Freedom Regained by Julian Baggini

by stephenpalmersf

Free will is one of the most contentious – if not the most contentious – subjects for philosophical enquiry, but Baggini in his excellent book makes his arguments, examples and conversations a delight to read. He takes on reductionists such as Sam Harris (who denies human beings have free will) and neuroscientists in particular in this no-holds-barred, but very readable survey.

Baggini’s conclusion is that we do have free will, that philosophers using reductionist or individualist templates (i.e. ignoring the fact that human beings live in societies) are blind to what’s in front of them, and that free will is not a thing in itself of which we have all or none but rather a gradient of possibilities. He also links these conclusions to the nature of human responsibility, in a superb argument against those who think modern neuroscience means we are all slaves either to our genes or to our biochemistry.

At the end of the book the ‘ten myths of free will’ are stated then argued against, with a qualifying coda about the place of government in this debate.

Always a clear thinker, Baggini has the rare gift of conveying exactly what he thinks to the general reader. This is the second book by him that I’ve read, and I’m sure I’ll be reading more.

freedom r