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January 18, 2011

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Oh, Lord, save us from people who assume their conclusions...

From the interview on the Amazon site for the book (emphasis mine):

Harris: Morality must relate, at some level, to the well-being of conscious creatures. If there are more and less effective ways for us to seek happiness and to avoid misery in this world—and there clearly are—then there are right and wrong answers to questions of morality.

But why does he feel that morality "must" relate to well-being? Did science tell him that? Of course, once you decide what morality entails, science can help you further it, but science can never tell you what is moral.

Of course, this mistake is common among many economists too - take Kaplow and Shavell's Fairness versus Welfare for instance, which assumes that law and policy must serve welfare, and then "concludes" that a welfarist approach to legal policymaking is the best way to do this. (See my article on the book here: http://www.informaworld.com/openurl?genre=article&issn=0953%2d8259&volume=16&issue=4&spage=507 .)

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