Happy Thoughts

I know I have quoted Sam Harris, neuroscientist and best-selling author, on this blog before. I can’t help it. His style is so eloquent and yet simple to understand. Although I don’t agree with everything the man says or writes, I have great respect and admiration for him.

In his latest book, The Moral Landscape, Harris argues that science can and should be used to determine moral values for humanity. The following quote sums up his view of emotionally-founded beliefs (and dogmatic adherence to them):

…motives like wanting to find the truth, not wanting to be mistaken, etc., tend to align with epistemic goals in a way that many other commitments do not. As we have begun to see, all reasoning may be inextricable from emotion. But if a person’s primary motivation in holding a belief is to hew to a positive state of mind – to mitigate feelings of anxiety, embarrassment, or guilt, for instance – this is precisely what we mean by phrases like “wishful thinking” and “self-deception.” Such a person will, of necessity, be less responsive to valid chains of evidence and argument that run counter to the beliefs he is seeking to maintain. To point out nonepistemic motives in another’s view of the world, therefore, is always a criticism, as it serves to cast doubt upon a person’s connection to the world as it is.

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