Determined

Determined

Life Without Free Will

Summary

One of the world's greatest scientists of human behaviour, the bestselling author of Behave, shows that free will does not exist - and challenges us to rethink the notions of choice, identity, responsibility, justice, morality and how we live together.

'One of the best scientist-writers of our time' OLIVER SACKS

'Moving, absorbing, compassionate' OLIVER BURKEMAN, Observer

Behind every thought, action and experience there lies a chain of biological and environmental causes, stretching back from the moment a neuron fires to the dawn of our species and beyond. Nowhere in this infinite sequence is there a place where free will could play a role.

Without free will, it makes no more sense to punish people for antisocial behaviour than it does to scold a car for breaking down. It is no one's fault they are poor or overweight or unsuccessful, nor do people deserve praise for their talent or hard work; 'grit' is a myth. This mechanistic view of human behaviour challenges our most powerful instincts, but history suggests that we have already made great strides toward it: where once we saw demonic possession or cowardice, for example, now we diagnose illness or trauma and offer help.

Determined confronts us with our true nature: who and what we are is biology and nothing more. Disturbing and liberating in equal measure, it explores the far-reaching implications for society of accepting this reality. Monumentally difficult as it may be, the reward will be a far more just and humane world.

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

‘Utterly fascinating … with mind-boggling implications’ FRANS DE WAAL

'Wonderfully readable ... humorous and warm and humane' Justin Webb, Today (BBC Radio 4)

Reviews

  • Excellent . . . Outstanding for its breadth of research, the liveliness of the writing, and the depth of humanity it conveys
    Wall Street Journal

About the author

Robert M Sapolsky

Robert M. Sapolsky is a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University and the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation 'Genius Grant'. His previous books includes the international bestseller Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst, The Trouble with Testosterone, Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers and A Primate's Memoir.
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