Isaac Newton’s physics is usually received as a way out of the contradictions and speculations of Cartesian physics. This judgement about Cartesian physics applies to his concept of space as well. Newtonian space was the dominant physical conception of space from the late 17th century up until Albert Einstein’s theory of relatvity. Cartesian space became irrelevant for science soon after its publication and remained rather unnoticed in philosophy.
My aim is to present and to contrast the two concepts of space by René Descartes and Isaac Newton. The notion of ‘spatial order’ provides the guiding questions for the investigation of space. Both assume that space is ordered but they have different conceptions about order. Descartes and Newton would answer differently to the question which aspect of space provides order. This talk is more of a report on the development of a thought than a presentation of results. My aims are to point out that certain mathematical aspects are usually overlooked in respect to the Cartesian concept of space, and, to oppose the mathematical Cartesian space to Newton’s concept of absolute space.