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Free Will (2012)

by Sam Harris

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9213718,558 (3.72)1 / 12
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.

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Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
I didn't read this book from start to finish. Well, I did. Just not how I usually did. If I had to guess how long it actually took me to read this book, it be less. Way less. However, I read and reread passages. Several times I put the book down and processed paragraphs. Sometimes this processing too me days and I'd come back. Am I free to say that I didn't like it? Or agree with it? I did like his writing, though. Am I free to say that? ( )
  ennuiprayer | Jan 14, 2022 |
Yup, still very good. ( )
  SeekingApatheia | Apr 13, 2021 |
A very disappointing book that's big on exposition but small on argument. I would like to argue with Harris's conclusions, but I can't because he doesn't explain why he believes what he does.

Harris tells me it's an illusion that he consciously chose to drink two cups of coffee this morning. Instead, he asserts "The choice was made for me by events in my brain that I, as the conscious witness of my thoughts and actions could not inspect or influence." But Harris doesn't explain how or why he came to that conclusion. He simply asserts the idea and develops it, without justification.

Harris believes that choices aren't made by what we perceive as "free will," but are actually determined by purely physical processes that we ourselves "cannot know." Harris limits his scientific analysis of his claims to single paragraph on page 21. He briefly cites three studies that he does not explain or mention again through the rest of the book. I expected a lot more out of a writer who earned a PhD in cognitive neuroscience. ( )
1 vote poirotketchup | Mar 18, 2021 |
This is a (short) book by Sam Harris about the philosophical question of free will and its implications. The audiobook is read by Sam Harris, and for a work of this length, is ideal.

Harris lays out a pretty solid argument that free will does not exist. Even those who argue free will exists are generally arguing that a far less powerful form of free will exists than what we generally perceive as free will. I'm willing to accept that free will does not exist based on this argument, but then the obvious question is "why should I dare? How does this affect my life in any way?" It appears (and is accepted by Harris) that the subjective perception of free will is very fundamental, and behavior "as if" free will exists largely makes sense -- it isn't fatalism.

Ultimately the main impact seems to be a lesser desire for retribution or vengeance against those who do wrong, even if punishment (removal from society, or punishment for reasons of deterrence) are still rational. Oddly, he makes an argument that non-belief in free will makes it easier to accept things can change (??), which seems specious (i.e. Fucking bullshit), but other than that, it is pretty solid.

I wish Sam Harris would write more things like this and spend less time on juvenile political analysis and blind hatred of Trump. ( )
  octal | Jan 1, 2021 |
Sam Harris is definitely an important thinker of our time. His short, but effective, book on how neuroscience shows that free will is a chemically induced illusion. I don't know if his is the final word, but it's certainly a new line in the sand for philosophical libertarians and compatibilists to cross.

However, I think Harris does himself a disservice by moving beyond the scope of arguments against free will into the realm of how we can understand moral obligations in light of determinism. It may be that he simply didn't give himself enough room, and his moral arguments may make complete sense. But if that's the case, he didn't show how in this book.

Full review available at curtisweyant.com. ( )
  octoberdad | Dec 16, 2020 |
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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.

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