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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, I enjoy the author's writing style, but I realize it can be dense for others and the author himself refers to some of his previous writing as "obscure and difficult". I guess I like obscure and difficult when I know at the end I'll understand the subject matter better than I have ever before.
He says that "if you make anything small enough than everything will be external". By making the role of the individual insignificant you will make free will outside of the person and free will belongs within us not outside of us. Also, he says that "we all want to be held accountable for our own actions", both at the individual and societal level. That makes free will within us.
As the author steps the reader through the development of freedom, he also gives the listener some of the best takes on why homo sapiens are so different from any other species known in the universe.
Most of what is in this book seems to be covered in his other books I've read, Consciousness, Darwin's Dangerous Idea, and Intuition Pumps. For those who don't have the time to read those three books (2 of which are fairly long listens), this book would act as a great surrogate for them.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?
Yes. I think free will is an interesting topic. It is also third on my list of questions which are hard to answer, after the existence of God and abortion. Prior to reading this book, I had concluded that free will did not exist, but I eventually came to doubt this conclusion. To make sure that I was correct about free will's nonexistence, I read this book. After I read it, I continued disbelieving in free will, but I had stronger and stronger doubts as I came to better understand the compatibilist arguments. Ten weeks after reading this book, I concluded that the ability we have to make choices warrants the name "free will". I'm glad I ironed out the truth on this complicated issue.
Any additional comments?
This book is a bit dry in spots, so prepare yourself. It is one of those books that is hard to get through, but awesome after you finish it. Just like all of the books by Dennett. I always hate his books while I am listening to them, but after I finish I love his books and buy more.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
There are some great and insightful arguments for compatibilism in this book. A few, I plan to deploy in my own way. But I wish someone would just come out and say explicitly, that there is simply no such thing as freedom OR determinism, and therefore, there is nothing to make "compatibile". Dennett gets very close to this, a few times, but never quite gets there. We simply don't quite understand what we're talking about, with regard to human action and intention, and these categories of "free will" and "determinism" are like the difference between Ptolemy and Kepler. As Copernicus showed, they were BOTH wrong.
I may get a print edition to study the hardest parts without having to fight the urge to ignore the narrator. I learned a lot and found it solidifying ideas in his other books as well as introducing loads of new concepts too.
This book is one long argument against Konrad, a hypothetical and argumentative individual who gives voice to many misconceptions about free will that are fashionable among intellectuals today. Dennett shows convincingly how and why we have varieties of free will worth wanting. The book is a difficult one, and the fast but fun pace with which it is sassily read mean more than one listening is advised. But of any book by anyone is worth a second read it's this one.