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Signature Courses

Soul Beliefs: Causes and Consequences

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Soul Beliefs: Causes and Consequences
01:830:123 (4 credits)
Core: 21C, HST

Professors Daniel Ogilvie and Leonard Hamilton, Psychology

Throughout history, the vast majority of people around the globe have believed they have, however defined, a "soul." While the question of whether the soul exists cannot be answered by science, what we can study are the causes and consequences of various beliefs about the soul.

Why are beliefs in a soul so common in human history? Is there some adaptive advantage to assuming souls exist? What cognitive development is necessary in order to believe in a self that transcends the body? Are there brain structures that have evolved specifically for maintaining soul beliefs? Why? How do these beliefs shape the world views of different cultures and our collective lives? What is the role of competing afterlife beliefs in religion, science, politics, and war? "Soul Beliefs: Causes and Consequences" explores one of the oldest and most ephemeral axes of human difference.

Taking a multidisciplinary approach, this course is particularly recommended for students who intend to pursue majors or minors in psychology, anthropology, art, biology, history, literatures, neuroscience, philosophy, political science, religion, and sociology. This course carries credit toward the major and minor in psychology. Soul Beliefs can be used to meet the new SAS Core Curriculum goals in 21st Century Challenges (21C) and Historical Analysis (HST).