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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a school in philosophy and natural science during the 17th and 18th centuries whose theoretical source was the ideas of the French philosopher R. Descartes (whose Latin name is Cartesius—hence the term).

Cartesianism is characterized by a consistent dualism—an extremely sharp division of the world into two independent substances—extended substance (res extensa) and the thinking substance (res cogitans). However, the problem of their mutual interaction within a thinking being remained fundamentally unresolved. Also characteristic of Cartesianism was the development of a rationalistic mathematical (geometrical) method. The self-evidence of consciousness (Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am”), as well as the theory of innate ideas, forms the starting point for Cartesian epistemology. Cartesian physics, in contrast to that of Newton, considered everything extended to be corporeal, thus rejecting the idea of empty space; it described motion with the aid of the concept “vortex.” Cartesian physics subsequently found its expression in the theory of short-range action. The development of Cartesianism was marked by two opposing trends, one toward materialistic monism, as in H. de Roi (Regius) and B. Spinoza, and the other toward occasionalism, as in A. Geulincx and N. de Malebranche.


Bykhovskii, B. Filosofiia Dekarta. Moscow-Leningrad, 1940. Chapter 10.
Istoriia filosofii, vol. 1. Moscow, 1957. Pages 382–408.
Liozzi, M. Istoriia fiziki. Moscow, 1970. (Translated from Italian.)
Brockdorff, C. Descartes und die Fortbildung der kartesianischen Lehre. Munich, 1923.
Mouy, P. Le Développement de la physique cartésienne (1646–1712). Paris, 1934.
Dibon, P. Sur VHistoire de la philosophie cartésienne. Groningue, 1955.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.