Immanuel Kant (Darstellung von ...) Kants naturtheoretische Begriffe (1747-1780) - Eine Datenbank zu ihren expliziten und impliziten Vernetzungen

The Concepts of Immanuel Kant’s Natural Philosophy – 1747-1780

A database rendering their explicit and implicit networks


Wolfgang Lefèvre and Falk Wunderlich



I. Why Kant’s natural philosophy and why a database?

1. Kant’s natural philosophy

Immanuel Kant’s natural philosophy attracts rather little attention today. If at all subject to scrutiny, what comes into focus is almost never his natural philosophy as a whole but only certain parts. Among philosophers, while Kant’s epistemological and moral writings are still lively discussed, his natural philosophical or scientific writings are all but neglected. Only Kant’s effort to establish the metaphysical foundations of mechanics is now and then addressed by philosophers of science. Among historians of science, his hypothesis about the origin of the solar system or his as-if-teleological concept of organity arouse occasional interest since these pieces of his natural philosophy are taken to be original and presentiments or even beginnings of later scientific achievements. Usually, however, Kant’s scientific work is regarded as uninteresting, i.e., as either amateurish or unoriginal.

However, if one conceives of history of science as something other than a narrative of a success story, focusing on the heroes of the triumphal march of science, a different image of Kant’s scientific work emerges. It then appears as an extremely illuminating mirror image of the sciences of his age. Kant kept always in touch with the sciences. Being obliged, from the mid 1750s on, to lecture about the whole range of scientific subject matters at the university of Königsberg, he had to keep pace with scientific developments and was familiar with contemporary scientific knowledge, at least as it was rendered in textbooks. In some fields, however, he was even able to bring forth his own ideas – ideas, which a historically trained eye has to regard as being on an equal footing with the ideas of the famous scientists of his age. (By the way, Kant represents a typical eighteenth-century scientist even in that he did not keep abreast of the then emerging analytical mechanics driven forward by men like Euler, d'Alembert, and Lagrange.)

The fact that universally educated persons, capable of surveying and competently judging the scientific knowledge of their age, were the norm rather than the exception in the eighteenth century was, of course, due to the comparatively small size of this knowledge. Notwithstanding its small size, however, it was also extraordinarily fragmented. It was characteristic that there existed well-established and widely shared understandings with regard to single subjects of knowledge, but on the other hand, the scientists were not able to agree on overarching theories they could use to integrate this scattered knowledge into a comprehensive whole. As the famous, or notorious, vis viva controversy shows, which d'Alembert did not bring to an end, this holds even for a comparatively highly developed field of knowledge like mechanics. In physics, however, that a controversy could reduce the abundance of open questions to a few clear alternatives was inconceivable. Here, different theories on heat stood disconnectedly side by side with those on electricity and both again with those on magnetism. In chemistry, the earth and life sciences, there was a similar state of affairs. At the same time, different overarching theories were competing in the attempt to integrate these scattered pieces of knowledge – different kinds of atomism, partly conjoined with a reductionist mechanicism, partly with Newtonian forces, different physics of imponderabilia, hylozoistic assumptions with regard to the life sciences, etc. Although in hindsight all of these different theories proved to be little more than untenable speculations, they do not testify to a dark age full of wild speculations lacking methodical sobriety. Rather, they display a contradiction that is characteristic of sciences before the nineteenth century: While their methodically-gained empirical knowledge had successfully undermined speculative global theories in the tradition of Aristotle, the sciences had to resort to daring generalisations since the empirical knowledge acquired up to then did not provide a sufficient basis for overarching theories.

Kant’s natural philosophy mirrors the fractured nature of the scientific knowledge of his age as well as the attempt to integrate this knowledge. His efforts are in no way inferior to those of famous contemporaries and deserve attention. Closer investigations of them promise discoveries of significance for history of science in general as well as for a better understanding of Kant as a scientist.

