Education and Free Will: Spinoza, Causal Determinism and Moral Formation (Hardback) book cover

Education and Free Will

Spinoza, Causal Determinism and Moral Formation

By Johan Dahlbeck

© 2019 – Routledge (Monograph (DRM-Free))

168 pages

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Hardback: 9781138598652
pub: 2018-09-18
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Education and Free Will critically assesses and makes use of Spinoza’s insights on human freedom to construe an account of education that is compatible with causal determinism without sacrificing the educational goal of increasing students’ autonomy and self-determination. Offering a thorough investigation into the philosophical position of causal determinism, Dahlbeck discusses Spinoza’s view of self-determination and presents his own suggestions for an education for autonomy from a causal determinist point of view.

The book begins by outlining the free will problem in education, before expanding on a philosophical understanding of autonomy and how it is seen as an educational ideal. It considers Spinoza’s determinism and discusses his denial of moral responsibility. Later chapters consider the relationship between causal determinism and autonomy, the educational implications of understanding free will and how free will can be utilised as a valuable fiction in education.

This book will be of great interest to academics and postgraduate students in the field of education, especially those with an interest in moral education and philosophy of education. It will also be of interest to those in the fields of philosophy and psychology and specifically those focusing on the free will problem, on Spinoza studies, and on the relation between moral psychology and external influence.


"Dahlbeck in this book applies the philosophical naturalism and determinism of Spinoza’s philosophy –positions that are receiving more and more evidentiary support from the new brain sciences—to the field of education and moral education. He offers in this book a Spinoza-inspired theory of ethics and moral transformation and autonomy emergent from a determinist naturalism; 2. A model of ethics, moral transformation, and autonomy that is both rational and scientifically up-to-date; and 3. The application of that model to the entire field of education. This book should be widely read by Spinoza scholars, philosophers of education, educators of all kinds, and schools of education should implement the proposed model as a new model of education and moral education. It ought to be of crucial importance to the systemic rethinking of the purpose and process of education. It has the widest possible importance and applicability."

Heidi Ravven, Ph.D., Bates & Benjamin Professor of Classical & Religious Studies and Professor of Jewish Philosophy, Chair, Department of Religious Studies, Hamilton College.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Outlining the free will problem: determinism vs indeterminism

Chapter 2: Education and autonomy

Chapter 3: Spinoza on self-determination and the improvement of the understanding

Chapter 4: Moral education and moral responsibility

Chapter 5: Can causal determinism and autonomy coexist?

Chapter 6: Free will as a valuable fiction in education

Chapter 7: Education for autonomy without free will

About the Author

Johan Dahlbeck is Associate Professor of Education at Malmö University, Sweden.

About the Series

Routledge International Studies in the Philosophy of Education

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