The good life in the scientific revolution. Descartes, Pascal, Leibniz, and the cultivation of virtue. (English) Zbl 1247.01014

Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press (ISBN 978-0-226-40955-9/pbk; 978-0-226-40954-2/hbk). xviii, 384 p. (2006).
The book under review shows how three key early modern scientists and seminal seventeenth-century thinkers: René Descartes, Blaise Pascal and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz deemed knowledge and practices that are now considered scientific to be powerful tools for living a good and virtuous life. They were convinced that technical disciplines could perfect mind and soul and, vice versa, minds so refined could best extend knowledge of nature and mathematics. This is shown by portraying the rich contexts surrounding Descartes’ geometry, Pascal’s arithmetical triangle and Leibniz’s calculus. The book consists of 6 chapters (to each thinker are devoted two chapters). It contains also an extensive bibliography, a detailed index as well as 22 illustrations. The book will certainly extend our knowledge of the three philosophers and mathematicians and show them and their work in a new broader context.


01A45 History of mathematics in the 17th century
03A05 Philosophical and critical aspects of logic and foundations