Free Will Revisited: Sam Harris talks to Dan Dennett (and they attempt to resolve their differences)

Jul 5, 2016

Listening to this spirited conversation between two highly intelligent and articulate horsemen has been a fascinating experience for me. And the fascination is not lessened by the fact that I come out of it genuinely uncertain which one I agree with. Don’t have it on in the background while you do something else. This is deep, concentrated stuff.  The free will question is the one I most dread in Q & A after my own talks, and I seldom can do better than to quote the joke response of the other horseman, Christopher Hitchens: “Do I believe in free will? I have no choice.”

–Richard


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4 comments on “Free Will Revisited: Sam Harris talks to Dan Dennett (and they attempt to resolve their differences)

  • Free Will…Dennett!

    My perfect thread topic.

    I must, however, demonstrate my free will and redirect the thread onto the issue of keeping koi carp or “polenta, a necessary evil”, such mischievous hijacking being my usual mode…er…

    Will, free of others, free of yourself? Only the former…if you will.



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  • were they drinking in that canadian pub?
    sam won this pub argument by sheer artful loquaciousness
    dan’s sailing analogy was good
    but was he getting a bit tight towards the end?
    he did sound like a slightly tipsy theologian
    hitch always comes to mind in this old debate
    “Of course we have free will, we have no choice.”



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  • Dennett is saying the more useful stuff though is compromised towards the end by being a little “tired and emotional”. Dennett’s physics is better and though he discounts the physics earlier somewhat, it adds force to his argument about predictive possibilities of the minds of others. His original thesis of evolving to create ever more good choices at the moment of real random choice making (given the brain’s use of noise as an aid to detection and forcing decision making) is a key idea. Having equally good or good enough choices, in effect randomly selected, is perfect. It defeats any possibility of the idea of a deterministic fate whilst allowing determinism. It confounds our opponents and delights and surprises ourselves.

    We just need to junk the theologically rooted term Free Will, IMESHO.

    (Dennettian) Free Choice.



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