Free Will: The Scandal in Philosophy

My first philosophy book was published today (my 75th birthday). Here is the press release material.

Free Will

A sourcebook/textbook on the problem of free will and determinism. Contains a history of the free will problem, a taxonomy of current free will positions, the standard argument against free will, the physics, biology, and neuroscience of free will, the most plausible and practical solution of the problem, and reviews of the work of the leading determinist Ted Honderich, the leading libertarian Robert Kane, the well-known compatibilist Daniel Dennett, and the determinism-agnostic Alfred Mele.

‘Free Will: The Scandal in Philosophy’ | Bob Doyle | Paperback 9780983580201 |
480 pages, b&w, 40 figures, 15 sidebars, glossary, bibliography, index. $29.95

Notes to Editors: This book is based on the Freedom section of the Information Philosopher website. It will be available in a number of digital eBook editions (Amazon Kindle, Apple iPad/iPhone, Barnes & Noble Nook, and Sony Reader). It will also be available online as a Google Book (PDF).

The eBook editions contain a digital publishing innovation. Amazon normally recommends eliminating the index because eBook pages are repaginated depending on font size. But an index is vital for a textbook. And an index needs page numbers. Free Will: The Scandal in Philosophy may be the first eBook with page numbers anchored in the text.

Page numbers are visible in the text of Free Will eBook editions, for easy citations. The eBooks also have fully interactive tables of contents (Amazon best navigation) as well as including the print edition’s ToC.

The print edition will be available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, in bookstores, and especially university bookstores in the US and UK. Print-on-demand versions will be available via the Espresso Book Machines network worldwide.

Notes to Distributors and Booksellers: The book is available for wholesale purchase at standard trade discount (returnable) from Ingram Lightning Source in the US, UK, and Australia:

About the Author: Bob Doyle is a scientist (Ph.D. in Astrophysics, Harvard, 1968), an inventor with multiple patents (Parker Brothers’ Merlin, 1978), an entrepreneur (Super8 Sound, 1973; MicroCosmos, 1974; iXO, 1982), a software developer (MacPublisher for Macintosh, 1984), a journalist (NewMedia, EContent), a web innovator (he helped produce the first podcast in 2003), and a philosopher whose influential website ( has highly ranked pages on over 200 philosophers and scientists.
He is currently an Associate in the Harvard University Department of Astronomy faculty.

Doyle wrote MacPublisher, the first desktop publishing program, in 1984 as a tool to help him write this book, but it had to wait for twenty-seven years to get finished. Doyle used the Adobe InDesign desktop publishing program (with Illustrator and Photoshop for the figures) to design and produce the book himself.

About the book:

John Searle called it a scandal that after all the centuries of writing about free will, we have not made much progress. According to Doyle, a more serious scandal today is that academic philosophers are convincing many young students that they are deterministic biological machines with only a “compatibilist free will.”

Doyle recounts the many different forms of determinism that have been used over the centuries to deny human freedom and responsibility. To end the scandal, philosophers need to teach a two-stage model of free will and creativity, one that Doyle finds in the work of a dozen philosophers and scientists going back to William James’ talk to Harvard Divinity School students in 1884.

The Doyle/James two-stage model reconciles free will with indeterminism, just as David Hume reconciled freedom of action with determinism (and R.E.Hobart reconciled free will with determination).

The free-will model is actually triply compatible; compatible with determinism (of the Hume and especially Hobart kind), compatible with indeterminism (since William James), and compatible with biological evolution.

Doyle calls this “comprehensive compatibilism,” to encourage compatibilists who won’t have to change their self-descriptions, but just broaden their definition of compatibilism to include his limited indeterminism and the evolutionary connection with neurobiology.

The two-stage model emerges naturally as a consequence of evolution. It is not a metaphysical free will, a mystery or gift of God. It is rather a biophysical free will that evolved by natural selection from lower animals, which Martin Heisenberg has shown have a two-stage “behavioral freedom.” They “originate” actions that are not pre-determined by the laws of nature and conditions immediately before their “decisions.”

The first “free” stage is indeterministic. In humans the second “will” stage is normally adequately determined, by reasons and motives, desires and feelings, by character and values. But an agent can also “flip a coin” between indifferent alternatives, so the two-stage model also supports undetermined liberties at the moment of choice. Undetermined liberties are a subset of all possible actions that are consistent with character and values, etc.

Our thoughts are free. Our actions are willed.

One thought on “Free Will: The Scandal in Philosophy

  1. freedom, like its most important substrate language, is a skill developed in humans from rudimentary capabilities shared by humans with other animals, most notably primates (who can have love affairs) and corvids (who can fly–recently there was an internet photo of a crow riding, with folded wings, on the back of a flying eagle).

    One (whether one is human or animal) can be more or less free depending on endowment, circumstance and practice. Freedom is a form of art, just as art is a form of play, and one becomes more free the more serious one becomes about and with one’s propensities for play.

    One cannot demonstrate the existence of freedom using science, which is a deterministic paradigm and which can therefore yield only determinate results. Freedom, by its nature, can be neither defined nor predicted. However, it can be discriminated from chaos by its intelligibility and from mere information by the apprehension of beauty it creates in humans and, one might suppose, in our animal relatives–I have seen my dog mesmerized by a sunset. There are gods and goddesses who inspire and lead us, truly there are.

    Freedom both leads and follows truth, and it is the neutron of happiness. It can be achieved only by diligent practice and choice—of choice, the philosopher said de gustibus non disputandum est.

    —joseph gretsch


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