Punxsutawney Handle 2014 – the groundhog emerges from his hovel of hibernation only briefly to keep his promised appointment and make an appearance for the cameras, and then, upon being filled with a terrifying foreboding by witnessing the spectacle of his own shadow – sign of signs – he slouches back into his dusky den to wait out the last six weeks of winter.
Sam Harris is one of a handful of prominent atheists who have carved out for themselves the latest bit in the old public-intellectual-niche of anti-religion. He’s got a challenge for you, and if you’re interested in the prize of $2K (guaranteed to go to someone) /$20K (much less likely), then you’ve got a few hours left to submit your own entry.
(AMENDATION: Harris Responds to Haidt (unfortunately selecting a rare example of his changing his views an instance where his beliefs shift in the wrong direction in response to a work of
propaganda politicized advocacy, which I think is revealing), and This View of Life gives these four essay submissions, all surprising weak and certainly missing Harris’ point. Oh well.)
I think answering his challenge ought to be an easy exercise of presenting the many well-known, ancient, and logically air-tight results of countless objective-morality-critical philosophers.
The demonstration is simple. Any claim, assertion, or statement, moral or otherwise, can be subjected to the inquiry, “Why?” The question can only be answered in three ways:
- As a deduction from other, logically prior claims
- I don’t know why, some things just are by necessity. But it is what we always observe in a way a fair contrarian skeptic could confirm self-persuasively.
- Because X Says So.
David Hume’s infamous ‘guillotine‘ is merely the statement that all moral ‘oughts’ can only ever originate in 3 (even if X is yourself) and proceed through 1, but never overlap with 2 (which you could say is whatever forms our current best guess at the fundamental natural and physical laws of the universe.)
But the interesting thing is that while Harris is perfectly familiar with these results, and has had to engage with critics who have repeated them to him ad nauseum, he flatly rejects the validity of those arguments. The mutually frustrating dialogue proceeds as follows:
H: Human well-being is an empirical phenomenon – a fact deriving from natural 2’s. We should avoid 3’s because they are unreliable, and anyway, we don’t need them.
C: Ok, but why should we care about well-being?
H: What else can rational, objective morality consist of besides concern for the well-being of conscious creatures? Any other concern can only come from unjustifiable bias or some fictional basis for a 3-like statement.
C: No, your assertion is just another 3-like statement, with X being Sam Harris. If a robber asks, “Why should I care about the other guy’s well-being when robbing him improves my own?” your only answer can be, “well, it might hurt his more”, and he’ll ask again, “Why should I care about that”, and in the end the final answer can only be, “Because Sam Harris said so.”
H: No. I have no say over the natural fact of well-bring.
C: Argh! We’re going in circles! You have to be able to answer why it is moral in a 2-like statement. It doesn’t matter even if your proposal is the only possible answer to ‘objective morality’. We can only observe actions and consequences, but we can’t observe your logical leap that we ‘ought’ to be pursuing a certain kind of consequence.
H: What else can objective morality possibly be about? If we’re going to have morality, and it’s going to be based on 2-like statements, then my proposed consequence is the only one that makes sense.
C: And why should we have morality?
H: Duh! Because it’s morality, which is good by definition, and I say we should do good. What are you, some kind of evil person?
C: I must be. I want to kill you now, and I don’t think it would be wrong.
So Harris’ challenge now becomes more challenging if you cannot persuasively undermine the very basis of his premises (which tells you a little bit about the difference between proving and convincing). If there’s still time left then you should give it a shot, and who knows, maybe one of you will win. I hope so – it would be a bit of an entertaining coup on behalf of our little despised community. (UPDATE: more submissions than I expected, it turns out)
424 entries received by the deadline for the Moral Landscape Challenge. @SamHarrisOrg
— Russell Blackford (@Metamagician) February 11, 2014
Anyway, back to Harris. What is clear is that he genuinely would very much like his own views to become more prevalent and for religious people to abandon their theological beliefs and then convert to his; he’s not just some closet believer cynically playing the part of an atheist in order to win fame and make money. If he’s a crypto-anything, it is a thing that is hidden also to himself, which is both the most common and also the most powerful kind of human crypto.
