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Bio-bibliographical Note: Balthasar Bekker

Koen Vermeir


Balthasar Bekker (1634-1698) was a Cartesian theologian and controversialist who became famous for his work De Betoverde Weereld (1691-1693). Born in Metslawier, a small Friesian village, Bekker studied philosophy and theology at the Universities of Groningen and Franeker, where he witnessed the burgeoning disputes about Cartesianism. Bekker openly took sides and published one of the first theological defenses of the Cartesian philosophy. He argued that it posed no risk to the Reformed Church, because philosophy and theology had their own domains. Bekker's anti-dogmatic theological views opposed Calvinist literalism and confessionalism, which provoked irate reactions from the religious establishment. After moving to Amsterdam, in search of a more tolerant climate, Bekker published a book on comets, using natural philosophical and exegetical arguments to show that these extraordinary phenomena were no portents. The arguments in this book would form the template of his magnum opus, De Betoverde Weereld, in which he denied that the devil could act in this world. By means of Cartesian hermeneutics, metaphysics and natural philosophy, Bekker argued that demonic activity and witchcraft could not occur in this world. Devil beliefs were nothing more than pagan remnants that had corrupted Christianity. In a reaction to this work, the church authorities condemned Bekker, and his book would spark the largest international controversy of the early modern period.
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halshs-01421956 , version 1 (23-12-2016)


  • HAL Id : halshs-01421956 , version 1


Koen Vermeir. Bio-bibliographical Note: Balthasar Bekker. Dobre, Mihnea and Nyden, Tammy. Cartesian Empiricisms, Springer, pp.307--308, 2013. ⟨halshs-01421956⟩
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