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235 of 280 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brief, cogent, provocative and convincing.
It was a Reformed theologian who disabused me of the concept of free will several years ago, and I've found it a fascinating topic ever since. Sam Harris has produced a brief monograph on the issue that manages to distill the key issues without creating an impenetrable density for the reader to slog through.

For those who think value is found in a...
Published on March 6, 2012 by Kindle Customer

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425 of 555 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sam Harris Misses the Mark in Free Will
Sam Harris Free Will

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...
Published on March 9, 2012 by James R. Taylor


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235 of 280 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brief, cogent, provocative and convincing., March 6, 2012
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This review is from: Free Will (Paperback)
It was a Reformed theologian who disabused me of the concept of free will several years ago, and I've found it a fascinating topic ever since. Sam Harris has produced a brief monograph on the issue that manages to distill the key issues without creating an impenetrable density for the reader to slog through.

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. Cris has no credentials and the book is a collection of essays and quotes from various sources rather than a single, cohesive argument, but it makes one of the strongest cumulative cases for determinism in a short work that I've seen.

The one thing that did surprise me is the positive blurb on the book jacket from Owen Flanagan, whose The Problem Of The Soul: Two Visions Of Mind And How To Reconcile Them is a stunning case for compatabilism, whereas Harris writes, "Compatabilists have produced a vast literature in an effort to finesse [moral complications from determinism]. More than in any other area of academic philosophy, the result resembles theology. (I suspect this is not an accident. The effort has been primarily one of not allowing the laws of nature to strip us of a cherished illusion.)" And again: "Compatibilism amounts to nothing more than an assertion of the following creed: A puppet is free as long as he loves his strings." What Harris (convincingly, in my view) makes a case for is quite different from the case that Flanagan makes, so I think it is to Flanagan's credit that he nevertheless endorses Harris's work.

Daniel Dennett comes in for some well-deserved (but well-modulated) criticism in "Free Will" for the sort of epistemological shell-game he employs in an effort to rescue some "elbow room" for a brand of free will. I noted earlier that it was the argument of a theologian friend that made me realize that free will is impossible, but that's not quite complete. It was that argument in addition to the utter failure of Dennett's Freedom Evolves to convince me that anything like a free will worth having could possible exist that drained the last corpuscle of my delusion from my mind. There's nothing like a failed argument, by friend or foe, to make you consider the plausible correctness of the opposite position. The weaknesses I discerned in Dennett's case are precisely the ones Harris goes after, and in brief, intelligent prose dispatches them with an effectiveness and efficiency few authors could manage.

Harris states that the existence of an immaterial soul does nothing to rescue the notion of libertarian free will. This is certainly correct, although I have heard the argument made many times as a trope that "free will is not possible if humans don't have a spirit or soul." Because the issue is causality in general and not merely physical causality, whether a cause is purely physical, like a cue ball hitting an eight ball (or an electron firing in a neuron), or can be thought of in immaterial terms, like an idea inspiring a poem, makes no difference. Everything, physical or otherwise, is either the result of prior conditions, or if not, is random. Souls change none of that.

So theists who try to argue that without a god, humans have no free will are wrong. That simply doesn't matter. And perhaps the most disturbing implication of some points in Harris's argument is that if a god did exist, in all likelihood it wouldn't have libertarian free will, either. If you struggled with some of the absurdities inherent in our existence before, a deep appreciation of our condition vis-a-vis determinism will push you so far down the rabbit hole you might just find yourself reading much longer, more profound, denser works in some effort to get your bearings. And in the end it is probable that the best you'll be able to muster is simple agreement with what Harris says in this slim volume.
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90 of 111 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb!!, March 6, 2012
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Free Will by Sam Harris

"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.

Positives:
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. Classic Harris eloquence, "How can we be `free' as conscious agents if everything that we consciously intend is caused by events in our brains that we do not intend and of which we are entirely unaware? We can't".
11. Does quantum mechanics provide a foothold for free will? Find out.
12. Does the process of conscious deliberation provide a foundation for free will? Find out.
13. Do we really control our minds? Once again, the mastery of Dr. Harris continues.
14. The implications of not having a free will. Great points!
15. A fascinating discussion on the level of responsibility.
16. How does a retributive judicial system fit in all this?
17. Free will within a religious framework.
18. Free will and politics.
19. A final chapter that brings everything together.
20. Links worked great on the Kindle.
21. Brief, powerful essay that can be read multiple times.

