Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation
Over onsFaculteit WijsbegeerteNieuwsAgenda

Igor Kaufman: Geometrical Method and Order in Descartes and Spinoza

Lecture organized by the department of History of Philosophy

Descartes and Spinoza are often thought to be examples of philosophers who borrowed their foundational premises and categories from mathematics – Descartes intended to rebuild metaphysics according to a model of mathematics and Spinoza wrote his Ethics after the geometrical order. Surprisingly, Descartes and Spinoza discuss the issues concerning the “geometrical method and order”, for instance the distinction of analysis-synthesis in rather collateral manner.

Descartes did it briefly in the Reply to the Second Objection, only due to request from Mersenne; not Spinoza, but Lodewijk Meyer did the same “dogmatically” in his Preface to Spinoza's Principles of Cartesian Philosophy. On the other hand, one may find in Spinoza and Descartes certain doubts about the application of mathematics to metaphysics, logics, method forming, etc. In recent studies this triggers discussions about the nature of genuine method and methodology in Descartes and, especially, Spinoza. I will therefore discuss some both standard and innovative interpretations of the issue.  Also, I'll discuss some aspects of the recent historiography of the early modern philosophy, i.e. the issue of “early modern natural philosophy”. Forming of the latter was connected with complicated search for the foundational principles from metaphysics, “pure mathematical”, and physico-mathematical disciplines, which may be seen as the context for Descartes' and Spinoza's works. Also, one finds some interesting results in confronting the Early Modern agenda with interpretations of the birth of the “analysis-synthesis” distinction in Ancient Greek mathematics.

Igor Kaufman (St. Petersburg State University) graduated from the St. Petersburg State University, the Department of the History of Philosophy, Faculty of Philosophy in 1996 and obtained his PhD in Philosophy in 2000. His thesis was devoted to Spinoza's philosophy (The Order of Being and the Order of Thought in Spinoza Philosophy). He is teaching in the Department of Philosophy of Science and Technology (in the same faculty) as an Assistant-Professor, and now as a Lecturer, since 2000.
Areas of his specialization and competence are Early Modern Philosophy, the Early Modern Science, historiography of the Early Modern Science, continuity and revolutions in history and historiography of science, philosophy of science. He published about fifty articles, among them are in Russian: “History of philosophy and history of science” (2003); “«Mathematization of nature»: Descartes’ natural philosophy and metaphysics of science” (2009); “Early modern ethics and culture: the place of ethics in Descartes’ and Spinoza’s thought” (2010); “Classical (Early modern) rationality and Enlightenment (Descartes, Spinoza and Kant)” (2010); “Analysis and Synthesis” (2011); “«Practical turn» and historical studies of the early modern science” [forthcoming], “Protestantism and Ethos (“Geist”) of the Early modern science: historiography and construction of the question” [forthcoming]. In English: “Spinoza Studies in Russia” (2002); “Reception of Spinoza’s Philosophy in Russia” (2003); “Scandinavian Spinozists and Russia” (2004).


Wednesday, 5 September 2012, 14.15-16.00 h


Faculty of Philosophy, Oude Boteringestaat 52, room Alpha

Last modified:30 June 2014 09.58 a.m.