Sam Harris vs. Dan Dennett on free will


Why Evolution Is True

A while back Dan Dennett published a long critique of Sam Harris’s book Free Will, a book that I liked a lot. Like me, Sam is a determinist and an incompatibilist; that is, we see our determinism as incompatible with the kind of free will that many people espouse: a “ghost in the machine” libertarian free will.

In contrast, Dan is a determinist and a compatibilist; that is, he sees determinism as compatible with free will: the special kind of free will that he limned in two books, Elbow Room and Freedom Evolves. I’ve discussed the latter book on this website, and saw Dan’s solution as largely a semantic one: the redefinition of “free will” as the evolved ability of the human brain to give outputs (“decisions”) involving integrating inputs far more complex than those processed by any other animal.  I also saw his compatibilism, as I…

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