Dan Dennett debates two Believers who refuse to say what they believe

It really wouldnt matter either way. In one of Dennett’s best presentations on why there is no Free Will, he ended up convincing me (i was already a full blown materialist at the time)… that, no, his premises can be avoided, and there really was true Free Will

When was this? That’s not an accurate description of his position in anything I’ve heard him say or read about it.

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Dennet is not a determinist.

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His talks about Free Will are usually perceived to be opposed to the idea of Libertarian Free Will.

You disagree?


So what do you think is an accurate description?

I cant quite tell what part of the irony you are objecting to.

His view is nuanced. I would say that he thinks that free will does exist in some form, which provides for responsibility of action. That’s what I’ve got from watching videos of him and reading a bit. He goes into much more detail of course.

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First, we remind ourselves that Dennett is known as one of the Four Horsemen of New Atheism.

Second, he says there is a valid notion of Moral Responsibility, but it isnt what most people think it is.

Thirdly, his most common trope is:

Freewill is like Magic: his friend wrote a book on Magic… but not on REAL magic, but magic in the sense of theatrical illusion, since there is no such thing as REAL magic.

Dan Dennett’s latest book explains it well.

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Does anything there contradict what I said?


He argues moral responsibility is valid DESPITE THE ABSENCE of “free will” the way people usually means free will.

Dennett said that his point was that religion not only tries to promote morality now (not in ancient times) but is now hindering morality, and is doing so by allowing people to “play the faith card”. If you say that someone should be moral because your God says so, dictating what is moral, then nonbelievers or those of other faiths must ask, “That’s not good enough. What reasons should we have to consider that behavior X is moral?”

Hey, look! My favorite topic rears its head again and I wasn’t even the one to bring it up.

If I recall correctly, his notion of moral responsibility involves the consideration of how capable something is of experiencing suffering.

But really the act of asking the question answers it. It is only with free will that there is any consideration for whether something is moral or not. If there’s no free will, there’s nothing to consider.

If there is suffering, and no free will, then its irrelevant. There’s no free choice to increase/decrease suffering.

It’s like blaming the last domino in the row for all the other dominos falling over. What we “choose” to do, if there ever was a choice, was actually made long before we came about.


It looks like you have your very own version of Dennett in your head. He doesn’t assert that there is Free Will. But he does assert that there is something rational and reasonable about discussing moral responsibility.

He thinks people should give up the idea of trying to eliminate moral responsibility just because there is no
Free Will.

I didn’t suggest Dennett thinks there is free will.

“He thinks people should ‘give up’ …”

Do you see the problem? Giving up is a choice. A decision. Is it up to us if there is no free will?

No, I don’t see a problem. Every moment we make choices. Most of the time we will do the same thing without thinking about it. We may think we have a free will to do anything we’d like but we are really constrained as to what is possible. Free Will is something we do AFTER we do what we do to JUDGE what we have DONE. Free Will is backward looking only.

Free will doesn’t mean free from constraint. It means anything other than pure physiological/biological determinism. Free will is the difference between us being active participants or passive observers.

Do I have free will to decide on whether to breathe?
Do I have free will to decide to age?
Do I have free will to desire food?

No, that is not your will. Your body is a living thing that has a will of its own. The very same will that compels all life to evolve and persist.

Yes, my body is always looking for food and sex. :rofl: