The obvious questions--why a juvenile on the quintessential intellectual? why a biography of a very private person?--are unanswered by this ""drama"" (there are long stretches of dialogue) of Descartes' comings and goings, contacts and conflicts. Little interest inheres in his relatively uneventful life, here padded with trivial incidents (a three-quarter page exchange with a suspicious soldier, for instance, when he's studying nature in Switzerland) and flack about his disdain for frivolity. His ideas, their origin and portent, are expressed largely in terms of free inquiry vs. Scholasticism, and often in contrived conversation. It is a meager distillation, not worth the time of the serious student and not likely to interest anyone else.