Larry S. McGrath
HISTORY. USER RESEARCH. ANTHROPOLOGY.
Making Spirit Matter is my book with University of Chicago Press.
I trace the brain sciences' history, focusing on the vexed relations between mind and body in French society over the past 200 years.
Why France? The country's not only home to basic discoveries about the nervous system. France is also where the relations of spirit (esprit) and matter (matière) have remained a persistent philosophical problem; even recent advances in neuroscience haven’t been able to explain it satisfactorily.
At the center of the book is an influential group of nineteenth- and twentieth-century thinkers who tackled the puzzle by showing the points of contact between spirit and matter. Drawing connections among Henri Bergson, Alfred Fouillée, Jean-Marie Guyau, and others, I tell the story of a wide-reaching movement in France, which invented concepts of creativity, time, and experience by drawing on the very sciences that seemed to undermine metaphysics and religion.
The book lays out the long legacy of this moment in the history of ideas and how it might renew our understanding of the relationship between mind and brain today.