Science ofmorality


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  • “”Morality must relate, at some level, to the well-being of conscious creatures. If there are more and less effective ways for us to seek happiness and to avoid misery in this world—and there clearly are—then there are right and wrong answers to questions of morality.”
  • “ there may be different ways for people to thrive, but there are clearly many more ways for them not to thrive. The Taliban are a perfect example of a group of people who are struggling to build a society that is obviously less good than many of the other societies on offer.”
  • ".. once we admit that any discussion of human values must relate to a larger reality in which actual answers exist, we can then reject many answers as obviously wrong. Anyone who thinks that gay marriage is the greatest problem of the 21st century, or that women should be forced to live in burqas, is not worth listening to on the subject of morality.”
  • "I was suggesting that science can, in principle, help us understand what we should do and should want -- and, perforce, what other people should do and want in order to live the best lives possible.My claim is that there are right and wrong answers to moral questions, just as there are right and wrong answers to questions of physics, and such answers may one day fall within reach of the maturing sciences of the mind.”
  • “When I speak of there being right and wrong answers to questions of morality, I am saying that there are facts about human and animal well-being that we can, in principle, know--simply because well-being (and states of consciousness altogether) must lawfully relate to states of the brain and to states of the world.”
  • "So how much time should we spend worrying about such a transcendent source of value? I think the time I will spend typing this sentence is already far too much. All other notions of value will bear some relationship to the actual or potential experience of conscious beings. So my claim that consciousness is the basis of values does not appear to me to be an arbitrary starting point.”
  • "So what about people who think that morality has nothing to do with anyone's well-being? I am saying that we need not worry about them -- just as we don't worry about the people who think that their "physics" is synonymous with astrology, or sympathetic magic, or Vedanta. We are free to define "physics" any way we want. Some definitions will be useless, or worse. We are free to define "morality" any way we want. Some definitions will be useless, or worse -- and many are so bad that we can know, far in advance of any breakthrough in the sciences of mind, that they have no place in a serious conversation about human values."
  • Science ofmorality

    1. 1. The Science of Morality?Moral Landscape by Sam Harris
    2. 2. The Importance of Morality• A basis in what is fundamentally good and evil – Is essential to seeking more of the good – Is essential to judging where we are and what is more for or against our best interests – Needs to be reclaimed outside of arbitrary pronouncements as in religions – Needs to be unified with science – Must be based in reality and our best apprehension thereof• Leaving it to religion or claiming it does not exist or is all arbitrary leaves this entire value area to mystics and arbitrary assertions.
    3. 3. Morality rooted in reality• What is the good? – That which promotes well-being of beings such as ourselves • If this is so (hard to argue against) then science has a lot to say about what that is • The more we know about ourselves scientifically the more we know what does and does not promote our well being on a broad spectrum• Is well-being an arbitrary basis?• Is well-being too ill-defined to be meaningful? – Health is not that well defined but no one denies the value of medicine.
    4. 4. Morality sometimes claimed to be arbitrary• Arbitrary supposed commands from religion seem so• But is well-being arbitrary? – Will poison promote health as well as nourishing food? – Is life a value to us? Even the central value?• If there is a goal, a purpose at the heart of morality – Then we can find by study and examination • Those actions, ethical precepts and so on that work best • And those that do not work as well • It is not all relative and one thing is as good or bad as another – Not if there is any goal, standard, purpose, preference for better at all
    5. 5. Myth: Science can say nothing about morality• Science can say nothing about: – Human well-being? – Human brains, bodies, minds, psychology? – It offers no tools for examining data or testing hypothesis? – Neuroscience especially relevant..• Morality, what is it for? – For increasing the well-being of conscious thinking beings • Thus in your own personal deep self-interest
    6. 6. Isn’t every culture as good as every other?• Is every theory of biology or physics as good as every other? – Why then should any collection of embodied values and customs be as good for actual human well-being as any other?• But aren’t there simply different goals? – Are there? Do any people have an actual goal of a worse life? • Claims of some other life to one side.. • The goal is still well-being even if one has very odd notions of how to achieve it.• Moral disagreements do not mean the concept of moral truth is in jeopardy – Any more than notions the earth is flat put the science of astronomy or geology in jeopardy.
    7. 7. No separate magisteria• Only one reality, not two or more• Efficacious methods for seeking and validating truth are universal• Does is imply ought? – At least once one knows that better, great well- being, is desirable • Then all that *is* has implications for how one *ought* to act to more likely achieve what is desired
    8. 8. Is religion useful for determining morality?• Bogged down in – arbitrary out of context commandments – Contra-factual worldviews • Claims some after-death existence is more important • Various dogmatic willing ignorances• Teaches caring about the wrong things – Dogma more important than actual events
    9. 9. Isn’t morality inherently subjective?• Two senses of “objective” vs “subjective” – How we know vs what we know – To speak objectively is to be reasonably free of bias, open to counter-argument, facts, etc. – Just because something in ontologically subjective does not mean we cannot consider it objectively
    10. 10. Morality Double Standard• In science.. – Controversy means there is more work to be done• In morality.. – Controversy means there is no point in discussion and no reasoning process may resolve the questions• Nor is lack of consensus an argument – Probably much less consistency over general elements of the Standard Theory than over common moral intuitions worldwide
    11. 11. Does consensus matter?• Do “scientist” who use science to support Bible stories matter to science? – Do they make science any more problematic a venture or ever pointless?• So do those that, say.. – Condemn condoms more than child rape – Make morality a problematic venture or meaningless?• How is that millions of people do what we would utterly condemn one person if they did it make it morally acceptable and to be tolerated, much less defended?
    12. 12. On tolerance• All differences in moral notions are to be tolerated – Except any notion that some notions in this area are so obviously wrong and produce such suffering as to be intolerable• Everything must be tolerated except any deviance from utter toleration!• In science – All astronomers should tolerate the rantings of astrologers – Chemists should honor and defend the opinions of alchemists