SAM HARRIS THE MORAL LANDSCAPE PDF

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“Sam Harris breathes intellectual fire into an ancient debate. Reading this surprise, The Moral Landscape has changed all that for me. It should change it for. PDF | On Jan 1, , Jaimie N Wall and others published Walking the moral landscape: A review of Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can. 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.


Sam Harris The Moral Landscape Pdf

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The Moral Landscape How Science Can Determine Human Values Indeed, our failure to address questions of meaning and morality through science has now. Bill Meacham finds Sam Harris's book intriguing but frustrating. people to live: there are many peaks in the moral landscape, not just one. In recent years, Sam Harris has become a leading figure in the rational In The Moral Landscape, Harris pushes his agenda a step further, examining the.

The use of flourishing human life as a criterion for morality may be consistent with Skinner's approach to evaluating terms as a function of the conditions in which they occur: Morality, for Harris, may be evident only when well-being is enhanced.

The next step of the analysis would be to systematically identify the conditions that give rise to that flourishing human life, exploring the antecedents e. Behavioral technologies such as functional analysis e. This scientific view, according to Harris, stands as an alternative to traditional religious perspectives. This theme can be found in the writings of Skinner , who suggested that the scientific approach to the world's practical problems can allow the development of solutions to those problems.

Although Harris's argument is framed in the language of neuroscience instead of Skinner's behavioral perspective, a similarly pragmatic approach shows through. The introduction of Harris's book is wholly devoted to the qualification of values as scientific facts: This argument, that utterances reflect or are symbolic of environmental events, should be familiar to those who are familiar with Skinner's conceptualization of a verbal community.

Such an analysis could evaluate the conditions under which this verbal behavior is emitted and the consequences thereof. With this understanding of the contingencies of reinforcement that promote and maintain these responses, it would be possible to shape the moral behavior of individuals or groups.

This is congruent with Skinner's acceptance of the value judgment i. Bringing morality into the natural world makes it amenable to scientific study, and Harris's book complements the work that behavior analysts have done with respect to questions of morality. Thus, as with the discussion of consciousness above, the conditions under which particular behaviors are morally correct or incorrect must be considered.

This functional approach may expand on Harris's proposed science of values and make it more acceptable to a behavioral audience. A large portion of Harris's book differentiates between the religious notions of values and morality and the scientific principles thereof. Harris suggests that religious concerns about morality are related to human well-being. In Chapter 1, he describes an agenda of finding scientific truth about questions of morality.

To deal with the relative unpopularity of his approach Harris reports that more people in contemporary American society believe that morality should stem from religious than scientific inquiries , he asserts that consensus and truth are not the same thing: Consensus is a guide to discovering what is going on in the world, but that is all that it is.

Here, Harris is suggesting that religious beliefs, which may be incorrect according to other epistemological systems e. The ability of science to comment on affairs related to religion and morality has the potential for the further advancement of human well-being via the development of new ideas and technologies.

Without a scientific response to these issues, progress seems less likely. To determine the merits of given philosophical systems, one can adopt a relativistic position. Relativism is the belief that points of view have no absolute truth. This tradition is largely a by-product of scientific skepticism, and can be just as harmful to a science of morality as any religious doctrine.

By Harris's account, moral relativism is endemic throughout the scientific community. Harris suggests that relativism is accepted as an absolute position and is not subject to a contextual analysis that relativism itself should require. He points out that this absolute acceptance of a relativistic worldview is fundamentally contradictory to the principle of relativism itself. If we are to believe that the practices in question examples that Harris highlights include female genital mutilation and subjugation of women are correct in the relevant cultural and historical time period, this belief must also be cast as relative and changeable, which it generally is not.

In addition, Harris suggests that relativistic positions may lead to misguided beliefs about how to improve human well-being. Perhaps at odds with Harris's analysis, Skinner suggested that there are multiple sets of values that may emerge across cultural settings: The reinforcers i. For Skinner, the criterion by which to evaluate the goodness of a cultural practice is the degree to which it promotes survival of the society.

Thus, although there are potentially many different ways for a culture to survive, there may be some that maximize the level of well-being of the individuals and the group.

Skinner's position is pragmatic, but has garnered criticism from within the behavior-analytic community e. Critiques of the cultural survivability criterion emphasize the impossibility of determining which cultural practices will, in fact, enhance survivability without definite knowledge of the future.

Harris's position of rejecting moral relativism in favor of universal principles to promote well-being may help to inform the behavior-analytic discourse. After establishing that our beliefs can, indeed, be incorrect or somehow inconsistent with reality, Harris qualifies his argument. He writes,. I can use this. This fits my view of the world. This evidence from neuroscience supports the notion that values, knowledge, belief, and truth belong to the same class of verbal behavior, but may not necessarily share discriminative stimuli Skinner, Taking this research to its logical conclusion, one can suggest that an individual's learning history would dictate which beliefs, truths, or bits of knowledge could fit into a person's worldview.

By Harris's account, we dislike information that contradicts our worldviews as much as we dislike being lied to. With this bias established, it is easier to see precisely how maladaptive or harmful beliefs can be propagated. In Chapter 2, Harris suggests that an understanding of the human brain and its states will allow an understanding of forces that improve society e.

