Online reading group and book discussion forum
  HOME ENTER FORUMS OUR BOOKS LINKS DONATE ADVERTISE CONTACT  
View unanswered posts | View active topics It is currently Tue Dec 06, 2016 7:12 am

<< Week of December 06, 2016 >>
Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Monday
6 Day Month

7 Day Month

8 Day Month

9 Day Month

10 Day Month

11 Day Month

12 Day Month




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 5 posts ] • Topic evaluate: Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average. 
Ch. 5: The Future of Happiness (The Moral Landscape) 
Author Message
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame

BookTalk.org Owner
Diamond Contributor 3

Joined: May 2002
Posts: 15299
Location: Florida
Thanks: 2997
Thanked: 1153 times in 915 posts
Gender: Male
Country: United States (us)
Highscores: 6

 Ch. 5: The Future of Happiness (The Moral Landscape)
Ch. 5: The Future of Happiness (The Moral Landscape)



Thu Dec 09, 2010 10:07 pm
Profile Email WWW
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame

Platinum Contributor

Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 5598
Location: Berryville, Virginia
Thanks: 1409
Thanked: 1425 times in 1114 posts
Gender: Male
Country: United States (us)

Post Re: Ch. 5: The Future of Happiness (The Moral Landscape)
This comes after a chapter pillorying religion, but Harris makes clear that his main target in the book isn’t religion but people like him, that is the scientific establishment. It is they who have refused to reconsider their position that “answers to questions of human value will fall perpetually beyond our reach” (190). Harris restates his thesis: if we are to admit that values exist at all, they must have value to someone, and this value has to be assignable to facts about how we experience well-being. So, once again, we see there is not a sharp distinction between facts and values. Failure to see this has given the religious right the big advantage of having the run of the field of human morality, elevating such matters as gay marriage, sex education, and stem cell research at the expense of climate change, nuclear proliferation, education, and several other more pressing needs. It has made the educated West unable to advance coherent objections to practices and beliefs shielded by religion and culture.

Harris tells us that many people object to terms like happiness, well-being, and flourishing, not just because they are vague but because they seem not serious enough. Still, he sticks with them and sees no alternative to basing morality on them. These words don’t have to designate a complacent contentment; they can be compatible with having to commit to actions that may be painful in the short-term. There is also the fact, scientifically established, that following our innate ideas about what increases our happiness and well-being often delivers bad results; that is, we don’t become happier. We may have to re-educate ourselves not to listen so closely to our instincts.

I’ve found Harris to be quite good throughout the book at examining the difficulties to accepting his positions. In doing this he sometimes affects me with a certain pessimism about getting any handle on a science of morality. But credit him for honesty. The only area for which might not show a proper skepticism is neuroscience itself. We just don’t know what this science will make possible, but we do have an idea of its current limitations.

In the end, Harris seems willing to settle for just a small part of what he has asked us to concede. If we will simply begin to think of human well-being when we hear the terms morality and values, that will be a step ahead. Seeing morality and values as a legitimate field of inquiry will be a further advance.

“Whether or not we ever understand meaning, morality, and values in practice, I have attempted to show that there must be something to know about them in principle. And I am convinced that merely admitting this will transform the way we think about human happiness and the public good” (191).



Sun Feb 06, 2011 11:32 am
Profile
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
I issue my own library cards!

BookTalk.org Moderator
Silver Contributor 2

Joined: Oct 2010
Posts: 1727
Thanks: 151
Thanked: 710 times in 531 posts
Gender: Male

Post Re: Ch. 5: The Future of Happiness (The Moral Landscape)
Perhaps it is unfair to Harris, and the science is too young at this point, but he didn't seem to give us much of an idea of the practical impact of the scientific evidence in handling the hard cases -- i.e. where reasonable people disagree about them. Everything seems to be knowable "in principle"

If we agree with his thesis, then we can criticize the extreme moral relativists and say that honor killings and repression of women for example are bad. OK, that's progress of sorts -- I'm not sure convincing the skeptics is a pressing issue -- what else can we say? As I recall, one example he mentioned was corporal punishment, and how the evidence could be used to evaluate it.



Last edited by Dexter on Sun Feb 06, 2011 11:48 am, edited 2 times in total.



Sun Feb 06, 2011 11:47 am
Profile Email
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame

Platinum Contributor

Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 5598
Location: Berryville, Virginia
Thanks: 1409
Thanked: 1425 times in 1114 posts
Gender: Male
Country: United States (us)

Post Re: Ch. 5: The Future of Happiness (The Moral Landscape)
In that chapter he also said that we might not be able to work out the answers, even though they are knowable in principle. Too much gets in the way, such as all data needing to be interpreted "against a background theory, and different theories come bundled with a fair amount of contextual reasoning" (179). I agree with the devil being in the details and about the low-hanging fruit that Harris plucks. He says that the answers to questions about maximum well-being are out there, but being able to agree on those answers makes all the difference.

For instance, take China today. Does China represent a peak on the moral landscape? By a peak, Harris actually means an area of rising well-being, not an area where well-being it at its maximum state. We don't know what the maximum is. But clearly, if China is a peak on the moral landscape, if it provides for the current as well as long-term well-being of its people, it's a different peak than would be represented by the U. S. (assuming we agree that we can say that the U.S. represents a peak. What if, instead, the U. S. would be represented as a landscape of valleys, mountains, and depressions?). The point is that China lacks some features of a capitalistic democracy. Its people don't even have free access to news about events in Egypt, for crying out loud, since the government has put a block on the internet. Do we judge that well-being can't exist under such conditions, or is this a variation that is different but not morally wrong?
Ideas about the moral rightness of freedom led us into a quagmire of a war, so the answer to that is important.



Sun Feb 06, 2011 4:29 pm
Profile


Post Re: Ch. 5: The Future of Happiness (The Moral Landscape)
Harris has left a great many questions unanswered; or at least, unresolved. Harris gives us reason for optimism. Consider, he says, the progress we’ve made in America in the last century with respect to racism.



Sun Feb 13, 2011 8:19 pm
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 5 posts ] • Topic evaluate: Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average. 



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:

BookTalk.org Newsletter 

Announcements 

• What fiction book should we start January 1, 2017?
Wed Nov 30, 2016 4:57 pm



Site Links 
Forum Rules & Tips
Frequently Asked Questions
BBCode Explained
Info for Authors & Publishers
Author Interview Transcripts
Be a Book Discussion Leader!
IDEAS FOR WHAT TO READ:
Bestsellers
Book Awards
• Book Reviews
• Online Books
• Team Picks
Newspaper Book Sections

WHERE TO BUY BOOKS:
• Great resource pages are coming!

BEHIND THE BOOKS:
• Great resource pages are coming!

Featured Books

Books by New Authors


*

FACTS is a select group of active BookTalk.org members passionate about promoting Freethought, Atheism, Critical Thinking and Science.

Apply to join FACTS
See who else is in FACTS







BookTalk.org is a free book discussion group or online reading group or book club. We read and talk about both fiction and non-fiction books as a group. We host live author chats where booktalk members can interact with and interview authors. We give away free books to our members in book giveaway contests. Our booktalks are open to everybody who enjoys talking about books. Our book forums include book reviews, author interviews and book resources for readers and book lovers. Discussing books is our passion. We're a literature forum, or reading forum. Register a free book club account today! Suggest nonfiction and fiction books. Authors and publishers are welcome to advertise their books or ask for an author chat or author interview.



Copyright © BookTalk.org 2002-2016. All rights reserved.
Display Pagerank