“Ironically” (actually not, but that’s another story) Harris shows a lot of evangelical and missionary zeal in his proselytizing. One can always speculate as to his real, root psychological motivations, where they originate and whether he is aware of them or not, but he embraces the classic anti-religious cover story which is that religion is not merely factually false but that it is on net a force that undermines human happiness and welfare. There are three general claims the “New Atheists” would make along this line of thinking:
- Because humanity does not share one, true, permanent religion (which is inevitable with something as reliably schismatic), the differences in theologies tend to perpetuate and exacerbate our outmoded and suppression-worthy tribal tendencies (indeed, to serve the needs of tribalism in the primitive environment was part of the role religions played), and, yadda yadda [insert logic and evidence here], lots more pointless war and slaughter caused by belief in imaginary myths than would otherwise be the case. Religion makes us kill each other over nothing, in a way that cannot be resolved by civil debate, and so it is a force for evil. On the other hand, Science provides us with verifiable, universal truths upon which all humanity could coordinate and live in rationality, peace, and harmony – if only the stubborn clingers would just let go of their pleasant but fraudulent fantasies.
- Religions are not even very good at accomplishing the incidental personal and social benefits that they often claim for themselves. On the individual levels, there are psychological comforts, motivational enhancers, and coping skills. And at the collective level they provide a societal organizing principle, as well as a stability-enhancing political formula, and there is also the taming of the inborn vacuum of a need for spirituality by filling it with something common (and which leads to reflexive pro-social behavioral tendencies) instead of letting it hallucinate and go berserk in countless varieties. That is, even if evaluated in a light sympathetic to noble lies, it remains the case that in practice religion tends not to achieve more noble effects for its adherents than would be the case under general belief in Scientific Atheism. All that religions are really good at, in the end, is making themselves hard to remove from those who are attached to them, and encouraging those adherents to propagate the faith.
- Religious people tend to a lot of crazy, wasteful, and harmful things in the name of utterly bizarre notions of ‘the good’. Their ethical systems cause a lot of needless suffering which is at odds with any common sense view of human flourishing.
Harris’ claim, then, is that the world would be a much better place – not just for him, but that most people would greatly prefer it – if everyone came to believe in the truth he knows. And that, he claims – and probably also believes – is why he’s so motivated to play his part to eradicate the nonsense once and for all. But for some nefarious reason the obstinate idiots just won’t go along!
To Harris – it’s not as if we lack evidence and arguments for Scientific Truth in a way that makes an embarrassing mockery of contradictory religious claims originating in superstition and fabricated fictional mythology. To him, the verdict has been in – well beyond any reasonable doubt and publicly available – for a very long time: centuries at least.
It’s not as if people lack awareness or that they don’t have cheap, easy access to these facts and arguments in this information age. It’s not as if these messages aren’t found in the content that permeates their daily lives (at least in all parts of the world sufficiently economically developed to have access to television – which is almost everywhere these days). Outside the muslim world, it’s not like the State is standing in the way of Harris’ message – quite the contrary. And the issue is not merely one of inertia and waiting for generational turnover.
So, what’s the problem? Three things:
- Competition: Religious public intellectuals, while admittedly on the defensive against the cultural tide these days, retain a certain degree of influence, even on marginally religious (or “affiliated”) people. There is always an asymmetric advantage given to the advocate who is arguing in favor of his audience’s existing beliefs and loyalties, especially if it constitutes part of their traditional heritage and self-identity. Religious intellectuals may be sincere believers, but they are using their cognitive capacity to engage in motivated reasoning and confirmation bias in order to act as committed lawyers to construct the best persuasive case for one particular side of an argument (and one weighing heavily on irrational psychological propensities) instead of as disinterested judges that fairly and rationally weigh all the evidence. They then transmit this ‘strongest’ case to the members of their audience/jury who are predisposed to embrace and retransmit it, and, anyway, not very good at being either creative lawyers or rational judges. To honorably combat this asymmetric advantage, New Atheists must go on an offensive (and occasionally militant and obnoxious) crusade to compensate for their disadvantage.
- Most people seem to have a religious/spiritual module built-in to their brains by human evolution (though there is clearly some biodiversity in this regard) – they want/need to believe in some magical fairy tale that soothes existential angst and explains everything – and parental encouragement, social conformism, and acculturation provide the desired content ready-made. ‘Raw’ Science is simply not attractive enough to most people to be emotionally appealing and compelling. People naturally find the prospect of a meaningless, purposeless, and purely-material existence to be bleak, depressing, or even terrifying. It’s therefore profoundly hard to make a persuasive case that they should liberate themselves from the pretty lies they’ve allowed themselves to be suckered into believing and overcome their biases in order to embrace the truths they find so ugly and repulsive (this should be a fairly familiar feeling to folks around these parts). This is especially hard when some people who have embraced the truth confess it makes them feel awful.
