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Freedom Evolves Paperback – January 27, 2004
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Top Customer Reviews
His basic effort is to reconcile the determinism of Darwinism with the humanist's concern with human freedom. To do so he jettisons the notion that free will is a metaphysical concept. Rather, he explains it in terms of contemporary objective science, specifically via the same sort of evolution that led to the development of the eye or of language. He relies heavily on Richard Dawkin's concept of the evolution of memes: ideas that compete with each other just as other characteristics do via natural selection. In other words he argues that freedom of will grows and evolves. To achieve this conclusion he makes the point that determinism (a cause mechanistically producing an effect) is not the same as inevitability. He uses an example from baseball (shades of the late Stephen Jay Gould!) to make his point. He says that a batter has a choice of turning away from a pitch that is going to hit him or allowing it to hit him, depending on which action will help his team. His action is not determined by the prior history of the universe, but by his own analysis in the moment. In a different game, he might make a different choice. This, and other similar arguments, lead Dennett to the conclusion that the more we know, the more varieties and degrees of freedom we can have. Thus, modern man has more freedom than did, say, the Neanderthal.
Essentially then, Dennett, whose earlier work in the areas of consciousness (another concept that gives determinists fits) are seminal, asserts that natural science is the ally of freedom, not an argument against it. The audacious arguments he posits to support this position are breathtaking in their scope and are, for this reader, convincing.
The problem with this book, as far as I am concerned, is that it feels rushed and disjointed. I was more than happy to read all 500+ pages of DDI because the topic deserved that much space and, honestly, that book is a pleasure to read. The topic of free will, if anything, requires even more space to develop, and I would have gladly sat through six or seven hundred pages if necessary. As it is, my understanding of Dennett's arguments is sketchy - even after letting them sink in a few days and re-reading a few sections - so sketchy, in fact, that I won't attempt anything like a synopsis here, for fear of bungling the job. Beyond that, I was a little annoyed with the amount of recycled material from CE and DDI.
So why is Daniel Dennett's task a thankless one? Because he insists that free will is not an "illusion" as some hardcore materialists claim - nor is it some "extra something" in the sense implied by traditional dualist philosophers.Read more ›
is far from a trivial matter. For anyone seriously interested in the question of how human free will can possibly be compatible with physical laws of cause and effect, and thought that nothing else could be reasonably said on the matter, this book is an essential. It will indeed help you clarify your thoughts, which is afterall one of the best things a work of philosophy can do for you, and one all too rarely accomplished by most philosophers.
For those who wonder about the conditions that foster human freedom and those that suppress it, this book doesn't quite delve into political or social philosophy per se, but it is at least a start at a real answer by providing clear thoughts and useful science and meta-science.
One very good reason for this book is that while Dan Dennett is a clear and vivid writer, particularly for a philosopher, he is also frequently rather badly misunderstood for some reason.
He has been described by reviewers as denying that human beings have free will or conscious awareness, and he has been accused of being an "ultraDarwinist," although he himself disputes these claims. In Freedom Evolves, he ties his previous ideas together and presents them in a way that will resist these misinterpretations of his ideas.
First, Dennett defends the compatibilist tradition (where free will and determinism are considered compatible in principle). He believes that the universe is probably deterministic in its physical nature, but that this doesn't mean our lives are pre-determined, nor does it prevent us from having forms of freedom worth working and fighting for.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
In this work Dennett was all over the place. He failed to clearly define the subject from the beginning of the work. Read morePublished 9 months ago by George J.E. Sakkal
Dennett writes in an extremely academic way, with jargon specific to philosophy. I was a college professor, so I don't often have difficulty getting through a book. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Jennifer Ondrejka
The existence in many species of the ability to solve a wide range of problems, and to take action on the basis of the solution, is evidence that this ability is conducive to... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Amazon Customer
Never shy, Dennett takes on the question of of free will.
His conclusion: Even in a deterministic universe, free will exists, if consciousness is understood correctly. Read more
Sorry I can't review this book but I never read it. Bought as a Christmas gift and haven't heard how the recipient liked it.Published on January 22, 2014 by muffin lover
I was looking forward to reading this book after the excellent Darwin's Dangerous Idea. Was I ever disappointed! Read morePublished on December 30, 2013 by Phil
This is a more accessible book for non-specialists than most of Dennett's writings. Without a belief in god and knowing that there is no soul, Dennett helps us to understand that... Read morePublished on December 16, 2013 by Gregory George Gibbs