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  1. Resonance10 is online now
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    Posted On:
    4/25/2013 4:09pm

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Quote Originally Posted by atheistmantis View Post
    Thanks Chuck. Read the review and found Orr's response quite enlightening. I applaud Harris on his efforts and one day perhaps someone with more talent will use scientific method properly and get some real answers.
    I on the other hand am non plussed by Orr's response.

    First, his reasons for finding the fact/value distinction illusory leave a bit to be desired. Harrisā€™s use of neuroimaging studies here is far from compelling. While the data themselves are certainly interestingā€”indeed, Harrisā€™s original scientific publications are fascinatingā€”his interpretation of them in The Moral Landscape is extravagant. It seems odd to try to assess the relationship between two ideas or judgments by analyzing whether the same brain regions are active when each is represented in the human mind. Surely such an assessment requires one to analyze the ideas or judgments themselves. If the same brain regions are active when people mentally perform addition and multiplication, would Harris conclude that the addition/multiplication distinction is illusory?


    The above is incredibly bad. How does he make such a leap of bad faith?

    Not if its the brain activity that you are interested in, and the relative 'truth' or 'merit' of an idea or judgement being already agreed upon. The idea being to see if there is correlative effect in the brain in relation to those ideas.

    No, it would show that the same brain areas are in operation for each.

    Did he just equate math with value judgements?

    Is it a perfect book? I found it less compelling than his other writings but then I believe it was aimed strongly at those people who think science has no right to say anything on the subject of morality. To read Orr's review ( and Chucks post ) you would think that unless the neuroimager goes #beep# Harris won't believe it happened.

    I of course am quite prepared to have Chuck hold my feet over the fire for this...bring it Chuck c'mon BRING IT!!



    Disclaimer: I joke Chuck and look forward to learning the error of my ways.

    Just in case here is Haris defending himself, unfortunately not a response to Orr but something non the less: http://www.samharris.org/site/full_t...nse-to-critics
    Last edited by Resonance10; 4/25/2013 4:16pm at . Reason: add link.
  2. atheistmantis is offline
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    Posted On:
    4/25/2013 8:03pm

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    I'm going to buy his book(s) and read them. Then I can judge for myself. I respect scientific method. Well done Resonance 10 and thank you.
  3. W. Rabbit is offline
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    Posted On:
    4/25/2013 11:49pm

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    'One could surely argue that the Buddhist tradition, taken as a whole, represents the richest source of contemplative wisdom that any civilization has produced.' - Sam Harris
    A Buddhism-influenced atheist.

    Fascinating.
  4. ChuckWepner is offline

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    Posted On:
    4/26/2013 4:58am


     

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    Quote Originally Posted by Resonance10 View Post
    I on the other hand am non plussed by Orr's response.

    Not if its the brain activity that you are interested in, and the relative 'truth' or 'merit' of an idea or judgement being already agreed upon. The idea being to see if there is correlative effect in the brain in relation to those ideas.

    No, it would show that the same brain areas are in operation for each.

    Did he just equate math with value judgements?

    Is it a perfect book? I found it less compelling than his other writings but then I believe it was aimed strongly at those people who think science has no right to say anything on the subject of morality. To read Orr's review ( and Chucks post ) you would think that unless the neuroimager goes #beep# Harris won't believe it happened.

    I of course am quite prepared to have Chuck hold my feet over the fire for this...bring it Chuck c'mon BRING IT!!

    Disclaimer: I joke Chuck and look forward to learning the error of my ways.

    Just in case here is Haris defending himself, unfortunately not a response to Orr but something non the less: http://www.samharris.org/site/full_t...nse-to-critics
    I'm not sure where math enters into the passage you quoted. The point is that one cannot infer any logical or semantic relation between two ideas or kinds of ideas because brain activity occurs in the same areas when people think those ideas. To think otherwise rests on a kind of crude reductionism between mental content and brain activity; but there is no "smooth" reducibility of mental contents to brain activity. For one thing, any given type of mental state can be correlated with / instantiated by multiple CNS (central nervous system) states.

