On a friend’s advice I picked up Sam Harris’ “The Moral Landscape: How Science can Determine Human Values” in December and read it. I’ve been meaning to write something about it, a review of sorts, but I find my responses to it too numerous and disconnected to write a single book review. I might blame myself for this misdirection, but I think it is not entirely inappropriate to blame Harris for writing a book intersecting cognitive science and moral philosophy without first learning something about moral philosophy, or considering that his view of cognitive science is not the singular or consensus view. In short, he writes from a position of authority, authority which relies on his position as a neuroscientist – but uses this authority as if it allowed him to make unilateral statements about moral philosophy, and specifically about freewill. But the book, overall, remains a valuable contribution and of interest to anyone concerned with the general topic of the relation of science and values.
So, instead of try to write a comprehensive critique and appreciation of Harris’ book, I’ll instead post a series of vignettes – quotes, for which I’ll try to provide context, followed by critique. I will even try to post some sections with which I agree. I hope these relatively short and directed posts will provide ample opportunity for discussion.