- Oct 2020
Human empathy in the perception of nature
Many people seem to think that a universal conception of morality requires that we find moral principles that admit no exceptions. If, for instance, it is indeed wrong to lie, it must always be wrong to lie—and if one can find a single exception, any notion of moral truth must be abandoned. However, the existence of moral truth—that is, the connection between how we think and behave and our well-being—does not require defining morality in terms of unvarying moral precepts. Morality could be a lot like chess: some principles generally apply, but they might admit to essential exceptions. If you want to play good chess, a principle like “Do not lose your Queen” is almost always worth following. Nevertheless, it admits exceptions: sometimes sacrificing your Queen is a brilliant thing to do; occasionally, it is the only thing you can do. However, it remains a fact that from any position in a game of chess, there will be a range of objectively right moves and objectively bad ones. Suppose there are objective truths to be known about human well-being—if kindness, for instance. It is generally more conducive to happiness than cruelty is—then science should one day be able to make exact claims about which of our behaviors and uses of attention are morally right, which are neutral, and worth abandoning (Harris 2010).
Harris, Sam. The Moral of Landscape. New York: Free Press, 2010.