- Related to 2 is the common belief (or perhaps instinct) that without something like religion and a faithful belief in materially transcendent morality that is both unprovable and denies its own need for proof – or equivalently in a God-like unevaluated ethical evaluator – people will see the logic of moral nihilism and, realizing there is nothing real beyond their own personal preferences, become Machiavellian real-politikers, scheming to maximize their own self-interests in what is bound to be an anti-social manner. If a poor man finds a rich man’s wallet on the ground and his desire is to keep it – knows that if he keeps it that it will give more pleasure to him than pain to the rich man and also knows he won’t get caught – then why would he ever return it unless he’s been psychologically conditioned to not use his reasoning logically and instead simply believe that he should sacrifice his own interests without justification because ‘it’s just the right thing to do’? Religion does this, and what’s going to replace it when it’s been eradicated? Some kind of thought-control apparatus of mass influence? And who exactly gets to run that? And why should anyone trust them not to turn into exploitative Machiavellians themselves?
Whatever you think about the merits of 2 and 3, suffice is to say that people like Harris perceive them to be dwindling – yet still successful and so particularly aggravating – sources of remaining psychological resistance to their persuasive goals in the kangaroo court of public opinion.
Countless alternative ethical schemes – rationally reconstructed from plausibly appealing first principles – have been proposed by true geniuses and over many centuries of effort. But while some have indeed become popular most of their authors were both philosophically sophisticated and honest enough to concede that while these systems may ‘tend to do what we want them to do’, they remained inescapably arbitrary and logically incapable of self-validation.
And while there were brief periods when it was intellectually fashionable to embrace the truth of such arbitrariness (Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche call your office), it never seems to last more than a generation or so before being replaced in one way or another by some new movement propelled by a zealous belief in the objective moral truth of their own new righteous cause.
My view is that, compared with the typical style of the previous generation of writers, current political discourse seems to have regressed into just such a remoralized phase, with such compelling arguments as ‘It’s just wrong!’ becoming increasingly common and brazen with an almost stunning lack of self-awareness or realization of any need for clarification or justification. Not just, “It is immoral not to follow my policy recommendations because God says so, or according to my preferred system of moral philosophy, with which you may of course differ in a way I cannot possibly prove to be ‘incorrect'” but simply, “It IS immoral.” Full stop.
UPDATE2: Now this: “In the blogosphere, is moralizing really that which needs to be raised in relative status?”
As if to prove my point only a week after I made it, the Blog Title has now changed from “Marginal Revolution – Small Steps Towards A Much Better World” to “REVOLUTION -Big Steps Towards A Much, Much More Moral World”.
And not just as a shortcut rhetorical device either – as if everyone understands the implied qualifications – or even as an appeal to the modal sentiments of an ethically homogenous audience, but instead out of a genuine belief that there is such a thing as a God-less objective and rational morality (which there isn’t) and that enlightened geniuses like Rawls have discovered it. So they feel they can now skip the disclaimer mumbo jumbo and just make unsubstantiated moral assertions – and without even bothering with pondering the moral calculus of hard cases – as if the answer should be obviously real and true for everybody and there is no possible good-faith disagreement on that score. And we can feel free to do this without shame even if we have a degree in Philosophy from Harvard where the professors taught us that we are certainly in the wrong about all that. Their immediate predecessors certainly wrote from the amoral frame as if that were the case, but obviously we’ve made moral progress since then.
Explaining the mystery of the remoralization of our political discourse in this increasing non-theistic age, and exploring the consequences, is a project I’ve been working on.
But the contemporary atheist moralists aren’t the only ones to reject moral nihilism in principle (and not merely pragmatically) of course. One of the cleverest Christian criticisms of moral nihilism is an argument reminiscent of Marxist Historicism and which claims that, regardless of its truth, due to its intellectual-energy-sapping incompatibility with human nature, nihilism is not self-stabilizing as a general popular – or even elite – belief system, that it is only one phase of a repetitive historical cycle and thus merely sets the stage for events which will inevitably lead to destructive horrors.
