Reviews elsewhere on the web:
Guardian Unlimited
Kenan Malik
Jim Walker
Roger William Gilman
Human Nature
John C. Snider

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.

Amazon.com info
Paperback 368 pages  
ISBN: 0142003840
Salesrank: 119275
Weight:0.7 lbs
Published: 2004 Penguin Books
Amazon price $12.47
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Amazon.co.uk info
Paperback 368 pages  
ISBN: 0142003840
Salesrank: 2133342
Weight:0.7 lbs
Published: 2004 Penguin Books
Marketplace:New from £9.85:Used from £1.00
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Amazon.ca info
Paperback 368 pages  
ISBN: 0142003840
Salesrank: 161882
Weight:0.7 lbs
Published: 2004 Penguin Books
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Marketplace:New from CDN$ 14.14:Used from CDN$ 0.01
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Product Description
Can there be freedom and free will in a deterministic world? Renowned philosopher Daniel Dennett emphatically answers “yes!” Using an array of provocative formulations, Dennett sets out to show how we alone among the animals have evolved minds that give us free will and morality. Weaving a richly detailed narrative, Dennett explains in a series of strikingly original
arguments—drawing upon evolutionary biology, cognitive  neuroscience, economics, and philosophy—that far from being an enemy of traditional explorations of freedom, morality, and meaning, the evolutionary perspective can be an indispensable ally. In Freedom Evolves, Dennett seeks to place ethics on the foundation it deserves: a realistic, naturalistic, potentially unified vision of our place in nature.