On a whim I downloaded The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris this evening. There’s an interview at the link which gives a sense of what he’s arguing. Harris argues that “ethics is an undeveloped branch of science” and that sciences such as neurology and various social sciences can reveal genuine and objective moral truths. In this respect, Harris is a descendent of thinkers such as Epicurus, Epictetus, Lucretius, Spinoza, Nietzsche, Freud, Marx, Deleuze, and many others besides. For him ethics appears to be about living well (and notably he doesn’t restrict this to humans, but to all conscious beings). His thesis seems to be that through neurology and various social sciences we can discover objective facts about forms of practice conducive to these aims and those that tend to undermine these aims. I doubt this will end well, but I’m left wondering how or why he’s wrong. Why is this untrue? We’re all familiar with the normative fallacy and the is/ought fallacy, yet are these genuinely fallacies? Why would it be false to argue that facts about the nature of our being entail truths about how we should live our lives?

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