Kant's thoughts on the ageing of the earth

Annals of Science 39 (4):349-369 (1982)
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A translation of Kant's early paper, ‘Die Frage, ob die Erde veralte, physikalisch erwogen’ is presented, and the main features of his position on this question in 1754 are summarized. In that year, Kant believed that the Earth was ageing, and that it was about 6000 years old. The paper allows us to understand the approximate outline of Kant's general ‘theory of the Earth’, and the relation of this theory to the cosmogony that he propounded in 1755. His ideas on the processes of erosion, and the formation of rivers, deltas and sandbanks, are noteworthy, and provide a contribution to the eighteenth-century literature on the denudation dilemma. Kant's general theory of erosion and deposition was, it seems, based to a significant extent on his knowledge of the geographical features of the Königsberg district. The general teleological position underpinning his philosophy may be discerned in this early paper, and he may be thought of as having been trying to orientate himself in space and time, so to speak, before undertaking his major reconstructions in philosophy



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