    In the 1950s, some philosophers hoped that there would be natural laws allowing us either to translate mental language into CNS-state correlates or to drop mentalistic language without losing anything essential to explanation of human behavior and experience. There are serious questions about whether this is possible even in principle, but regardless of that question, the neuroscience just hasn't gone that way. The CNS is far more adaptive and responsive to "downward" causation from mental states than the reductive or eliminative stories would allow, and there are no universal natural laws correlating particular CNS states with particular mental contents. For one simple example, people with brain injuries will often have areas of the brain take over functions not normally associated with those areas.

    Back to Harris, here is a quotation from the response to critics Resonance cited:

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Harris
    For those unfamiliar with my book, here is my argument in brief: Morality and values depend on the existence of conscious minds—and specifically on the fact that such minds can experience various forms of well-being and suffering in this universe. Conscious minds and their states are natural phenomena, of course, fully constrained by the laws of Nature (whatever these turn out to be in the end). Therefore, there must be right and wrong answers to questions of morality and values that potentially fall within the purview of science. On this view, some people and cultures will be right (to a greater or lesser degree), and some will be wrong, with respect to what they deem important in life.
    There are many issues that are debatable here, including Harris's rejection of free will, the assumption that morality and values depend in a particular way on their being conscious beings of a sort that can suffer and experience well-being, and so on. But I'll leave all of those aside. Even granting him all of his premises, this central argument is simply invalid. It is, in fact, a glaringly awful piece of reasoning.

    Assume that it is a fact that morality depends for its existence on the existence of certain kinds of beings and that those beings are wholly subject to the laws of nature. It doesn't follow from that that science can discover what human well-being consists of, nor that it can tell us how to promote well-being. Moreover, it doesn't address the question of whether any of these "various forms of well-being" ought to be promoted or not. Harris's problem is that science is not *prescriptive,* it is *descriptive.*

    That is, even if the sciences could identify all of the means that would promote the various goods or purposes that are elements in various humans' well-being (and keep in mind that what conduces to your well-being vs. to mine, vs. to that of each other conscious being, will vary considerably, and that Harris's approach will be plagued with epistemic problems about discovering what promotes well-being like other pseudo-scientific utilitarians going back to Bentham, let alone all the issues of handling moral conflict, issues of justice, minority rights, etc.), this would provide us with no basis for choosing which ends to pursue. And that is the point of morality.

    Science doesn't determine morality in Harris's book. He just presupposes a kind of second-rate utilitarian morality and then pretends that science recommends it.
  5. DerAuslander is offline
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    Posted On:
    4/26/2013 7:47am

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChuckWepner View Post
    Science doesn't determine morality in Harris's book. He just presupposes a kind of second-rate utilitarian morality and then pretends that science recommends it.
    This. Harris and his followers are naive scienceshipperswho think that CUZ SCIENCE they know understand what philosophy has been discussing for millenia better than philosophers.

    Quote Originally Posted by ChuckWepner View Post
    Science doesn't determine morality in Harris's book. He just presupposes a kind of second-rate utilitarian morality and then pretends that science recommends it.
    This. Harris and his followers are naive scienceshippers who think that CUZ SCIENCE they know understand what philosophy has been discussing for millenia better than philosophers.
  6. ChuckWepner is offline

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    Posted On:
    4/27/2013 2:29am


     

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    None of what I've said is in any way intended to diminish the sciences (not that they need my endorsement). Obviously, the sciences have contributed enormously to human knowledge, and the rate of their progress in doing so has become staggering over the past few centuries.

