Areas of Study
Email Address
Root Hall 107

Heidi M. Ravven is specialist on the philosophy of the seventeenth century Jewish philosopher, Baruch Spinoza. She was the first philosopher to propose that Spinoza anticipated central discoveries in the neuroscience of the emotions. Ravven has published widely on Spinoza's philosophic thought, on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides, on free will and the new brain sciences, and on Jewish ethics.

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. It is an extended and multidisciplinary inquiry into moral agency: why we are moral, why and when we are not, and how to get people to be more moral. A Chinese language edition of the book is being published in fall, 2015 by the People’s Publishing House.

Recent Courses Taught

Ancient Jewish Wisdom: Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament)
The Education of Desire: Spinoza’s Ethics
The Self Beyond Itself: Ethics, Science, and Religion


  • Invited Delegate to the Global Summit, BEINGS 2015, “Biotechnology and the Ethical Imagination” at Emory University Ethics Center, May 2015
  • Member, U.N. Sustainable Development Advisory Committee to Jeffrey Sachs (Columbia University, Director of the Earth Institute) Chairman of the U.N. Sustainable Development Initiative, 2014-present
  • Advisor to Ambassador Prudence Bushnell, for the International conference reviewing the Rwandan Genocide. Bushnell was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State from 1993-96 and was responsible for the State Department's day-to-day handling of the Rwandan crisis in 1994. Spring, 2014-present
  • Nominated for the Grawemeyer Award in Religion, December 2013
  • Ford Foundation unsolicited grant of $500,000 to write a book on rethinking ethics, 2004-09

Selected Publications


Selected Recent Publications:

  • “Jewish Philosophy, Ethics, and the New Brain Sciences” in Jewish Philosophy for the 21st Century: Personal Reflections. Edited by Hava Tirosh-Samuelson. Brill Academic Publishers, in the series Supplements to The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy (SJTP). (2014).
  • Lead Editorial, Putting Free Will in Cultural Context and Beyond,” American Journal of Bioethics: Neuroscience, Volume 6 Issue 1, January-April, 2015
  • “Virtue and freedom,” in Spinoza: Basic Concepts edited by André Santos Campos, Imprint Academic Press, 2015
  • “Religion, Belief, and Sacred Values,” in The Routledge Handbook of Neuroethics, Edited by Karen Rommelfanger and Syd Johnson, Routledge Press, 2016 (forthcoming)
  • Preface for the Chinese translation and edition, The Self Beyond Itself: An Alternative History of Ethics, the New Brain Sciences, and the Myth of Free Will, The People’s Publishing House, September, 2015 (forthcoming)

Professional Affiliations

International Neuroethics Society
Association for Jewish Studies
Association for Politics and the Life Sciences
Society for Jewish Ethics
North American Spinoza Society
American Philosophical Association
International Academy of Law and Mental Health

Appointed to the Faculty


Educational Background

Ph.D., Brandeis University
M.A., Brandeis University
B.A., Brandeis University


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