Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Descartes' Bones & The Best of All Possible Worlds

I never got around to continuing my review of Russell Shorto's Descartes’ Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict Between Faith and Reason, nor did I ever get around to reviewing Steven Nadler's The Best of All Possible Worlds: A Story of Philosophers, God, and Evil. The former has objective content that merits attention regardless of Shorto's spin on the subject suggesting a moral for our time. Shorto is a journalist. Nadler is a serious scholar of Spinoza and of that period. Here is a paragraph I wrote on 21 July 2010:
The last two books I'm reading are about early modern philosophy: Russell Shorto's Descartes’ Bones and Steven Nadler's The Best of All Possible Worlds. The latter is about the theological-metaphysical problematic of Leibniz, Malebranche, and Arnauld. [This] . . . coincidentally dovetails with parts of the former book, which I'm still reading. Nadler refrains from drawing too many conclusions from this material, unlike Shorto, who thinks like a shallow journalist in reading today's conflict between faith and reason into the past. However, one can draw more severe conclusions from Nadler's book, should one choose to adduce the evidence presented therein to condemn Christianity—not just religion in general but Christianity in particular. I will write about this, assuming I can catch up to my proliferating ambitions.

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