9. Bootstrapping is a unscientific Aristotelian process, and Harris bootstraps “well-being”

Sam Harris’s logic for why the well-being of conscious creatures is primary is, bootstrapped, linear, and thus Aristotelian, which is out of accord with how modern science progresses.

Here is Harris’s central/founding argument for his meta-ethos. Again, it’s linear, Aristotelian, deductive, and syllogistic:

Premise A: Surely we can agree that a universe where ultimate suffering occurs would be a BAD universe.

Premise B: If we agree that ultimate suffering universe is bad, then we should agree that suffering is the bad.

Conclusion: Moving away from suffering (towards well-being) is the GOOD.

It’s true that Harris wants to apply science to achieving well being, but he didn’t apply science to prescribing well being. In scientific pantheism science can be applied to prescribing well being once one simply accepts the body of knowledge arrived at via science, normatively (where the more generally applicable the scientific knowledge is, the more prescriptive it becomes).  That is to say, the prescription for the good is to simply act in accord with the ontological hierarchy of the sciences as if it is an ethical hierachy of prescriptions: what science says is the case from the most general (the laws of physics) is ethically dominant, and on down the hierarchy to what it means specifically to be a human, down to what it means to be oneself. That prescription will evolve and improve as the sciences improve.

In modern science there are no certain first premises. Thus scientific knowledge isn’t static. Indeed there is no certainty. But science can advance, and it advances in a circular (or more accurately, a spiraling) fashion, via: data gathering, inductive hypothesizing, deductive tests, then and more data gathering. Its a circular (but hopefully entire universe encompassing) dialectical process.

The sci-pantheist mandala shows the centrality of the induction/deduction dialectical process, which thus enables truth AND value to be arrived at via an ever advancing (often asymptotically advancing) dialectical process. Which, not coincidentally, is the way nature can be observed to work in, say, the birth and maturation of a human consciousness.

So regarding Harris’s syllogism, “Premise A: Surely we can agree that a universe where ultimate suffering occurs would be a BAD universe.”, yes, most sane people would surely agree with this premise. But trying to bootstrap an ethical world view from this parochial (non-holistic) premise will lead to about as much confusion as bootstrapping an ethos from, say, “genocide is bad”. Sure, most sane people would agree that genocide is bad, but there is a lot to consider, when acting in this reality, that hasn’t got much to do with genocide. . .

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