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Kant and Newtonian Science: The Pre-Critical Period Author(s): Ronald Calinger Source: Isis, Vol. 70, No. 3 (Sep., 1979), pp. 349-362 Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of The History of Science Society Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/231373 Accessed: 08/04/2010 00:36
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the Isis reviewers. he was probably more attentive to the results of the scientific investigation of nature than any other philosopher of the mature Enlightenment." Archive for History of Exact Sciences. His response to Newtonian ideas will be put in the fuller context of the several natural philosophies to which he was exposed and whose influence he bore from the beginning of his academic career. which had only recently triumphed in Prussia. Indeed. 1957). helpful criticisms and suggestions. even in the hands of its disciples. 1973). 15:211-233. "Euler's Letters to a Princess of Germany as an Expression of his Mature Scientific Outlook. who opposed some imported Newtonian ideas. C. 30:310-331. Truesdell. Monads and Other Themes of Kant's Early Thought (Bonn: Bouvier Verlag Herbert Grundmann. it will investigate the sources of his scientific thought and describe his changing and deepening understanding of Newtonian science during his pre-Critical period-that is. The author wishes to thank Professors Lewis W. "The Newtonian-Wolffian Controversy (1741-1759). see Ronald Calinger. Justus Harnack (SUCNYBrockport). before the 1770s when he began his enterprise of the critique of pure reason. who strongly influenced the development of scientific thought in Prussia. among them Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) of Konigsberg. he was a profound philosopher. well versed in the physical and mathematical sciences. The two sides particularly disagreed over the theory of matter and the general application of Leibniz's conservation of vis viva principle. Die Registres der Berliner Akademie der Wissenschaften (1746-1766) (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag. The cental figures in that movement were Maupertuis and Euler. Force. 72-105. 70 (No. Polonoff. Essays in the History of Mechanics (New York: Springer-Verlag. This essay will examine Kant's early response to Newtonian science. which he described as the "daughter" of the Leibnizian philosophy. Both men made major contributions to Newtonian dynamics and the method of fluxions. They included Kant's teacher Martin Knutzen *Department of History and Political Science. and his colleagues Joseph Brown and Roderick Brumbaugh at Rensselaer for their. Troy. Robert Bartlow (Topeka).. and both were effective polemicists against the native Wolffian philosophers. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. While it would be misleading to represent Kant as a creative scientist. Beck (Rochester). the philosophy of Christian Wolff. NT UNIVERSITY EDUCATION AND EARLY WRITINGS When in 1740 Kant entered the University of Konigsberg. 'For information on the scientific advances and polemics in Prussia at mid-century." Journal of the History of Ideas. Irving I. His eclecticism embraced selected ideas from Cartesian science and from Wolffian philosophy. Specifically. New York 12181.Kant The and Newtonian Pre-Critical Science: Period By Ronald Calinger* EWTONIAN IDEAS were vigorously developed and disseminated in Prussia during the mid-eighteenth century. 1976. ed. pp. 253) 349 . this research and debate spread beyond Berlin and engaged other thinkers. and Edward Winter.' Bearing as it did on the fundamental principles of mechanics. Ronald Calinger. 1969. 1979. was already disintegrating. Cosmos. who had been invited to join the Berlin Academy of Sciences by Frederick the Great. 1968). ISIS.
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) .
especially since this might involve the mathematics of the infinite. This term stood for the measure of a body's internal force. Opticks (4th ed. His monads were dynamic in a physical rather than an organic sense. Leibniz had based his epistemology on the hypothesis of the pre2Gedanken von der wahren Schdtzung der lebendigen Krafte. 1952). it developed ideas from the three different sciences in a selective and selfreliant manner and indeed occasionally mediated between the Newtonian and Wolffian positions." Challenging the adequacy of Cartesian theory. The underpinning for the first published essay was the theory of substance or. and natural science. Although intended as an improvement upon Leibnizian ideas and written largely from the standpoint of Wolffian inquiry. Kant asserted in several sections of his essay that prior to extension natural bodies must possess "intension" or internal force (Secs. primal matter was metaphysical and thus could not be reduced to geometric bodies. treating primal matter in so geometrical a fashion troubled him (Sec. 117. reprinted New York: Dover. and v = its velocity.. Knutzen. Kant's Gesammelte Schriften (Berlin: Georg Reimer. I. As a metaphysical entity primal matter could exist "nowhere present in the world" (Sec. To keep abreast of the latest scientific research Knutzen corresponded regularly with the Swiss-born mathematician and theoretical physicist Leonhard Euler (1707-1783). "Thoughts on the True Estimate of Living Forces" (1746-1747). For him. and Wolffian ideas. he encouraged Kant to read Newton as well as other major contemporary works in the exact sciences. mathematics. the theory of matter. Like most of his Prussian contemporaries. 2.. more narrowly. 400. Kant further assumed that space in nature was a continuum.350 RONALD CALINGER (1713-175 1).3 while Leibniz proposed metaphysical and animistically endowed points of force and perception called monads. Kant wrote an essay. living force-symbolically mV2. This essay reveals that he had acquired at least some knowledge of basic Cartesian. p. The other two views were dichotomous: Newton and his disciples presupposed the existence of indivisible. In epistemology. Kant had three views of primal material substance from which to choose. 3. Kant differed from Leibniz. 3Isaac Newton. to correct Wolff s conclusions. Wilhelm Dilthey. 7). 1-183. a subject to which he devoted many paragraphs. he based his nascent theory of substance on a physical monad that was Leibniz's monad shorn of its animistic properties but not reduced to a purely passive state. ed. a quasi-Leibnizian interpretation of monadic reality existing outside of space and time. and as such. These initiatives are reflected in Kant's own early lectures and writings and indicate that from 1746 to 1762 he had a greater predilection for natural philosophy (the intersection of philosophy and natural science) than for general philosophy. a notion he borrowed from Wolff s "atoms of nature. Newtonian. and 129). Instead. and passive atoms. supplemented by personal instruction. The first was the Cartesian corpuscular theory that equated matter with extension (res extensa). whom he had read in the original. By giving his talented student access to his personal library. Vol. At the end of his six years of study at Konigsberg. who taught philosophy. 1730. What Kant called lebendige Kraft was Leibniz's vis viva. . pp. the ablest of Konigsberg's professors. impenetrable.where m = quantity of matter. 114)." Yet.2 which was to be his first published work. they were endowed with an active force. used Newton. was one aspect of Leibniz's "splendid law of continuity. Kant rejected both Newton's passive atoms and the simple Cartesian equation of matter with extension. a member of the Berlin Academy since 1741. 1910).
