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“I was then in Germany, where the occasion of the wars which are not yet over had called me…”. This is how the anonymous author of the Discourse on Method (1637) begins his account of an intellectual autobiography that posterity agrees is the birthplace of modern philosophy. Yet almost nothing is known about the project itself, or the circumstances surrounding its birth. For this reason, this investigation seeks to access it, not from Descartes’ finished work, but from the soil in which the tree of his philosophy takes root. In Germany, in 1619, did Descartes meet Kepler, the mathematician Faulhaber, or any representative of the Rosicrucian society? Did he visit Kassel, Butzbach, Linz or Prague? This book sets out to sort out these hypotheses, and above all to assess their philosophical interest: what contribution do they make to the understanding of the Cartesian project, and by extension, of all philosophy as a project to found the mathematical science of nature?

Édouard Mehl is Professor of Modern Philosophy and History of Science at the University of Strasbourg. He is director of the Centre de recherches en philosophie allemande et contemporaine (CREPHAC, UR 2326). His research focuses on the relationship between philosophy and science from Copernicus to Kant, and its interpretation in contemporary philosophy (neo-Kantianism, phenomenology).