Saturday, April 03, 2010

Moral Confusion


Slightly shorter Sam Harris:

Good news, Freethinkers! I've come up with a way for us to define morality in universal, scientific terms, which will make it easier and more economical to use. Basically, it's a simple matter of defending vague utilitarian platitudes by means of 1) crotchety appeals to common sense; 2) a firm conviction that my critics are intellectually or emotionally defective; and 3) several platoons of strawmen.

I regret to say that a number of people have been going out of their way to disagree with me. I've even been accused, with malice aforethought, of logical fallacies like petitio principii. As if!

Why do treat people me this way, when all I'm trying to do is help them recognize that the foundations of human knowledge must perforce stand upon the ontological bedrock of the "rather obvious"? And to comprehend that all so-called "alternative" theories of moral judgment secretly agree with mine?

There are several reasons. Some of my critics have clearly fallen under the spell of philosophers who happen to be wrong, duh. Others, I'm sorry to say, are such appalling moral cripples that I can scarcely stand to be in the same room with them. (Ah me, how I've suffered on behalf of Truth!)

Another part of the problem is our modern tendency toward moral relativism. This may possibly have made some sort of sense as a response to the ethnocentric authoritarianism of the bad old days, but only an imbecile would use it as a shield against Eternal Verities like the ones I intend to discover.

If error can run so rampant among supposedly intelligent people, you can imagine how bad things are elsewhere. That's why we need to create — or acknowledge [waves modestly] — a class of "moral experts" who will all agree on certain basic, undeconstructible concepts, just like teh physicists do.

The first step is to purge ourselves of emotionalism and political correctness, and recognize that some people's lives simply aren't successful, in moral and therefore scientific terms. Any practical concerns about what might happen after "moral experts" make this judgment are misplaced, because the people making it are the smart ones, in scientific and therefore moral terms.

This, as anyone who's neither stupid nor bad will concede, is exactly what the world has been missing all these years.

It's all so obvious! And yet it's so hard to compel people to believe it, even though it's for their own good. Why can't everyone simply be reasonable?

PS. Don't be talkin' to me about Hume and Rawls and people like that. I've read them.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to lie down in a sewer and eat some tinfoil.

UPDATE: RMJ has much more, qualitatively and quantitatively speaking.

11 comments:

Southern Beale said...

LOL. We are sorta on the same page today, it seems. Yours is funnier, of course. But I have the scoldy-shamey thing down pat.

Tacitus Voltaire said...

Sam Harris
Author, Neuroscientist, Philosopher


this should be enough to disqualify him from giving advice

Rmj said...

Well, you would go an beat me to it.

Ah, well, I'll go read SB's next..

Rmj said...

Sam Harris
Author, Neuroscientist, Philosopher


Oh, good Lord, they do list him that way, don't they?

Where's that tinfoil....?

charley said...

omg, he's just trying to make a living.

i don't see why you have to be so mean phila?

a thousand sumth'n or others.

omg, you are so mean.

Phila said...

i don't see why you have to be so mean phila?


Force of habit!

Actually, I'm really just being dismissive. If I wanted to be mean, this post would've been a lot longer and more detailed.

Rmj said...

Actually, I'm really just being dismissive. If I wanted to be mean, this post would've been a lot longer and more detailed.

Oh, sure! Make me the @*#! SOB this time!

Jazzbumpa said...

Actually, I'm really just being dismissive. If I wanted to be mean, this post would've been a lot longer and more detailed.

It's gems like this that keep me coming back.

Well - and the snark.

Cheers!
JzB the far from home trombonist

trippdup said...

I LOVE Sam Harris.

This was really funny, though.

h/t

Anonymous said...

Among the best clarifications of confusion in a long time.

Did Sam finally finish is doctorate? I must have been so busy with politics I missed it.

Anthony McCarthy

roger said...

rather successfully dismissive.