Curriculum Vitae

Dennis Des Chene

Department of Philosophy
Campus Box 1073
Washington University
Saint Louis, MO 63130-4899


Ph. D. Philosophy, Stanford University, 1987
B. A. Linguistics, University of Washington, 1980

Positions Held

2003- Professor of Philosophy, Washington University
2000-03 Associate Professor, Emory University
2000 Visiting Professor, University of Munich (Sommersemester)
2000 Visiting Professor, University of Pennsylvania (Spring)
1994-99 Associate Professor, The Johns Hopkins University
1997 Visiting Professor, Harvard University (History of Science, Fall semester)
1988-94 Assistant Professor, The Johns Hopkins University
1987-88 Harper-Mellon Teaching Fellow, University of Chicago


2007 John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Award
2007 American Philosophical Society Award
2004 Invited Lecturer, NEH Summer Institute, University of Wisconsin, Madison, July 2004
2001 Invited Lecturer, Summer school in the history of science, Centre Alexandre Koyré, Paris, September 2001
2000 Dibner Senior Fellowship. Dibner Institute for the History of Science, MIT (declined)
1997 Morris D. Forkosch Prize awarded to Physiologia
1996 Physiologia selected as a Choice Academic Book of the Year for 1996
1996 ACLS Travel Grant (to participate in the colloquium “Descartes et le Moyen Âge”, Sorbonne, Paris)
1996 NEH Fellowship. Title of Proposal: “Cartesian Psychology in its Historical Setting”
1994 NEH Subvention awarded to Cornell University Press for publication of Physiologia
1992-93 Lilly Foundation Teaching Fellow
1988 NEH Summer Institute on Early Modern Philosophy, Brown University

Selected Publications

2001 Spirits and Clocks. Organism and Machine in Descartes. Cornell University Press, 2001.
2000 Life’s Form. Late Aristotelian Theories of the Soul. Cornell University Press, 2000.
1996 Physiologia. Natural Philosophy in Late Aristotelian and Cartesian Philosophy. Cornell University Press, 1996.
Co-authored Books
2003 Roger Ariew, ed.; Dennis Des Chene, Douglas M. Jesseph, Tad M. Schmaltz, Theo Verbeek. Historical dictionary of Descartes and Cartesian Philosophy. Lanham, MD; Oxford: Scarecrow Press, 2003.
2013 “From habits to traces”. In: Tom Sparrow and Adam Hutchinson, eds. A History of Habit: From Aristotle to Bourdieu. Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield.
2012 “Using the passions”. In: Lisa Shapiro, Martin Pickavé, eds. Emotions and Cognitive Life in Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy, Oxford University Press, 2012.
2012 “Suárez on propinquity and the effficient cause”. In :Henrik Lagerlund, ed. Suárez. Oxford University Press, 2011.
2008 “Imagined machines and the real world”. In: Ludger Schwarte et al., eds., Theatrum machinarum. Walter de Gruyter, 2008. Also in German translation in the German version of the same work.
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).
2007“Abstracting from the soul: the mechanics of locomotion”. In Jessica Riskin, ed., Genesis redux. University of Chicago Press, 2007.
2006“Descartes reduced: review essay on Desmond Clarke’s Descartes’ theory of mind”. Oxford studies in early modern philosophy 3 (2006).
2006‘Animal’ as concept: Bayle’s “Rorarius”. In Justin Smith, ed., The Problem of Animal Generation in Modern Philosophy. Cambridge University Press, 2006.
2005“Aristotelian natural philosophy”. In Donald Rutherford, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Early Modern Philosophy. Cambridge University Press, 2005.
2004 “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)
2003 “Life after Descartes: Régis on generation”. Perspectives on Science 11 (2003):410–420.
2003 “Determinism”, “Mechanism”, and “Psychology”, in Europe 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003).
2000 “Life and Health in Descartes and After”. In Descartes’ Natural Philosophy, ed. Stephen Gaukroger, John Schuster, and John Sutton (Routledge, 2000), 723–735.
2000 “Descartes and the natural philosophy of the Coimbra commentaries”. In Descartes’ Natural Philosophy, ed. Stephen Gaukroger, John Schuster, and John Sutton (Routledge, 2000), 29–45.
1997 “L’Immatérialité de l’âme: Suárez et Descartes”. In Descartes et le moyen âge, ed. Joël Biard (Paris: Vrin, 1997), 319–327.
1995 “Cartesiomania: early receptions of Descartes”. Perspectives on Science 3(1995):534-581.

