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Natural Science

The purpose of the Cambridge Edition is to offer translations of the

best modern German editions of Kant’s work in a uniform format suit-
able for Kant scholars. When complete the edition will include all of
Kant’s published works and a generous selection of his unpublished writ-
ings, such as the Opus postumum, Handschriftlicher Nachlaß, lectures, and
Though Kant is best known for his strictly philosophical works in
the 1780s, many of his early publications in particular were devoted to
what we would call ‘natural science’. Kant’s Universal Natural History and
Theory of the Heavens (1755) made a significant advance in cosmology, and
he was also instrumental in establishing the newly emerging discipline
of physical geography, lecturing on it for almost his entire career. In
this volume Eric Watkins brings together new English translations of
Kant’s first publication, Thoughts on the True Estimation of Living Forces
(1746–9), the entirety of Physical Geography (1802) and a series of shorter
essays, along with many of Kant’s most important publications in natural
science. The volume is rich in material for the student and the scholar,
with extensive linguistic and explanatory notes, editorial introductions,
and a glossary of key terms.

Eric Watkins is Professor of Philosophy at the University of

California, San Diego. He is author of Kant and the Metaphysics of Causal-
ity (Cambridge, 2005) and editor of Kant and the Sciences (2001), and he
translated and edited Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason: Background Source
Materials (Cambridge, 2009).

General editors: Paul Guyer and Allen W. Wood

Advisory board: Henry Allison
Reinhard Brandt
Ralf Meerbote
Charles D. Parsons
Hoke Robinson
J. B. Schneewind

Theoretical Philosophy, 1755–1770

Critique of Pure Reason
Theoretical Philosophy after 1781
Practical Philosophy
Critique of the Power of Judgment
Religion and Rational Theology
Anthropology, History, and Education
Natural Science
Lectures on Logic
Lectures on Metaphysics
Lectures on Ethics
Opus postumum
Notes and Fragments
Lectures on Anthropology

Natural Science

edited by

University of California, San Diego

translated by



M A R T I N S C H Ö N F E L D , A N D

cambridge university press
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permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2012

Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge

A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library

Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data

Kant, Immanuel, 1724–1804
[Works. Selections. English. 2012]
Natural science / Immanuel Kant ; edited by Eric Watkins ; translated by Lewis White
Beck, Jeffrey B. Edwards, Olaf Reinhardt, Martin Schönfeld, Eric Watkins.
pages cm. – (The Cambridge edition of the works of Immanuel Kant in translation)
Includes bibliographical references and indexes.
isbn 978-0-521-36394-5
1. Science – Philosophy. I. Watkins, Eric, 1964– – editor of compilation. II. Kant,
Immanuel, 1724–1804. Gedanken von der wahren Schätzung der lebendigen Kräfte und
Beurtheilung der Beweise derer sich Herr von Leibnitz und andere Mechaniker in dieser
Streitsache bedienet haben. English. III. Title.
b2758 2012
500 – dc23 2012010633

isbn 978-0-521-36394-5 Hardback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or

accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to
in this publication, and does not guarantee that any content on such
websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

General editors’ preface page vii

Editor’s preface x
General introduction by Eric Watkins xiii

1 Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces and assessment of the

demonstrations that Leibniz and other scholars of mechanics have
made use of in this controversial subject, together with some prefatory
considerations pertaining to the force of bodies in general
(1746–1749) 1
Translated by Jeffrey B. Edwards and Martin Schönfeld

2 Examination of the question whether the rotation of the Earth on its

axis by which it brings about the alternation of day and night has
undergone any change since its origin and how one can be certain of
this, which [question] was set by the Royal Academy of Sciences in
Berlin as the prize question for the current year (1754) 156
Translated by Olaf Reinhardt

3 The question, whether the Earth is ageing, considered from a physical

point of view (1754) 165
Translated by Olaf Reinhardt

4 Universal natural history and theory of the heavens or essay on the

constitution and the mechanical origin of the whole universe
according to Newtonian principles (1755) 182
Translated by Olaf Reinhardt

5 Succinct exposition of some meditations on fire (1755) 309

Translated by Lewis White Beck

6 On the causes of earthquakes on the occasion of the calamity that befell

the western countries of Europe towards the end of last year (1756) 327
Translated by Olaf Reinhardt

7 History and natural description of the most noteworthy occurrences of

the earthquake that struck a large part of the Earth at the end of the
year 1755 (1756) 337
Translated by Olaf Reinhardt


8 Continued observations on the earthquakes that have been

experienced for some time (1756) 365
Translated by Olaf Reinhardt

9 New notes to explain the theory of the winds, in which, at the same
time, he invites attendance at his lectures (1756) 374
Translated by Olaf Reinhardt

10 Plan and announcement of a series of lectures on physical geography

with an appendix containing a brief consideration of the question:
Whether the West winds in our regions are moist because they travel
over a great sea (1757) 386
Translated by Olaf Reinhardt

11 New doctrine of motion and rest and the conclusions associated with it
in the fundamental principles of natural science while at the same
time his lectures for this half-year are announced (1758) 396
Translated by Olaf Reinhardt

12 Review of Silberschlag’s work: Theory of the fireball that appeared on

23 July 1762 (1764) 409
Translated by Eric Watkins

13 Notice of Lambert’s correspondence (1782) 414

Translated by Eric Watkins

14 On the volcanoes on the Moon (1785) 418

Translated by Olaf Reinhardt

15 Something concerning the influence of the Moon on the weather

(1794) 426
Translated by Olaf Reinhardt

16 Physical geography (1802) 434

Translated by Olaf Reinhardt

Appendices 680
Notes 683
Glossary German–English 751
Glossary English–German 762
Index of names 772
Index of places 777
Index of subjects 786

General editors’ preface

Within a few years of the publication of his Critique of Pure Reason in 1781,
Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) was recognized by his contemporaries as
one of the seminal philosophers of modern times – indeed as one of
the great philosophers of all time. This renown soon spread beyond
German-speaking lands, and translations of Kant’s work into English
were published even before 1800. Since then, interpretations of Kant’s
views have come and gone and loyalty to his positions has waxed and
waned, but his importance has not diminished. Generations of scholars
have devoted their efforts to producing reliable translations of Kant into
English as well as into other languages.
There are four main reasons for the present edition of Kant’s writings:
1. Completeness. Although most of the works published in Kant’s lifetime
have been translated before, the most important ones more than once,
only fragments of Kant’s many important unpublished works have
ever been translated. These include the Opus postumum, Kant’s unfin-
ished magnum opus on the transition from philosophy to physics;
transcriptions of his classroom lectures; his correspondence; and his
marginalia and other notes. One aim of this edition is to make a com-
prehensive sampling of these materials available in English for the
first time.
2. Availability. Many English translations of Kant’s works, especially
those that have not individually played a large role in the subse-
quent development of philosophy, have long been inaccessible or out
of print. Many of them, however, are crucial for the understanding
of Kant’s philosophical development, and the absence of some from
English-language bibliographies may be responsible for erroneous
or blinkered traditional interpretations of his doctrines by English-
speaking philosophers.
3. Organization. Another aim of the present edition is to make all Kant’s
published work, both major and minor, available in comprehensive
volumes organized both chronologically and topically, so as to facili-
tate the serious study of his philosophy by English-speaking readers.
4. Consistency of translation. Although many of Kant’s major works have
been translated by the most distinguished scholars of their day, some
of these translations are now dated, and there is considerable termi-
nological disparity among them. Our aim has been to enlist some

General editors’ preface

of the most accomplished Kant scholars and translators to produce

new translations, freeing readers from both the philosophical and lit-
erary preconceptions of previous generations and allowing them to
approach texts, as far as possible, with the same directness as present-
day readers of the German or Latin originals.
In pursuit of these goals, our editors and translators attempt to follow
several fundamental principles:
1. As far as seems advisable, the edition employs a single general glossary,
especially for Kant’s technical terms. Although we have not attempted
to restrict the prerogative of editors and translators in choice of termi-
nology, we have maximized consistency by putting a single editor or
editorial team in charge of each of the main groupings of Kant’s writ-
ings, such as his work in practical philosophy, philosophy of religion,
or natural science, so that there will be a high degree of terminological
consistency, at least in dealing with the same subject matter.
2. Our translators try to avoid sacrificing literalness to readability. We
hope to produce translations that approximate the originals in the
sense that they leave as much of the interpretive work as possible to
the reader.
3. The paragraph, and even more the sentence, is often Kant’s unit
of argument, and one can easily transform what Kant intends as a
continuous argument into a mere series of assertions by breaking
up a sentence so as to make it more readable. Therefore, we try to
preserve Kant’s own divisions of sentences and paragraphs wherever
4. Earlier editions often attempted to improve Kant’s texts on the basis
of controversial conceptions about their proper interpretation. In
our translations, emendation or improvement of the original edition
is kept to the minimum necessary to correct obvious typographical
5. Our editors and translators try to minimize interpretation in other
ways as well, for example by rigorously segregating Kant’s own foot-
notes, the editors’ pure linguistic notes, and their more explanatory or
informational notes; notes in this last category are treated as endnotes
rather than footnotes.
We have not attempted to standardize completely the format of indi-
vidual volumes. Each, however, includes information about the context
in which Kant wrote the translated works, a German–English glossary,
an English–German glossary, an index, and other aids to comprehension.
The general introduction to each volume includes an explanation of spe-
cific principles of translation and, where necessary, principles of selection
of works included in that volume. The pagination of the standard edition

