Review of Heidi M. Ravven, The Self Beyond Itself: An Alternative History of Ethics, the New Brain Sciences, and the Myth of Free Will
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The Self Beyond Itself is a defense of an incompatibilist, hard determinist view of free will. Free will is here defined in a very strong sense, as the existence of actions that do not result from any causes other than the agent herself. The question of how to define free will, especially whether it consists in the ability to do otherwise, and what the ability to do otherwise amounts to, is not given much consideration in this book.
Ravven frames her work in a broad historical context. The kind of determinism she favors is to be found in Aristotle, Maimonides, and Spinoza, as she interprets them. The main culprit responsible for the Western conception of free will is Augustine. Ravven finds elements of Augustine in a number of theories of free will, including those of Descartes and Kant. In her view, any proponent of free will is an unwitting Augustinian.
Ravven’s tendency to see an Augustinian legacy in later views of free will result in her making some fairly implausible claims....