Just DesertsDebating Free Will
Just Deserts
Debating Free Will

The concept of free will is profoundly important to our self-understanding, our interpersonal relationships, and our moral and legal practices. If it turns out that no one is ever free and morally responsible, what would that mean for society, morality, meaning, and the law?

<i>Just Deserts</i> brings together two philosophers – Daniel C. Dennett and Gregg D. Caruso – to debate their respective views on free will, moral responsibility, and legal punishment. In three extended conversations, Dennett and Caruso present their arguments for and against the existence of free will and debate their implications. Dennett argues that the kind of free will required for moral responsibility is compatible with determinism – for him, self-control is key; we are not responsible for becoming responsible, but are responsible for staying responsible, for keeping would-be puppeteers at bay. Caruso takes the opposite view, arguing that who we are and what we do is ultimately the result of factors beyond our control, and because of this we are never morally responsible for our actions in the sense that would make us <i>truly deserving</i> of blame and praise, punishment and reward.

<i>Just Deserts</i> introduces the concepts central to the debate about free will and moral responsibility by way of an entertaining, rigorous, and sometimes heated philosophical dialogue between two leading thinkers.

Show More
Buy Now

From Wiley.com

Order Exam Copy

For Lecturers Only

More Info
  • February 2021
  • 200 pages
  • 145 x 214 mm / 6 x 8 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $64.95
  • 9781509545759
  • Paperback $16.95
  • 9781509545766
  • Open eBook $14.00
  • 9781509545773
Table of Contents
Table of contents:
Foreword by Derk Pereboom

Exchange 1: Debating Free Will and Moral Responsibility
Exchange 2: Going Deeper: The Arguments
Exchange 3: Punishment, Morality, and Desert

Suggested Readings and Recommendations
About the Author

Daniel C. Dennett is Co-Director of the Center for Cognitive Science and the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University.

Gregg D. Caruso is Professor of Philosophy at SUNY Corning and Honorary Professor of Philosophy at Macquarie University.

Show More


“(A) spirited debate exploring multiple aspects of free will, moral responsibility, and punishment…Dennett and Caruso forcefully defend their opposing viewpoints, and the reader becomes engrossed in the twists and turns of the competing arguments.”
Los Angeles Review of Books

Just Deserts is a delight: a sharp and interesting discussion of punishment, morality, choice, and much else ... perfect for a newcomer to the free will debates.
Paul Bloom, Yale University, author of Against Empathy

“This is a very lively, engaging, and thoughtful debate between two well-informed and insightful philosophers. It is written in a very accessible style, and students and even scholars in other disciplines or sub-fields of philosophy will learn from it and find themselves drawn in. It does not just re-hash traditional debates, but pushes the frontiers outward. Highly recommended.”
John Martin Fischer, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at UC Riverside

“What it means to make a choice, to deserve praise or blame, to do the right thing - these are all at stake in the debate over free will. Here you will find two different viewpoints, elaborated and defended by true masters. Given the sharpness of both interlocutors, neither has anywhere to hide; a wide spectrum of important points are laid out for careful consideration.”
Sean Carroll, author of The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself

“A philosophical debate in the grand style. Caruso and Dennett play in the philosophical equivalent of a three set tennis championship where the prize is whether free will exists or not and what this means for reward, punishment, and the criminal law. Serve, volley, amazing gets, overheads, long rallies, a few trick shots, several match points. Really smart play from two philosophers at the top of their games.”
Owen Flanagan, James B. Duke Distinguished University Professor, Duke University

“This is a spirited and enlightening debate between an influential defender of compatibilism about freedom, responsibility and determinism (Dennett) and an astute defender of a hard incompatibilist or free will skeptical position (Caruso). The book breaks new ground on many issues; and it has made clearer to me than anything else I have ever read on the subject how central is the issue of "Just Deserts" to age-old debates about free will, moral responsibility and determinism.”
Robert Kane, University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Law, University of Texas at Austin

“It reminds you just how important and difficult and vitally alive philosophical debate can be.”
Jenann T. Ismael, Columbia University, author of How Physics Makes Us Free


“'Lucky us. These are two of the top philosophers in the world on this subject... They are witty, respectful, and well acquainted with one another’s work. And they write informally and at times emotionally with one another. It produces a literally page-turning experience, like an epistolary novel, where I couldn’t stop myself at times from flipping ahead to see how one or the other would react to what was being said”
3 Quarks Daily

“A scintillating exchange.”
Stuart Jeffries, Philosophy Now

Show More