One of the world’s greatest scientists of human behaviour, the bestselling author of Behave, shows that free will does not exist – and challenges us to rethink the notions of choice, identity, responsibility, justice, morality and how we live together.
‘One of the best scientist-writers of our time’ OLIVER SACKS
‘A bravura performance, well worth reading for the pleasure of Sapolsky’s deeply informed company’ OLIVER BURKEMAN, Observer
Behind every thought, action and experience there lies a chain of biological and environmental causes, stretching back from the moment a neuron fires to the dawn of our species and beyond. Nowhere in this infinite sequence is there a place where free will could play a role.
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. This mechanistic view of human behaviour challenges our most powerful instincts, but history suggests that we have already made great strides toward it: where once we saw demonic possession or cowardice, for example, now we diagnose illness or trauma and offer help.
Determined confronts us with our true nature: who and what we are is biology and nothing more. Disturbing and liberating in equal measure, it explores the far-reaching implications for society of accepting this reality. Monumentally difficult as it may be, the reward will be a far more just and humane world.
‘Wonderfully readable … humorous and warm and humane’ Justin Webb, Today (BBC Radio 4)