It is, however, not easy to render Kant’s scientific work as a mirror image of the sciences of his age. First of all, his scientific work is not sufficiently displayed in his published writings. True, the thematic variety of these writings is impressive, even when we confine ourselves here to the pre-critical writings that include a discussion of the vis viva controversy, investigations of the earth’s rotation, a discussion of the ageing of the earth, a hypothesis about the emergence of the solar system, a theory on the states of aggregation, writings on earthquakes, a draft of a dynamical theory of matter, a theory of winds, a treatise on the relativity of motion and rest, a theory on negative magnitudes, a discussion of the differentiation of directions in space (Gegenden im Raume) as well as a treatise on human races. Nevertheless, this stately thematic spectrum appears as a very incomplete and unrelated collection of arbitrarily chosen pieces of his scientific work, compared with the wealth of topics with which Kant dealt in his private papers. In fact, with a few exceptions, it was rather accidental which occasions caused Kant to write and publish treatises just on the issues listed and not on others. Neither do the private papers display his scientific work. They consist mainly of short notes indicating rather than arguing a thought, and being “works in progress,” they cannot be read as traces of a coherent theory. Additionally, there are some extant student notes of his physics lectures. But, apart from the question of their reliability, one has to keep in mind that his lectures dealt with the subject matter not according to any system of Kant’s but according to the textbook on which he based his discussion.

Given this state of affairs, on what basis can we render Kant’s scientific thoughts as a whole, and thus, as a mirror of the sciences in the second half of the eighteenth century? Now, we can resort to the concepts employed in Kant’s published writings as well as his private papers and even those in the lecture notes. His thoughts exhibit themselves in these concepts or, more precisely, in their networks. But they exhibit themselves only mutely as long as they remain unordered, i.e., as long as we are not able to render the networks among these concepts. The aim of this database is exactly to render the networks among the scientific concepts of Kant. Before discussing in more detail how the database accomplishes this task, a few clarifications about our understanding of such networks may be convenient.

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2. Explicit and implicit networks among concepts

We commonly distinguish between explicit and implicit interrelations among the concepts used by a philosopher or scientist. Explicit interrelations are those which are expressis verbis used by an author – interrelations the author fixes by definitions or uses in proofs or less formal ways of reasoning. Interpreters establish such explicit interrelations by reconstructing the author’s trains of thought.

Implicit interrelations among the concepts of an author originally come from the networks of concepts given in the culture to which the author belongs. As is well known, individuals do not acquire such concepts as isolated bits. Though each individual acquires them in a peculiar way, he or she can only become familiar with these concepts along with the collectively established networks in which they are given. Moreover, these simultaneously found and assumed networks are to a considerable degree, if not even predominantly, employed tacitly – partly because the individual mind takes those interrelations to be obvious, partly because it is unconscious of them. Philosophers and scientists are no exceptions in this respect. These implicit networks cannot be properly established by applying the immanent procedures of interpreting documents alone, i.e., not just by analysing upon which tacit presuppositions certain definitions, proofs and derivations rest, or by studying in which range of application an author uses a certain concept, etc. Rather, one has to systematically connect such analyses with an investigation of the use and meaning of the concepts in the cultural context.

The intricate network of interconnected concepts in a given culture does not constitute a consistent whole. It is even possible that certain parts are incompatible with others. One cannot presuppose that a completely consistent thought-world would emerge out of the implicit interconnections among the concepts of an author. This holds even for Kant in spite of his famous “Ich denke, muß alle meine Vorstellungen begleiten können.” But, even though they are not completely consistent, the explicit and the implicit networks among the concepts of a scientist or a philosopher still constitute an unity. The explicit nets are embedded in the implicit ones, and the latter change with every development of the former. Thus, the explicit and implicit networks form a totality that undergoes change and development.

These networks also form, furthermore, a unity for the interpreter. When trying to study the scientific work of Kant, one will not achieve an adequate understanding of the explicit interrelations among his concepts without having – not completely, that is impossible, but extensively – reconstructed the implicit ones. And vice versa.

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3. The form of representation

The subject matter of the work introduced here is thus the totality of the explicit and implicit interrelations among the concepts of Kant’s natural philosophy. For pragmatic reasons, we have confined ourselves to a certain time span, namely to the time prior to the appearance of the Critique of Pure Reason. The natural philosophical concepts in all of Kant’s writings and letters through 1780 were systematically picked up and recorded in the database as well as the concepts in his unpublished papers (with the exception of the Opus postumum) and in the three extant student notes of his physics lectures.

