A PHILOSOPHICAL LIAISON
This work analyses the therapeutic element that runs through all of Descartes’s correspondence with Princess Elisabeth, the eldest daughter of the deposed Frederick V of Bohemia, nicknamed the “king of one winter”. Against a background of exile in the Netherlands (on the one hand to shake off all social restraints, and on the other because of the Thirty Years War), Descartes and Elisabeth try to work out how to react to traumatic incidents in life and how to appropriate them as subjects. Descartes puts into practice his theory of “contentment of mind”, and reveals to the princess how he maintains balance in mind and body. Elisabeth is a woman who has the courage to face up to her symptoms while trying to identify them, understand what they mean and acknowledge what is at stake. Her own sensibilities drive her acute intellectual rigour, which is partly satisfied by her exchanges with Descartes whom she asks for help in curing herself. Descartes allows her access to herself, exposing in his letters not so much the notion of duality of the soul and the body but the union between them, and showing in what terms to conceive of “true man”.
With their intellectual honesty and the mutually beneficial connection that develops between them, these two individuals reveal certain mechanisms of human passions and tackle the complexity of intersubjective connections.
Elisabeth urges Descartes to expand his theory of passions by drawing on lived experiences; their epistolary union went on to bear fruit in his treatise on the Passions of the Soul.
Yaelle Sibony-Malpertu is a philosopher, psychologist and psychonanalyst; she works in a hospital environment. She is currently researching the effects of traumatic events and the clinical treatments they bring into play.
Par leur honnêteté intellectuelle et le lien transférentiel qui s’établit, ils donnent accès à certains mécanismes des passions, abordent la complexité des liens intersubjectifs.
Élisabeth va conduire Descartes à élaborer sa théorie des passions en prenant appui sur le vécu ; leur union épistolaire donnera naissance au traité des Passions de l’âme.