A Brief History of the Soul (Goetz & Taliaferro)

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Puritanboard Amanuensis
Goetz and Talifero (GT) defend the thesis that we are embodied souls (GT 4), that our soul is not identifiable with our brain, and that dualism does not imply a denigration of matter but is merely a shorthand way of saying that body and soul/mind are different. They cover familiar ground as found in history of philosophy texts, yet they also call attention to problems raised by modern neuroscience. This book is fairly lucid, contains some technical terminology, and is accessible to the intermediate level reader. Typos, formatting quirks, and introduction of new material at the end mar the book's otherwise exceptional content.

Not surprisingly, GT begins with Plato and Greece. They call special attention to the problem of motion (that which can move itself is the most powerful mover) and the soul's intrinsic nature. GT note difficulties in Plato's account: if the soul is simple, how can Plato speak of parts? Later reflection by Aristotle changed "parts" to "powers of the soul" and removed the difficulty.

The next treatment is on Augustine and Aquinas. GT notes Augustine's anticipation of Descartes's rebuttal of skepticism: I can doubt x, but I cannot doubt the appearing-to-me of x).

They next survey Continental and British reflection on the soul, with special attention given to Descartes. With regard to the Brits and Scots, most of the treatment concerns the various rebuttals and improvements to Locke.


In terms of scholarship the book is quite fine. There are numerous typos and strange formatting at the beginning of each chapter. This is odd since it is published by a powerhouse like Wiley-Blackwell
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