From what was said so far it follows that some specific requirements have to be met when rendering the totality of the explicit and implicit interrelations among the concepts of Kant’s natural philosophy. To name at least three of these requirements:

  • Since the implicit interrelations among these concepts, notwithstanding the peculiar way in which Kant assumed them, are given in and received from his cultural setting, they cannot be rendered merely immanently. Rather, the interrelations as they appear in Kant have to be compared with the interrelations among these concepts within the contemporary sciences. Only against this background can these networks be rendered adequately.
  • The totality of explicit and implicit networks among Kant’s scientific concepts must not be represented as though it were an enveloping theory on which, unwritten, but nevertheless formed in principle, the published writings on different subjects rest. Rather, the task is just to represent these networks without making them appear more consistent than they actually were.
  • The representation is confronted with a particular challenge by the fact that the totality of these networks cannot be reconstructed conclusively. It is characteristic of the puzzling nature of implicit networks that they become comprehensible just as they are transformed into explicit ones, that is, when they cease to be implicit. At the same time, the totality of implicit interrelations reminds one of an infinite set, in that it does not become smaller when some of its elements are transformed into explicit ones. It was therefore the task to find a form for rendering the totality of the explicit and implicit interrelations among Kant’s scientific concepts that contains more interrelations than actually realised by the authors of the database, that is to say, to find a form for rendering these interrelations which also constitutes an instrument suitable for further investigation.

To satisfy these requirements, the authors decided to render the networks among Kant’s scientific concepts in an electronic database rather than a book. The form of a book would not only add to the danger of representing these networks as more consistent than they really were, but is actually unsuitable for the purpose. As a linear text, a book would have to employ a lot of auxiliary tools in order to make the complexity of these networks accessible – countless cross-references, for instance, an arsenal of indexes, a large apparatus of footnotes, an elaborately classified table of contents, etc. What would be striven for with all these rather impractical tools, however, can be conveniently and incomparably effectively accomplished by an electronic database. Paradoxically, the atomistic segregation which the concepts undergo in a database creates the basis needed for a sufficiently complex and, above all, flexible rendering of their interrelations. Moreover, the facilities for searching and sorting an electronic database provide incomparable possibilities of access to these interrelations.

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II. The databases


The work presented here consists of four linked databases:

  • The database "Begriffe” – the core piece of the work,
  • the database "Personen” – containing information on persons mentioned by Kant,
  • the database "Literatur” – documenting chiefly contemporary literary sources,
  • and finally the database "Kant-Texte” – allowing access to and searching in the selected texts of Kant.

In the following we point out the main functions of these databases.

1. The database “Begriffe” and its main functions

This database contains ca. 2200 concepts, each with a record ("concept record"). Besides natural scientific concepts, the database also contains metrological and some mathematical terms of now uncommon usage. Furthermore, since the eighteenth-century distinction between science and philosophy was different from the present, we also included philosophical terms in the database which are closely linked with scientific concepts, especially methodological and ontological terms. Almost all of these philosophical terms have been carefully investigated by historians of philosophy and, thus, did not require extensive glosses.

1.1 Rendering networks among concepts

Though basically a matter of course, we want to stress explicitly that Kant’s terms are taken up exactly as found in his writings (following, however, the spelling of the Akademie edition rather than the originals). In order to secure that the networks rendered are of genuinely Kantian terms rather than of concepts ascribed to him, it is crucial to build up the database on the original terms Kant used. This has two consequences: first, a passive command of German poses a minimal requirement for its use, and this is why we drew up the entire database in German; second, since, not only in Kant’s original writings but also in the Akademie edition, the spelling of words often differs from our present custom, one has to take the old orthography in account when searching (see below part III).

