Sam Harris on the Self

Suffice to say this was a disappointing video from a former youtuber I used to watch. He didn’t really give much pushback to what Sam was saying, and from what I gather Sam seems to have fallen off a lot. I often hear a lot of criticism about him from Buddhist circles for using meditation and stuff but divorcing it from the teachings and teachers and, I’ll be honest, it shows. He really doesn’t understand what they mean by the self being an illusion or anything like that.

I don’t really agree with his notions that the self can be explored through stuff like meditation or psychedelics. Having done meditation all I could really say is that it gave me certain experiences but it wasn’t really helpful in any capacity nor did it really lead to me questioning much.

For me that “State” he talks about was no help. It wasn’t peace, tranquility, nothing like that but just nothing. I wanted and desired nothing and felt like nothing, it was just…null. Only after recovering from it could I get on with life.

Even the last bit he calls “logical” (around the 21:00 mark) doesn’t track. Consciousness is a sense as much as that sense of self is, it’s not some backdrop or light that makes that possible. The way I think of it is that consciousness is like electricity to a computer, without it nothing can run but all the parts are still there without it. You aren’t consciousness but the “mind”, consciousness just lets you be you or powers you on. Him thinking that the sense of self is just that seems off, it sounds like he doesn’t want us to be reduced to what we really are.

This isn’t even going into how our brains construct or model reality so technically it would all be a sense even consciousness.

Hard to believe he’s a neuroscientist. Though I question the reasoning of a guy who has tried (and failed numerous times) to prove objective morality.

Have you seen chomsky take him apart with his quivering over moral equivalency between USA and alqueda ??

I haven’t but I can guess, so far I’m not impressed by him.

That was an email exchange, years ago. They never met. A lot was left unresolved.

On the contrary. Chomsky analyses data effectively while also understanding global power dynamics and uses both to draw final conclusions. If all he did was look at data and spit out the answers that were a direct result his analysis would be no more valuable than the main stream media’s of this election cycle proved to be at every step. Sam Harris is right that intent is an important factor but misses that committing atrocities is still committing atrocities which Chomsky is willing to point out. Chomsky, to me, seems more able to be fully intellectually honest here because he isn’t “at bat” for any particular side other than human decency and worth whereas Sam Harris is at least partly playing apologist for US State actions. And let’s not kid ourselves there are MANY instances of US foreign policy being based on selfish economic interest which are sold with a thin veneer of “noble intent”. Iraq War = For OIl+Gain Geopolitical Power/Sold as “Liberation”; Vietnam/Laotian/Cambodian Wars + El Salvador/Guatemalan/Nicaraguan “Elections” = Gain Geopolitical+Economic Power/Sold as “Fighting Communism”+“Defending the People”

It sounds like you had great expectations for the video, and it is sad when someone you have followed fails to reach them; Your criticism of Sam’s meditation style and comprehension of Buddhist teachings is understandable, especially if; you have tried meditation before and found it lacking.
Your parallel of awareness to electricity in a computer is intriguing and provides an alternative viewpoint

These points were addressed by Sam when he published the email thread. Scroll to the bottom. Read the whole thing.

Well I also found his video with Sapolsky good until the end where they have no plan on how to make a society that learns free will isn’t real work. They just blithely state that it’s a problem to solve, NO! You need a plan or at least framework for it.

Awareness to electricity seems to be what it is. What they talk about with the observer watching thoughts is still the mind, not some third entity or self.

Sam’s “style” is ignorant of everything that meditation is or the concepts he’s talking about. It’s why his books are blasted for not knowing anything they talk about.

To the contrary, harris ignores chomskys point about intention and with no evidence presented posits that the intention of Clinton was to destroy a chemical weapons plant.

Can you say what you think Chomsky’s point about intention is?

Harris’ theme as stated by him is, “But you would not know this from reading Chomsky. For him, intentions do not seem to matter. Body count is all.”

The question of intentions specifically about Al-Shafi plant are addressed at the outset. " Did the Clinton administration intend to bring about the deaths of thousands of Sudanese children? No. Was our goal to kill as many Sudanese as we could? No."

I’m not understanding what you mean by evidence, since neither Harris nor Chomsky have it. We have to make some assumptions about what is in the mind of leaders. I don’t see Chomsky spending much time on the issue of Clinton’s intention to kill children. Maybe I missed something.

Chomsky spends a lot of words insulting Sam, misstating his comments, and claiming there are details he is missing. Like this paragraph, “And in particular, I am sorry to see your total refusal to respond to the question raised at the outset of the piece you quoted. The scenario you describe here is, I’m afraid, so ludicrous as to be embarrassing. It hasn’t even the remotest relation to Clinton’s decision to bomb al-Shifa – not because they had suddenly discovered anything remotely like what you fantasize here, or for that matter any credible evidence at all, and by sheer coincidence, immediately after the Embassy bombings for which it was retaliation, as widely acknowledged. That is truly scandalous.”

Sam comes back with direct questions, which remain hanging.

Ironically, Chomsky probably could have set Sam straight on many points, but he missed that opportunity and went into the weeds of minor details and obscure quotes.

Harris is a great example of how atheism does not lead to enlightenment.

*Harris uniformly finds American “intent” morally superior.
*we all do that so using motives as a factor cannot count.

  • so rather than discussing obvious factual case Harris concocts fantastical “thought experiments”
  • Harris then tries to win by controlling the description of the parties’ respective motives or intents.
    *but our enemies would describe our motives differently than we do.
    *And we should be able to see their motives as they do

Chomsky is so right to discount “intent” in favor of reasonable foreknowledge of its consequences in weighing up the moral space between 9.11 and attack on sudan

Kind of generalizing a bit, isn’t it?

I don’t know what * means. I can’t tell if you are quoting Chomsky, or summarizing, or what.

The foreknowledge is not that easy to know, and this leaves out the weighing of the military need. I wouldn’t have sent those bombs, that doesn’t change what the intentions were.

I don’t think the atheism bit is related to how he’s not that intelligent.

Its the bit about those that say the atheist’s foundation is clear critical thinking.

AQ could not have foreseen that 3000 people would die when those towers went down. Its intention was to show the superpower that it too can be harmed and its hegemonic confidence left shaking by destroying the pillars symbolising its power and status. Your logic - does intention matter here?

Harris is not in the same league as chomsky as he doesnt have a grasp on politics, foreign policy , power structures and economics . Thats why he always turns to hypotheticals which is always followed up with a chomsky “Now back to reality” comment

Well, this just went off the rails.

This is not dialog.

Bang ! A checked out response when your intellect has been gazumped.

chomskys point down to a T with that comment.

I thought I would ve nice and let you know why I’m ending this discussion. Throwing insults would be another reason.