" The Leibnizian measure applied only in cases of "free motion. Physique et metaphysique kantiennes (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. and it was this that probably prompted Knutzen to urge them as the subject of Kant's essay. The Newtonians. He likened them to two synchronized clocks running independently. In Prussia. du Chatelet's Institutions de physique (1740). 6). arrived at the Berlin Academy. J. 196-23 1. maintained that there was an influxusphysicus. vis viva was the correct measure of the intensity of a given force. and Jules Vuillemin. Thus. In dynamics. 23-24 and 45-47). was the correct measure of force and that it alone was conserved. 8:29-48. Petersburg Academy. or m Ivi (i. 5-65." Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science. quantity of matter multiplied by uniform velocity). he followed precisely the position that his teacher Knutzen had advanced as early as 1735. 114. Kant preferred Newtonian ideas to those of Leibniz and the Wolffians at some critical junctures. the leading scientist of the period. and its sum was conserved in a collision between bodies. two years after his essay was published. In the essay he refers to the large accumulated literature on force measurement in Acta eruditorum. although he was a responsive and congenial man in most matters. The subject of "living forces" had been a source of serious contention between Newtonians and Wolffians since 1719. or direct physical influence.. the dominant Wolffian position was shaken after Maupertuis and Euler. see Carolyn Iltis. the conservation of vis viva was the unifying principle for their dynamics. and some textbooks like Mme. 17 and 19). Kant. Kant's position in the continuing and sometimes heated debate4 was to accept the conservation of momentum as well as Newton's law of inertia and inverse-square law of gravitation (Secs. pp. In France. Indeed. which stated that no direct interaction could occur between the radically distinct mind and matter. the Commentarii of the St. Cosmos. pp. In accepting this blend of a physical and metaphysical doctrine relating mind to matter. But he demonstrates little acquaintance with the writings of Newton or the Memoires of the Paris and Berlin academies. like the Cartesians. 1955). Euler did not reply. especially as articulated by the Swiss mathematician Johann Bernoulli in his studies of the collision of elastic bodies (Secs. following Leibniz. and 115). or what he called "driven motion. however. That Kant did not have a good command of the sources on Newtonian dynamics is suggested by the writings cited in his first essay and his attempt to engage Euler.KANT AND NEWTONIAN SCIENCE 351 established harmony. what was more unfor4The controversy over the conservation of vis viva had been rekindled in Europe during the 1740s. Kant-then an unknown scholar of only twenty-five-sent Euler a copy and asked for comments." This denial of its conservation in "driven motion" impacts clashed with Leibniz's ideas. see Polonoff. Its conservation was a metaphysical principle. For the Wolffians. Through Knutzen he later examined articles by Euler in the Berlin Memoires. It would seem that Euler took this course in part because he saw that Kant not only lacked an adequate understanding of Newtonian physics but. 10. countered that momentum. on the mind (Sec. . Force. in correspondence. For more information on the polemic among the French. which was the core of his essay. "Madame du Chatelet's Metaphysics and Mechanics. and these particularly impressed him. he maintained in the first chapter of his essay that Leibniz's vis viva gave the correct measure of the intrinsic force inherent in a moving body left to its own (Secs. Dortous de Mairan's support for the Cartesian measure of force (mv) in her book Institutions dephysique (1740). two powerful protagonists of Newtonian dynamics. 1977.e. Monads. Emilie du Chatelet elicited a strong Newtonian response when she reduced to nonsense J. in 1749. For accounts of the debate in Prussia. Displaying a reconciling tendency. But in the second chapter of his essay Kant accepted the Cartesian position that vis viva did not give the correct measure of force for motion impressed upon a body by contact.
