Restoring the Substance to the Soul of Psychology


Talbot School of Theology

Publication Date



Currently, the self has replaced the soul as the major focus of much psychological theorizing. I argue that this shift is due to a number of confusions regarding the nature and justification of substance dualism. I also claim that this focus on the self, without a framework that treats it as a substantial soul, leads to a number of conceptual problems and terminological equivocations. Moreover, I show that certain features of widely accepted views of the self actually seem to require a substantial soul to make sense. To substantiate these claims, Section I contains a discussion of a set of current misunderstandings about the nature of a substance (e.g., that a substance is a static thing unrelated to other things), and a treatment of key problems with current models of the self (e.g., that the self is a construct of language). Section II compares two very different views of wholes with parts-substances vs. property-things. Section III clarifies the essence of substance dualism by describing five states of the soul and the nature of a faculty of the soul. The section closes with a sketch of the main types of considerations that justify belief in substance dualism. In the final section, I argue that the self is the soul by showing how key features of certain psychological models of the self seem to require substance dualism to make sense and by clarifying a set of psychological terms/concepts in light of what has been argued earlier.

Publication Title

Journal of Psychology and Theology





First Page


Last Page


DOI of Published Version