This reader liked the book, to say the least:
I am 69, an atheist, and a retired engineer. Until I read about Waking Up on the Dish, I had never heard of Sam Harris. Because of his book, not only will I die happily, I will be happier for the rest of my life. For a long time I struggled with questions such as “Where was I before I was born?” and “What happens to me after I die?” I had not researched to find answers to my questions. However, the scientific and philosophical discussion by Harris has convinced me that consciousness is self (I). My perception of I is just my consciousness. Bingo! Now I am not worried about “I.”
Another offers a critique:
The problem with Sam Harris’ thesis is that he spends a good deal of energy to destroy one dualism – the self and the rest of the world – and then focuses the rest of his capital on constructing another in its place – consciousness and sensory perception. As if consciousness is any easier to define as a continuous, knowable entity than self. A valid argument could be made that he’s simply substituted one term for the other and both are subject to the same powerful criticisms he makes against self – that both are elemental, Western constructs of spirituality that don’t survive analytic examination.
What are we left with then, if that’s the case? A construct of consciousness that, on the most basic level, is completely reducible to brain waves and other sensory input. Humans may seem to be more complex organizations than, say, rocks and debris. The brain is a wonderfully mysterious organ to behold, after all, especially by its owner or someone similarly placed. And true spiritual oneness with the world could start by meditation and a loosening up of the dualistic approach we utilize to strap the world down on a gurney and do with it as we please.
But Harris might need one more nudge in an Eastern direction, to get his argument fully down. He’s wedded himself to the existence of consciousness, despite acknowledging all along that it is not scientifically provable (except, he argues, through self-examination).
Or one nudge back West, in which the richness of human experience and thought cannot be reduced to neurons, without making it meaningless. Another turns the critique toward me:
Like many, I found Sam’s book enlightening and deeply challenging. And, like you, in the end I found myself unable to follow him into the complete annihilation of the self; it is too intuitively, phenomenologically present, it seems to me, to accept Sam’s dismissal. But the traditional Western view of the self seems also unsatisfactory, hence the value of trying to see things from a different perspectives.
However, I also cannot accede to your Christian idea of a self relating to an altogether different and greater entity or being (which, only too often, amounts to the projection of human personality traits onto God, emotions such as love or anger or jealousy).