I'll get it for Christmas!
I hope you enjoy it. Susan Blackmore's "Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction" is a good read too.
deschainXIX wrote:In fact, I think the terms "good" and "evil" are pretty archaic and outdated--they don't really mean anything and make just as much sense as "original sin."
Indeed the universe does not give a toss. Morality is not something that exists objectively, but rather, a subjective concept that hinges on human welfare. It's intrinsic to us and it developed along with our evolution and intelligence. So, as we acknowledge this truth, the vernacular "good and evil" should be updated to "good and bad," but bearing in mind that this good and bad business is not at all an objective universal law, it is only applicable at the anthropic level: it is all about what we find to be good and bad for ourselves. (And science can help us to determine such things with great clarity and with more precision.)
The only "rulebook" I have discerned that might be wholesome to consult on moral issues can be found in dogmatically adhering to what our empathetic nature tells us--don't hurt others. But adhering to nature is problematic in and of itself. Nature is wild and insane and, above all, immoral
(there is indiscriminate rape and murder everywhere in nature; its a cold horrorshow out there in the dark wild). I have not yet encountered a pragmatic reason to behave morally, none that is satisfactory, at least. When you get down to it, us realists are faced with ideals just as difficult and dangerous as the religious's delusions. Thinking can sometimes be just as dangerous as not thinking.
There is no law in the universe. (I'm not talking about the laws of physics and these are certainly impertinent to this discussion when we see that they are merely the glue that holds everything together as it were.) there is nothing in the universe which strives for justice for all sentient beings. So we had to invent law and rules of thumb mostly based on empathy. Golden rules reflect ecumenical human values which tend to be undergirded by a healthy balance of egoism and altruism. We are sufficiently intelligent to recognise that we had amoral beginnings ( and indeed we still possess the primordial, more animalistic brain which is cocooned by the more advanced encephalon). We can detect nature's flaws with more clarity and insight than ever. So now, we feel compelled to invent our ideal world, the anthropic utopia. But some people are yet to learn that we can do this without religion (and would be better of without). We need to learn to live without God as a whole. In fact, the idea of God is abject and very immoral. It also robs us of self-worth and honour. The goal is merely to work together as a species to survive and improve our lives.
The goal is to have peace and we can do this by respecting one another. This is good for us. It is naturally good not because some supernatural dictator says so but because it just so happens that naturally it will reduce our stress levels and the "happy" chemicals in our brains will help us to live longer and prosperous lives. It is good for us, the best path (we reckon) for us available in this mad universe full of dangerous paths.
deschainXIX wrote:In the end it falls back to "Is it better to be ignorant and sane or lucid and totally crazy?" In this case, neither cases are entirely realistic, because every viewpoint is at least a little flawed and dangerous. Philosophically-speaking, of course.
I think the best thing to do is be lucid, know as much as you can, and try to be pragmatic. The universe doesn't give a fuck so it is clearly not a role model or good example. Human beings need motive or motivation. The cosmos has none of these things because it is just mindless cause and effect without, pardon the pun, a care in the world. We observe and are in a position to make judgements. For instance, if an asteroid in headed for Earth, and we can tell that the collision will wipe us out, if I don't want to die and wish to see my children growing up, I'm in a position to say: "That's not good (for us/me)!"
Should we try to correct the madness we detect in the universe if it means that this madness will affect us? Absolutely! We should try to prevent the asteroid collision. The universe does not care but we do! We have a notion of positive and negative. The universe produces psychos haphazardly. Should we just fold our arms and do nothing about it? No. We should study genetics, psychology and sociology in order to get to the root of the problem and preclude the emergence of faulty human beings if possible.
We can already imagine a better universe (better for us) than the one that happens to surround us. If there was a God, He'd have to lack imagination and not be much of an engineer. Either that or He's a sadist. But rest assured that He does not exist.