About Me

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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Friday, February 11, 2011

And even more on moral realism, moral anti-realism, and Sam Harris.

One thing about Sam, he has certainly provoked the popular conversation that he wanted. We're all now absorbed in metaethics, moral psychology, and fundamental normative theory.

Over on the ABC's religion and ethics portal, you'll find my new piece and a piece by Tim Dean (I'm not sure whether this is the same text as a post by him that I linked to previously ... or maybe a slightly revised version).


Jason Streitfeld said...

I don't see any evidence that the public discourse on morality and science has improved. I just see Sam Harris getting a lot of attention. I'm not sure what popular discussion Harris wanted to motivate, but if it is just one that brings a lot of attention to him and his book, then, yes, he's been at least moderately successful. But if he wanted a debate that extends beyond attempts to (1) point out just how bad his arguments are, (2) say something nice about his book despite its failings, and (3) ignorantly deride philosophers for challenging Harris in the first place, then I'm afraid he's got a bit longer to wait.

More importantly, I don't think the discourse needs to improve--at least, not in the way Sam Harris wants. We don't need to find a place for science at the morality table. Its place is already well-established. What we need to do is to continue dispelling the illusion of moral authority conjured by religious dogmatism. Discussion of Harris' arguments might be fun and interesting, but I'm convinced it is moving us forward yet.

Jason Streitfeld said...

Sorry, that obviously should read, "I'm not convinced . . . "