The Moral Landscape

  • by Sam Harris
  • Narrated by Sam Harris
  • 6 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Sam Harris has discovered that most people, from secular scientists to religious fundamentalists, agree on one point: science has nothing to say on the subject of human values. Indeed, science’s failure to address questions of meaning and morality has become the primary justification for religious faith. The underlying claim is that while science is the best authority on the workings of the physical universe, religion is the best authority on meaning, values, morality, and leading a good life. Sam Harris shows us that this is not only untrue; it cannot possibly be true.
Bringing a fresh, secular perspective to age-old questions of right and wrong, and good and evil, Harris shows that we know enough about the human brain and how it reacts to events in the world to say that there are right and wrong answers to the most pressing questions of human life. Because such answers exist, moral relativism is simply false – and comes at increasing cost to humanity.
Using his expertise in philosophy and neuroscience, along with his experience on the front lines of the cultural war between science and religion, Harris delivers an explosive argument about the future of science, and about the real basis of human relationships.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Thought provoking, perhaps a little antagonistic

The central (and highly thought provoking) proposition behind this audio book is that as a race we should seek to give primacy in decisions about human morality and values to neuroscience and the scientific method. The assertion is that by doing this, as opposed to following the dogma of organised religions and other irrational beliefs, we will be creating a better society.

Whilst this is not an "easy" listen, the author does an admirable job of dealing with the science, logic, philosophy in order to make his case, whilst technically the recording and the reading are very good. I found listening to it a deeply engrossing, thought provoking and enjoyable experience and will certainly listen to it again in the near future.

So why four stars.

Well I think the authors assertion is almost certainly correct; we would be much better of removing religion from the equation. However for my money I think the book could have communicated this more effectively to a wider audience, if it had focused more on its own ideas and rather less on a sustained sniping at organised religion and its excesses. (The downside of this negativity is that there is unfortunately likely to be more people put off reading and understanding the excellent ideas in the book than will be attracted to it).

In summary, an excellent thought provoking listen, possibly flawed in a counter productive antagonistism towards religion and its adherents, otherwise very highly recommended.
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- shufflingB

SH is not quite up to the task

I was a bit disappointed. This is a great subject, but I don't feel SH has the historical and intellectual firepower to do it justice (Steven Pinker should take it on). SH thesis is that science should take on moral philosophy and not leave it as a 'separate domain' (NOMA). Well, in France we have been living for a couple of centuries under a social contract with a moral code worked out through logic (rather than revelation) and enforced by police (for antisocial behaviour) and tax collectors (for redistributive charity), so SH seems a little behind the game. He does not properly recognise the key problem of 'ought', but assumes it from his 'axioms' - that consciousness exists and conscious beings suffer. He says, 'We know we should eat less, but often we fail' and, 'We know we should be good, but often we fail.' This is not analogous. Nor does he manage to draw out any startling conclusions from his axiomatic system e.g. that imposing confiscatory taxes on (saved) wealth is wrong, or what proportion of our income we 'should' redistribute. So, I was challenged by no new ideas.
PS: poor old SH also reads in a rather monotonic voice (and says 'human beans' like the BFG) - he should have employed a professional reader to give more expression to his content. That might have helped.
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- Judy Corstjens

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-04-2011
  • Publisher: Random House AudioBooks