- Paperback: 96 pages
- Publisher: Free Press (March 6 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1451683405
- ISBN-13: 978-1451683400
- Product Dimensions: 14.3 x 1.3 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 159 g
- Average Customer Review: 38 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #5,013 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Free Will Paperback – Mar 6 2012
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"In this elegant and provocative book, Sam Harris demonstrates—with great intellectual ferocity and panache—that free will is an inherently flawed and incoherent concept, even in subjective terms. If he is right, the book will radically change the way we view ourselves as human beings."
—V. S. Ramachandran, Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, UCSD, and author of The Tell-Tale Brain
"Brilliant and witty—and never less than incisive—Free Will shows that Sam Harris can say more in 13,000 words than most people do in 100,000."
"Free will is an illusion so convincing that people simply refuse to believe that we don’t have it. In Free Will, Sam Harris combines neuroscience and psychology to lay this illusion to rest at last. Like all of Harris’s books, this one will not only unsettle you but make you think deeply. Read it: you have no choice."—Jerry A. Coyne, Professor of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago, and author of Why Evolution Is True
"Many say that believing that there is no free will is impossible—or, if possible, will cause nihilism and despair. In this feisty and personal essay, Harris offers himself as an example of a heart made less self-absorbed, and more morally sensitive and creative, because this particular wicked witch is dead."
—Owen Flanagan, Professor of Philosophy, Duke University, and author of The Really Hard Problem
"If you believe in free will, or know someone who does, here is the perfect antidote. In this smart, engaging, and extremely readable little book, Sam Harris argues that free will doesn’t exist, that we’re better off knowing that it doesn’t exist, and that—once we think about it in the right way—we can appreciate from our own experience that it doesn’t exist. This is a delightful discussion by one of the sharpest scholars around.”
—Paul Bloom, Professor of Psychology, Yale University, and author of How Pleasure Works
About the Author
Sam Harris is the author of the bestselling books The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, The Moral Landscape, Free Will, and Lying. The End of Faith won the 2005 PEN Award for Nonfiction. His writing has been published in over fifteen languages. Dr. Harris is cofounder and CEO of Project Reason, a nonprofit foundation devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values in society. He received a degree in philosophy from Stanford University and a PhD in neuroscience from UCLA. Please visit his website at SamHarris.org.See all Product description
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Top Customer Reviews
As an aside, I appreciated how Dr. Harris presents views which oppose his own (e.g., that of Dan Dennett) in a fair way. I also appreciate the humor in this book (especially towards the end) - I laughed out loud on more than one occasion. This book was a blast to read.
In sum, this really is a fantastic book, and I recommended it to anyone with even a passing interest in free will. If you currently accept free will as a reality, you must read this book! If you already view free will as largely illusory, you should still read this book; wither way, I guarantee you will learn information that you consider valuable.
As one reviewer of this book says, Free Will by Sam Harris says in 13000 words what many books fail to do in 100000. Read this book - you won't regret it.
I would recommend this book for anyone that is looking for a quick read, it's really just a couple hour read and will open your mind to a whole new plane of thinking.
5 Star for price, and content. Only Con is Also a Pro - the book is Short. This will ensure that you finish your book, as opposed to dropping it around page 300.
Also the ideas are relatively controversial - so start in with an open mind.
I am on the fence with Harris, as I sometimes think I'm a compatibilist (a term I didn't know until I read this book). Essentially, that means yes, our choices are caused by a particular past meeting a particular present, but if an individual makes that choice on their own, free from unavoidable external pressures, than that individual is "free" with regards to their larger environment. However, I could never avoid the nagging thought that this is just a shell game, and Harris calls it out as such (and calls out Daniel Dennett for his belief in it). I still think it's a valuable short-hand for psychologists and behaviorists to use, but ultimately, I am persuaded that Harris is right. Because the causal events around us lock us in to our behavior just as surely as gravity locks the Earth around the sun.
If one believes in the uncertainty of quantum mechanics, then free will is still an illusion as random chance replaces causality. If one believes in a soul, then one is still stuck with the fact that we act before we know what we are consciously doing, and that we are unaware and/or not in control of much of our behavior (e.g., cravings). With regards to morality, Harris focuses on risk and prevention, noting that retribution is rather pointless under a deterministic scheme, although behavioral modification is not (behavior can be caused, punishment can cause changes). He also briefly points out how conservative viewpoints seem to be more deeply founded on the idea of free will, ignoring the crucial role that luck often plays in determining one's life, state of mind, and actions.
Overall then, this is a very short, but powerful book. I would criticize it for perhaps not having enough examples, but then it wouldn't be the short punch Harris wanted it to be. It could also use more discussion of the neurological evidence regarding consciousness, as that is still a relatively new area of scientific inquiry and things could change. That said, with the current knowledge we possess, Harris makes a strong argument that the idea that we have free will is simply an illusion. Far from condemning us to a meaningless life, Harris points out that this could ultimately lead us to more fruitful, positive, and compassionate lives. If nothing else, that makes this a short argument worth reading.
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