cover image Soul Machine: The Invention of the Modern Mind

Soul Machine: The Invention of the Modern Mind

George Makari. Norton, $35 (608p) ISBN 978-0-393-05965-6

Psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Makari (Revolution in Mind: The Creation of Pychoanalysis) performs an extended excavation of the mind, an entity that has repeatedly resisted significant unearthing, in this grand study. As Makari shows, the very idea of the mind is also relatively modern. In an account that spans 155 years, from 1660 to 1815, Makari examines the disparate disciplines of medicine, religion, philosophy, and politics, uniting them in a vivid pursuit of the mind, while also highlighting the many individual minds that contributed to each discovery. Over the course of this long narrative, two distinct concepts of the mind—as soul and as machine—repeatedly diverge and are then reconciled, so that the history of the mind emerges not as a linear narrative but rather a series of ruptures. Makari might alienate some readers with the sheer volume of information produced by this thorough approach, yet he conveys that information with flair, humanizing the great thinkers of the past with the vibrant detail of characters in a novel. For all its length, this history of the elusive concept that defines human identity is consistently, startlingly immediate. Agent: Sarah Chalfant, the Wylie Agency. (Nov.)