“The Rippling Stream”: Dutch influences in Descartes’ concept of self

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


University of New Brunswick


This Thesis examines the question of René Descartes’ concept of self in the context of the place where he wrote the majority of his philosophical work—the Dutch Republic. Section I examines the question: what was Descartes’ concept of self? It looks at both the literary and philosophical context of this concept and the conceptual antecedents which have often been attributed to Descartes. Section II addresses the ultimate question of the thesis: to what extent was Descartes’ concept of self influenced by Dutch vernacular ideas? The widespread impact of Descartes’ work in the Netherlands suggests an intellectual reciprocity: the outlook of everyday Dutch people may have influenced his ideas. Understanding the flavour of this context reveals an important condition for Descartes’ philosophy which appears to have been, at least partly, an implicit conversation with the currents of ideas that flowed around the locks and channels of the Dutch Republic.