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Free Will Paperback – March 6, 2012
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—V. S. Ramachandran, Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, UCSD, and author of The Tell-Tale Brain
"Brilliant and witty—and never less than incisive—Free Will shows that Sam Harris can say more in 13,000 words than most people do in 100,000."
"Free will is an illusion so convincing that people simply refuse to believe that we don’t have it. In Free Will, Sam Harris combines neuroscience and psychology to lay this illusion to rest at last. Like all of Harris’s books, this one will not only unsettle you but make you think deeply. Read it: you have no choice."—Jerry A. Coyne, Professor of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago, and author of Why Evolution Is True
"Many say that believing that there is no free will is impossible—or, if possible, will cause nihilism and despair. In this feisty and personal essay, Harris offers himself as an example of a heart made less self-absorbed, and more morally sensitive and creative, because this particular wicked witch is dead."
—Owen Flanagan, Professor of Philosophy, Duke University, and author of The Really Hard Problem
"If you believe in free will, or know someone who does, here is the perfect antidote. In this smart, engaging, and extremely readable little book, Sam Harris argues that free will doesn’t exist, that we’re better off knowing that it doesn’t exist, and that—once we think about it in the right way—we can appreciate from our own experience that it doesn’t exist. This is a delightful discussion by one of the sharpest scholars around.”
—Paul Bloom, Professor of Psychology, Yale University, and author of How Pleasure Works
About the Author
More About the Author
Mr. Harris's writing has been published in more than 20 languages. His work has been discussed in The New York Times, Time, Scientific American, Nature, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, and many other journals. His essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Economist, Newsweek, The Times (London), The Boston Globe, The Atlantic, The Annals of Neurology, and elsewhere.
Mr. Harris received a degree in philosophy from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA.
Top Customer Reviews
For those who think value is found in a dollars-to-words ratio, the thinness and focus of this volume might not seem like a bargain, but I loved having a book with something important to say that I actually READ. I'm not saying that all subject matter must be reduced to tweets, but I know that, for example, as fascinated as I am by the topic of moral improvement that Stephen Pinker covers in The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, I am never going to read more than 600 pages just on that subject. There are simply too many other things I also care about. So Harris has done people like me a real favor by thinking about free will and pulling together the relevant evidence for his position, and expressing his ideas with his trademark wit and clarity in a work that can be digested in an hour or less.
For those who read about free will in other books and publications, there's nothing very new here. In fact, given the choice between recommending this book and something else, depending on the person I was talking with, I might instead suggest Cris Evatt's The Myth of Free Will, Revised & Expanded Edition.Read more ›
"Free Will" is the persuasive essay that makes the compelling case that free will is an illusion. Free will is intuitively understood but a difficult concept to master. Dr. Harris systematically, and with few precise words destroys the notion of the concept of free will. With a degree in philosophy and a doctorate degree in neuroscience and the innate ability to convey difficult concepts to the layperson, Dr. Harris is best suited to enlighten us on such a challenging topic. This 96-page book is composed of the following eight chapters: 1. The Unconscious Origins of the Will, 2. Changing the Subject, 3. Cause and Effect, 4. Choices, Efforts, Intentions, 5. Might the Truth Be Bad for Us?, 6. Moral Responsibility, 7. Politics, and 8. Conclusion.
1. Fascinating topic in the hands of a great thinker.
2. Profound without being unintelligible. Elegant and accessible prose.
3. Does a great job of dissecting free will. The author systematically beaks down the concept of free will by attacking it from various angles.
4. More so than his previous great essay "Lying" he makes more use of his scientific background. He relays studies that support his arguments.
5. The illusion of being in control is a concept that Dr. Harris masterfully destroys.
6. The author differentiates voluntary and involuntary actions.
7. Great quotes, "Our sense of free will results from a failure to understand this: We do not know what we intend to do until the intention itself arises".
8. A discussion on the three main philosophical approaches: determinism, libertarianism, and compatibilism.
9. Great examples that help the reader comprehend the challenging concept of free will.
10.Read more ›
Sam Harris is a master of the polemic. He has written very eloquently and convincingly concerning atheism in his books, The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation. Full disclosure: My wife, Mary C. Taylor, and I are atheists and she has a website and video lectures on atheism, as well as being assistant organizer and lecturer of an atheist Meetup. She has contributed signifantly to this essay. Mr. Harris is an important force for secularism in the United States.
But his latest offering, Free Will, a scant 66 page essay in book format (with some 7 pages of notes,) is lacking in many essential ways, particularly in the matter of evidence for his claims. Harris states there is no free will, that it is an illusion, but offers no proof for his assertion. In fact, on Pages 13, 38, 39, and 40, he states that the sources of our intentions, desires, actions, and wants are unknown, a mystery, inscrutable or obscure. He seems to be asserting that because we do not know the sources for our thoughts and actions, it necessarily follows that we do not have free will. Such a flimsy connection is not proof. He cites some well known experiments, such as the Libet, all of which are inconclusive, and does not provide the reader with strong scientific evidence to back up his assertions.
Mr. Harris critiques compatibilism by too often, for such a short essay, emphasizing the differences between himself and Daniel Dennett, the philosopher who has written Elbow Room and Freedom Evolves. In fact, Dennett makes a very cogent case for the compatibilism and coexistence of determinism and free will in human beings. One of Mr.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I wouldn't call this short book an argument against free will. The key to the book is asking yourself, how could free will even be logically conceivable in the sense that most... Read morePublished 4 days ago by Brandon B.
It's a great book. I mean, if you read it, you'll understand that reviewing this book isn't a choice that I've made, but that some undetermined factor has led me to write a review. Read morePublished 5 days ago by Michael
Sam Harris strikes me as a shallow wunderkind (his own estimation) After reading babble of "proof" that our brains can't produce free will based on timing of the... Read morePublished 7 days ago by Amazon Customer
I am a big fan of sam harris. This book was interesting but not his best work IMO. It is somewhat short read but it does open your eyes a little bit.Published 14 days ago by ChadWilliam1
This should have been an article instead of a published book. Sam makes great points and it's well written, but is really just an essay in a book cover. Read morePublished 25 days ago by C Mcl
Hate this book because it is an assignment from my philosophy classPublished 25 days ago by Amazon Customer
Interesting stuff. Not sure I agree, but it's certainly food for thought.Published 27 days ago by Tim