Negatives:
1. My only discomfort with the essay is the casual use of the term soul. I understand that Dr. Harris does not accept the soul as an empirical concept and may have used the term as a metaphor (equating it to the brain in one instance) but I prefer leaving out all supernatural terms unless properly defined.
2. Some topics are introduced briefly and leave you wanting more, isn't that always the case with Dr. Harris?
3. Having to wait for Dr. Harris's next intellectual contribution.

In summary, what makes this essay great is that the more you read the more you get out of it. It's a profound essay that is easy to follow but is hard to master. It is so rewarding to read interesting topics from great minds. This essay is the ultimate appetizer, delicious and with an everlasting aftertaste. Free will is not an easy concept to understand but a worthwhile pursuit to endeavor and Dr. Harris makes the journey a fulfilling one. I can't recommend this brief book enough, highly recommended.

Further suggestions: "The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values" by the same author, "Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain" by Michael S. Gazzaniga, "The Myth of Free Will, Revised & Expanded Edition" by Cris Evatt, "The Problem Of The Soul: Two Visions Of Mind And How To Reconcile Them" by Owen Flanagan, "Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality" by Patricia S. Churchland, "The Brain and the Meaning of Life" by Paul Thagard, "Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts)" by Carol Tavris, "Hardwired Behavior: What Neuroscience Reveals about Morality" by Lawrence Tancredi, and the "The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature" by Steven Pinker.
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425 of 555 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sam Harris Misses the Mark in Free Will, March 9, 2012
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Sam Harris Free Will

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. Harris's breezy dismissals of compatibilism on Page 16 is that the "free will compatibilists defend is not the free will most people feel they have." Such a statement seems to imply that Mr. Harris sets aside the fine and scholarly work of many philosophers such as Dennett, because it does not accord with some popular misconception of free will. Populism would appear to trump scholarship in this book.
On Pages 10 and 24, Harris apparently infers that if we had exceptional machines and brain scanners to monitor our action sequences and choices, we would be astounded to discover that we were not in control of them. However, we do not yet have experiments that might be conclusive. To state that one knows the outcome of future experiments is nonsense. In fact, neuroscience is at the beginning of a long voyage of discovery about the brain, the mind and consciousness.
Another difficulty with "Free Will" is the author's shift to prescription rather than description. Such a segue is yet another example of the philosopher David Hume's famous and much discussed Is/Ought problem concerning Ethics. Harris suddenly advocates what the justice system should do. On Page 54, he writes: "Our system of justice should reflect an understanding that any of us could have been dealt a different hand in life. In fact, it seems immoral not to recognize just how much luck is involved with morality itself." Why should any of us assume, given Mr. Harris's assertion that choices are not in our control, that most citizens will agree about changes to our justice system? Many people, if not in conscious control of their belief and ethical systems, may reach opposite conclusions. Mr. Harris is not the only champion of determinism who seems to dismiss reason as a motivating factor, and then to advocate change based on conscious reasoning.
My opinion, after reading this small book, is that Sam Harris has done very little to advance understanding or forward the argument in the contentious and knotty issue of free will and determinism. With all due respect, I regretfully cannot recommend his Free Will to readers. Daniel Dennett's Elbow Room and Freedom Evolves are excellent starting places for a discussion of the argument. The problem of free will vis-à-vis determinism reaches back to Ancient Greece and Israel, and is not quickly or easily perused. Galen Strawson, Saul Smilansky, Peter Strawson, Manuel Vargas, Robert Kane and Daniel Wegner are excellent sources. Robert Kane has edited the Oxford Handbook of Free Will, with superb essays on both sides of the divide. Professor Shaun Nichols, from the University of Arizona, offers an excellent DVD course from the Teaching Company on Free Will and Determinism that is very balanced, thorough and essential for the appraisal and understanding of the multitudinous opinions and experiments concerning free will and determinism.
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40 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good start, but could use some fleshing out., March 11, 2012
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It's great to have Sam on board the no-free-will train, but for those of us who have been riding it for a while, the scenery may seem largely familiar. Still, the idea of not having free will is so difficult to grasp, even for those who have been struggling with it for some time, that Sam's arguments, analogies, and the recent research he presents are likely to be helpful. It's a short book for such a big topic, but its brevity and clarity may make it more accessible to some than a work of more depth might be.

On the other hand, it would have been fairly easy to give his arguments a broader perspective. For example, he says:

"People feel that they are the authors of their thoughts and actions, and this is the only reason why there seems to be a problem of free will worth talking about."(pp. 31-32, all references are to the Kindle Edition.)