We place special emphasis on the issue of Kant’s original terms because it may be sometimes difficult to distinguish between “original” and interpretation when searching the entries in the different fields of a record. Except for quotations from Kant’s writings, which are displayed in a special field or category (Zitate – see below), only the selected Kantian terms under the categories Begriff, Spezifikation 1 and Spezifikation 2 are guaranteed “original Kant;” all else is interpretative. (In these three categories, the bracketed words are additions by us for facilitating searching.) But a mere selection is also interpretative. And what is more, the list of Kantian terms chosen has not been created mechanically by a computer, but is an arrangement by our hand. This arrangement has been conducted in ways to facilitate the retrieval of terms through different lists, so that these lists render already networks among Kant’s concepts.

1.1.1 Simple and composite terms

To enable retrieval of composite as well as simple concepts, every record contains three fields or categories where a Kantian term may have been placed (the categories Begriff, Spezifikation 1, and Spezifikation 2). To give an example, the concept “Exzentrizität der Jupiterbahn” appears as follows:

Begriff: “Jupiter”

Spezifikation 1: “ Bahn”

Spezifikation 2: “Excentricität”

Thus, as a rule, a composite concept is easily recognizable either if one connects the terms in reverse order by a grammatical element such as a genitive – e.g., Begriff: “Bewegung” > Spezifikation 1: “Bestrebung” > Spezifikation 2: “Grad” reads “Grad der Bestrebung der (zur) Bewegung” – or if one takes the specifying adjectives in reverse order – e.g., Begriff: “Bewegung” > Spezifikation 1: “beschleunigte” > Spezifikation 2: “gleichförmig” reads “gleichförmig beschleunigte Bewegung”. As a result, lists of related concepts are already generated from the given alphabetic sorting of records with the same term in the field Begriff. Using the function “Browse,” see, for instance, the lists of more than 80 composite concepts pertaining to the main term “Bewegung.”

As a matter of principle, each of Kant’s terms may, however, be registered in each of the three fields, i.e., as a concept with or without further specifications and/or as specification of a composite concept. The term “Welle,” for instance, occurs a) as a simple concept, b) as a concept with a specification (“Welle” > “ätherische”) and c) as a specifying term of four different terms (Äther,” “Bewegung,” “Licht,” and “Meer”). The list of all records in which a certain term occurs in one of the three fields exhibits a further series of mutual relations and thus additional networks among concepts. This variety of lists results, however, from our arrangement of terms and depends therefore, as should be born in mind, on our interpretation. Through these lists, the database gives an implicit rendering of relations among concepts. It is also possible, however, to establish explicit relations by means of fields with references to synonymous, antonymous, and/or related concepts.

1.1.2 Synonyms and antonyms

Such explicit references are of particular importance, for instance, with respect to the overly frequent occurrence of synonyms in Kant’s scientific writings. In part this is due to the fact that Kant wrote in German and Latin, so that there are many German and Latin equivalents. A second and probably more important reason is that no standard scientific terminology had yet developed in eighteenth-century German. In order to avoid any undue inflation of the number of records, we distinguished between trivial and non-trivial synonyms placing the former on one and the same record and allotting to the latter different records. (Our distinction between trivial and non-trivial synonyms followed a pragmatic rather than formal criterion: synonyms were regarded non-trivial if doubts about their synonymity were conceivable.)

Along with the trivial synonyms, spelling variants were also placed on one and the same record with the result that some entries became very large. The concept “doppelt umgekehrte Proportion” may serve as an example: Begriff: “Proportion (Analogie, ratio, Verhältnis, Verheltnis, proportio)” > Spezifikation 1: “umgekehrte (verkehrte, reciproca, inversa)” > Spezifikation 2: “doppelt umgekehrte (inversa duplicata).” As already said, non-trivial synonyms were placed on different records and refer to each other under their category Synonyms.

Antonyms which occur rather seldom, were treated like non-trivial synonyms, that is, were placed on different records and refer to each other under their category Antonyms. In some cases, however, it appeared more appropriate to place them on one and the same record. E.g., the antonyms “biegsam” and “starr” were rendered in the following way: Begriff: “biegsam / starr (flexibilis / rigidus).”

1.1.3 Related concepts

On most of the records of the database “Begriffe,” a category Verwandte Begriffe renders additional networks among the concepts. In some cases all combinations of the concept at hand are entered under this category – see, for instance, the record “Moment.”

