Rich in historical fact yet lively and accessible, this is a masterful survey of the concept of the 'self' throughout history. Psychology has traditionally analyzed the self in terms of familial influence, close relationships, inherited personality traits, education, social status, and economic level. But as psychologist Joseph Kovach shows in this sweeping historical overview, an individual's self-understanding is also largely a product of the age in which they live. Drawing on the multiple perspectives of philosophy, art, literature, and science, Kovach traces the evolving concept of the self as it changed at pivotal points throughout Western history. Divided into four parts, "This Quintessence of Dust?" begins with an exploration of the concept of self in the classical period of Plato and Aristotle, before moving on to the development of empirical, rational and humanist perspectives though the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Enlightenment. The third section looks at the emergence of psychology and psychiatry, with the final section focusing on insights stemming from modern advances in science and technology.
Joseph Kovach is an award-winning psychologist specializing in ethological, behavioural genetics, and comparative psychological research.