The Cruelty of Free Will is Richard Oerton's follow-up to The Nonsense of Free Will. The discussion of free will is often convoluted and frequently full of hostility. It does not need to be and Oerton does a great job of explaining the problems with free will as it is generally accepted in the west.
I'm hesitant to try my hand at distilling his already streamlined explanations so I won't give it much effort. Basically free will says in response to any given situation, event, whatever we are completely free to make any choice. Yet in every aspect of our daily lives we rely on determinism to get us through. We know, for instance, that a friend's history and preferences will make her pick a certain restaurant over another if given a choice. It isn't that she cannot choose the other but who she is determines what choice she will make. If we were to go through a day thinking that any given action another person took was not determined by their make-up and their history then we would be in a completely random and chaotic world. Any field that looks for reasons behind a person's actions rely on determinism, not free will, being the driving force. A poor explanation by comparison so read the first book for a better explanation or the first chapter of this one.
Free will is what stands behind many of society's cruelest and least compassionate norms and laws. If that poor person had chosen better they would not be poor, so they are to blame. Not the dirt poor environment into which they were born or the institutional racism or sexism they have faced. Criminals should be punished because they freely chose their path, not some of the same factors I just mentioned above. This isn't to say criminals should not be held accountable, they should. But retribution rather than rehabilitation is preferred because people believe the criminal chose freely to follow the path they took.
Basically, free will plays a large role in the way society keeps the poor and the disadvantaged down because, through the lense of free will, they deserve what they get.
Those of you intrigued by the ideas should read the book(s) to better understand. Those of you vehemently opposed to what I am saying should also read the book since I acknowledge my explanation is weak and certainly if there is any chance that the concept of free will is behind our cruelty to one another it is worth the time to read a better explanation before throwing the idea out.
by Earl Messer
He makes lots of good points about free will being nonsense and cruel by it's very being. I agree. It's a total set up. I think to really understand and appreciate this book, I need to find and read, The Nonsense of Free Will., the author's first book on freewill. But free will is an interesting topic and should be read by anyone interested in how the whole idea works, and how to leave it behind. Timely message, good read!
by Catherine Hankins
Richard Oerton was born in Devon in 1936. He was admitted a Solicitor in 1959 and got married the same year. He worked in private practice, in legal publishing, at the Law Commision and briefly in the Treasury Solicitor's Department, and he ended as consultant with a firm of Solicitors and Parliamentary Agents in Westminster.
He's always been interested in penal reform and was for a while review editor of the Howard Journal (the journal of the Howard League for Penal Reform). He's written or edited quite a few legal textbooks and written two other books ("Who Is the Criminal?" and "A Lament for the Law Commission")and contributed a lot of articles and letters to journals and newspapers.
He's now retired, a widower, and living in Somerset. He has two surviving children (his son died in 2005) and five grandchildren.