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Reading Descartes: A Reassessment of the Shaping and Transmission of Knowledge in the Seventeenth Century


The objective of this project is to provide the first in-depth study of the handwritten commentaries on the treatises of René Descartes. This study is important because such sources were crucial in shaping the intellectual revolution occurring in Europe during the 17th century, in which Descartes played a foremost role. However, we still do not have a complete grasp of why his ideas were so important to this revolution, because we do not know how his texts were closely read. The key to understand this process of reading and knowledge-building is the analysis of this kind of sources, up to now neglected by historians. Andrea Strazzoni has preliminarily ascertained their crucial role for the reception of Cartesianism while working on two monographs in the history of philosophy and science, making him the ideal researcher for this project. He has assessed the existence of 109 not retrieved items, plus 38 already retrieved ones. These commentaries constitute a body of literature whose complete analysis will be made possible by this project, focused on those authored by the first teachers of Cartesian ideas: Johannes de Raey and Johannes Clauberg. This study is now timely, because it benefits from new directions of investigation: (a) the study of reading and note-taking practices, (b) a transnational approach to the history of thought, (c) the application of digital mapping tools to large amounts of texts. Such approaches are now at the centre of new researches, led at Venice Ca’ Foscari by the applicant’s supervisor, Marco Sgarbi, and by Dirk van Miert at Utrecht, destination of a secondment. The project integrates these approaches in order to pursue its objective along three lines of investigation: (1) the search for uncatalogued handwritten sources, (2) their textual reconstruction and mapping, (3) the analysis of their use and dissemination. This project will enable Strazzoni to become a leading scholar in early modern philosophy, and to apply for a tenured position.

Field of science

  • /social sciences/political science/political transitions/revolutions
  • /humanities/history and archaeology/history
  • /humanities/philosophy, ethics and religion/philosophy/history of philosophy/modern philosophy

Call for proposal

See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

MSCA-IF-EF-ST - Standard EF


Dorsoduro 3246
30123 Venezia
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 183 473,28