A Skeletal History of the Conflict Between Faith and Reason
Vintage, Paperback, 9780307275660, 336pp.
Publication Date: August 25, 2009
Sixteen years after Rene 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.
ANew York TimesNotable Book
“Smart, elegantly written. . . . A feat of intellectual story-telling.” —The New York Times Book Review“A kind of intellectual adventure story.... Fanciful and beguiling.... Shorto writes with wit, verve and style. On every page, he offers up some new bafflement, curiosity or delight.” —Los Angeles Times“Shorto’s insights are keen.... He delves into the oddest and most unappetizing aspects of Descartes’ story along with the inspiringly lofty ones.”—The New York Times“Shorto is a skilled raconteur. He distills centuries of scientific and religious debate while keeping his story brisk and engaging.”—San Francisco Chronicle“Shorto is a skilled raconteur. He distills centuries of scientific and religious debate while keeping his story brisk and engaging.” —San Francisco Chronicle“Beautifully written. . . . The reader will find [Shorto's] intellectual insights entertaining, enlightening, and, perhaps, disturbing.” —Lisa Jardine, Nature“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