The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values

★★★★☆

This book was a much more difficult read than his earlier books Letter and End of Faith. Rather than a popular, NYT best seller list-type book, this seems to target a more scientific audience. It should be studied rather than simply read. Moral Landscape is a very technical book both in terms of philosophy and neuroscience. Chapter 1, the introduction of the moral landscape concept, and Chapter 4, the teardown of religion and Francis Collins in particular, are the most accessible parts of the book. In between are some seriously academic chapters. It is all very interesting, however I wish he would have kept the academics in the endnotes to make the book flow more for non-technical readers. Unfortunately the endnotes are a mix of academic references and some good commentary, which turns things into a bit of a slog. That said, it is an amazingly ambitious book that could change the relationship between modern science and ethics, and well worth the read. To get a taste of the controversy, check out the TED talk (and resulting commentary) that made me pre-order the book right away.

The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values

Call for Abstracts Inception and Philosophy

Abstracts and subsequent essays should be philosophically substantial but accessible, written to engage the intelligent lay reader. Contributors of accepted essays will receive an honorarium.

Possible themes and topics might include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • “Their dream has become their reality”: Inception and Nozick’s Experience Machine
  • “How did you get here?” Can We Tell if We are Dreaming?
  • Your Very Own Token: Solving the Skeptical Problem with a Spinning Top
  • “They come to be woken up”: If Life is a Dream, Does it Matter?
  • Living in Limbo: Convenient Dreams vs. Inconvenient Reality
  • Is That Your Idea? A New Kind of Skeptical Problem
  • Self, Mind, and Free Will: Could Your Brain be an Inceptor?
  • Is the top still spinning? Does an Author’s Intent Matter?
  • “An idea is like a virus”: The Power of Ideas
  • “Take a leap of faith”: Is it Ever Acceptable to Believe without Evidence?
  • “Only a fraction of our brain’s potential”: Separating Myth from Reality
  • Penrose Steps: The Possibility of Paradox
  • Real Life Inception: The Challenge of Changing People’s Minds
  • “Your mind is the scene of the crime”: The Ethics of Inception
  • What is a Dream Made Of? The Nature of Mind
  • Is Shared Dreaming Possible? The Problem of Neural Interpretation
  • Shared Dreaming and the Problem of Other Minds
  • The Nature of Free Will: Inception in Frankfurt-style Counterexamples
  • Could Cobb be Insane? Demons, Dreamers & Madmen
  • The Nature of Time: Time Moves More Slowly, the Further Down You Go
  • Populating a Dream with Your Sub-conscious: Split Minds and Personal Identity

Call for Abstracts Inception and Philosophy

Pray: To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.

Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary