Thomas Sturm

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

2024 marks the 300th birthday of Immanuel Kant, the thinker who revolutionized philosophy, laying new foundations for our understanding of science, morality, and politics. This anniversary will be celebrated around the world with numerous conferences, congresses and other activities. One major contribution from the international Kant community is the collaborative work being done to produce a thoroughly improved edition of his publications under the auspices of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Volume 1 appeared in 2023 and includes Thomas Sturm and Fabian Burt’s edition of Kant’s first masterpiece, the 1755 General Natural History and Theory of the Heavens. The young Kant here provides a novel basis for cosmogony and cosmology, celebrated also by later scientists. He delivers a naturalistic explanation of the formation and structure of the Solar System: an original gas cloud that was first set in motion through physical forces of attraction and repulsion, then flattened into a rotating disk, and finally produced the planets orbiting the Sun (as center of gravity) on an approximately even plane and in the same direction. Kant reapplies this model to other celestial objects, especially the galaxies. He shows that the Universe has a history, one where systems emerge but are also destroyed – overcoming the static conception of the world, and Newton’s assumption that God has to intervene to keep planets in motion. The General Natural History and Theory of the Heavens represents Kant’s most important contribution to science, impacting also on the Critique of Pure Reason (1781/1787) he was yet to write. Sturm and Burt have edited the first print, with critical apparatus and footnotes disclosing Kant’s sources, and a detailed editorial introduction that will put research on a new basis. Alongside, Vol. 1 also contains their edition of a related article on the Earth’s axial rotation, with similar materials.

  • Reference:
    Sturm T, Burt F 2023 (eds.), Immanuel Kant, Allgemeine Naturgeschichte und Theorie des Himmels (1755). In Kant’s Gesammelte Schriften, Academy edition, Berlin: DeGruyter, vol. I, pp. 187-324 (text) and pp. 672-822 (editorial materials).
    – Sturm T, Burt F 2023 (eds.), Immanuel Kant, „Untersuchung der Frage, ob die Erde in ihrer Umdrehung um die Achse, wodurch sie die Abwechselung des Tages und der Nacht hervorbringt, einige Veränderung seit den ersten Zeiten ihres Ursprungs erlitten habe und woraus man sich ihrer versichern könne“ (1754). In Kant’s Gesammelte Schriften, Academy edition, Berlin: DeGruyter, vol. I, pp. 159-166 (text) and pp. 634-661 (editorial materials).