While some may believe that history is simply an accounting of factual events, most of us are aware that there are always underlying ideas and worldviews that shape those events.  Descartes’ Bones explores that intersection of philosophy, faith and science.

Renee Descartes portrait attributed to Frans Hals, 1648

Renee Descartes portrait attributed to Frans Hals, 1648

Renee Descartes is often credited with ushering in the modern age of philosophy when he stated, “Cogito ergo sum” or “I think, therefore I am.”  In Descartes’ Bones, Russell Shorto examines the impact of modern philosophies on many aspects of life.  Descartes’ Bones touches on everything from bloodletting as a medical cure, to the French and American Revolutions, to why women were considered  intellectually inferior simply because their brains were small in size.

But who would want to read such a book?  The topic sounds tedious and overly scholarly.  That is where the author’s genius for communication comes in.  Shorto uses ironic humor and the true life mystery of Descartes’ remains as a “skeleton” on which to build a narrative history of the Age of Reason.  Shorto does a remarkable job highlighting both the strengths and weaknesses of many scientific, political and religious thoughts throughout modern history.

I experienced this work as an audio book and would highly recommend it in that format (9.5 hours).  I’m not sure that I could have enjoyed it in quite the same way if I was reading just a few pages nightly at bedtime (granted, I get pretty sleepy pretty early).  Regardless of format, Descartes’ Bones by Russell Shorto is informative and entertaining.  Any intellectually curious person will enjoy this work.

History is for Girls is a full service website.  A link to Amazon.com is provided in this article, however, if you would like to borrow the audio version of Descartes’ Bones, please send us an email at History4Girls@gmail.com.  We will be happy to loan you a copy.

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