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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Friday, October 01, 2010

Sam Harris book on its way

I received an email from Fishpond this morning telling me that my copy of the new Sam Harris book, The Moral Landscape, is on its way and should arrive early next week. I'm very much looking foward to reading this, and will drop some other things to comment on it - the issues raised go to the heart of what this blog is all about.

So, just a heads-up for the moment. I'm sure we're in for some interesting discussions of the nature and point of morality, etc.

PS. I expect to find things to disagree with in this book, but it's exactly the sort of book that I want to see written, now that Harris and others have opened the door to a popular debate about religion and the fundamentals of morality. It's the kind of thing that now adds value.

Harris has, perhaps, done more than anyone to open the door. Many of us owe him a debt for that.

14 comments:

josef johann said...

I can't wait!

Maybe I'll finally learn what what you would consider to be an objective moral theory.

What I still don't get is this. Suppose we have a God's Eye View of what The One True Moral Theory Of The Universe Is.

Then we present TOTMTOTU to a few people on earth to test it out. Each of them reply "sure, if that's what you mean by morality, of course you are right! But that's not what I mean!"

This form of objection refutes every possible moral theory, even the correct one. But this seems to be, in oversimplified form, your strategy for showing that theory X is not an objective moral theory.

Eamon Knight said...

They just sent us one as well, where "us" is the Humanist Association of Ottawa. I suppose this means we'll have to find someone with the time and background to read it, understand it, and say intelligent things about it. I don't think that person is me.

Ichthus said...

Please consider submitting something to the next Philosophers' Carnival: http://blogcarnival.com/bc/submit_28.html

Rhett Talley said...

To me this is the real deal, the "how will we save the world" challenge. This is about "generations from now". Not global warming but xenophobia, the essence of in- and out- groups, is the threat to world peace. A huge percent of the world believes in a moral creator. Their early theistic, tribalising and group-demarcation indoctrination fixes their neuro-moral compass. New Atheists ask that this irrational moral-base be abandoned for a rational, scientific one (or is there another alternative?). At the End of Faith what moral compass will fill the void? How will we agree on what is moral while avoiding the potential for Cognitive Eugenics? Sam Harris gets it. And, so far, I have yet to see any other academic seize the helm of this teetering ship as adroitly...

Kel said...

Don't you think at least there's a bit of a problem that he went at the topic alone? Normally that should set our baloney detection kit on crank.

verbosestoic said...

After reading -- and making a long comment on -- Harris' TED speech, I'm not holding out much hope for his book, and I think that there are likely far better examples of this sort of argumentation than Harris. Harris gets attention because of his atheist works, but I haven't found anything he's said to really reflect an understanding of philosophy, moral or otherwise, which is a very bad thing for a book like this. As an example, he unilaterially declares that some people's opinions on morality aren't worth listening to, but that his opinion somehow is because he's somehow an expert, despite the fact that many of his ideas have been considered -- and at least set aside -- by the best minds in moral philosophy.

Once the book goes general availability, I'll have to decide whether or not to get it. Maybe he'll surprise me, but then I allowed for that possibility when someone referenced the TED speech and reply to Sean Carroll, and I wasn't surprised ...

steve oberski said...

My copy of The Moral Landscape is on backorder and I'm eagerly anticipating it's arrival.

Agree or disagree with the ideas presented in the book but I think we want the argument on human morality driven by people like Sam Harris rather than tribal shamans.

I see this book and many like it as stepping stones to a future civilization where every person has a chance to lead a maximally fulfilled life.

Kel said...

"Agree or disagree with the ideas presented in the book but I think we want the argument on human morality driven by people like Sam Harris rather than tribal shamans."
Who says it has to be either / or?

Russell Blackford said...

I'm actually kind of waiting for the book now to see how he develops the argument. A lot of the difference between us is probably semantic, though it does help if terminology is used in a fairly standard way.

steve oberski said...

Who says it has to be either / or?

Consider the track record of religiously driven morality.

Time to stop basing morality on bronze age campfire stories and to start basing it on empirical reasoning.

Not that I claim that this book will provide all or any of the answers, but it can make for rational questions being asked and help marginalize answers based on dogma and authority.

verbosestoic said...

Steve,

"Not that I claim that this book will provide all or any of the answers, but it can make for rational questions being asked and help marginalize answers based on dogma and authority."

Because, obviously, moral philosophy HASN'T been doing that for thousands of years?

tomh said...

Reviewed in the New York Times. A decidedly mixed review.

steve oberski said...

Because, obviously, moral philosophy HASN'T been doing that for thousands of years?

My point exactly.

Kel said...

"Consider the track record of religiously driven morality."
Just saying that it's not one or the other. It would be like justifying a book on Lamarkian evolution because creationism is grossly misinformed.