Treated According to Newtonian Principles. Since v = at. Wartofsky. 2s = at2. Although he and Euler were never to correspond. 16 for its publication record. 0Ibid. were "borrowed from the Natural Philosophy of Newton. D'Alembert and subsequently Bo'skovic had proceeded to identify the momentum of a particle as Newton's force (F) acting through time. 111." in Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science. Kant admits that repulsion is not demonstrated as distinctly as attxaction by Newtonian science and limits its use to problems in the theory of matter. "Scientific and Metaphysical Problems: Euler and Kant. including a general distribution. a dynamical view similar to that of the British Newtonians on atoms. B. pp.. 1 Kant required a long comparative study to accept and assimilate the Newtonian cosmology. had failed to examine a recent book that resolved the vis viva controversy. the Yugoslav physicist Rudjer Bo'skovic(1711-1787) would similarly refer to the controversy in his discourse De viribus vivis (1747) as a mere argument "over titles. The book was Jean Le Rond d'Alembert's Traite de dynamique (1743).352 RONALD CALINGER tunate. Kant ranked Euler second only to Newton as a scientist. 7Yehuda Elkana. d'Alembert had concluded that the vis viva polemic was a "dispute over words. Kant's nebular hypothesis supported the evolving Newtonian long-term-stability explanation of the solar system. Kant used only the gravitational force of attraction and repulsion. he stated. 8Although it was printed in 1755. Cohen. Robert S.. 6 . or an Essay on the Constitution and Mechanical Origin of the Whole Universe. Since V2 = a2t2 = 2a(Q2 at2) = 2as. commonly known in English as Theory of the Heavens." Euler. Theory of the Heavens (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. then mv = mat = Ft. 1974. According to Galileo. Kant would draw extensively upon Euler's writings in his early response to Newtonian science and would do so even more in his Critical period. 1969). letter III. Kant proceeded to a staunch and competent defense in his remarkable book Allgemeine Naturgeschichte und Theorie des Himmels. Its complete title in English is The General Natural History and Theory of the Heavens. 9Kant. mV2= 2Fs..8 In this work. 35. this book was not fully published. he presented his nebular hypothesis of the origin of the solar system which holds that the planets originally evolved from primordial matter. F = ma. without recourse to divine intervention. but like Newton he was disturbed by the concept of absolute empty space. It used only Newtonian laws and forces to account for the origin and operation of the solar system. Both. 1958)."10undoubtedly a dismissal of the Cartesian critics who earlier had maintained that attraction was an occult quality. 1974). Kant also accepted the vacuum in nature."9 He called the law of attraction an original and universal law of nature "which is now established beyond doubt. As background for the Theory of the Heavens he appears to have read 5Jean d'Alembert. p. In his theory of matter the physical monads were endowed with the force of attraction. See the discussion below and n. p. Methodological and Historical Essays in the Natural and Social Sciences (Dordrecht: Reidel. 302. Isaac Newton's Papers and Letters on Natural Philosophy (Cambridge. Cohen and Marx W. completed in 1755. who was very language conscious.: Harvard University Press. but one which Newton himself had rejected in his correspondence with the Anglican cleric and philologist Richard Bentley (1662-1742).7 From a mild and partial defense of Newtonian dynamics in his first essay. xxi. ed. Mass. p."' Writing at the same time as Kant. After carefully defining the concept of force. eds. then mV2 = 2mas and mV2 = 2Fs. and vis viva as twice Newton's force acting over space. Paris. a view Laplace later worked out in detail. 24 and 35. the latter mistakenly considered a force. Traite de dynamique (1st ed. concurred with the judgment of these two scientists.6 Kant had missed this resolution by d'Alembert and had failed to arrive at it independently. 1743). mv = Ft.. 14:277-305. According to Newton's second law. In describing the evolution of the universe. until 1791.
But subsequently the British astronomer Thomas Wright (1711-1786) had treated the mechanics of galactic systems in his book An Original Theory of an Hypothesis of the Universe (1750). Principia rerum naturalium (1734). Theory of the Heavens. however. He quickly discarded Wright's disjoint.14 Maupertuis suggested to Kant the existence of structured galaxies in his book Discours sur le figure des astres (1732). Kant referred to "the infallible calculations of Newton" on the dynamics of the solar system. s5Ibid. and with it Newtonian mechanics. l3Ibid. Kant believed that these were not single stars but star systems operating according to Newtonian principles. but it failed to persuade him of the explanation.15 Unfortunately. which he identified as gravities. Bradley had verified that some of the fixed stars appeared to move. These central forces operated independently within the defined boundaries of each galaxy but were coordinated by a Divine agent or fountain at the center of Creation.. which was novel in the early eighteenth century. and Greeks and discussed Cartesian vortices. In the Theory of the Heavens Kant went beyond Newton in one important way: he extended the application of the Newtonian law of attraction. The Prussian philosopher derived his conception of galaxies from two prominent Newtonians. Newton had restricted himself to the mechanics of the earth and solar system. and his stock 12Kant. An abstract of Wright's book in the Hamburg journal Freie Urteile in 1751 aroused Kant's interest in the operation of gravity beyond the solar system. produced order in the multiplicity of galaxies. p. 62-63. p. Its publisher.KANT AND NEWTONIAN SCIENCE 353 selections from the seven volumes of An Universal History from the Earliest Account of Time to the Present (London. the Theory of the Heavens did not become available in 1755. which the author probably conceived as a counterpart to Newton's Principia mathematica (1687). the British Astronomer Royal James Bradley (1693-1762) and the French physicist Pierre Maupertuis (1698-1759).pp. p.. however. 1736-1744). in which the author antedated Kant's attempt to justify the evolution of the earth with the aid of Newtonian cosmology. as well as Swedenborg's earlier volume. Swedenborg had searched for a comprehensive physical explanation of the world based on the Cartesian vortex cosmology-a theory Kant rejected because of Newton's penetrating criticism of vortices in the Principia and because of empirical verifications of the precision of Newtonian dynamics. Kant further consulted some of the eight bulky volumes of Arcana coelestia (London. .. who was then the president of the Berlin Academy. Wright had conjectured that vague central forces. 87. went bankrupt shortly before its release. From his careful observation and accurate measurement of the deviations of Gamma Draconis and other stars in 1727. Indeed. 27. Johann Petersen. separate galactic gravities and argued for the more general explanation of the singular operation of gravity throughout the universe. Egyptians.12That compilation of several original authors included the English cosmogonist William Whiston's A New Theory of the Earth (1696). and here again the Newtonian influence was strong.13It is probable. 31. 14Ibid. which examined the cosmologies of the ancient Babylonians. to the entire universe. that he derived the rudiments of his nebular hypothesis from Swedenborg. remained important in Kant's thought. a text which examined huge distant "stars" with rotatory motion and elliptical forms. Persians. The concept of structured galaxies. 1749-1756) by the Swedish clairvoyant and mystic Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772).
