The Really Difficult Thinking

I’m plucking more amazing quotes from The Dish today. I apologize. I’ll eventually spread the panorama of blogs that I subject myself to.

On Free Will and how humans don’t have it:

Ordinary people want to feel philosophically justified in hating evildoers and viewing them as the ultimate authors of their evil. This moral attitude has always been vulnerable to our learning more about the causes of human behavior—and in situations where the origins of a person’s actions become absolutely clear, our feelings about his responsibility begin to change. What is more, they should change. We should admit that a person is unlucky to inherit the genes and life experience that will doom him to psychopathy. That doesn’t mean we can’t lock him up, or kill him in self-defense, but hating him is not rational, given a complete understanding of how he came to be who he is. Natural, yes; rational, no. Feeling compassion for him would be rational, however—or so I have argued.

I always find Harris’ arguments exceptionally problematic to my worldview. Yet I can never think of a reason why they aren’t correct. The Moral Landscape is one of the most challenging books I’ve ever read. If you like getting an intellectual gut-check – and let’s be fair, everyone is a big fan of the huggable bubbles they’ve created for their intellect – I recommend reading it slowly and dispassionately.


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