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 argumentsdrawing upon evolutionary biology, cognitive neuroscience, economics, and philosophythat 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.
As always when Dennett is writing, there is much of great interest along the way. This is a man who truly loves science and enjoys reporting on it and trying to relate it to the philosophical points he is making. He is particularly good when dealing with the work of those social psychologists who are, both in theory and in practice, trying to relate our biological needs to our behaviors in groups, showing how basic norms of moral behavior might have emerged naturally rather than on stone tablets carried down from on high. Dennett is crisp and critically insightful on all sorts of flabby presuppositions, such as those about the inevitability of genetic determinism, those claiming the supposed self-interest of all actions, and assumptions about the essential value of being natural or of cherishing what Mother Nature has done for us. — Michael Ruse