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The Princess and the Philosopher: Letters of Elisabeth of the Palatine to RenZ Descartes
     

The Princess and the Philosopher: Letters of Elisabeth of the Palatine to RenZ Descartes

by Andrea Nye
 
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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

Choice
Nye has put this correspondence in readable form . . . well done.
— S. C. Schwarze, Cabrini College
Booknews
Princess Palatine Elisabeth, who resided in the culturally flourishing 17th-century environment of the Dutch Republic, was the scholarly elder daughter of a famous royal family (her mother was the exiled queen of Bohemia; her younger sister would be mother of a king of England). She corresponded with D<'e>scartes over a period of seven years (from the time she was 24 years old and he was 40). Valuing her fresh insights and questions, D<'e>scartes carefully kept her letters until his death; but they have been little studied for a variety of reasons. Here, Nye (philosophy and religious studies, U. of Wisconsin-Whitewater) provides critical and historical analyses of the correspondence showing how Elisabeth's thinking inspired and influenced the great philosopher. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
CHOICE - S. C. Schwarze
Nye has put this correspondence in readable form . . . well done.
Nancy Tuana
An intriguing combination of social history, biography, and philosophical commentary. The Princess and the Philosopher provides a lens that enables readers to understand Elisabeth's appreciation of and impact on Descartes' philosophy, framed within the political and cultural context of their time.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780847692644
Publisher:
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
04/15/1999
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
6.24(w) x 9.36(h) x 0.69(d)

Meet the Author

Andrea Nye is professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Her books include Philosophia: The Thought of Rosa Luxemburg, Simone Weil, and Hannah Arendt (1994) and Words of Power: A Feminist Reading of the History of Logic (1990).

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