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Freedom Evolves

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  1,564 ratings  ·  85 reviews
Is there really such a thing as free will? How can humans make genuinely independent choices if we are just a cluster of cells and genes in a world determined by scientific laws? In this title, the author provides a defense of free will.
Paperback, 347 pages
Published February 1st 2004 by Penguin Books, Limited (UK) (first published 2003)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Samir Rawas Sarayji
100 pages into this book and I became utterly bored. I find it hard to digest holistic overview approaches when used by a philosopher to prove his point. Let me say at the outset that I never studied philosophy (although I did study mathematical logic) and I haven't read much in the field either, and that my criticism is that of a writer and an enthusiastic reader who's always curious. The few classic philosophy texts that I've read in the past held me from start to finish, like a good novel doe ...more
Neil
I tend to defer to authors when reading a book by someone, you know, smarter than me, but I'm fairly certain that this is one of the worst books I've ever read. If you read and liked this book, email me or message me on this website or something. I never bother to write reviews, but I've trudged through this book for a month now, and I hated it, so I feel compelled to write my feelings somewhere, and I'd love to hear from someone who tells me I misunderstood.

Here's the book's central concern, an
...more
AJ
Mar 06, 2007 AJ rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People interested in determinism and free will
A book combining many ideas from Consciousness Explained and Darwin's Dangerous Idea, and pushing them into their logical follow-up questions: If materialism is so true, what are we to do about determinism and free will? A more in-depth look at determinism, what freedom really is, why quantum physics has no place in arguments of free will, and why we have nothing to fear from deterministic worlds. Discusses issues in possibility, causality, possible futures versus determined futures, possible pa ...more
Gendou
Dennett cuts through the baggage wrought by naval-gazing philosophers of the past and gets to the heart of the issue of free will. He shows that determinism is no enemy of free will. He disproves quantum consciousness. He justifies using the intentional stance in a deterministic universe, then uses this handy tool to explain when and how free will arises as an human adaptation.

He also defends the morality of investigating the scientific validity of free will. He also investigates some of the mor
...more
Thermalsatsuma
We live in a deterministic universe.

Drop an apple and it will reliably fall to the ground, knock a snooker ball (or an atom) into another one at a particular speed and angle and you can predict the paths of both of them. Even the strange sub-atomic quantum realm operates within areas of probability that average out to give us the predictable effects that we can measure on larger scales.

As Douglas Hofstadter argues in 'Godel, Escher, Bach' our brains are composed of neurons with the simple funct
...more
Miloš Kostić
U knjizi Evolucija Slobode, filozof Danijel Denet jednim darvinističkim pristupom pokazuje kako determinizam uopšte nije onakav kakvim ga obično smatramo. Većina ljudi o ovoj temi razmišlja apsolutistički: ako je determinizam stvaran onda nemamo slobodnu volju i obrnuto, ako imamo slobodnu volju onda ništa nije predvidivo. Denet ovde pokazuje da je moguće i po malo od oba. Determinizam ne znači neizbežnost i ne znači potpuno određenu sudbinu. Čak se ispostavlja da determinisan svet često povećav ...more
Dylan
Jun 18, 2009 Dylan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jonathan
I was interested in this book because of the hypocritical inconsistency exhibited by many secular types who, reasonably enough, deny the existence of "God" but bristle at the prospect that we all live in a completely determined universe. They (and I include myself here) reflexively feel that while science rightly treats the entirety of the natural world as subject to the same universal (deterministic) laws, they must preserve an idea of human free will as an exception to the laws of physics, in ...more
Socraticgadfly
Not much new here, which is truer and truer of Dennett's later works

The biggest problem, other than this book largely recycling "Elbow Room"?

Dennett refuses to take his ideas on free will to their logical conclusion, and stops at a brink.

That "logical brink" would be that, if there is no "Cartesian Meaner," no central controller of consciousness, then logically there is no "Cartesian Free Willer," no "central meaner," either.

But, Dennett, as he did in Elbow Room (written before he fully formula
...more
W Geoff
Having read a lot in the area of consciousness and free-will and being a researcher in neuroscience, I can say that Dennett has a good grasp of the most important aspects of this field. For anyone not in the field, they can get an excellent review of the many sides of the debate. In addition to reading the scientific and philosophical journals, out of professional interest, I was also reading Wegner's "The illusion of Conscious Will". I can't be completely objective, because both authors were pr ...more
Darren
"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 natur ...more
Gary
I enjoy the author's approach to our deterministic universe and the perspective of free will with moral responsibility for our own actions. As always, the author is never in your face with his beliefs and practices the art of critical reasoning better than anyone. He puts others contrary viewpoints in their most effective forms and systematically shows why they are not right and are not as effective as they might seem at first glance, and then goes on to build a coherent consistent system.

For me
...more
Richard Rogers
Daniel Dennett is a brilliant explainer. He takes a blend of science and philosophy and makes it accessible to the casual (well, non-scientist) reader. He certainly does that in this book, though I can't claim to understand big chunks of his logic, for which I blame myself. (Since it's a book about personal freedom, autonomy, blame and responsibility, I could hardly hold him accountable for the concepts I didn't grasp!)

It isn't as entertaining or broadly appealing as "Darwin's Dangerous Idea," b
...more
Kent Winward
Dennett's books are the best at illuminating Darwin's strange logic. The evolutionary tale of humanity is much more rich and enlightening than any of its mythical counterparts, particularly as told in this book focusing on free will.

Free will is in some ways an illusion for us. Our bodies routinely react before our conscious mind is even aware of what our brain has told it to do, but this doesn't mean that we don't have free will. Our evolutionary tale is one of increasing freedom as our capacit
...more
Kel
Whatever free will is, determinism is the wrong way to think about it!

