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Just Deserts: Debating Free Will
Some thinkers argue that our best scientific theories about the world prove that free will is an illusion. Others disagree. The concept of free will is profoundly important to our self-understanding, our interpersonal relationships, and our moral and legal practices. If it turns out that no one is ever free and morally responsible, what would that mean for society, moralit ...more
ebook, 200 pages
Published January 14th 2021 by Polity Press
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Among the perennial questions of philosophy, free will remains one of the most difficult concepts to reconcile with modern science. On the one hand, our best natural science seems to point to a deterministic universe based on immutable laws of physics, yet on the other, our subjective experience seems to tell us that we have inherent freedom of choice and movement independent of the physical laws. How one chooses to reconcile this paradox largely determines where they stand in the free will deba ...more
Wasn’t sure whether I wanted to give this 3 or 4 stars. I liked the “debate” format pretty much, because it was fun to see pretty big-time philosophers punch holes in each other’s arguments (and other times agree). But it wasn’t perfect by any means. Caruso especially seems to like various complex terms to describe a position: “Oh, what you said is an example of xyzism!” And sometimes “Don’t you agree with abcdism?” Dennett has several decades more in the philosophy business than Caruso, but I d ...more
I'm generally sympathetic to compatibilist arguments, but in this case I think Caruso really ran away with this one. His ideas are much more clear and to-the-point throughout, and I think his attempts to make sense of Dennett's arguments often make his points more clearly than Dennett does himself. This isn't to say that Dennett doesn't have good ideas with some potential merit, but I don't think he does a particularly good job justifying them from the ground up, and it isn't obvious if all of t ...more
I thoroughly enjoyed the debates between Dennett and Caruso, representing Compatibilism and Skepticism respectively. I found that Caruso gave crisp, clear arguments for a world with justice but without free will. I found myself in agreement with Caruso, even before he had made note of it in the book, that Dennetts arguments could be semantically rebranded as representing free will skepticism. That seems to be the key takeaway of the book for me. The two philosophers seem to agree on more than th ...more
May 14, 2021 Nathan rated it really liked it · review of another edition
An excellent discussion, I thoroughly enjoyed this! Dennett is always fun to engage with. This is the first book or conversation by Dennett in which I feell I finally understand (to the point of pragmatic clarity anyway), his position in regards to compatibilism. In past works it has always felt (to my untrained ear) that he was flipping definitions, as others have also complained. Here Caruso and Dennett draw out a very clear and nuanced picture of compatibilism that in no way defends the "folk ...more
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
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