Dennis Des Chene

Basic information

Detail from Caus
Detail from Caus, Raisons des
forces mouvantes (1615)

Email: Dennis Des Chene

Brief CV: pdf · html (the html is usually more current)

The right-hand column of
this page is a Livejournal feed.
It may take a few seconds to load.

Mailing address:

Department of Philosophy
Washington University
Campus Box 1073
One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899

This web page will disappear soon. My new permanent home page is at

Some papers (pdf)

NB. Unpublished papers are drafts. They are not to be quoted or cited without permission.
Breathing by the numbers. Presented at a conference at the University of Cincinnati, November 2012. Organizer: Zvi Biener (Philosophy, Cincinnati).
Seventeenth-century automata. Presented at the conference “Menschen, Tiere, Automaten. Die Debatte über die Tierseele”, Center for Advanced Studies, LMU, Munich 2–3 July 2010. Organizer: Cecilia Muratori (Seminär für Geistesgeschichte und Philosophie der Renaissance).
Natural Laws and Divine Agency in the Later Seventeenth Century. Presented at the Philosophy Colloquium, Purdue University, March 2010; at the University of Buffalo, April 2010; and at the conference “Governance of nature”, LSE October 2010. Organizers: Nancy Cartwright and Eleonora Montuschi.
Suárez on Media. Presented at a conference on Franciscus Suárez, University of Western Ontario, September 2008. Organizers: Henrik Lagerlund, Benjamin Hill. A revised version is now in print (Oxford, 2012; 978-0199583645).
Using the Passions. Presented at a conference on the passions, Vancouver, May 2008. Organizers: Lisa Shapiro, Martin Pickavé. An earlier version was given at Utrecht in 2007. A revised version is now in print (Oxford, October 2012; 978-0199579914).
From Habits to Traces: Acquired Traits in Suárez and Descartes. For an ESF conference on psychology in early modern philosophy, Humboldt University, Berlin, November 2006. Organizer: Dominic Perler. A revised version will appear in a collection edited by Tom Sparrow (Fordham).
Animal as category: Bayle’s “Rorarius”. 2005. For the published version vide infra the volume edited by Justin Smith.
Review of Richard A. Watson, Cogito ergo sum. For the Journal of the history of philosophy. November 2004.
How the World Became Mathematical. HSS, Cambridge, Mass., November 2003. Organizer: Anne Davenport.
Mechanics of Locomotion. “Artificial Life”, Stanford, October 2003. Organizer: Jessica Riskin. Now published in Riskin, Genesis redux (Chicago, 2007).
Souls: Sensitive & Separated. “Forming the mind”, Uppsala University, September 2002. Organizer: Henrik Lagerlund.
Eternal Truths and the Laws of Nature. “Eternal Truths”, University of Calgary, June 2002. Organizer: †Margaret Osler.
Régis and Rohault. A revised version appears in Steven Nadler, ed. Companion to Early Modern Philosophy (2002).

Two items on Aristotelianism:

Aristotelian Natural Philosophy: Body, Cause, Nature. Written for the Blackwell companion to Descartes, edited by John Carriero and Janet Broughton. Date of writing: 2006.
An Aristotle for the Universities: Natural Philosophy In the Coimbra Commentaries. Ch. 2 in Descartes’ natural philosophy, ed. Stephen Gaukroger and John Sutton. Date of writing: 1997.

From the books:

Spirits & Clocks: Introduction. Cornell University Press, 2000.
Life's Form: Chapter 1. Cornell University Press, 2000.

Occasional writings

Past and present: two illusions: remarks on historical understanding; the translucency of both past and present (June2012).
Lynxes and lumps: on universality and the Lotka-Volterra equations (January 2012). NB: I would now add a reference to Chris Pincock’s Mathematics and Scientific Representation.

