By analogy with the heavens: Kant's theory of the earth

Annals of Science 41 (3):203-221 (1984)
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Abstract

We present an analysis, and first full English translation, of a paper by Kant entitled ‘Über die Vulcane im Monde’ . Kant became interested in the question of whether the mountains of the Moon were extinct volcanoes. Stimulated by the work of Herschel, Aepinus, and others, he considered the appearance of the Moon's surface and the possibility of lunar vulcanism. From this, he was led to consider the structures of mountain ranges on the Earth, which he decided were non-volcanic in origin, being produced by eruptions of vapours from the interior of the Earth soon after it formed from an original ‘chaos’. Kant developed his ideas in such a way as to yield a characteristic eighteenth-century ‘theory of the Earth’. We argue that the empirical base of his theory was provided by knowledge of the mountain ranges of Bohemia and Moravia. Analogies based on observations of the Moon further assisted in the construction of the theory. But the reasoning ran in two directions: what was seen on the Moon was construed in terms of what Kant knew of the Earth's topography; and the Earth's topography was presumed to be analogous to that of the Moon, for both the Earth and the Moon supposedly had essentially similar origins. Kant's ideas of 1785 are related to his earlier writings of 1754, 1755, and 1756, and also to the lectures on physical geography that he presented at Königsberg

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References found in this work

Kant's thoughts on the ageing of the earth.O. Reinhardt & D. R. Oldroyd - 1982 - Annals of Science 39 (4):349-369.
Uranus Observed.R. H. Austin - 1967 - British Journal for the History of Science 3 (3):275-284.

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