Descartes Critical And Interpretive Essays

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“I have so far found that only you understand perfectly all the treatises which I have published up to this time…

I know of no mind but yours to which all things are equally evident, and which I therefore deservedly term incomparable.” (1644), dedication to Princess Elisabeth.

Life in The Hague turned out to be the first crucial stage of Elisabeth’s intellectual development, for she used this opportunity to shape a major intellectual community of exiles in The Hague.

For instance, in 1634, at the age of only sixteen, she arranged a debate between Descartes and a Protestant Scottish minister named John Dury.

She was known alternately as a great intellectual, a philosopher, a “Cartesian Princess,” and a political figure.

With familial connection to Prussia and England, her family placed her at the very center of European political life in the 17 century.

After a childhood in Germany, largely in Heidelberg and Berlin, her family went into exile in Holland, living in The Hague in the 1630s.

During this time period, she was mentored by the great philosopher, linguist, and polymath Anna Maria van Schurman (the first woman to attend university in Europe), who advised Elisabeth on a range of subjects and suggested numerous readings for her to consider.

This was a fateful decision, as she became the Abbess of the convent there in 1667.

This meant, as Carol Pal remarks in her , that Elisabeth would become the Calvinist leader of an abbey in Lutheran Germany harboring religious exiles such as Quakers and Labadists.


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