As we better understand the brain, we will increasingly understand all of the forces … that allow friends and strangers to collaborate successfully on the common projects of civilization. Understanding ourselves in this way and using the knowledge to improve human life, will be among the most important challenges to science in the decades to come.

Conceptualizing the failures of cooperation as the everyday grievances of theft, deception, and violence, it is plain to see how failing to cooperate can be an impediment to human well-being and moral development.

Harris emphasizes the role of consequences in the formation of values, suggesting that. Without potential consequences at the level of experience—happiness, suffering, joy, despair etc.

Science Knows Best

In this quote, Harris suggests the power of consequences to effect change in behavior. In so doing, Harris takes morality out of his context of neurological events and places it into an environmental framework. Although he does acknowledge the behavior—environment interaction as a cause for moral responding, a behavior-analytic approach would go further, emphasizing the power of consequences to increase or decrease i.

It is the consequences of behavior that make it more or less likely to occur in a selectionist framework cf. Thus, it is the interaction between the environment and the organism that leads to the development of any behavior, including moral responses and those associated with varying degrees of well-being.

Taking this environment-based approach, Harris presents contemporary research from neuroscience throughout his book. After describing the neurological precursors and correlates of behavior, he dismisses the notion of free will, citing additional biological data to suggest that it is the brain—and not an agent of free will—that is responsible for behavior. He makes a familiar argument for a deterministic framework, in which the historical and contemporary environments including neurological states are responsible for behavior.

After dismantling free will, Harris describes ramifications for the justice system. With this knowledge, we can no longer hold people accountable for their actions because they are determined by historical and contemporary events.

This view negates a justice system based on punishment or retribution. Consistent with a behavioral position e. A reformed justice system would be more compassionate based on its more accurate understanding of causes of behavior i.

Harris takes this position to an extreme, proposing that it may even be immoral to fail to consider environmental and biological factors within the context of the justice system. Here, there is a fundamental compatibility between the approach that Harris is advocating and a behavioral worldview. Indeed, the understanding of proximate and ultimate causes that precede any event are essential to making logically coherent arguments, not just from the perspective of the justice system but in understanding the behavior of all organisms.

The ultimate cause of many reprehensible human behaviors lies in the distant evolutionary past.

Proximate causes can be shaped over the course of single lifetimes and may covary with environmental stimuli Mayr, ; Skinner, For the purposes of Harris's argument, we will agree that the nervous system and the brain are proximate causes of behavior, but these were influenced by both the evolutionary history of the species and the learning environment of the individual cf. A more thorough discussion of ultimate cause may be a better locus to develop the science of moral behavior which he calls for.

If Harris's claims that morality is knowable through scientific processes are true and, based on his arguments in the book, we, at least, are convinced , behavior analysis ought to be at the forefront of the emerging science of morality.

Free Press, While his The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation were popular bestsellers focused on tearing down religion, The Moral Landscape begins the construction of a completely alternative worldview to religion, a scientific worldview in which moral questions are solved by research into the consequences of moral behaviors for the well-being of conscious creatures.

Harris argues that just as science has contributed to improving human health, so science can be used to improve human morality. He is a moral realist as well as a naturalist and cognitivist, and, as such, rails against moral relativism like he rails against religion. Once we do that, it becomes obvious that we can perform research into how to increase the good and decrease the bad in the world. As a consequentialist, Harris believes a science of morality to be the only reliable means to collect information on the consequences of actions, thus determining how we ought to behave in order to achieve well-being.

The above traits set Harris squarely within the utilitarian tradition of Anglo-American philosophy. While it is quite interesting that feelings indicators of well-being for the utilitarian Harris are detectable on brain scans, Harris never manages to make clear why a brain scan is necessary for determining morals.

Perhaps it is because brain scans know what a conscious person does not: For Harris, there is no free will, the brain is purely deterministic, and so the mechanism of the brain is more morally interesting than its epiphenomenal output, consciousness. On page 49 Harris gives an unusually direct insight into his project.

He sees the scientific investigation of morals as having three aspects: Harris uses the term conscious creature extensively in formulating his science of morality. Although he does not provide an explicit definition of consciousness, his use seems to be at odds with the behavioral approach to this construct. For Harris, consciousness seems to be a property of the brain, discoverable by explorations in neuroscience.

In contrast, Skinner suggested that, when defining psychological terms, it is useful to identify the conditions under which those terms are used, and the history of the verbal community that produces that usage. Consistent with this analysis, Schlinger proposed that consciousness is best understood with a focus on the behaviors that are associated with the use of the word consciousness e. Consciousness, defined as a set of verbal behavior, is a prerequisite for a discussion of morality.

Indeed, in other media cf.

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The Richard Dawkins Foundation, , Harris has suggested that a universe of rocks could not define a science of morality, because consciousness i.

When providing a definition for the well-being that should be promoted, Harris likens this concept to physical health, noting, Indeed the difference between a healthy person and a dead one is about as clear and consequential a distinction as we ever make in science. The difference between the heights of human fulfillment and the depths of human misery are no less clear even if new frontiers await us in both directions.

