[Symposium] Isaac Beeckman reconsidered by Klaas van Berkel and Arjan van Dixhoorn (Amsterdam, 24 October 2022)

5 oktober 2022

Today, the important role of Isaac Beeckman (1588-1637) in the initial stages of the so-called Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century is contested by no one, if only because of his decisive influence on the young René Descartes. Yet recent research on his famous notebook, the Journal, convincingly shows that this notebook is much more than a scientific diary. His notes reveal a particular way of philosophizing that sheds new light on the cultures of knowledge in the early seventeenth century, especially in the Dutch Republic.

Two speakers will discuss key issues in the current re-evaluation of Isaac Beeckman’s place in the history of knowledge:

Klaas van Berkel on ‘Framing Beeckman. Cornelis de Waard as editor of the Beeckman papers’. Beeckman’s notebook was discovered in 1905 by the young mathematician Cornelis de Waard and from then on Beeckman was framed as a smart and original scientific mind who nevertheless failed to publish his findings and thus influenced the development of science less than he could or should have done. Recognizing this frame as what it is, as just a frame, opens up new possibilities for interpreting the notebook and its author.

Klaas van Berkel is emeritus professor of history at the University of Groningen and is the author of Isaac Beeckman on Matter and Motion. Mechanical Philosophy in the Making (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2013).

Arjan van Dixhoorn on ‘Consten-Culture. Beeckman, the Rhetoricians, and a New Style of Philosophizing’. Beeckman’s notebook reveals, for those who are open to this possibility, his deep involvement in the culture of the rhetoricians of the early modern period, a domain that thus far has been neglected by students of science and philosophy. In this ‘consten-culture’ explicit, bookish, academic, theoretical learning and tacit, bodily, artisanal, practical, and experience-oriented knowledge had already been ‘inter-penetrating’ for two centuries.

Arjan van Dixhoorn is professor by special appointment in the history of Zeeland in the world at University College Roosevelt in Middelburg. He is the author of Lustige geesten. Rederijkers in de Noordelijke Nederland (1480-1650) (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2009). With Albert Clement (UCR) they were editors of a recently published volume of essays on Beeckman and his world: Knowledge and Culture in the Early Dutch Republic. Isaac Beeckman in Context (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2022).

Time and Place

24 October 2022, 15:30 -17:30 at the Artis Library, Plantage Middenlaan 45, 1018 DC Amsterdam.