Facebook white small Twitter white small



"Most people are completely taken in by the illusion of free will. Happily, Richard Oerton is not

among them. The Nonsense of Free Will is a wonderfully clear – and very clever – little book."

– Sam Harris, author of the New York Times bestsellers The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian

Nation, The Moral Landscape and Free Will


"There are philosophical, scientific, scholarly, novel, determined, American, pompous, dotty and

other books on free will and determinism. There are also a few books that are lucid and informal

introductions for ordinary readers and let you know that your free will does not exist. Richard

Oerton’s may be the best of these." – Ted Honderich, Grote Professor Emeritus of the

Philosophy of Mind and Logic, University College London


"This book is superbly written and a delight to read. Starting as a clearly reasoned treatment of

determinism, it merges seamlessly into a critique of English criminal law and penal policy, and ends with

a plea for society to abandon what the author sees as its irrational belief in free will."

– Joshua Rozenberg, Q.C., legal commentator, formerly legal editor of The Daily Telegraph


"This fascinating book explains and discusses one of the most difficult questions underlying criminal liability – are we right to work on the basis that all sane people can exercise ‘free will’? Richard Oerton explores the free will v. determinism debate with remarkable and rare clarity. This is not a book only for academics: it is of vital interest to all who want to think about the way society is organised.” 

– Dr. Stephen Cretney, D.C.L., F.B.A., Q.C., LL.D., Emeritus Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford



“This is a terrific book … so clear and readable that it would be appropriate for general readers, introductory philosophy courses, and undergraduate courses in criminal justice and the humanities.”

- Richard Double, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania


"What I loved about your book [is that you] have an unsurpassed grasp of the deep issues in free will and reach the most reasonable conclusions, without becoming sidetracked by the philosophical jargon that impedes professional philosophers."

- Professor Double, in a personal communication to the author


"What Richard Dawkins did for atheism, Richard Oerton has here done for determinism: he has taken those doubts about the existence of free will – all those unspoken blasphemous thoughts so many of us secretly harbour – and distilled them into an intelligent, accessible and highly engaging polemic. I would urge anyone with any doubts about free will to read this book; to read one's own inchoate ideas expressed in such a clear and concise manner is simply exhilarating. After many years of contemplation, The Nonsense of Free Will has provided the encouragement I needed to finally accept determinism and its implications, and I suspect that there will be many others for whom this book will have had a similar effect."

- Benjamin Langlois


“Oerton has written a terrific book, a must read for anyone interested in the free will debate and why it matters. He reaches all the right conclusions, for the right reasons, stated most felicitously … a delightful read – unassuming, straightforward, informed and funny”

For the full review see

- Tom Clark, Director of the Center for Naturalism, U.S.A.


"I have read a fair amount about this subject. Much of it has been excellent. But nothing I ever read got to the core of things the way Oerton does. No-one ever made their case with such a combination of simplicity and surgical precision. Free will is a vast issue. Vast and slippery and mysterious. To tackle it is no small undertaking. Oerton, however, makes it seem easy. He demystifies free will. "

- Stephen Campana


“Every summer I try to introduce undergraduates who are thinking about choosing the criminology, sentencing and penal system course to some ‘holiday’ reading that will get them thinking …  Had I read this book in time, it would definitely have been on the list.  It will be there next year.  This is a thoughtful and thought-provoking book”

- Professor Loraine Gelsthorpe, Cambridge University


Other Reviews on Amazon

"A very clear and fair account of the problems associated with the concept of free will.  Whatever your views are before reading you will be much better informed after finishing this book"

“… a brilliant achievement and a triumphant piece of scholarly writing”

“I … was truly taken aback by the clarity and simplicity with which Oerton approaches this cloudy subject … a fantastic writer and a straight communicator”

“… shows that no great intellect is needed to dispel free will … most people will gain a tremendous amount of insight from reading this book”

“If you are looking for an easy to read yet powerful explanation of the determinism v. free will contest then I strongly recommend this book”

“… presents clear, precise arguments that are well structured and persuasive … should leave you wondering why you believed in free will in the first place and with a whole new perspective on life”

“I absolutely loved [this] book”

"An easy to read and understand, fun and well written argument for the nonsense of free will"

" ... a fantastic addition to the growing literature about how we interpret a world without free will ... Since it is free of excessive philosophy jargon the text is very accessible for those new to the topic and still rich and rewarding for those more familiar. A 'must read' ..."

"Highly recommended"

"Wonderfully written and - to my mind - totally persuasive"

"Nice perspective from someone familiar with the legal system ... honest, refreshingly human, and full of good sense."

"This is one of the best, balanced and fair books which show 'free will' for what it really is, a nonsense idea.  Nonsense, in that it can't even be mapped on to reality"

"Brilliantly explained"

"Thought the book was nonsense!"

N E W S  &   R E V I E W S: The Nonsense of Free Will


No part of this website may be copied without prior permission.

Website design by Aimee on behalf of Matador


“Oerton has done it again: a delightful, wise and compassionate diagnosis of

the free will error, and why correcting it matters so much.”

- Tom Clark, Director of  the Center for Naturalism, U.S.A.


“The Cruelty of Free Will contains an unpretentious and heart-felt denial of the

sort of free will that supports retribution, whether championed by compatibilists,

libertarians or illusionists. Oerton's denial of free will places itself squarely in the

determinist, materialist and atheist traditions. His denunciation of moral

responsibility is so straightforward yet profound that even those who are most

strongly committed to this idea may feel impelled to rethink their attachment.

Highly recommended for anyone who has ever been tempted to assign ‘just

deserts’ - that is, for everyone.”

- Richard Double, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania


“On a large subject about which there is common belief, good sense is rare.  So is amiable

lucidity.  And humanity.  This book has them.”

- Ted Honderich, Grote Professor Emeritus of the Philosophy of Mind and Logic,

University College London


“Moral responsibility and just deserts promote human dignity, protection of the innocent, equal opportunity, and respect for individual rights:  or so both philosophers and “the folk” generally believe.  That deep conviction makes it essential to preserve belief in moral responsibility at all costs. Richard Oerton demolishes that belief with wit, insight, and clarity, and this demolition work clears the ground for building a more humane and decent and scientifically sound system.”

- Bruce Waller, Professor of Philosophy, Youngstown State University



"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.

    … [F]ree will says in response to any given situation … that we are completely free to make any choice. Yet in every aspect of our daily lives we rely on determinism to get us through ….  If we … [thought] 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 relies on determinism, not free will, being the driving force.

    Free will is what stands behind many of society's cruellest and least compassionate norms and laws.  If that poor person had chosen better they would not be poor, so they are to blame ....   Criminals should be punished because they freely chose their path ….   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 ….

    I want to include this extended quote from [a summary written by Oerton] ….  “We cling to the idea of free will because we're still a savage species. You won't have liked some of my earlier assertions and you certainly won't like this one - but surely it's true. Evolution has not (yet) produced in us a species dedicated to the general welfare of its own members or with any strong inhibitions against killing, harming or exploiting them.  (If you doubt this, pick up a newspaper.)  We are still a savage species, and free will belief lets some of it out of the cage in which, most of the time, civilisation confines it."

- Earl Messer on, NetGalley, Goodreads and LIbraryThing


Other reviews on Amazon

"[A] part of the growing data that indicates the popular notion of 'free will' is a myth indeed.  A ... truth that Americans especially will find hard to swallow"

N E W S  &   R E V I E W S: The Cruelty of Free Will