In Search of the Soul
by John Cottingham

In search of soul
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2020
xii + 174 pp . £18.99/$22.95
Hardback -ISBN 978–0–691–17442–6; eBook 978–0–691–19758–6.
Paperback edition: 978-0-691-23403-8
April 2022 (US) $16.95; June 2022 (UK) £12.99

“I loved [t]his erudite, bold, provocative, beautiful book.”
Jane O'Grady, 
Literary Review. 

“The great strength of In Search of the Soul is that it roots thinking about the soul in our shared human experience, especially as it has been expressed by poets. While this book provides a valuable guide to traditional discussions about the soul, together with a careful assessment of modern scientific understandings, it especially resonates with our wish to make sense of life and our desire to reach out beyond ourselves to some ideal of goodness.” 
Richard Harries, King’s College London

“This is a hugely enjoyable and impressive book. As fresh and thoughtful as it is erudite, it is beautifully written and elegantly argued. Full of depth and detail, 
In Search of the Soul makes a serious contribution to debates among experts, and is an illuminating guide for general readers.”
Clare Carlisle, author of 
On Habit

“[A] lucid and illuminating book. Cottingham's short study explores fundamental questions more fully than many much longer volumes.”
John Gray, 
New Statesman

“What makes Cottingham’s language … striking [is its] revelatory quality … His warm and sinuous text opens [metaphysical] horizons without undue force, seeking consensus and posing questions he is not afraid to let stand. It is animated by an optimism which is infectious …”
Judith Wolfe, 
Times Literary Supplement

In Search of the Soul is a superb book, true to Cottingham’s intent to articulate a more humane manner of philosophizing than is found in much contemporary philosophy. In this aim he succeeds admirably—in his style, the nature and scope of the questions he asks, and the wide learning that he brings to the project.”
Simon May, author of 
Love: A History

[A]n enjoyable and illuminating read. Cottingham's elegant account is sufficiently deep and detailed to contribute to debate among philosophers of religion, while retaining a clarity and energy that lend themselves to a broader readership.” 
Ruby Guyatt, 
Times Higher Education Supplement

“A superb book… There could be no better guide.”
Max de Gaynesford,
The Tablet.

See also the online posts at Aeon, and iai, the podcasts on Daily Life Lessons and Theory to No End, and Reading our Times, the review article ‘A More Hospitable Framework’ in the Commonweal Magazine, and the recommendations page on the Shepherd website.


1 Humanity in Quest of the Soul
The Risk of Loss
Dimensions of Soul
The Soul and Human Nature
The Soul and Moral Integration
But Why the Soul?

2 The Evolution of the Soul
What Is the Soul?
Out of This World?
From Souls to Ghosts
Descartes and the Shrinking Soul
Cartesian Automata and the Creativity of Thought
The Soul-Body Unit and Descartes’s Trialism
The Ethical Implications of Human Embodiment

3 Soul, Science, and Subjectivity
Objective Science and Subjective Experience
Consciousness: Illusion or Irreducible Reality?
The Panpsychist Turn
Finding a Place for Consciousness
The Domain of the Soul

4 The Partly Hidden Soul
From Soul-Searching to Self-Fashioning
The Opacity of the Soul and Psychic Integration
The Depths of the Psyche
The Soul’s Hidden Yearning for God

5 The Soul and the Transcendent
Reaching Forward to the Transcendent
Natural versus Supernatural: The Unhelpful Contrast
Immortal Longings and the Care of the Soul: From Metaphysics to Praxis
Transcendence and Our Human Destiny