A metaphor is that nihilism deals with a problematic garden by converting the weed-picker into a plowman who then plows the garden under in a process which exhausts him to the point where he stops caring about either plowing or weed picking. Then the noxious and invasive weeds move in and take over, but they eventually choke each other’s roots into mutual annihilation, and then out of the composted rubble of the great weed-war, someone rebuilds a new imperfect garden, and so on.
The way we ‘step outside history’ is to manage social discourse in a way such as to make sure nihilist arguments can never make any meaningful progress, especially amongst the intellectual class. This isn’t too hard because, as mentioned above, nihilism is already very unappealing. It’s only real appeal is that it is logically coherent, fully consistent with the evidence scientific observation, and the most parsimonious explanation of a world full of injustice and apparently devoid of miracles.
But that’s pretty weak tea for an intellectual who is motivated in part by the adulation his peers tend to grant to bold and brilliant rebellions from the established fairy tales believed by all the idiot chump rubes, from whom they desperately want to distinguish themselves. You can’t ever breed that tendency away, but perhaps you can tame it if you can distract your intellectuals with a different mechanism by which they can jockey for status – one that always steers clear of anything with a morally nihilistic aspect.
The problem is that if moral nihilism is true, then your intellectuals will be pursuing something false and thus schismatic, and with religious-like moral fervor. Which … is exactly the problem Harris et al claim to have with religions. If this actually happened without the participants even realizing it then that would indeed be ironic. But more worrying is that it will necessarily generate a conflict between empirical reality and moral imperative.
And – as the New Atheists will be the first to tell you – historically, the loser is usually reality. The result is intellectual and philosophical stagnation in the face of either a futile impotence or an insane counterproductivity at dealing with social problems that can never be solved without breaking down one’s righteous avoidance and turning off the ideology-protecting / ego-defending cognitive filters and being able to stare a piece of ugly and morally-offensive truth straight in the face. And so they are indeed never solved, and we also never learn. And this is mostly because this setup make public constructive criticism impossible. If you try to tell someone they’re incorrect, they’ll just call you immoral and evil and then ignore or persecute you hysterically for offending their fragile sensibilities and breaching the peace. Seen any of that around lately?
Let us now return to the question of how Harris dealt with the dilemma posed by atheism resistance-generators 2 and 3 above.
The dilemma is this. He can’t make any progress in terms of public popularity by taking what I’ll call the Heartiste position and saying:
There is no such thing as morality or spirituality or meaning or purpose or soul or afterlife or God or the supernatural or good and evil or right and wrong. There is no natural law or human rights or anything like that. These are all just seductive illusions and mental reflexes, the desire and easy-suggestibility for which was implanted in your genes by evolution for reasons that are no longer operative.
You are all just a bunch of emergent phenomena of an enormous complex arrangement of strange quantum things pointlessly interacting in that weird way they do. That’s it. Everything else is make-believe which your mind refuses to accept is make-believe with every last bit of its unlimited power for denial.
Sorry if that upsets you, but that’s the truth. You should stop craving fantasy land and grow up and be an adult and just accept it and cope. If you need to talk, I’ll be poolside. We should just be getting whatever pleasure juice we can squeeze out of this big orange called life and by whatever means optimal. You should hurry up and join me and get started because there’s not as much time left as you may think to extract some safe fun during these last days of the evaporating civilization that made it possible.
Yes, I admit if this belief spread widely – as opposed to being followed by a tolerable number of free-riding sociopath parasites – that it will accelerate our civilization’s demise. It wont be a happy day when every babysitter is a Woody Allen. So what? There is only one really serious philosophical question, and that is suicide.
I think you can appreciate that this message doesn’t tend to win many hearts and minds, which is what Harris is trying to do.
Another option could be the brutal honesty of moral subjectivity, “This is merely what I, Sam Harris want. I prefer to live in a world where people feel compelled (and are occasionally coerced) to obey this principle. It’s not a universal truth, it’s just the truth of my preference. It’s not any more significant than my preference for chocolate over vanilla ice cream, but it’s still real.”
Again, not very persuasive unless you happen to want what Harris wants. When’s the last time you verbally convinced someone to change their favorite flavor of ice cream?
The only other option for a moralist Atheist is to contradict the Hume, Leff, and Heartiste positions by means of scientific 2-like statements which any skeptic could verify, and this he cannot do because it is impossible.
