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Free Will | [Sam Harris]

Free Will

A belief in free will touches nearly everything that human beings value. It is difficult to think about law, politics, religion, public policy, intimate relationships, morality—as well as feelings of remorse or personal achievement—without first imagining that every person is the true source of his or her thoughts and actions. And yet the facts tell us that free will is an illusion.
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Publisher's Summary

A belief in free will touches nearly everything that human beings value. It is difficult to think about law, politics, religion, public policy, intimate relationships, morality—as well as feelings of remorse or personal achievement—without first imagining that every person is the true source of his or her thoughts and actions. And yet the facts tell us that free will is an illusion.

In this enlightening book, Sam Harris argues that this truth about the human mind does not undermine morality or diminish the importance of social and political freedom, but it can and should change the way we think about some of the most important questions in life.

©2012 Sam Harris (P)2012 Simon & Schuster

What the Critics Say

"Free will is an illusion so convincing that people simply refuse to believe that we don’t have it. In Free Will, Sam Harris combines neuroscience and psychology to lay this illusion to rest at last. Like all of Harris’s books, this one will not only unsettle you but make you think deeply. Read it: you have no choice." (Jerry A. Coyne, Professor of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago, and author of Why Evolution Is True)

"In this elegant and provocative book, Sam Harris demonstrates—with great intellectual ferocity and panache—that free will is an inherently flawed and incoherent concept, even in subjective terms. If he is right, the book will radically change the way we view ourselves as human beings." (V. S. Ramachandran, Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, UCSD, and author of The Tell-Tale Brain)

"Brilliant and witty—and never less than incisive—Free Will shows that Sam Harris can say more in 13,000 words than most people do in 100,000." (Oliver Sacks)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (712 )
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4.4 (629 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Acteon Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 12-20-13
    Acteon Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 12-20-13

    Acteon

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not quite satisfying"
    Would you try another book from Sam Harris and/or Sam Harris?

    Maybe, but not if it is as short as this one.


    Would you be willing to try another book from Sam Harris? Why or why not?

    The subject interested me and I started listening with a lot of anticipation, but the most interesting part was the beginning, where a set of very interesting experiments was presented; thereafter, it was all a bit anticlimactic.


    Have you listened to any of Sam Harris’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    It was more a lecture than a book. Which is OK, but I was expecting a book that develops the subject at greater length. But it is not a lecture I regret having listened to.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sarah Woodstock, VA, United States 06-04-13
    Sarah Woodstock, VA, United States 06-04-13
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    "Just wish it were longer"
    What did you love best about Free Will?

    This is the first book I've read from Sam Harris. I loved the subject matter and the conciseness with which it was presented. I also enjoyed his narration. Love that he points out that punishment is still possible as a preventative measure, we didn't need free will, good or evil to legitimize it. We just need to consider the effects of punishment in the long run. Fascinating, I could listen to much more on this subject.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eddie Decatur, GA, United States 03-21-13
    Eddie Decatur, GA, United States 03-21-13
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    "To the Point"

    Harris' style is very concise and he doesn't beat around the bush. The story isn't overly scientific, but nonetheless an intelligent listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    RaineDay 02-07-13
    RaineDay 02-07-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Not for lay people"

    I thought I would find scholarly ammunition for what I personally am coming to believe about free will. I usually enjoy and understand Sam Harris, in his blog and in other books. But this was too scholarly and did not reach me.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jay M Sun prairie, WI, United States 12-31-12
    Jay M Sun prairie, WI, United States 12-31-12 Member Since 2015
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    10
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    "Possible life changing views"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes, because I think it encourages people to consider a new perspective that they may not have had access to.


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    The comparisons that are made.


    What about Sam Harris’s performance did you like?

    At first, I found his speaking style alitle hard to follow, but by the time I reached the second or third chapter, I was accustomed to it and it became clear without having to rewind and re listen.One thing I appreciated was that he wrote the book to be accessible to more people by opting for more common words instead of long, uncommon ones... I only had to pause the book maybe 3 times to look up a word.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    FREE WILL... You may beleive in it, but you may not have a choice.


