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Lectures from the Allen Room & Wertheim Study: Cogito Interruptus: Descartes and Princess Elisabeth on Life, Love and Growing Old


Descartes., Digital ID 1222141, New York Public LibraryRene DescartesWhat do thinkers think about when they’re not “thinking”? Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia and René Descartes shared an intense correspondence  in which they discussed Descartes’ revolutionary Cogito  -- “I think therefore I am”  --  but also the pleasures and pains of daily life in some intimate detail. Inspired by their letters, we have set out to rethink, with them, the usual story of “Cogito sum” in terms of “Cogito Interruptus.” Focusing on the debate between the young princess and the ageing philosopher about the interaction or interference between the mind and the body, this presentation traces the emergence of these two philosophical characters as they build an extraordinary friendship across social, political and religious barriers.   We begin to see a Descartes who is more than a thing that thinks and Elisabeth as the first Cartesian revolutionary.

Anne O'Byrne is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Stony Brook University.
Kyoo Lee is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at John Jay College, CUNY.

Philosophers both, Drs. Lee and O'Byrne are writers in residence at the Library's Wertheim Study.

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