Harris suggests that, much like physical health, well-being eludes concise definition. This phrasing is likely the closest to an operational definition of morality that is possible without undertaking the scientific analysis that Harris proposes in which fundamental principles to increase moral behavior could be discovered.

The use of flourishing human life as a criterion for morality may be consistent with Skinner's approach to evaluating terms as a function of the conditions in which they occur: Morality, for Harris, may be evident only when well-being is enhanced.

The next step of the analysis would be to systematically identify the conditions that give rise to that flourishing human life, exploring the antecedents e. Behavioral technologies such as functional analysis e. This scientific view, according to Harris, stands as an alternative to traditional religious perspectives.

This theme can be found in the writings of Skinner , who suggested that the scientific approach to the world's practical problems can allow the development of solutions to those problems. Although Harris's argument is framed in the language of neuroscience instead of Skinner's behavioral perspective, a similarly pragmatic approach shows through.

The introduction of Harris's book is wholly devoted to the qualification of values as scientific facts: verifiable statements about organisms and the environment around them. This argument, that utterances reflect or are symbolic of environmental events, should be familiar to those who are familiar with Skinner's conceptualization of a verbal community. Such an analysis could evaluate the conditions under which this verbal behavior is emitted and the consequences thereof.

With this understanding of the contingencies of reinforcement that promote and maintain these responses, it would be possible to shape the moral behavior of individuals or groups.

This is congruent with Skinner's acceptance of the value judgment i. Bringing morality into the natural world makes it amenable to scientific study, and Harris's book complements the work that behavior analysts have done with respect to questions of morality. Thus, as with the discussion of consciousness above, the conditions under which particular behaviors are morally correct or incorrect must be considered.

This functional approach may expand on Harris's proposed science of values and make it more acceptable to a behavioral audience. Harris suggests that religious concerns about morality are related to human well-being. In Chapter 1, he describes an agenda of finding scientific truth about questions of morality. Consensus is a guide to discovering what is going on in the world, but that is all that it is.

Here, Harris is suggesting that religious beliefs, which may be incorrect according to other epistemological systems e.

The ability of science to comment on affairs related to religion and morality has the potential for the further advancement of human well-being via the development of new ideas and technologies. Without a scientific response to these issues, progress seems less likely.

To determine the merits of given philosophical systems, one can adopt a relativistic position. Relativism is the belief that points of view have no absolute truth.

This tradition is largely a by-product of scientific skepticism, and can be just as harmful to a science of morality as any religious doctrine. By Harris's account, moral relativism is endemic throughout the scientific community.

Harris suggests that relativism is accepted as an absolute position and is not subject to a contextual analysis that relativism itself should require. He points out that this absolute acceptance of a relativistic worldview is fundamentally contradictory to the principle of relativism itself. If we are to believe that the practices in question examples that Harris highlights include female genital mutilation and subjugation of women are correct in the relevant cultural and historical time period, this belief must also be cast as relative and changeable, which it generally is not.

In addition, Harris suggests that relativistic positions may lead to misguided beliefs about how to improve human well-being. The reinforcers i.

For Skinner, the criterion by which to evaluate the goodness of a cultural practice is the degree to which it promotes survival of the society.

Thus, although there are potentially many different ways for a culture to survive, there may be some that maximize the level of well-being of the individuals and the group.

Skinner's position is pragmatic, but has garnered criticism from within the behavior-analytic community e. Critiques of the cultural survivability criterion emphasize the impossibility of determining which cultural practices will, in fact, enhance survivability without definite knowledge of the future. Harris's position of rejecting moral relativism in favor of universal principles to promote well-being may help to inform the behavior-analytic discourse. BELIEF After establishing that our beliefs can, indeed, be incorrect or somehow inconsistent with reality, Harris qualifies his argument.

I can use this. This fits my view of the world. Taking this research to its logical conclusion, one can suggest that an individual's learning history would dictate which beliefs, truths, or bits of knowledge could fit into a person's worldview.

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By Harris's account, we dislike information that contradicts our worldviews as much as we dislike being lied to. With this bias established, it is easier to see precisely how maladaptive or harmful beliefs can be propagated. He writes, As we better understand the brain, we will increasingly understand all of the forces … that allow friends and strangers to collaborate successfully on the common projects of civilization.

Understanding ourselves in this way and using the knowledge to improve human life, will be among the most important challenges to science in the decades to come. Conceptualizing the failures of cooperation as the everyday grievances of theft, deception, and violence, it is plain to see how failing to cooperate can be an impediment to human well-being and moral development. Harris emphasizes the role of consequences in the formation of values, suggesting that all questions of value depend upon the possibility of experiencing such value.

Without potential consequences at the level of experience—happiness, suffering, joy, despair etc.

In so doing, Harris takes morality out of his context of neurological events and places it into an environmental framework.Selection by consequences. On page 49 Harris gives an unusually direct insight into his project.

The Moral Landscape Summary

A personal view of the search for God. Download pdf. Tacit within behavior analysis is the expectation that a scientific worldview can and will improve the quality of life. Consistent with this view, Harris suggests that the currently accepted determinants of morality e.