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Notes and Reflections on Books and Media

by Hannah Leitheiser

The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values

Sam Harris




This objection to moral realism may seem reasonable, until one notices that it can be applied, with the same leveling effect, to any domain of human knowledge. For instance, it is just as true to say that our logical, mathematical, and physical intuitions have not been designed by natural selection to track the Truth.19 Does this mean that we must cease to be realists with respect to physical reality? We need not look far in science to find ideas and opinions that defy easy synthesis. There are many scientific frameworks (and levels of description) that resist integration and which divide our discourse into areas of specialization, even pitting Nobel laureates in the same discipline against one another. Does this mean that we can never hope to understand what is really going on in the world? No. It means the conversation must continue. 20Total uniformity in the moral sphere—either interpersonally or intrapersonally—may be hopeless. So what? This is precisely the lack of closure we face in all areas of human knowledge. Full consensus as a scientific goal only exists in the limit, at a hypothetical end of inquiry. Why not tolerate the same open-endedness in our thinking about human well-being? - Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values (2011)