Selected Presentations

2012“Illness from passions”. At “Early modern medicine and natural philosophy”, University of Pittsburgh, 2–4 November 2012. Organizer: Peter Distelzweig (University of Pittsburgh), Benjamin Goldberg (East Tennessee State University).
2012“Life in the broadest sense: the concept of life as applied to spiritual substances in early modern philosophy”. At “Living beings”, ETH Zürich, 31 Aug–2 Sep 2012. Organizer: Sarah Tietz, ETH Zürich.
2012“Breathing by the numbers”. At “The life and mathematical sciences in early modernity”, University of Cincinnati, 11–12 May 2012. Organizer: Zvi Biener, University of Cincinnati.
2010“God and the uses of space: immensity, presence, and other seventeenth-century puzzles”. At “The reinvention of space”, Columbia University, 3 Dec 2010. Organizer: Christia Mercer.
2010“The laws of nature and the formal conditions of wisdom”. Colloquium, University of Minnesota, 5 Nov.
2010 “The laws of nature and the formal conditions of wisdom” (working title). At “The Governance of Nature”, LSE 26–28 October. Organizers: Nancy Cartwright, Eleonora Montuschi.
2010 “Seventeenth-century movers”. At “Menschen, Tiere, Automaten”, Munich (Center for Advanced Studies) 2–3 July. Organizer: Cecilia Muratori.
2010 “Natural law and rational agency”. Baldy Center Working Group on Law and Science, University of Buffalo, 30 April 2010.
2010 “Sensation & natural philosophy: on Carriero’s Between two worlds”. American Philosophical Association, Pacific Division, 31 Mar–4 Apr 2010.
2010 “Natural laws and divine agency in the later seventeenth century”. Purdue University, 3 Mar 2010.
2010 “Substance, souls, seeds”. Invited plenary session at the European Society for Early Modern Philosophy, 15–17 February 2010.
2010 “Lange on laws”. Saint Louis Philosophy of Science Association, Saint Louis University, 30 January 2010.
2008 “Suárez on media”, Western Ontario, Oct 2008. Organizers: Henrik Lagerlund, Benjamin Hill.
2008 “Using the passions”, Conference on the Passions, UBC, May 2008. Organizers: Lisa Shapiro, Martin Pickavé.
2007 “Suárez on appetite”. ESF Conference “Psychology and the other disciplines”, 31 May–2 June, Nijmegen (Netherlands). Organizers: Cees Leijenhorst, Paul Bakker.
2007 “Using the passions”. Zeno Lecture, Utrecht University, 26 April 2007.
2006 “Suárez on habitus”. ESF Conference “Transformations of the Soul”, Berlin, 15–17 November 2006.
2006 “What are modes (and why did Descartes like them)?”. Montreal Interuniversity Workshop in the History of Philosophy, Montréal, October 2006.
2005 “Imaginary machines and the real world”. Theatrum Machinarum, Berlin, November 2005. Organizer: Ludger Swarte.
2004 “Philosophy of mathematics and the theory of quantales”. University of Pittsburgh, Center for Philosophy of Science, December 2004. An earlier version was presented at Indiana University, April 2004.
2004 “Treating the passions”. Midwest Early Modern Seminar, April 2004.
2003 “Versions of mechanism in the 17th century: Régis, Borelli, Perrault”. Conference on Mechanisms. Washington University, 7-9 November 2003.
2003 “Abstracting from the Soul: The Mechanics of Locomotion”. Stanford Workshop on Artificial Life. Stanford University, 4-6 October 2003. Organizer: Jessica Riskin.
2002 Invited Lecturer at the 8th International Summer School in History of Science of the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (Paris): “Rethinking Scientific Knowledge in the 16th and Early 17th Centuries”. September 2002.
2002 “Souls: sensitive and separated”. Conference on “Forming the Mind”, Uppsala University, September 2002.
2002 “Life after Descartes: Sylvain Régis”. History of Philosophy of Science (HOPOS) Conference, Concordia University, Montréal, June 2002.
2002 “Eternal Truths and the Laws of Nature”. Conference on Eternal Truths, University of Calgary, June 2002.
2000 “Vicissitudes of Form”. Pacific APA, March 2000. Session organizer: David W. Owen.
1999 “The Materiality of the Soul: Late Aristotelian Commentators on De Anima”. Conference on Medieval Philosophical Psychology, University of Jyväskylä, Finland, 12-14 November 1999.
1999 “Novelty and Persistence in Early Modern Science”. Invited plenary paper for An Aristotelian Paradigm of Science? The Nature of Natural Philosophy, 1200-1700. Center for Medieval and Renaissance Natural Philosophy, University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands, 16-20 August, 1999.
1999 “Laws and Force: Response to Hattab and Menn”. Presented at an “Author Meets Critics” session on Physiologia at the APA Central Division Meetings, New Orleans, May 1999. Session organizer and chair: Marleen Rozemond.
1999 “Unities of the Human Machine”. Loyola University, Baltimore, 9 March 1999.
1998 “Susan James on the Passions”. Workshop on Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy, UCLA, June 1998.
1998 “Honoré Fabri: the Parts of Mixtures and the Reconstitution of Physical Science”. HOPOS, Notre Dame, March 1998.
1997 “Water and Wine: Honoré Fabri on Mixtures”. Conference on Scolastici et Novatores , Department of History of Science, Harvard, Dec 1997.
1997 “The Data of Psychology”. Presentation to the Early Modern Working Group, Harvard, October 1997.
1997 “Matter, Actus , and God”. Patristic, Medieval and Renaissance Studies Conference, Villanova University, 12-14 September 1997.
1996 “Honoré Fabri on Mixtures”. Invited paper, presented at the Conference on Corpuscularian Theories of Matter, St. Andrews, Scotland, August 1996.
1996 “Conceptions de l’âme-substance”. Invited paper, presented at the Colloque “Descartes et le Moyen Âge”, Centre d’Histoire des Sciences et des Philosophies arabes et médiévales, Université de Paris-Sorbonne, Paris, June 1996.
1996 “Comment on Carriero”. APA Central Division Meeting, Chicago, April 1996.
1996 Member, panel on Ethics on the Internet, APA Central Division Meeting, Chicago, April 1996.
1996 “Conceptions of Life and Health in Descartes and After”. Invited paper, presented at a conference on Descartes’ natural philosophy, University of Sydney, Australia, April 1996.
1994 “Descartes, Beeckman, and Physico-Mathematics”. History of Science Society Conference, New Orleans, October 1994.
1993 “Descartes’ Laws of Motion”. History of Science Colloquium, The Johns Hopkins University, October, 1993
1992 “Finality and Final causes in the Aristotelians and Descartes”. Department of Philosophy Colloquium, Yale University, September 1992.
1992 “Cartesian Teleology”. Department of Philosophy Colloquium, University of British Columbia, January 1992.
1990 “Sensation and Potentia: the Subversion of Aristotelian Science”. Tri-College Conference, University of Maryland at College Park, April 1990.