In fact, people of all cultures and all times have not necessarily had this feeling. The Greeks seem to have laid the foundation for the idea, and it primarily evolved as a topic of Western thought. Seeing free will as a cultural, historical phenomenon can undermine the sense of inevitability that accompanies it in Western discourse.

Free will is part of a complex of misconceptions about how our brains work, and while Sam scratches the surface of some of these in a scattered way, these misconceptions reinforce each other, making it difficult to root one out unless all of them are exposed.

The limitations of conscious thought are part of the complex: we are conscious of only some of the end products of infinitely complex unconscious brain processes, and this is a topic Sam covers very well:

"Our sense of free will results from a failure to appreciate this: We do not know what we intend to do until the intention itself arises. To understand this is to realize that we are not the authors of our thoughts and actions in the way that people generally suppose."(p. 17)

This failure to appreciate the limitations of consciousness leads to further misconceptions, one of which is the sense of a unified self. Sam mentions that "People have many competing desires,"(p. 22) which would have been a great place to bring up the idea of multiple selves, or what I call "situational identity." Understanding how competing desires arise and how the idea of a unified self obscures their origins could further undermine the notion of free will, and help clarify how "one of these opposing desires inexplicably triumphs over its rival".(p. 22)

Language is complicit in many of our misconceptions, not just those involving free will. Its limitations allow us to imagine entities that don't exist, and no where is this more significant than in the idea of a unified self.

If Sam had explored the topics I've mentioned more thoroughly, he might have further loosened the grip of the idea of free will, and he would have had a broader base from which to explore the benefits of giving up that idea. As he says, "Getting behind our thoughts and feelings can allow us to steer a more intelligent course through our lives (while knowing, of course, that we are ultimately being steered)."(pp. 52-53)

If you'd like to go further behind your thoughts and feelings and pursue the implications, check out my essay on free will: [...]
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66 of 87 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Muddled and disappointing, April 29, 2012
By 
Aaron C. Brown (New York, New York United States) - See all my reviews
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I agree with several earlier reviewers who pointed out the weaknesses in the argument. The author relies on two main points. First is a sketchy description of two experiments that suggest some decisions are made before conscious awareness of the decision. This is a fascinating area of research that shapes ideas of what free will is, if it exists at all. But this book does not describe the research in either the breadth or depth required for useful insight, it jumps to the wild overstatement that it will be possible to predict every action of a person before that person is aware of deciding to act. Not only is this unsupported by experiment, the author contradicts it later in the book. He claims conscious deliberations affect actions, therefore it will never be possible to predict all actions before the actor is aware of the decision to act.

The second argument is a negative one, there is no clear statement of what free will is. If everything is determined by physical laws, it's hard to see much room for free will. I agree with the author that adding in randomness or supernatural causes doesn't change that. Free will has to be unpredictable from outside consciousness, but fully explained by decisions made inside consciousness. That's neither deterministic nor random, and we don't have a good theory for anything else.

But it's a weak argument to jump from "no one understands it" to "it doesn't exist." Physical determinism doesn't explain consciousness, and consciousness has to be the key to free will, since it is the conscious entity that believes it is free to choose. Moreover determinism just pushes the problem backward. If everything is predetermined, predetermined by what? We need to understand a lot more about the universe before we can assert that currently-known physical laws explain everything, including consciousness and existence, and admit only deterministic or random phenomena.

What this book actually does is argue that the scope for free will is narrower than sometimes supposed. Decisions that we believe are conscious may have been made unconsciously, and decisions we make consciously may not be implemented. I don't know anyone who disagrees with these propositions, however.

I found the amount of horrific violence in this book to be unpleasant. It opens with a multiple rape-murder and later references eye-gouging and senseless murders. Oddly, with the exception of one man hit by a baseball bat, all the victims are female, without exception all the perpetrators are male, and more than half of the perpetrators and victims are children. The book does not rise to the level of a slasher film, but it's hard to know what all this is doing is an essay on philosophy, except perhaps to distract from the weakness of the argument. There is some excuse for discussing crime, as attitudes toward free will could affect attitudes toward punishment. But in this case it is the rational crimes that are most important to discuss, embezzlement for example. That is where you are most likely to see the operation of free will, not in crimes by children or senseless crimes of extreme violence. The existence of free will does not rule out that some behavior is uncontrollable by conscious impulse.

