A Brief History of the Soul

soulA Brief History of the Soul
by Stewart Goetz  & Charles Taliaferro
2011/ 248 pages
read by Michael Scherer  8h 1m
rating – 8.5 / nonfiction – philosophy
(both read and listened)

It’s been a long, long time since I read a philosophy book – decades perhaps.   That said, this is for the layman and I certainly am a layman.  This is not terribly difficult for philosophy and I was able to understand as I went along – but remembering the terminology and the authors who wrote about it is quite another matter –

This book has  not had great reviews,  I’d say that’s  probably because the authors are defending the existence of  the soul which is not a terribly popular philosophical stance these days.

It’s  mainly a history of the thinking about the soul presenting  the arguments for the reality of a soul and the arguments against it.  The structure is chronological starting iwith Plato and Aristotle and proceeding in sections to Churchland and other contemporary philosophers.  The main point is to provide a basic understanding of the underpinnings of the debate and to present in that context the authors’ defense of such a view.

Specifically, the book starts out with the Greeks,  Plato and Aristotle and moves on to the ideas of Augustine and Aquinas.  Then they get to Descartes, Malebranche and Leibniz,  and moving along with Locke, Butler, Reid, Hume and Kant.  The text includes appropriate chunks of text  from the works of each philosopher.  Then come the main themes  – causation and dualism,  the spacial elements of the soul and the dualist aspects of the soul.  Finally, in Chapter 7  the contemporary topics are covered and in Chapter 8 some thoughts on the future of the soul.

Mostly it was comprehensible but I’d be hard pressed to really explain any of the arguments to someone else.  It was tough going in places – my mind wandered – I had to read some sections more than once.  It is a basic (101-type) philosophy book – not a history of philosophy with little biographies of the greats padding it up.

If you’re really interested in serious philosophy and have read some but not a lot I recommend it –

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