The Philosopher, the Priest, and the Painter: A Portrait of Descartes

The Philosopher, the Priest, and the Painter: A Portrait of Descartes

Language: English

Pages: 248

ISBN: 0691165750

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In the Louvre museum hangs a portrait that is considered 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 is the authentic version, 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 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.

Art in Renaissance Italy: 1350-1500

The Visible World: Samuel van Hoogstraten's Art Theory and the Legitimation of Painting in the Dutch Golden Age (Amsterdam Studies in the Dutch Golden Age)


Vested Interests: Cross-Dressing and Cultural Anxiety





















Its title, appropriately, was Le Monde, or The World. The planned work—­which, in fact, was to be part of a larger treatise that would also include an essay on the human being, titled L’Homme—­was informed by the theory of nature promoted by the new mechanistic science. According to the ­ centuriesold Aristotelian account of natural phenomena, the bodies studied by physics were “hylomorphic” corporeal substances, consisting of matter (in Greek, hyle) and form (morphé). The substantial form—­an

Catholics, excluded from public service. And although subsequent generations assimilated by marriage into Haarlem’s regent clans, many of them were Mennonites and so were barred from government office as well.12 As Haarlem’s flourishing came to depend more and more on the expanding market for cloth, linen, and silk, however, the growing wealth of these manufacturers and merchants allowed them to exercise significant influence over the city’s affairs. It also gave them, like the brewers, the means

convened the university senate and directed it to ask the city council to order the seizure of all copies of Regius’s pamphlet and to censure the theories it defended. The Utrecht councilors followed suit, and on 4 April 1642 they issued a condemnation of the “new philosophy.”57 Meanwhile, the university stripped Regius of his right to give lectures on physics and forbade the further teaching of Descartes’s ideas, which it proclaimed to be incompatible with the “ancient philosophy” and

compositions.12 When Mersenne’s response was not the laudatory one Ban had been expecting, he was highly offended and suggested that anyone who did not agree with him was “raving mad . . . a deaf musician.”13 In the spring of 1640, after several more exchanges, the annoyed Minim friar decided to put this matter to rest and initiated a little competition between Ban and a French composer, Antoine Boësset. Each was to set a short verse to music, and the resulting pieces would be sent to various

nothing but the fact that the particles of bread and wine, which in order for the soul of Jesus Christ to inform them naturally would have had to mingle with his blood and dispose themselves in certain specific ways, are informed by his soul simply by the power of the words of consecration.60 When Descartes’s friend Claude Clerselier published his collection of Descartes’s correspondence in 1657, he wisely did not include this letter to Mesland. He knew that its “novelties” would be found

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