Monday, September 24, 2007

JOHN CHUCKMAN REVIEW: RICHARD WATSON'S LIFE OF RENE DESCARTES

RICHARD WATSON'S LIFE OF RENE DESCARTES BY JOHN CHUCKMAN, January 28, 2005


This is truly a dreadful book.

The author attempts to do something loosely along the lines of Samuel Eliot Morison's "Admiral of the Ocean Sea," a fascinating, though dated, book that combines Morison's knowledge of the sea and sailing with a biography of Columbus. The author of "Cogito Ergo Sum," however, fails entirely.

In Wilson's effort - a very thin volume for a book purporting to be a biography of a major intellectual figure - we read almost as much about Wilson and his wife touring locations in Europe as we do about Descartes. The result is something a little like a poorly written script for one of those old corny school film strips.

Wilson never comes to grips with what makes Descartes great, and the vocabulary he uses - when he isn't saying things like "Gee!" or "Awesome!" - is that tiresome, annoying one typical of American social science academics of the second or third order.

The book actually contains errors regarding the period that even an amateur can spot.

This book is recommended only to be avoided.

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