Kant: Natural Science

Front Cover
Cambridge University Press, Oct 4, 2012 - Philosophy - 802 pages
Though Kant is best known for his strictly philosophical works in the 1780s, many of his early publications in particular were devoted to what we would call 'natural science'. Kant's Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens (1755) made a significant advance in cosmology, and he was also instrumental in establishing the newly emerging discipline of physical geography, lecturing on it for almost his entire career. In this volume Eric Watkins brings together new English translations of Kant's first publication, Thoughts on the True Estimation of Living Forces (1746-1749), the entirety of Physical Geography (1802), a series of shorter essays, along with many of Kant's most important publications in natural science. The volume is rich in material for the student and the scholar, with extensive linguistic and explanatory notes, editorial introductions and a glossary of key terms.


CHAPTER ONE Of the force of bodies in general
CHAPTER Two Examination of the theorems of the Leibnizian
CHAPTER THREE Presenting a new estimation of living forces
Examination of the question whether the rotation of the Earth on
The question whether the Earth is ageing considered from a physical
Universal natural history and theory of the heavens or essay on
Succinct exposition of some meditations on fire I 7 5 5
Theory of the fireball that appeared
On the volcanoes on the Moon 1785
I5 Something concerning the influence of the Moon on the weather
Physical geography 1802
Editors Foreword
Preliminary Mathematical Concepts

On the causes of earthquakes on the occasion of the calamity that hefell
History and natural description of the most noteworthy occurrences
experiencedfor some time 1756
New notes to explain the theory of the winds in which at the same
IO Plan and announcement of a series of lectures on physical geography
New doctrine of motion and rest and the conclusions associated with
Glossary GermanEnglish
Glossary En glishGerman
Index ofnames
Index of subjects

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2012)

The greatest of all modern philosophers was born in the Baltic seaport of Konigsberg, East Prussia, the son of a saddler and never left the vicinity of his remote birthplace. Through his family pastor, Immanuel Kant received the opportunity to study at the newly founded Collegium Fredericianum, proceeding to the University of Konigsberg, where he was introduced to Wolffian philosophy and modern natural science by the philosopher Martin Knutzen. From 1746 to 1755, he served as tutor in various households near Konigsberg. Between 1755 and 1770, Kant published treatises on a number of scientific and philosophical subjects, including one in which he originated the nebular hypothesis of the origin of the solar system. Some of Kant's writings in the early 1760s attracted the favorable notice of respected philosophers such as J. H. Lambert and Moses Mendelssohn, but a professorship eluded Kant until he was over 45. In 1781 Kant finally published his great work, the Critique of Pure Reason. The early reviews were hostile and uncomprehending, and Kant's attempt to make his theories more accessible in his Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics (1783) was largely unsuccessful. Then, partly through the influence of former student J. G. Herder, whose writings on anthropology and history challenged his Enlightenment convictions, Kant turned his attention to issues in the philosophy of morality and history, writing several short essays on the philosophy of history and sketching his ethical theory in the Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785). Kant's new philosophical approach began to receive attention in 1786 through a series of articles in a widely circulated Gottingen journal by the Jena philosopher K. L. Reinhold. The following year Kant published a new, extensively revised edition of the Critique, following it up with the Critique of Practical Reason (1788), treating the foundations of moral philosophy, and the Critique of Judgment (1790), an examination of aesthetics rounding out his system through a strikingly original treatment of two topics that were widely perceived as high on the philosophical agenda at the time - the philosophical meaning of the taste for beauty and the use of teleology in natural science. From the early 1790s onward, Kant was regarded by the coming generation of philosophers as having overthrown all previous systems and as having opened up a whole new philosophical vista. During the last decade of his philosophical activity, Kant devoted most of his attention to applications of moral philosophy. His two chief works in the 1790s were Religion Within the Bounds of Plain Reason (1793--94) and Metaphysics of Morals (1798), the first part of which contained Kant's theory of right, law, and the political state. At the age of 74, most philosophers who are still active are engaged in consolidating and defending views they have already worked out. Kant, however, had perceived an important gap in his system and had begun rethinking its foundations. These attempts went on for four more years until the ravages of old age finally destroyed Kant's capacity for further intellectual work. The result was a lengthy but disorganized manuscript that was first published in 1920 under the title Opus Postumum. It displays the impact of some of the more radical young thinkers Kant's philosophy itself had inspired. Kant's philosophy focuses attention on the active role of human reason in the process of knowing the world and on its autonomy in giving moral law. Kant saw the development of reason as a collective possession of the human species, a product of nature working through human history. For him the process of free communication between independent minds is the very life of reason, the vocation of which is to remake politics, religion, science, art, and morality as the completion of a destiny whose shape it is our collective task to frame for ourselves.

Bibliographic information