Buy New
$19.75
Qty:1
  • List Price: $21.95
  • Save: $2.20 (10%)
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Temporarily out of stock.
Order now and we'll deliver when available.
Order now and we'll deliver when available. We'll e-mail you with an estimated delivery date as soon as we have more information. Your account will only be charged when we ship the item.
Details
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com.
Gift-wrap available.
Add to Cart
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Cogito, Ergo Sum: The Life of Rene Descartes Paperback – August 15, 2007


See all 3 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
Paperback
"Please retry"
$19.75
$5.95 $0.01


NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

Hero Quick Promo
Browse in Books with Buzz and explore more details on selected titles, including the current pick, "The Good Girl" by Mary Kubica.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: David R Godine (August 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1567923356
  • ISBN-13: 978-1567923353
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.3 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,755,826 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Watson, veteran professor of philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis, specializes in books of horse sense that reflect a lifelong study of the philosophical greats; titles include The Philosopher's Diet, The Philosopher's Joke and The Philosopher's Demise. Watson's prose persona is the canny old uncle (or college lecturer), making distant and abstract history seem homey and accessible, yet with a light sense of humor that forestalls any potential charge of lowbrow philistinism. He here covers the diverse realms in which Descartes's thought takes place, from metaphysics to mathematics (where he invented analytic geometry), optics, medicine, physiology and psychology. The book is billed as the first since 1920 to contain original documentary research, as Watson combed libraries and European sites where Descartes lived. He typically relates Descartes's movements, such as going to Sweden to work for Queen Christina, with cracker-barrel philosophy: "Descartes was, I speculated, like a professor in the sticks, teaching at Podunk U., waiting for the fabled call from Harvard... But compared to the French court, Stockholm... was in the minor leagues not Harvard Ohio State maybe." In 13 chapters and a conclusion, with titles like "Descartes's Dog" and "Magic Kingdoms," the philosopher's story is recounted in readable prose, too folksy to be called academic, but not dumbed-down either. Readers with a passing interest will be satisfied and entertained.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Watson (philosophy, Washington Univ., St. Louis) has produced the third major biography of Descartes to be published in the past few years, and he carefully distinguishes his work from the other two. He notes that while Genevieve Rodis-Lewis's Descartes: A Biography portrays Descartes primarily as a believer whose work supports Christian theology, Stephen Gaukroger's Descartes: An Intellectual Biography limns Descartes as "the Great Scientist." Watson avoids both orientations, instead aiming to offer "a skeptical biography, as full of doubt about tradition and authority as was Descartes himself" and "the only one ever written for general readers." In this he has succeeded admirably. The narrative in which Watson injects his own persona and experiences tracing Descartes throughout Europe is both rigorous and engrossing, and readers will see clearly how pertinent the 17th-century Descartes is to the modern world. This book belongs in all philosophy and biography collections. Leon H. Brody, U.S. Office of Personnel Management Lib., Washington, DC
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Richard Watson taught philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis for forty years. He is known for innovative work in Early Modern Philosophy: THE BREAKDOWN OF CARTESIAN METAPHYSICS (Hackett Publishing Company) and REPRESENTATIONAL IDEAS FROM PLATO TO PATRICIA CHURCHLAND (Kluwer Academic Publishers); and in Environmental Ethics and Philosophy of Geology. He is the author of three novels on the theme of obsession: UNDER PLOWMAN'S FLOOR (hb Zepyrus Press, pb Cave Books), THE RUNNER (hb Copple House Books, pb Cave Books) and NIAGARA (Coffee House Press), which is about the first man to walk across the Falls on a wire, and the first person (a woman) to go over the Falls in a barrel.

For more than fifty years he explored caves in the Mammoth Cave region, and with Roger W. Brucker he is the author of THE LONGEST CAVE (hb Alfred A. Knopf, pb Southern Illinois University Press), which has never been out of print since it was first published in 1976. He and Roger contend that it will never be out of print so long as people read books of adventure.

THE PHILOSOPHER'S DIET: HOW TO LOSE WEIGHT AND CHANGE THE WORLD (hb Atlantic Monthly Press, pb David R. Godine) has been translated into nine languages. THE PHILOSOPHER'S DEMISE: LEARNING FRENCH (hb University of Missouri Press, pb David R. Godine) has been translated into Italian. The French translation of NIAGARA (Coffee House Press) was featured at the Saint-Malo Etonnants Voyageurs Festival International du Livre in 1997, where it won a translation award. COGITO, ERGO SUM: THE LIFE OF RENE DESCARTES (hb & pb revised 2nd ed. David R. Godine) was chosen by the New York Public library as one of "25 Books to Remember from 2002."

William H. Gass characterizes Watson's writing as genere-busting, because he treats serious philosophical themes in uncoventional ways.

