A Noble Effort
This sketch is a play off of Sam Harris’ recent book The Moral Landscape.
Harris, as an atheist, argues that morality does not have a transcendent source, but rather can be described in purely scientific and sociological categories. His attempt is not novel, but due to his popularity it has received a lot of attention. Philosophers throughout the centuries have widely recognized the impossibility of objective morality apart from a transcendent source (ie. God). As David Hume has stated: You cannot derive an “ought” from an “is.”
Thus, I have described Harris’ book as fitting a square peg in a round hole. I do applaud Harris for undertaking this endeavor. The title “A Noble Effort” is a bit of a play on words as well by assigning a moral value to his attempt. Because Harris believes that matter is the sum of all that exists, he must find a way to explain everything from a materialistic worldview. This is precisely the critique in the review of Harris’ book by Edwin Cartlidge, former news editor for Physics World, currently a freelance science journalist based in Rome:
“The Moral Landscape is a thought-provoking book and certainly worth a read, but it is ultimately unconvincing….Whether or not there exists a supernatural being, Harris’s view of morality falls short because it is narrowly materialistic. Ethics, while a branch of reason, is not science.”