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ChoiceNye has put this correspondence in readable form . . . well done.
— S. C. Schwarze, Cabrini College
For a number of years, those interested in recovering women's thought have known about Princess Elisabeth, a seventeenth-century correspondent and friend of Descartes whose questions provoked the philosopher to think more seriously about ethics and the passions. Up to now, only a few of her letters have found their way into print. This volume includes translations of all of Elisabeth's extant letters to Descartes, as well as of other materials relevant to understanding her philosophical perspective and her life. Nye has supplemented the translations with a running commentary on the historical, biographical, and intellectual context of the letters. The letters were during a tumultuous time in European history. A devastating Thirty Years War had ruined Elisabeth's family and devastated their principality, the Palatine. On his part, Descartes was increasingly embroiled in bitter controversies surrounding his work in relatively free-thinking Holland. In her commentary Nye shows how personal experiences energized his and Elisabeth's different views of the relation between mind and body, the existence of God, and the nature of morality. What Nye evokes, along with the thinking of an extraordinary woman, is an alternative model for philosophy, a nonadversarial form of dialogue that does not pretend to objective theorizing. Such a philosophy depends on mutual respect and trust, on concern for the other's sensibilities and views, on friendship between women and men with a common concern for human life.
Chapter 1 Preface Chapter 2 Prologue: A Terrible Grief Chapter 3 1 The First Overtures Chapter 4 2 Body and Soul Chapter 5 3 The Scent of a Rose Chapter 6 4 An Initial Disappointment Chapter 7 5 The Uses of Metaphysics Chapter 8 6 A Test Chapter 9 7 The Philosophic Muse Chapter 10 8 Doctor-Philosopher Chapter 11 9 A Life Blessed with Happiness Chapter 12 10 The Burdens of Civility Chapter 13 11 A Discourse on Prudence Chapter 14 12 The Consolations of Theology Chapter 15 13 Traitor to the Cause Chapter 16 14 A Silence between Friends Chapter 17 15 Master of Passion Chapter 18 16 A Certain Languor Chapter 19 17 Murder in the Streets Chapter 20 18 The Prince Chapter 21 19 Magic Powers Chapter 22 20 An Ungrateful Disciple Chapter 23 21 An Accusation of Blasphemy Chapter 24 22 A New Patroness Chapter 25 23 The Purloined Letters Chapter 26 24 Affairs of State Chapter 27 25 On the Advantages of Partition and Death by Beheading Chapter 28 26 A Royal Summons Chapter 29 27 Reason in the Service of Sense Chapter 30 28 In the Land of Ice and Snow Chapter 31 Epilogue: The Abbess of Herford Chapter 32 Notes Chapter 33 Bibliography Chapter 34 Index Chapter 35 About the Author