3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Good in parts,
This review is from: Freedom Evolves (Paperback)
This book left me with very mixed feelings. On the one hand I found it quite heavy going and that it didn't entirely live up to all the superlatives plastered over its covers. Not the cover with the goldfish which is shown here, incidentally. On the other hand there was one chapter which I found very useful indeed.
The chapter which I found useful included a discussion of Benjamin Libet's work. Libet describes how a 'readiness potential' can be detected prior to our getting the conscious intention that we are going to move. It starts to look as if our free will is under considerable threat from this finding. The only choice we are left with is a brief window of opportunity to veto the movement. As Ramachandran said, "... our conscious minds may not have free will, but rather 'free won't'"
Dennett tackles this in considerable detail and, if you are interested, you may find this one chapter justifies purchasing the book.
There is also a description of a highly unethical experiment which Dennett has named 'Grey Walter's pre-cognitive carousel.' Briefly, it was conducted on epilepsy patients who had electrodes implanted into their motor cortices. They were connected up to a slide projector and given a push button to advance the slides. The button was just a dummy - it wasn't connected to the slide projector. Whenever the patient decided to move to the next slide they found that the carousel had advanced before they had a chance to press the button. This gave rise to the very spooky feeling that the slide projector was reading their minds - which, in a sense, it was! Grey Walter never published this work but he described the experiment in a lecture which Dennett attended in 1963 or 1964.
All this detail is drawn from one chapter. I will allow this to colour the star-rating for this book. This probably makes it more generous than it should be. My interest levels in the remainder of the book were rather patchy. I wouldn't describe it as an easy read and whether it fully repays the effort is somewhat debatable.