    It's just that the natural sciences are designed to answer questions about how physical things (in a very broad sense of "things") interact with each other under natural laws (some of which, by our best current scientific understanding, are probabilistic in character). There are certain kinds of meaningful questions that fall outside of what the sciences are set up to answer. So when you want to know something like "Should I mug the old lady in line ahead of me at the cash machine -- would it be the right thing to do?", the sciences aren't equipped by themselves to answer that kind of question, because that isn't what they are for. It isn't what their methods do.

    The sciences (especially if we include the social sciences) may well be able to tell us how to achieve the results we intend most efficiently, or provide means and instruments that assist us. Some day in the future, a hypothetically completed science of the human being (if that is possible, which depends on (a) there being no genuinely free will (& no relevant indeterminacy) and (b) it being the case that science isn't always revisable and hence always incomplete, both of which are highly debatable) might even be able to tell us with certainty what we will do.

    But none of these is the same as telling us what we *ought* to do. This is a *normative* or *prescriptive* question, one that has to do with what *should be* the case. Science is a *descriptive* and *predictive* enterprise, as well as an *explanatory* one. It tells us how things have been and are, and will be, and why (in the sense of *how come*, not in a purposive sense, at least paradigmatically).

    So, while I understand (and am very sympathetic to) Harris's desire to find a non-religious way to ground moral objectivity in order to avoid moral relativism and subjectivism, he is barking up the wrong tree.

    A very accessible and philosophically much sounder work offering a defense of moral realism (the view that there are moral facts grounding objective moral truth) without appealing to any religious basis can be found in Russ Shafer-Landau, What Ever Happened to Good & Evil?
  7. warlordgrego is offline

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    Posted On:
    4/29/2013 1:07pm


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    I was always facinated with the "worship" we do in martial arts. We prostrate ourselves to the founder at the beginning of the class and everything. I think, after a time, it ingrains itself into your psyche, that these old dead guys are creators and should be respected.

    I also think its a bid odd at my school, because we learn out of a church. We hold a prayer session before every class. I just kinda get a kick out of the Carlson Gracie pics that we sometimes view as idols.

    Note, i'm not a religious person. I wouldn't say I'm an athiest, but I only go to my class to learn Jiu Jitsu. Other than the prayer thing, they don't mention Christianity at all during lessons.
  8. W. Rabbit is offline
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    Posted On:
    4/29/2013 1:31pm

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    Quote Originally Posted by warlordgrego View Post
    I was always facinated with the "worship" we do in martial arts. We prostrate ourselves to the founder at the beginning of the class and everything.
    No. Do you know what "prostrate" really means?



    Bowing to the sun toi or saying a prayer for our dead predecessors is no sacrilege.

    Neither is Lion Dancing or drumming for that matter, but both have been accused of being paganistic witchcraft by evangelists or the orthodox.

    What nonsense.
  9. warlordgrego is offline

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    Posted On:
    4/30/2013 12:28pm


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    I do know what prostrate means, yes. I just like hyperbole. I'm whimsical like that.

    I was merely pointing out that it doesn't necessarily jive with Christian ideals to practically idolize (My old Karate school practically had an altar to Tsuyoshi Chitose) the founder of a way of fighting.

    I do know what prostrate means, yes. I just like hyperbole. I'm whimsical like that.

    I was merely pointing out that it doesn't necessarily jive with Christian ideals to practically idolize (My old Karate school practically had an altar to Tsuyoshi Chitose) the founder of a way of fighting.
  10. DerAuslander is offline
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    Posted On:
    4/30/2013 12:51pm

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    Quote Originally Posted by warlordgrego View Post
    I was merely pointing out that it doesn't necessarily jive with Christian ideals to practically idolize (My old Karate school practically had an altar to Tsuyoshi Chitose) the founder of a way of fighting.
    You're an idiot.

    Quote Originally Posted by warlordgrego View Post
    I was merely pointing out that it doesn't necessarily jive with Christian ideals to practically idolize (My old Karate school practically had an altar to Tsuyoshi Chitose) the founder of a way of fighting.
    You're an idiot.
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