The Correspondence Between Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia & Rene Descartes by Elisabeth Simmern van PallandtBetween the years 1643 and 1649, Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia (1618–80) and Rene Descartes (1596–1650) exchanged fifty-eight letters—thirty-two from Descartes and twenty-six from Elisabeth. Their correspondence contains the only known extant philosophical writings by Elisabeth, revealing her mastery of metaphysics, analytic geometry, and moral philosophy, as well as her keen interest in natural philosophy. The letters are essential reading for anyone interested in Descartes’s philosophy, in particular his account of the human being as a union of mind and body, as well as his ethics. They also provide a unique insight into the character of their authors and the way ideas develop through intellectual collaboration.
Philosophers have long been familiar with Descartes’s side of the correspondence. Now Elisabeth’s letters—never before available in translation in their entirety—emerge this volume, adding much-needed context and depth both to Descartes’s ideas and the legacy of the princess. Lisa Shapiro’s annotated edition—which also includes Elisabeth’s correspondence with the Quakers William Penn and Robert Barclay—will be heralded by students of philosophy, feminist theorists, and historians of the early modern period.
Elisabeth, Princess of Bohemia
The aim here is to develop a richer picture of Elisabeth as a philosophical thinker and to dispel the myth that she is simply a Cartesian muse. When philosophers recount the story of their past, they focus primarily on canonical figures. Historians of philosophy have initiated a movement, however, to uncover the work of minor figures in order to fill the gaps in this story and to provide a richer texture to our philosophical past. To this end, Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia has been the topic of discussion in many recent works on Descartes. Some feminist thinkers have also taken up the task of uncovering the work of minor figures in the history of philosophy—specifically women philosophers.
Great content, made it easy to understand and did it in an interesting way. Thank you. Hi, I find your way of explaining things very useful. However, I am left puzzled by Descartes second response! Surely he is contradicting his very own philosophy here? I missed this day in class.
Get ideas for individual lectures with our Lessons , or combine multiple lectures into an entire Unit of deviant philosophy in your course. Hackett ISBN: p. Lisa Shapiro. This question gives students a chance to think about the relationship between Elis and Descartes one of friendship, but with obvious social distinctions since Elis is royalty and some feminist issues given that Elis explains she is often too busy with her duties to write or do philosophy. What is Elisabeth asking of Descartes on p. How might you rephrase this in the form of an objection?
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This text reprints four letters exchanged between Descartes and Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia in Descartes and Elisabeth pursued a correspondence between and , and discussed many philosophical matters, including the mind-body relation, the principles of mathematics and geometry, and ethics. This brief letter begins with an invitation by Elisabeth to meet Descartes in the Hague, before she departs with her family to Berlin. The latter are deprived of secure foundations, and their states will invariably lapse into tyranny. Rather he means this common law by which one should do unto others as one would like done to oneself: a law which princes are almost never able to observe with regard to one of their subjects, who must be sacrificed each time public utility requires it. She also makes remarks about a code Descartes and herself were contemplating using for their future correspondence. Descartes begins his letter by expressing his happiness at hearing about her safe voyage, adding some further reflections on maintaining a healthy attitude to fortune.
In that correspondence, Elisabeth presses Descartes on the relation between the two really distinct substances of mind and body, and in particular the possibility of their causal interaction and the nature of their union. They also correspond on Descartes's physics, on the passions and their regulation, on the nature of virtue and the greatest good, on the nature of human freedom of the will and its compatibility with divine causal determination, and on political philosophy. Descartes dedicated his Principles of Philosophy to Elisabeth, and wrote his Passions of the Soul at her request. While there is much to be learned about Descartes's views by reading this exchange, my concern in this entry is not to focus on its import for understanding Descartes's philosophical position, but rather to summarize Elisabeth's own philosophical views. Elisabeth seems to have been involved in negotiations around the Treaty of Westphalia and in efforts to restore the English monarchy after the English civil war. As Abbess of Herford Germany convent, she managed the rebuilding of that war-impacted community and also provided refuge to marginalized Protestant religious sects, including Labadists and Quakers. She died on 8 February , in Herford, Germany, where she was abbess of the convent there.