“A Stranger to One’s Own Country”

Descartes was not a bookish man. There’s a well-known anecdote that reveals what he thought of libraries:

One of his friends went to visit Descartes at Egmond. This gentleman asked him about physics books: which ones did he most value, and which of them he did most frequently consult. ‘I shall show you’, he replied, ‘if you wish to follow me.’ He led him into a lower courtyard at the back of the house, and showed him a calf that he had planned to dissect the next day.

It is a suspiciously artful anecdote: Descartes prefers nature bound in calfskin to another person’s  words bound in calfskin. But it gets something right: while Descartes did read and comment on books, and wrote many books himself, he steadily maintained, as did many early modern philosophers, that you can learn more by going straight to nature itself than you can by poring over old books.

Read more….

About Huenemann

Curious about the ways humans use their minds and hearts to distract themselves from the meaninglessness of life.
This entry was posted in 3QD essays, Books, Historical episodes. Bookmark the permalink.

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