Isaac Beeckman in Context. Science, the Arts, and Culture in the Early Dutch Republic


Klaas van Berkel (University of Groningen) (
Albert Clement (University College Roosevelt, Middelburg) (
Arjan van Dixhoorn (University College Roosevelt, Middelburg) (


1618 was a crucial year in what is now known as the Scientific Revolution. In September of that year the Dutch artisan, theologian, schoolmaster and natural philosopher Isaac Beeckman (1588-1637) was promoted to doctor of medicine in the French city of Caen. To his dissertation he added a number of Corrolaria in which Beeckman laid down the principles of a new and revolutionary way to account for natural phenomena, the mechanical philosophy. Then, in November 1618, Beeckman met the young military officer René Descartes in the city of Breda. In a series of highly stimulating conversations he put Descartes on the track towards his own philosophy of nature. The rest is history.
On September 27 and 28, 2018, an international conference, to be held at the premises of the University College Roosevelt in Middelburg, the Netherlands, will commemorate these pivotal moments of 1618. Beeckman was a native of Middelburg and it was in this bustling commercial city that he was groping with his revolutionary insights in the years before 1618. Here he was deeply embedded in a cosmopolitan culture, a world in which sophisticated artisanal skills, riches from the overseas trading routes, humanistic culture and the study of nature were merging into a new culture of knowledge. Our conference aims to put Beeckman in the context of this new culture of knowledge and more specifically 1) to investigate how this world interacted with Beeckman’s mechanical philosophizing in form and content, 2) to study Beeckman’s role in the shaping of the new philosophy of nature, 3) to evaluate how Beeckman’s role in the development of the mechanical philosophy was viewed, both by contemporaries like Descartes and by modern scholars, especially in France.
Keynote speakers are:
Floris H. Cohen (Utrecht University)
Sophie Roux (École Normale Supérieure, Paris) John Schuster (University of Sydney)
Huib Zuidervaart (Huygens/ING, Amsterdam) Proposals for papers
We welcome abstracts for papers on topics related to the theme of the conference. Please send the abstract of your proposal to: by February 15, 2018. The abstract must be no longer than 500 words and sent as a doc or a docx file (please do not use pdf format). The author’s name and contact information (affiliation, address and professional status) should be specified in the accompanying email. If you are not sure that your proposal fits into the larger programme, feel free to contact the organizers at the above email address. Notification of acceptance of the proposal will be sent by March 1, 2018.

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