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Daniel C Dennett

Freedom Evolves

Physicalism seems to be the dominant philosophy of mind at present. However, the question is far from settled, so physicalism still needs its defenders. In Freedom Evolves Daniel Dennett continues his battle against Cartesian Dualism. He shows how what we call free will could have arisen from simple beginnings, without the need to postulate something extra. Its the sort of thing Dennett does well - constructing a model of how our minds might work and showing how experiments support this model. Hence the book is definitely worth reading, but I feel that he still spends too much time worrying about and taking cheap shots at Dualism.

Dennett looks at simple choice mechanisms in early forms of life and discusses how these could have evolved into complex decision procedures and so into what we know as freewill. This leads on to questions of morality. Dennett takes a detailed look at altruism and at what actions can be thought of as 'genuinely' altruistic.

Dennett seems very much taken with Conway's Game of Life. I wasn't totally convinced about the usefulness of this. On the one hand it does allow you to think of how life might be simulated on a computer. On the other it seems that all he shows is that a computer can model a much slower computer.  |  Chronon Critical Points  |  Recent Science Book Reviews