• by Tom Sorell
  • Narrated by Barbara Edelman
  • 3 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

René Descartes (1596-1650) had a remarkably short working life, and his output was small, yet his contributions to philosophy and science have endured to the present day. He is perhaps best known for his statement "Cogito, ergo sum". By a mixture of "intuition" and "deduction" Descartes derived from the "cogito" principle first the existence of a material world.
But Descartes did not intend the metaphysics to stand apart from his scientific work, which included important investigations into physics, mathematics, psychology, and optics. In this book Tom Sorrell shows that Descartes was, above all, an advocate and practitioner of a new mathematical approach to physics, and that he developed his metaphysics to support his program in the sciences.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

The sometimes clear & mostly indubitable Descartes

"I realize that I am, as it were, something intermediate between God and nothingness..."
-- Descartes, Fourth Meditation

Tom Sorrell's Very Short Introduction (VSI #30) to Descartes is my third selection of Oxford's Very Short Introduction series. So far, I've tried reading these books almost at random. Almost. I've wanted to try out different forms from big topics (History: A Very Short Introduction) to more specific, sub-field topics (Game Theory: A Very Short Introduction) that I'm moderately well-versed in, to religious (The Book of Mormon: A Very Short Introduction) and now biography. I'm about ready to start jumping into multiple areas and areas I'm not as familiar with. I've got the form down I think, now I get to start exploring.

The benefit of this book was that it took me from the basics of what I knew about Descartes (Cartesian thinking, Cogito ergo sum, etc) and added things I was familiar with, but never really focused on (his experiments, physics and maths). Sorell didn't write hagiography here. He placed Descartes in securely in time and space, and really limited his own personal impressions as much as he could. When Sorell did comment on Descartes it was typically to put into perspective both how his ideas held up in their time and the influence of those ideas today.

It wasn't a fantastic read, but it was still worth the time and money. It set the table and gave me several resources for future primary reads of Descartes.
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- Darwin8u

Good summary; Overly dramatic narration

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I would only recommend this book to you if you are determined to learn a lot about Descartes. The text itself is okay, but the reader's performance aggressively distracts from the author's train of thought. It's hard to listen to this audiobook.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

The narrator attempts to inject strong emotions into practically every sentence, and it distracts from the text. I don't get the impression that the narrator was actually following Sorrell's train of thought.

Even worse, every time the text quotes Descartes verbatim, the narrator adopts a comically stiff and somewhat aggressive tone of voice, as if the performer were imitating a boastful eight-year-old boy. This switch in tone is so jarring that I never actually hear Descartes' words, I only hear the narrator's raspy voice and wonder what on earth is the point of such a performance. Does Edelman think that Descartes was angry all the time?

As the listener, it is very hard to keep my attention focused on Sorell, because Edelman's performance is so distracting.

Any additional comments?

The price of this audiobook is too high given the short length.

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- Tim

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-26-2013
  • Publisher: Audible Studios