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Descartes' Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict between Faith and Reason

Russell Shorto

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Prose: non-fiction, History

A fascinating intellectual adventure story from the acclaimed author of Amsterdam and The Island at the Center of the World.

Sixteen years after Ren 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.

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