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Do We Have Free Will?

Daniel Dennett V. Robert Sapolsky

67 mins watch time

posted December 2023

Psychology, Neuroscience, Philosophy, Science

Two titans of neuroscience and philosophy come together to debate the existence of free will – a question with profound implications for identity, justice, and the very meaning of life itself.

Do human beings have free will?

For Stanford neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky, science clearly demonstrates that free will is a powerful and dangerous illusion. 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.­

But for philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett, free will is not only compatible with our current scientific knowledge but justified by it. Free will underwrites our moral and artistic responsibility – and reason and self-control are both real and desirable.

Coming together to debate this question for the first time, these two intellectual giants delve deep into the science and philosophy of the mind and get to the heart of this ancient and vitally important question.