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4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 24 June 2017
I remember arguing about the truth of moral principles in my first year of a philosophy degree and being left floundering. Studying ethics to one degree or another over the following three years turned me into a moral relativist and I too have towed the line ever since even though I believe in being a moral person. This book and it's simple argument against relativism is exactly what we need. It is plainly obvious that if we take morality as a human construct to help us treat each other better then we can make true and false claims about it and verify when one attempt fails and another succeeds. This is a tremendous book by one of the most cogent thinkers of our time.
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on 17 August 2017
Neuroscience and Philosophy, fascinating new ideas for me, takes a while to read
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on 14 August 2017
Really good!
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on 24 February 2015
An enlightening and thought provoking read arguing the point that science can improve our quality of life through human values, an important and engaging book that unfortunately I fear will not be read by the people who need to read it. (Good layout, lots of references in the back of the book explaining deeper into certain aspects).
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on 15 January 2015
Basically Harris exhausts his argument within the first 50 or so pages. It's very simple: we should make our decisions in utilitarian fashion (i.e. in such a way that maximises the happiness of society), and we will increasingly be able to use neuroscience to help us measure happiness. In this way, science can be used to answer moral questions.

I felt the rest of the book was simply padding. He gives examples and addresses counterarguments but it's not a particularly new way of thinking. Utilitarianism has been around for years - Harris is simply pointing out its practicability as science's capacity to quantify happiness improves.
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on 15 March 2015
Sound transaction. Everything went well
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on 6 April 2014
I was disappointed. The prospect of science measured morality would seem as callous as any ideology dealing out justice and fairness etc on one hand and in equal measure injustice. Humanity is too complicated for one size fits all of any type. I believe as long as there is flexibility in whatever system exists, we can inch our way forwards with minor adjustments towards utopia, although we will never get there because wisdom is always overtaken by ignorance. It's a fact of life that as soon as you know everything you need to know, you die. No one ever knows what they need to know before any event, they can only experiment. Look to human nature for the repeated behaviours. Some young people do not want to participate in voting. We could go back to dictatorships in this country if their naievety about democracy has any effect.

The book was academic to the point of boredom and silliness. I usually finish any book just to check there are no hidden gems, but this time I did myself a favour about two thirds of the way through and skimmed the rest. There wen't any hidden gems, but there was loads of evidence.
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on 20 January 2013
Among the main claims of "The Moral Landscape" is that there exists such a thing as an objective moral code, that it is more or less equivalent to a form of utilitarianism, and that science can be used to gain information about this moral code and thus about how we should structure our society. The book is divided into five chapters, and covers topics such as the existence of objective morality, the conflict between science and religion, the biological nature of belief and various cognitive biases.

I personally agree with Harris that science can help to promote human well-being, but I disagree that there exists an objective moral code. However, books can be well-written, interesting and enlightening even if one does not agree with the arguments put forward. In this particular case, however, I must admit that I found Harris' arguments to be somewhat muddled and meriting criticism on several accounts. This is the reason for my choosing to give the book only three stars. Apart from his ideas about morality, however, Harris also spends considerable time discussion the utilitarian value (or lack of the same) of science and religion, and these parts of the book are quite sensible and represents, in my view, a part of an important debate.

The following are two particular points where I found Harris' arguments to be lacking:

-Throughout the book, Harris criticises moral relativism, understood as the idea that "good and bad is subjective, and all such subjective moral claims are a priori equally valid". Harris points out many consequences of this moral relativism which are bad in utilitarian terms. Harris appears throughout to imply that we must choose between two alternatives: moral relativism and moral realism (that is, the existence of objective moral statemets), and as moral relativism is unacceptable, moral realism is forced upon us. This argument is incorrect, as there exists several middle grounds: for example the variant of moral relativism claiming that good and bad is subjective, but not that we must think that all moral claims are a priori equally valid. For example, I might sensibly hold the following opinions: 1. What is maximizing happiness is good. 2. That this is my subjective opinion and not an objectively true statement. 3. All the same, I am quite entitled to attempt to convince and even force others to subject to my conception of morality instead of, say, ideas about that rape victims should be stoned. Such claims imply acceptance of the subjectivity of morals while simultaneously holding that universal tolerance of moral diversity is not required.

-Harris repeatedly argues that morals must be construed in terms of well-being of conscious creatures. This is in several cases done by example, for example by arguing that nobody in their right mind would claim that a life of happiness, meaningful work, love and health is not preferable to a meaningless life filled with pain, sorrow and loneliness. Such examples demonstrate that the majority of people agree on certain parts of morality, but does not prove that morals are objective: Even if all humans held that red is prettier than blue, this would not make it an objective fact that red is prettier than blue. Furthermore, as regards the basis of morality, it is quite conceivable that someone would argue that for example freedom or equality is better than pure utility. Harris' claim that goodness equals well-being in a universal sense appears unconvincing and based on anecdote and example rather than logical argument.

Summing up, I fould that Harris touches upon some important issues of our day, but his arguments are in several cases lacking in quality.
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on 27 April 2015
The book itself, good, but the print quality is pretty bad. No, not all paperback books are like this. His other book of his I bought, was also paperback but of a much better quality print wise.
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on 24 January 2011
There is no more important debate. How do we decide what is right and wrong?

Most of the answers we hear are worthless (ranging from "just do it because my holy book says so" to the moral relativists who wont even condemn female genital mutilation).

Sam Harris makes the case for a sane alternative...

Morality is an evolved human attribute. It is universal - everyone with a normal brain has it. We all know instinctively what is good (love, kindness, compassion...) and what is evil (hatred, cruelty, violence...).

Understanding this basis for morality has a priceless reward - we can expect to arrive at a consensus. There is an objective morality because we are all human. And we can discover the details by studying the human mind. Evolutionary psychology - not a religious text - is the route to enlightenment.

If our civilisation survives this century it will be because we have learnt how to judge moral issues. This book is an excellent primer. Please read it.
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