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Descartes And Letters Exchanged Between Elizabeth of Bohemia On the Body-Mind Problem - Essay Example

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Descartes And Letters Exchanged Between Elizabeth of Bohemia On the Body-Mind Problem

In this letter, she appears to suggest that the reason for her departure is the murder of Francois d’Espinay (who had courted not only mother but also her younger sister) by Phillipe (her brother) in broad daylight (Atherton 25). Ironically this act seems to have been carried out with Elizabeth’s knowledge. She tells Descartes that she will carry a draft of The Passions of the Soul treatise that he had given to her, but remarks that previously his presence had had provided the remedy to her passions, since both his reasoning and maxims had failed to do so. Letter II: Descartes to Elizabeth, September 1646. The response to Elizabeth commences with a reference to a correspondence they exchanged recently about Machiavelli’s The Prince; Elizabeth had asked him to read it. Descartes remarks that he has discovered in the Prince a lot of precepts which have been very good to him, but his major criticism is that Machiavelli has failed to provide a clear contrast between princes who have acquired power through illegitimate methods and those who have done so through just means. He says that the former are bereft of solid foundations, and the states they create will inevitably slip into tyranny (Descartes & Griffith 22). Descartes also criticizes Machiavelli’s arguments concerning the prince’s relations to enemies, the common people, allies and prominent personalities. He rebukes Machiavelli’s suggestions that people should feign friendship if that is what they have to do in order to satisfy the desires, stating that “friendship is something too sacred to abuse in this way”. Descartes also take issue with Machiavelli’s recommendation that the prince should sometimes feel free to dishonor promises (Descartes says this would ruin the prince’s reputation), and insists that the prince should steer clear of the people’s contempt and hatred. In an important passage for the interpretation by Regnault, Descartes examines Machiavelli’s suggestion, in chapter 15, that because the world is corrupt, it is inevitable that one will self-destruct if he always wants to be a good man, and that when the occasion calls for it a prince must always prepare to be wicked so as to maintain and sustain oneself (Atherton 32). Descartes does not agree with this maxim, unless by a good man Machiavelli means a simple and superstitious man who does not wage war on the Sabbath, and whose conscience can remain clear only when if he changes his people’s religion. However, if by a good man we mean he who relies on his true reasoning for everything he does, then it is obvious that the best thing is to always try to be good. In response to Princess Elizabeth’s own dilemmas, Descartes simply recommends that she adopt and put into action those maxims which show that everybody’s felicity depends only on him/herself, and that it is very important to conduct oneself outside the rules and boundaries of fortune so that, while one fails to miss the opportunities to grab the advantages it offers, one does not make him/herself unhappy when it refuses to grant them. Considering that in all earthly affairs there are always reasons for and against, one should mainly focus on those that convince one to approve and sanction what happens (Peursen 28). Letter III: Elizabeth to Descartes, 10 October 1646. Now settled in Berlin, Elizabeth starts her letter by stating that the ...Show more
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(Name) (Instructors’ name) (Course) (Date) Descartes and Letters Exchanged between Elizabeth of Bohemia on the Body-mind Problem Introduction In this paper I will discuss four letters that were exchanged between Rene Descartes and Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia around 1646…
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