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Cheiron: The international society for the history of behavioral & social sciences

Award of the 2014 Cheiron Book Prize to Fernando Vidal for The Sciences of the Soul: The Early Modern Origins of Psychology

2014 Cheiron Book Prize Committee 21 June 2014

In recognition of the book’s breadth and depth of scholarship and its determination to correct established misapprehensions about the nature of psychology before the “new psychology” emerged 140 years ago, the Cheiron Society awards the 2014 Cheiron Book Prize to Fernando Vidal for The Sciences of the Soul: The Early Modern Origins of Psychology, translated from the original French by Saskia Brown and published by The University of Chicago Press in 2011.

The Sciences of the Soul describes in extensive detail the various understandings of human nature and of human thought, feeling, and action asserted and debated several generations before the “new psychologists” began measuring sensory thresholds and reac- tion times. Based on an analysis of a great body of material written and published from the seventeenth century to the present, the book foregrounds practical, philosophical, and theological questions which have long been of concern to thoughtful people. Central among these are the topics of selfhood, identity, and responsibility for choice, of the relation of mind to body and of both to conduct. Such matters were closely examined in the early modern period. If history, science, and philosophy were sport, Dr. Vidal has shown us, our ancestors were much better players than we in our era of neuroscience imagine they were. We may not have advanced the ball so much farther than they had done. By mining a rich portion of psychology’s long past Dr. Vidal has lengthened its supposed short history. Further, he has demonstrated the scholar’s determination to read everything. Readers of this excellent book will be richly rewarded.

Members of the committee are Jennifer Bazar, Homer Stavely (Chair), Gerald Sullivan, and Leila Zenderland. 

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