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
5 star
8
4 star
1
3 star
1
2 star
0
1 star
4
See all 14 customer reviews
Watson's style is such as to make you feel you are in the settings he describes.
Dr. H. A. Jones
I'd recommend this book to anyone who'd like to learn about DeCartes, even (more mature)high schoolers.
Joanne Kirschner
I have read Watson's book up till page 72, waiting for it to get better and more relevant.
Reader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Fj Lievaart on November 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Richard Watson certainly seems like an amiable man, a great asset for your vernissage, your cocktail party, or any other function that merits a lively imagination above actual knowledge. I won't bore you stiff by addressing every blatant error in this book: it will suffice to say that our Prof. Disney has, single-handedly, come up with an entirely new successor to Prince Frederick-Henry of Orange (1584 - 1647): a certain Henry III. All it takes is a monkey (Descartes would have loved that) with a computer, to google himself to enlightenment: that the good prince Frederick Henry was in fact succeeded by his son William II, who was succeeded by his son, William III, Prince of Orange and King of England, Schotland and Ireland. 'Elementary, my dear Watson'. (And no, Richard: Descartes didn't meet Huygens in 1630, they first met in 1635, and no, no, Richard: 'Stadhouder' is not quite the same as 'Commander-in-Chief', and no, no, no, Richard: Constantijn Huygens served two, not three Stadhouders as first secretary, etc. etc.). All this nonsense in one page (160).
2 Comments Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 26, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a jauntily written and idiosyncratic life of Descartes. The Introduction summarizes his importance: "the modern world", Watson writes, "is Cartesian to the core". This is followed by a Prologue which is a rambling and largely irrelevant account of the author's and his wife's stay in Friesland (where Descartes had lived for a while); and such autobiographical diversions are to be found several times in the rest of the book.

While Watson casts healthy doubt on earlier biographies of Descartes, he goes in for a lot of speculation himself - fair enough, when he can't be certain, but less so when his totally unsubstantiated conjecture that, while in the army, Descartes "perhaps even insulted another officer sufficiently to provide grounds for the great excitement of a duel" is merely a peg on which to hang three paragraphs on duelling in 17th century France.

Watson discusses at length whether Descartes was influenced by the Rosicrucians - he believes that he was; and whilst he is convinced that the story of Descartes' famous three dreams is a myth (Descartes refers to that day in a stove-heated room, but makes no mention of the dreams), Watson is fascinated by the various interpretations that other writers have given of these mythical dreams. There are mysteries about Descartes' military service between 1618 and 1620: he originally enlisted in a French regiment put at the disposal of France's ally the Stadtholder of Holland; but he may subsequently have joined the army of France's enemy, the Habsburg Emperor.

Watson is interesting about the last years of Descartes' life, when it seems he suddenly wanted preferment at a court. He had sought it in Paris in 1648, only to flee when the Fronde broke out.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Format: Paperback
Cogito Ergo Sum: The life of René Descartes by Richard Watson, David R. Godine, Boston; 2002, 384 ff.

The life and times of philosopher René Descartes

Descartes was undoubtedly one of the most brilliant and innovative of philosophers and mathematicians from the Enlightenment to influence our world today: as the author says in his Introduction, he `laid the foundations for the dominance of reason in science and human affairs. He desacralized nature and set the individual human being above church and state.' Richard A. Watson is now an Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the Washington University of St. Louis and this is a book that was rated by the New York Public Library as one of the most memorable published in 2002.

Descartes, like Plato before him and like Locke and Kant who followed, distinguished the world of the senses that we know and its underlying reality: `we can never know if the material world is like the sensory experiences we have of it.' But Descartes was just as sceptical of our assessment of the world through reason for, in essence, we know nothing except the contents of our own minds. It was the pragmatists who crystallized this idea into a formal philosophy - that the quest for certainty, whether it was about God or about the world, was hopeless: we should believe and act on that which is most expedient - to face reality as we know it. According to Watson, it was Descartes' possessive individualism that `has made consumer capitalism the dominant social and political force of our time.'

The book as a whole gives an engaging description of seventeenth-century Europe and particularly of the United Provinces - essentially the territory we now know as the Netherlands.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
By Marty on November 25, 2010
Format: Paperback
I really didn't mean to read the whole thing, just gather a few facts. I read the whole book. It was written to be read and enjoyed, and you are given permission to skip some really historic information on family heritage (which would have been boring to any but the most avid Descartes scholar). So....I skipped on a few pages to become entranced again only to find myself at the last page.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When I purchased this book, I was afraid it might be overly academic and a bit "dry" for me (I admit it, I'm mostly a fiction reader). However, I found it to be very engaging. I loved the way the author used personal asides and light humor to make the story more readable, and I also liked the way he used his own travel experiences to add extra "flavor". I'd recommend this book to anyone who'd like to learn about DeCartes, even (more mature)high schoolers.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Customer Images

Most Recent Customer Reviews

Search