A brilliant and comprehensive history of the creation of the modern Western mind.
Soul Machine takes us back to the origins of modernity, a time when a crisis in religious authority and the scientific revolution led to searching questions about the nature of human inner life. This is the story of how a new concept - the mind - emerged as a potential solution, one that was part soul and part machine but fully neither.
In this groundbreaking work, award-winning historian George Makari shows how writers, philosophers, physicians, and anatomists worked to construct notions of the mind as not an ethereal thing but a natural one. From the ascent of Oliver Cromwell to the fall of Napoleon, seminal thinkers like Hobbes, Locke, Diderot, and Kant worked alongside often-forgotten brain specialists, physiologists, and alienists in the hopes of mapping the inner world. Conducted in a cauldron of political turmoil, these frequently shocking, always embattled efforts would give rise to psychiatry, mind sciences such as phrenology, and radically new visions of the self. Further, they would be crucial to the establishment of secular ethics and political liberalism.
Boldly original, wide ranging, and brilliantly synthetic, Soul Machine gives us a masterful, new account of the making of the modern Western mind.
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Encylcipedic in its presentation
I am an academic brain scientist. I got into neuroscience because of teenage interest in exactly the philosophical questions addressed in this book, in short, the mind-body problem. Most books on consciousness, however, are failures. This book succeeds where others fail because it does not (poorly) attempt to solve the problem. Rather, it is an historical account of the idea of physical substance for mentality, and all its entailments. This is not light reading. It commands attention but, it also delivers.
- Mark Twain