Rousseau corrected me in this. His monads were simple. I feel a consuming thirst for knowledge. 137-15 1). it is unlikely that the 1763 summary or the appendix to Gensichen's dissertation was noticed by the French astronomer Pierre Simon Laplace (1749-1827). die begierige Unruhe darin weiter zu kommen oder auch die Zufriedenheit ben jedem Erwerb. Bo'skovic depicted the "elements" of matter as simple indivisible points possessed of inertia. Such was the genesis of what today is called the Kant-Laplace theory. I learned to honor man. Johann Friedrich Gensichen (1759-1809). The abbreviated version appeared as an appendix to a dissertation by another Konigsberg professor. 1924). and the retardation of the earth's rotation by tidal friction. There was a time when I believed this constituted the honor of humanity. and I despised the people. 144. which was dedicated to Frederick II. In the meantime. some of it was contrary to Newtonian ideas. Thus. Vol. 17ErichAdickes. but independent of. letter 466. Even at this stage his theory of matter was similar to. Extended matter became the dynamic configuration of a finite number of point-centers of interaction. he asserted that all material bodies are composed of monads. Rousseau hat mich zurecht gebracht. Kant wrote: By inclination I am an inquirer. . the Alsatian physicist Johann Lambert (1728-1777) had independently developed a nebular hypothesis in his Cosmologische Briefe (1761). Kant als Naturforscher (Berlin: De Gruyter. 19. XX (1942). pp. XI (1922). but his work suffered because he never acquired a firm grasp of either. was developing. . the unrest which goes with the desire to progress in it. 42-43. he supported Euler. appeared in a more detailed version in his treatise Monadologia physica (1756). Furthermore. nor could he accept a purely geometric and hence infinitely divisible account of matter. the book. A letter of Apr. p. These point-atoms and their composites existed in space. the nature of fire. ich verachtete den Pobel der von nichts weis.'6 Scientific speculation continued to occupy a prominent place in Kant's work during the late 1750s and the early 1760s. point-atoms. Two major topics that he addressed now were the theories of matter and of optics. 11(1912). Some of his research fell outside the focus of Newtonian science. Following Leibniz and Wolff. who know nothing. see Kant's Gesammelte Schriften. 252-253. however. that of Bo'skovic. Dieser verblendende Borzug verschwindet. but it was not published until 1791 and then only in an abbreviated version. 1791. In optics Kant vacillated between the corpuscular theory of Newton and the wave theory of Euler. briefly treated in his first published essay.'8 16Norwas it published prominently. physical substances without parts-in essence. and satisfaction at every advance in it. Ich fuihleden ganzen Durst nach Erkentnis u. which was divisible ad infinitum a view congruent with a spatial continuum.In his Theoriaphilosophiae naturalis (1758). Vol. who advanced a different version of the nebular hypothesis in his Systeme du monde (1796). His interests included geology. Kant's mature view of matter. particulate view of the universe. Vol. Vol. Kant believed that it was important and presented a summary of it in 1763. did not reach the growing reading public for some time. I.'7 In 1762 Kant began to shift his intellectual emphasis away from scientific speculation. which distinguished between the appearance of a material object in space and the reality behind appearances. Kant's 14-page summary was the seventh section of Chapter 2 of his treatise Der einzig mogliche Beweisgrund zu einer Demonstration des Daseins Gottes (1763. He could not incorporate Newton's atomism. Rousseau's newly published Emile had an immediate and profound impact. 18Kant's Gesammelte Schriften. with its passive. ich lerne die Menschen ehren. pp. 44: Ich bin selbst aus Neigung ein Forscher. More often than not. The dynamical theory of matter. who was also one of Kant's dinner companions. from Kant to Gensichen authorizing him to publish the abbreviated version is contained in Kant's Gesammelte Schriften. This blinding prejudice disappeared. Es war eine Zeit da ich glaubte dieses allein konnte die Ehre der Menschheit machen u. the theory of winds. into his theory of matter. pp.354 RONALD CALINGER was impounded. .
338-339. pp. 20-40. at the center of his studies. The transition in Kant's methodology occurred gradually. whom Kant regarded as an "excellent analyst" and a "giant among metaphysicists.. 46-52. Rousseau. he spoke highly of the Leipzig professor Christian August Crusius (1715-1775). and Linnaeus' taxonomy were examples. Moreover. Kant. led to a feeling of pleasure-an aesthetic characteristic of theoretical enquiry.: Belknap Press.. a time when his methodology was undergoing great change. Alexander Baumgarten (1714-1762). and the nature of space and time demonstrates.KANT AND NEWTONIAN SCIENCE 355 Scientific interests yielded to urgent moral concerns. the philosopher of the macrocosm. analysis. The Philosophy of Enlightenment (Boston: Beacon Press.19 Kant used Baumgarten's book Metaphysica (1739) as a text in his lectures and read his Aesthetica (1750). who systematically opposed Wolff s intellec- The influence of Rousseau upon Kant is briefly described in Lewis White Beck. As early as the 1750s he had begun to question the ability of cognitive reason to solve all problems. Wolff. Early German Philosophy (Cambridge. He also appealed to the work of Baumgarten's student Georg Friedrich Meier (1718-1777). Evanston: Northwestern University Press. and Swedenborg he envisioned two realms for investigation. and Paul Arthur Schilpp. which stressed individualism and the noncognitive way of reaching the truth. 1955). Rousseau. it was the goal of theoretical inquiry in the phenomenal realm to combine empirical. the opposing tendency of German Pietism also influenced Kant from the start of his career. METHODOLOGY AND MATHEMATICS Besides the scientific interests already noted. as his work in methodology. that is. Through cognizing. Goethe (Princeton: Princeton University Press. for example. provided one source to challenge the omnicompetency of reason. In his Nova dilucidatio (1755). Yet this shift did not mean an end to Newtonian influence. the seeker might attain understanding or apperception. Newton's law of attraction. replaced Newton. 1960). then. mathematics. Maupertuis' principle of least action. 489 if. The young Kant was sufficiently critical to express contempt in his first published essay for those who accepted dogmatic authority. who attributed to the aesthetic experience a perfection of its own that was separate from rational knowledge. At this early stage he embraced logic or the axiomatic method of mathematics with deductive reason as his method. From Leibniz. He would shift in the 1760s from a moderate rationalism falling within Wolffian confines to the empirical Newtonian-Lockean tradition. Kant used Meier's Vernunftlehre (1752) as a textbook after 1756 when teaching logic. methodology and the foundations of mathematics were important concerns for Kant during the pre-Critical period. the philosopher of the microcosm. Pietism. he professed a belief in the regulative principle of the unity of nature. Mass. 1969). Accordingly. he thought. Equally with rationalism. Ernst Cassirer. a term he borrowed directly from Leibniz. Following Leibniz and Wolff. heterogeneous laws of nature under a general principle. pp. the phenomenal and the metaphysical. pp. Kant's Pre-Critical Ethics (2nd ed. ." Baumgarten had established aesthetics-taste based on sense perception-as a cognitive discipline separate from logic. he was drawn to the movement among some Wolffians to escape Wolff s "one faculty theory" of knowledge. Successful generalizing. By the mid-1750s. His escape was assisted by another Prussian philosopher. 1947). Kant had begun to move away from Wolffian rationalism. 19ErnstCassirer.
