“Free Will” – Sam Harris Book Review

Posted by on March 23, 2012 in Book Review, Featured, Thoughts | 5 comments

Harris’ book, though only 70 pages long, is a concise look into some of the elements of “free will”, our insistence upon its existence, some of the  aspects of free will that impact upon our view of the world, and why, in the end, there is no such thing as free will. I’ve written a bit about this in the past, based on the excerpt from this book which Harris posted on his blog.

While this is only slightly longer than an extended essay, Harris manages to pack in enough food for thought to not only make it informative and engaging, but also thought-provoking. In this e has a way of bringing the relevant ideas to the fore and then exploring them just enough to illuminate the topic at hand, but not so much that it becomes a long-winded exploration into each topic at length.

Without giving too much away, he covers off what are the deep ramifications and implications of what it means if we, indeed, have no free will, from a societal, judicial, correctional and religious perspective, and some of the reasons we need not despair about this. Given that we are at the behest of past events, and that our thoughts seem to arise well independently of any intentionality well before we are aware of them, Harris gives us a compelling look into what the future discoveries about ourselves might look like, what our concerns will be, and how we might deal with the sometimes uncomfortable findings we may be faced with.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and managed to polish it off in a single early morning transit to work on public transport.

You can purchase this book from my online store.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)


  1. “..and that our thoughts seem to arise well independently of any intentionality well before we are aware of them.”
    If I understand that correctly, we already know what we want and/or what action to take long before we are actually conscious of it? 

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    •  @SwearyGeek I think Harris explains it better than I ever could. It’s more that our actions are prescribed ahead of time by up to 7 seconds before we consciously are aware or act upon it.

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
      •  @martinspribble OK..I sort of had it right. :-)

        VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
        Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
      •  @martinspribble
         Just exactly how are actions prescribed?  My decision to either expel gas or hold it in after I receive the urge is prescribed exactly by what? 

        VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
        Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  2. Harris’ account of Free Will sounds very solid …to those of us already comfortable with the scientific view of the homo sapien mind.
    But for those who’re uncomfortable with the assertion that human minds are primate minds, they’re very likely to defend their less scientific understanding of Free Will. And *ahem* god help ’em.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)


  1. Teleology, Destiny and a Life of Purpose | Martin S Pribble - [...] does the notion of teleology fit into the theist proposition of free will? How can a god have a…
  2. How Fear Manipulates You | Martin S Pribble - [...] aware this flies in the face of  earlier blogs I’ve written about the non-existent nature of free will, but…

Have your say

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: