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AN EMBARASSMENT TO PHILOSOPHY AND TO THE VERY SHORT INTRODUCTION SERIES,
This review is from: Free Will: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
I have read a large number of the Very Short Introduction series and am on the whole very impressed with them. Reading this particular book, however, I felt I was reading a very bad exam paper. The text is replete with the type of flawed argumentation one would expect from a keen but unpromising high school pupil. It was so bad that I was able to find at least one major flaw per page, often more. Some of the worst flaws include:
* Pink frequently assumes that because something need not be the case that it therefore is not the case.
* Pink fails to present a theory for freedom, relying instead on very poor attempts to undermine the counter-arguments to the case for freedom of the will, arguments he is either willfully distorting or has not understood.
* Pink makes the flawed assumption that theories of causal determinism are necessarily reductive.
* Pink's arguments against determinism, garrulous as they are, are not more sophisticated than 'we have free will because we perceive that we have it'.
* Pink's book is, as another reviewer has highlighted, highly repetitive. In fact, this is an understatement. It could not be more repetitive if it tried. This could easily have fitted onto 30 pages.
* Pink takes certain key terms for granted (e.g. 'we', 'self', 'free agent'), perhaps realising that their definition may undermine his rambling hypotheses.
* At times, Pink seems to assume that prior causation must mean that things are mapped out for the individual since before birth, rather than acknowledging the chaos and flux which is at play in causal relationships. This in itself is an example of the reductionism he readily criticizes elsewhere.
* Pink argues against the Hobbesian view that action is driven by prior desires with the awful counter-example of 'if I am out walking, and decide to take a break on a bench, then decide to get up and continue my walk, that decision is not driven by prior desires'. His notion of temporality is skewed here, for 'man wishes to get up and continue walk, gets up, continues walk' is sufficient to undermine his argument. Immediately prior is still prior.
* In trying to undermine the role of desires in action, he replaces this term with `motivation'. However, he fails to define `motivation' and fails to show how it is any different or any more amenable to freedom than `desire'.
* Et cetera ad nauseum...
All in all, Pink has produced something that is an embarassment to philosophy. He shouldn't be teaching at a university, let alone publishing books. I suggest he goes back to school to learn the very basics of philosophy. Whether you come from the determinist, compatibilist or libertarian camp, this book has only one thing to offer: an example of how not to argue a case for the freedom of the will.