Another off-putting section is on political implications. The author accuses "conservatives" of attributing all results in life to personal effort, that heredity and luck have nothing to do with it. He does not name anyone who supports this view, and it's not even vaguely true. I could accept as an oversimplified view that liberals are likely to emphasize social conditions and luck as determinants of life outcomes, while conservatives are apt to focus on heredity and choices. If the author is correct and everything is predetermined, then liberals have to give up luck and conservatives have to give up choice.

My final criticism is the author doesn't even attempt to be consistent with his argument. Much of the book makes no sense if he really doesn't believe in free will. "Getting behind our conscious thoughts and feelings can allow us to steer a more intelligent course through our lives," presupposes a free will to "get behind" and "steer." Adding "(while knowing, of course, that we are ultimately being steered)," makes it unintelligible. Who is steering us? Does it have free will? It might be more satisfying to believe we are steered by unconscious impulses than by conscious thoughts, but if there is no free will, how can this choice affect our steering? The concept of free will is embedded deeply in language. Any serious attempt to discuss it must be written carefully, this book is clearly not a serious attempt.
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55 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You don't have free will, March 6, 2012
This review is from: Free Will (Paperback)
Excellent short examination of the topic of free will and how it is an illusion. If this is true as Harris argues then this will certainly give new meaning to what it means to be born lucky. Not only that, but it gives an interesting perspective of how we should view hideous crimes against us, which boils down to not hating them, but certainly prosecuting and incarcerating them since they should be removed from hurting anybody else. I suppose viewed in this light can probably bring quicker healing to those victimized families knowing that those who have hurt us or our families really had no free will on their own but we just born unlucky.

The whole philosophy Sam is advocating can be boiled down to "You can do what you want, but you cannot choose what you want." He also provides a rebuttal toward compatibilists like Daniel Dennett.

Makes you look at things differently and gives you a new appreciation to life. At least this is how I came away from the book. I'll probably read this a few more times because I felt a few "aha" moments and also I felt inspired to be more moral.
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116 of 159 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I regret that factors beyond my control made me waste time reading this book, April 1, 2012
By 
Michael Huggins (Memphis, TN United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Free Will (Paperback)
At about 10 minutes after noon yesterday, an ineluctable series of causal events that no doubt began before the dawn of humanity compelled me to sit for an hour in a Barnes and Noble reading this predetermined collection of words from someone whose parents had been programmed to name him Sam Harris. I regret that this is the way I ended up spending an hour, though of course it's useless to regret what one could not help but do, and, moreover, the "I" that I imagine I am is just along for the ride anyway.

Being predetermined, I can't choose to say that one part of this collection of words was more worthwhile than any other (a sentiment with which Harris would agree, though "agreement" itself seems superfluous) but if free will were possible, I would choose footnote 15, on the next to last page of the book, in which biologist Jerry Coyne notes that no possible scientific experiment could test whether any action was free from compulsion by previous events or influences. I believe that to be correct and so believed before the predetermined hour I spent reading Harris's book, which seemed to add nothing to the question but inanity and confusion, both delivered with a rather self-congratulatory air--but then, as Harris pointed out near the end of the book, his choice to type or go drink a beer was all alike, and his book proved it.

Why Harris didn't simply point out what was in footnote 15 at the outset and then leave the publisher to bind 80 blank pages together is mysterious to me until I remembered that he couldn't help himself. In his case, unknown influences had caused him to believe that even in the absence of free will, it is still useful, not only to talk about choice but to argue against fatalism because our choices have outcomes. This is trivially true in his framework of mental events, though what "choice" could signify in such a framework beyond a polite fiction, the vestige of the very illusion Harris thinks he is exploding, is not apparent.

Other causal factors moved Harris to mention existentialism once, in which he found little use but which he was caused to congratulate for its emphasis on taking personal responsibility for creating meaning in one's life. It happens that I am predetermined to imagine that I am preferring existentialist thinking (or mental event processing) in this regard to Harris's own thoughts, which strike me as laughably facile. In my predetermined view, we do well to choose, and seek to live by, values that optimize our potential as humans. Such choices may be as simple as taking up walking for fitness and losing 35 pounds, or they may involve something more, such as learning chess or reading "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire." I suppose Harris would not object to this (indeed, it is hard to see how he could "object" to anything at all, though he certainly does so) but would simply argue that one cannot take credit for such choices, however fortunate, or suffer blame for them, even if they are criminal.