General editors’ preface

of Kant’s works, Kant’s gesammelte Schriften, edited by the Royal Prus-

sian (later German) Academy of Sciences (Berlin: Georg Reimer, later
Walter de Gruyter & Co., 1900–), is indicated throughout by means of
marginal numbers.
Our aim is to produce a comprehensive edition of Kant’s writings,
embodying and displaying the high standards attained by Kant scholar-
ship in the English-speaking world during the second half of the twen-
tieth century, and serving as both an instrument and a stimulus for the
further development of Kant studies by English-speaking readers in the
century to come. Because of our emphasis on literalness of translation
and on information rather than interpretation in editorial practices, we
hope our edition will continue to be usable despite the inevitable evolu-
tion and occasional revolutions in Kant scholarship.

Paul Guyer
Allen W. Wood

Editor’s preface

The present volume in the Cambridge Edition of the Works of

Immanuel Kant in Translation contains sixteen works that Kant pub-
lished in natural science, broadly construed, over a fifty-six-year period
that span his entire career, from his first publication in 1746 to one
of the last works published under his name while he was still alive in
1802. All of the works, except one, Kant’s Latin dissertation on fire,
were translated especially for this volume. They vary considerably in
their character and length, ranging from the brief notice on Lambert’s
correspondence, which was essentially a short advertisement for one of
Lambert’s volumes that had just been published, to the two-volume Phys-
ical Geography, which contains a comprehensive and at times extremely
detailed description of many of the physical features of the Earth, and
its animals, as these were understood in East Prussia in the second half
of the eighteenth century.
Two works in particular, beyond the Physical Geography, deserve spe-
cial mention here. Kant’s Thoughts on the True Estimation of Living Forces,
his first publication, and his Universal Natural History and Theory of the
Heavens, published in 1755, are both major books that tackle central
issues of the day and are meant to be important contributions to natural
science. The former attempts to develop a novel solution to the vis viva
controversy, which raged in Europe for several decades and engaged
many of the leading thinkers, while the latter attempts to articulate a
broadly Newtonian cosmogony in original ways. While neither work
was especially influential during Kant’s own lifetime (for different rea-
sons), both are significant works that form central components of Kant’s
early thought. For this reason alone they both deserve more attention
than they have received so far; for if one is to have any hope of under-
standing Kant’s later philosophical project and contributions, one must
come to terms with the intellectual interests and projects that he pursued
in his earliest years, if only to understand the points on which he changes
his mind and to appreciate his reasons for doing so.
In addition to English translations of Kant’s own works, and in line
with the guidelines of the Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel
Kant, this volume contains editorial material designed to aid the reader
with basic information about the linguistic, historical, and philosophical
features of Kant’s publications. We have not attempted to provide an
exhaustive critical apparatus.

Editor’s preface

The general introduction addresses in outline form the scope and nature
of those of Kant’s publications in natural science that are included in this
volume. It does so by giving a brief characterization of Kant’s concep-
tion first of science in general and then of natural science, emphasizing
how he articulated a conception that is in certain respects somewhat
narrower than what we call natural science today, but without thereby
either discrediting or demoting those systematic cognitions of the world
that he referred to as a doctrine of nature (such as natural description
and natural history).
The introductions to each of the works by Kant in the present volume
detail the circumstances of their publication and briefly introduce the
subject matter and overall argument of each work. If an introduction
does not specify that it was written by the general editor, then it has
been a joint effort of the editor and particular translator.
The linguistic footnotes are lettered alphabetically to distinguish them
from Kant’s own footnotes, which are marked by asterisks. The linguistic
footnotes typically either specify the German original of key words and
phrases or provide English translations of the Latin phrases that Kant
uses in his texts.
The numbered editorial endnotes provide factual information and expla-
nation, especially on the historical figures and authors referred to in the
main body of the text.
The German–English and English–German glossaries help the reader to
track the most important words that occur in the original texts as well as
the words that the translators have used to render them in English.
Finally, there is an index of names, places, and subjects.
All the translations and a significant amount of the editorial mate-
rial found in the present volume are based on the Academy edition of
Kant’s Collected Works: Kants gesammelte Schriften, edited by the Prus-
sian Academy of Sciences (vols. 1–29), primarily volumes 1, 2, and 9.
Throughout this volume, this work is referred to as the Academy edi-
tion. References to the Academy edition make use of the volume number,
followed by a colon, and then the page number (e.g., 2:13 would refer
to Volume 2, page 13, of the Academy edition). The pagination of the
Academy edition is indicated in the margins of the translations contained
in this volume.
Over the course of the years during which this volume took shape,
countless people and institutions contributed in essential ways; with-
out their help, this volume would have been much the worse and, quite
possibly, never come into existence. In light of this, I hope to thank
the most important individuals and institutions for their contributions.
On the institutional side, I thank the University of California, San
Diego, the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, and the
John F. Templeton Foundation for generous financial support of the

Editor’s preface

project (in the guise of research assistance and money for both research
assistance and the preparation of the final manuscript). Given the length
of time it has taken to complete the project, I fear that I can no longer
recall the help of all those individuals who have in fact contributed to the
volume in important ways. First and foremost, however, I am extremely
grateful to the translators of the works contained in the volume for
their invaluable skill and expertise in tackling an incredibly daunting
task. H. B. Nisbet, the first general editor of the volume, also did sig-
nificant and much-appreciated work on the volume before I took over.
I thank Paul Guyer and Allen Wood, the editors of the entire series,
and Hilary Gaskin, philosophy editor at Cambridge University Press,
for their encouragement and sage advice. I am also thankful for the
research help I received from Wolfgang Lefevre, Peter McLaughlin,
Steve Naragon, Werner Stark, Marius Stan, James Messina, Destanie
McCalister, Tim Jankowiak, and Peter Yong. Special acknowledgement
must also be given to David Oldroyd, whose extensive knowledge of the
history of science was indispensable on many occasions. He provided
the bulk of the endnotes for the translation of the Physical Geography and
several other items.

Eric Watkins

General introduction

This volume will come as something of a surprise to someone accustomed

to thinking of Kant as a prime example of an armchair philosopher. For
although it is true that he never travelled far beyond Königsberg and is
famous for having emphasized (synthetic) a priori cognition, that is, (sub-
stantive) cognition of the world that can be obtained independently of
any particular sensory experiences, Kant wrote extensively throughout
his career on a broad range of topics that we today would consider part
of natural science. It is not uncommon to recognize that Kant produced
important publications that bear on natural science in some way, publica-
tions that find a home in other volumes in the Cambridge Edition of the
Works of Immanuel Kant. For example, Kant’s relatively brief Physical
Monadology (1756) appears as part of Theoretical Philosophy, 1755–1770.
The more substantial Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science (1786),
which attempts to show how the abstract principles argued for in the
Critique of Pure Reason can be realized in more specific principles by
having an empirical concept of matter applied to them, can be found in
Theoretical Philosophy after 1781. And the remarks Kant composed late in
his career (in the 1790s and beyond) on the transition from the principles
established in the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science to empirical
natural science are available in the Opus postumum. However, even an
awareness of these important works still falls short of an acknowledge-
ment of the breadth and depth of Kant’s interests in natural science. For
one, Kant writes on an even wider range of specific topics in the domain
of natural science, such as the causes of earthquakes, the nature of fire, the
rotation and ageing of the Earth, theories concerning moisture in winds,
and the appearance and nature of comets and other meteorological phe-
nomena. For another, he is not content to provide brief interventions on
narrowly defined scientific questions, but also undertakes foundational
and comprehensive projects in natural science, such as determining the
conservation of force in nature, formulating the proper laws of motion,
developing a full-scale Newtonian cosmogony, and offering an expan-
sive physical geography. The comprehensiveness and depth of Kant’s
publications on these disparate topics make it necessary to dedicate a
separate volume to his works in natural science and also to reconsider
our assessment of the character of Kant’s intellectual contributions so
as to include not only philosophy, regardless of how broadly construed,
but also natural science.

