Free Will by Sam Harris | Book Review

Title: Free Will

Author: Sam Harris

Category: Nonfiction, Philosophy

Rating: 5/5

10-word summary: Free will is an illusion; just observe your own thoughts.

About Free Will

Sam Harris believes that we have no free will. In this short book (less than 70 pages), he tries to prove that to us using some compelling arguments and questions to consider.

The book itself is an exploration of the idea of free will, the feeling of free will and the basis for our morality. While the book cannot prove that we have no free will, I think Harris makes a strong case for his view. The topic of free will is one of the premises that we created our societies on. So I think that we must explore the topic of free will and try to make sense of it. And I do hope future research could help us better understand how our brains work and this should help us judge the possibility of free will to exist better.

I personally believe we do not have free will – only the illusion of free will. I know that this question of free will is far from being settled conclusively, but I think it is more likely that we do not have free will.

What I like about Free Will

1. Free will is an important topic that should be studied, explored and discussed

The idea of free will affects so many aspects of our society: success, failure, blame, morality, crime and punishments and more. We live and organize our societies as if we do have free will. But if that is false, we must realize this and make some changes.

This is why I believe the topic of free will is very important and very relevant to us all – even if we’ve never spent much time thinking about it. I am happy that I got to read this book and think about free will. I hope this topic will be given the attention it deserves.

2. Sam Harris makes a compelling case

I think that Harris made some very good points trying to illustrate how the idea of free will is unlikely or illogical at times. He challenges us to reflect on our feeling of free will and I think he does this in a way that helps prove his view. He also tries to show how shaky the foundations of or morality and justice are if free will is just an illusion.

3. The book is insightful and thought-provoking

This book has the potential to make you reflect on the idea of free will and to question your own feeling of free will. And I think that the book can be interesting even if you have never read anything on free will or if you’re already somewhat familiar with the topic.

4. It is well-written, easy to read and it presents logical arguments in a clear way

Given that the topic is a complex one, I think that Sam Harris did a great job at discussing it in a clear, simple and logical way. I do believe that this book is well-written enough for anyone to understand it and insightful enough to entertain book lovers that read a lot as well.

What I don’t like about Free Will

1. The question of free will is still not settled. This is not really a critique of the book, but more a desire for clarity and clear, science-based answers.

I was not aware how much progress has been made in understanding how free will works and any experiments that may indicate that we have free will or not. So I did not know what to expect from the book. Harris does reference some studies that indicate we should at least question the idea of free will. But we have no conclusive answers yet – only logical ones based on some facts about our psychology.

Lessons from Free Will

If we have no free will, this means that we do not make our own choices independently of any internal or external factors. Our choices just arise in our consciousness and we cannot fully know the causes that lead to these decisions and not to others.

We hate and condemn criminals because we believe they have free will and they can choose to be responsible, moral, law-abiding citizens. What happens if we discover that they do not have free will? Then we will need to rethink our justice system.

Quotes from Free Will

“Free will is an illusion. Our wills are simply not of our own making. Thoughts and intentions emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we exert no conscious control. We do not have the freedom we think we have.”

“We are conscious of only a tiny fraction of the information that our brains process in each moment.”

“I cannot decide what I will next think or intend until a thought or intention arises. What will my next mental state be? I do not know – it just happens. Where is the freedom in that?”

Should You Read Free Will?

Yes. The topic of free will is very important to how we perceive ourselves and how we organize our societies. Because of this, I think we should all try to explore this topic and learn more about it. Luckily this book is short and easy to read, but it is also insightful and thought-provoking. Try to keep an open mind and truly consider Sam Harris’ arguments.

1 thought on “Free Will by Sam Harris | Book Review”

  1. Ernest Greenberg

    Having developed my own ideas about the nature of free will I was looking for books written abot this subject. Harris’ book “Free Will” is just what I sought. Clearly and succinctly, he expresses a most acceptable cerebral process that explains it. That concept does not negate those of responsibility and justice that evolve and are conceived out of and necessary feature of
    communal living.

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