What We Are Reading Today: The Philosopher, the Priest, and the Painter

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Updated 20 August 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: The Philosopher, the Priest, and the Painter

In the Louvre museum hangs a portrait that is considered the iconic image of René Descartes, the great 17th-century French philosopher. 

And the painter of the work? The Dutch master Frans Hals — or so it was long believed, until the work was downgraded to a copy of an original. But where is the authentic version, and who painted it? Is the man in the painting — and in its original — really Descartes?

A unique combination of philosophy, biography, and art history, The Philosopher, the Priest, and the Painter investigates the remarkable individuals and circumstances behind a small portrait.

Through this image — and the intersecting lives of a brilliant philosopher, a Catholic priest, and a gifted painter — Steven Nadler opens a fascinating portal into Descartes’s life and times, skillfully presenting an accessible introduction to Descartes’s philosophical and scientific ideas, and an illuminating tour of the volatile political and religious environment of the Dutch Golden Age.

 As Nadler shows, Descartes’s innovative ideas about the world, about human nature and knowledge, and about philosophy itself, stirred great controversy. Philosophical and theological critics vigorously opposed his views, and civil and ecclesiastic authorities condemned his writings. Nevertheless, Descartes’s thought came to dominate the philosophical world of the period, and can rightly be called the philosophy of the 17th century.

 Shedding light on a well-known image, The Philosopher, the Priest, and the Painter offers an engaging exploration of a celebrated philosopher’s world and work.

Steven Nadler is the William H. Hay II professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin — Madison. His books include Rembrandt’s Jews, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Spinoza: A Life, which won the Koret Jewish Book Award; and A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza’s Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age (Princeton).


New Saudi TV drama ‘Doon’ asks how far you would go to save a loved one

Updated 20 January 2019
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New Saudi TV drama ‘Doon’ asks how far you would go to save a loved one

  • “Doon” tells the story of a 19-year-old’s struggle to free his older brother from prison
  • He is about to be executed for a crime he did not commit

JEDDAH: A new Saudi drama series is set to premiere, in the latest sign that the Kingdom’s booming film and TV industry is going from strength to strength. “Doon” tells the story of a 19-year-old’s struggle to free his older brother from prison, where he is about to be executed for a crime he did not commit.
“He has to obtain SR 25 million to get his brother out of jail,” said scriptwriter Sara Al-Olayan. “He comes from a very humble kind of family; they don’t have much money and he has to find it before the execution date.
“We see how motives can kind of play with a person’s morals when it comes to someone they truly love. Morals, I would say, can shift when a person is trying to do whatever they can to get a person they care about out of jail.”
Al-Olayan joined other members of the cast and crew at film production company Millimeter on January 18 for a special event to launch the series. The 22-year-old writer said that when she joined the production there was little more than a brief description of the plot, and she was given the chance to play a major part in expanding and shaping the story.
“I fell in love with the summary of the show right away and felt that I had to be part of this,” she said. “I did my best to expand on it, to develop the story and include more characters, and to make sure that the story is culturally acceptable while also something people can relate to.”


Naif Al-Daferi, who stars as Hazem, the falsely accused older brother, is confident that the show will be hit with young people in the Kingdom.
“They will see a good representation of their community, especially the youth, and that the series talks about high schoolers not in a comedic way or in a way that insults their intelligence, so people in school will watch it,” said the 30-year-old Saudi actor. “It is the same kind of content that we expect to see in western productions — viewers will get action and drama. The premise is a big one: you have to save your brother through high-risk means.”

Co-star Fay Fouad, 23, highlighted the advances made recently by Saudi women in the local entertainment industries.
“Now we can show the world who Saudi women are and what they are capable of,” she said. “As an actress, I can tell stories from our society and portray the characters accordingly. I can tell the stories of the girls around me, and when they see me on television they see that we (women) can do it. Nothing is difficult for us.”


She said that the entire cast of “Doon” is proud of the local production.
“We are all Saudis and we are very happy with the story,” she added. “It is a unique plot, not stereotyped like other stories. It is full of surprising events. Each cast member put their heart into it and I am looking forward to its release.”
Fellow cast member Daliah Hajjar said Saudi Vision 2030 had helped to make her childhood dream come true.
“It is a wonderful feeling because I have wanted to become an actress since childhood,” said the 29-year-old Saudi. “Back in the day, such an idea wasn’t supported. My family wanted me to study medicine and so I did. I completed my studies abroad and I came home to the Saudi Vision 2030. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman greatly support women. There has been a great leap forward for Saudi women during this time. I feel supported.”
“Doon” is produced by Viu Original (MENA) in cooperation with Qubba Production.