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Freedom Evolves

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  2,507 ratings  ·  108 reviews
Can there be freedom and free will in a deterministic world? Renowned philosopher Daniel Dennett emphatically answers "yes!" Using an array of provocative formulations, Dennett sets out to show how we alone among the animals have evolved minds that give us free will and morality. Weaving a richly detailed narrative, Dennett explains in a series of strikingly original
Paperback, 368 pages
Published January 27th 2004 by Penguin (first published 2003)
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3.83  · 
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 ·  2,507 ratings  ·  108 reviews

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Samir Rawas Sarayji
Jul 02, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Dec 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 07, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-a-week-2009
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
Mar 06, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
I was a bit disappointed by Freedom Evolves, but that’s largely due to my own expectations. I had heard that Dennett held some sort of compatibilist view, whereby he argues that true, non-deterministic free will arises through evolution from a basis of determinism at the lower physical level. I was looking forward to be challenged and even swayed to this position by good arguments. Unfortunately Dennett’s view seems to be simply that the universe is deterministic, but at the level of complex cre ...more
Dec 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy
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
Jan 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
It's not that I would disagree with Dennett on his main points. It's that I despise his writing.

All the space he uses to ridicule those who don't get his views, the overall condescending tone, the superfluous use of block quotes - sometimes only to show that he's famous: "hey, I was referenced to in this novel, in which there's a fictitious character who happens to be wrong about free will!". Frankly, I expected better, and those expectations were probably why I ended up finishing the book: I h
W Geoff
Jan 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 28, 2016 rated it it was ok
After re-reading Consciousness Explained (1991) and Darwin's Dangerous Idea (1995) recently, I decided to go all-out and re-read Freedom Evolves (2002) and Breaking the Spell (2006) as well. I'm glad I did; the books make a lot more sense on a second reading (and I have acquired a lot more background information and knowledge meanwhile). Each book contains a set of original ideas or new approaches to old problems, and for this Dennett deserves credit - a lot. A major drawback of his books is tha ...more
Robert Starr
I don't think I'll ever understand more than about 40% of a Daniel Dennett book and that's probably fine. I don't necessarily read his books for the information, but more for the way they get me to think about things I haven't considered. One of my favorite examples is his Library of Mendel from Darwin's Dangerous Idea. Imagine a library of books with every possible combination of letters and numbers and symbols. Every book ever written or that ever will be written would be contained in this lib ...more
Daniel Hageman
Well at least I can say I’ve now at least attempted to steel-man compatibilism, though it continues to fall short given the context of our societies and the beliefs people hold. And don’t get me wrong; Dennett makes a fascinating case for a justified use of a term like ‘free will’. The problem, however, is that he drastically underestimates the adherence to libertarian free will that continues to permeate society, particularly across religious cultures. This flavor of ‘free will’, which Dennett ...more
Paul Ataua
Oct 12, 2017 rated it liked it
I have never been a Daniel Dennett fan. His occasional arrogance and sometimes stodgy style don't help, but he does provide the reader with lots of very stimulating arguments, and on several occasions, I found myself stopping to put the book down and spend time mulling over the points made. It was worth the three stars just to experience that.
Wayland Smith
May 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
A lot of philosophy about whether or not we have free will, or if everything is fated beforehand. I know there was a reason this was on my to-read list, but looking back at it, I really can't remember why. A bit dry in places.
Oct 27, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Alan Johnson
If you like what Daniel Dennett calls "toy universes" or "toy worlds," you will love this book. If, like me, you question the validity of contrived analogies between "toy" mental constructions and the actual human world, you will find the book less endearing.

Interspersed among lengthy digressions on toy mental constructions in the first half of this book are comments that sometimes appear to be germane to the issue at hand: scientific determinism versus free will. Dennett is a self-acknowledged
Richard Rogers
Mar 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Jared Nuzzolillo
Mar 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Jan 02, 2008 rated it it was ok
Needs massive interventions on the parts of editors.
Jul 25, 2007 rated it liked it
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.
Emily Finke
I didn't actually finish this, and I hope to come back to it.
Dec 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 15, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finding room for free will in a deterministic world. "Deterministic is not the same as inevitable."
Mohamedridha Alaskari محمد رضا العسكري
To understand “the free will debate” better I recommend you to read some more books before you do to this book - especially the free will book by Sam Harris.

Free will such a huge debate and we need to understand the fundamentals of free will before we start the debate with the opponent.

Dennet here proves the Free Will does exist. But rather than freedom being an eternal, unchanging condition of our existence in the real life scenario. Darwin puts the foundation stone by Evolution Theory which wa
Brian Mikołajczyk
Oct 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy, science
Daniel Dennett lays out the case for the existence of Free Will based on his work in philosophy and the work on done in neuroscience. What is interesting is those arguing against Free Will (e.g. Sam Harris) use the same neuroscientific evidence as Dennett does but arrive at different conclusion. What Dennett seems to do is to conflate consciousness, for which he his explanations are very agreeable and sound, with Free Will. As if you can't have one without the other.
Very interesting nonetheless.
David Hunter
Feb 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
An important addition to his other main works, yet strangely unsatisfactory. Well-argued and presented, but also light, somehow.
Ville Kokko
I suppose that this was good and interesting, but not to the extent that I was expecting. What Dennett says about what free will is and how it evolved is a bit vague in the end.
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, audiobook
Just listened, but a little bit confusing. Need rereading.
May 27, 2018 rated it liked it
I believe Dennet's overall goal with this book is worthy of appreciation, but I can't say I have been fully convinced yet; my intuitions haven't been pumped far enough.
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So what? 1 3 Nov 29, 2018 09:40AM  

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Daniel Clement Dennett III is a prominent philosopher whose research centers on philosophy of mind, science, and biology, particularly as they relate to evolutionary biology and cognitive science. He is the co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies and the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University. Dennett is a noted atheist, avid sailor, and advocate of the Brights move ...more
“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.” 49 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.” 48 likes
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