which in its discussion of the axiomatic method heralded the critical period in philosophy. These writings brought out the inadequacy of the dogmatic rationalism of the Wolffians. Jaki.22 More than the metaphysical views of Baumgarten and Crusius were now at stake:23the intense scientific debate between the Newtonians and the Wolffians at the Berlin Academy in the mid-1760s strongly influenced Kant. 1960. see Opticks. Walford. E.." now commonly known as the Prize Essay because it won the second place award. B. Kant: Philosophical Correspondence 1759-99 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. In 1763 the Berlin Academy held a prize contest on the question of the degree of certainty of metaphysical truths and the appropriate basis for them. Vol. "Enquiry Concerning the Clarity of the Principles of Natural Theology and Ethics. p. die Errinerung des David Hume war eben dasjenige. 17. For a succinct account of Newton's methodology. trans. since Lambert died in 1777. Sulzer's translation of Hume's Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding into German in 1755 provided an accessible source in his native tongue. 260. published in 1765). 25See Arnulf Zweig. 58-67." in G. Monads. pp. IV (1911). ed. four years before publication of the Critique. This was not included in the final published form. 21:117-123. Early German Philosophy."20But recent scholarship suggests that the "first spark of light" from Hume did not illuminate Kant's thoughts until after 1768 and possibly not until after he read James Beattie's Essay on the Nature and Immutability of Truth. Force. 221mmanuelKant. His personal transition from a moderate rationalism to empiricism can be traced in the Traume eines Geistersehers (1766). "Lambert: Self-Taught Physicist. 404-406.356 RONALD CALINGER tual philosophy. p. . Wolff.. and subsequently helped to have published his Anlage zur Architectonic (1771). esp. London: Macmillan. Kant submitted an essay titled "Untersuchung uber die Deutlichkeit der Grundsatze der naturliche Theologie und Moral. See Stanley L. Kerferd and D. Kant early knew of Hume. 43-54. 1968). Kant: Selected Pre-Critical Writingsand Correspondence with Beck (New York: Barnes & Noble. the Accessit. 1923). was mir vor vielen Jahren zuerst den dogmatische Schlummer unterbrach und meinen Untersuchungen im Felde der spekulativen Philosophie eine ganz andre Richtung gab." Physics Today." Journal of the History of Ideas. 405. read his Neues Organon (1764). pp. 24Beck. This followed his intense reading of Plato's view of the Good and the dialectic and Leibniz's Nouveaux essais (1708. query 31. And. xxviii-xxix and Robert P.. 1967). In those debates Euler-with backing from Lambert-forcefully and persuasively defended the Newtonian cosmology and methodology. 23Polonoff. A Commentary on Kant's Critique of Pure Reason (2nd ed. who sought to mediate between Wolff and Locke with the aid of Leibniz.26 In the late 1760s Kant's published writings advocated applying the methodology of Newtonian science to study the phenomenal world. pp.25 He came to regard Lambert highly. where he broke 20Kant's Gesammelte Schriften. .21 During the 1760s Kant expressed doubt that reality could be comprehended solely by cognitive reason. Cosmos. as he related in a famous passage in his Prologomena(1783): ". 26Kant'sdrafted dedication of the Critique of Pure Reason to Lambert testifies further to his admiration for Lambert. 181-183. p. Kant began to correspond regularly with Lambert. especially his efforts to model philosophy after mathematics. pp. "Kant's Debt to Hume via Beattie. . an attack on Hume's Treatise which was translated into German in 1772. 21See Norman Kemp Smith. 1977:26. Sept. Another possible early source for Kant's challenge of Wolff s rationalism was Hume's skepticism. The essay rejected the existing logic of mathematical reasoning as a basis for metaphysics and placed in its stead the critical empirical methods that Newton introduced into the natural sciences with the help of geometry. to be sure.24 After the close of the Seven Years' War.
