This essay brings together work I have done over the past 10 years: on the nature of ethics, on the purpose of ethics, and on its foundations in a way that, I hope, as E.M. Forster put it, connects “the prose and the passion.” I deploy lessons learned in this process to identify and face what I believe to be crucial challenges to science and to freedom (as defended by, among others, Cicero, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Thomas Hobbes, John Stuart Mill, and Bertrand Russell). Finally I consider threats to freedom of a different sort, posed by the creation and dissemination of “alternative facts” and by what is sometimes called “super” or “full” artificial intelligence (AI).
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