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The early Kant's (anti-) Newtonianism


It is well known that during his pre-Critical period, Kant was a major proponent of Newtonian physics, for the project of the Universal Natural History explicitly uses "Newtonian principles" to explain the formation of the various bodies that constitute our solar system as well as those that lie beyond. What has not been widely noted, however, is that the early Kant also developed a major criticism of Newton, one that is based on subtle metaphysical issues pertaining to God, which are most at home in philosophical theology. Interestingly, this criticism is neither an inchoate precursor of his later criticisms of Newton's account of absolute space, nor isolated to the abstract realm of metaphysics, but has a wide range of implications for the way in which a scientific account of the formation and constitution of the heavenly bodies ought to be developed, that is, for the kind of argument Newton offered in the Principia. That Kant remained interested in this set of issues later in his Critical period suggests that, alongside the revolutionary changes that comprise transcendental idealism, there are deep continuities not only in his Newtonian commitments, but in his anti-Newtonian tendencies as well. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

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