Descartes in the Classroom. Teaching Cartesian Philosophy in the Early Modern Age

January 20, 2020 - January 22, 2020
Center for the History of Philosophy and Science, Faculty of Philosophy, Theology, and Religious Studies, Radboud University Nijmegen

Hotel van der Valk


  • Faculty of Philosophy, Theology, and Religious Studies (Radboud University, Nijmegen)



Talks at this conference

Add a talk


This conference addresses the ways in which Cartesian philosophy was diffused through teaching, between approximately 1640 and 1750. A considerable amount of scholarship has studied the rich historical trajectories along which René Descartes’ ideas rapidly spread, first in the Dutch Republic and then beyond. At the same time, historians have documented the resistance and prohibitions that Cartesian philosophy had to go through. But what would this story look like, if observed from the perspective of the classroom? In short, how was Cartesian philosophy in fact taught and how did it make its way, all prohibitions notwithstanding, through the early-modern university curricula?   

Descartes in the Classroom sets out to study the teaching of Cartesian philosophy along the following questions: what was the teaching of Cartesian philosophy like? Do classes concerning Cartesian philosophy present specific characteristics in relation to the confessional context in which they were given? How did early-modern professors of theology, philosophy, and medicine mange to teach Cartesian philosophy amid the above-mentioned prohibitions to diffuse Descartes’ ideas? What characteristics and what mutual differences do public and private classes on Cartesian philosophy present?  To what extent did early-modern teaching reflect Descartes’ own ideas and to what extent did textbooks devoted to Cartesian philosophy replace Descartes’ original texts? Our conference wishes to shed light on the specific manner in which Descartes’ ideas were presented in the classroom, by looking at dictata, lecture notes, published lectures and disputations, as well as the differences between all these types of documents. Over the last few years, moreover, scholars have emphasized the existence of a more empirical and experiment-based side of the diffusion of Cartesianism. How did experimental practice contribute to the teaching of Descartes’ new scientific principles and ideas?   

By providing answers to these questions, Descartes in the Classroom shall contribute to the history of Cartesianism, as well as to the intellectual, institutional, and material history of the its teaching. In so doing, we aim to also advance in the direction of a true reappraisal of the role of the university teaching in the Scientific Revolution.

Confirmed Speakers

Igor Agostini (Unisalento)

Roger Ariew (University of South Florida)

Erik-Jan Bos (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

Steven Coesemans (KU Leuven)

Domenico Collacciani (École Normale Supérieure)

Antonella Del Prete (Università degli Studi della Tuscia)

Daniel Garber (Princeton University)

Howard Hotson (University of Oxford)

Sarah Hutton (University of York)

Sophie Roux (École Normale Supérieure)

Geert Vanpaemel (KU Leuven)

Theo Verbeek (Utrecht University)

Practical Information

For any queries, please contact us at:

This conference is sponsored by:

The FWO-NWO Lead Agency Project (3H160697)

The Secretive Diffusion of the New Philosophy in the Southern and Northern Low Countries Evidence on the Teaching of Cartesian Philosophy from Student Notebooks 1650-1750 

Supervisors Jan Papy (KU Leuven) & Christoph Lüthy (Radboud University Nijmegen)

And by:

Centre for The History of Philosophy and Science (RU Nijmegen);

Faculty of Philosophy, Theology, and Religious Studies (RU Nijmegen)

Supporting material

Add supporting material (slides, programs, etc.)




December 31, 2019, 11:30pm CET

Who is attending?

No one has said they will attend yet.

Will you attend this event?

Let us know so we can notify you of any change of plan.

RSVPing on PhilEvents is not sufficient to register for this event.