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Review of “Freedom Evolves”

1 January 2005


Freedom Evolves draws together themes from much of Daniel Dennett’s pervious work. It aims to support and extend the compatiblist account of free will he set out in Elbow Room (1984), now that he has fulfilled that book’s promissory notes with Consciousness Explained (1991a) and Darwin’s Dangerous Idea (1995). In the first third of the new book Dennett develops compatibalist accounts of his key concepts by extending the analysis of non-human agents presented in Darwin’s Dangerous Idea. The remainder of Freedom Evolves is an attempt to show that if concepts like determinism and freedom are conceived as suggested, conscious free will and moral responsibility turn out to be natural phenomena; like all the other traits that make humans distinct, they are the products of multiple levels and kinds of natural selection. One consequence of the debt that this book bears to its predecessors is that those familiar with Dennett’s corpus will find fewer new ideas in this book than in the major texts that preceded it. That said, even for philosophical foes, Freedom Evolves is a rewarding text, full of fascinating stories and the usual sparkling wit.


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