Descartes' Bones (eBook)


A New York Times Notable Book


Sixteen years after René 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.

BONUS MATERIAL: This ebook edition includes an excerpt from Russell Shorto's Amsterdam.  

About the Author

RUSSELL SHORTO is the bestselling author of The Island at the Center of the World and a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine. He lives in Amsterdam.

Praise for Descartes' Bones…

"Many strains of thought converge around Descartes and his physical remains.... Mr. Shorto has used them as the basis of an investigative book...[that] attest to Mr. Shorto’s intellectual adventurousness and dogged curiosity....Mr. 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."--Janet Maslin, The New York Times

"[A] smart, elegantly written.....feat of intellectual of intellectual story-telling"
--The New York Times Book Review

"Shorto will pull in readers who enjoy a good history mystery seasoned with philosophical thoughts."

“With the fascinating Descartes' Bones, Russell Shorto has produced another compelling intellectual detective story, one that illuminates the present as much as the dusty past.”
—Jeffrey Toobin, author of The Nine

"This is a beguiling book about the architecture of the way we live now. 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."
—Jon Meacham, author of Franklin and Winston and American Gospel

"A fascinating, colorful, and very readable account of early modern ideas and personalities. Shorto has a gift for storytelling. He brings the seventeenth century to life while doing justice to the philosophy."
—Professor Steven Nadler, author of Rembrandt's Jews and Spinoza: A Life

Product Details ISBN-13: 9780385528375
Published: Vintage, 10/14/2008
Language: en