Well, the easiest way to end a war is to surrender. The second easiest way is to stop fighting, declare victory even if you didn’t actually take a single inch of territory, and just pretend you won. You can hold your triumphal parade to the folks back home who never witnessed the battle.
And this is what Harris has done. The way to address the questions of morality and spirituality is simply to assert as confidently and unapologetically as possible that there is indeed such a thing as an objective, rational, universal atheist morality (which is something like a natural law of the universe) and that atheists can be ‘spiritual’ too. Over three years ago, Harris published his “The Moral Landscape” to make the first assertion at length, and in a few months he will release “Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion“.
I don’t know how persuasive these books will turn out to be, but they probably offer some false but genuine comfort to the marginally-loyal atheist who is logically-able and philosophically-sophisticated and who would otherwise be quite bothered by the problems discussed above. And who do we accuse of dishing out false but genuine comforts – of dispensing opium to the masses? And now we get self-righteous atheists both as pretty-lies-junkies and as pushers too. Terrific.
But my assessment is that, so far, Harris is having less success pushing his dope than he had originally hoped for, hence the existence of this
publicity stunt essay contest. It would be hilarious and genius if Harris bought all his press for only one thousand dollars, picks the stupidest submission while claiming it was the ‘best’ (thus enabling the perception which makes all his critics appear even more asinine) and then easily tears it apart. But I doubt he’s that deviously clever, and I think he’s being completely sincere.
But I don’t detect any ‘trend discontinuity’ of noticeable acceleration in the decline of religious attitudes in the public as a result of Harris’ work – or even all the New Atheists combined. Of course, it would be silly to expect mere books to accomplish that goal, but that is what the books themselves claim is their purpose. So why is Harris having any trouble? The answer, in two words, is ‘Direct Game‘.
And direct game applied to people predisposed to reject your message is usually unsuccessful, often even for the masters. So maybe what the New Atheists need is a bit more salesman’s subterfuge and indirect game, though that requires a great deal more sophistication and intelligence.
And it is by this path that we come to the so-called Straussians and Neoconservatives.
Paul E. Gottfried has recently published, “Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America“. (UPDATE: See also Daniel McCarthy’s Review, Gottfried’s Response, and McCarthy’s rejoinder – all excellent), Quick, be like Handle and go buy and read everything Gottfried has published (ok, fine, just the stuff written in English). Done? Good. Well, as you might imagine, the book has come under a great deal of specious criticism from fans of Strauss’ project, and Gottfried recently responded in a post at the impressive “Nomocracy in Politics Site“.
Let me do a great deal of torturous injustice to Gottfried’s work by breaking down the history of the Straussian successful ‘subversion’ of the intellectual commanding heights of the American establishment right; a takeover that was benevolent and enlightened, outright welcomed and invited, or sinister and insidious, depending on your point of view.
- Strauss inclined towards the Schopenhauer-Nietzsche tradition early in his philosophic career (see the beginning of ‘the Heartiste position’ above)
- Then the Nazis and Soviets, the horrors of WWII, genocide and persecution (for example, of Strauss himself), and the ghastly Communist domination of much of the world’s population.
- Which was really, really bad, and promised to get much, much worse with the explosion of technology-enabled state capability.
- And, Strauss reasoned, some of that badness can be fairly laid at the feet of the vacuum created by the demise of traditional Christianity and its replacement with alternative sociopolitical-rooted philosophies which, it seemed, were even more likely to go completely berserk in the modern age. It didn’t matter that they were slightly more in accord with reality than old-time religion, because it is now pretty clear that public truth isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and there are far worse things than spreading noble lies. Integrity is a value, but so is peace, harmony, and especially, survival.
- So what to do? It’s not like you can (or even want) to bring back old-time religion. You need something religion-like to take its place which is a more human-friendly societal operating system. You would need that thing to be positioned against nihilism in general as part of its cultural legacy, and especially its worst excesses of Fascism and Communism, and to possess the actual geopolitical power able to withstand those rivals and crush any potential upstarts. Because you can’t build it from scratch, you would like to build upon an already existing tradition and just nudge it a little in the direction you’d prefer it to go.