One reason that Harris seems to harp on this so much is that he is predetermined to fear that assigning moral "blame" leads to a largely punitive and inhumane society; specifically, he claims to be unable to find anything in a religious framework that enables the observer of a criminal act to reflect that he, too, might be capable of similar behavior. Actually, such a remedy exists and would have been discovered by Harris had he ever been predetermined to read the simple Christian reflection "There but for the grace of God, go I." In any case, Harris may be vindicated (if "vindication" even matters) by reflecting (or being caused to reflect) that even the act of reading this review may cause you either to avoid the book or to spend the same time reading it as I did.
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82 of 112 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sophomoric, unsupported, shallow and wrong, March 11, 2012
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I'm a Sam Harris fan - loved "The End of Faith". But this essay is so trite and silly to warrant relatively little critique (it doesn't rise to a bar to warrant more). The premise is obvious and pointless, the writing repetitive (it's a basic point - not deep or hard to grok - and he makes it over and over and over) and even at that the premise is unsupported by either evidence or logic in his presentation. At the end of the day this essay is pure garbage in that he twists the concept of free will by locking on to an uncontroversial semantics angle. So, yeah, if you want to define free will as requiring that the laws of physics don't apply and that we mustn't be impacted by our previous experiences, then, sure, we don't have free will. But who defines free will that way? Just as no one would say you don't have free will because you can't breathe under water if that's what you want to do, no one begins with Harris' premise. Wish I hadn't wasted money on this tedious, pointless essay.
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29 of 39 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Less than impressive... An unfortunate fumble., March 12, 2012
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When I heard that Harris, one of the most prominent leaders of the "New atheist" movement, was coming out with something new, I was pretty excited to check it out. When I looked it up on Amazon, I was absolutely thrilled, because the title made it obvious that he would be addressing one of my favorite subjects. I saw it was $10, so I, non-hesitantly, clicked "pre-order" and went about my day.

When the package finally made its way to my doorstep a few days ago, I opened it up found that my prior excitement was stifled on account of what I was holding: a pamphlet. I didn't properly check into the work, so I figured I would be holding a 200 page, semi-exhaustive academic piece on the nature (or, non-nature, more appropriately) of free will, with great atheist insight enlightened by the best in neuroscience. Instead, I flipped through the pages confused, trying make sure something hadn't gone wrong with the order. Then, I realized that this was, indeed, the "book" I was expecting. I was somewhat insulted that such an acclaimed thinker could muster the audacity to seriously attempt writing on such an enormous and controversial subject in 70 "pages" (at 14 pt. font, quarter inch spacing, and 1 inch margins, the booklet should have really only taken up 40).

Finishing it after dinner that evening, my shock at the size of this "book" had flipped 180 degrees: I couldn't believe that, in 70 pages, someone could actually say so ridiculously little. From one boisterous claim to another, Harris seemed all the more intent on rattling cages than actually providing clear, logical, and substantiated arguments for these monstrous assertions. Time and time again, I felt like I was listening to the erratic argument of a 17 year old youtube "atheist" who had stumbled upon some scientific evidence that had the potential to mean something, but didn't take the time to actually formulate what that was. Though some of Harris' statements would actually take hundreds of pages to evidence and argue persuasively, the booklet seemed to be a 70-page abstract of something that he *should've* actually written about (and that, no doubt, most of us were hoping to read about). Instead, we are left with the mention of a couple of notable scientific experiments (some real, some hypothetical...) that are worth considering (but are not nearly as conclusive as Harris not-so-implicitly leads on) in the debate over free will, and an absurdly disproportional set of claims to accompany this "evidence," as if 2+2 =7 billion. I've now read it for a second time, and I have seen little change to my original opinion of this pamphlet: it is, unfortunately, just an insult to the discipline and some of the great scholars who have undertaken it.

I will give respect where it is due, and Dr. Harris definitely has the credentials to make great claims and be listened to (within the parameters of his area...), but this is clearly (at least, I hope) not his best work. Though I respect both of his alma maters and look forward to his work in the future, I'm not sure that this pamphlet would pass for a senior thesis at my old undergraduate university; there's just too much asserted and not enough said to support it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good thesis--Thin argument, March 8, 2012
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Amazon Customer (Voorhees, NJ USA) - See all my reviews
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Schopenhauer said (in English translation, of course): You can do what you will, but you can't will what you will. This sentiment is paraphrased several times in Harris' little essay. A far better argument was offered by Dean Woolridge (without benefit of PET scans) in "Mechanical Man," 1969! I am disappointed. Harris is right, but this book lacks his customary intellectual vigor.
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Free Will by Sam Harris (Paperback - March 6, 2012)
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