Dementors, horcruxes, and immortality: The soul in Harry Potter

Souls play a huge part in the Harry Potter story. Voldemort creates six Horcruxes, thereby dividing his own soul into seven parts, and Harry must destroy all of the Horcruxes before Voldemort can die. At different points in the books, several main characters (Harry, Sirius, and Dudley) narrowly avoid having their souls sucked out of them by a dementor; Barty Crouch, Jr., does not escape this fate. So what is the soul? In Harry Potter’s world, it is clear that people have souls, and that these souls generally survive bodily death. But it is not entirely obvious how souls work and what their nature is. Over the centuries, philosophers and theologians have proposed various different accounts of the soul, and have argued about which is an accurate picture. In this chapter, I will survey some of the major philosophical accounts of the soul before turning to the question of how souls work in Rowling’s books and whether her picture of the soul is plausible.
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