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

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2009 - History - 299 pages
17 Reviews

Sixteen years after Ren Descartes' death in Stockholm in 1650, a pious French ambassador exhumed the remains of the controversial philosopher to transport them back to Paris. Thus began a 350-year saga that saw Descartes' bones traverse a continent, passing between kings, philosophers, poets, and painters.

But as Russell Shorto shows in this deeply engaging book, Descartes' bones also played a role in some of the most momentous episodes in history, which are also part of the philosopher's metaphorical remains: the birth of science, the rise of democracy, and the earliest debates between reason and faith. Descartes' Bones is a flesh-and-blood story about the battle between religion and rationalism that rages to this day.

New York TimesáNotable Book


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User Review  - Dorritt - LibraryThing

This surprisingly readable tale leverages the tale of Descarte’s bones as a framework upon which to hang an engaging exploration of how Descarte’s rationalist philosophy laid the groundwork for today ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Sandydog1 - LibraryThing

A rambling essay on reason and religion, with smatterings of taxonomy, phrenology, mesmerism, the metric system, museums, embryology, comparative anatomy, the French Revolution, chemistry and a few ... Read full review

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About the author (2009)

Russell Shorto is the author of five books and is a contributing writer at theáThe New York Times Magazine. His books have been published in fourteen languages and have won numerous awards. From 2008 to 2013, he was the director of the John Adams Institute in Amsterdam.

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