- Series: A Bradford Book
- Paperback: 248 pages
- Publisher: A Bradford Book; New edition (August 7, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0262527790
- ISBN-13: 978-0262527798
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 19 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #557,615 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Elbow Room: The Varieties of Free Will Worth Wanting (A Bradford Book) Paperback – August 7, 2015
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A spirited and engaging defense of a compatibilist view of free will that has had a significant influence on debates about the topic since its publication thirty years ago. Dennett's characteristically imaginative examples and arguments in this book continue to engage those who agree with his compatibilist position, and to challenge those of us who do not.―Robert Kane, University Distinguished Professor of Philosophy Emeritus and Professor of Law, The University of Texas at Austin
True classics are dazzling when they are written and should be dazzling forever. Daniel Dennett's Elbow Room makes the cut as he captures what a thorough analysis of the problem of free will looks like. Bravo!―Michael S. Gazzaniga, Professor of Psychology and Director of the SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind, University of California, Santa Barbara
Elbow Room remains one of the most impressive and engaging defenses of compatibilism about free will and science―in Dennett's conception, the position that our scientific knowledge does not conflict with the kinds of free will worth wanting. In view of the tendency of recent scientific challenges to free will to dismiss compatibilism, this book is even more timely now than when it first appeared.―Derk Pereboom, Susan Linn Sage Professor of Philosophy, Cornell University
About the Author
Daniel C. Dennett is University Professor Codirector of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. He is the author of Brainchildren: Essays on Designing Minds; Sweet Dreams: Philosophical Obstacles to a Science of Consciousness; Elbow Room: The Varieties of Free Will Worth Wanting; Sweet Dreams: Philosophical Obstacles to a Science of Consciousness (all published by the MIT Press), From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Mind, and other books.
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Among the many other things done in this book, Dennett breaks apart the poor reasoning that moves one from Determinism ro Fatalism, which is commending in itself. He also goes into the problem of "ought implies can" and what that actually means, the concept of "I have free will if I could have acted differently", and ideas of luck and fairness.
All in all it is a very good read and Dennett does a good job showing how the compatibilist's position is well reasoned and is particularly hopeful.
He also starts down an interesting road with regard to what determinism really means and why it might not be so bad. He points out, I think rightly, that the future is unkowable in principle for anyone (except an opmipotent being) because of chaotic effects. This means that in principle (not just in practice) even if we had all the information and knew all the laws of physics we could not predict what will happen, not be able to predict the future. So even though we will tread only one path through life (some day we wand others will be able to look back and see that path) we don't know what it will be. This is a good idea, but as Dennit admits it needs more filling in. The idea is interesting but the implications are still quite unclear to me.
So we have two major threads. First, our deliberations matter (at least for some things and more likely for the things that we expect or want them to matter to) and second, the future is an unknown and therefore contains genuine opportunities. Together these ideas can actually support the seeming contradiction that even in a determined world, we have free will.
I don't agree with everything in the book and there is clearly more filling ut to be done on some of the more inetersting issues, especially the implications of those issues. However, the book is entertaining, thought provoking, and sheds significant light on the issue by cleaing up some bad conceptual muddles. Also, it will be just plain good for your brain. I would recommend it to anyone interested in this question.