Sunday, 22 December 2013

Sam Harris on Morality....Again

Sam Harris recently posted a blog post contending as he did in his book, The Moral Landscape, that "science is not value-free". There is truth in such a statement, but not in the sense that Harris would have it.

Harris still fails to answer the is-ought problem. How one can derive normative information from descriptive information. He compares our intuitions regarding physics to our intuitions about morality saying, "we also have an intuitive morality, and much of our intuitive morality may be wrong with respect to maximizing human flourishing". But if our moral knowledge can only come from intuitions, where does Harris get the idea that maximizing human flourishing should really be the prime moral ideal? We can only perceive this information through moral intuitions or revelation, or a combination of both. And we cannot know that our moral intuitions actually tell us something valid about the world but by appeal to God. 

His defense of it is to say that "well-being" encompasses everything we can care about "in the moral sphere". Since he is attempting to define the moral sphere itself, his reference to it here is circular.  The point of an objective morality is for its obligations to be independent on human desires and preferences. In other words, the justifications for holding a particular morality cannot be that "everyone cares about it". This would mean that the foundation of morality is no more than popularity and societal cohesion. This means Harris is arguing from popularity ( which is a logical fallacy).

Harris's landscape remains an implausible alternative to a religiously rooted morality.

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