Making Sense with Sam Harris

Sam Harris

Join neuroscientist, philosopher, and five-time New York Times best-selling author Sam Harris as he explores important and controversial questions about the mind, society, current events, moral philosophy, religion, and rationality—with an overarching focus on how a growing understanding of ourselves and the world is changing our sense of how we should live. Sam is also the creator of the Waking Up app. Combining Sam’s decades of mindfulness practice, profound wisdom from varied philosophical and contemplative traditions, and a commitment to a secular, scientific worldview, Waking Up is a resource for anyone interested in living a more examined, fulfilling life—and a new operating system for the mind. Waking Up offers free subscriptions to anyone who can’t afford one, and donates a minimum of 10% of profits to the most effective charities around the world. To learn more, please go to WakingUp.com. Sam Harris received a degree in philosophy from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA. read less

Making Sense of Encounters With Violence | Episode 4 of The Essential Sam Harris
2d ago
Making Sense of Encounters With Violence | Episode 4 of The Essential Sam Harris
This episode centers around the specter of violence and surfaces some of Sam’s most controversial positions and difficult conversations. We begin with author and former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss, who delivers some potentially life-saving aspects of “tactical empathy,” which can also be applied to less extreme circumstances. Author and security expert Gavin de Becker then lays out his thesis from The Gift of Fear, which recasts this unfairly maligned emotion as an important attention-demanding, evolved signal. We then spend time with Sam’s position on “profiling” and the moral and political complexities woven into it. This careful consideration leads to a conversation with author and firearms instructor Scotty Reitz, as they paint a stark picture of certain extremes of violence and consider what responsible gun ownership might look like. Sam then answers questions directly on his often criticized and often misunderstood position on gun ownership before we turn to author and former Navy Seal Jocko Willink to apply pressure on the philosophical stance of pacifism. We conclude with the philosopher Tamler Sommers, who ponders the idea of “honor” in society and inspects how third-party delegation of violence might generate an illusive sense of justice.   About the Series Filmmaker Jay Shapiro has produced The Essential Sam Harris, a new series of audio documentaries exploring the major topics that Sam has focused on over the course of his career. Each episode weaves together original analysis, critical perspective, and novel thought experiments with some of the most compelling exchanges from the Making Sense archive. Whether you are new to a particular topic, or think you have your mind made up about it, we think you’ll find this series fascinating.
Making Sense of Foundations of Morality | Episode 3 of The Essential Sam Harris
05-01-2023
Making Sense of Foundations of Morality | Episode 3 of The Essential Sam Harris
In this episode, we try to trace morality to its elusive foundations. Throughout the compilation we take a look at Sam’s “Moral Landscape” and his effort to defend an objective path towards moral evaluation. We begin with the moral philosopher Peter Singer who outlines his famous “shallow pond” analogy and the framework of utilitarianism. We then hear from the moral psychologist Paul Bloom who makes the case against empathy and points out how it is more often a “bug” in our moral software than a “feature.” Later, William MacAskill describes the way a utilitarian philosophy informs his engagement with the Effective Altruism movement. The moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt then puts pressure on Sam’s emphasis on rationality and objective pathways towards morality by injecting a healthy dose of psychological skepticism into the conversation. After, we hear a fascinating exchange with the historian Dan Carlin where he and Sam tangle on the fraught issues of cultural relativism. We end by exploring the intersection of technological innovation and moral progress with the entrepreneur Uma Valeti, whom Sam seeks out when he encounters his own collision with a personal moral failure.   About the Series Filmmaker Jay Shapiro has produced The Essential Sam Harris, a new series of audio documentaries exploring the major topics that Sam has focused on over the course of his career. Each episode weaves together original analysis, critical perspective, and novel thought experiments with some of the most compelling exchanges from the Making Sense archive. Whether you are new to a particular topic, or think you have your mind made up about it, we think you’ll find this series fascinating.
Making Sense of Consciousness | Episode 2 of The Essential Sam Harris
15-12-2022
Making Sense of Consciousness | Episode 2 of The Essential Sam Harris
Filmmaker Jay Shapiro has produced a new series of audio documentaries, exploring the major topics that Sam has focused on over the course of his career. Each episode weaves together original analysis, critical perspective, and novel thought experiments with some of the most compelling exchanges from the Making Sense archive. Whether you are new to a particular topic, or think you have your mind made up about it, we think you’ll find this series fascinating. In this episode, we survey the landscape of consciousness and get acquainted with the mystery of the mind. We start with an attempt to define consciousness–and veterans of conversations on consciousness will know that this is a huge part of the challenge.  David Chalmers begins with his conception of what he coined “The Hard Problem of Consciousness” and a famous question offered by the philosopher Thomas Nagel.  We then construct a “Philosophical Zombie” before the philosopher Thomas Metzinger explains why he is thoroughly unimpressed by the ability to imagine “such a thing,” while he simultaneously warns us against ever attempting to build one. Anil Seth brings some hope of whittling away the intuition gap of the hard problem by pursuing the “easy” problems, with clear scientific reasoning. Later, Iain McGilchrist lays out the intuition-shattering implications of the famous Roger Sperry experiments with split brain patients that suggest that consciousness can be cut with a knife… at least temporarily. Annaka Harris then shifts the conversation to the realm of panpsychism, which suggests that consciousness is nomologically fundamental and potentially permeates all matter.  Finally, Don Hoffman explains that consciousness is not only fundamental and non-illusory, but that the physical world we appear to be navigating is merely a virtual space-time interface, which has evolved to hide the true nature of reality from us.
