Harris speaks here today

As I announced earlier this week, Sam Harris will be speaking this afternoon at The University of Chicago.  The topic is morality, its roots, and the ability of science to determine what is moral.  Admission is free, and the location and time are given in my earlier announcement and below.

If you’re in the area, drop by.

Place: University of Chicago Medical Center, Surgery Brain Research Pavilion, Room P-117, 5812 S. Ellis Avenue (between 57th and 59th Streets; 58th Street doesn’t interesect Ellis Ave.).  Someone at the door will direct you to the room.

Time:  3 p.m. today, April 8


  1. Bruce S. Springsteen
    Posted April 8, 2011 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    Sam needs to drop the term “morality” like he shuns the term atheist. It’s a trap and a quagmire. He needs to reframe this discussion in terms of social and psychological facts relating to sentient beings, especially human ones, in the context of changing circumstances — period. That is the intelligible, science-minded discussion that is to be had on what has been traditionally, badly muddied under the rubric of the “moral.” Every time that word is employed, confusion and ponderous historical baggage scotch the whole discussion.

    • Filippo
      Posted April 8, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      I gather that that would be true of “ethics” and “ethical” also?

    • Bryan
      Posted April 8, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      He actually touched on that during the talk today. I think he would basically agree with you, but he thinks that to concede the point (even implicitly) that “science has nothing to say about morality” is to concede too much to religion. And so, he has made the conscious decision to continue using the word “morality” despite the problems you point out.

      • Papalinton
        Posted April 8, 2011 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

        Yes. Great point Bryan.
        Religion has pervaded and commandeered everyday English as part of its comprehensive colonization of the human experience, that it is difficult to say these words without the baggage that theism loaded into them. It is a function of free people to evict religion and reclaim the language for freethought. There are some that are so toxic that we cannot utter them without religious connotation; such as faith, belief, heaven, hell sacred, worship divine etc, although each do refer explicitly to emotive and psychological mind-states that are perfectly normal and natural. But they have been handed over to the [putative] living beings that inhabit the supernatural world.

        But that should not shirk us from facing head-on to religion and expose it for what it is, a sham.

        • Bruce S. Springsteen
          Posted April 9, 2011 at 7:44 am | Permalink

          Not just religion has stacked the deck,but philosophy as well, which is why I say call a misdeal and get a fresh deck.

          Well, I agree that Sam has as much hope of abandoning the use of “morality” as we have of ditching “atheism,” but an end run around the word might be easier to sell. Neither religion nor philosophy is going to give up the term without one hell of a fight– they don’t like getting their purview poached — so Sam had better be prepared to be chronically misconstrued. At least he should clearly admit that he is proposing a reframing and redefinition of morality itself, not just offering a science-based answer to the same old badly-framed questions. To the theist, morality is “whatever God wants,” to the philosopher “whatever first principles dictate.” To the scientist it should be something firmly rooted in observation of brute facts about human nature and society. To hell with Hume. All our “oughts” derive from “is.” How could they derive from “isn’t”? Liek everything humans do, it is a product of evolution, in a material world, and therefore by definition amenable to scientific description and explanation, in form and substance.

  2. Papalinton
    Posted April 8, 2011 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    Is this talk by Harris to be recorded or video-ed? Would appreciate a site address.


  3. Posted April 9, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Brain science tells us humans are not that sentient — but hyper sentimental.

    Morality is a loaded pop term but Sam deserves credit for facing the “dragon” and starting to unpack ideas, ideology and pop notions that are used to justify in-group/out-group, “kill or be killed” behaviors. We include religion and other supernatural beliefs as pop ideology.

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