Just finished reading Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape…not sure what to think. It’s a good book with a lot of neuroscience articles and research but it oversimplified the morality issue greatly. Even if a reader grants that we can map brain states that will reveal what maximizes human well-being, its still up to an individual to interpret what they find as good or bad. So while Harris may have a solid foundation for building a landscape for morals, his project only favors those who are willing to accept his criteria–which is far less than I think he realizes. I also think his so called “facts about the well-being of conscious creatures” is really a consequential point of view that doesn’t even begin to address all moral scenarios or circumstances that are going to permit certain segments of the population to make informed decisions. In principle, utilitarianism makes no real claim to resolve every circumstance since it’s based on what can be objectively known and not what is subjectively the case. If Harris view is correct, then all circumstances where people have hidden motives, reasons and principles are disregarded despite how maligned they are. In sum, this is really a problem to Harris argument because it posits one overly reductionistic standard as the norm for judging morality. I can hardly see how, in my brief superficial analysis, it would hold validity.
I will, however, give Harris the benefit of the doubt and say his book was fairly interesting. The studies and research supported his points very well. He also clarified his points on many occasions and used many rhetorical devices to convey his points with lucid prose. What’s more, the text and book layout was visually appealing and the writing flowed very well which pushed me to continue reading many a time even when I felt I couldn’t read another word. In this respect, the book is a gem, but I will let my previous points stand nevertheless.