Do we have free will? It's a question that has puzzled philosophers and theologians for centuries and feeds into numerous political, social, and personal concerns.
Are we products of our culture or free agents within it? How much responsibility should we take for our actions? Are our neural pathways fixed early on by a mixture of nature and nurture, or is the possibility of comprehensive, intentional psychological change always open to us? What role do our brains play in the construction of free will, and how much scientific evidence is there for the existence of it? What exactly are we talking about when we talk about 'freedom' anyway?
In this cogent and compelling book, Julian Baggini explores the concept of free will from every angle, blending philosophy, neuroscience, sociology and cognitive science. Freedom Regained brings the issues raised by the possibilities - and denials - of free will to vivid life, drawing on scientific research and fascinating encounters with expert witnesses, from artists to addicts, prisoners to dissidents.
Contemporary thinking tells us that free will is an illusion, and Baggini challenges this position, providing instead a new, more positive understanding of our sense of personal freedom: a freedom worth having.
Julian Baggini's books include The Ego Trick, Welcome to Everytown, What's It All About? - Philosophy and the Meaning of Life and The Pig That Wants to be Eaten, all published by Granta Books. He writes for several newspapers and magazines and is cofounder of The Philosophers' Magazine.
An improvement on The Pig who wanted to be eaten. In this book he tries to come to meaningful conclusions. The subject and points are mostly interesting and well presented. Some of his logic seems a bit flawed to me but it is still a good effort. Towards the end It falls into the usual philosophy trap arguing the toss over definitions and meanings of words which I find tedious. Could have done with a good editor as it is a bit repetitive at times. Essentially he is saying it depends how you define freedom. Overall comprehensive, interesting and worth listening to.
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Baggini does a fantastic job of dismantling the black-and-white dilemma of freedom versus determinism, and makes a strong case for thinking about the problem in terms of degrees (as a problem of 'vagueness', as it's called in traditional analytical circles). The more I study philosophy, the apparent it is to me that all philosophical problems are problems of vagueness: freedom, beauty, truth, goodness, happiness, and knowledge all involve layers of complex vagueness. One might argue that it is precisely the job of the philosopher to suss out the objects of clarity from this fog. I am inclined to be sympathetic to such an argument. But Baggini says that some things like freedom are inherently gray, and attempting to impose a black-and-white regime on the idea is a mistake. He doesn't reference this explicitly, but I am reminded of a famous Christian prayer that sums the final chapter of this book nicely: Lord, give me the courage to change the things I can, the patience to suffer the things I cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference...
I freely chose this book, and was glad I did.
We must believe in free will - we have no other choice.
This book takes a similar line to Daniel Denett's; free will does exist but is very different from the incoherent concept widely imagined.
I found it impossible to listen to because the reader makes every sentence sound scathing, which I'm certain was not Julian Baggini's intention - he reads 'science' as if it quotation marks, I'm certain Baggini believes in science.
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