The Philosopher, the Priest, and the Painter by Steven Nadler
A Portrait of Descartes

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In the Louvre museum hangs a portrait of a middle-aged man with long dark hair, a mustache, and heavy-lidded eyes, and he is dressed in the starched white collar and black coat of the typical Dutch burgher. The painting is now the iconic image of René Descartes, the great seventeenth-century French philosopher. And the painter of the work? The Dutch master Frans Hals--or so it was long believed, until the work was downgraded to a copy of an original. But where, then, is the authentic version located, and who painted it? Is the man in the painting--and in its original--really Descartes?

A unique combination of philosophy, biography, and art history, The Philosopher, the Priest, and the Painter investigates the remarkable individuals and circumstances behind a small portrait. Through this image--and the intersecting lives of a brilliant philosopher, a Catholic priest, and a gifted painter--Steven Nadler opens up a fascinating portal into Descartes's life and times, skillfully presenting an accessible introduction to Descartes's philosophical and scientific ideas, and an illuminating tour of the volatile political and religious environment of the Dutch Golden Age. As Nadler shows, Descartes's innovative ideas about the world, about human nature and knowledge, and about philosophy itself, stirred great controversy. Philosophical and theological critics vigorously opposed his views, and civil and ecclesiastic authorities condemned his writings. Nevertheless, Descartes's thought came to dominate the philosophical world of the period, and can rightly be called the philosophy of the seventeenth century.

Shedding light on a well-known image, The Philosopher, the Priest, and the Painter offers an engaging exploration of a celebrated philosopher's world and work.


About Steven Nadler

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Steven Nadler is the William H. Hay II Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he has been teaching since 1988. His books include Spinoza:  A Life, winner of the Koret Jewish Book Award in 2000, and Rembrandt’s Jews, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2004.
Published April 21, 2013 by Princeton University Press. 241 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Religion & Spirituality, Arts & Photography, Law & Philosophy, Humor & Entertainment. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Philosopher, the Priest, and the Painter

Kirkus Reviews

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"A small, intimate portrait" illustrating the biography of René Descartes and his ideas.

Feb 18 2013 | Read Full Review of The Philosopher, the Priest, ...

Publishers Weekly

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In the Louvre hangs a portrait of a dark-haired, middle-aged man wearing a black coat. The label identifies the figure as the 17th-century philosopher René Descartes. It’s a “copy of a Hals” (referrin

Feb 11 2013 | Read Full Review of The Philosopher, the Priest, ...

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