General introduction

To evaluate Kant’s contributions to natural science properly, how-

ever, it is useful to be aware of his conception of science in general and
of natural science in particular, especially since he does not distinguish,
in the way we usually do today, between philosophy and natural science.
The single most distinctive criterion of demarcation for science, accord-
ing to Kant, is systematicity (A832/B860). That is, for a set of cognitions
to qualify as scientific they must form a system or be systematically con-
nected, as opposed to forming a mere aggregate. For cognitions to be
systematically connected, they must be related as grounds and conse-
quents (such that the one can be derived from the other) according to
some single unifying idea or principle. The idea, or principle, helps to
determine the (logical or rational) ordering of propositions such that a
plurality of cognitions forms a single system, unified by rational relations.
In fact, Kant goes further by suggesting that reason should search not
simply for systematic connections between cognitions within a science,
but also for this kind of connection between the sciences, in the hope
of creating a single science that would encompass all human cognition.
Kant proposes that metaphysics (or transcendental philosophy) should
play an important role here insofar as it is itself a science, consisting of
a metaphysics of nature and of morals, with the former consisting, in
turn, of physics (the science of corporeal nature, or of objects of outer
sense) and psychology (the science of thinking nature, or of objects of
inner sense), with additional divisions into other more specific sciences
beyond that. In this way, Kant ends up being an advocate of the unity
of science, even though he also argues explicitly and at length in the
Critique of Pure Reason that this ideal is necessarily unattainable for us
because of our cognitive limitations.
In some passages (e.g., at 4:468) Kant also states that cognition must
be known with apodictic certainty to qualify as science. Yet care must be
taken not to attribute to Kant an overly restrictive account of science
such that only logic, mathematics, and perhaps a pure part of physics
would qualify as science. For what Kant means by “apodictic certainty”
is not the existence of a Cartesian standard of indubitability (or absolute
epistemic incorrigibility), but that the cognition is universal (valid for
all) and objective (one’s assent being based on the presence and qual-
ity of appropriate intuitions or evidence rather than on, say, pragmatic
grounds). In other instances, Kant explains apodictic certainty in terms
of an awareness of a certain kind of necessity (4:468). For if cognitions
are related systematically – that is as ground and consequent – then it
is clear that an element of necessity is present insofar as a consequent
follows necessarily from its ground and an awareness of the necessary
element is required in drawing an inference from the one to the other.
Further, like some of his immediate predecessors (such as Christian
Wolff), Kant distinguishes both between rational and empirical sciences

General introduction

and between the rational (and ‘pure’) versus the empirical (‘impure’)
parts of a science. An example of the former distinction would be the
distinction between logic and anthropology (which is, for Kant, closely
related to empirical psychology). An example of the latter can be found
in the Preface to the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science (4:469),
where he distinguishes between the pure and the empirical part of natu-
ral science – he seems to have had physics in mind – before claiming that
the empirical part depends on the pure part and thus on a metaphysics
of nature. Obviously, despite its dependence on a priori principles, the
empirical part would involve principles that are not known with the same
kind and degree of epistemic certainty as the purely rational principles
they depend on; but they would still nonetheless count as part of science
(A846/B874). So, despite some of the very strict-sounding assertions
that Kant makes about science, if understood properly, they can accom-
modate a much broader range of sciences than one might at first have
thought possible.
Also relevant to Kant’s conception of science is the way in which he
demarcates one science from another. Early on in the Prolegomena, he
suggests that two sciences can be distinguished due to a difference “of
the object, or the source of the cognition, or even of the type of cognition,
or several if not all of these things together” (4:265). Accordingly, the
difference between, for example, arithmetic and geometry can be char-
acterized in terms of a difference in the object of each science (numbers
versus shapes); the difference between, say, mathematics and physics
could be accounted for by different sources of cognition (a priori versus
empirical intuition); while logic and mathematics can be distinguished
by the different types of cognition that are involved in each (analytic ver-
sus synthetic). Again, even with the core requirements of systematicity
and apodictic certainty, Kant’s description of the various ways of distin-
guishing one science from another makes it possible for him to account
for a surprisingly wide range of different sciences.
In light of this sketch of Kant’s conception of what science is and
of how one science can be distinguished from another, we can now
turn to his understanding of natural science in particular. In one sense,
Kant’s conception of natural science is straightforward. Natural science
is simply the science of nature: that is, the set of systematically con-
nected, apodictically certain cognitions that has nature as its object. But
what is nature? In both the Critique of Pure Reason and the Metaphysical
Foundations of Natural Science, Kant distinguishes between material and
formal senses of nature. Nature, understood materially, refers to “the
sum total of appearances insofar as these are in thoroughgoing connec-
tion through an inner principle of causality” (A418/B446). That is, it
refers to nature as a whole (as a set of existing objects). Nature, under-
stood formally, by contrast, refers to “the connection of determinations

General introduction

of a thing in accordance with an inner principle of causality” (A419/

B446) – that is, to the specific nature that this or that particular thing
might have, such as water, air, chemical elements, different kinds of ani-
mals, etc. Nature in this second sense is clearly similar to an Aristotelian
conception of a nature as that which has a principle of causality within
itself and allows for qualitative distinctions. Kant clearly has the formal
sense of nature in mind in his discussions of the different natural sci-
ences. As Kant makes clear in the opening sentence of the Metaphysical
Foundations of Natural Science: “If the word nature is taken simply in its
formal meaning, where it means the first inner principle of all that belongs
to the existence of a thing, then there can be as many different natural
sciences as there are specifically different things, each of which must con-
tain its own peculiar inner principle of determinations belonging to its
existence” (4:467).1
As a result, Kant is able to accommodate a wide range of cognitions
under the umbrella of natural science. For example, arithmetic is the
science of numbers; geometry is the science of shapes; anthropology
is the science of one particular kind of animal, namely, man; logic is
the science of the formal laws of rational thought in man; theology is
the science of God (or of the highest ground of all nature); ontology
is the science of the properties of all things in general, etc. Cosmol-
ogy is the science of the world as such – that is, anything that is a
whole of mutually interacting material substances (28:195–6, 28:657,
28:849). Physics is the science of bodies, more specifically, of matter
whose inner principle is to be “the movable in space” (4:480) and where
the nature of the body is unchanged through its interactions.2 Inter-
estingly, chemistry is also the science of bodies or matter, but, unlike
physics, it concerns changes that occur in the inner constitution of the
bodies (e.g., in the specific natures of the different bodies) due to their
interaction with other bodies. And within physics, there are hard bodies,
soft bodies, elastic bodies, inelastic bodies, etc. The distinctions between
the different kinds of natures that are under investigation in the differ-
ent natural sciences (and sub-branches thereof) can thus be subtle and
It is against the context of this conception of natural science that we
must interpret further remarks that Kant makes in the Preface to the
Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science about what does and, more
significantly, what does not count as science proper. Specifically, Kant
asserts: “in any special doctrine of nature there can be only as much proper
science as there is mathematics therein” (4:470). After clarifying how
mathematical principles require metaphysical principles (in line with his
view that metaphysics is required for natural science), he then infers that
both chemistry and psychology cannot be sciences, given the require-
ment that science must contain mathematics (4:471).4 Indeed, judged by

