Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Moral Truth

In Harris's 1st chapter he talks about morality being a matter of fact. That there is circumstantial truth to what we should and should not do. This falls in line a great deal with what I have said before. Which is that, while we do decide what morality is for ourselves, we do so based on circumstantial evidence. Death is bad so killing is immoral, pain is bad so hurting is immoral, and so on. I think that this is true regardless of whether or not God made it so, and therefore using this principle in any way in the argument of whether or not there is a god is futile.


  1. Right. But be careful with the phrase "we decide what morality is for ourselves," Sam is no subjectivist or relativist. I think he'd rather say we discover or discern or adumbrate (not decide) the natural and objective conditions of human misery and flourishing as experienced by conscious and sentient beings.

  2. I don't doubt that's what he thinks, but that's where our beliefs differ. In the end the choice is ours to make. We could decide to go against the evidence. Point and case, many people do. If it were purely a matter of natural direction, no one would be evil, because that would defy the laws of nature. There is absolutely a correct way as dictated by our natural situation, but we still have to choose to adhere to it.

  3. Well, nature distributes moral/behavioral attributes across a wide spectrum. I don't think there's anything in nature that prohibits "evil." In fact that's part of the point of his "Free Will": people commit atrocities precisely because doing so accords with their inherited & "nurtured" specific natures.

    I disagree with Sam's ultimate position on free will (that it's a fiction), but he has a point when he says we're each of us the product of a great many uncomprehended causal variables. Our inclinations, preferences, tendency to indulge a willful disregard for evidence, et al, may not be something we're ultimately free to "choose" in the fullest sense of the word.

    But suppose he's right. Can all of us afford to believe it? He evidently can, it's not compromised his authorial industry to believe that determinism is true. Not sure about you & me, though. Maybe some of us need to invest in the fiction of free will. (But are we free to do so?!)

    One of these semesters I'm gonna do a course on free will & determinism... if I'm given a choice.