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The Nonsense of Free Will: Facing Up to a False Belief [Paperback]

Richard Oerton
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Oct 2012
Did Myra Hindley deserve to be punished? Does any criminal? Is belief in free will an essential foundation for morality, or an excuse for unwarranted cruelty? Is free will a myth and, if so, can we let go of it? In this entertaining, accessible but deeply serious book, the author brings a refreshingly original approach to the age-old conflict between free will and determinism and comes down firmly against free will. But what does 'free will' mean? And if we rejected it, what would the consequences be? The author, a lawyer who has worked both on law reform at the Law Commission and in private practice, and has written legal and other books and articles, has turned to a subject which has interested him for over half a century. He strongly believes that it does not belong exclusively to philosophers. These questions should be of concern to everyone - and no one who is willing to look at them objectively should be afraid to judge for themselves and reach their own conclusions.

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The Nonsense of Free Will: Facing Up to a False Belief + Free Will + The Moral Landscape
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Product details

  • Paperback: 167 pages
  • Publisher: Matador (1 Oct 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1780882874
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780882871
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 13.8 x 21.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 230,578 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'Most people are completely taken in by the illusion of free will. Happily, Richard Oerton is not among them. The Nonsense of Free Will is a wonderfully clear - and very clever - little book.' -- Sam Harris author of The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, The Moral Landscape and Free Will

'There are philosophical, scientific, scholarly, novel, determined, American, pompous, dotty and other books on free will and determinism. There are also a few books that are lucid and informal introductions for ordinary readers and let you know that your free will does not exist. Richard Oerton's may be the best of these.' -- Professor Ted Honderich Grote Professor Emeritus of the Philosophy of Mind and Logic, University College London

'This book is superbly written and a delight to read. Starting as a clearly reasoned treatment of determinism, it merges seamlessly into a critique of English criminal law and penal policy, and ends with a plea for society to abandon what the author sees as its irrational belief in free will.' -- Joshua Rozenberg lawyer and legal commentator, formerly legal editor of The Daily Telegraph

'This fascinating book explains and discusses one of the most difficult questions underlying criminal liability - are we right to work on the basis that all sane people can exercise free will?  Richard Oerton explores the free will v. determinism debate with remarkable and rare clarity.  This is not a book only for academics:  it is of vital interest to all who want to think about the way society is organised.' - Dr. Stephen Cretney, DCL, FBA, QC, LLD, Emeritus Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, formerly Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Law at Bristol University, and a Law Commissioner from 1978 to 1983

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive demolition of free will 30 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Many books have been written on the determinism v. free will debate, some pro free will and some anti. This book is firmly in the first camp. It differs from most of the other books in that it is not written by a philosopher but by a retired lawyer. This produces a more common sense approach mostly free of philosophical jargon.
By and large it covers similar ground to other pro-determinist books but differs in a couple of notable aspects. First, he does not spend long dealing with the free will compatibilist position, probably believing, as I do, that there is nothing of value to be explored there. Secondly, reflecting his previous occupation and his association with the Howard League for Penal Reform, he spends a lot of pages dealing with the effect that the belief in free will has on society's understanding of errant behaviour and the treatment of criminals.
If you are looking for an easy to read yet powerful explanation of the determinism v. free will contest then I strongly recommend this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very engaging and illuminating 11 May 2013
By Alfred
Format:Kindle Edition
I learned of this book after reading both Free Will by Sam Harris and Incognito by David Eagleman. Both are quite informative and I highly recommend them as well. However, I found this book much more compelling. Richard presents clear, precise arguments that are well structured and persuasive. He does not use simplistic word tricks or philosophical jargon. He methodically disassembles the standard understanding of free will as well as arguments from well known philosophers. He is clear from the beginning that this book is written for everyone. I especially recommend it for anyone who seeks to understand the true nature of reality and the self or to broaden ones sense of compassion for even the most despicable of people. Specifically for skeptics, freethinkers, and atheists, I think accepting a wider view of causality is the next step in embracing the true nature of humanity and adapting a moral code based science and facts as apposed to religious precepts or evolved instincts. By the end, Richard should leave you wondering why you believed in free will in the first place and with a whole new perspective on life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars clear and illuminating 14 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a clear and illuminating book - very well-written and accessible. Taking a complex subject, it explores the arguments both for and against the existence of free will, before coming to the well-argued, and clearly illustrated conclusion that its existence is `nonsense'. A really good read for anyone who ever contemplates why we do what we do.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another triumph for non-believers of free will 9 Jan 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I never write reviews on books I've read for fear of neglecting to do them justice, or revealing my lack of knowledge and education. Funny that I'm "choosing" to do so now. There must be a reason!

An easy to read and understand, fun and well written argument for the "nonsense of free will".

I wholeheartedly agree with Richard when he says that he has not "suffered any adverse consequences as a result of disbelief in free will". My rejection of free will has only had a positive effect on my personality. I'm now tolerant of others, not critical of myself, not anxious about the future, not regretful of the past. Generally I'm much more able to be mindful in the present, which appears to be a rather satisfying and stress free way to live. I haven't stabbed anyone or not bothered to get up in the mornings (because that's just not who I am). I've continued to live with the feeling that I'm making choices and decisions, even though I know that is a trick of the mind. It's liberating.

Confirmation bias suggests you're likely to only read this book if you already have a belief in determinism and/or non-belief in free will but if that's not the case I urge you to read it anyway and in return I'm now about to start a book advocating a belief in free will, even if only to shed light on the opposing argument and I suspect, shore up my belief (or non-belief) further.
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