Gaukroger traces the development of Descartes’s thought in the social, religious, and intellectual context of seventeenth‐century Europe. He describes Descartes’s upbringing and his education at the Jesuit La Flèche collège, and shows the role these played in the development of his ground‐breaking work in philosophy and science.
The book details the effects of his relationships with others on his work, both through collaboration and through conflict. It discusses the history of the composition of his major works and details their structure and content. It documents the correspondence, which played a major part in the development of his thinking, both before and after publication. It concludes, as it begins, with his correspondence with Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia on the subject of the passions.