A New Critical Edition and Complete English Translation of the Correspondence of René Descartes

Collaborative Group

Mr. Roger Ariew, Dr. Erik-Jan Bos


The correspondence of René Descartes (1596-1650) is crucial to understanding the philosopher, mathematician, and scientist because the basis for many of Descartes’ doctrines cannot be found in his works. However, no comprehensive edition of Descartes’ correspondence exists that brings together all the relevant and more recent materials, nor does a version exist that translates it from French, Dutch, and Latin for an English-language audience. Philosophers and ACLS Fellows Roger Ariew and Erik-Jan Bos, joined by their colleague Theo Verbeek, have been working to remedy this deficiency for the past few years and produce a new critical edition and English translation of Descartes’ correspondence, augmented by analytical and historical notes. The new edition will include recently discovered letters and will be accompanied by two additional tools: a calendar of his life and a biographical lexicon of his correspondents. The calendar will contain testimonies, documentary and archival material, and contemporary letters (or fragments) on Descartes’ life, as well as reports on historical events that explain references within the letters or justify their chronology. The biographical lexicon offers insights into the lives of Descartes’ contemporaries that are essential for understanding his network. The first of eight, approximately 650-page volumes, to be published by Oxford University Press, is expected soon, with the next three volumes anticipated during their fellowship tenure. It is expected that the edition will be made available online and Ariew and Bos also anticipate releasing some materials in a different format for wider audiences. Award period: July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2018