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The Self Beyond Itself: Rethinking How Societies Can Become More Humane

Tuesday, April 29, 2014 - 3:00pm - 5:00pm
Columbia University Morningside Campus Alfred Lerner Hall, Room 555

Heidi M. Ravven will discuss her recently published book: THE SELF BEYOND ITSELF: An Alternative History of Ethics, the New Brain Sciences and the Myth of Free Will. She tries to offer new answers to old questions:

  • Why are some people ethical and others unethical?
  • How do people become unethical or ethical?
  • Do people sometimes act in ethical ways and at other times act in quite unethical ways?
  • How can we get people to be more ethical and more consistently ethical?
  • How can we get ourselves to be better people and act more ethically more of the time?

She delves into history, theology, the new brain sciences, and the philosophy of Spinoza to come up with a fresh approach to these universal questions. Using examples of perpetrators, bystanders, and rescuers during the Nazi Holocaust, Heidi Ravven proposes that both great evil and great good are more often than not the actions of groups and of individuals as members of groups. How can individuals and societies develop the wisdom and the courage to buck group evil, and be rewarded rather than punished for it?

Heidi M. Ravven is a neurophilosopher and specialist on the philosophy of the seventeenth century philosopher, Baruch Spinoza and the Jewish medieval philosopher, Moses Maimonides. In 2004 Ravven received an unsolicited $500,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to write a book rethinking ethics. That book, The Self Beyond Itself: An Alternative History of Ethics, the New Brain Sciences, and the Myth of Free Will was published by The New Press in May, 2013.

For further information regarding this event, please contact Tamara Plummer by sending email to tcp2114@columbia.edu .