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In a work of breathtaking intellectual sweep and erudition, Ravven offers a riveting and accessible review of cutting-edge neuroscientific research into the brain’s capacity for decision-making—from "mirror" neurons and "self-mapping" to surprising new understandings of group psychology. The Self Beyond Itself also introduces readers to a rich, alternative philosophical tradition of ethics, rooted in the writing of Baruch Spinoza, that finds uncanny confirmation in modern science.
Illustrating the results of today’s research with real-life examples, taking readers from elementary school classrooms to Nazi concentration camps, Ravven demonstrates that it is possible to build a theory of ethics that doesn’t rely on free will yet still holds both individuals and groups responsible for the decisions that help create a good society. The Self Beyond Itself is that rare book that injects new ideas into an old debate—and helps us consider anew our understanding of ourselves and of our world.
“An intellectual hand-grenade, The Self Beyond Itself is a magisterial survey of how contemporary neuroscience supports a vision of human morality which puts it squarely on the same plane as other natural phenomena. . . . This book will spark fruitful debate and reminds us of the debt we owe Aristotle and Spinoza as we make sense of ourselves as part of the natural world.”
—William D. Casebeer, author of Natural Ethical Facts
“The most brilliant, original book on ethics in decades. Ravven’s immense erudition and sharp critical insights are extraordinary. This is a fascinating book for everyone concerned about education, politics, history, philosophy, religion, and the survival of human society.”
—Susannah Heschel, Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College
“Shatters the many bubbles that contemporary philosophers have built around themselves. Its criticisms of free will are historically grounded and logically cogent; its alternative views of freedom and moral agency, drawing largely on Spinoza, are persuasive and much needed. This book will generate wide discussion in academic fields—and break new paths for society as a whole.”
—John McCumber, professor of Germanic languages, UCLA
“I began reading this book, because I had agreed to; I stayed because it riveted me. Not only is this a brilliant examination of ethical behavior in the light of history, social psychology, brain science, and philosophy, it is a powerful demonstration of what those disciplines are for. A new basis for the instilling of ethical behavior cannot be gainsaid after reading The Self Beyond Itself.”
—Daniel Boyarin, Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture, University of California, Berkeley
“Fascinating, accessible, and engaging. . . . Ravven provides an alternative vision of human ethics, initially expressed in the naturalistic philosophy of Spinoza but also well supported by contemporary research in the cognitive sciences.”
—Wendell Wallach, Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics
“Extraordinarily wide-ranging, fervently argued, and visionary. . . . Ravven’s book is an exemplary case of a public philosophy, or the use of different modes of reasoning to broaden political sensibilities and battle provincialism.”
—Jim Wetzel, Augustinian Chair, Villanova University
“A thought-provoking study about the most urgent moral questions.”
—Warren Zev Harvey, professor emeritus, Department of Jewish Thought, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
“A perfect book for thoughtful people who wish they had taken (or wish they had paid attention in) a philosophy class in college. The real-life examples render the ideas very accessible and illustrate how our concepts of ‘self’ influence everything we do. Make it the gift you give your ‘self.’”
—P.H. Longstaff, professor, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University
Posted July 7, 2013
This book is remarkable in so many ways. It is riveting, thought provoking, and beautifully written, and it has led to any number of fascinating discussions among my friends. Kudos to Dr. Ravven for this much-needed and visionary book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.