- Hardcover: 528 pages
- Publisher: The New Press; First Edition edition (May 28, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1595585370
- ISBN-13: 978-1595585370
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.8 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #651,060 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Self Beyond Itself: An Alternative History of Ethics, the New Brain Sciences, and the Myth of Free Will Hardcover – May 28, 2013
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The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Jaak Panksepp, Baily Endowed Professor in Animal Well-Being Sciences, Washington State University, and author of The Archaeology of Mind
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 fieldsand 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
About the Author
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Ravven writes with great clarity and eloquence. Her arguments are very thoroughly thought out and thoroughly explained. The best audience for the book would be intelligent laymen who have an active interest in the topics presented in the book, who read carefully, and who take the time to think about what they read. It is not a passive reading experience. But for an intelligent person who seriously wants to shed a great deal of light on the confusing notion of what "human nature" is, I recommend this book highly.
Cartesian dualism dies in this book.
I/we are embodied, social, extended, contingent beings.
Sort of falls down at the end; we are left with Aristotle’s “Know thyself”. But that’s a good start.
I do have a few minor criticisms however. The author leaves the reader with the impression that Augustine(354-430) introduced the concept of free-will into Christianity. It is true that Christianity first introduced free-will into Western thought, however, as Kyle Harper points out in From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity (Revealing Antiquity), 'Justin Martyr(100-165) has the signal distinction of being the first philosopher on record to make unambiguous us of the term "free-will". The author can be forgiven perhaps because the only early Christian philosopher most will ever read is no doubt Augustine.
The other criticism I have is that the author also leaves the reader with the impression that the theory of anti-Cartesian embodied cognition is something new that contemporary neuroscience is uncovering and modern philosophy is catching up. However, it is actually the other way around. This is a major theme in Continental Philosophy in the work of Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty and more recently in Vincent Descombes' book The Mind's Provisions: A Critique of Cognitivism M.C. Dillon claims in his book Merleau-Ponty's Ontology, 2nd Edition that Merleau-Ponty developed the first real alternative to ontological dualism seen in Western philosophy. Two American philosophers Herbert Dreyfus ( eg. 'Why computers must have bodies to be intelligent. Review of Metaphysics 21/1(September, 1967), 13-32 and What Computers Still Can't Do: A Critique of Artificial Reason), and Samuel Todes, Body and World, explored this idea four decades ago. Todes' book was based on his 1963 Harvard dissertation which was chosen to be published in book form by Harvard in 2001 because it is considered one of the most important philosophy dissertations done at Harvard and is considered an important contribution to the field of embodied cognitive science a subject the author spills much ink on without noting this philosophical groundwork.
In the end the author who presents a compelling case for why free-will is an illusion, lacks the courage to say straight out that we don't have moral responsibility. I see no way of avoiding this conclusion. A good book drawing out the implications of not having free-will is Against Moral Responsibility, by Bruce Waller. Those who object and think the denial of free-will implies that we are locked into fixed behaviorial patterns do not take into account the role of learning in modifying behavior.
Anyway, these are minor criticisms of an otherwise fine book.