Furthermore, the records of the database “Begriffe” offers information about the context of the concepts – first about their context within Kant’s writings.

1.2 Context I – The location of concepts in Kant

For locating a concept in Kant’s body of thought, the database provides two facilities.

1. 2.1 Definitions and uses

First, a category Zitate is reserved for a characteristic quotation from Kant. Such a quotation may cover a sentence or sometimes entire paragraphs. It may illuminate the meaning, be a characteristic application, or, in some rare cases, consist of a more or less formal definition of the concept in question. Often, however, this field remains empty because no characteristic citation was found.

1.2.2 Occurrences in Kant’s writings


Second, there is a category Schriften on each record that contains information indicating in which of Kant’s respective writings the concept occurs. Often the use of a concept is limited to a particular period in Kant’s development.

1.3 Context II – The location of concepts in contemporary science

Most of the records include furthermore a field or category for glossary entries (Glossar). The explanations, commentaries, and historical sketches given in the glossary indicate the position occupied by Kant’s concepts within eighteenth-century science. These entries, usually brief and in lexicon style, comprise the core piece of our interpretative work. They outline the meaning of Kantian concepts against the background of the knowledge of his time and prevailing theories and traditions, as well as beliefs and controversies surrounding these concepts. Where possible, Kant’s relation to these traditions and schools of thought is indicated. (References to literature – author name and code – refer to the database “Literatur.”) To avoid repetition or unnecessary fragmentation, often one concept was selected for such an entry, while a reference to this entry was added in the records of other concepts of concern. This, of course, gives rise to a new network.

We checked contemporary lexicons and textbooks to decide whether Kant’s use of terms was standard or non-standard. (As regards textbooks, we focused particularly on those used by Kant for his lectures, that is, on the textbooks of Johann Peter Eberhard, Johann Christian Polykarp Erxleben, and Wenceslaus Johann Gustav Karsten; as to lexicons, we drew particularly on Christian Wolff’s Mathematisches Lexicon and Johann Samuel Traugott Gehler’s Physikalische Wörterbuch.) When standard, usually a reference is made to these sources with no further comment. When non-standard or ambiguous, the variety of meanings is indicated. The glossary field sometimes also contains explanations of uncommon terms, annotates quotations under the category Zitate, or refers to telling quotations cited on different records.

An empty glossary field indicates one of the following possibilities: The term in question was of no contemporary conceptual import and has not been subject to any notable change in meaning from past to present; or the term is composite, and the glossary entry occurs under the more inclusive concept; or the term is a very general one (like “Kraft”), and entries are to be found only among its specified composites; or the term is well known and has been abundantly investigated in the easily accessible philosophical literature.

1.4 Grouping according to fields of knowledge

Each concept record includes a category or field Wissensgebiete in which this concept is attributed to one or more particular areas of knowledge. These areas of knowledge are a product of our classification and are in accordance with neither the structure of eighteenth-century science nor its modern division. This is a pragmatic listing of subject matters to facilitate the tracing of concepts when it is unknown how they were formulated by Kant, e.g., of chemical names employed in the eighteenth century. However, as some concepts were assignable to one area of knowledge only, but others to two or more, this classification also provides at least some provisionary clue as to the range of applicability of these concepts and hence their role in integrating knowledge.

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2 The additional databases

Three additional databases are associated with the main database “Begriffe”: The database “Personen,” the database “Literatur,” and the database “Kant-Texte.”

2.1 The database “Personen”

The database “Personen” scrutinises the historical context of Kant’s scientific work from a different angle. The 280 records of the database cover all persons mentioned by Kant in the writings involved. For less well-known persons, brief biographical information is added. When a person also occurs in a glossary entry of the database “Begriffe,” or her/his works are listed in the database “Literatur,” a reference is given.

2.2 The database “Literatur“

The database “Literatur” comprises ca. 4000 titles and is divided as follows.

