Elizabeth of Bohemia


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René Descartes (1596—1650) French philosopher, mathematician


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The daughter of Frederick, the Elector Palatine and King of Bohemia, and Elizabeth Stuart, the daughter of James I of England. Elizabeth is known in philosophy through her extensive correspondence with Descartes. After an early conversion to Catholicism she refused the throne of Bohemia, and her philosophical interests led her to avoid marriage; in 1667 she retired to the protestant convent of Herford in Westphalia, where she eventually became abbess, running a tolerant and liberal regime. Her questions to Descartes reveal an acute philosophical intelligence, particularly in probing the inadequacy of the Cartesian explanation of how immaterial substance (the mind) can generate motion in material substance (the body), and in questioning elements of Descartes's ethics.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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