Abolition of Man vs Harris

Total Posts:  1
Joined  30-12-2010
30 December 2010 10:18

I’ve recently had a conversation with a friend on the topic of Harris’ Moral Landscape.

I’d love to hear Harris’s response to his observation of this book:

He claims that if someone comes up to you and tells you your life has no value and you can kill as many people as you want, that if you tell them they’re wrong, objectively wrong, you’ve bought into the Tao.  And that Harris rejects the Tao.

“Why is the Tao needed? It is because of the Naturalist’s fallacy. From statements of what _is_ it is impossible to derive what _ought to be_. A study of the natural (material) world can only produce a series of “is” statements, and potentially predictions of what will be. A materialist can state that “individuals are genetically hardwired to preserve society even at the cost of their own life,” that “sacrificing on behalf of another person produces chemicals that induce pleasure in the individual.” At no point can it say, “society ought to be preserved” or “pleasure ought to be pursued.” Such statements can only be made because “society is valuable” or “pleasure is valuable” are true statements, and truth or falsehood of those statements is not derivable from observations of the material world, unless it’s as a result of some other value which is itself not derivable from the material world. This is why value statements act “in the world of action” like axioms do in the world of Mathematics.

“I think a major source of confusion for Harris is a kind of myopic fixation they have with the failings of religious people and institutions, which doesn’t seem to distract them when it comes to other human enterprises. The essence of religion is the pursuit of understanding the Tao, both by reason (equally accessible to all religions and to secular philosophies) and by revelation (specific to each religion). The failings of religious people and institutions are peripheral, like the fact that Thomas Jefferson kept a slave-mistress is peripheral to the American democracy he helped found.”

He’s claiming the religion is in pursuit of the Tao, that Harris rejects the Tao, and that the Tao is necessary for morality (above). 

He suggested to me to read Lewis’s “Abolition of Man” for more elaboration (I will).

Any comments?