General introduction

such a strict criterion, it is clear that very little would count as a science
and Kant acknowledges at one point that only the pure part of physics
would qualify.
How should such remarks be understood? It is difficult to take them at
face value or literally. After the developments of Lavoisier, Kant comes
to recognize chemistry as a science.5 He also does not repeat, or explain
further, the meaning of these very restrictive claims in any consistent
way, either earlier or later in his corpus. Finally, he repeatedly refers
to several other disciplines, such as logic and philosophy (which both
clearly do not contain mathematics in any straightforward sense), as
sciences. One can pursue a number of interpretive options here. One
could: (1) draw attention to the distinction implicitly in play here between
science and science ‘proper’ (however that distinction is ultimately to
be understood); (2) note that these remarks, made in 1786, post-date a
significant amount of Kant’s work in natural science, where he seems to
refer indiscriminately to both natural science and research or enquiry
into nature (“Naturforschung”); or (3) one could simply downplay his
claim here not as fully representative of his view but just a temporary
aberration (perhaps an exaggeration that slipped out in the heat of the
moment while trying to emphasize the importance of physics for the
principles established in the Critique of Pure Reason). As a result, whatever
interpretive option one adopts, it is clear that Kant’s considered view is
not as narrow as these statements might make it seem.
There is, however, an important distinction that Kant does explic-
itly and consistently draw concerning our cognition of nature. Near the
beginning of the Preface to the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Sci-
ence, Kant distinguishes between the historical doctrine of nature and
natural science, with the doctrine of nature (“Naturlehre”) serving as the
genus for these two species of cognition. That is, any cognition of nature
that does not satisfy the requirements for natural science (whether proper
or otherwise) is still a cognition; and if it contains systematically ordered
facts about natural things then it deserves the name of a historical doc-
trine of nature. In fact, Kant further divides such a historical doctrine of
nature into natural description and natural history. Natural description
is a system of classification for natural things in accordance with their
similarities. One might, for example, think of Linnaeus’s elaborate tax-
onomies of the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms as paradigmatic
cases of natural description, since frogs, bears, beetles, and trees are all
classified according to their shared traits (even if Linnaeus’s criteria for
classification were artificial and did not yield ‘natural kinds’). Natural
history, by contrast, is a systematic presentation of natural things at var-
ious times and places. Physical geography is a clear example of natural
history, since it describes the Earth’s most important features at different
times and places.

General introduction

Taking this important distinction between the different kinds of doc-

trine of nature into account puts us in a position to recognize two points,
one relatively superficial and the other more fundamental. First, even if
Kant’s conception of natural science is not as narrow as is sometimes
thought, it is restrictive enough to exclude much of what we today think
of as natural science. As a result, many of the writings contained in this
volume do not, technically, count as natural science for Kant. Second,
and more importantly, Kant nonetheless recognizes the importance of
these other kinds of cognition of nature. For not only does he provide
a theoretical structure and nomenclature for them, he also attempts to
make extensive contributions to the doctrine of nature. Some of these
contributions are relatively minor, such as his writings in this volume
on earthquakes, winds, fire, and comets. However, others are incredibly
(perhaps even overly) ambitious – in particular two of the major publica-
tions contained in this volume. The Universal Natural History and Theory
of the Heavens and the Physical Geography (and especially the former) are
really substantial contributions to natural history.
Moreover, if we step back even further from the details of the exact
status of Kant’s writings in the present volume, we can also see that
Kant’s dedication through the course of his career to what we call natural
science provides a somewhat different picture of the character and sig-
nificance of his intellectual contributions from what appears in philoso-
phers’ accounts or analyses of his work. Without in any way calling into
question the profundity of the strictly philosophical reflection that must
have been required for his ‘purely’ philosophical achievements in the
three great Critiques – whether it be the adoption of a transcendental
standpoint, the argument of the Transcendental Deduction of the Pure
Concepts of the Understanding, or even the development of transcen-
dental idealism – we can simply add that this reflection was preceded and
accompanied by considerable devotion, whether measured in terms of
time, effort, or activity, to understanding the actual world we live in, both
in its details and in its basic structure. Whatever Kant’s own statements
about philosophical method might be, his serious engagement with a
broad range of natural sciences, or rather doctrines of nature, proved to
be a particularly important element in the overall body of his work and
in his philosophical accomplishments.

Thoughts on the true estimation of
living forces and assessment of the
demonstrations that Leibniz and other
scholars of mechanics have made use of in
this controversial subject, together with
some prefatory considerations pertaining to
the force of bodies in general

In 1686, in a short article published in the Acta Eruditorum and
titled “A Brief Demonstration of Memorable Errors of Descartes and
Others Concerning a Natural Law,” Leibniz claimed to demonstrate
that one of Descartes’s fundamental laws of motion was false.1 Specif-
ically, Descartes held that, due to God’s immutability, the ‘quantity of
motion’ in the world must be conserved, where the quantity of motion
was to be represented as the product of the size and the speed of matter in
motion. Translated into contemporary terms and modified somewhat,
this quantity is called ‘momentum’ and is represented by mv.2 Moreover,
Descartes’s law of the conservation of the quantity of motion formed
an integral part of his broader philosophical position, not only because
it followed immediately, on his view, from the necessity of God’s
immutable nature, but also because it had to be consistent with
Descartes’s distinctive and rather restrictive account of the nature of mat-
ter, namely as consisting solely in extension, including its modes, such
as size, shape, place, and changes therein such as motion. For whatever
quantity God conserves in the world must be a quantity that matter actu-
ally has, and since size and velocity are modes of extension, Descartes’s
account of matter goes hand in hand with his conservation law. As a con-
sequence, however, if Leibniz’s objection to Descartes’s conservation law
is correct, then it does not concern an inessential detail of Descartes’s
position, but rather goes to the heart of his natural philosophy and entails
that significant features of that account must be rejected.

Natural Science

Leibniz’s explicit argument, which is presented in his Discourse on

Metaphysics (§17), proceeds by way of a consideration of the following
three principles. (1) A body that falls from a certain height acquires,
through its fall, the same force that is necessary to elevate it to that
same height (excluding external interference, such as friction with the
air, etc.). This principle is sometimes viewed as a more specific instance
of the metaphysical-sounding law that the whole effect must be equal
to the total cause. (2) The same quantity of motion, which Descartes
also referred to as motive force, is required to raise a body with one
unit of mass to a height of four units of length (call this case A) as is
required to raise a body with four units of mass to a height of one unit
of length (call this case B). This principle follows from Descartes’s law
of the conservation of the quantity of motion, since it entails that the
quantity of motion of the bodies in cases A and B are equal; for 1 times
4 (ma va ) is the same as 4 times 1 (mb vb ). This principle may seem to be
intuitive, since it would not appear to make any difference to the force
involved whether one raises one body one unit of length four times
in succession or rather raise four such bodies one unit of length each.
(3) Galileo proved experimentally that the velocity a body acquires in
free fall is proportional to the square of the distance fallen. The problem,
Leibniz argues, is that these principles are inconsistent. While the first
and second principles entail that the quantities of motion in cases A and B
are equal, the first and third principles entail that the quantity of motion
in case B would have to be greater than the quantity of motion in case A.
Specifically, according to Galileo’s law, the velocity acquired if the ball
is released in case A is twice the velocity acquired by the ball if released
in case B, but since the body’s mass in case B is four times greater than
the body’s mass in case A, the quantity of motion in case B will be twice
as great as that in case A. According to Leibniz’s argument, therefore,
the quantity of motion is not conserved in cases of bodies in free fall and
Descartes’s conservation law is false.3
While Leibniz thus concluded that the ‘quantity of motion’ (mv) is
not conserved in such cases, he did not for that reason conclude that
no quantity at all is conserved in the world. Instead, he suggested that
something he called ‘motive force’ is conserved, though this quantity
is represented as the product of the mass and the square of the veloc-
ity (i.e., mv2 ) and was also referred to as living force. In contemporary
terms, this quantity is partially captured by our concept of kinetic energy
(=1/2 mv2 ). Moreover, throughout the 1680s and ’90s, Leibniz devel-
oped a novel and comprehensive natural philosophy that was designed,
at least in part, to support this conservation law. Thus, in “A New System
of the Nature and Communication of Substances, and of the Union of
the Soul and Body,” published in 1695, he articulated the fundamental
features of the nature of substance as an active force that could serve

