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3.9 out of 5 stars87
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 11 January 2015
I am a fan of Sam Harris books because he gets to the point of matters very well. This book explores our perceptions of what we we consider 'free will' to be. It gives challenging examples of how we assume people should take responsibility for their actions / and when they can't take that responsibility. It concludes with the dilemma of how the human is not totally in control of his actions. A good read!
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on 9 February 2015
I think this is a masterpiece. The author and book are succinct, profound, articulate and thought provoking. Harris provides relevant examples and analogies to help support and get his argument across. I think everyone should read this book, they don't necessarily have to agree with it, everything that has ever happened will have lead to your verdict.
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on 22 December 2015
A clear and concise introduction for people who haven't studied philosophy but have wondered from time to time whether what they think or do is for themselves to decide and that they are free to decide ; that their acts ,thoughts and decisions etc are not determined by who or what they are eg by some genetic inheritance .
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on 25 June 2013
A well written, original and challenging book presented in the most digestible way, really short. The book will only take a few hours to read, particularly as Sam Harris has developed an excellent writing style but it will take some time to sink in. Highly ambitious yet fresh and clearly successful.
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on 16 June 2015
Sam Harris appears to claim in this book that all human decision-making activity, from the benign acts of making a cup of tea, or going to bed, to the less charming acts of raping and murdering innocent young children, are actions that are completely divorced from the personal responsibility of the perpetrator. To the point, he claims that all your conscious decisions and intent are not originated in your conscious mind but are effectively imperative ‘orders’ from a deeper part of your brain – they’re orders because you can’t consciously disobey them – and get this, if you do reject them, then it transpires that that was an order too, apparently – Catch 22 anybody?).

Indeed you need to accept no less, that you (that being your conscious self) are an unwilling victim of your own nature – because he claims that you have no free will, you have no real choice, that you are merely a hapless puppet of some higher order of unconscious cerebral programming, with bugs and all, and your ‘apparent’ conscious self (your every thought) is nothing more than an illusion of being your own. His arguments imply that your brain is little more than a biologically opinionated supercomputer, whether good or evil, with your consciousness merely being a side-effect of the continuous execution of lines of code pre-programmed and re-programmed by nature, nurture, illness, disease and maybe a bit of ‘strangeness’ and ‘charm’ thrown in there for good measure. In essence, your unconscious brain made you do it, whatever it was you did – so don’t feel too bad about it the next time you seriously offend somebody, or too good about yourself when you save the life of that toddler who fell into the river – it’s simply not your fault – you were just following orders – heard that one before?

I can readily accept that the brain does a heap load of stuff unconsciously, like keeping our hearts going, monitoring blood content and thousands if not hundreds of thousands of other things, much of it concurrently – stuff we couldn’t hope to do consciously. I can also accept that ‘the reasons behind’ a lot of decisions we make are not fully conscious, in that there will certainly be some bias in our choices from all sorts of influences from our genes to our parents. But to jump to the conclusion that our decisions are completely devoid of any kind of conscious orchestration, given the rich plethora of thoughts, feelings, mood, learning, past experiences that exist simultaneous in any given moment, from which we can choose any number of intentional paths, is reductive in the extreme.

His whole proposition seems to be based on little more than some kind of measurable EEG activity that apparently precedes (by milliseconds) certain kinds of conscious decision making (as subjectively experienced) over a limited range of choices – therefore he draws the conclusion that the conscious thought arises, in an immutable form no less, from the unconscious and that there is a predictability about when we make choices and even what choices they will be. He extrapolates this to imply that every conscious decision, no matter how complex, must therefore be predicated upon this. The implications of this are horrendous. Suddenly, everything that has ever been done in history, beautiful or horrific, sublime or ridiculous, is nobody’s fault. There is no blame or fault attributable to anyone, no praise or awe. I guess you can always blame God or the Big Bang depending on your religious convictions or lack thereof.

You have to forgive the irony if I say that I have no choice but to give this deeply troubling, self-indulgent, weakly argued, faithless essay on the state of human consciousness only a single star. After all, I’m hardly to blame for my own opinion.
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on 7 March 2014
All the books I have read which have been written by Sam Harris have not only made me think but have compelled me to see a broader picture and alternatives. Whilst some may find his opinions controversial very few would find them unrealistic.
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on 19 September 2013
A great, concise read about free will and whether or not or to what extent we are able to exercise it. Just what I hoped for. As a lay person interested in psychology and the wonders of the human mind and brain this was just perfect.
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on 15 November 2013
Hopefully mine is the exception, but the production quality of my (brand new) copy of 'Free Will' was so low I'm tempted to throw it away and look around my local book store for a hard-back. The cut of the ends of the pages looks literally as if they were cut with a knife. They are so uneven in the actual page size that turning the page is difficult. Turning pages shouldn't be an issue when reading a book, so I wonder if I am going to bother.
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on 12 December 2015
I think Harris argues his point well and he is probably correct. But the book really lacks substance and countering points. You get nothing new compared to his lectures on the subject.
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on 28 June 2016
Very interesting and deeply intellectual, but worth the read and the view point, which I had never considered before - not quite totally convinced but love the way Sam Harris thinks.
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