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History of the Concept of Mind

In the 20th century theorists were almost exclusively concerned with various versions of the materialist thesis, but prior to the current debates accounts of soul and mind reveal a richness and complexity which bear careful and impartial investigation. This text examines the historical, linguistic and conceptual issues involved in exploring the basic features of the human mind - from its most remote origins, to the beginning of the modern period. Paul MacDonald traces the development of an armature of psychical concepts from their earliest origins in the Old Testament and Homeric notions of soul as life-force, through Plato's infusion of an immortal and divine power, Aristotle's functional matter-form theory, the New Testament's doctrine of a double life and a double death, and its culmination in Augustine's Christian-Platonist synthesis. The central chapters discuss the medieval Islamic continuation and expansion of Aristotle, medieval European scholastic and popular views, the Renaissance revival of Platonic and Hermetic teachings, English language usage of "mind" and "soul" from Chaucer to Shakespeare and the 17th century rationalist metaphysics of Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz. The text concludes with an analysis of the 18th-century advocacy of an empirical science of the mind and a materialist account of its nature.
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Table of Contents

Contents: Ancient Hebrew and Homeric Greek life-force; Plato, Aristotle and Hellenistic thought; From the New Testament to St Augustine; Medieval Islamic and Christian ideas; Renaissance Platonism, Hermeticism and other heterodoxies; Mind and soul in English from Chaucer to Shakespeare; The triumph of rationalist concepts of mind and intellect; The empiricists' advocacy of matter designed for thought; Bibliography; Indexes.

About the Author

Paul S. MacDonald, Murdoch University, Australia


'This book is essential reading for those who want to know how our current understanding of the human psyche evolved. Why does it now sound quaint, pious or ironic to speak, not of a person's mind, but of their soul and spirit? Paul MacDonald's magisterial history of these concepts helps to provide answers. The reader is guided on a journey from ancient Hebrew and Greek visions through all the main landmarks in the history of philosophical psychology, as well as less familiar territory from literature and theology. The sweep of his book is immense; [it undertakes] a monumental task whose results are very impressive.' David E. Cooper, Professor of Philosophy, University of Durham, UK 'The wide differences between the ways in which people of the past have understood themselves and our own ways show that the content of so-called folk psychology is utterly contingent, and this might bear on widely discussed issues in contemporary philosophy of mind. In this book, MacDonald shows himself to be a learned and acute scholar who provides an original and illuminating perspective even on previously familiar material.' Stewart Candlish, Professor of Philosophy, University of Western Australia. 'Those interested in exploring nonmaterial beliefs about human beings... in history, theology, metaphysics, spirituality, psychology, and philosophy will find that this well-crafted book seamlessly integrates all these areas. MacDonald demonstrates a careful and precise approach to conceptual and linguistic textual analysis... This book is a refreshing alternative to implausible, self-indulgent literary excursions. At the same time, [he] introduces his own thought-provoking critical observations into many of the ongoing debates.' Choice '... a magisterial work that belongs on the shelf of any serious student of philosophy and psychology of mind... Macdonald's book is a seminal one for anyone trying to understand the complex history of the concepts of soul, mind and spirit.' The Scientific and Medical Network Review 'MacDonald tells the story of human enquiry about the concept of mind from Homer to Hume. He elucidates complex matters with real skill, while never pretending to a simplicity that is lacking in the material. The range of reference is satisying generous.' Epworth Review '... MacDonald masterfully unveils the interrelated complexity of soul, mind, and spirit in the Western tradition... While this book will serve very well as an introductory text for courses on soul, mind or spirit, it serves also to assist those who are on their own quests to understand life itself... well informed, meticulous, and readable.' Philosophia Christi

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