Kant on the history of nature: The ambiguous heritage of the critical philosophy for natural history


Abstract
This paper seeks to show Kant’s importance for the formal distinction between descriptive natural history and a developmental history of nature that entered natural history discussions in the late eighteenth century. It is argued that he developed this distinction initially upon Buffon’s distinctions of ‘abstract’ and ‘physical’ truths, and applied these initially in his distinction of ‘varieties’ from ‘races’ in anthropology. In the 1770s, Kant appears to have given theoretical preference to the ‘history’ of nature [Naturgeschichte] over ‘description’ of nature [Naturbeschreibung]. Following Kant’s confrontations with Johann Herder and Georg Forster in the late 1780s, Kant weakened the epistemic status of the ‘history of nature’ and gave theoretical preference to ‘description of nature’. As a result, Kant’s successors, such as Goethe, could draw from Kant either a justification for a developmental history of nature, or, as this paper argues, a warrant from the critical philosophy for denying the validity of the developmental history of nature as anything more than a ‘regulative’ idea of reason
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DOI 10.1016/j.shpsc.2006.09.003
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References found in this work BETA

The Buffon-Linnaeus Controversy.Phillip Sloan - 1976 - Isis: A Journal of the History of Science 67:356-375.

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Citations of this work BETA

Kant, Race, and Natural History.Stella Sandford - 2018 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 44 (9):950-977.
The Lenoir Thesis Revisited: Blumenbach and Kant.John H. Zammito - 2012 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 43 (1):120-132.
The Lenoir Thesis Revisited: Blumenbach and Kant.John H. Zammito - 2012 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 43 (1):120-132.
The Essence of Race: Kant and Late Enlightenment Reflections.Phillip R. Sloan - 2014 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 47:191-195.

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