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Buy It Now. Add to cart. About this product Product Information In , sixteen years after his death, the bones of Rene Descartes were dug up in the middle of the night and transported from Sweden to France under the watchful eye of the French Ambassador.

Descartes' Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict Between Faith and Reason

This was only the beginning of the journey for Descartes' bones, which, over the next years, were fought over, stolen, sold, revered as relics, studied by scientists, used in seances, and passed surreptitiously from hand to hand. But why would anyone care so much about the remains of one long-dead philosopher? The answer lies in Descartes' famous phrase cogito, ergo sum: I think, therefore I am.

At the root of this statement are skepticism and the world-shattering notion that one could look to facts that could be proved for truth rather than relying on the Church's teachings and tradition. In the years that followed, this powerful idea and Descartes' physical remains became intertwined with many of the major forces that define the modern era, influencing everything from the religious wars of the seventeenth century and the rise of democracy to today's greatest conflicts, such as the struggle between Islamic fascism and the Western world. Additional Product Features Dewey Edition.


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As Russell Shorto points out, Descartes is claimed by both the ferociously secular and the ferociously religious, but the truth is more complicated. The sooner we recognize that the world is too wild to be reduced to glib categorization, Shorto writes, the sooner we may be able to find ways to talk to, rather than yell at, one another. Shorto has a gift for storytelling. He brings the seventeenth century to life while doing justice to the philosophy.

Shorto has used them as the basis of an investigative book Shorto's intellectual adventurousness and dogged curiosity Shorto leaps from one intriguing topic to another, doing it with verve His insights are keen. And he is as drawn to great, overarching ideas as he is to historical factoids. Descartes' posthumous journey happens to be rich with both. Show More Show Less. Add to Cart. Any Condition Any Condition.

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Ratings and Reviews Write a review. Most relevant reviews. Compares Descartes philosophy to it's significance in the present I expected more of a fictional application with his life and philosophy. Best Selling in Nonfiction See all. Open Borders Inc. Burn after Writing by Sharon Jones , Paperback 2. There were many other options that were considered valid. A sufferer from fever or stomach pain or gout or nosebleed might get, by way of professional service, an astrological reading, an amulet to be tied around the neck with a ribbon, or a squinty examination of his or her urine "uroscopy" was looked to as a general indicator of health, as when Shakespeare's Falstaff asks a page, "What says the doctor to my water?

The person administering the attention might be a physician, but astrologers and other sorts of healers were often seen as on a par, and some of the most esteemed medical men, including members of the College of Physicians in London, used astrology as part of their diagnostic tool kit. Often, the caregiver was a clergyman. In any event, the procedure would have a religious cast.

Illness and health were almost universally related to being in or out of God's sight, and the language of healing was shot through with theology. It was commonly held that medicine would work only if a prayer was offered to unlock its powers. Relying on physical remedies alone was often seen as downright ungodly: in England, Puritan minister John Sym advised "caution" that people "dote not upon, nor trust, or ascribe too much to physical means; but that we carefully look and pray to God for a blessing by the warrantable use of them. That was why a strictly mechanical approach to medicine was considered dangerously atheistic.

They visit specialists and get diagnostic screenings, and at the same time they meditate and pray and ask God for a miracle cure. And these people don't exactly inhabit the inner recesses of the rain forest; they live modern lives. They are us. What's more, in the seventeenth century it wasn't only the premodern Aristotelians who held such views; so, for the most part, did the first generation of modern philosopher-scientists who reacted against them. So, too, did Descartes, who seems to have been as devout a Catholic as anyone of his time and whose whole mechanical account of the universe depended on God to hold it in place.

The main challenge in following the story of Descartes' bones would seem to be understanding exactly what "modern" is. If it means a hard divide between the material and the spiritual, how do we account for the fact that both people of the seventeenth century who brought the modern sensibility into being and people today have managed to bridge this divide? We associate modern with a nonreligious, nonspiritual, purely rational and scientific outlook. Are we wrong to think that? If so, if it's a false divide, how did it come into being? A partial answer is that when, in the early seventeenth century, the premodern worldview built around the received wisdom of the Bible and selected ancient writers began to come apart, and as dissatisfaction with it led to a conviction that the mind's latent strength could be brought to bear in radically new ways on the body's weakness, an inevitable result of the new approach was to give greater importance to the physical world and thus, however unintentionally, to devalue theological interpretations.

Experimentation was not actually discovered by Francis Bacon in the early seventeenth century, but what Bacon promoted in his Novum Organum, which was published in , was a commitment to reasoning based on observation of the natural world. A feat of intellectual story-telling. Descartes' Bones opens with this quotation from Shakespeare's Richard II: "What can we bequeath save our deposed bodies to the ground? Why did the author choose it? What do you think of the author's conversational writing style, how he weaves his experiences and opinion into the narrative? Did it enhance your reading experience?

Before reading Descartes' Bones , what meaning did Descartes' most famous saying, "I think, therefore I am," hold for you? Did it change now that you've read the book? What is your definition of philosophy? Is there a particular philosopher to whose theories you subscribe? What do you think of Descartes' disproved theory of dualism?

Can you understand why it was accepted for so long? Mennecier is what you would call a French intellectual. To many people.

Descartes' Bones : A Skeletal History of the Conflict Between Faith and Reason - sehylydafoji.cf

How does Descartes embody this description by the author? What about the author himself? How would you describe someone with a "commitment to idiosyncrasy? Mind and body—mind and brain—aren't fundamentally different at all. Does the fact that dualism was debunked make you question the accuracy of Descartes' other teachings? The author poses many questions about what he terms the "perennial conflict between faith and reason. Why has it persisted through centuries? How are people influenced?

Do you think it's really possible to alter the way a person actually thinks? If so, how would one go about doing so? The author describes the great lengths to which opponents of Cartesianism went to prevent its ideas from being spread.

Descartes' Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict Between Faith and Reason (Paperback)

Why was Cartesianism considered so dangerous? Considering debates like those between believers of Darwin's theory of evolution and those of intelligent design, how does religion factor into these ideas? The author describes the saga of Descartes' bones as a metaphor for modernity. Do you agree with his characterization? In Chapter Six the author explains his obsession with the tale of Descartes'' bones by stating that we as human beings "are all detectives" and "we crave closure.

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Why is the story of Descartes' bones so interesting to Russell Shorto, and to others? To paraphrase the book's descriptive copy, why should anyone care about the remains of one long-dead philosopher? See All Customer Reviews. Shop Books. Add to Wishlist. USD Sign in to Purchase Instantly. Show More. Average Review.

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