Been a while since I’ve been here. Just stumbled on this today. Reactions? Anybody post it before?
Ok, I couldn’t finish it all; however, I do have two bones to pick with it. First off, Harris focusing his knowledge in morality in such “intuition” is not him giving heed to the “inner knowledge”. He is not following the same path as Hitchens. He is following a philosophic theory called Foundationalism. It is the idea that all knowledge is based arbitrarily on fundamental ideas that within themselves are proved. Its our only means of acquiring knowledge. Now, it is on this knowledge that morality is based. So he’s not consigning knowledge of morality to our “inner knowledge” but rather he’s attributing it arbitrarily having well-being as the moral good. This assignment of fundamental knowledge is the same as the foundation of anything epistemic. Or this is how I see it at least.
Secondly, if I remember correctly, Harris propagated the idea of reciprocal altruism, not simply altruism. On this, I completely agree. Reciprocal altruism is more moral than altruism because it ensures our happiness as well as the happiness of others.
I think this is a pretty powerful article and it shows that some great thinkers don’t always follow through their premises fully and consistently. I think Harris comes the closest to being the most logical and Hitchens is sometimes sloppy. Dawkins is great and masterful when he sticks to science but comes off reckless outside his field of expertise (his quote about Jesus is extremely absurd- he praises Jesus as “surely one of the great ethical innovators of history”). Bill Maher is totally inconsistent and an embarrassment to serious athiests. This is why I am disturbed by the term ‘atheist.’ It implies a disbelief in god but it doesn’t imply an adherence to rationality and reason either. I feel ‘Objectivist’ is a broader more meaningful label (coined by Rand and the Objectivists) that does imply acknowledgement of an objective reality which must discount the supernatural and intuitive.
I don’t believe in intuition (in the mystical, spiritual sense- Harris, Hitchens should address this in more detail) but each living species appears to be genetically programmed or hard wired in a certain way that is scientifically explainable.