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The Philosophy of the Young KantThe Precritical Project$
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Martin Schönfeld

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780195132182

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2006

DOI: 10.1093/0195132181.001.0001

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f i v e The Universal Natural History The Purposiveness of Nature

f i v e The Universal Natural History The Purposiveness of Nature

(p.96) F I V E
The Philosophy of the Young Kant

Martin Schöneld

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores Kant’s second book, Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens (1755). Section 1 describes the context of the book and Kant’s critique of static and anthropocentric conceptions of nature by the Pietists, Physico-Theologians, Newton, and Wolff. Section 2 describes the goal of Kant’s teleology, its naturalized thrust toward well-ordered complexity or “relative perfection.” Section 3 examines the means of Kant”s teleology, the dynamic interplay of attractive and repulsive forces. Section 4 analyzes the application of teleology to cosmic phenomena such as the solar system, Wright’s earlier stipulation, Laplace’s later conjecture, and the eventual confirmation of Kant’s nebular hypothesis. Section 5 explores Kant’s arguments for life, humanity, and reason as products of cosmic evolution. Section 6 discusses Kant’s “static law” — that the mean planetary density determines the biospherical potential of reason — and its incongruity with the racism in Physical Geography (1756-60) and Beautiful and Sublime (1764). Section 7 describes Kant’s dynamic cosmology, explicates his “phoenix”-symbol, and discusses his various scientific aperçus.

Keywords:   Universal Natural History, Optimism, Only Possible Argument, Physical Geography, Beautiful and Sublime, Wolff, Newton, Wright, Laplace, Pietism

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