Sunday, January 16, 2011

Russell Blackford Reviews “The Moral Landscape” by Sam Harris

Nice review - I started the book, but got distracted by other things - need to get back to it.

Posted: Jan 14, 2011

I enjoyed this book, and I recommend it highly. Though it contains much technical material, from neuroscience as well as philosophy, Harris makes it all accessible.

In recent years, Sam Harris has become a leading figure in the rational scrutiny of religions and religious cultures, earning himself a place as a prominent “New Atheist,” along with Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens.

Book Cover

To the extent that the New Atheism is a genuine social movement, Harris deserves much of the

credit for it. In 2004, he made a dramatic breakthrough when The End of Faith was published by W.W. Norton. This was a fiercely anti-religious book, targeted especially at Islam, and emphasizing that religious ideas actually matter because religious adherents are motivated one way or the other to act in accordance with the teachings they accept. The breakthrough was in convincing a major trade publisher to pick up a book like this, and then support it aggressively. Other large publishers followed suit with high-profile critiques of religion by Dawkins and others.

In The Moral Landscape, Harris pushes his agenda a step further, examining the nature of morality from a secular viewpoint and offering prescriptions for change. In particular, he contests the moral credentials of religion, argues against popular understandings of free will, and savages moral relativism. He presents an eloquent, passionate, but scholarly defense of his particular take on the phenomenon of morality; he defends moral realism and a consequentialist approach to moral thinking.

Read the whole review in the Journal of Evolution and Technology.

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