- Cut to the chase: It’s America silly – time to grab the reigns of that least worst behemoth. And that means it’s also time to swallow your pride, suppress your compulsion to tell the truth, and stop making the obvious arguments against the absurdities of democracy, rights, equality, and so on, and instead flatter existing patriotic Americans who love this stuff by doubling down on your extolations.
- With two exceptions. First, that whole ‘isolationism’ thing, the prudent anti-foreign-entanglements view of which was the genuine American tradition that went back to nation’s founding. Well, you can hardly crush Nazi and Communist nihilists and keep that around, so it’s got to go, replaced with a messianic Palmerstonian interventionism of righteous crusades. Second, a truly universal civil faith will have to actively divorce itself from it’s particular Christian and Northern-European heritage. Paleoconservatives who don’t get this will simply have to make way for Neoconservatives. Or they can be made to make way. Whatever.
- So we get into ‘the uses of history’ clever propaganda territory. A modernized version of the American classical liberal tradition is now The American Religion (which it has always really been, in truth).
- And if anyone tries to criticize you and you can’t silence them, then you can always accuse them of being immoral or unpatriotic.
- And, yeah, all this kind of depends on having actual dangerous nihilist enemies to fight. It would probably all break down and go berserk in its own way if that condition were to disappear. But it’s not we’re writing a permanent script for all time (though, of course, we have to pretend to be doing exactly that). It’s just for a generation or so, until the current storm passes. When it does, hopefully, maybe, people in the future will be able to safely liberate themselves from this concocted, but extremely useful, nonsense – this old and newly-improved secular religion. But from the point of view of where we stand in the immediate aftermath of the war – the heaps of smoking rubble, mounds of human ash, cold war, and the prospect of nuclear annihilation or Communist domination – (the mugging by reality which has opened the eyes of even those who were once devout Trotskyites) I’ve got to say, I’m willing to take that chance.
And the rest, as they say, is history. The paleoconservatives got a bad shake from all this, but even they admit that it was worked like a charm – at least in terms of its success in conquering the intellectual right and creating lots of brilliant disciples (some witting, some not) to further the project along. I think even Strauss would be surprised with the way much of this work has shifted from Historians, Philosophers, and Political Theorists to Economists, Journalists, and Foreign-Policy players.
If Sam Harris wants us to follow his own prescriptions for morality and spirituality, then he could definitely learn a thing or two from old Master Leo about how to gradually and stealthily replace an old religion with a new one.
Unfortunately, the Straussian-American religion is now well past its sell date, and the Atheist Evangelist Religion will never be ready for prime-time because it can never overcome its own self-contradictions. Traditional religion is everywhere on the ropes, and the pool-sides are getting increasingly crowded. To some of us who have particular preferences, this – and a whole host of many other social issues – looks like a big problem in need of some radically new solutions. But no one can get anywhere if those solutions can’t get past the firewall that someone implanted in your brain and had the nerve to name ‘morality’ when, in the end, it was nothing more than ‘politics’, which is to say, ‘power’.
Human being are naturally power-seekers, of course, and our brains are made to help us rationalize our selfish motives away in the name of something we can justify as the greater good. The second most dangerous psychological vulnerability is the tendency for unconscious-hypocrisy to hijack the moral sense and put self-interest firmly in the driver’s seat. The most dangerous one is the tendency to accept someone’s else’s elucidation of their own power-driven-morality as accurate, driven by the reflexive instinct for morality as an adaptive social coordination mechanism.
The original critical-mass of publically prominent atheists emerging from the enlightenment made exactly this claim in their criticism of old-time religion. That is was merely a system created (or which perhaps emerged spontaneously) to organize and justify social and political power through thought-control. And that we wouldn’t be able to make certain kinds of progress unless we liberated our minds from that thought-prison.
Our problem today is just the same because the human mind is made to be institutionalized, and like the old prisoner, can’t handle life on the outside for long. As we enter a pathetic parody of an increasingly remoralizing phase of our contemporary ‘intellectual’ life, we witness a long line of new wardens. They all live in their own cozy jails, naturally, and are all in full agreement as to the benefits of mass incarceration – eagerly jousting with each other and salivating over the prospects of the lucrative commissions should the line of new prisoners be persuaded to select their particular cell-block.
The real moral landscape challenge, then, is to recognize the efforts of Sam Harris for what they really are, even if he won’t. And, of course, and even if propelled by necessity rather than nobility, to summon the courage to face life on the outside.