Sam Harris argues that our wish to be fair and compassionate and loving and respectful is linked to our neurology, the physiology of the brain.  So as science tells us about that he holds it can ground morality as a real objective thing and not just a matter of taste.  Without morality being true, nobody has any basis or justification for making any moral pronouncements.

It has been pointed out that though our neurology allows morality to emerge it does not follow that our neurology is about morality. [Suppose it did. It does not follow that morality is true and objective and real either.] My brain is not about reading Jane Austin just because I can.

For Harris, the brain is about wellbeing so he thinks as science can help us with wellbeing then you can work out right and wrong morally from science alone. It has been noticed that happiness would be a huge part of wellbeing and is notoriously hard to guarantee unless you want scientists to start drugging us all so that we have such a good time that it is worth it if we die in a decade from side-effects. Harris is accused of mistaking how science can inform ethics for science being in a position to determine ethics. No scientific device can tell you if taking a particular career will in the end be good for you. And people do find meaning in life from hard backbreaking work and sacrifice. They say they value this more than wellbeing and happiness. So wellbeing is too personal for science to help with it. Science cannot tell you that you must not execute dangerous prolific murderers.  What if a person has a unique ability to treble their own wellbeing by taking somebody else's?

A major problem is that neuroscience does not seem good for specific guidance.  It for example cannot tell us if a war is fair.  If John should be executed for killing a hundred babies.  If Jean should leave her husband for her new lover.  It cannot tell me what my brain was doing at 2 pm yesterday unless I have a machine on me all the time.  If it can help with determining wellbeing the problem is that it cannot help much or enough.

A point nobody has made is how religion has its own version of Harris’s argument. “Our wish to be fair and compassionate and loving and respectful is linked to the way our spirit or soul is made and how it is in the image of God.”  Religion says that all things go back to more than just physical causes.  It adds that if all things are ultimately just blind things then killing somebody is no moral or less moral than a rock falling off a cliff.  Our feeling different is down to a physical cause itself.  Then to solve this it argues that there are spirits and beings who are not physical.  This solves nothing.  These beings could ultimately be made up of blind non-physical forces.  So far Harris even if wrong is not as wrong as religion is.

Notice that if you admit that spirits are real but hold that they are not necessarily conscious you have to agree that maybe if there are gods and angels and souls that these things can be affected by those entities.  Alcohol makes us think we do what we will when in fact our real judgement is warped by it.  Am I saying there are drunk and drugged spirit persons?  I am saying that if you are honest and believe in spirits then you have to admit that there are.

The dichotomy: "Either it is all blind physical forces or there is a spiritual element and with the first morality is indefensible and with the second defensible," is a false one.  No morality based on God or gods or religion is real for its based on an untruth or a lie.

We should remember that a could statement is not a should statement. Facts are not values and values are not facts.  Philippa Foot however says that an is can give you an ought. She points to the baby being helpless. The way a child is born “means already that children have to be looked after.” Yes but if nature makes nobody care what then? Who or what says you should?  Nature would imply that a child has to be looked after if you want it to live but that is not calling you evil or immoral if you don’t.  You have no way to make, "The baby needs help therefore it must be helped" any more convincing than, "I need to worry about myself alone and that is what nature has made me".

Foot’s suggestion is a good way to put what Harris is trying to say.  An is cannot give you an ought though.  He could say that treating it as if it is does enhance wellbeing.  Morality is only about what can be done.  It is moral to use clean instruments to do emergency surgery.  It is fair and just under the circumstances if all you have is a rusty blade and you use it.  So if that is all you can do with the is ought thing then that is fine.  So if you want a clear morality you are not going to get it.  An is not giving you an ought in rather specific ways and an is not giving you and ought in a vaguer way are two different things.

Moore shows by his open-question argument that things like health, religious faith, happiness, spiritual wellbeing, roast dinners, legal protections and so on and on are not moral properties.  In other words, whatever moral good means it does not mean any of these collectively or individually.  They arise from goodness but are not goodness itself.

Again as a morality cannot ask you to do the impossible meaning that if you are really naturally made to kill people you are moral inside even if your actions are not we can use those things as clues to goodness even if we cannot get it exact.

If science cannot tell you what to do with a mass murderer it at least tells you to do something.  This takes us back to morality being limited by the circumstances and how moral ideals may be hard to practice in the real world. You do what you can and that is moral.  Critiques of Harris seem to forget that. It could be that morality as in rules is less needed and less lucid than we think. That is not our fault. We can only work out what is moral as best as we can while trying not to have too few rules or too many. If we don’t know enough to punish a serial killer who loves what he does then we have to be as fair as we can.  Too many start off with what they want morality to be, "No late abortion just for convenience", "No cheating on your spouse as long as you don't get caught" and "No sending murderers to jail for a few months" and that colours their opposition to Harris.

Science it seems cannot reveal moral facts. It cannot tell us what is really fair. It cannot tell us why we should love or be compassionate. Whether moral facts exist or not, science can still tell us about moral behaviour. It can tell us how creatures try to be what they believe to be fair. A lot of this goes back to conscience. Your conscience tells you to help the suffering baby for it is not fair for an innocent being to suffer. But conscience saying that does not mean it is right or that you should listen to it. You cannot get a should from a could. You can help but that does not prove that you morally should help. And what if the baby is the incarnation of some demon that is pretending to be innocent and harmless? Conscience is not about the truth but about judging you.

Science can point us to moral facts and that will have to do.  That is not our fault.

Moral directs and commands need to be correct no matter what anybody thinks. In other words we must obey them even if we think they are false. That alarming demand goes with the claim that they are objectively right. You are forced to go with 2 and 2 being 4 no matter if you disagree with it or not. Same with morality.  So we find that to be moral means to be moral in some kind of loose way.  Fearing the consequences of this overlooks the fact that we are already living with vagueness and that bad results following loose morality do not mean that loose morality is to blame.

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