Review of Free Will by Sam Harris
Sam Harris is a crystal-clear and highly efficient author, and this book is not an exception. He captures the age-old debate and his own formulations in 66 pages, and I don’t think there are any deep errors in what he says in these 66 pages, but his clear-cut attitude – which I usually admire – rings too naive to me here, precisely because the classic definition of free will that he attacks is so problematic that I don’t think it’s worth wanting in any case. Yes, we are not “free” in that sense, but why should we take that sense seriously? Why should we even care when we learn that we don’t after all possess a weird, illogical, undefinable, magical kind of freedom? Why should we trash the whole concept of freedom if it’s not supernatural? Shouldn’t we already have more realistic and practical expectations from the concept of freedom? The fact that Harris accuses compatibilists – who are giving definitions of freedom in a deterministic world – of doing bait and switch just shows that he in fact wants that magical freedom himself, and wouldn’t settle for less. It’s his choice, and he is as eloquent as ever at that.
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