Descartes’s life was marked by a series of remarkable innovations in mathematics, science, and philosophy, as much as by the philosopher’s frequent changes of environment. In 1628 he returned to the Netherlands, where he had begun his philosophical journey ten years earlier, and where he was soon to embark on writing a mechanistic system of the world. Shocked by the Galileo affair, he would initially publish only “samples” of his own way of thinking, but fierce engagement in philosophical controversy ultimately made him abandon the idea of trying to convince academics. Whereas his publications continued to follow an erratic pattern, Descartes increasingly focused on friendships with intellectuals in high places, and all the while stayed true to the idea of reforming the sciences on the basis of inborn intellectual capacities he deemed to be custom-made for uncovering the nature of reality.

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Keywords biography, rejection of forms, Netherlands, epistemological fitness, Elisabeth
ISBN 978-0-19-879690-9
Persistent URL
van Ruler, J.A. (2019). Philosopher Defying the Philosophers: Descartes’s Life and Works. In The Oxford Handbook of Descartes and Cartesianism. Retrieved from