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

not only as a metaphysical principle of unity (in contrast to Descartes’s

infinitely divisible extension), but also as the seat of such a living force,
whereas in the first part of his “Specimen Dynamicum,” likewise pub-
lished in 1695, he advanced a dynamical account of bodies, positing
primitive and derivative active and passive forces as part of his analysis,
thereby allowing him to arrive at what he called “a true estimation of
The controversy that ensued, the so-called vis viva debate, was consid-
erable, unsurprisingly so, given that two comprehensive natural philoso-
phies were at stake. Many of the most important figures working in nat-
ural philosophy and mathematics at the time weighed in on the issue,
with the sides lining up, roughly, according to nationality; the French
usually agreed with Descartes, whereas the Germans, Dutch, and Swiss
mostly followed Leibniz. The English Newtonians either remained neu-
tral on the issue (e.g., by rejecting the idea that any quantity must be
conserved) or sided with the Cartesians. (It may be recalled that Leibniz
and Newton did not enjoy particularly friendly relations after their pub-
lic controversies, e.g., about the discovery of the calculus.) Moreover, in
spite of the apparent simplicity of the cases that were invoked on each
side, no explicit consensus emerged for several decades about how best
to resolve the dispute. In fact, while many scholars have claimed that
d’Alembert articulated the definitive solution in his Traité de Dynamique
in 1743 (according to which the problem arises due to an ambiguity in
the way in which terms, such as ‘motive force,’ are used), others have
claimed more recently that the dispute did not rest on a simple confusion
or ambiguity that could be clarified in short order and that the dispute
ended not so much with a clear resolution as with an eventual lack of
Viewed against this broader philosophical background, the central
point of Kant’s Thoughts on the True Estimation of Living Forces can
be summarized as a sustained attempt at resolving this debate. How-
ever, the situation is hardly this simple and straightforward, even if one
abstracts from the difficulty involved in finding a coherent and satisfying
resolution of the conflicting principles and arguments. For the circum-
stances surrounding the writing and publication of this work were rather
complicated. Kant started working on the True Estimation as a twenty-
one-year-old student around 1744 and completed most of it in 1746, at
which time he submitted it to the university censor in Königsberg, who
approved it for publication. However, publication, financed in part by
Kant and in part by a close relative, was delayed for three years, until
1749, which allowed Kant to insert further material (a dedication as well
as further argument and commentary in §§ 107–113 and §§ 151–156) in
1747. In 1746, however, Kant’s father died after a lengthy illness, leaving
him, as the eldest son, with the task of dealing with the family’s estate

Natural Science

and the care of his siblings, as well as an even less favorable financial
situation than he had faced previously. In these circumstances, Kant left
the university in August of 1748, without obtaining a degree, to become
a private tutor to a series of families in the vicinity of Königsberg. That
Kant did not receive a degree was due, at least in part, to the fact that he
had not written a suitable master’s thesis; the True Estimation was written
in German, not in Latin, as would have been required at the time.
These complications suggest several questions about the True Estima-
tion. For one: Why did Kant write and then publish the True Estimation
at all, especially when it came at considerable personal expense and at a
time when he found himself in an unfavorable financial situation? What
did he hope to achieve with an abstract academic treatise on a topic in
natural philosophy that did not contribute to advancing his career at
the university? It was clearly an expression of intellectual independence
and grand ambitions. It might also be interpreted as an act of rebellion
against his teachers who may have failed to appreciate his talents.6 It is
significant that Martin Knutzen, one of Kant’s teachers, recommended
other students over Kant, and that Kant may well have been criticizing
Knutzen’s position in the first part of the book (though he is not explicitly
mentioned by name).
For another: Who was Kant’s intended audience for the book? The
fact that it was written in German (rather than Latin or French) would
have excluded the widest possible European audience. Yet his remarks
in the preface suggest that he hoped for a broad readership. Kant’s own
actions provide an oblique indication of his intentions. After the book
was published, he sent a copy to a former fellow student, Ferdinand
Mühlmann, requesting that it be reviewed, and another copy to Leon-
hard Euler, the famous mathematician at the Royal Academy of Sciences
in Berlin at the time. If Euler had thought well of the work, he could
have improved Kant’s prospects considerably. Whatever Kant’s intended
purpose and audience, however, the book received a favorable review
by Mühlmann in the Frankfurtische Gelehrte Zeitung in 1749, a satirical
review by Lessing in the Neuestes aus dem Reich des Witzes in 1751, and
an anonymous critical review in the Nova Acta Eruditorum in 1752.
What is Kant’s main argument in the book? The True Estimation is
divided into a preface and three chapters. In the preface, Kant makes
the case that his thoughts should be taken seriously, despite the fact that
he was not a well-known author and he was addressing a highly con-
tentious issue. Specifically, he expressed his intention of contradicting
and criticizing a number of the leading intellectuals of the day (I–II),
claimed that prejudice, though an ineradicable element of the human
condition, will not deter him from subjecting his thoughts to the impar-
tial judgment of others (III–VII), and addressed the concern that he
might appear to be overly confident or, for that matter, impolite in the

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

statement of his views (VIII–X). He ended with a brief assessment of

the current state of the controversy regarding the proper measure of
force (XI–XIII), where he concluded, with a somewhat misguided pre-
science, that the controversy “will be settled shortly, or it will never
cease” (1:16).
In Chapter One, “Of the force of bodies in general,” Kant considers
the proper notion of force in general and distinguishes two different
kinds of motions that are fundamental, in his view, to resolving the vis
viva debate. He begins by arguing that the force that is essential to bodies
should be characterized, with Aristotle and Leibniz, as an active, and not,
with Wolff, as a moving force, even though one can explain how an active
force is responsible for motion (§§ 1–4). In addition to the fact that one
can avoid the circularity of invoking moving force to explain motion, Kant
thinks that it allows one to solve the mind–body problem (§§ 5–7), to
explain the relations between substances and the world they constitute
through their causal connections (§§ 8–11), and to clarify two objections
that have been raised against a certain understanding of how forces act
on each other (§§ 12–14). Along the way, Kant offers suggestions about
how causality is prior to spatiality (§ 9) and how the three-dimensionality
of space derives from the inverse proportionality of the square of the
distances (§ 10). He concludes the first chapter by distinguishing between
a ‘free’ motion, which can conserve itself in the body to which it has
been communicated and which can therefore continue to infinity if no
impediment opposes it, and those motions that require constant external
stimulation and thus which disappear immediately if their external forces
cease to sustain them (§§ 16–19). He has projectiles in mind as examples
of the former, and what was recognized as ‘dead force’ as an instance
of the latter. This distinction turns out to be crucial, because it will
allow him to advance his “main purpose of improving on the Leibnizian
measure of force” (1:28). Specifically, he wants to argue that both kinds
of motion are real, with the former requiring living force, represented by
the Leibnizian concept of ‘living force’, mv2 (our ‘energy’), and the latter,
by contrast, needing dead force, which is represented by the Cartesian
measure, mv (our ‘momentum’).
Chapter Two, “Examination of the theorems of the Leibnizian party
concerning living forces,” by far the longest chapter, is an extensive
and detailed critique of Leibniz’s position and of the various arguments
he and his followers had advanced in its favor. Kant’s main reason for
accepting the Cartesian measure over the Leibnizian one – with impor-
tant qualifications to which Kant returns in Chapter Three – is that
the Cartesian conception of force is measurable in bodily motions over
time and in space, whereas Leibnizian force pertains only to an incipient
stage prior to motion that for that reason cannot be measured experi-
mentally (§§ 20–28). The bulk of the chapter is devoted to an analysis

Natural Science

of the range of relevant mechanical cases. In §§ 30–36, Kant argues

that Leibniz cannot use the case of free fall to support his position,
since he fails to take into account Descartes’s condition that the time
during which the fall occurs is relevant to a proper analysis, and both
Herrmann’s and Lichtscheid’s responses on Leibniz’s behalf are shown
to be inadequate. In §§ 37–57 Kant argues for three separate claims:
(1) the various accounts of the collisions of elastic bodies that are equal
in their mass and velocity offered by Herrmann, Bernoulli, and Chastelet
are unsatisfactory, since rather than supporting the conservation of ‘liv-
ing forces,’ such cases actually prove the Cartesian estimation; (2) his
objections are not to ‘living force’ per se, but rather to the more limited
point that ‘living forces’ could be measured mathematically; (3) he shows
that the complications arising in cases of unequal bodies make no relevant
difference to the case in favor of ‘living forces.’ In §§ 58–70, Kant then
reacts critically to Leibniz’s account of cases of inelastic collisions. In
§§ 71–113 Kant proceeds to analyze a range of more complicated cases:
compound motions (§§ 71–78), oblique and circular motions (§§ 79–
85), as well as further cases discussed by Leibniz (§§ 92–102), Wolff
(§§ 103–106), Musschenbroek (§§ 107–108), and Jurin, Chastelet, and
Richter (§§ 109–113). The second chapter concludes with miscellaneous
remarks about previously discussed issues.
In Chapter Three, “Presenting a new estimation of living forces, as
the true measure of force in nature,” Kant presents his own resolution
of the conflict between the Cartesian and the Leibnizian measures of
force. Central to his account is the distinction between free and unfree
motions he had introduced in Chapter One, and a corresponding dis-
tinction between natural and mathematical bodies, for this allows him to
assert that even though the Cartesian estimation of force is mathemati-
cally correct for certain kinds of bodies in motion, the Leibnizian esti-
mation is also correct, albeit not mathematically, for certain other kinds
of bodies in motion. In §§ 114–137 Kant lays out the basic elements of
his account, including an explanation of how vivification occurs through
the infinitely many steps from dead to living force (§§ 122–123), a state-
ment of his own new law, without conditions (§124), a clarification of the
contingent status of living forces (§129), and the discovery of “a com-
pletely unknown dynamical law” which, he alleges, is even confirmed
by experience (§§ 132–133). In §§ 138–150 Kant then clarifies how his
account applies to a range of cases, many of which he had analyzed to a
different end in Chapter Two: how living force relates to external resis-
tance (§ 138), gravity (§§ 139–140), soft bodies (§ 141), varying masses
(§§ 142–145), fluids (§§ 146–147), and elastic bodies (§§ 148–149). In
§§ 151–156, one of the later additions, Kant inserts a critical discussion
of Musschenbroek’s ‘mechanical’ proof of living forces. In §§ 157–163,
Kant concludes this chapter, and thus his first published work, with a

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

‘proof ’ of his theory and a discussion of objections that he anticipates

being leveled against his position in light of remarks made by various
Kant’s Thoughts on the True Estimation of Living Forces cannot be
viewed as having achieved what he had hoped for it. It did not solve
the vis viva debate, and many of his most distinctive claims have been
rejected.7 However, the work does provide a substantive view of Kant’s
earliest philosophical thought, which is interesting in its own right as well
as extremely useful for understanding Kant’s later, more revolutionary
Critical period.

