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Freedom Evolves is a popular science and philosophy book by Daniel C. Dennett describes the book as an installment of a lifelong philosophical project, earlier parts of which were The Intentional Stance , Consciousness Explained and Elbow Room.
It attempts to give an account of free will and moral responsibility which is complementary to Dennett's other views on consciousness and personhood. As in Consciousness Explained , Dennett advertises the controversial nature of his views extensively in advance.
He expects hostility from those who fear that a skeptical analysis of freedom will undermine people's belief in the reality of moral considerations; he likens himself to an interfering crow who insists on telling Dumbo he doesn't really need the feather he believes is allowing him to fly. Dennett's stance on free will is compatibilism with an evolutionary twist — the view that, although in the strict physical sense our actions might be pre-determined, we can still be free in all the ways that matter, because of the abilities we evolved.
Free will, seen this way, is about freedom to make decisions without duress and so is a version of Kantian positive practical free will, i. To clarify this distinction, he uses the term 'evitability' the opposite of 'inevitability' , defining it as the ability of an agent to anticipate likely consequences and act to avoid undesirable ones. Evitability is entirely compatible with, and actually requires, human action being deterministic.
Dennett moves on to altruism , denying that it requires acting to the benefit of others without gaining any benefit yourself. He argues that it should be understood in terms of helping yourself by helping others, expanding the self to be more inclusive as opposed to being selfless.
To show this blend, he calls such actions 'benselfish', and finds the roots of our capacity for this in the evolutionary pressures that produced kin selection. In his treatment of both free will and altruism, he starts by showing why we should not accept the traditional definitions of either term. Dennett also suggests that adherence to high ethical standards might pay off for the individual, because if others know your behaviour is restricted in these ways, the scope for certain beneficial mutual arrangements is enhanced.
This is related to game theoretical considerations: in the famous Prisoner's Dilemma , 'moral' agents who cooperate will be more successful than 'non-moral' agents who do not cooperate. Cooperation wouldn't seem to naturally arise since agents are tempted to 'defect' and restore a Nash equilibrium , which is often not the best possible solution for all involved. Dennett concludes by contemplating the possibility that people might be able to opt in or out of moral responsibility: surely, he suggests, given the benefits, they would choose to opt in, especially given that opting out includes such things as being imprisoned or institutionalized.
Daniel Dennett also argues that no clear conclusion about volition can be derived from Benjamin Libet 's experiments supposedly demonstrating the non-existence of conscious volition.
According to Dennett, ambiguities in the timings of the different events are involved. Libet tells when the readiness potential occurs objectively, using electrodes, but relies on the subject reporting the position of the hand of a clock to determine when the conscious decision was made. As Dennett points out, this is only a report of where it seems to the subject that various things come together, not of the objective time at which they actually occur.
Suppose Libet knows that your readiness potential peaked at millisecond 6, of the experimental trial, and the clock dot was straight down which is what you reported you saw at millisecond 7, How many milliseconds should he have to add to this number to get the time you were conscious of it?
The light gets from your clock face to your eyeball almost instantaneously, but the path of the signals from retina through lateral geniculate nucleus to striate cortex takes 5 to 10 milliseconds—a paltry fraction of the milliseconds offset, but how much longer does it take them to get to you. Or are you located in the striate cortex? The visual signals have to be processed before they arrive at wherever they need to arrive for you to make a conscious decision of simultaneity. Libet's method presupposes, in short, that we can locate the intersection of two trajectories:.
Dennett spends a chapter criticising Robert Kane 's theory of libertarian free will. Kane believes freedom is based on certain rare and exceptional events, which he calls self-forming actions or SFA's. Dennett notes that there is no guarantee such an event will occur in an individual's life. If it does not, the individual does not in fact have free will at all, according to Kane.
Yet they will seem the same as anyone else. Dennett finds an essentially indetectable notion of free will to be incredible. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Freedom Evolves Cover of the first edition. Dewey Decimal. The Self as Responding and Responsible Artefact. Daniel Dennett. Cartesian theater Greedy reductionism Heterophenomenology Intentional stance Intuition pump Memetics Multiple drafts model. Categories : non-fiction books Analytic philosophy literature Books by Daniel Dennett Cognitive science literature English-language books Free will.
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IN the last several years the philosopher Daniel C. Dennett has published two very large, interesting and influential books. The first, ''Consciousness Explained'' , aimed to account for all the phenomena of consciousness within the general theoretical framework set by current physics. It failed, of course, and came to be affectionately known as ''Consciousness Ignored. The second, ''Darwin's Dangerous Idea'' , set out to make the case for the theory of evolution even more irresistible than it already is, and it was right on target: vivid, ingenious and illuminating, if sometimes huffy and overpolemical. Now Dennett is advancing on free will. In ''Freedom Evolves,'' he wants to show how evolution can get us ''all the way from senseless atoms to freely chosen actions.
Evolution Explains It All for You
Recognising our uniqueness as reflective, communicating animals does not require any 'human exceptionalism' that must shake a defiant fist at Darwin We may thus concede that material forces ultimately govern behaviour, and yet at the same time reject the notion that people are always and everywhere motivated by material self-interest. This is the burden of Daniel Dennett's new book and it is really welcome. As he points out, educated people today are often trapped in a strange kind of double-think on this topic. Officially, they believe physical science calls for determinism, which proves they have no control over their lives. But in actual living, most of the time they assume they do have this control.
Fate by fluke
Daniel C. Dennett's Freedom Evolves tackles the most important question of human existence - is there really such a thing as free will? How can humans make genuinely independent choices if we are just a cluster of cells and genes in a world determined by scientific laws? Here, Daniel Dennett provides an impassioned defense of free will.