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A Brief History of the Soul

Stewart Goetz and Charles Taliaferro, eds. (Wiley-Blackwell: May 10, 2011), 240 pages.

The concept of the soul is accepted in many religious traditions and widely used in fictional worlds, and yet the idea that we are anything more than physio-chemical organisms seems out of step with contemporary secular thinking. Scratch the surface of western philosophy, however, and you find a history filled with arguments in favor of the idea that we are embodied souls. This book provides a clear and concise history of the soul, from Plato to cutting-edge contemporary work in philosophy of mind. Taking in the arguments of influential thinkers, such as Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes, and Hume, Goetz and Taliaferro tackle keys issues, such as the problem of mind-body interaction, the causal closure of the physical world, and the philosophical implications of the brain sciences for the soul’s existence. A Brief History of the Soul brings together historical and contemporary scholarship to examine one of the essential questions of our existence.

Table of Contents

    • Acknowledgments.
    • Introduction.
    • 1 The Soul in Greek Thought.
    • 2 The Soul in Medieval Christian Thought.
    • 3 The Soul in Continental Thought.
    • 4 The Soul in Locke, Butler, Reid, Hume, and Kant.
    • 5 The Problem of Soul–Body Causal Interaction.
    • 6 The Soul and Contemporary Science.
    • 7 Contemporary Challenges to the Soul.
    • 8 Thoughts on the Future of the Soul.
    • Bibliography.
    • Index.