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It is pure conjecture on my part to label this book as "revolutionary." But if Sam Harris is right (and I think he is), then there is a chance that his idea will catch on. That idea being, in a nutshell: human well-being is the basic concern of morality (this is the most basic premise of Harris' idea, however it's one that, necessarily, he spends a lot of time on, since even secularists have been conditioned to reject such value statements). Human well-being is dependent entirely on states of the human brain and events in the natural world. Therefore there are scientific facts to be known about it, and better and worse ways of encouraging human flourishing and well-being. That is not to say that there aren't questions to be had: what do we mean by human well-being? What exactly are these facts? What are these events in the natural world? Questions such as these are mostly outside of the purview of Harris' book. They are questions to be answered after we have laid the groundwork. But what we have here is the blueprint for an emerging science of morality.
"The Moral Landscape" is an insightful, interesting, important, refreshing book that should captivate even those who disagree.
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If you are interested in morality as subject matter or authentically interested in optimizing the wellbeing of society, than this is a highly recommended book.
Sam Harris focuses mostly on making the case that using scientific methodology to provide a more robust descriptive of human behavior will also lead to a more informed populace deploying superior premises when engaged in policy development debates and advocacy. A simple early example is how the empirical evidence regarding the capital punishment of children results in outcomes that makes it fairly simple and uncontroversial for reasonable people to define where the discipline line should be drawn in regards to some aspects of student discipline policies in public education venues. Harris argues the approach that yielded the premises used to debate these discipline issues is readily available for our exploitation on a large scale.
Mr. Harris also finds that we can observe and therefore define morality objectively using scientific methodology given it is a process that seeks objective truth (though always provisionally held). That process is equally adept at leading to findings of fact and expert-consensus explanatory models that can define what is and what is not moral; that is if we agree human wellbeing is the agreed-upon objective. Therefore some time is given making a case against moral relativists who object to the idea of defining morality objectively along with religionists who [falsely] claim their holy dogma is the keeper of objective morality. If like me you appreciate great thinking and therefore high-quality arguments, e.g. Christopher Hitchens, than Harris' set of arguments provides further motivation to buy this book even if the reader isn't all that interested in squabbles regarding optimal approaches to influence or enforce other humans' behavior. Harris doesn't shy away from the best arguments, but instead willingly attempts to rebut his ideological opponents' point-by-point rebuttals* while always maintaining an engaging and economic writing style, along with a nice seasoning of dry wit.
As someone who has come to recognize humanity currently has no competing approach to understanding reality better than scientific methodology, I enjoyed, appreciated, and was convinced by Mr. Harris that science is easily the most qualified approach to defining human wellbeing and therefore a useful tool to influence policy. The book also serves readers seeking examples of the limits of deploying scientific methodology, where I think those limits are tested here by Harris. This book shows why objective morality is so, how using science allows us to define this morality objectively, the set of competing arguments, the weight we should give their opposing arguments and lastly - how'd we go about employing this process if bought into Harris' argument.
*Given that Mr. Harris regularly spoke on this topic for a couple of years prior to the publication of this book, he was well-versed in the objections to his argument which allowed him to incorporate them and his defense in this book.
Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead starts with the words, "Howard Roark laughed." Her Atlas Shrugged began with "Who is John Galt?" This, Rand's long lost novel, begins with the auspicious "10097". From this, she quickly moves into her main point: the struggle of evens versus odds, primes versus non-primes, light against darkness, and most importantly A versus non-A. As you read this book, you will find yourself immersed in a realm of pure abstraction, as you witness the struggle of the good (which I suspect are the evens, but maybe I'm wrong) against evil. You will watch the "prime" movers change the course of destiny. If you loved when Howard Roark was on the elevator of his building with Dominique in the Fountainhead; if you loved when John Galt made the sign of the dollar in Atlas Shrugged, then you will love when . . . no, I can't ruin this for you. Bravo Rand.