#304 — Why I Left Twitter
28-11-2022
#304 — Why I Left Twitter
Only the first 1 hour and 9 minutes of this episode are available on the paywalled podcast version (the BLACK podcast logo). If you’d like to hear the full 2 hours and 34 minutes of this episode and gain access to all full-length episodes of the podcast, you’ll need to SUBSCRIBE here. If you’re already subscribed and on the private RSS feed, the podcast logo should appear RED. Sam Harris explains why he deleted his Twitter account. He then speaks with Cal Newport about the fragmentation of modern life. They discuss the history of computer science, how information technology has changed our lives, the effects of social media, the business model of the Internet, the power of TikTok, the future of Twitter, winner-take-all dynamics in podcasting, conspiracy thinking, the way technology drives cultural change, email and the loss of productivity, the cognitive cost of context switching, deep work, the benefits of controlling one's time, the problem with the advice to "follow your passion," and other topics. Learning how to train your mind is the single greatest investment you can make in life. That’s why Sam Harris created the Waking Up app. From rational mindfulness practice to lessons on some of life’s most important topics, join Sam as he demystifies the practice of meditation and explores the theory behind it. If the Making Sense podcast logo in your player is BLACK, you can SUBSCRIBE to gain access to all full-length episodes at samharris.org/subscribe.
Making Sense of Artificial Intelligence | Episode 1 of The Essential Sam Harris
22-11-2022
Making Sense of Artificial Intelligence | Episode 1 of The Essential Sam Harris
Filmmaker Jay Shapiro has produced a new series of audio documentaries, exploring the major topics that Sam has focused on over the course of his career. Each episode weaves together original analysis, critical perspective, and novel thought experiments with some of the most compelling exchanges from the Making Sense archive. Whether you are new to a particular topic, or think you have your mind made up about it, we think you’ll find this series fascinating. In this episode, we explore the landscape of Artificial Intelligence. We’ll listen in on Sam’s conversation with decision theorist and artificial-intelligence researcher Eliezer Yudkowsky, as we consider the potential dangers of AI – including the control problem and the value-alignment problem – as well as the concepts of Artificial General Intelligence, Narrow Artificial Intelligence, and Artificial Super Intelligence. We’ll then be introduced to philosopher Nick Bostrom’s “Genies, Sovereigns, Oracles, and Tools,” as physicist Max Tegmark outlines just how careful we need to be as we travel down the AI path. Computer scientist Stuart Russell will then dig deeper into the value-alignment problem and explain its importance.   We’ll hear from former Google CEO Eric Schmidt about the geopolitical realities of AI terrorism and weaponization. We’ll then touch the topic of consciousness as Sam and psychologist Paul Bloom turn the conversation to the ethical and psychological complexities of living alongside humanlike AI. Psychologist Alison Gopnik then reframes the general concept of intelligence to help us wonder if the kinds of systems we’re building using “Deep Learning” are really marching us towards our super-intelligent overlords.   Finally, physicist David Deutsch will argue that many value-alignment fears about AI are based on a fundamental misunderstanding about how knowledge actually grows in this universe.
#299 — Steps in the Right Direction
03-10-2022
#299 — Steps in the Right Direction
Only the first 40 minutes of this episode are available on the paywalled podcast version (the BLACK podcast logo). If you’d like to hear the full 2 hours and 3 minutes of this episode and gain access to all full-length episodes of the podcast, you’ll need to SUBSCRIBE here. If you’re already subscribed and on the private RSS feed, the podcast logo should appear RED. Sam Harris speaks with Russ Roberts about decision-making and the nature of moral progress. They discuss the shortcomings of economics as a science, the power of books, the difference between "wild" and "tame" problems, Darwin’s embarrassing thoughts about the value of marriage, the utility of decision of analysis, incommensurate goods, free riding, counterfactuals, how the decisions we make change us, the difficulty of predicting future experience, changing moral norms, Effective Altruism, free speech, whether we are making moral progress, social media, truth vs comfort, problems with consequentialism, rule-based consequentialism, free will, meditation, and other topics. Learning how to train your mind is the single greatest investment you can make in life. That’s why Sam Harris created the Waking Up app. From rational mindfulness practice to lessons on some of life’s most important topics, join Sam as he demystifies the practice of meditation and explores the theory behind it.   If the Making Sense podcast logo in your player is BLACK, you can SUBSCRIBE to gain access to all full-length episodes at samharris.org/subscribe.