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The Philosopher, the Priest, and the Painter: A Portrait of Descartes Paperback – 26 May 2015
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"The famous painting of Descartes by Frans Hals that hangs in the Louvre is, in fact, not by Frans Hals. And a similar things-are-not-what-they-seem quality applies to this clever little book. For behind the telling of the story of a clutch of paintings and a group of friends in the seventeenth century, Nadler gives us a brisk and lively account of Descartes' philosophy, which, more than any other, would become the foundation of modernity."--Russell Shorto, author of Descartes' Bones
"This lucid and readable book serves as a biography, an exposition of philosophy, and a rich tapestry of Dutch history and culture."--Larry Silver, University of Pennsylvania
"The Philosopher, the Priest, and the Painter is an excellent introduction for general readers to Descartes and his thought. Nadler brings the story and ideas to life."--Daniel Garber, Princeton University
"Steven Nadler has produced another gem of original research and lively and lucid writing."---Catherine Wilson, Times Literary Supplement
"Riveting. . . . In The Philosopher, the Priest, and the Painter, Nadler has . . . written his most inviting book yet. . . . Nadler's detective work makes for fascinating reading. . . . [T]he resulting survey of Golden Age Dutch culture, Cartesian philosophy and art connoisseurship . . . makes for . . . very welcome intellectual entertainment."---Michael Dirda, Washington Post
"[B]y situating him firmly in his time and place, [Nadler] makes clear what made Descartes the intellectual superstar of his day. . . . [A]n original, intriguing set-up. . . . [A]s an introduction to Descartes' philosophy, it is excellent."---David Wolf, Slate
"As one would expect from a distinguished philosopher such as Nadler, the description of Descartes's philosophy, and in particular his Discourse (1637) and Meditations (1641), is flawless."---Jerry Brotton, Literary Review
"Cartesian iconography centers around a widely known portrait of Descartes attributed to Frans Hals. In this book, Nadler uses the story of that painting's origin to present a study of Descartes and his philosophy that will be accessible to a wide audience. . . . [T]his volume serves as a very good introduction to Descartes's philosophy in historical context."--Choice
"[C]harming. . . . Nadler, an American philosopher and author, has written an immensely readable introduction to Descartes."--Australian
"[A] landscape (or at least a well-turned charcoal sketch) of religious, artistic, and economic life in the Netherlands during the first half of the 17th century. . . . Nadler's book . . . takes us back upstream a ways--beginning, rather than exempting us from, a dialog with the dead."---Scott McLemee, Inside Higher Ed
From the Author
Steven Nadler is the William H. Hay II Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin--Madison. His books include Rembrandt’s Jews, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Spinoza: A Life, which won the Koret Jewish Book Award; and A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza’s Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age (Princeton).See all Product description
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Steven Nadler, here, takes a look at the often used depiction of the French philosopher Descartes that hangs in Louvre and examines whether the portrait is by the painter it is usually attributed to or whether it is actually a copy of an earlier formal portrait. Along the way he reviews early Dutch culture and politics, explains why Descartes ended up living in the Netherlands, and the importance of portraiture during this period. He also provides an introduction to Descartes' thought during this period and the reactions of various friends and critics. The analysis of Descartes' writings are presented in a historical fashion.
I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in a non-technical introduction to Descartes as well as anyone interested in the general milieu and painting history of the early Dutch Enlightenment. Readers well acquainted with Descartes looking for any new philosophical insight into his work should look elsewhere. Notes, bibliography, and index all first rate. In addition, several color plates as well as black and white figures. I gave this a 4 rating because the narrative was somewhat choppy, realizing however the difficulty of combining art history and philosophy in a single small book.
This book is different, in fact it is not an ordinary biography at all. In addition to the normal investigations concerning Descartes's natural science, metaphysics and mathematics, this offers a lot of information about the art history, religious, economical and political movements in 17th century Holland, publishing policy in Europe and other interesting stuff. As fas as I can see all the traditional myths and misunderstandings concerning Descartes are avoided.
This book is easy to read and do not require any knowledge about the subject, but the rare publications and letters from Descartes are used often, which is good for the advanced reader.
The real page numbers are great, because you can't really refer to the Kindle E-book properly if these are missing. A great way to combine scientific reading and an adventure novel. I would love to read more this kind of books.