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Four essays On Why Sam Harris Is Wrong About Morality
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Last week, Jonathan Haidt, TVOL Business Editor, wrote an essay titled Why Sam Harris is Unlikely to Change his Mind. That essay explored the psychological reasons why people’s passionately held beliefs are generally immune to being changed by rational argument. That essay was not meant to address the substance of Harris’s claims about morality. It was not meant to be a submission to Harris’s “Moral Landscape Challenge,” which offers to pay $20,000 to anyone who can convince Harris that his thesis was mistaken. Due to the level of interest in Harris’ Moral Landscape challenge, and the valid point that Haidt’s article did not explore the actual substantive issues with Harris’ position, we are publishing the entries of four TVOL editors: All argue that Harris’ central claim – that “questions of morality and values must have right and wrong answers that fall within the purview of science” – is false.

The other contest entries by TVOL Editors are “Necessary, But Not Sufficient”, by Jiro Tanaka, “How Science Can Help Us Be More Reasonable About Morality” by Michael Price, and “Mainstream Science of Morality Contradicts Sam Harris’ Central Claim” by Mark Sloan.

Why I think Sam Harris is wrong about morality
Posted by Jonathan Haidt in moral philosophy

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Several commenters have said I should not just critique the excessive certainty of the New Atheists. I should respond directly to Sam Harris’s Moral Landscape Challenge. I should say why I think the argument he makes about a science of morality are wrong. (Harris argues that what is right and wrong can be determined scientifically, just as we can determine truths in the natural sciences). Fair enough. So this morning I submitted the following text as my entry in his challenge.

Continue to read Haidt’s entry at The Righteous Mind website

Post-Script: Harris offers a thoughtful response to the initial essay, titled Why Sam Harris is Unlikely to Change his Mind, here, describing a recent time when he changed his mind not in response to a friend, but to a logically and emotionally compelling documentary.

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  1. […] Moral and ethical truths: Science cannot tell us what is morally virtuous or vile.  It tells us what “is.” But it does not tell us what “ought to be” (related to moral judgments). Science can tell you who died, how he died and what way he was killed. But it cannot tell you if he was murdered–it cannot tell you if it was wrong to kill him.  Sam Harris and many others tried but failed to do this. […]

  2. […] is the main problem with Sam Harris’s theories–and many others who walked that path–is that they assumes […]

  3. […] Moral and Ethical Truths: Science cannot tell us what is morally virtuous or vile. It tells us what “is.” But it does not tell us what “ought to be” (related to moral judgments). Science can tell you who died, how he died and what way he was killed. But it cannot tell you if he was murdered–it cannot tell you if it was wrong to kill him. Sam Harris and many others tried but failed to do this. […]