Newton based his proofs on a theory of limits (an early stage of the calculus).KANT AND NEWTONIAN SCIENCE 357 with Swedenborg's mysticism. 111-117. that is. Psychoanalysis and Philosophy (New York: International Universities Press. in distinction to the ancient Greeks. Kant hastily wrote the essay "De mundi sensibilis atque intelligibilis forma et principiis" (The Forms and Principles of the Sensible and Intelligible Worlds) to celebrate the occasion of his becoming a full professor of metaphysics and logic at Konigsberg. where he praised the "truly perspicacious Euler" for recognizing that different types of explanations are required to account for the physical and metaphysical realms. pp.32 By working through chains of inferences.31 Like them. and Wolffians shared. geometry was the "pure part of natural science". 29Ibid. pp. 28Immanuel Kant. geome27lmmanuel Kant. B12-B15. Critique of Pure Reason. But what areas of mathematics did he stress? While leading continental mathematicians developed the calculus.27and his inaugural dissertation. Dreams of a Spirit Seer and Other Related Writings. Vol. Kant's Inaugural Dissertation and Writings on Space. Selected Pre-Critical Writings. pp. 1970).p. trans. Kant was drawn to the axiomatic method of Euclidean geometry because he believed that geometrical propositions were meaningful. "Enquiry Concerning the Clarity of the Principles of Natural Theology and Ethics... II. In his Theory of the Heavens he had admired the relations between geometrical forms and figures and physical phenomena. he failed to grasp the true and novel character of Newton's manner of proof. 385-420. p. pp. 1969). 1919). 71. The original Latin version is contained in Kant's Gesammelte Schriften. For a psychoanalytic treatment of Kant's changing views on methodology and metaphysics see Lewis S. he now advocated using the critical empiricism of Newton and Locke to study the physical world. fundamental sense impressions. and A718/B746-A724/B752. pp. 77. They were synthetic. as afterwards. John Manolesco (New York: Vantage Press. For him. It followed the hypothetico-deductive method for investigating the physical world. it was. Therein. Lazerowitz. conveying information about the world of experience and carrying knowable truth values in themselves. "De mundi sensibilis atque intelligibilis forma et principiis" (1770)."30Here he followed the tradition of the British Newtonians. Newtonians. a basic notion established during the scientific revolution. Besides an admiration for the formal structure of Newton's Principia. Thus geometrical propositions could neither apply to all possible worlds beyond the given world of experience nor could they be reduced to the truth of logic. which was to establish geometrical conditions and then at once to introduce a carefully conceived limiting process.28Like Euler." Kerferd and Walford. Norman Kemp Smith (New York: St. Throughout his pre-Critical period. 6-18 and Immanuel Kant. A220/B268. Martin's Press. As he explained in the 1763 Prize Essay and later detailed in the Critique of Pure Reason (1781). with their construction depending upon individual intuitions. 1965). eds. Hanley and M. 7-16. 351). and anchored scientific theories in experience. Critical empiricism had several components. which Kant described as a world of quantity.. 65. all propositions admitted into geometrical proofs must apply to the objects of actual or highly probable experience. A155/B194. 32Ibid. as Leibniz had suggested in the Theodicy (Prop. trans. p. he emphasized the centrality of geometry in the sciences. "the most faithful interpreter of all phenomena.29Kant now subscribed to the Lockean notion that all knowledge of nature is based on perception. It required mechanical (cause-effect) explanations in natural science. 3OIbid. a view the Cartesians. Kant recognized that mathematics was essential to scientific research.. . as he stated in 1770. 3'Kant. trans. 55. trans. "Lawless Sensations and Categorical Defenses: The Unconscious Sources of Kant's Philosophy" in C. John Handyside (Chicago: Open Court. 62.. A713/B741. In English this essay is generally referred to as the Inaugural Dissertation. who observed that Newton had employed the geometrical method of proof in the Principia. Feuer.
who established closure for pure reason. Indeed. 33Martin Heidegger. Closure means that a system or procedure operates only for a given range of problems. 1967). p.36By the 1770s Kant indicated that a non-Euclidean geometry could not be devised whose truths apply to the phenomenal world. 1781)."35Later. This paragraph and the section below on space and time present some of his reasons leading to this position. At first. he believed. 39Critiqueof Pure Reason.40and for Einstein's general theory of relativity to show that they apply to the physical universe. p. 10. Their synthetic a priori proofs provided authoritative knowledge about objective reality. Euclidean. 37Kant. trans. Kant's Theory of Science (Princeton: Princeton University Press. while non-Euclidean geometries apply to large. The Rise of Scientific Philosophy (Berkeley: University of California Press. p.. Letter B refers to the extensively revised second edition (1787). It remained for nineteenth-century mathematicians (Gauss. 40The German mathematician Carl F. W. See also Gordon G. Force. B. pp. and Vera Deutsch (Chicago: Henry Regnery. Heidegger's book.33 In his mature scientific outlook Kant assumed that there was only one consistent geometry. 1759-99. pp. In this instance. "Thoughts on the True Estimate of Living Forces. is based on lectures that he gave in winter semester. curved space. failed to understand that the same principle was required in geometry.. 71. in part because he thought that no universal standard of measure existed in such geometries. and Riemann) to demonstrate that consistent non-Euclidean geometries do exist. Jr. A713/1B714. Lobachevsky. B268. 38Ibid. crucial to Newtonian science. Barton. 121. Hatknoch. 36Zweig. Brittan.38 In the Critique of Pure Reason he asserted that consistent non-Euclidean geometries might be invented for imagined space. p. Vol. Therein he distinguished between geometrical and metaphysical reasoning in an essentially modern way. Selected Pre-Critical Writings. Kant's philosophy quickly began to supersede theirs after 1787. 1978). he observed in 1763 that metaphysics had not yet entered on the sure path of science. 24. that could describe the actual physical universe. F. Kerferd and Walford. 86-88. Sec. proved that in a . Kant's Philosophical Correspondence. A60/1B85. 1935-1936. In Smith's notation letter A refers to the first edition of Kant's Kritik der reinen Vernunft (Riga: J. Kant contrasted these geometrical proofs with the analytical reasoning of philosophy and its subfield of metaphysics. 73.. he regarded these other geometries to be based primarily on exercises in logic and called for work on them in his initial essay. His belief in the centrality of constructions in geometry evolved from his Monadologia physica (1752) (Prop. whose conclusions only attained a problematic and hypothetical status. What is a Thing?. 34By the 1780s Kant believed that there could not be any non-Euclidean geometries that describe the actual world because of what he viewed as their counterintuitability and their nonconstructibility. trans.39 It is somewhat ironic that Kant. Gauss (1777-1855) first coined the term "non-Euclidean" after 1813. I. and Hans Reichenbach. In reaching this conclusion he had at one time admitted the possibility of other (non-Euclidean) geometries that applied to all possible kinds of space. 1962).34This was not the case early in his career. in German Die Frage nach dem Ding (Tuibingen: Max Niemeyer. his ideas changed. at Freiburg. p. 68-89. Inaugural Dissertation. Bolyai. but again disavowed that they could apply to real space. III) through his 1763 Prize Essay and his correspondence with Lambert. Cosmos. and Polonoff. Moreover. when he saw that the foundations of nonEuclidean geometries rested not only on logic but also on constructions in space.. 35Kant's Gesammelte Schriften. Felix Klein (1849-1925). 1962). p.37Pure measurability based on the iteration of standard units was. ed. Euclidean geometry applies to local space. which first fully alerted the Wolffians to the danger posed by Kant to their philosophical primacy in Germany. 53. Monads. By the late 19th century another German mathematician. Jr. 44.358 RONALD CALINGER ters could establish indispensable scientific truths..
