On Free Will & Crime: How should society react to violent crime?

30 Dec

Free WillFree Will by Sam Harris

My Rating★★★☆☆

Glancing at the cover might have been more than enough to guess the full contents of this one…

Harris is right to an extent, but as many have already done, his argument is too easy to poke holes in. This is primarily because the argument depends on the definition/boundary that he imposes on it. It makes for a good argument in a monologue but will fall apart in a dialogue.

This is not to say that there is no merit in what he concludes on the basis of his hypothesis. He uses it to identify the true nature of crime and how society should react to it:

If sneezing was a crime and someone violated it, can we become riled enough about it to conduct mass protests? What if all (or most) violent crimes are like that at a fundamental level – involuntary? Can we move our justice system away from a system based on punishment to one based on correction/isolation. Can we start feeling fear and pity to offenders instead of anger and revenge? These threads make the book a must read, especially in the light of the mass hysteria that has gripped Delhi (and the whole nation) in the wake of the poor unnamed girl’s unfortunate death. Food for thought.


View all my reviews


Posted by on December 30, 2012 in Book Reviews, Books, Thoughts


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 responses to “On Free Will & Crime: How should society react to violent crime?

  1. Mark Lewis

    July 20, 2013 at 10:46

    I’m so glad you asked this question.. . When I was a foster parent I had to take a training class that our state requires in which we were taught that “the best way to stop unruly behavior is to ignore it.”. . My question to the agency was this. I had two foster children living with me at the time – one of which was very violent. I said “So are you telling me when Child A is throwing a temper tantrum and throwing things around the room for attention, I’m
    just supposed to ignore it and let him hurt the other child?

    ” “What about when he is slamming his head
    on the floor – he has actually bruised himself doing
    that. You don’t want me to stop him? You want me to let it continue?”. . Wouldn’t it be something
    if our law enforcement did this. They see someone flying
    down the road – just trying to get attention from other drivers so they
    ignore it and let them kill somebody by their
    actions? Seems kind of stupid to me.



"Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me? And why should I not speak to you?" - Walt Whitman

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: