Friday, December 27, 2013

Sam Harris on the science of morality

This should be good. Haidt is one of the questioners and wrote an apology for conservatism in The Righteous Mind, basically framing values in their language and then judging liberals by that framing. Chris Hedges ripped him a new assholon in this post, and spiral dynamicist Bruce Gibb gave it a developmental review here. Since Harris is a moral developmentalist (and pluralist) it will be interesting to see how he approaches this regressive. The video follows with more commentary thereafter.

Listening to the first 15 minutes I am struck by his use of right and wrong. Too often developmentalists like the Lingam say that while there are higher and better levels of morality, each level is fine for its time and place. But each level has a right and wrong, or healthy and pathological, so each level is not fine in itself. And a point the Lingam made, and with which I agree, is that the level of social moral contract and/or law should be from the highest available level, so that even healthy expressions of a lower moral level are not acceptable. As but one example, in some cultures it might be a healthy expression to differentiate the skill sets of men and women, and relegate women to the role of child-rearing and exclude them from business. The pathological version is that it's ok to beat a wife if she looks at another man. But in morally more developed countries even the healthy version is overridden and women can work and succeed in business, or science, or whatever.

I'm also reminded of Ray Harris' essay "Left, right or just plain wrong." And the follow-up essay, "Thoughts toward an integral political economy." They are still the high moral standard to which integralists should aspire.

Ah, at 29:20 he brings in basing our values on 'realism.' Haidt keeps saying what if conservatives are 'happier' then we must assume it is the better value system. Harris replies: "Actually having our beliefs track reality, however loosely, is better in the long run than being delusional."

At around 40:00 he supports that a better moral response is one that takes account of all humanity instead of one's ethnic group. That is also an answer to Haidt, where conservatives only support their own group's value of religious belief and/or the social Darwinism of takers versus makers. Or in kennlingus, post-conventional morality is better and it doesn't include conventional morality.

At around 42:00 he got a question about judging distribution of wealth by merit or by everyone deserving the same amount. Harris didn't have a good answer. My answer is that nowhere is that a reality in our US system, i.e., no one has ever argued for it, even progressives. Giving food stamps or welfare to those down on their luck is not giving them the same amount as one who works, even at minimum wage. Social programs are at a fraction of minimum wage. And increasing the minimum wage is in no way giving those workers an equitable distribution, just a wage on which they can purchase necessities of life. The argument on merit still applies, i.e, those with more demanding jobs, and with sufficient performance proficiency, earn more. On the other end, there has to be some ratio of top to bottom because being open at the top is what we have, and it leads inevitably to such income inequality that has direct relations to degrading the equal 'opportunity' (not result) for everyone else.

At 47:00 he gives an argument similar to my 'best level' thesis, that we need laws and institutions that hold us to our higher angels even when we don't feel that way. That is the rationale for taxes, that we must give so much for the social good whether we want to or not.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.