and C. Time and Motion (New York: Braziller. p.42 Apparently his reading of the Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence. Garnett. SPACE AND TIME The growth of Kant's thought on space and. Like most of the British Newtonians."43 During the 1750s and 1760s the writings of Crusius and Lambert on space reinforced this theory in Kant's mind. Kant traced the origin of his absolute theory to an article by Euler in the Berlin Academy Memoires for 1748 titled "Reflexions sur l'espace et le temps. independent of the existence of all matter. Mass. sometimes wrong. B. This meant that they were ontologically primitive realities that existed prior to extended objects and events. 1967). for example. which was republished in 1768. Although he was greatly impressed by Euler's ability to bring into unity large parts of experience by means of the calculus. As late as his paper "Von dem ersten Grunde des Unterschiedes der Gegenden Raum" (1768). 1976. He wrote: "absolute space has a reality of its own. 42GerdBuchdahl. 43Arnold Koslow. In hyperbolic geometry the sum of the angles in a triangle is less than 180'. Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Science (Cambridge. as in Western Europe. The Changeless Order: The Physics of Space. During his pre-Critical period Kant's theory of space changed substantially and was not always consistent. 44Kant. 1969). Euler combined Newton's method of fluxions and Leibniz's differential calculus into mathematical analysis. Kant. classical or Euclidean geometry is basically a limiting case of hyperbolic geometry. 41 Newton's fluxion is essentially the modern derivative taken with respect to time: xc= dxldt. Kant did not follow in the mathematical footsteps of Newton. They were thus ontologically derivative. 67:20-51. he lacked the sophisticated mathematical training and mathematical equipment required to produce comparable studies.KANT AND NEWTONIAN SCIENCE 359 During the Enlightenment the calculus gained ascendancy over geometry in the field of mathematics. Leibniz's theory had little chance of success. Leibniz had disagreed: he asserted that time and space were subjective and relative. His contributions to mathematics were minor. on time was exceedingly complex and embedded in his responses to Leibnizian and Newtonian science. and indeed as the first ground of the possibility of the compositeness of matter. 1939)." Inaugural Dissertation and Writings on Space. Madigan.. to a lesser extent. which was a subject he occasionally taught.. Where Newtonian dynamics and Euclidean space were accepted. When the Russian armies occupied East Prussia during the Seven Years' War.: MIT Press. he held the Newtonian position." Kant Studien. pp. "On the First Ground of the Distinction of Regions in Space. trans. as described in the General Scholium of the Principia. For Leibniz they were merely well-founded appearances (phenomena benefundatum). They were the order of actual and possible relations between extended objects or events. "Time in Locke and Kant. ed. 115-125. was aware of its rapid progress. and Patrick S. . which he extensively developed. Jr. Handyside. who had studied the calculus under Knutzen. Kant kept abreast of recent developments in mathematics. moved Kant to resolve the controversy between the Newtonians and Leibniz-Wolffians regarding the nature of each. The Kantian Philosophy of Space (New York: Columbia University Press."44 sufficiently small domain.41Kant did not contribute to this area of Newton's ideas. he taught the Russian officers mathematics. At the start of his career he sometimes supported Leibniz's relative space but generally came to accept Newton's absolute space. 20. 574-615. The Russian occupation lasted from the beginning of 1758 to August 1762. and were restricted mainly to the foundations -of Euclidean geometrical reasoning and to the nature of space. which praised the genius of Leibniz. In the Correspondence Clarke had defended Newton's position that time and space are objective and absolute. pp.
If this were so. 62. provides vital clues to understanding the development of Kant's doctrine of space and time-both of which he now defined as "pure intuitions" or "absolutely primary. and A320/B376. pp. Kant strongly disagreed because the relational theory controverted his beliefs that Euclidean geometry provided a uniquely correct description of space and that its synthetic a priori proofs provided authoritative knowledge about objective reality.50 thus indicating a continuing dominance of the Wolffian philosophy. He erected a new theory of space in his Inaugural Dissertation (1770). In the Inaugural Dissertation Kant also treated the epistemological question of how we come to acquire our knowledge of time. . 61-62. Kant: An Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kant rejected such thought. selectively synthesized elements from Newton's and Leibniz's opposing theories of space and rejected other elements from each. Inaugural Dissertation."49 Kant proved more critical of Leibniz's relational theory of space. D. He described space as "subjective and ideal" and likened it to a schema "issuing by a constant law from the nature of the mind. he also maintained that the concept of absolute space was useful. 62. Kant. which falls at the threshold of his Critical period. 17-57. In so doing. 47Kant."48Here was the core of Kant's novel idea on space: it was subjective. which prevailed among geometers. 59. some manner of arbitrary convention would replace its precision. which are more general. and that it would vanish if these things were annihilated.46They are intuitions. Broad. formal principles of the sensible world. then geometry would be no more than inductive generalizations of our experience of the world. 5OIbid. A50/B74. "an empty figment of reason. which are singular. ed. 46Critique of Pure Reason. To form his new theory of space. His subjective-absolute theory contradicted the Newtonian belief that space was objective and ontologically real and was an infinite. 1978). the pure intuitions of space and time could no longer be understood discursively in terms of concepts. This paper. by C. which he believed most German natural philosophers still accepted. as Leibniz and the Wolffians held. and concepts. p. Kant labeled this Newtonian hypothesis. to the rank of an empirical science. Euclidean geometry would be reduced from its synthetic a priori character.. as Leibniz and Wolff held. in ibid. A271/B32."45 As he explained later in his Critique of Pure Reason. 49Ibid. Lewy. he refined his doctrine 45lnaugural Dissertation. See also C. such as color and temperature."47Nevertheless. in the Inaugural Dissertation. If all properties of space depended upon external relations through experience. and yet absolute. Pure intuitions related to the "form" of a phenomenon. since it imagines an infinity of real relations without any things which are so related. which established the highest possible certainty in the sciences. for the coordinating of all outer sensa whatsoever. because it provided "the foundation of all truth in outer sensibility. In the Critique he also explicitly distinguished between pure and empirical intuitions. self-subsistent receptacle for all possible phenomena. as Newton held. Since intuitions and concepts were complementary. Both types were basic sense impressions. there are two fundamental and complementary components that are necessary for gaining a knowledge of experience. pp. 48Ibid. Wolff and his disciples still maintained that space was the order of actual and possible relations between all existent things.360 RONALD CALINGER Two years later Kant changed his mind. Although they had modified Leibniz's theory of space. and empirical intuitions to its matter. pp..
