World Soul: A History

ISBN : 9780190913441

James Wilberding
408 ページ
140 x 210 mm
Oxford Philosophical Concepts

Many philosophers and scientists over the course of history have held that the world is alive. It has a soul, which governs it and binds it together. This suggestion, once so wide-spread, may strike many of us today as strange and antiquated-in fact, there are few other concepts that, on their face, so capture the sheer distance between us and our philosophical inheritance. But the idea of a world soul has held so strong a grip upon philosophers' imaginations for over 2,000 years, that it continues to underpin and even structure how we conceive of time and space. The concept of the world soul is difficult to understand in large part because over the course of history it has been invoked to very different ends and within the frameworks of very different ontologies and philosophical systems, with varying concepts of the world soul emerging as a result. This volume brings together eleven chapters by leading philosophers in their respective fields that collectively explore the various ways in which this concept has been understood and employed, covering the following philosophical areas: Platonism, Stoicism, Medieval, Indian or Vedantic, Kabbalah, Renaissance, Early Modern, German Romanticism, German Idealism, American Transcendentalism, and contemporary quantum mechanics and panpsychism theories. In addition, short reflections illuminate the impact the concept of the world soul has had on a small selection of areas outside of philosophy, such as harmony, the biological concept of spontaneous generation, Henry Purcell, psychoanalysis, and Gaia theories.


Introduction, James Wilberding
Chapter 1: The World Soul in the Platonic Tradition, James Wilberding
Chapter 2: The Stoic World Soul and the Theory of Seminal Principles, Ricardo Salles
Reflection: The World Soul and Harmony, Lisa Taub
Chapter 3: 'The Universe is an Animal': The World Soul in Medieval Philosophy, Peter Adamson
Chapter 4: The 'World Soul' in India: Complex Causality and Artful Emergence in 'Sakti' Vedanta, Jessica Frazier
Chapter 5: Glimmers of the World Soul in Kabbalah, Jeremy P. Brown
Chapter 6: The World Soul in the Renaissance, Hiro Hirai
Reflection: The World Soul and Spontaneous Generation, Gideon Manning and James Wilberding
Chapter 7: The World Soul in Early Modern Philosophy, Alison Peterman
Reflection: The World Soul in Henry Purcell's setting of 'Hail, bright Cecilia,' Bryan White
Chapter 8: The Miracle and Mystery of Nature: Romantic Searches for the World Soul, Elizabeth Millan Brusslan
Chapter 9: Nature, Freedom, History: The World Soul in German Idealism, Brady Bowman
Reflection: World Soul and Individual Soul in Psychoanalysis, Alexandrine Schniewind
Chapter 10: The World Soul in American Transcendentalism, Laura Dassow Walls
Reflection: The World Soul and Gaia, J. Baird Callicott
Chapter 11. Contemporary Echoes of the World Soul: Quantum Mechanics and Consciousness, Valia Allori


James Wilberding is Professor of Ancient and Contemporary Philosophy at the Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany. His main areas of research concern Plato and the history of Platonism, especially in its intersection with medicine and the natural sciences. His publications include Forms, Souls and Embryos: Neoplatonists on Human Reproduction (Routledge, 2016) and Plotinus' Cosmology (Oxford University Press, 2006).