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Synopsis

Few concepts are more unshakable in Western culture than free will, the idea that people are fundamentally free to make good or bad decisions. Scholar Heidi M. Ravven throws a wrench into this conventional view, calling free will a myth that reflects the still-powerful influence of Christian theology on our popular thinking.

The Self Beyond Itself offers a riveting and accessible review of modern neuro-scientific research into the brain’s capacity for decision-making-from mirror neurons and self-mapping to surprising new understandings of the dynamics of group psychology. Ultimately, this research points to the profound, virtually inescapable social influences on moral choices. Ravven shows 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. Drawing especially on the work of Spinoza, she introduces readers to a rich philosophical tradition that finds uncanny confirmation in modern neuroscience.

Highly readable and wide-ranging, The Self Beyond Itself injects the full weight of modern science into our current, stale discourse on right and wrong.

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