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Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars Golden nuggets, 16 Jun. 2011
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This review is from: Descartes: The Life of René Descartes and Its Place in His Times (Paperback)
Everything A C Grayling writes is exceptionally intelligent and unusually well informed. Unfortunately, his literature is so broad-ranging - from self-help books and newspaper book reviews to biographies and treatises on philosophical logic - that you may not always get what you expect. Golden nuggets of information on the Reformation tension in Descartes's world - such as the Rosicrucian movement or the Dutch political contest between Arminianism and Calvinism - are the real treasures in this book, which also leaves you with a strong sense of the man's importance in promoting an inductive, empirical approach to human understanding, rather than a deductive, religiously revealed/rational one. It doesn't, however, leave you with much of a feel for the man. I think this is as much as you can expect about somebody who died so long ago, and whose legacy is far more significant than his personality, but be warned. Is it philosophy's role to inspire or to argue? My hunch is that the 20th century tendency to over-emphasise argument has killed the subject's appeal for most of us. So a book like this, written by someone who is earnestly trying to to make logic more accessible and more emotionally meaningful in our lives, really does deserve a charitable reception. If everyone, even hopeless romantics, would personally benefit from a little knowledge about Cartesianism, then this is a very easy way of getting hold of some.
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