- Series: A Bradford Book
- Paperback: 248 pages
- Publisher: The MIT Press (November 21, 1984)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0262540428
- ISBN-13: 978-0262540421
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 19 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,029,588 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Elbow Room: The Varieties of Free Will Worth Wanting 0th Edition
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Once again Daniel Dennett has made a stunning contribution to our achieving a monist physicalism which is compatible with human experiences. Just as his funtional mind-brain identity theory enable us to avoid positing 'grandmother neurons', so his new analysis enables psychologist to understand the competitive advantage of those species that believe they have free will and the stupidity of teaching introductory psychology students that they have none. A readable, light hearted book on a very serious subject. While philosphy citations outnumber those to psychology about two to one, Dennett is both well read and subtley competent in psychology, and the book will be enjoyed by intellecutal psychology students fully as much as by philosophy majors.―Donald T. Campbell, University Professor of Social Relations & Psychology, Past President, American Psychological Association
I have always enjoyed the energetic and often unexpected provocation of Daniel Dennett's mind. In these powerful and no doubt controversial lectures, he gives elbow room for fresh thought as well as free will. Anyone who reads them carefully will be delighted by the unexpected views which Daniel Dennett provides.―Jonathan Miller, Lever Hulme Research Fellow in Cognitive Science, University of Sussex
Daniel Dennett throws light into the darkness of ourselves by asking whether we are free to control our actions. I am glad I was free to choose to read this book.―Professor Richard L. Gregory, Director, Brain and Perception Labratory, University of Bristol, England
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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.