Professional Service & Affiliations

Reviewer for:
  • Journal of the History of Biology
  • Journal of the History of Ideas
  • Journal of the History of Philosophy
  • Pacific Philosophical Quarterly
  • Perspectives on Science
  • Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
  • University of Chicago Press
  • Cornell University Press
  • Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Oxford University Press
  • Princeton University Press
  • Foundation for Intellectual History
  • NSF
  • American Philosophy Society
Tenure/full reviewer for:
  • Villanova University
  • Hofstra University
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • University of British Columbia
  • University of California at Santa Barbara
  • University of Western Ontario
  • University of Houston
  • University of Indiana
Member of:
  • American Philosophical Association
  • History of Science Society
  • Philosophy of Science Association
  • American Mathematical Society

Courses Taught

NB. This is a representative sample.
Lower Division
  • Descartes to Kant
  • Æsthetics
  • Theories of Life & Organism
  • Puzzles and Revolutions (History of Science) (as part of “Texts and traditions” at Washington University
  • Great Philosophers (an introductory course)
Upper Division & Graduate
  • Æsthetics
  • Medieval Philosophy
  • Early Modern Psychology
  • Rationalists
  • Nineteenth-Century Philosophy
  • Philosophical Writing (a writing-intensive course for junior philosophy majors)
  • Philosophy of History
  • Recent French Philosophy
  • IPH Junior Colloquium (with Joe Loewenstein)
  • Varieties of Value (as the Capstone for philosophy majors)
  • Conceptual Foundations of Modern Science (a new course, first taught in Spring 2010)
  • Early Modern Philosophy
  • History of Theories of Perception
  • Theories of Art
  • Recent French Philosophy

Doctorate Student Supervision

First Reader
Washington University
  • Sylvia Rolloff
Emory University
  • Firmin Debrabander
Johns Hopkins University
  • Xiao-Si Yang
  • Kristin Heitman
  • Ben Corson
  • Mauro Dorato
  • Athanasios Raftopoulos
  • Doug Evans
Committee Member
Washington University
  • Gwyneth Cliver (German)
  • James Clerk Shaw
  • Robert Thompson (psychology)
  • Don Goodman-Wilson
Emory University
  • Mark Futch
Johns Hopkins
  • Josh Welsh
  • Dennis Biggie
Revised November 2012