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Philosophische Zeitschrift der Kant-Gesellschaft

Ed. by Baum, Manfred / Dörflinger, Bernd / Klemme, Heiner F.

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Kant's ‘Copernican Revolution’: Toward Rehabilitation of a Concept and Provision of a Framework for the Interpretation of the Critique of Pure Reason

Murray Miles1


Citation Information: Kant Studien. Volume 97, Issue 1, Pages 1–32, ISSN (Online) 1613-1134, ISSN (Print) 0022-8877, DOI: 10.1515/KANT.2006.001, May 2006

Publication History

Published Online:


1. Introductory

It is a commonplace by now that the expressions ‘Copernican revolution’ and ‘the Copernican hypothesis’ do not actually occur in that portion of the preface to the second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason (hereafter: ‘the Preface’) that contains the only references to Copernicus to be found in the Kantian corpus. Kant speaks rather of “der erste Gedanke des Copernicus” (KrV, B XVI) – literally, “the original idea” or “the initial thought” of Copernicus. Still, the word ‘revolution’ (German: ‘Revolution’, ‘Umwälzung’) occurs no fewer than six times within the Preface (ibid., B XI [twice], XII, XIII, XIV, XVI), though always with reference to other disciplines (mathematics and physics) and the radical innovations that set them on “der sichere Gang einer Wissenschaft” – an expression that Kant uses almost as frequently as ‘revolution’ (cf. ibid., B VII, XIV, XIX, XXIII, XXX). Even if the term ‘revolution’ is not explicitly applied either to Kant's own achievement in philosophy or to that of Copernicus in astronomy, Kant does speak both of “eine gänzliche Revolution” in metaphysics “nach dem Beispiele der Geometer und Naturforscher” (ibid., B XXII) and of putting forward a “Hypothese” that he himself describes as “analogisch” to that of Copernicus (ibid., B XXII, Anm.). So the philological point made with such fanfare by the commentators may be philosophically moot after all.

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