Frank Hestvik's Reviews > Free Will

Free Will by Sam Harris
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Jul 08, 12

bookshelves: non-fiction, cognitive-science, read-physical-book, neuroscience, short
Read in July, 2012

A sort of informal essay on why free will (as most people think of it) is an illusion. Discussion of various research, etc., surrounding the biological fact (pretty much) that our consciousness is not truly "in control." This wasn't all that interesting because it aligns so well with what I already believe--that our consciousness is more like a rationalization/narration module, rather than some center of executive control--so it didn't really "challenge" me and I can't rate it highly simply for "A+ SPREAD THE GOSPEL BROTHER." Rating is rather based on presentation, format, and language.

And this format isn't that interesting for me. I've never liked essay-style writings, informal or not. It's also a bit scattered and disorganized, some repetition of arguments, etc., but I suppose that comes from the colloquial style. I doubt this is a book he labored over for years and years. Some of the research results he talks about seemed extreme even for me, so that was a bit interesting too. It was perfectly OK / mild like.

The most illuminating part for me personally though, was a very clear explanation of how Harris' position differs from the view of his compatibilist friend Daniel Dennett's, boiling it down to a difference in view on what is said to actually have/exert "free will" (rather than differing on what "free will" means). I.e. Harris considers only consciousness--the conscious inner "I"--because he argues that this is indeed what most people implicitly mean to be the originator of free will.
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