Monday, 10 December 2012
Book Review: Free Will: A Contemporary Introduction by Robert Kane
Written by Robert Kane a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, who himself is a well respected academic who has written numerous papers on the topic of Free Will. The book aims to provide an introduction to the wider subject matter of Free Will. With the book being divided up into a number of short chapters discussing different theories and positions on Free Will and its relation to moral responsibility.
The book is divided logical into chapters each discussing a different topic. It is clear from how the book is laid out that the book is aimed to be a course text for undergraduate level teaching, with it being possible to model a course which roughly followed the chapters of the book. The book presupposes absolutely no knowledge about the subject matter, with the first chapter providing an introduction to the Free Will problem. Where the book really succeeds is in providing an accessible introduction to each of the topics discussed, while also examining some of the arguments from the leading contributors to the debate. Robert Kane is an excellent writer fairly assessing each position and argument discussed in terms that anybody could understand.
Where the book will probably fall short is for those interested in the topic but are not undertaking a introductory or undergraduate course. As the book is pretty formulaic and only gives summary introductions to each of the topics discussed.Those who are interested in reading about Free Will for enjoyment or out of interest may be better suited by purchasing another book. Though I could see someone reading Free Will: A Contemporary Introduction while reading a collection of essays alongside it. As Kane's book would provide a good introduction to the topic matter allowing you to then read a more in depth exposition of the positions taken in the book with Kane providing Suggested Reading at the conclusion of each chapter.However, it would be probably more interesting to read a book such as Daniel Dennett's 'Freedom Evolves' which is an extended defense of the compatibilist position on Free Will.
However this book is still to be commended and makes for a excellent contemporary introduction to the topic of free will and is generally considered to be the best of its kind. The clear limitation in regards to this book is that is clearly intended for use alongside a course in the subject matter. I would recommend that anyone doing a undergraduate on Free Will purchase this book as it is sure to help in some regards. The only criticism I could have would be the book is rather pricey for such a short tome and is currently selling for £15 on Amazon.co.uk