In this short interview, [watch the video] Julien talks about what motivated him to write The Soul Fallacy, what the book is about, what message he is trying to convey, what conclusions he reaches, and the audience he had in mind when he wrote the book.
“I decided to write this book because I’ve been teaching psychology and cognitive science for a number of years now, and I thought that there was one big elephant in the room. Students were told all the time about what we call the material basis of mind, but very rarely if ever were they told what this entails for popular conceptions of how we function mentally, the concept of the soul.
First, I tried to document what kind of soul people, including students here at Rutgers, believe in. These beliefs are very widespread among students and among the general population here in the United States. So the book first shows that this is the case, that those beliefs are widespread today in the 21st century, and then shows that this idea of a soul is not just a theological or a religious or a metaphysical question but is above all a scientific question. I show at the end of the book that we really have nothing to lose; we have something important to gain, so I end the book with a message of hope.
It captures the fallacy that, the idea that we have a soul which I think isn’t true and I try to demonstrate in the book, but also the idea that is constantly repeated in our culture by different voices that unless we believe in the soul, unless people believe in the soul, then our lives would be devoid of meaning and purpose which I think is a fallacy as well. It’s perfectly fine, in fact perfectly normal, for a lot of people to not have those beliefs and live perfectly happy, meaningful lives.
The book should be read by either people who believe in the soul. It’s sort of an all encompassing book which tries to reach as large an audience as possible. So if you’re on the fence, and you’re not sure whether people have souls or don’t have souls, then the book contains all the elements, all the ideas that hopefully will help you decide one way or another. And finally, if you do not believe that we have a soul, then the book will show you that your views are probably on the right track and will give you all the elements, all the arguments to support these views.
But above all, whoever you are, I think that you ought to read the book because it is a positive book, it is a book that talks about science very broadly, and the virtues, and power, and beauty of science, and I think that this is something that we should all embrace.”