Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thoughtless

The man whose definition of life is famous to most - "I think therefore I am" - died on February 11, 1650.  His demise seems to have been accelerated by a change of climate, and the demands of a queen.  Rene Descartes was 53 when he passed.

Descartes claimed to be a devout Catholic, but his philosophy was attacked by other Catholics, including Blaise Pascal.  To escape from his enemies, he accepted an offer from Queen Christina of Sweden, to move to Stockholm.  Christina sought his instruction at an early hour each morning; 5AM.  Combined with a disagreeable climate, this may have been too much for his already frail state.  Descartes had an influence on Christina, it seems, as she abdicated her throne and converted to Catholicism after his death.

Walter Scott published "The Edinburgh Annual Register"; volume 14 containing a discussion of what was purported to be Descartes' head being displayed to the Royal Institute of France's Academy of Sciences.

"On the 30th of April, M. Cuvier presented to the Academy the head of Descartes, which M. Berzelius, Secretary of the Academy of Stockholm, had purchased, at a public sale, in Sweden, and which he had been eager to transmit to the native country of that truly great man..."

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