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date: 20 May 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Elisabeth Simmern van Pallandt, or as she is more commonly referred to, Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia, is most well known for her extended correspondence with Descartes and for being the subject of the dedication of Descartes’s Principles of Philosophy. In that dedication, Descartes notes that “the outstanding and incomparable sharpness of your [Elisabeth’s] intelligence is obvious from the penetrating examination you have made of all the secrets of these sciences”, that she is the only person who “completely understood all my previously published works”, both metaphysics and geometry, that her “intellect is … unique in finding everything equally clear”, and finally that she exhibits “all the necessary conditions for perfect and sublime wisdom”. Given his admiration for her, it is reasonable to think that Descartes saw Elisabeth not simply as a political patron but also as a philosophical ally, and so to think of Princess Elisabeth as a Cartesian. This chapter examines this claim in more detail. After briefly outlining some salient details of Elisabeth’s biography, it considers three different senses in which Elisabeth might be thought of as a Cartesian.

Keywords: Elisabeth of Bohemia, metaphysics, mind, body, ethics

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