Sam Harris

Neuroscientist, Philosopher, Author and Podcaster

Sam Harris is an author, neuroscientist, and podcast host. His work touches on a wide range of topics, including rationality, religion, ethics, free will, neuroscience, meditation, psychedelics, philosophy of mind, politics, terrorism, and artificial intelligence. Harris came to prominence for his criticism of religion, and Islam in particular, and is described as one of the "Four Horsemen of Atheism", along with Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett. His academic background is in philosophy and cognitive neuroscience.

Book Recommendations


I Am That

by Nisargadatta Maharaj

He was an incredibly clear and amusingly irascible guru. He said a few crazy things, as many gurus do. But if you stick to what he was claiming about the nature of experience, I think you’re on firm ground and that book is very accessible and it’s in dialogue format.

Sam Harris, source
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Machete Season

by Jean Hatzfeld

If you want to see what it’s like when things go about as wrong as they can go, read “Machete Season,” which is a short book about the Rwandan genocide. This is a fascinating and harrowing book because these were, at least the people they chose to interview, rather disconcertingly smart, introspective guys who have totally clear consciences with respect to what they did. It is amazing to get into their heads. These guys were just unhappy to be have been caught and to have landed in jail, but youreally get the sense that they would do this over and over again. Their behavior really survived Nietzsche’s principle of eternal recurrence. They would be happy to live in a universe where they’d do this an endless number of times because it was clearly the right thing to do from their point of view. So it is a short book and a very sobering one worth reading, if you can stomach that sort of thing.

Sam Harris, source

The Flight of the Garuda

by Keith Dowman

There’s no book out there that is free of the superstition and religiosity you tend to get with books about Buddhism or Advaita Vedanta, the Hindu teachings of non-duality. So with that caveat in mind, I will recommend “In the Dzogchen Tradition,” which if you’ve read Waking Up, you know is the center of the bullseye as far as meditative wisdom. There’s one book called The Flight of the Garuda, which I think is especially beautiful and wise.

Sam Harris, source

The Anatomy of Disgust

by William Ian Miller

There’s a writer–William Ian Miller–who I think is unfairly neglected. He writes some fascinating books. He wrote a book on disgust called “The Anatomy of Disgust,” which is fun.

Sam Harris, source

Humiliation

by William Ian Miller

One book is entitled “Humiliation,” which was a great read. Just on the phenomenon of being humiliated and differentiating it from embarrassment and other similar emotions.

Sam Harris, source

Our Final Invention

by James Barrat

There have been many books on [the problem looming with respect to the birth of intelligent machines]. “Our Final Invention” by James Barrett is [one of them].

Sam Harris, source

Superintelligence

by Nick Bostrom

The philosopher, Nick Bostrom, wrote a book called “Superintelligence,” which has impressed many people for the thoroughness with which he has argued that we have a serious problem looming with respect to the birth of intelligent machines. “Superintelligence” is really the clearest book I’ve come across that makes the case that the so-called “control problem,” the problem of building human level and beyond artificial intelligence that we can control, that we can know in advance will converge with our interests, that’s truly a difficult and important task because we will wind up building this stuff by happenstance if we simply keep going in the direction we’re headed.

Sam Harris, source

Mortal Questions

by Thomas Nagel

Also, he has a book called “Mortal Questions,” which is a collection of essays. There are some very good essays in there that were very influential in philosophy and should be more influential in the culture, generally. He introduces a concept of moral luck, for instance, which very few people think about it.

Sam Harris, source

The Last Word

by Thomas Nagel

I would recommend you read his little book, “The Last Word,” which champions rationality in a very compelling way.

Sam Harris, source

Reasons and Persons

by Derek Parfit

I also recommend Derek Parfit’s book, “Reasons and Persons,” which is just brilliant and written as though by an alien intelligence. It’s a deeply strange book filled with thought experiments that bend your intuitions left and right. It’s just a truly strange and unique document and incredibly insightful about morality and questions of identity and well worth reading if you are of a philosophical cast of mind.

Sam Harris, source

A History of Western Philosophy

by Bertrand Russell

One book I recommend on philosophy, just to get your bearings, is Bertrand Russell’s “A History of Western Philosophy.” Bertrand Russell, as you surely know, is one of the great philosophers of his time and just a remarkably clear thinker and writer.

Sam Harris, source