This translation, which is the first one to be published in English, is

based on a reprint of the original published edition, though the version
printed in the Academy edition has been consulted and several emen-
dations suggested therein have been indicated in footnotes. For ease of
use, references to the Academy edition are placed in the margins to the
text. Factual notes are indebted in numerous places to Kurd Lasswitz’s
“Sachliche Erläuterung” [Factual Explanations] in the Academy edition.8

Arana Cañedo-Agüelles, Juan. Pensamientos sobre la verdadera estimación de las
fuerzas vivas. Traducción y Comentario (Bern: Peter Lang, 1988).
Polonoff, Irving. Force, Cosmos, Monad and other Themes of Kant’s Early Thougt
[sic] (Bonn: Bouvier, 1973).
Schönfeld, Martin. The Philosophy of the Young Kant. The Pre-Critical Project (New
York: Oxford University Press, 2000).
Smith, George. “The Vis Viva Dispute: A Controversy at the Dawn of Dynam-
ics,” Physics Today 59 (2006): 31–36.


[Dedication] 12
Preface 14
chapter one Of the force of bodies in general 22
chapter two Examination of the theorems of the Leibnizian
party concerning living forces 34
chapter three Presenting a new estimation of living forces,
as the true measure of force in nature 121

Thoughts on the True Estimation of 1:1
Living Forces and Assessment of the
Demonstrations that Leibniz and Other
Scholars of Mechanics a Have Made Use of
in this Controversial Subject, Together
with Some Prefatory Considerations
Pertaining to the Force of Bodies in

by Immanuel Kant.

Printed by Martin Eberhard Dorn.

a Mechaniker
1:3 To that most noble, learned and experienced Gentleman,
Mr. Johann Christoph Bohlius,10
Doctor of Medicine, Second Professor Ordinarius
at the Königsberg Academy,
And Royal Physician,

my most Revered Patron.

Most Noble Sir, 1:5
most learned and experienced Doctor,
and most estimable Patron!

To whom can I better turn than to you, most noble Sir, in order to draw
every advantage from so paltry a matter as the present work? After the
special sign of benevolence that you have shown me, I dare to hope that
this liberty will be received as evidence of my gratitude. The character of
this little work has in itself nothing on which I could base any confidence
with regard to it; for the honor of embellishing one’s treatise with your
name is not something that one could present to you as a gift, most
noble Sir.11 A throng of imperfect thoughts which in themselves are
perhaps incorrect or which, indeed, lose all value through the humble
status of their author, thoughts which in the end sufficiently persuade me
that they are not worthy of being dedicated to you, that is all I have in my
power to present to you. Despite this, I give myself hope, by means of
the perfect conception I have formed of your goodness, that you will do
me the service I esteem most of all, namely, allow me to demonstrate my
appreciation to you, most noble sir. I shall in the future have more than
one occasion to remind myself of the obligation that binds me to you, 1:6
but the present occasion will be one of the best for me to acknowledge
publicly that I remain,
Most noble Sir,
most learned and experienced Doctor,
and most estimable Patron,
With everlasting respect,
Your most obliged servant,
Immanuel Kant
22 April 1747.


Nihil magis praestandum est, quam ne pecorum ritu sequamur

antecedentium gregem, pergentes, non qua eundum est, sed qua
(Seneca, De vita beata, chapter I)

I believe I have cause to hold such a good opinion of the world’s judg-
ment, to which I submit these pages, that the liberty I take of contradict-
ing great men will not be construed as a crime. There was a time when
one had much to fear in such a venture, but I fancy that this time is now
past and that human understanding has already happily freed itself from
the shackles that ignorance and admiration had formerly placed on it.
Henceforth, one can boldly dare to think nothing of the reputation of a
Newton and a Leibniz, if it should oppose the discovery of truth, and
to obey no persuasions other than the forcec of the understanding.12

If I presume to reject the thought of a Herr von Leibniz, Wolff,
Herrmann, Bernoulli, Bülfinger and others and to give precedence
to my own, then I would not wish to have worse judges than they, for
I know that their judgment, should it reject my opinions, would not
condemn my intent. One can give these men no more splendid praise
than fearlessly to criticize before them all opinions, not excluding their
1:8 own. Though regarding a different matter, restraint of this type brought
much credit to a great man of antiquity. Timoleon, despite the services
he had performed for the freedom of Syracuse, was once summoned
to appear in court. The judges were indignant at the presumptuous-
ness of his accusers. But Timoleon regarded this incident very differ-
ently. Such an undertaking could not displease a man who derived his
entire pleasure from seeing his country enjoy the most perfect freedom.
He defended those who made use of their freedom even against him.
The entire ancient world eulogized this course of action.13

b Nothing is more imperative than that we should not, like cattle, follow the herd of those
who have gone before us, traveling not where one ought to go, but where they have
c Zug

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

After such great efforts that the greatest men expended for the freedom
of human understanding, do we really need to fear that the success of
these efforts would displease them?

I shall use this restraint and fairness to my advantage. But I shall find it
only where the mark of merit and scientific excellence is manifest. Apart
from this, there remain yet a great many who are still dominated by
prejudice and the reputation of great persons. These gentlemen, who like
to be regarded as arbiters in matters of erudition, seem to be very skilled
at judging a book without having read it. To expose it to criticism, one
need only show them its title. If the author is unknown, without profile
and distinction, then the book is unworthy of spending time on, and all
the more so if he undertakes great things, like criticizing famous men,
improving the sciences, and touting his own thoughts to the world.14
If my case depended on numbers before the scientific tribunal, then it
would be very desperate. But this danger does not disquiet me. These
gentlemen are like those who, it is said, live only at the foot of Mount
Parnassus, possess no property, and have no vote in the election.15

Prejudice is just what humans need; it promotes ease and self-esteem, two
qualities one cannot get rid of without getting rid of humanity. He who 1:9
is full of prejudice praises to the skies and elevates above all others certain
men whom it would be futile to belittle and bring down to one’s own
level. This advantage covers everything else with the illusion of perfect
equality; and it does not let the prejudiced person perceive the difference
that still prevails among them and that would otherwise expose him to
the vexing consideration of seeing how often one is surpassed by those
who still inhabit the realm of mediocrity.
Thus, prejudice will be preserved as long as vanity still has power over
human minds; that is, prejudice will never cease.

In the course of this treatise I shall have no qualms about straightfor-
wardly rejecting a proposition put forward by ever so great a man if
it appears false to my understanding. I shall incur very odious conse-
quences for taking this liberty.16 The world is inclined to believe that
he who in one case or the other believes himself to have a more correct
knowledge than, say, a man of great learning, is one who also imagines

Natural Science

he is superior to the latter. I dare say that this illusion is very deceptive,
and that it really does deceive here.
In the perfection of the human understanding there is no such pro-
portion and similarity as is to be found, for instance, in the construction
of the human body. In the case of the body it is indeed possible to infer
the dimensions of the whole from the dimensions of one or the other
members, but it is utterly different with the capacity of the understand-
ing. Science is an irregular body without harmonious proportions and
uniformity. In one part of knowledge or other a dwarf-sized scholar
occasionally surpasses another who is far superior in the overall range
of his scientific knowledge. To all appearances, human vanity does not
extend so far as to be able to overlook this distinction and regard insight
into some truth or other as equivalent to the broad sum total of superior
knowledge; at least I know that it would be unjust to raise this objection
against me.

