The Nonsense of Free Will: Facing up to a false belief

Troubador Publishing Ltd
1
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Did Myra Hindley deserve to be punished? Does any criminal? Is belief in free will an essential foundation for morality, or an excuse for unwarranted cruelty? Is free will a myth and, if so, can we let go of it?

In this entertaining, accessible but deeply serious book, the author brings a refreshingly original approach to the age-old conflict between free will and determinism and comes down firmly against free will. But what does ‘free will’ mean? And if we rejected it, what would the consequences be?

The author, a lawyer who has worked both on law reform at the Law Commission and in private practice, and has written legal and other books and articles, has turned to a subject which has interested him for over half a century. He strongly believes that it does not belong exclusively to philosophers. These questions should be of concern to everyone – and no one who is willing to look at them objectively should be afraid to judge for themselves and reach their own conclusions.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Troubador Publishing Ltd
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Published on
Nov 30, 2018
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Pages
240
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ISBN
9781780887449
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / Free Will & Determinism
Philosophy / Political
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Does the idea that we have free will serve to foster our cruelty to one another? Richard Oerton has already dismissed the idea of free will as incoherent and illusory, doing so in The Nonsense of Free Will, a book described as “wonderfully clear – and very clever” by the New York Times bestselling author Sam Harris. The Cruelty of Free Will starts by recapitulating the theme of the earlier book, but then goes on to develop it in important ways. It asks two questions: why – and how – does free will belief persist so stubbornly? Philosophers and others who try to uphold free will are guided less by reason than by their own (probably unconscious) emotions. Blind to the fact that our everyday explanations of human behaviour are based, not on free will, but on an unacknowledged determinism, they try to preserve the idea of free will by means of sophistry and word-play. Their methods include a conjuring trick: that of replacing our common idea of free will with some other concept which, though they call it by the same name, actually involves no freedom of choice. Free will is thought to be a good thing and determinism a bad one, but Richard Oerton insists that we’ve got this the wrong way round because belief in free will fosters ignorance and cruelty. It allows us to think that those whose lives are bleak have only themselves to blame, and that criminals and other bad guys are embodiments of self-created wickedness deserving of retributive punishment – whereas in reality, we are all of us simply the products of biological and environmental luck. The Cruelty of Free Will asserts that human beings belong to what is still a savage species with few inhibitions against harming one another, and that we cling to the idea of free will mainly because it purports to justify the escape and expression of this savagery.
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