Cartesian Networks

Throughout his life, Descartes experienced a tension between isolation and openness to the world. By his own admission, he left France for the Dutch Republic in search of peace and solitude. On the other hand, his ground-breaking views earned him a reputation as an innovator, leading to the creation of a network of Cartesians that was essential in promoting Descartes’ philosophy in the Dutch Republic and beyond. In recent years, historians have paid increasing attention to the role played by social and intellectual networks in the processes of knowledge creation and dissemination. At the same time, in the last two decades or so, quantitative network analysis has grown to become a full-blown scientific discipline with its own research centers and university courses. Taking advantage of these parallel developments, this project show how the use of techniques and methods developed by network scientists can yield new insights into the structure and dynamics of the networks that guaranteed the success of Cartesian philosophy and science in early modern Europe.

Peer Reviewed Articles

“The Networked Origins of Cartesian Philosophy and Science,” HOPOS: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science, Volume 12, Issue 1, Pages 97-120 (2022)

Data Sets

“Metadata of 333 letters mentioning René Descartes (1629-1650)”, Zenodo,

Computer Scripts

“A Python script for temporal analysis of multiplex networks”, Zenodo,


“Networks of Philosophy,” BA Philosophy, Erasmus University Rotterdam, 7.5 EC, 2020-21

Organized Events

“Networks of Philosophy, Philosophy of Networks,” A Virtual Seminar with Randall Collins and Kevin Zollman, Online, 6 July 2021

“Framing Innovation in a Networked World,” An Interdisciplinary Workshop, Online, 2-3 September 2021

Invited Talks

“Epistolary Discussions: The Role of Correspondence in the Dissemination of Descartes’ Philosophy,” Conference “New Readings of Descartes,” Erasmus School of Philosophy, Rotterdam, 7-8 June 2022

“The Strength of Strong Ties: Evidence from the Cartesian Networks Project,” ModelSEN Workshop, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, 7-8 April 2022à

“The Networked Origins of Cartesian Philosophy and Science,” Erasmus Institute for Philosophy and Economics Research Seminars Series, Rotterdam, 11 October 2021

“Cartesianism as a Social Epidemic: A Network Analysis Approach,” The American University of Central Asia Liberal Arts Seminars Series, Online, 7 October 2020

Conference Symposia

“Decoding Descartes / Cartesian Networks: New Paradigms in the History of Philosophy,” 2021 Conference of the Dutch Research School of Philosophy (OZSW), Tillburg, 3-4 December 2021

Conference Papers

“Early Modern Cartesianism: A Network Analysis Approach,” 2021 Conference of the Dutch Research School of Philosophy (OZSW), Online, 3-4 December 2021

“How New Ideas Spread: Lessons from the History of Cartesian Philosophy and Science,” 2021 Conference of the Italian Society for the History of Science (SISS), Online, 15-16 October 2021

“What Network Analysis Tells Us About the Origins of Modern Philosophy and Science,” 2021 Historical Network Research Conference, Online, 1-2 July 2021

The project Cartesian Networks has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 891747.