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Lucas van der Deijl MA

PhD candidate


Area(s) of interest: Digital Humanities, Dutch History, Early Modern History, Intellectual History & History of Ideas, Languages & Literature, Philosophy

Cohort/Start PhD: 2017-2018

Radical Rumours. A digital reconstruction of the dissemination and translation of Cartesian and Spinozist discourses in Dutch textual culture (1640-1720)

University of Amsterdam
Promotor(es): Prof. dr. Lia van Gemert, Prof. dr. Antal van den Bosch
Aanstelling: vanaf oktober 2017

The Dutch Republic was home to various philosophers who broke with traditional worldviews and theological values. Men like Descartes (1596-1650) and Spinoza (1632-1677) had a wide influence on the intellectual climate in the Netherlands and beyond. Spinoza transformed Cartesianism into a disruptive discourse that became part of the so-called ‘Radical Enlightenment’. According to a controversial hypothesis, this discourse paved the way for the ‘mainstream’ Enlightenment decades later through discussions in both academic and popular (Dutch) domains. Cultural historians and philosophers have therefore studied the reception of Descartes and Spinoza extensively, and continue to debate the nature and influence of Cartesianism, Spinozism and related discourses.
However, qualitative research allows only a limited corpus, leaving the actual dissemination of these ‘radical rumours’ – disruptive proto-Enlightenment beliefs – subject to speculation. Moreover, discursive patterns are difficult to detect systematically by the human eye. In response to these methodological limits, this project aims to identify the dissemination of Cartesian and Spinozist discourses in Dutch texts from a computational perspective. It uses the growing body of digitised material and applies text mining to access philosophical discourses through the surface of textual features from a large and diverse corpus (1021 digitised texts printed between 1640-1720). Characteristic Dutch Cartesian and Spinozist idioms will be formalised using the works of the contemporary translator of both Descartes and Spinoza: J.H. Glazemaker (1620-1682). By combining computer-assisted discourse analysis with close reading, this study reconstructs the dissemination and translation of Cartesian and Spinozist discourses in early modern Dutch textual culture.