In his new book Soul Machine: The Invention of the Modern Mind
(Norton, 2014), the psychoanalyst and innovative historian, George Makari
speaks to us about the dramatic history of the invention of the concept of the mind. Beginning at the origins of modernity, Makari takes the reader on a wild ride across the European continent in a search for answers about the nature of human inner life.
Hardly a sedate academic debate, the history of the mind is a history soaked in blood. Heretical ideas challenged religious and political authority, toppled governments and fomented revolution. In the shift from an ethereal, God-given soul to a material, thinking mind, humanity found itself freed from the authoritarian rule of the church and the need for a monarch; however, with this newfound freedom to reason and self-govern, man needed to contend with the limits of reason, with unbridled passions, and with madness.
Makari has written a history of ideas with powerful implications for the field of psychoanalysis. First, there was the secularization of the soul. Now we are witnessing the supplanting of the mind by neuroscience, biology, and brain. This raises questions about the role psychoanalysis can play in keeping a focus on the mind.