1:10 vi.
The world is not so misguided as to think that a distinguished scholar
is no longer subject to the risk of error. But that a lowly and unknown
writer has avoided those errors from which a great man could not be
rescued by all his perspicacity, that is a difficulty which is not so easy to
digest. There is a great deal of presumption in the words: the truth that
the greatest masters of human knowledge have sought in vain to
acquire has first presented itself to my understanding. I do not dare
to justify this thought, but I would not like to renounce it either.

I fancy that it is sometimes not without use to place a certain noble
trust in one’s own powers. Such confidence enlivens all our efforts and
confers on them a certain momentumd that is very advantageous to the
investigation of truth. If one is in a position to persuade oneself that one
may place some credence in one’s view and that it is possible to catch
Herr von Leibniz making mistakes, then one does everything in one’s
power to verify one’s claim. When one has erred a thousand times in a
venture, the profit which thereby accrues to the cognition of truth will
nonetheless be far more considerable than if one had always remained
on well-trodden paths.
I am basing myself on the following. I have already marked out the
path that I shall take. I shall set out on my course, and nothing shall
hinder me from proceeding along it.17

d Schwung

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

There is another objection that will be raised against me and that it seems
I must preempt. I shall on occasion be heard as giving the impression of
someone who is very well assured of the correctness of his conclusions
and who does not fear that he will be contradicted, or that his inferences
might deceive him. I am not so vain as actually to imagine myself in this
position, and I also have no cause to exempt my conclusions so carefully 1:11
from the appearance of error, for after the many false steps that human
understanding has been subject to making throughout the ages, it is no
longer a disgrace to have erred. An entirely different intention underlies
my procedure. The reader of these pages is undoubtedly prepared with
the theorems currently in vogue regarding living forces before turning to
my treatise. He knows what was thought before Leibniz announced his
estimation of forces to the world, and Leibniz’s position must be familiar
to him as well.18 The reader will inevitably have been won over by the
arguments of one of the two parties, and in all probability this will be
the Leibnizian party, for all of Germany has now declared its allegiance
to it. He reads these pages in this frame of mind. The defense of living
forces, in the form of geometrical truths, has occupied his entire soul.
He therefore regards my ideas merely as doubts, and if I am very lucky,
he will regard them merely as apparent doubts that, he believes, time
will resolve and that cannot stand in the way of the truth. By contrast, I
must use all my skill to retain the reader’s attention a bit longer. I must
present myself in the full light of the conviction that my proofs afford
me in order to draw the reader’s attention to the reasons that inspire me
with this confidence.
Were I to present my thoughts in the guise of doubts, then the world,
which is in any case inclined to regard them as nothing better, would
very easily dispose of them; for an opinion which one believes one has
demonstrated will long remain in favor, even if the doubts assailing it
are ever so plausible and cannot easily be dissolved.
A writer commonly draws his reader imperceptibly into the frame of
mind that he himself was in while writing his work. If it were possible,
I would like to communicate a state of conviction rather than that of
doubt; for the former state would be more advantageous to me, and
perhaps also to the truth, than the latter. Such are the little artifices that
I must not now despise in order to balance to some extent the scales on
which the reputation of great men so decisively weighs.

ix. 1:12

The final difficulty that I have yet to dispose of is the charge of impo-
liteness. It may appear that I could have treated those men whom I

Natural Science

venture to refute with more deference than I have actually done. I ought
to have expressed the judgment I have passed on their conclusions in a
much milder tone. I ought not to have called them errors, falsities, or
illusions. The harshness of these expressions seems to belittle those great
names against which they are directed. In the age of distinctions, which
was also a time of unrefined customs, one would have answered that
the conclusions should be judged in abstraction from all personal merits
of their authors.19 The politeness of this century, however, places me
under an entirely different law. It would be inexcusable if my manner of
expression violated the high esteem that the merit of great men demands
of me. But I am sure that this is not the case. If we encounter obvious
errors alongside the greatest discoveries, then this is not so much the
fault of the human being as it is of humanity; and one would do human-
ity, in the person of men of learning, too much honor if one were to
exempt it entirely from those errors. A great man who erects an edifice
of propositions cannot turn his attention to all possible sides equally.
He is especially caught up in a certain view, and it is no wonder if he
then overlooks mistakes from some other angle which he would cer-
tainly have avoided had he only directed his attention to it apart from
this preoccupation.
I wish only to avow the truth without further ado. I shall not be disin-
clined to regard as genuine errors and falsehoods those propositions that
strike me as such, and why should I place myself under the constraint of
so anxiously concealing these thoughts in my work in order to appear
not as I think, but rather as the world would prefer me to think?
And generally speaking, I would but poorly cope with the ceremony of
imparting a certain dash of civility to all of the judgments that I pass about
1:13 great men, of adroitly moderating their expressions, and of everywhere
showing the mark of deference; this endeavor would often place tiresome
limitations on my choice of words and would subject me to the necessity
of constantly wandering away from the path of philosophical reflection.
I therefore wish to use this preface as an opportunity to declare
publicly the deference and high esteem in which I shall always hold
the great masters of our knowledge whom I now have the honor of
calling my opponents, and whom the freedom of my inadequatee
judgments cannot in the least injure.

Apart from the various prejudices that I have now endeavored to remove,
there still remains, finally, a certain legitimate prejudice to which I am
indebted for any conviction my work may nevertheless carry. If many

e schlechten

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

great men of proven acuteness and power of judgment are led, whether by
different paths or by the same path, to the assertion of one and the same
proposition, then it is a far more probable supposition that their proofs
are correct than that the understanding of some inadequate writer should
have observed a more precise degree of rigor in conducting such proofs.
The latter therefore has good cause to take a clear and straightforward
view of the subject under consideration and to analyze and explicate it
in such a way that, if he should come to a false conclusion, this must
at once become apparent to him; for it is assumed that, if the subject
under consideration is at once complex, then the one who is superior to
the other in acuteness will be more likely to discover the truth. He must
therefore, as far as possible, make his investigation simple and easy so
that, in relation to his power of judgment, he may presume that there
is as much lucidity and correctness in his consideration as the other can
presume in relation to his own power of judgment in a far more intricate
In carrying out my plan, I have taken this observation as my law, as
will be perceived shortly.

xi. 1:14

Before concluding this preface, we still have to familiarize ourselves with

the current state of the controversy concerning living forces.
To all appearances, Herr von Leibniz did not first catch sight of living
forces in those instances in which he first presented them to the world.
The inception of an opinion is commonly far simpler, especially that of
an opinion containing something as bold and wonderful as estimation
according to the power of two.20 One has certain very common experi-
ences by which we perceive that an actual motion, a blow or push, for
example, always carries with it more powerf than a dead pressure,g even
if the latter is equally strong.21 This observation was perhaps the seed
of an idea that could not remain unfruitful in the hands of Herr von
Leibniz, and that subsequently grew to the heights of one of the most
famous of systems.h

Generally speaking, the subject of living forces seems to be tailor-
made, so to speak, for the understanding to be led astray by it in any

f Gewalt h Lehrgebäuden
g todter Druck

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epoch whatsoever. Surmounted obstacles of weight, displaced mat-

ter, compressed springs, masses in motion, velocities originating
in composite motion, everything conspires wonderfully to produce the
appearancei of estimation by the square. There is a time when a multi-
plicity of proofs has the same value as what their rigor and clarity would
accomplish at some other time. This time is now at hand for the defend-
ers of living forces. If they feel little conviction for one or the other of
their proofs, then the appearance of truth that presents itself by way of
contrast from all the more angles, consolidates their approval and does
not allow it to falter.

