Jacques Grandami Le cours de la comète drawing

Jacques Grandami, Le cours de la comète qui a paru sur la fin de l’année 1664 et au commencement de l’année 1665, Paris, Sébastien Cramoisy, 1665. Bibliothèque nationale de France

Project (2021-2022)

The Pineal Gland, Comets, and Subtle Matter: The Natural Objects with Which Cartesians Tried to Conquer France (1637–1691)

The Descartes who is now read and commented on is the Descartes who wrote the “Meditationes de prima philosophia.” But in the seventeenth century, the Descartes who was debated, criticized, or admired was the physicist who claimed that all natural phenomena can be explained by matter and motion alone. My project is to write a book on the various receptions of Cartesian physics in France in the second half of the seventeenth century.
The originality of my project comes not only from my focus on physics, rather than on metaphysics and epistemology. It comes above all from the methodological assumption I adopt, according to which the history of Cartesianism should be written in the plural and cannot be conceived independently of the history of anti-Cartesianisms.

These methodological assumptions lead me to take into consideration a corpus that includes a great number of diverse sources and to study the texts of well-known authors as well as of totally unknown figures. Rather than adopting a homogeneous narrative, my intention is to vary scales and points of view and to focus on particular objects that created heated controversies. Objects of this kind include for example the pineal gland, the circulation and transfusion of the blood, subtle matter, and vortices. It is only by working on various objects and diverse figures that what was initially a methodological assumption on the diversity of Cartesianisms and anti-Cartesianisms will become an organizing principle of the book that I plan to write.