More info

Degrees and positions

Bovelles, Physicorum
elementorum… libri decem

(1512); Credit
B. A., Linguistics, University of Washington, 1980.
Ph.D., Philosophy, Stanford, 1987.
Assistant & Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins, 1988–1999.
Associate Professor, Emory University, 2000–2003.
Professor, Washington University at Saint Louis, 2003–now.

Areas of specialization

Early modern philosophy
History of early modern science

Selected Publications

Physiologia. Cornell Unversity Press, 1996.
Life's Form. Cornell University Press, 2000.
Spirits and Clocks. Cornell University Press, 2001.
“Imagined machines and the real world”. In: Ludger Schwarte et al., eds., Theatrum machinarum. Walter de Gruyter, 2008.
“Abstracting from the soul: the mechanics of locomotion”. In Jessica Riskin, ed., Genesis redux. University of Chicago Press, 2007.
“Forms of art in Jesuit Aristotelianism (with a coda on Descartes)”. In William Newman and Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent, eds., The Artificial and the Natural: An Ancient Debate and its Modern Descendants (MIT, 2007).
“Aristotelian natural philosophy: body, cause, nature”. In: John Carriero & Janet Broughton, eds. Blackwell companion to Descartes (2007) 17–32.
“Descartes reduced”. (A review essay on Desmond Clarke’s Descartes’ theory of mind.) In: Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy, 2007.
‘Animal’ as concept: Bayle’s “Rorarius”. In: Justin Smith, ed., The problem of generation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006). (Studies in the Philosophy and History of Biology) ISBN: 0521840775
“Mechanisms of life in the seventeenth century”. Studies in the history and philosophy of biology 36 (2005):245–260. (Special issue edited by Carl Craver and Lindley Darden)
“Life after Descartes: Régis on Generation”. Perspectives on Science, 2004.
“Honoré Fabri on gixtures”. In: Corpuscularian Theories of Matter, ed. Bill Newman and John Murdoch (Brill, 2002).
“Life and health in Descartes and after”. In Descartes' Natural Philosophy, ed. Stephen Gaukroger, John Schuster, and John Sutton (Routledge, 2000), 723-735.
“L’Immatérialité de l'âme: Suárez et Descartes”. In Descartes et le moyen âge, ed. Joël Biard (Paris: Vrin, 1997), 319-327.
“Cartesiomania”. Perspectives on Science 3(4) (Winter 1995):534-581.

Current projects

Early modern theories of the passions
Quantitas: concepts of quantity
Intellectual virtues in the seventeenth century
Derived properties of matter in the seventeenth century


Online presences

Philosophical Fortnights (news, cats, patterns, sounds)
Read my Livejournal entries · LJ RSS
Bookmarks at Delicious · 17th century · Bibliography
Flickr (cats and so on)
Twitter (mostly music and web)
Early modern at Scoop (mostly music and web)

Search Philosophical Fortnights

Search Wayfaring Stranger

Other items

A page on Autoacronyms.
Maugham Markovized. A work generated using Andrew Plotkin’s Markov program. The program works out, given a corpus, the transition probability that word x will be followed by word y in that corpus. It then generates new text using those probabilities. For “Maugham Markovized” the corpus was the first 5449 words in Somerest Maugham’s novel Of Human Bondage, which is available in pdf form at PlanetPDF.
Some pages of links. Only the page called “Dailymuse” is kept up to date.

Official PhFn buttons

The buttons were created using Adam Kalsey’s Buttonmaker, and then edited with GraphicConverter.
animalspirits.png apriori.png
joysadness.png passionesanimae.png
lovehate.png purereason.png
synthetic.png vernunft.png
cogitosum dingansich
deusnatura hesperusphosphorus
meaninguse gavagai
Picture credits above are links to the sites where they were found, not to the owners or copyright holders, if any. Buttons constructed with Kalsey’s interface to Bill Zeller’s Buttonmaker.
Updated 2013.11.11.
DISCLAIMER: I hope you’re not silly enough to think that opinions expressed here by me are anyone’s but mine.