- Conjunctions of Mind, Soul and Body from Plato to the Enlightenment ed. by Danijela Kambasković
Conjunctions of Mind, Soul and Body from Plato to the Enlightenment offers eighteen essays by both seasoned scholars and younger members of academe. They take historical perspectives on the relationship between the body and our more ethereal qualities. The foreword is written by Andrew Lynch, then Deputy Director of the Australian Research Council Centre for the History of Emotions, drawing attention to the importance of emotions as a framework for the contributors. The book is published within the Springer series on the history of the philosophy of the mind, which hopes to encompass a variety of disciplines in its intellectual peregrinations of the mind, being both historically accurate and accessible to the contemporary reader. I do not think many contemporary readers would read this volume cover to cover, due to the range of topics and periods addressed; however, there are so many excellent essays that it will be a volume referred to constantly.
The book is structured around four sections, each containing four to six essays. The first section, 'Text and Self-Perception', ranges from the eleventh century with an analysis of the body/soul nexus in the writings of [End Page 220] the Byzantine Michael Psellos (Graeme Miles) to post-Enlightenment, with a comparison of Renaissance and modern self-portraits (Richard Read). I was fascinated by the analysis of the first-person intrusions into a chronicle, read through a geopolitical context as a narrator solicits readers' pity (Alicia Marchant). The highlight of this section for me, however, was the essay by the late Philippa Maddern on why slander was considered as as bad as murder in late medieval England; the basis for this was the importance of the soul as being more essential to our essence than our bodies. It is fitting that this book is dedicated to her memory.
The second section was on 'Emotion' and dealt with topics like tears (Michael W. Champion); mixed or conflicting emotions (R. S. White); the use of bodily memories to tap into emotions in persuading an audience (Daniel Derrin); and the relationship between music and love, especially in an educational setting (Katherine Wallace). Like the previous section, these essays traversed several centuries, ensuring excellent material for a variety of readers.
The largest section of the book is entitled 'Sex'. The opening essay takes us further back into history, presenting the nexus of bodies and souls in a Carolingian context (William Schipper). It is followed by an excellent essay on the conflicted status of Héloise as a 'chaste whore' (Laura French) and then by an interpretation of the writings of Jean LeFèvre de Ressons (Karen Pratt) based on his use of humour: it is a detailed analysis of LeFèvre's approach to the body and soul across his works and in relation to contemporary texts. The medieval/scriptural ambivalence toward sex cannot be ignored in such a volume, and is tackled by Wim François as he approaches Paul, Augustine and Guilielmus Estius. A section dedicated to 'sex' also requires something on love, and the book's editor, Danijela Kambasković, asserts that love was allowed greater authority in the past; the renown of love poets like Dante and Petrarch is contrasted with the modern attachment to science and the lesser importance of desire for the 'process of creative endeavour' (p. 274).
In the final section, 'Material Souls', the idea of tears reappears as Manfred Horstmanshoff explores historic approaches to the physiology of crying. Thereafter, Kambasković offers a second essay, this time mapping the senses to varied emotions, using a Shakespearian lens. The final essay of the book fittingly discusses the idea of the material soul, with a focus on the eighteenth-century philosophic discourse on how the soul relates to various elements of the body.
This volume does not offer light reading, but each essay offers something to...