Sam Harris, the fact-value distinction, and the problem with a science of morality

A few years ago, Sam Harris published a book, 'The Moral Landscape', which argued that science could determine moral values.  To say that it received substantial criticism, from scientists, philosophers, and others, would be an understatement. Late last year, Harris issued a challenge for people to submit 1000 word essays challenging the thesis of his book.  He … Continue reading Sam Harris, the fact-value distinction, and the problem with a science of morality

Free will and the value of compatibilism

With the essays traded between Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris, free will is back in the web conversation.  I wasn't planning on making another free will post myself, having been mostly satisfied with my previous statement on it.  But I've had a few conversations lately, both here on the site and in some other mediums, that … Continue reading Free will and the value of compatibilism

The Marionette’s Lament : A Response to Daniel Dennett : : Sam Harris

Dear Dan— I’d like to begin by thanking you for taking the time to review Free Will at such length. Publicly engaging me on this topic is certainly preferable to grumbling in private. Your writing is admirably clear, as always, which worries me in this case, because we appear to disagree about a great many … Continue reading The Marionette’s Lament : A Response to Daniel Dennett : : Sam Harris

The scope of objective facts and morality

Our recent discussions, particularly on the thread about Jonathan Haidt's response to Sam Harris's challenge, left me thinking about the various scopes of objective facts.  In retrospect, it's a bit obvious to me now that a key question in moral philosophy is, if morality is objective, at what scope is it objective? Haidt used the … Continue reading The scope of objective facts and morality

Why I think Sam Harris is wrong about morality | The Righteous Mind

Several commenters  have said I should not just critique the excessive certainty of the New Atheists. I should respond directly to Sam Harris’s Moral Landscape Challenge. I should say why I think the argument he makes about a science of morality are wrong. (Harris argues that what is right and wrong can be determined scientifically, … Continue reading Why I think Sam Harris is wrong about morality | The Righteous Mind

This View of Life: Why Sam Harris is Unlikely to Change his Mind

The New Atheist Sam Harris recently offered to pay $10,000 to anyone who can disprove his arguments about morality. Jonathan Haidt analyzes the nature of reasoning, and the ease with which reason becomes a servant of the passions. He bets $10,000 that Harris will not change his mind. via This View of Life: Why Sam … Continue reading This View of Life: Why Sam Harris is Unlikely to Change his Mind

Philosophy that ignores science risks impotence

Peter Hankins has a post up reviewing Harold Langsam's new book, 'The Wonder of Consciousness'.  While the book sounds interesting (Hankins describes it as philosophically dense, so I probably won't read it), something bothered me while reading Hankins's review. It was the idea that we can determine things about the world without looking at it, … Continue reading Philosophy that ignores science risks impotence

Daniel Dennett on free will

Daniel Dennett has written a long paper on free will, specifically taking on Sam Harris' book on the subject.  Dennett is a compatiblist and uses arguments similar to the ones I used in describing this position and in the limitations of determinism. Harris is aware of Dennett's paper... https://twitter.com/SamHarrisOrg/status/427472770025283585 ...so I'd think we'll see a … Continue reading Daniel Dennett on free will

Free will? Free of what?

The concept of free will is intimately tangled up with the idea of responsibility.  Are you responsible for your actions?  To what degree are your actions predetermined?  If they are predetermined, how can we hold anyone accountable for their actions?  Does the idea of moral responsibility even make sense? Libertarian free will The classic definition … Continue reading Free will? Free of what?