10-25-10
    F. J. Romero Miami, FL 10-25-10 Member Since 2005
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    "It will soon become a sociology classic"

    Brilliantly written, brilliantly delivered, this book will become as relevant as the works of Kant, Descartes or Rousseau some day. Life-changing.

    18 of 22 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephen Moroni, UT, United States 05-18-11
    Stephen Moroni, UT, United States 05-18-11 Member Since 2002
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    "A book that more need to read."

    I wish that everyone could read a book like this. The world needs to start thinking for themselves and not relying upon age old myths and stories. We all make up our own morality. It doesn't take magic or a God to make us moral. We all choose to do what we do.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jim MOUNT DORA, FL, United States 08-30-11
    Jim MOUNT DORA, FL, United States 08-30-11 Member Since 2008
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    "Five Stars for Content"

    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.

    5 of 7 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.

    11 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    david chesapeake, VA, United States 11-08-10
    david chesapeake, VA, United States 11-08-10 Member Since 2009

    I am self-absorbed and...oh wait this isn't an e-mail to my therapist. hehe I love the Science and Technology section here, it's my favorite. I hope to write my reviews at least well enough to peek the interest of a few listeners to the point where they will shift their tastes more toward educational literature, knowing that(after receiving some insight from me) they can be just as entertaining, if not more so than mainstream fiction

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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.

    9 of 14 people found this review helpful
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