The Spontaneous Self: Viable Alternatives to Free Will


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Many philosophers have argued that free will may be no more than a flattering illusion. Few have gone on, however, to spell out what life would be like without that illusion. In The Spontaneous Self, Dr. Breer explores the many ways in which our everyday experience is likely to be affected by giving up a belief in free will. Topics include guilt, pride, credit, blame, ambition, fear, identity, power, and love. His analysis of what we stand to gain and lose by changing our beliefs draws upon the results of an eight-year attempt to dispel the illusion of free will in his own life. The Spontaneous Self describes the cognitive-emotional techniques he devised for uprooting the illusion of free will and the personal transformation that followed when he put those techniques into practice.

“The book is written in an extremely honest and engaging style. It presents a remarkably detailed, thoughtful, and provocative challenge to our ordinary attitudes about free will. Whether or not one agrees with it, it deserves serious study.”

—Eli Hirsch, Associate Professor of Philosophy,
Brandeis University

Paul Breer is a sociologist who has used his retirement to explore the broader issues of spiritual philosophy. The interest in those issues, namely enlightenment and the anatman philosophy of Buddhism, first took root decades ago, leading eventually to study at the Zen Center in Rochester, New York. In the years that followed, it remained in the background of a university career devoted to teaching and research. The years of meditating and reading that followed finally bore fruit with the publication of The Spontaneous Self in 1987, leading in time to the more recent work, Beyond Self-Realization, which represents a continuation of the ideas spelled out in the previous work. A third work in the series is currently being written; it is entitled Walk on Water! (subtitle: Miracles Made Natural) and draws on insights and discoveries detailed in its two predecessors. Breer currently lives in the mountains of Western Colorado…


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