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Free Will by Sam Harris

Free Will (2012)

by Sam Harris

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This book is short (66 pages plus 8 pages on end notes). The author asserts that free will is an illusion. He uses lab experiments and reasoning to defend his opinion. However, he says that people are capable of “premeditated, voluntary action” (page 31). For “premeditated, voluntary action” he uses an example of a person who consciously tries to focus on a specific activity (such as writing a book) while ignoring a distraction (such as a loud persistent noise). Free will and “premeditated, voluntary action” appear to be similar, and the existence of one but not the other seems to depend on how they are defined. The author seems to suggest that “premeditated, voluntary action” arises from a particular part of the brain, and this may explain why he believes that it a real phenomenon while free will is not. But the book ends before the author defines exactly (or even loosely) what “premeditated, voluntary action” is, or why it is real when free will is not. ( )
  dougb56586 | Jul 11, 2016 |
A great read, especially for those who think that having "free will" means that you are able to move your right arm at any given moment, as if wanting to do that is not the result of an unconscious process in the first place.

If more people would read this book, perhaps we would find a little less hate in the world, and a bit more compassion and understanding.
  bartt95 | Apr 10, 2016 |
This is a provocative read about an idea about life that is taken for granted--that seems so natural--though we know (scientifically speaking) it may not be real (not unlike our experience of "watching the sun rise.") Do I have free will? Could I have done things differently, or would something else have to change? If our notions of free will are wrong, what would it change about our lives? Our conceptions of morality? Our justice system?

A quick, clear read with some worthy questions. ( )
  bibleblaster | Jan 23, 2016 |
So, it seems that free will may be an illusion, and that's alright. The book did an admirable job of illustrating why this is, and why it doesn't have to be a problem for us. Things are a lot more out of control than we like to admit. It doesn't mean we shouldn't work within our biological limitations to be the best people we can be. It just means that we do have some built in limitations that differ from person to person. Being aware of the factors we can't control may ultimately help us to have more effective control over the things we can. ( )
  heradas | May 31, 2015 |
This book is interesting mainly because it touches upon a sacred cow that most hold dear, not just touches upon but continues to shatter. It may anger some or push others into depression, but I wasn't that shocked by his assertions; it's like he took something I've suspected intuitively and then proves it. If I had to give a pithy synopsis that anyone can understand I would use an apt quote from the book: "A man does what he wills, but does not will what he wills (Arthur Schopenhaur)." The book ends pretty weakly and I felt like many of the chapters could have been expanded, but it's a nice bite size jumping off point for the topic. ( )
  lcalvin83 | May 8, 2015 |
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In this enlightening book, Sam Harris argues that free will is an illusion but that this truth should not undermine morality or diminish the importance of social and political freedom; indeed, this truth can and should change the way we think about some of the most important questions in life.… (more)

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