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Review of Free Will, Agency, and Meaning in Life, by Derk Pereboom

Review of Free Will, Agency, and Meaning in Life, by Derk Pereboom

John Martin Fischer

University of California, Riverside
Email: john.fischer@ucr.edu

ABSTRACT

Mark Twain once said about Wagner’s music: “It is not as bad as it sounds.” Similarly, Derk Pereboom has convinced most of us working in this field that moral responsibility skepticism, at least of his kind, is not as bad as it sounds. Indeed, through his important work culminating (thus far) in this significant book, he has convinced me that the view is subtle, very plausible, and even deeply attractive. Whereas there are other forms of moral responsibility skepticism on the market, Pereboom’s is (in my view) the most fully developed and most appealing. Although I am not myself a moral responsibility skeptic, and, in particular, I do not believe that causal determinism is incompatible with the kind of freedom that grounds robust, desert-based moral responsibility, I find that (surprisingly) our views don’t really differ that much from each other. It might seem that our views are miles apart; but upon reflection, it turns out that they are very close, and with the intelligent and patient help of Pereboom, one can see the great appeal of his approach to a whole range of interrelated issues. I’m not going to mince words: this book is a masterful and comprehensive articulation of Derk Pereboom’s very important and original theory of free will and moral responsibility. Throughout his career, and especially here in this book, Pereboom has developed and defended one of the real “contenders” as a comprehensive theory of freedom and responsibility. This is a huge, and admirable, intellectual achievement.

 

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Science, Religion and Culture

June

Vol. 5, Sp. Iss. 1 Pages 1-82

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