Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Nepal - Day 20 + Small Sam Harris book review.

Work was fairly casual again today: more mixing and passing cement. The skilled worker is an interesting sort of character. The first time we met him he was wearing a leopard skin patterned undershirt; today he was sporting one with butterflies on it. He also has grown his pinky fingernail really long and painted it red. I think the fingernail thing might be culturally symbolic of something but his effeminate clothing choices seem to be unique to him (and amusing to Guy and I).

I've been progressing through Sam Harris's 'The Moral Landscape' during work breaks and I've found it (dare I say it) quite good and even uncontroversial. Most accounts I'd heard of the book were negative, yet most of the people I'd talked to hadn't actually read the book. I bought the book half expecting to find flaws and inconsistencies on every page but found nothing of the sort. Sure, the book lacks philosophical rigor, but it's a book aimed at a general readership so such criticisms are misplaced. As for the alleged is/ought blunder Harris doesn't defy Hume but merely sidesteps the issue. His definition of well-being is vague but sufficient and once it is established that it is worth valuing it is not a difficult step to realize that science is best equipped to discover the 'how-to's'.

Harris essentially presents a form of Utilitarianism (or so it seems to me) but frames it scientifically, based primarily on subjective ratings of happiness as examined through neuroscience. Seeing as utilitarianism - put to best use - would require a great deal of knowledge about the external world (AKA 'scientific knowledge') the viewpoint that Harris adopts is not only justified but necessary.

^The tea room


In the afternoon Guy and I were summoned to the tea-room. Waiting for us was the school chairman, the teachers, and our i-to-i co-ordinator. They apologised for the theft and promised to ensure that it would not happen again. The apology was sincere and heartfelt. It helped.

Afterwards Guy and I caught the public bus to Chitawan again for another the weekend.

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