Scientific knowledge increasingly determines how citizens, organisations and governments interpret the world.


Science very much determines the way the world can be conceptualised. Scientific knowledge – broadly conceived – informs citizens, organisations and governments and influences their strategies and actions. The history of science therefore should be conceived as a history of the evolution of scientific cultures. It studies the production of knowledge as the result of the continuous battle between rivalling scientific claims and of the constant interplay between scientists and the wider cultural domains of which they form a part. At the same time science cannot be understood without a detailed study of its content, methodology and concepts.

The Descartes Centre distinguishes itself by its emphasis on the history and philosophy of all academic disciplines. Our aim goes beyond deepening and broadening the understanding of the nature and methods of the sciences and the humanities. Critical reflection on the foundations of science, the structures of its dissemination and the function of its rhetoric should result in government policies that are better informed and better implemented.

René Descartes
René Descartes

The Descartes Centre is named after philosopher, mathematician, and natural scientist René Descartes (1596-1650), one of the great pioneers in the field of modern philosophy and science. Descartes has deeply influenced the scientific developments of his time: not only by means of his own contributions, but especially by his scientific method, and by the radically new foundations of science his philosophy provided. For many years the young Utrecht University (founded in 1636) was the platform for heated discussions about Descartes’ ideas.