Whenever I see a discussion of free will online, inevitably someone drags quantum mechanics into it. It's a confusing notion at first, for what does quantum mechanics have to do with volition? But the less woo-inclined (i.e. those who don't equivocate the mysterious nature of quantum mechanics and the mysterious nature of consciousness) see quantum mechanics an escape from determinism.

Whether Dan Dennett's book is a convincing
...more
Jared Nuzzolillo
The best materialistic account of free will I've yet encountered. It's not his fault, but in my opinion it doesn't quite solve the problems it sets out to solve.
Valerie
Dec 24, 2008 Valerie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Shawn Hatjes
Recommended to Valerie by: Determinism
I read this book for a paper I needed to write on my philosophy of education. It was amazing in places. My paper, slightly less so.
Etosha
i've been 'currently reading' this book for over a year now. i'll pick it up get very into it and then put it down for months.
Jafar
Finding room for free will in a deterministic world. "Deterministic is not the same as inevitable."
Sarah
Aug 02, 2007 Sarah is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
WHY CAN'T I FINISH THIS BOOK?

I swear I've restarted it at LEAST three times.
Emily
I didn't actually finish this, and I hope to come back to it.
Blakely
Needs massive interventions on the parts of editors.
Bar Shirtcliff
I'm pretty sure this book is mostly about Dumbo (Stop that crow!). No, really, Dennett uses the phrase "Stop that crow" at least a hundred times in the book, and it isn't because it adds substance to the argument - it's like a flag indicating that he expects some people to be offended: he's sort of pointing at them disparagingly. I found that distracting, at first, and maddening by the end.

I had nothing at stake, reading the book, but I was bothered by the dull repetition, the tone, the incorre
...more
Sam
I should preface all of this by saying that I am not a philosopher and so some of the arguments which Dennett counters here we're not familiar to me in advance.

Dennett shows that physical determinancy doesn't needn't undermine the notion of free will. I hadn't really thought about this before so am thankful for the book for prompting me to think about it. That said, I don't think the argument Dennett is refuting makes a lot of sense. To me saying that free will is undermined by the fact that the
...more
Talha
Ceyreginde ciktim.
Adam
I love the perversity of discussion of free will. For something that can seem so intuitively obvious (of course we have free will, right?), how might we actually prove that it exists in the physical world…? It is surprisingly difficult.

Dennett argues for a brand of Compatibilism - where the brain, as a physical object which must obey the laws of physics and therefore its actions be pre-determined, is compatible with free will for the individual without the need for metaphysics. Sounds like a lau
...more
Derek Bridge
I was prompted to re-read this after recently enduring a public lecture on the topic of free will by an altogether lesser philosopher than Dennett. That lecture was a master class in self-deception and obfuscation. It was the typical mis-reading of what non-classical physics might offer.

Dennett understands the implications of the science much better. Quantum indeterminism does not offer us a get out of jail free card - it is as fatal to some conceptions of free will as is classical determinism.

B
...more
Nicholas
To be honest I was expecting more than I got here,from a renowned author.Most of the book concerns theories,thought experiments and suppositions that should be familiar to most people with an interest in popular science and a beginners book in philosophy.He borrows heavily from Richard Dawkins/Matt Ridley and espouses Darwinian methods, by which conscious freedom evolves from the preconscious "situation action machines" that comprise more lowly creatures.
Most of the book seemed like an extende
...more
Dustyn Hessie
This book was interesting and fun to read but I can't entertain his philosophy/science because...:

Dennett entertains the idea of a "free" human subject (or "agent" as he calls it) who must make deterministic snap nonthinking reactions and, eventually, transform into a being that never wavers when making decisions, because all decisions become practical, mathematical, scientific. This idea is quite fascinating if you fancy a future Utopia where: there is no god, no room for the imagination, no ar
...more
Jason
Some people worry about free will. They worry in particular about not having it.

If our universe is deterministic, a hypothetical being who knows all the physical properties of the universe at one point in time - where all the particles are, and where they're moving - and possesses sufficient computing power, knows the entire history and future of the universe. He knows, for example, what you're going to choose for breakfast tomorrow - and the day after, and the day after that, and all your futur
...more
Bob Nichols
Dennett's virtue is that he looks at human behavior from an evolutionary perspective. His downside is his preoccupation with human choice as conscious, rational activity, ignoring the power that comes from millions of years of our animal past that guides choice. He looks at (freedom of) choice as "I want to do X" but not at the more relevant question, "why does one want to do X." The relevance of this type of re-formulation is that Dennett sees the future lying in our hands as rational animals, ...more
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8131960
"Daniel Clement Dennett (born March 28, 1942 in Boston, Massachusetts) is a prominent American philosopher whose research centers on philosophy of mind, philosophy of science and philosophy of biology, particularly as those fields relate to evolutionary biology and cognitive science. He is currently the co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies and the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philoso ...more
More about Daniel C. Dennett...
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“Every living thing is, from the cosmic perspective, incredibly lucky simply to be alive. Most, 90 percent and more, of all the organisms that have ever lived have died without viable offspring, but not a single one of your ancestors, going back to the dawn of life on Earth, suffered that normal misfortune. You spring from an unbroken line of winners going back millions of generations, and those winners were, in every generation, the luckiest of the lucky, one out of a thousand or even a million. So however unlucky you may be on some occasion today, your presence on the planet testifies to the role luck has played in your past.” 33 likes
“If I know better than you know what I am up to, it is only because I spend more time with myself than you do.” 28 likes
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