Chapter

<span class="smallCaps">f i v e</span> <i>The Universal Natural History</i> The Purposiveness of Nature

Martin Schöneld

in The Philosophy of the Young Kant

Published in print October 2000 | ISBN: 9780195132182
Published online May 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780199786336 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0195132181.003.0006
 							f i v e 						 							The Universal Natural History 						The Purposiveness of Nature

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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

Chapter.  15927 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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