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Freedom Evolves Hardcover – February 10, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
"Trading in a supernatural soul for a natural soul-is this a fair bargain?" Dennett, seeking to fend off "caricatures of Darwinian thinking" that plague his philosophical camp, argues in this incendiary, brilliant, even dangerous book that it is. Picking up where he left off in Darwin's Dangerous Idea (a Pulitzer and National Book Award finalist), he zeroes in on free will, a sticking point to the opposing camp. Dennett calls his perspective "naturalism," a synthesis of philosophy and the natural sciences; his critics have called it determinism, reductionism, bioprophecy, Lamarckianism. Drawing on evolutionary biology, neuroscience, economic game theory, philosophy and Richard Dawkins's meme, the author argues that there is indeed such a thing as free will, but it "is not a preexisting feature of our existence, like the law of gravity." Dennett seeks to counter scientific caricature with precision, empiricism and philosophical outcomes derived from rigorous logic. This book comprises a kind of toolbox of intellectual exercises favoring cultural evolution, the idea that culture, morality and freedom are as much a result of evolution by natural selection as our physical and genetic attributes. Yet genetic determinism, he argues, does not imply inevitability, as his critics may claim, nor does it cancel out the soul. Rather, he says, it bolsters the ideals of morality and choice, and illustrates why those ideals must be nurtured and guarded. Dennett clearly relishes pushing other scientists' buttons. Though natural selection itself is still a subject of controversy, the author, director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts, most certainly is in the vanguard of the philosophy of science.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
The man who advanced our understanding of consciousness and evolution in books like Darwin's Dangerous Idea now addresses the issue of freedom.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Thus when she looks back in time and does NOT (or don't want) notice the difference between actual and imaginable situations she thinks/believes that there had been multiple choices and that it had been her FREE WILL to choose the one that did realize actually; and she rejoices or blames herself.
As circumstances in her (and all mankind) life are full with subtle nuances she (and others) take for granted (or pretend to think) that the nuances do not matter and that she really IS a Free Will "boss" of her life and must take a full responsibility of her actions (which incidentally is important as it WILL have a deterministic effect on future events).
Read an excellent review by Royce E. Buehler below and buy this book at a good discount.
Dennett shows that determinism does not imply inevitability. As if that isn't enough to struggle with, he then goes on to show that indeterminism doesn't give us free will as most people argue it does. And then, to add insult to injury, Dennett shows clearly how there are real options in a deterministic world. Free will becomes "real, but it is not a preexisting feature of our existence, like the law of gravity. It is also not what tradition declares it to be: a God-like power to exempt oneself from the causal fabric of the physical world. It is an evolved creation of human activity and beliefs, and it is just as real as such other human creations as music and money. And even more valuable."
Since I speak and lecture on Ethics as a Process, I was most interested in Dennett's view on ethics. He gave me much to think about as he states that: "I have not sought to replace the voluminous work in ethics with some Darwinian alternative, but rather to place that work on the foundation it deserves: a realistic, naturalistic, potentially unified vision of our place in nature."
No doubt I will have to return to this book again soon. And there is also no doubt that I will enjoy it even more the next time around and learn perhaps as much as my first time through. This is definitely a five out of five on my review scale!
Very highly recommended.
Most recent customer reviews
His conclusion: Even in a deterministic universe, free will exists, if consciousness is understood correctly.Read more