7. Harris’s Utilitarianism can’t utilize Unity, with a capital U.

Sam Harris’s Utilitarianism can’t utilize Unity, with a capital U, from monotheistic religion (where God is the unifying concept) or modern materialistic science (with it’s universal laws of physics).

At best, Harris’s ethos leaves us with a (well-being of consciousnesses / respect for materialistic truth) duality, rather than a unity. It’s a contradiction laden meta-ethical consciousness/materialism duality, which, instructively, is similar to Descartes’s metaphysical mind/body duality. And indeed, the metaphysics of Descartes appears to resonate with Harris. In pod castes he has spoken of the primacy of consciousness as the first or fundamental thing we know, in ways that sound identical to Descartes’ “Cognito ergo sum.” (I think therefore I am). Harris’s spiritual experiences with meditation and psychedelics, and his predilections that led him to be a neuro-scientist, seem to have confirmed this for him. However, in response to Harris, and Descartes, a materialist might point out that, if one truly rigorously attempts to fulfill Descartes’ quest to doubt everything in order to find a point of certainty from which to found one’s philosophy, one finds that one can not but doubt the ability of one’s, or any, consciousness to exist, out of context with any larger reality. And therefore, when attempting to bootstrap a metaphysics or epistemology from Cognito ergo sum, one must admit that “I”, “think”, “therefore”, and “am”, are all hopelessly already too pre-understood/defined for one to say one has honestly doubted all but one’s consciousness. A thought experiment example of the difficulty of consciousness as half of a primary (duality) is: can anyone even imagine the existence of a consciousness in a perfect sense deprivation tank; a consciousness that could exist that had never not been in that tank? What could that consciousness possibly be conscious of? Consciousness could not value, period, without reality. Material reality comes first. But, contrariwise, it is easily possible to imagine a reality that could exist with no consciousness. Science tells us that was the case, there was no consciousness for most of the history on this earth, before brains evolved, and it’s what most of the universe is. In our one vast solar system, for example, it seems perfectly possible, very probable even, that only on the tiny earth does consciousness reside, and only relatively recently, and if the earth were wiped out we would no longer be around to know about it. We can easily imagine the solar system sailing unconsciously on.

The point here is that, just as consciousness is a manifestation that evolved out of the material reality of the universe, so in a consistent and pragmatic meta-ethos the well-being of conscious creatures arises as a sub-value of valuing the universe. And thus of valuing being in accord with physics and physically defined life in that material universe, first. Harris’s argument (A) from the synopsis of his position above can now be responded to with this: Caring about consciousness is NOT foundational, and attempting to make it so creates an unnecessarily dis-unified duality. Unnecessary because, a universe without conscious beings would be a universe without anything that could value well-being and the avoidance of suffering, but, according to our coherent and unified scientific understanding of the history of this earth in particular, and of the universe in general, it would at least still exist; unlike consciousness without a reality, as a sub-straight/foundation


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