Kerrie's Reviews > Descartes' Bones: a Skeletal History of the Conflict Between Faith and Reason

Descartes' Bones by Russell Shorto
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's review
Oct 14, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: audiobook, non-fiction, from-library
Read from October 14 to 23, 2011

Not really knowing anything about Descartes, this was an excellent introduction to him and his philosophy with the added awesome factor of how his bones and skull trotted across Europe over the course of centuries due to admirers wanting a relic of his remains. Ironic, since Descartes, despite being religious, gave rise to the philosophy of materialism and atheism during the Enlightenment.

The narrative flowed smoothly as Shorto laid out the journey of Descartes' bones. It was not linear, but continued to leap back and forth progressively throughout the last 350 years as new sciences cropped up that at the time explained the mystery of Descartes, such as phrenology (and organology) hopefully demonstrating to the practitioners of the time that Descartes had a massive brain cuz he wuz so SMRT.

More than anything, this book illustrates the role that science and reason, begun by Descartes, has played in the formation of our current modern world. And how the church and monarchy fought so vehemently against this threat to their established control over society that they had enjoyed for millennia.

I thought the ending of the book was forced, as he tied Descartes into the present modern world with an interview he had with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I was more interested in the past story of Descartes and the trailblazing thinkers of the day, but I can also see the connection that he was trying to make with Ali. She is the voice of reason who is working to transform the ancient and superstitious thinking of Islam just as Descartes did with Christian Europe nearly 400 years ago. And if you haven't read her book, Infidel, do so now!

I listened to the audiobook and the narrator was excellent and his French sounded superb. :D
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message 1: by Karla (new) - added it

Karla All I know about Rene Descartes is that he was a drunken fart. "I drink, therefore I am." :P

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