Descartes' Bones by Russell Shorto
A Skeletal History of the Conflict between Faith and Reason

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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 Russell Shorto

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Russell Shorto is a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine, and the author of two previous books: Gospel Truth, about the search for the historical Jesus, and Saints and Madmen, about psychiatry and religion. The hub of his research for The Island at the Center of the World was the New Netherland Project at the New York State Library, where the archives of the Dutch colony centered on Manhattan are being translated. He lives in New York's Hudson Valley with his wife and their two daughters.
Published October 7, 2008 by Vintage. 320 pages
Genres: History, Religion & Spirituality, Law & Philosophy. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Descartes' Bones

The New York Times

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The types of discourse explored in “Descartes’ Bones” are so different that the book has built-in organizational problems.

Oct 09 2008 | Read Full Review of Descartes' Bones: A Skeletal ...

The New York Times

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Russell Shorto’s book considers Descartes’s reason alongside his embrace of religion.

Nov 02 2008 | Read Full Review of Descartes' Bones: A Skeletal ...

San Francisco Chronicle

Exhumed in order to transfer the bones from Sweden to Descartes' native France - "translation," reveals one of the book's engaging asides, was the technical term for the transfer of religious relics - the remains of the philosopher quickly fall prey to the covetous whimsy of early modern groupies...

Nov 05 2008 | Read Full Review of Descartes' Bones: A Skeletal ...

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