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Sam Harris believes moral questions have factual answers, and the right target for moral concern is the maximization of human well-being. Furthermore, he says the substance of well-being consists in the qualities of conscious experience, and modern neuroscience is giving us the tools to assess conscious states: hence answering moral questions is properly within the domain of science.
Harris endeavors early in the book to anticipate some objections. He acknowledges the extensive practical problems in pursuing a science of morality, but he insists there are answers in principle even if not always in practice. He also thinks there may be more than one way to maximize well-being -- multiple peaks on a "landscape". (Unfortunately much of the criticism I've seen ignores these caveats and thinks the many moral disagreements and dilemmas somehow negate the thesis.)
He also argues against the idea that facts and values are in different domains: values are features of conscious states, and these are themselves natural facts. The lack of separation between facts and values may also supported by neuroscientific evidence, particularly studies of how we form beliefs.
Because this is a book by Sam Harris, we also get plenty of pointed criticism of traditional religion. This time, however, it is coupled with indignation toward secular liberals who express various degrees of moral relativism or anti-realism. Some critics have said that he's targeting a straw man (because there aren't many relativists), but I think many secular thinkers do suffer from the fact that they can't clearly locate moral facts in either the natural world or, of course, in any supernatural realm.
I think Harris is on the right track, although I do think he needs more than science to build his foundation: this is a philosophical project first and foremost - but one which gains from the prospect that our moral reasoning will be much more successful now that we can leverage modern scientific tools and techniques.
I recommend the book because I think the argument Harris puts forth is one people should hear about and grapple with. One quibble: I felt it was padded with some off-topic material (some of which you'll enjoy if you liked his previous books).
I purchased two pairs of the SainSonic 3d glasses for my new 42 inch Panasonic ST30. I chose the SainSonic over the more expensive Panasonic glasses based upon the numerous reviews. I do not have any complaints about the glasses other than they do not fit well over my prescription glasses. My prescription lenses are large, and so the 3d glasses do not completely cover. It would be nice if someone could come out with clip-on 3d shutter glasses. The shutter glasses work well. They have a yellow tint until you turn them on. They do darken the picture like all 3d glasses. I compensate by turning up the brightness and color on the TV. I watched The Lion King in 3d, and found they did a good job. There was no flicker or ghosting in the picture. The only flicker was from light coming through the window during the daytime. The TV was flicker-free.
I say it works! My neck was full of tiny little tags. I had a few larger ones on my face as well. I used the product for only 4 weeks (faithfully)and the tags started falling off little by little. You really have to follow the directions. Make sure the area it clean before applying, that's really important. I would say give it a try even if you don't like the smell (which is eucalyptus, by the way). I love the results I got.
Huge improvement to boot-up time and performance. Wife's notebook had a traditional drive with some bad sectors. It performed poorly. Backed-up the data, swapped out the drive, re-installed the OS fresh and moved the data back over. Performance is like day and night compared to before. Notebook is less one moving part and runs much cooler now as well.
A toss, that's all it took. The mid-wife's tossing a lemon to the expectant father waiting outside the birthing room's window, allowed him to calculate and chart his newborn's life. Just a toss. Lives were foreshadowed, marriages arranged, and destinies set.
Have you ever wondered what it must have been like to live in your own great-grandparents' era? What customs were they bound by? And how differently they viewed their time, what we see as `history'.
Reminiscent of great epochs such as War and Remembrance (Wouk) and The Manor (Singer), The Toss of a Lemon (Viswanathan) brings us into her family's late 19th century home in southern India. We become the fly-on-the-wall. From her great-grandmother Souvakami's marriage as a child bride, to her demise decades into the 20th century, we see life through her eyes.
Viswanathan's plot isn't exceptional. It's that of every family; living, rejoicing, and grieving. And as mundane as that may be, she breathes life into each character--and there are many--letting each one speak with his own point of view and voice. Her objectivity as narrator is a remarkable quality. It allows us to watch with an unbiased eye.
She empowers the reader to vividly sense locale, food, and customs. The author transports us to the hot, dusty paths of the fields and the exclusive quarter of Brahmin homes. One can almost taste the curries and vegetables with Viswanathan's descriptions of food preparation, cooking, and spices. Rather than explaining Brahmin ritual, she portrays it. Whether incorporating them in the food's placement on banana leaf plates, the proper behavior of a widow and her inability to touch anyone before sundown, or divining a suitable marriage partner with a horoscope, we learn the Brahmin way of life.
Swept up in the changing political tide, we see old values discarded, much like shells left on the shore as the sea foam ebbs. British imperialism, the caste system, and its values are questioned. The price for a modern India is embodied in the losses Souvakami endures.
As sophisticated as we like to think we are, nothing surpasses entertainment as that of the ancient storyteller. With The Toss of a Lemon, Padma Viswanathan holds the primitive `speaking stick'. Sit. Allow yourself to be spellbound. Follow the tapestry she weaves of her family's tale.