At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004


Dennett, Daniel C. Freedom evolves. Viking, 2003. 347p bibl index afp ISBN 0-670-03186-0, $25.95 .

Choice: “lively and worthy addition to the huge literature on the age-old philosophical problem of free will and determinism, this book belongs in every college and university library, and in many public libraries.” Publishers Weekly: “incendiary, brilliant, even dangerous.” Booklist: “In a complex presentation, Dennett’s essential points will be plain to the serious readership for this work.” Kirkus: “Difficult but nonetheless stimulating look into the roots of freedom and responsibility.” Library Journal: “written in engaging, largely jargon-free prose that will be accessible, and of interest, to the educated reader...Unfortunately, Dennett has somewhat missed the mark in his approach, which is primarily empirical and materialistic…This aside, Dennett has a deservedly large readership, and librarians in most academic and public libraries will want this book.” Journal of Philosophy: “vigorous and lively…This is a synoptic and compendious book, not likely to be appealing to the more meticulous analytic philosophers. Its target, I would think, is primarily a more general audience of intellectuals and scholars in other fields, although even the most fastidious philosopher may find some intriguing, suggestive, and provocative observations…Dennett’s discussion could benefit from a subtler, more articulated view of the target phenomena…Dennett is at his best when he is essentially challenging philosophers to be broader in our intellectual gaze, but evidently he feels that the need to avoid parochialism is asymmetric.” Quarterly Review of Biology: "Offers intellectual adventures, fascinating examples, and engaging writing. But Dennett seems more confident about the ability to ascribe full responsibility to individuals than I am. I object to Dennett's attempt to redefine the term free will, which has a long accepted definition." Commentary: “long, ingenious, and often entertaining…But Dennett cannot begin to come to terms with the ‘ring of Gyges’ problem…Nor does Dennett come close to providing a justification for the feeling that good people deserve to be rewarded and bad people deserve to be punished. There is, in fact, something almost comical about the mental contortions Dennett goes through in his effort to square the moral circle…Will such arguments persuade scientists? I very much doubt it. Nor will they convince anyone hoping to defend a more robust idea of moral autonomy than seems compatible with present-day natural science.”


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