Descartes: A Very Short Introduction by Tom Sorell

Usually when I read these “Very Short Intros” I am accustomed to a slew of citations backing up a contemporary opinion by a biased theorist of whatever subject matter is being discussed. So when I read through the very short intro of Rene Descartes and found that the author relied on his own authority to explain Descartes’s theories without resorting to banalities and academic one-up-men-ship, I was surprised. While it was a different kind of approach to a short book on an academic subject it was one that worked all the same. The author concisely explained Descartes’s works and life without either gushing about his achievements (idol worship) or unduly assaulting the figure’s existential purpose (a hatchet job). His explanations were on topic and to the point. Each chapter was short thereby enabling the reader to complete ‘just one more’ before placing the book down. In a book such as this, where the entire mission is to provide a sort of overview to the subject-matter without becoming bogged down in the wide variety of controversies, this approach worked fine and it an approach which other authors in the series should imitate as I often find that contributors to this series tend to focus on one aspect of a figure’s work or event’s happening more weight than another, creating a uneven balance between the chapters. So if you are searching for an introduction to Descartes that is truly very short then this long essay, and its accompanying further reading section, will keep you busy without causing a mental meltdown.


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