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Free Wall by Sam Harris

My Rating: 6.5 / 10

Free Will came up on my list of books to read recently and it caught my intention given it’s assumption that free will is in fact an illusion. Instead Harris states that our psyche is based on subconscious actions and processing that we are generally unaware of nor have any control over. He asserts that we are not as free as we think we are and we do not feel as free as we think we do.

A short book which one could consume in about an hour, Harris takes the reader through his hypothesis using many examples. Furthermore he touches on areas such as cause and effect, how we make choices, put in effort, have the best of intentions. The book finishes on interesting aspects such as moral responsibility and politics.

I read this while on vacation and unfortunately didn’t consume it in one or two hits. If I had my time over again I would read it back to back so I could take it all in and reflect accordingly. Free Will certainly has challenged my belief that I am a free person who makes my own decisions and drives my life in the direction I want to take it. Harris finishes by saying that the illusions of free will is itself an illusion; I need to digest this book for a little longer as I’m not 100% convinced.

Three key takeaways from the book:

  1. Free will is an illusion. There are subconscious actions and processing that we are not aware of and we are unable to exert any conscious control over. This is quite a bold statement, however, backed up with various examples within the book.
  2. One of the great things about existentialism is that we are free to interpret and reinterpret the meaning of our lives.
  3. By merely glancing at your face or listening to the tone of your voice, others are often more aware of your state of mind and motivations than you are!

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