Posted: Oct 04, 2017 11:03 am
by zoon
archibald wrote:
zoon wrote:I suppose my version of ethics also comes down to a single idea, to keep the local community flourishing (which in the modern world is the global community), and it’s a distinctly less uplifting idea than the wellbeing of all conscious creatures.

I agree that it's less uplifting than the wellbeing of all sentient creatures, and unless I later agree that Harris has justified the latter without compromising his major premise, I'll have no problem agreeing with you that he would seem to have gone 'softly idealistic'.


Haven't you arguably gone soft too? Why the community as your single idea. What about Zoon? :)

The way I tend to try to resolve some of the tensions is by making a loose list in order of priorities. First, me. Then family, then other humans, then the planet. Obviously, there has to be flexibility when playing each of these cards in any given scenario. I might for example risk my own life to save the planet in a dire emergency in order that my family can survive.

Yes, I could put more emphasis on the way most working moral systems expect, and to some extent require, people to look after themselves and their own families first - most of them are much as you describe. It's so obvious, and so clearly in line with evolutionary theory, that it can tend to be overlooked. One of the features of human moral systems that distinguishes human behaviour from that of most non-human animals is the greater concern for members of the community who are not immediate family, so it's that aspect of morality which tends to get most of the discussion. I'm not making such an effort as Sam Harris to give morality a single focus, so some more evolved predispositions thrown into the mix don't worry me? As you say, it's probably time I was more specific, though my main argument in this thread is only that ordinary working ethical systems, which do include predispositions to care for people outside immediate family, are not incompatible with evolutionary theory. Sam Harris is, I think, making a much stronger claim about science and morality, he's saying that science can tell us to change the way most of us think about what is moral, namely: we ought to care about the wellbeing of sentient creatures. He stresses that this is a clear and simple claim, but I think it isn't, because morality is usually more about which sentient creatures we should care about, how the competing claims of community, self, and immediate family are expected to be resolved into reasonably coherent plans of action. I think he barely addresses that point head on, but rather utilises strategic vagueness; sometimes he talks as though morality requires us to care about all sentient creatures equally, and sometimes he implies that thinking only about one's own wellbeing is quite enough for his morality. You will probably be reading The Moral Landscape more carefully than I have, I may be misjudging it. Rambling again, but I don't need to point that out.