therefore. Like Euler.KANT AND NEWTONIAN SCIENCE 361 of time. He denied that there was such empty. 53 CONCLUSION In his pre-Critical period Kant was an admirer of Newton."51because it suggested a contradiction-namely. Time was. 55-59.52 The Inaugural Dissertation marked a major development in Kant's scientific thought during the pre-Critical period. Previously he had adopted some Newtonian ideas as well as others from Leibniz and the Wolffians and had elaborated them. which he depicted as being "continuous." a movement that brought him to 5lIbid. seemingly inconsistent views of the nature of space and time. Kant moved from a general acceptance of Newton's absolute theory and a rejection of Leibniz's relative one to a powerful departure from both with his conception of space and time as "pure intuitions. pp. In the Inaugural Dissertation he digested the Newtonian and Leibnizian theories of space and time. Time was. In the theory of matter he rejected Newton's atomism and developed a dynamic theory of primal substance similar to Bo'skovic'spoint atomism. which he considered to be the locus where ideas and events occurred. 57. As a consequence of his evolving and. For the Newtonians absolute time was a continuous real flux (or substance) that was independent of any existing thing. to the Newtonian-Lockean critical empiricism. Instead. neither Newton's substance nor Leibniz's function. and transcended them with his presentation of space and time as pure intuitions-an analysis he retained in his Critique of Pure Reason. at times. Since neither absolute nor relative time embraced both concepts in a consistent manner. He contended that two concepts were crucial to understanding time-succession and simultaneity. independent of all existing material things and thus was not a substance but a universal forms His grasp of time." 52Ibid. It was not merely a mathematical function abstracted from the dynamic sequence of internal states. In turn. it was rather a pure intuition that was self-subsistent and antecedent to things-in-themselves. In methodology he shifted during the 1760s from a moderate rationalism. that time was a substance within the realm of existence and yet could be found without any material entity. somewhat in the Wolffian mode. Temporal changes." pp. and esp. successive changes in the universe derived from the metaphysical law of continuity. Hence. absolute time. He did not. accept the complex and changing Newtonian science without qualifications. he accepted and extended Newtonian mechanics even while embracing Leibniz's concept of vis viva. however. but vice versa. his scientific heterodoxy was indebted to selected Leibnizian and Wolffian ideas as well as the thought of leading members of the Berlin Academy. .. he adopted a scientific heterodoxy that arose from a distinctive Germanic scientific outlook. Handyside translates this phrase as a "most egregious fiction. did not depend upon the internal constructs of the mind. 285-286. an important consequence of temporality. 65-92. he rejected them. Kant discarded Leibniz's relational definition because it was tautological and neglected simultaneity. rejected both. however. particularly Euler. time was not relative. the "Amphibolies. he agreed. p. That is to say.. Much of the scientific speculation that he engaged in stemmed from issues raised in Newton's Principia. Kant called this view a "commentum absurdissimum. In optics he subscribed to Euler's wave theory of light rather than to Newton's corpuscular theory. pp. as Leibniz held." rested partly on the arithmetical concept of succession. 53Critique of Pure Reason.
To cure the maladies arising from the antinomies of pure reason and the skepticism of Hume. His scientific contributions did not compare with those of Maupertuis and Euler. so as to move its proofs to a higher level of certainty that was closer to those of geometry. Newtonian mechanics and methodology fared well. the second of the two chief centers of scientific and scholarly research in Prussia during the mid-eighteenth century. while the Newtonian theories of matter. It thereby attempted to extend the "Copernican revolution" of the exact sciences to metaphysics. as his first published essay. of light. and of space and time encountered some difficulties. which attempted to harmonize the world of a modified Newtonian science with the world of religious faith and moral experience. But this was an essential element of his early studies. It also attempted to establish metaphysics as a science. Today Kant is only beginning to be recognized as one of the first generation of scholars competently examining and promoting Newtonian ideas in Prussia. . His close scrutiny of Newtonian and Leibniz-Wolffian science was a crucial preparatory step toward the Critique of Pure Reason (1781). Kant was a powerful native voice disseminating. within a small learned circle that grew larger in the 1760s through correspondence and publications. in the Kantian scientific heterodoxy. and his Inaugural Dissertation testify. and Konigsberg was far removed not only from Berlin but also from Halle.54Thus. as well as its persistent motif of time treated as a pure intuition. as well as the very nature of Kant's research-primarily speculative and lacking in detailed experiment or sophisticated mathematical technique-lessened its early impact on the scientific community. and selectively elaborating Newtonian science at the initial stage of its influence in Prussia. Intellectual and geographical circumstances largely account for our knowing little of his work in this important field. the nine of his eleven treatises written from 1755 to 1759 on physics.362 RONALD CALINGER the verge of his Critical period. Even so. The delay in the publication of the Theory of the Heavens. criticizing. show that the evolution of Kant's thought in the sciences and their methodology was central to his achieving his mature "critical" position. it set pure reason for the first time within the boundaries of its nature and its inner unity. 54 The Critique of Pure Reason was a therapeutic work. These aspects of the Critique. who advanced Newtonian dynamics in Berlin.
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