Sam Harris – “The Price in Human Suffering of Being Open Minded”

15 02 2010

Sam’s preaching to the choir so to speak.  🙂

In a well-meaning attempt to be tolerant of other cultures and religions we often blithely subvert our values and morality, says Sam Harris, the outspoken critic of blind religious faith. We do this because we think that questions about good and evil or right and wrong cannot be answered definitively. But they can, he told a rapt audience at the Technology, Entertainment and Design conference Thursday — and they should.

Well, I certainly like the title and the first paragraph although I think Harris’ ethical ideas ultimately rest on a vaguely defined notion of instinct (correct me if I’m wrong, I haven’t read his books). 

I believe knowledge is knowledge no matter what category the subject matter.  I also believe in the law of identity – A is A, humans are humans, we eat, breathe, regulate our body temp at 37C etc and we have consciousness and all that entials; conceptual thought, self awareness, reasoning ability, etc.  Therefore, objective knowledge of sciences such as ethics, economics, psychology can be determined – even though these are not purely physical sciences. 

Apart from subjectivism and pragmatism, the biggest problem I see with modern day ethical ideas boils down to the relevent standard of morality.  For example, various religions treat God or a holy book as the standard, utilitarian ethics would regard society as the standard, Aristotle’s virtue ethics regards a virtuous man as the standard for determining virtue (although how do you define a virtuous man?). 

Quoting Ayn Rand: 

To challenge the basic premise of any discipline, one must begin at the beginning. In ethics, one must begin by asking: What are values? Why does man need them?

“Value” is that which one acts to gain and/or keep. The concept “value” is not a primary; it presupposes an answer to the question: of value to whom and for what?

The whom, is you.  The what, is your life.

Objectivism treats individual human life as the standard of morality.  And by determining the fundamental traits of the human species, universal ethical principles (applicable to everyone) can also be developed.  eg/ The virtue of reason.




2 responses

19 02 2010
Ed B

Like your blog … wish more people had the ability to think this way !

19 02 2010
Tim R

Wow, thanks Ed B.

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