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Publisher's Summary

Do you make your own choices or have circumstances beyond your control already decided your destiny? For thousands of years, this question has intrigued and perplexed philosophers, scientists, and everyone who thinks deliberately about how they choose to live and act. For if free will makes us accountable for our choices, does the opposite hold true, that determinism absolves us of responsibility?The implications of how we resolve this great question can affect everything from the small choices we make every day to our perspective on criminal justice and capital punishment. Now you can begin - or continue - your own exploration of this fundamental issue in a series of thought-provoking lectures from an award-winning scholar acclaimed as one of the most innovative thinkers now working at the intersection of philosophy and psychology.
Beginning with an explanation of the fundamental approaches to this debate, Professor Nichols prepares you for an in-depth study of the complexities of free will and determinism. You learn what great thinkers through the ages have believed about the choices we make and understand how we might deal with their implications.
Professor Nichols looks at each side of every argument, creating a balanced perspective that invites you to come to your own conclusions about whether or not we control our lives.
©2008 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2008 The Great Courses
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Customer Reviews

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By A Texan 2 on 02-13-15

This will challenge how you think!

Free will vs Determinism is one of those questions that I've always struggled to wrap my head around. How to reconcile what is clearly a universe whose parts are governed by well understood and well described forces and laws with human behavior that, at least for most of us, appears to entail acts of free will?

First off - this series of lectures from the Great Courses series doesn't settle the argument. Not only I, but philosophers in general are still struggling over it. However, what this course does and does well is introduce the various thoughts and concepts, both historical and current, on the nature of free will.

Cases are made from different approaches for both sides - that Free Will is true or that Free Will is false. These lectures cover the first half of the course and give me a lot of what I was expecting to find.

The later lectures that make up the second half of the course build on this and go in directions I didn't expect. Offering more abstract discussions on what free will really means. In addition, there are lectures bringing in the results and observations of neuroscience and speculations about what they mean to the free will consideration. Finally, there's discussion about morality, crime and punishment considered both from the notion that free will is true as well as the implications of determinism being true.

I found the lecturer easily listenable - neither put to sleep monotone, nor excessively dramatic. Overall I found the course interesting and challenging. It's helped me better understand my own beliefs and given me some new things to consider. I rate it a high success. This is my first exposure to one of The Great Courses products since they became available on Audible and I look forward to exploring other titles.

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful

By Brett on 07-01-15

Why Are You Reading This Review?

Are you reading this review because of free will or have all the variables that comprise "you" lead you to read this review? Typical scientific reasoning suggests that if you knew all of the variables contributing to an outcome, then the laws of nature could predict the outcome. Why then do we think that we are the exception to this logic? These lectures tackle these types of questions.

The scope of these lectures is too vast to summarize easily. Indeed, sometimes I felt lost amongst all of the different schools of thought. The content of these lectures is approachable but advanced. It brings together many different philosophical ideas. The later lectures were more accessible as they touched on the application of these philosophical ideas to concepts such as crime and punishment, brain function, and quantum mechanics.

This is not a lecture series I would recommend to someone new to philosophy or to someone that has only a passing interest in philosophy. These lectures require careful listening and some thought. I would, however, recommend them to someone that is very interested in philosophy. I enjoyed them.

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10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By DJP OKeeffe on 02-27-15

A superb insight into this important topic

This is an informed, authoritative and sympathetic lecturer providing a balanced and stimulating account. He has a really good tone as well. He provides the listener with numerous 'leads' should they wish to research further. Taking notes is advisable, especially for the first five or six lectures. Very highly recommended indeed.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

By Greg Gauthier on 03-06-17

Decent overview, but far too broad...

The lecturer was really interesting and engaging. He's very good at delivery. The content started out fantastic. It's a very good gloss of the basic positions in the debate, and offers some excellent exploration of the implications. However, after lecture 19, the discussion drifted far afield into questions of moral psychology and criminal justice that are, at best, only peripheral to the overall debate, and at worst a complete distraction. I would recommend this series, but only if you don't have time to read a more focused book on the topic.

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By Pedro on 02-06-17

Must read

One of the best books on Free Will. Loads of great information on Philosophical topics and debates.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

By Ved on 06-24-16


Best coverage of the free-will/determinism debate to date. Nichols is clear, succinct and his examples are exemplary.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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