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What does it mean to have free will? Is free will incompatible with determinism? With indeterminism? What does it mean to control oneself? What does it mean to make a choice? Why do we want free will at all and what do we want when we want it? Dennett examines these perennial philosophical problems and disposes of many of the "bugbears" which plague the often fear-riddled investigations into these topics. Dennett also develops answers, or at least the start of some answers, that embrace the possi.
Dennett also develops answers, or at least the start of some answers, that embrace the possibility of determinism and evolution.
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Return to Book Page. Preview — Elbow Room by Daniel C. Anyone who has wondered if free will is just an illusion or has asked 'could I have chosen otherwise? Daniel Dennett, whose previous books include "Brainstorms "and with Douglas Hofstadter "The Mind's I, " tackles the free will problem in a highly original an Anyone who has wondered if free will is just an illusion or has asked 'could I have chosen otherwise?
Daniel Dennett, whose previous books include "Brainstorms "and with Douglas Hofstadter "The Mind's I, " tackles the free will problem in a highly original and witty manner, drawing on the theories and concepts of several fields usually ignored by philosophers; not just physics and evolutionary biology, but engineering, automata theory, and artificial intelligence.
In "Elbow Room," Dennett shows how the classical formulations of the problem in philosophy depend on misuses of imagination, and he disentangles the philosophical problems of real interest from the "family of anxieties' they get enmeshed in - imaginary agents, bogeymen, and dire prospects that seem to threaten our freedom. Putting sociobiology in its rightful place, he concludes that we can have free will and science too.
It goes on to analyze concepts of control and self-control-concepts often skimped by philosophers but which are central to the questions of free will and determinism. A chapter on "self-made selves" discusses the idea of self or agent to see how it can be kept from disappearing under the onslaught of science. Dennett then sees what can be made of the notion of acting under the idea of freedomdoes the elbow room we think we have really exist?
What is an opportunity, and how can anything in our futures be "up to us"? He investigates the meaning of "can" and "could have done otherwise," and asks why we want free will in the first place. We are wise, Dennett notes, to want free will, but that in itself raises a host of questions about responsibility. In a final chapter, he takes up the problem of how anyone can ever be guilty, and what the rationale is for holding people responsible and even, on occasion, punishing them. Get A Copy.
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Sort order. Brain yoga. Keeping up with Daniel Dennett's train of thought is a bit like herding cats. Just when you think you've got a handle on one postulate, he launches another, often in a totally opposite direction.
Even with his exquisite analogies [see: frog in a beer mug] I couldn't always wrap my brain around his concepts on the first pass. There were many paragraphs, and at least one entire chapter, that I had to read twice.
That's not to say this book isn't fantastic it is! Dennett tackles the Brain yoga. Dennett tackles the question of free will with surgical precision.
He examines arguments, both pro and con, with such absence of malice that I really wasn't sure until the last few pages exactly what side of the debate he was on. Not to be overtly deterministic, but I knew I was going to enjoy this book before I read it. After all, it's Daniel f-ing Dennett! My only criticism, and it's a small one, is the title. View all 3 comments. Apr 12, Jimmy rated it really liked it Shelves: philosophy. Determinism does not mean that our fate was determined before we were born.
But much of what happens to us in a lifetime is certainly influenced by that. Determinism is not fatalism. For someone to say, "It does not matter what I do, whatever is meant to happen will happen," is quite absurd. And yet to say we have free will and that I can do whatever I want to do, is also absurd.
For me understanding determinism, I think of this instant of my life on a straight line. The straight line is my past Determinism does not mean that our fate was determined before we were born. The straight line is my past.
It cannot be changed, as much as I would give anything to change some things. I ache to change them. But they are frozen in time. It is the next instant in my life line that is determined by all that went before. Those instants pile up. Soren Kierkegaard said, "Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. I am affected by environment, heredity, and chance. I "feel" like I have free will, just like everyone else.
In fact, I understand that I am wrong, that in reality I have no free will. But I cannot shake that "feeling" that I am a free person. Jan 03, Keith Swenson rated it liked it. I am a big fan of Dan Dennett. Free will is a very difficult topic to explain and this is a very careful, thoughtful treatment of the subject.
I started to write a detailed summary of the book, but decided cut to the basics: This was an early book of his on the topic of consciousness and free will, and his later books are much better. You can see in this book the seeds of ideas that he will later present in "Consciousness Explained. The age old question of free will. Dennett approach the problem as a sculptor would a piece of granite. He wants to work all our the edges, get a very rough idea, before adding detail and ultimately polishing the theory.
He start with an entire chapter on why we don't want to think about free will. It seems clear that the idea of free will is a very dear to us. We simply can't be disinterested, there is some nagging feeling that makes us want to avoid the subject like a really bad smell. He outlines a set of bugbears: 1 Invisible Jailer: If we have not free will, then we might be in jail 2 Nefarious Neurosurgeon: or someone might be able to control us 3 Cosmic Child Toys: or we might be toys to gods 4 Malevolent Mindreader: or we might be predicable and therefor unable to win 5 Sphexishness: we might be just acting according to program 6 Disappear self: if we look to hard we might find there is no one home 7 Dread Secret: finding out the truth might ruin your life The "problem" with free will, is all of the fears embodied above.
There is an interesting part about body english -- those movements that you do that can't possibly have effect, but you do them anyway, as if superstitiously. Launching the bowling ball and then dancing or wheeling as if to control the ball down the alley. However there is an alternative: don't loop up too soon after hitting a golf ball. The practive of keeping your head down AFTER hitting the ball still can have an effect how you behave before hitting it.
Which is it: pointless or important?
What does it mean to have free will? Is free will incompatible with determinism? With indeterminism? What does it mean to control oneself? What does it mean to make a choice? Why do we want free will at all and what do we want when we want it?
In this book Daniel Dennett explored what it means for people to have free will. The title, Elbow Room , is a reference to the question: "Are we deterministic machines with no real freedom of action or do we in fact have some elbow room, some real choice in our behavior? A major task taken on by Dennett in Elbow Room is to clearly describe just what people are as biological entities and why they find the issue of free will to be of significance. In discussing what people are and why free will matters to them, Dennett makes use of an evolutionary perspective.