Joe's Reviews > The End of the Soul: Scientific Modernity, Atheism, and Anthropology in France

The End of the Soul by Jennifer Michael Hecht
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's review
Feb 25, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: history, religeon
Recommended for: Nobody not already into the subject
Read in November, 2011 — I own a copy , read count: 1

The title badly oversells this book. I came to it with the expectation that it would be about the end of an idea in science's effort to undertand the origins of human thought and personality. The soul as a rational theory did indeed get preempted by the sciences of anthroplogy, psychology and sociology at the end of the 19th Century, the time period of this book. However, this book is not about that.

Instead the book is about a supposedly scientific anthropological society in 19th Century France with an agenda for raising science to the level of a rational, athiest religion. Their furvor was more religious than rational. Their science was dubious. Their connection to revolutionary social movements of the day extreme.

The only good thing I'll say about this book is that it is as thick with information as a doctoral thesis. However, the writing style is dry, even arid, making the information too much for my attention span. I took a month to finish it, and it's not that long. The detail may make this book valuable to a student already in possession of an abiding interest in the subject, but I would not recommend it to anyone else.

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