by Desmond Clarke Barrett (2006). An exhaustive (at close to 500 pages) but not exhausting account of the peripatetic life of René Descartes, the foremost philosopher of the modern, scientific age (1596 – 1650). The Irish scholar Desmond places Descartes’s life into context, explaining the prevailing philosophical, social and historic forces within which Descartes lived and acted. Descartes comes across as a genius for his seminal contributions to physics (his principle of inertia), mathematics (Cartesian coordinate systems), physiology and metaphysics but not as a pleasant fellow, a recluse, excessively adulatory to those above him and hypersensitive to criticism from his peers. The book highlights the obfuscation of medieval scholasticism with their endless forms (e.g. a burning piece of wood has an inherent property, a form, called “burning”), their disdain for acquiring new knowledge, their endless re-interpretations in the light of The Philosopher (aka Aristotle). Descartes sweeps all of this away with his theory of knowledge that opens the epistemic gap between our subjective feelings and objective, external realities by explaining such sensations as heat, light or hunger in terms of the action of particles that are only distinguished by their size, shape and motion. The book well describes the sociology of European scholars and their mode of interactions. In some cases, nothing has changed from today: when there was an intellectual dispute involving Descartes, the University of Utrecht set up a committee of professors to report on it! Other things have changed, as the style of academic disputes among natural philosophers appears to be more gentile today. Witness the title of this treatise (1640): A sponge with which to clean the filth of the objections that James Primrose, Doctor of Medicine, recently published against the Theses in support of Blood Circulation that were recently disputed at Utrecht University.