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



Descartes' Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict between Faith and Reason by Russell Shorto
Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC (October 14, 2008) | ISBN: 1436139104 | Language English | Audio CD in MP3/64Kbps | 268 mb
At the center of this philosophical tale by the acclaimed author of The Island at the Center of the World is a simple mystery: Where in the world is Descartes's skull, and how did it get separated from the rest of his remains? Following the journey of the great 17th-century French thinker's bones—over six countries, across three centuries, through three burials—after his death in Stockholm in 1650, Shorto also follows the philosophical journey into modernity launched by Descartes's articulation of the mind-body problem. Shorto relates the life of the self-centered, vainglorious, vindictive Descartes and the bizarre story of his remains with infectious relish and stylistic grace, and his exploration of philosophical issues is probing. But the bones are too slender to bear the metaphorical weight of modernity that he gives them. Their sporadic appearance in the tale also makes them a shaky narrative frame for the sprawling events Shorto presents as the result of Descartes's work: the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the 19th century's scientific explosion, 21st-century battles between faith and reason. Given Shorto's splendid storytelling gifts, this is a pleasure to read, but ultimately unsatisfying. (Oct. 14)
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From Booklist
The earthly remains of René Descartes have been disinterred several times since his death in 1650, and with each disturbance, some of his bones vanished into the hands of venerators. The irony of the material legacy of the philosopher of reason being regarded similarly to the relics of saints is not lost on Shorto, who pairs a detective narrative with his thoughts about what the story reveals about skepticism versus belief as features of modernity. As Shorto relates, uncertainty about the authenticity of the contents of Descartes?coffin accompanied its travels from Stockholm to Paris in 1666, culminating–

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