Shapiro, Lisa. Princess Elizabeth and Descartes: The union of soul and body and the practice of philosophy
Summary: In this paper, Shapiro aims to explore Princess Elizabeth’s own philosophical position, as developed in her correspondence with Descartes. In particular, Shapiro is interested in tracing Elizabeth’s own thought about the nature of the union of soul and body. Shapiro argues that Elizabeth develops her view from her early, famous objection against Descartes’ notion of the union of soul and body given his substance dualism to her later (less known) objections to Descartes’ neo-Stoic advice to her about regulating her passions. According to Shapiro, Elizabeth defends a unique philosophical position, one that is intermediary between substance dualism and reductionist materialism. On this view, the mind is autonomous yet it depends on the (good health of the) body to function properly. Shapiro concludes her paper by reconsidering Elizabeth’s practice of philosophy in light of the lack of a systematic treatment of philosophical issue by her.
Comment: This article is a nice introduction to Princess Elizabeth’s own philosophical thinking, although it might require some familiarity with Elizabeth-Descartes correspondence. Lisa Shapiro aims to take Elizabeth seriously as a philosopher, focusing on her view of the nature of the union of soul and body, as set forth in her correspondence with Descartes. She also reconsiders Elizabeth’s practice of philosophy: she argues that the lack of a systematic treatment of philosophical issues on Elizabeth’s part does not make her any less of a philosopher.