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Elisabeth of Bohemia, , . Selections from her Correspondence with Descartes
1994, in Margaret Atherton (ed.) Women Philosophers of the Early Modern Period. Hackett Publishing Company. [originally written 1643-1650]
Added by: Alison Stone, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

From the SEP:  Elisabeth presses Descartes on the relation between the two really distinct substances of mind and body, and in particular the possibility of their causal interaction and the nature of their union. They also correspond on Descartes’s physics, on the passions and their regulation, on the nature of virtue and the greatest good, on the nature of human freedom of the will and its compatibility with divine causal determination, and on political philosophy.

Comment: This chapter could be used in a history of philosophy course covering Descartes as one week's reading, covering Elisabeth's questions to Descartes about mind/body interaction. Note that the selections in Atherton's collection are adequate for a Philosophy of Mind course, but students wishing to explore the issues in more detail might benefit from reading the full text.

Complimentary Texts/Resources:

Lisa Shapiro, “Princess Elizabeth and Descartes: The Union of Soul and Body and the Practice of Philosophy” - Shapiro explicates Elizabeth’s underlying view and objections and shows how to frame the issues in the correspondence as feminist issues and issues about philosophy and its culture.

Andrea Nye, “Polity and Prudence: the Ethics of Elisabeth, Princess Palatine” - Nye explores Elisabeth’s ethical views, as discovered via the correspondence.

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