I had a discussion with my uncle, whom I generally think of as pretty smart, but then it turns out that he's pretty deep into the whole "neurology debunks all of philosophy" meme. So the discussion went on about Sam Harris' The Moral Landscape, and the idea of objective moral. So I'm curious, since he couldn't, can someone tell me how Sam Harris' moral philosophy isn't just utilitarianism + "objective cuz I say so"?
you're right it's just utilitarianism, but I would say he's making a reasonable claim by glossing over one that is less certain, but not necessarily wrong for doing so
I think we can all agree that while morality is, if we are going to be strictly logical and philosophical about it, subjective, we can also agree that for practical purposes, much of morality can be treated as shared among a majority of humankind (a lot of the themes are aligned, at the very least)
And I think Sam is mostly motivated by the reasonable intuition that yes, science, specifically psychology and other human focused sciences, is probably very capable of giving us the most accurate way to achieve the prescriptive goals of our mostly shared morality (don't kill, don't steal, respect other people as equals in at least some sense)
I haven't read his book so I can't tell you how serious he is about believing that we can know for certain that a specific moral prescription is objectively true, but I suspect it's not that important to his point
I'm pretty sure he's serious about the objective part. But even if not, I'm still at a loss. I can easily agree that science is a pretty handy tool to decide which way to go in moral dilemmas IF you have a definition of morality ready. SH uses the "maximize weel-beeing" one. He just does, because that's common sense (to him). But science would be eaqually handy if the definition was the "maximize the capabilities of the human race".
Ultimately the definition is the thing in question. Noone (well, noone worth their salt) ever argued that science can't be a helpfull tool for deciding, so his point is either moot or wrong, depending on how serious you consider him to be when talking about objective morality.
>mfw i just saw this explored in genre fiction
How do I get to the philosophical level you two anons are on? I am at uni but have never taken a philosophy class, the most writing I do is screenwriting.
So scientific reductionism is wrong because the laws of physics we've observed could change tomorrow? Sounds pretty unconvincing to me. Is the only way to satisfy you bastards discovering why the laws of physics exist or something?
When Harris says morality is objective he means epistemologically objective. The well-being of conscious creatures is an ontologically subjective phenomenon, but that doesn't mean it is just an opinion that conscious creatures suffer. It is a mind independent fact (i.e. epistemologically objective) that conscious creatures experience suffering, an ontologically subjective phenomenon. Morality itself becomes epistemologically objective if there are right and wrong ways to lessen the suffering of conscious creatures.
You might ask "whose to say removing suffering is what morality should be?" The answer to this question is that morality is about increasing whatever is intrinsically valuable and decreasing whatever has negative intrinsic value. And it is an epistemologically objective fact that the ontologically subjective phenomenon of suffering is the only thing that has negative intrinsic value to a subject.
>You might ask "whose to say removing suffering is what morality should be?"
That's exactly right.
>morality is about increasing whatever is intrinsically valuable and decreasing whatever has negative intrinsic value.
No that's consequencialism, not morality as such.
>it is an epistemologically objective fact that the ontologically subjective phenomenon of suffering is the only thing that has negative intrinsic value to a subject.
How so? And do you really mean "a subject"? Not "all subjects"?
Even if it's true that there's an objectively right way to act in every situation, you can't ask a person to act like that all the time. Philosophy can be more of a guiding tool to easier let you decide when to act in the pursuit of happiness for everyone else, and when to act in your own self-interest. Besides, morality is a made up term to describe a subjective phenomenon, just like luck. You can have "good luck" but in reality it's just complete chance.
This line of thought is why some people turn to Harris. It's just unenlightened BS.
>Everything is just like- like- uhh -occasions maan.
>All is subjective dude - y-y'know, like - everything!
Don't encourage the stems.
Everything isn't subjective, but morality and ethics definitely are. If it was limited to things like "you shouldn't murder others" and "you shouldn't steal", then there would be an objective basis to ground the terms on, and I would argue that there would be a neurological (as well as sociological, because there are still psychopaths who don't have the inhibitors that the norm do) basis for those views. But since morals and ethics have come to encompass such abstract ideas, it's hard to say that there is any reason for using the terms when discussing complex choices, and doing so only points at some theoretical "objectivity" of these moral codes. In reality every choice you make (whether it's murder, porn, eating a fish, or sitting around) has consequences, and no formal code can decide whether those consequences are right or wrong in an objective sense.
I'm ready to agree that ideas like "murder is wrong" is completely neurological and has its basis in our evolution as a trait to be selected for in order to further our species. I don't see the value in trying to use the same term to describe that as to describe the choice of writing a racist comment on an imageboard for example. That action is much more formed by the environment in which the person was brought up than by any inherent shared values.
while it is utilitarism, it's based on the intention. he had an exchange with chomsky where he kept sayign that if you kill more people but didn't mean to is better than if you kill less with that intent.
>Morality itself becomes epistemologically objective if there are right and wrong ways to lessen the suffering of conscious creatures.
> morality is about increasing whatever is intrinsically valuable and decreasing whatever has negative intrinsic value
bullshit. go read some meta-ethics before you assert shit on this scale.
>And it is an epistemologically objective fact that the ontologically subjective phenomenon of suffering is the only thing that has negative intrinsic value to a subject.
I don't quite see how that picture is a response to my post, at most it seems like a pseudo-sophisticated ad-hominem.
All I'm saying is that I don't believe in morality. That doesn't mean I don't have certain values that I adhere by, I just don't call them morals or ethics. The term I use for the respect of other beings is "respect", I don't build up some grand idea around how my values came to be, I just believe that people should be treated with respect.