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Sep 02 2013

Without dodging any important issues

Sam Harris has improved his contest somewhat, in response to some of the reaction. He added an FAQ.

9. With you as the judge, how can we trust that the best attack on your thesis will see the light of day?

Having now fielded several accusations that this contest will be rigged—if not by design, then by my own ignorance and bias—I reached out to the philosopher Russell Blackford for help. Russell has been one of the most energetic critics of The Moral Landscape, and I am very happy to say that he has now agreed to judge the submissions, introduce the winning essay, and evaluate my response. I trust that everyone will consider this a hopeful development.

Of course, only I can judge whether I find the winning essay persuasive enough to trigger a change in my position (and the larger prize). But if I’m not persuaded, I’ll have to give an argument saying why not, and Russell will be there to see that I do this without dodging any important issues.

That’s good. That last clause is especially good – because I have never yet seen a response from Harris that fails to dodge all the important issues, apparently without his even being aware of it. Russell will be in a position to make him aware of it before he publishes. That’s good.

Mind you, I’d think it was even better if it were Patricia Churchland doing it, not least because she too has a PhD in neuroscience, and because her book Braintrust is what Harris should have written but didn’t. But still, this is good.

 

 

6 comments

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  1. 1
    Brian E

    I bought that book because Russell was blogging about it heaps back in the per elevatorgate days. I found it obtuse or boring and stopped after the first chapter. I don’t suppose I’ll get to read it, but I’m perplexed how guys like him smuggle value into their assumptions and declare that science justifies values.

  2. 2
    Marcus Ranum

    I’m perplexed how guys like him smuggle value into their assumptions and declare that science justifies values.

    .. and laugh at christian presuppositionalists who try the same maneuver.

  3. 3
    Anthony K

    9. With you as the judge, how can we trust that the best attack on your thesis will see the light of day?
    Having now fielded several accusations that this contest will be rigged—if not by design, then by my own ignorance and bias—I reached out to the philosopher Russell Blackford for help

    Nothing says ‘Genius moral philosopher’ like needing it to be pointed out that having a financial stake in the outcome of a contest makes one a biased judge.

    The guy is a total fucking idiot.

  4. 4
    SocraticGadfly

    Massimo Pigliucci, among others, proved Sammy Boy wrong a long time ago. I’m sure there’s no check from Harris headed his way, though. This is all just a PR stunt.

    The fact that Harris is already dodging issues is just further proof.

  5. 5
    LykeX

    Nothing says ‘Genius moral philosopher’ like needing it to be pointed out that having a financial stake in the outcome of a contest makes one a biased judge.

    Spot on. When you’ve got $10,000 on the line, you’d think it would be obvious that an external judge would be a good idea. The fact that he has to be reminded of that, doesn’t bode well.

    But hey, now that we’ve got an impartial judge, maybe this contest will actually turn out interesting. I guess we’ll see… in about six months when the submissions are evaluated.

  6. 6
    Richard Carrier

    For the benefit of everyone who may have subscribed to one thread’s comments and not the other, I will repeat this in all: I have explained my agreements and disagreements with both Ophelia and Sam in my analysis of this contest and its aims in What Exactly Is Objective Moral Truth? I don’t think the contest is all that bad an idea. And I am certain Harris’s core thesis is correct. (It’s just that I’m almost as certain he’s not the best man to defend it.) I explain both there.

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