  • The first division is a documentation of the writings of Kant involved – the original editions, classic editions and, moreover, all editions of these writings in German, English, French, and Italian that merit special attention because of their introductions, commentaries, etc.
  • The second division documents contemporary scientific works definitely or most probably used by Kant and, moreover, works summarised in journals which were owned by Kant. To the best of our knowledge, these summarised works never before have been identified or bibliographically recorded.
  • The third division documents scientific works which were located in the Königsberger Schloßbibliothek where Kant served as librarian from 1766 to 1772.
  • The fourth and most extensive division documents further contemporary (and also older) scientific works which are of potential interest in the context of Kant’s natural philosophy.

Finally, two further divisions contain a selection of secondary literature.

2.3 The database “Kant-Texte“

The database “Kant-Texte” provides access to the pertinent writings of Kant, i.e., to the volumes 1, 2, and 14 of the Akademie edition and furthermore to selected texts from the volumes 10, 23, and 29. It is known that the Akademie edition of Kant’s works does not meet modern standards of critical editing. But there is no other edition available which is nearly as complete and internationally renowned. The database offers the complete texts, thus allowing exhaustive searches for terms. Therefore no independent index of locations was needed.

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III. Tips for using the databases

1 Functions of the databases

The databases can be browsed or searched as required. The browser function leads to alphabetically sorted lists of records that provide an overview of the materials included. The search function enables the systematic retrieval of keywords. Both of these functions are accessible in each display via tabs at the top of the page.

1.1 The database “Begriffe

1.1.1 Browsing

The browser tab leads to a drop-down menu of the different databases. The “Begriffe” database offers three choices: (1) an alphabetical list of all records of concepts (2) lists of concepts allocated to certain fields of knowledge (3) lists of concepts used by Kant in certain pre-critical writings. The browser function is particularly helpful for those seeking an overview of the topics Kant addressed in his pre-critical writings.

1.1.2 Searching

The search tab leads to a simple search mask for the “Begriffe” database. The advanced search mask can be accessed by pressing the button “Begriffe”. Here, one can search for concepts used by Kant or fields of knowledge, or a combination thereof. The quotations and the glossary can also be searched. When searching for concepts, please bear in mind that the search runs for the categories Begriffe, as well as Spezifikation 1, and Spezifikation 2. The results are displayed in lists that are linked to the database entries.

1.1.3 Displays

Search results are displayed in alphabetically ordered lists. Here, the generic terms (category Begriff), marked in boldface, are followed after the symbol “+” by the specifying terms (categories Spezifkation 1 and Spezifkation 2). Clicking on an item in the list leads you to the main entry of the concept. A search producing more than twenty concepts will be broken down into shorter lists. If generic terms are found with more than one compound term, only the generic term is visible, highlighted in a blue bar. Clicking on the symbol + at the left side leads you to a drop-down list with all pertaining compound terms. Should more than twenty compound terms be found, then these too are broken down into smaller component lists (for example, a search for the concept “Kraft” will yield a total of seven expandable lists with compound terms.

The main entry or display of a concept record contains all the information relevant to this concept. This includes the pertinent field of knowledge, the writings and quotations in which it can be found, and often, synonyms and antonyms as well as related concepts (see explanation). All of these entries are linked to other appropriate entries, indicated by the arrow symbol “+”. The entries under the categories Glossar and Zitate can be found here too. Lengthy glosses and quotations can be displayed in full by clicking on the blue bar marked “+ mehr text”.

1.2 The other databases

The search function of “Kant-Texte” enables a full-text search of all the writings included in this database. The results are displayed in a list of hits, which are preceded by an abbreviation of the title of the corresponding writing, as well as the volume, page number and line of the Akademie edition. Clicking on an element in the list leads to a display of the corresponding page of Kant’s work, on which the sough-after term is highlighted. On this page display, one is able to leaf through the writing or move to any given page. These functions are also available in the browser mode of the database “Kant-Texte”.

Apart from the usual search functions known from library catalogues, the “Literatur” database provides in addition a search function for subdivisions of the bibliography, given in the form of a drop-down list. In the browser mode, the database can be viewed according to the date of appearance, to the author, or to the bibliographical subdivisions.

