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For December 11th, we will read a book on the subject of Free Will, "Freedom Evolves" by Daniel C. Dennett. We will read the last 5 chapters, pages 169-309. This book is an excellent overview of many different aspect of the problems of free will within a naturalistic framework. Dennett claims that free will has evolved uniquely among humans, and that it is dependent upon culture.
A quote from the book jacket: "Many people assume that determinism implies inevitability. Dennett shows that it doesn't. Many think INdeterminism can give us agents some freedom, some elbow room, that we just couldn't have in a deterministic universe. Dennett shows that it can't. Many think that in a deterministic world, there are no real options, only apparent options. This is false, according to Dennett. He investigates that way human culture has made possible the evolution of cooperation and ethical norms, and shows how our problems of self-control create self-deception and lead us into bargaining with our future selves, creating in the process the mature self that can take responsibility for it's actions."
Here is the Amazon review:
Daniel C. Dennett is a brilliant polemicist, famous for challenging unexamined orthodoxies. Over the last thirty years, he has played a major role in expanding our understanding of consciousness, developmental psychology, and evolutionary theory. And with such groundbreaking, critically acclaimed books as Consciousness Explained and Darwin's Dangerous Idea (a National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize finalist), he has reached a huge general and professional audience.
In this new book, Dennett shows that evolution is the key to resolving the ancient problems of moral and political freedom. Like the planet's atmosphere on which life depends, the conditions on which our freedom depends had to evolve, and like the atmosphere, they continue to evolve-and could be extinguished. According to Dennett, biology provides the perspective from which we can distinguish the varieties of freedom that matter. Throughout the history of life on this planet, an interacting web and internal and external conditions have provided the frameworks for the design of agents that are more free than their parts-from the unwitting gropings of the simplest life forms to the more informed activities of animals to the moral dilemmas that confront human beings living in societies.
As in his previous books, Dennett weaves a richly detailed narrative enlivened by analogies as entertaining as they are challenging. Here is the story of how we came to be different from all other creatures, how our early ancestors mindlessly created human culture, and then, how culture gave us our minds, our visions, our moral problems-in a nutshell, our freedom.