Rene Descartes and the Dutch East India Company

RenÃ?© Descartes was a great thinker of his time, a philosopher/scientist who greatly influences us today. The Dutch East India Company (known as the VOC) was the largest and fastest growing business of the seventeenth century, but fell apart nearly two hundred years after it’s founding. While the question of what the two could have in common is a difficult one, it is not impossible to answer. If the Dutch East India Company had been followed the theories laid out by Descartes, it would quite possibly still be around today.

Descartes points out that man, despite being made by a perfect God, is capable of errors of judgement. When man attempts to pass judgement on something he does not fully understand, he is capable of great error. The VOC committed frequent and deadly errors. For example, after signing a peace treaty with the English East India Company, the VOC continued armed combat with the English, ultimately resulting in their being driven out of the territory in question. If the VOC had waited until they had full knowledge of the English’s military strength and perseverance, they would have known to abide by the treaty.

Also, Descartes put forward that man should strive to be generous, in that they put the good of the whole before the good of themselves. Clearly this idea is one the VOC took no heed of during their two hundred years of business. They were driven forward primarily by greed, often killing and extorting those who stood in their way. This greed and the many enemies produced from it were major factors in the fall of the giant.

Descartes and the VOC ended similarly, surprisingly. Having lived most of his life in Holland, Descartes died soon after moving to Sweden. As his body made its way back to France, various pieces were reportedly stolen. Then, upon reaching France, an autopsy was ordered by his close friend Father Mersenne, further reducing the body into pieces. The VOC, after two hundred years of struggle, finally began to decline. After getting into financial troubles, the VOC was broken into pieces and dissolved in 1798, much the same way Descartes himself was.

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