    Any additional comments?

    The possible new perspective is well worth the relatively low price of the book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William M. Angelos Minnesota 10-08-12
    William M. Angelos Minnesota 10-08-12

    Simply not enough time in the world to read all the books I want to, so now I listen to them.

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    "Apparently I do not have free will"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I already have. It is very short, so it is a very very quick listen. It lays out the argument for and against free will in fairly easy to understand ways. I wished it was longer.


    Any additional comments?

    Not really worth using a credit on this book, but very worth the few dollars it cost me.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elizabeth Craig 10-08-12
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    "Disconcerting, and excellent"

    You're a human being with free will - you decide whether you'd like coffee or tea in the morning. You decide what clothing to wear to work. You have control over how you approach the world. You have control.

    ... or do you?

    Sam Harris puts forth a logically woven argument in this book that will likely leave your world a little bit changed. Are you curious yet? =) This audio book is well read and absolutely worth the money.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeff Waterloo, Ontario, Canada 07-11-12
    Jeff Waterloo, Ontario, Canada 07-11-12 Member Since 2007
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    "Free will is an illusion"
    If you could sum up Free Will in three words, what would they be?

    Short and to-the-point. Sam does a great job of illustrating that we do not REALLY have free will, even if we FEEL like we do.


    If you could give Free Will a new subtitle, what would it be?

    "The Illusion of Free Will"


    Any additional comments?

    My only complaint is that there is no real organization to the book, or his argument. It might help some listeners (readers) if he was more explicit about the argument behind his thesis.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael J. Hudson Alexandria, VA United States 06-05-12
    Michael J. Hudson Alexandria, VA United States 06-05-12
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    "Well thought out viewpoint but what to do with it?"
    What did you love best about Free Will?

    It gives a well though out position that seems logically consistent describing why there is no such thing as free will. Sam Harris even addresses his critics and recognizes the irony in the simple fact that he obviously didn't have true free will to decide whether he would write this book or not.


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    Its conclusion is disturbing... all the more so, because he does seem to get there without cheating. Or did he? That's the question that arises in your mind after hearing it. If there is no free will, what do you do with that knowledge. He does try to address that near the end, but that was the only part that wasn't convincing to me. Other than pure denial or apathy or laziness, what stops people from living there lives in some kind of Nietzche-like nihilism.

    The only "moral" point that seems to be backed up by his reasoning... and he brings this point to the forefront at the very beginning of the book... is that the criminal justice system needs to be more cognizant of this world-view when sentencing violent criminals... more specifically, that the justice system should be set up to prevent criminal behavior not necessarily punish it... since no one is truly responsible for their behavior (in his world view).

    But again, what does this mean for the rest of us. He argues that this won't and shouldn't turn us all into nihilistic libertines. And he may be right but for the wrong reasons. Even if you accept his arguments, can you really embrace them fully and not go a little wacked. The lack of free will... be it a myth or not... is disturbing, very disturbing. One's own internal self defense mechanisms kick in and the reading all seems like some amnesiac's dream.


    What does Sam Harris bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    His reading of the book suffices. Its a philosophical treatise so there is no real need for anything but a straight-forward reading of the book, and Harris delivers that just fine. Of course, it always adds to the hearing of the reading when you know the narrator is the same as the author.


    If you could give Free Will a new subtitle, what would it be?

    Why you should be nice to psychopaths cause you could be one too, who knows?


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas MADISON, AL, United States 04-29-12
    Thomas MADISON, AL, United States 04-29-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Read and think"

    It is well thought out premise. We did not choose our genetics nor our experiences,nor can we control out thoughts or perceptions, so how can our next actions be of our own choosing when our actions are based on who we've become at that moment.

    Loved the book, all ready listened to it twice and working on my third.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Dom
    4/22/15
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    "mind blowing book"

    Really changes the way you think. Very strong argument. Recommended to anyone who is interested. Mind it is quite short so don't blow your monthly credit on it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Steve
    3/19/15
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    "Very interesting"

    A nice quick listen which is very well explained. Quite educational as I certainly know more about free will now.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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