The search function of the “Personen” database enables a search for the names mentioned in the writings, both in the field or category Name and in the full-text of the corresponding short biographical articles. When browsing this database the lists of names are sorted in alphabetical order or according to dates of birth and death.

2 Tips for searching

2.1 Upper and lower case, umlauts and obsolete spelling

The databases do not differentiate between upper and lower case and generally offer truncation searching. For example, using the “Begriffe” database, a search for “er” will deliver “Erkenntnis” and “aer”. Umlauts and the s-z ligature, however, do matter. For example, different results are produced when searching for “Erkenntniss” and “Erkenntniß”. Please note that texts written by the authors follow the old German spelling rules.

The writings given in the “Kant-Texte” database use modern orthography, although this is now partly obsolete as the writings are taken mostly from the Akademie edition of his works, published in the last century. The most important differences are the use of “th” instead of “t” (“Theil” rather than “Teil”); “c” instead of “z” (“Centrum” rather than “Zentrum”); and “y” instead of “i” (“seyn” rather than “sein”). It should be noted that the Akademie edition is not always consistent what regards obsolete spelling, with “Teil” occurring as well. The spelling of Kant’s unpublished reflections (Akademie edition vol. 14) was not modernized and follows no rules of orthography at all.

2.2 Grammatical forms

The search for a term does not produce all of its grammatical forms. It is thus advisable to enter only the root of a word (“fest” rather than “fester”; “dur” rather than “”durus” or “dura”). This does not help in the case of some irregular verbs or plurals (“Kraft” / ”Kräfte”) and certain compound verbs (“ausströmen” / “strömt aus”). In such cases, one must search for all possible grammatical forms.

2.3 Compound concepts

When searching for compound concepts in Kant’s writings, it is advisable to search for the most specific or characteristic part of the concept (for “unelastischer Körper” search for “unelastisch”; “hydrostatische Zusammensetzung der Körper” search for “hydrostatisch”). Since lines, and not sentences or paragraphs, constitute the units in which the database searches for terms, a compound concept can only be found when all of its parts appear on the same line. This of course is seldom the case. Thus, when searching for compound concepts, it is important and usually more successful to search for adjectives rather than nouns, since these are often substituted by pronouns.

3 Using the browser function


The browser function serves two purposes: it extends access to the database records and gives an overview of their contents. Like many hierarchical file managers, the browser function is constructed like a tree and enables a number of ways of viewing the database content.

The main page of the browser mode displays a tree with four branches representing the four databases. By clicking on the symbols or these branches can be folded or unfolded as required.
Unfolding the branches leads to twigs, or rather to entries leading directly to lists of the pertinent records.

IV. Acknowledgements


Wolfgang Lefèvre began work on this database in 1989 while teaching at the University of Konstanz, and taking advantage of its excellent research facilities. The first to be thanked therefore are the colleagues in the philosophy department of this university, in particular Jürgen Mittelstraß. In its early stages, the work was particularly encouraged and backed by the late Robert E. Butts and by Carlos Ulises Moulines who taught at the Freie Universität Berlin at the time.

Since funding could not be secured from one of German science foundations, for some years the work progressed slowly. The Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin eventually provided the necessary conditions for the continuation and completion of the work, and it was at this point that Falk Wunderlich joined the enterprise. We thank Jürgen Renn, Director of Department 1 of the Institute, for his incessant support.

The database was published in 2000 in form of a FileMaker database, on disc, by the publishing house Walter de Gruyter in Berlin. Thanks go to Klaus G. Saur, Managing Director, for his generous permission to offer free access to this database via the Internet.

Of the many people who deserve to be acknowledged for their valuable support, explicit thanks go to Kathrin Zander and Andreas Müller who shaped the final bibliography; Jutta Miller who saw to the digitalization of the Kant-texts; and Christopher Mielack who developed and designed the web-version of the database.

Berlin, im September 2009         Wolfgang Lefèvre und Falk Wunderlich

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V. Impressum and Copyright


The information required by law about the Internet website of the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften e.V. (= as well as other important legal details can be found here.

© of the FileMaker version of the database 2000: Verlag Walter de Gruyter, Berlin

© of the Web-version of the database 2008: Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin