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“Consider the great problem of women’s bodies. What to do about them? Well this is one thing you can do about them:


You can cover them up.

Now it is the position, generally speaking, of our intellectual community that while we may not like this, we might think of this as ‘wrong’ in Boston or Palo Alto, who are we to say that the proud denizens of an ancient culture are wrong to force their wives and daughters to live in cloth bags? And who are we to say, even, that they’re wrong to beat them with lengths of steel cable, or throw battery acid in their faces if they decline the privilege of being smothered in this way?

Well, who are we not to say this?

Who are we to pretend that we know so little about human well-being that we have to be non-judgmental about a practice like this? I’m not talking about the voluntary wearing of a veil — women should be able to wear whatever they want, as far as I’m concerned. But what does ‘voluntary’ mean in a community where, when a girl gets raped, her father’s first impulse, rather often, is to murder her out of shame?

Just let that fact detonate in your brain for a minute: Your daughter gets raped, and what you want to do is kill her.

What are the chances that represents a peak of human flourishing?

Now, to say this is not to say that we have got the perfect solution in our own society. For instance, this is what it’s like to go to a news stand almost anywhere in the civilized world:


Now, granted, for many men it may require a degree in philosophy to see something wrong with these images.

But if we are in a reflective mood, we can ask, ‘Is this the perfect expression of psychological balance with respect to variables like youth and beauty and women’s bodies?’ I mean, is this the optimal environment in which to raise our children?

Probably not.

OK, so perhaps there’s some place on the spectrum between these two extremes that represents a place of better balance. Perhaps there are many such places — again, given other changes in human culture there may be many peaks on the moral landscape.”


From Sam Harris’s TED Talk on The Moral Landscape. Watch this particular excerpt below: