Sam Harris’ Book “Free Will”.

Daniel OMalley
Daniel OMalley
Total Posts:  22
Joined  21-10-2011
07 April 2012 06:36

Okay, Harris supposedly addresses Dennett fans.

He didn’t defend his use of dualistic language, by the way.

Issue number 1:

Dan seems to think that free will is like color: People might have some erroneous beliefs about it, but the experience of freedom and its attendant moral responsibilities can be understood in a similarly straightforward way through science. I think that free will is an illusion and that analogies to phenomena like color do not run through. A better analogy, also taken from the domain of vision, would liken free will to the sense that most of us have of visual continuity.

This discussion should not be dominated by analogies: Analogies are there to help thinking, but as arguments in and of themselves, it is weak thinking and bad philosophy.


While color vision survives close inspection, our conventional sense of visual continuity does not. The impression we have of seeing everything all at once, clearly, and without interruption is based on our not paying close attention to what it is like to see. I argue that the illusory nature of free will can also be noticed in this way. As with the illusion of visual continuity, the evidence of our confusion is neither far away nor deep within; rather, it is right on the surface of experience, almost too near to us to be seen.

Of course, we could take Dan’s approach and adjust the notion of “continuity” so that it better reflected the properties of human vision, giving us a new concept of seamless visual perception that is “worth wanting.”

What is important to see here is the sleight-of-hand move of first giving his own analogy, and then mapping it on the supposed view of Dennett. Just as you can see in the first quote, the analogy Dennett has apparently given (I haven’t read this from Dennett, but I haven’t read Elbow Room yet, so maybe he has expressed this analogy, though it is still weak to have this discussion dominated by mere analogies) is about colour. Then, like a thief in the night, silently, hoping that nobody notices, he adjusts Dennett’s analogy to suite his own purposes. This is intellectually dishonest.

Now there’s a lot I agree with overall in what he wrote in response, and I can sympathize with the moral argument, but this is still wrong.

Bill Rogan
Total Posts:  13
Joined  11-02-2012
07 April 2012 13:56

It seems to me that if something is clear in this case “Free Will” then it can not be argued. The thoughts on this post are certainly the products of good minds, yet there is nothing conclusive in these discussions that proves or disproves “free will”  Can it not be said that a mind trying to decide between courses of action is a confused mind. When you are clear then you act, and face it one could never explore all the options the result would be paralysis .  I think something needs to be understood prior do any discussions about human behavior, without understanding consciousness and what arises out of it all our talks are somewhat meaningless.

We do not understand consciousness - how it arises ,therefor or should I say hence these arguments.

Total Posts:  126
Joined  12-05-2009
26 May 2012 22:04

There is no such thing as “Free Will”. It costs $11.69 at Amazon. The title is an oxymoron.