Descartes’ Complete Correspondence
René Descartes, Corespondenţa completă. Vol.II. 1639-1644 ed. Vlad Alexandrescu, trans.
Vlad Alexandrescu, Robert Arnăutu, Călin Cristian Pop, Mihai-Dragoş Vădana,
Grigore Vida (Iaşi: Polirom, 2015), ISBN 978-973-46-4244-1, 941 pp.
The project of translating and editing a major philosopher’s complete correspondence for the first time in a certain language poses difficulties not only for the translators, but also to the language itself, the more so as Romanian has not been systematically acquainted to the fundamental concepts of early modern thought. Translated by Vlad Alexandrescu, Robert Arnăutu, Călin Cristian Pop, Mihai-Dragoş Vadana and Grigore Vida, the second part of Descartes’ Complete Correspondence pursues the goal started in 2014. As was the case of the first volume, the text of the second volume is based on a multitude of sources, for instance the Clerselier edition, the Adam and Tannery edition or more recent and specialized editions.1 The 303 letters translated in the present volume prove to be more than mere biographical concomitants to the Cartesian oeuvre. The philosophical consistency of the correspondence is not only due to the ethos of interlocutors such as Huygens, Hobbes or Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia and rises above the seventeen century epistolary tradition. Rather, it is determined by the nature of Descartes’ works which originate in a vivid philosophical dialogue with his peers of the Republic of Letters. The volume covers the period of 1639-1644. Indeed, these years were critical for Descartes’ philosophy, as both the Meditations on First Philosophy (1641) and the Principles of Philosophy (1644) were published. The volume begins with an extensive chronology written by Vlad Alexandrescu.2 In 1639, Descartes was living in Haarlem and was still collecting objections to the Discourse on Method. He was looking forward to publish them along with his replies, an idea which he gradually dropped. In a letter to Mersenne from November 1639 (114-119) he was already considering writing a new version of his metaphysics, and in 1640 he begins the first part of the Principles “in an order which can be easily taught” (312-316). Along with the gathering of objections to the Meditations and the development of the Principles in the following years, his relationship with Regius and the beginning of his correspondence with Princess Elisabeth are particularly interesting.