It is more difficult to say on which side of the controversy concerning
1:15 living forces the presumption of victory has hitherto been most conspic-
uous. The two Bernouillis, Herr von Leibniz and Herr Herrmann, all
of whom were among the leading philosophers of their nation, could
not be overruled by the reputation of other scholars in Europe.22 These
men, who had the entire arsenal of geometry at their disposal, were alone
capable of upholding an opinion that perhaps would not have been per-
mitted to emerge had it been in the hands of a less famous defender.
Both the party of Descartes and that of Herr von Leibniz felt for their
opinion all the conviction one is ordinarily capable of in human knowl-
edge. On both sides, only the opponents’ prejudices were lamented, and
each party believed that its opinion could not possibly be doubted if
only its opponents would take the trouble of considering it with proper
For all that, a certain peculiar difference is nevertheless evident
between the way in which the party of living forces seeks to sustain
itself, and the way in which Descartes’s estimation is defended. The lat-
ter appeals only to simple cases in which the determination of truth and
error is easy and certain, whereas the former makes its demonstrations as
complicated and obscure as possible and saves itself, so to speak, with the
help of night from a conflict in which, in the true light of distinctness, it
would perhaps always come off worse.
The Leibnizians still have nearly all experimentsj on their side, which
is perhaps the only thing they have over the Cartesians. Messrs. Poleni,
s’Gravesande and van Musschenbroek have done them this service, the
consequences of which would perhaps be splendid if more correct use
had been made of them.23

i Schein j Erfahrungen

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

In these prefatory comments I shall not relate what I intend to accom-

plish in the present treatise on the subject of living forces. This book has
no other hope of being read than is built on its brevity; it will thus be
easy for the reader to acquaint himself with its essential content.
Were I allowed to place any trust in my own judgment, then I would
say that my opinions might furnish several not unwelcome contributions 1:16
to overcoming one of the greatest divisions that now prevails among
European geometers. But such persuasion is futile: a person’s judgment
is nowhere less valid than in his own cause. I am not so much prejudiced in
favor of my own opinion that I would wish to lend an ear to the prejudice
of self-love for its sake. But be that as it may, I dare nonetheless to predict
this with confidence: Either the controversy will be settled shortly, or it
will never cease.

1:17 chapter one
Of the force of bodies in general.

Every body has I shall begin by specifying in advance a number of metaphysical concepts
an essential of the force of bodies in general, because I believe this will contribute
force. something to my aim of once and for all making the doctrine of living
forces certain and definitive; I shall thus begin with this.
It is said that a body in motion has a force. For everyone describes the
overcoming of obstacles, the compressing of springs, and the shifting
of masses as ‘acting.’k If one looks no further than to what the senses
teach, one will consider this force as something communicated solely and
entirely from the outside, something the body does not have when it is at
rest. With the sole exception of Aristotle, the whole lot of philosophers
prior to Leibniz was of this opinion. It was believed that Aristotle’s
obscure entelechy is the secret of the actionsl of bodies.24 None of the
Scholastics, all of whom followed Aristotle, comprehended this enigma,
and perhaps it was not made to be comprehended.25 Leibniz, to whom
human reason owes so much, was the first to teach that an essential force
inheres in a body and belongs to it even prior to extension.26 Est aliquid
praeter extensionem imo extensione prius;m these are his words.27

1:18 §2.
Leibniz The inventor gave this force the general name of ‘active force.’28 One
called this should only have followed on his heels in the systems of metaphysics,
force of bodies yet the attempt was made to define this force somewhat more precisely.
in general The body, it is said, has a moving force, for it is not seen to do anything
‘active force.’ except produce motions. When it presses, it strives toward motion, but
force is exerted only when the motion is actual. However, I maintain
that if one attributes an essential motive force (vim motricem) to the
body in order to have a ready answer to the question about the cause of
motion,29 then one is to a certain extent employing the artifice that the

k wirken
l Wirkungen
m There is something besides extension or rather prior to extension.

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

Scholastics exploited when, in investigating the grounds of heat or cold,

they resorted to a vi calorifica or fragificiente.n

It is incorrect to describe motion as a kind of action,p and thus to attribute One should
to it a force of the same name. A body that is subject to infinitely little describe the
resistance, and consequently hardly acts at all, is the body with most essential force
motion. Motion is merely the outward phenomenon of the state of a appropriately
as a ‘vim
body that does not act, but nonetheless endeavors to act, yet when it
suddenly loses its motion through an object, that is, at the moment at
which it is brought to rest, this is when it acts, which is why one should
not name a substance’s force after something that is not an action at all,
much less should one say of bodies acting in a state of rest (for example,
a ball which through its weight presses on the table on which it lies)
that they endeavor to move themselves. For since they would not act if
they were in motion, one would have to say that, inasmuch as a body
acts, it endeavors to attain the state in which it does not act. One ought
therefore to call the force of a body a vim activamq as such, rather than
a vim motricem.r

§4. 1:19
Nothing is easier, however, than to derive the origin of what we call How motion
motion from the general concepts of active force. Substance A, whose can be
force is determined to act externally (that is, to change the internal explained in
state of other substances), either immediately encounters an object that terms of active
receives its entire force at the first moment of its endeavor, or it does not force in
encounter such an object. If the former took place with all substances,
then we would not become acquainted with any motion whatsoever, nor,
in consequence, would we name the force of bodies after it. However, if
substance A cannot exert its entire force at the moment of its endeavor,
then it will exert only part of it. But the substance cannot remain inactive
with the remaining part of its force. Rather, it must act with its entire
force, for otherwise it would cease to go by the name of force when not
exerted in its entirety. Because the consequences of this exertion can-
not be found in the coexistent state of the world, one must therefore
locate them in the world’s second dimension, namely, in the succession
of things.30 That is why the body will not exert its force all at once, but

n a hot- or cold-making force q active force

o active force r moving force
p eine Art Würkungen

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will do so only gradually. However, in the succeeding moments it cannot

act on the very same substances on which it acted right at the start, for
these receive only the first part of its force and are not capable of receiv-
ing the rest; thus, body A gradually acts on ever different substances.
Substance C, however, on which A acts at the second moment, must
have an entirely different relation of location and position with respect
to A than does B, the substance on which A acted initially, for otherwise
there would be no reason why A should not initially have acted all at
once on both substance C and substance B. In the same way, each of
the substances on which A acts in subsequent moments has a different
position with respect to the initial location of body A. That is, A changes
its location in acting successively.

The sort Because we do not clearly discern what a body does when acting in a
of 1:20 state of rest, we always think of the motion that would result if resistance
difficulties that were removed. It would suffice to use this motion in order to obtain an
arise for the external characterizationt of what goes on inside the body and what we
doctrine of the cannot see. But motion is commonly regarded as what force produces
body’s action on
when it really breaks loose and what is the sole effect of force. Because
the soul if no
it is so easy to find one’s way back to the right concepts from this little
force other
than vim detour, one might think that such an error is of no great consequence.
motricems is But it is so indeed, though not in the context of mechanics and the doc-
attributed to trine of nature. For this is why it is so difficult in metaphysics to imagine
the body. how matter is capable of producing representations in the human soul
in a truly effective manner (i.e., through physical influence).31 What,
one asks, does matter do except cause motions? Hence, at most, all its
force will end up moving the soul from its location. But how is it pos-
sible for a force that produces only motions to generate representations
and ideas? These are, after all, such different kinds of things that it is
incomprehensible how the one can be the source of the other.

The difficulty A similar difficulty becomes apparent when the question is raised as
that arises to whether the soul, too, is capable of setting matter in motion. Both
concerning the difficulties disappear, however, and more than a little light is shed on
soul’s action on physical influence, when the force of matter is ascribed not to motion, but
the body. And rather to its actions on other substances, actions that must not be further
how this can in
general be
removed by s u
moving force active force
appeal to a vis t Charakter
Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

specified. For the question whether the soul can cause motions, that is,
whether it has moving force, is transformed into the question whether its
essential force can be determined toward an externally directed action,
that is, whether it is capable of acting outside itself on other entities
and of producing changes. One can answer this question decisively by
saying that the soul must be able to act externally by reason of the fact 1:21
that it is in a location. For when we analyze the concept of what we
call location, we find that it suggests the actions of substances on one
another. All that kept a certain acute author from making the triumph of
physical influence over pre-established harmony complete was nothing
more than this little confusion of concepts, a confusion that is easily
overcome as soon as one’s attention is directed to it.32
It is just as easy to grasp the nature of the paradoxical proposition If one merely
concerning how it is possible that matter, which one fancies can cause calls the force of
only motions, impresses certain representations and images on the soul. bodies in
For matter that has been set in motion acts on everything that is spatially general an
connected with it, and hence also on the soul; that is, it changes the active force,
then one easily
internal state of the soul insofar as this state is related to what is external
to it. Now the entire internal state of the soul is nothing other than the how matter can
summationv of all its representations and concepts and insofar as this determine the
internal state is related to what is external to it, it goes by the name of soul to have
status repraesentativus universi;w thus, by means of the force that it has certain
while in motion, matter changes the state of the soul through which the representations.
soul represents the world. In this way, we can understand how matter
can impress representations on the soul.

In a subject matter of such great scope, it is difficult not to digress, Things can
but I must return to the observations I wanted to make regarding the actually exist
force of bodies. Since all connection and relationx of separately exist- without being
ing substances is due to the reciprocal actions that their forces exert present
on each other, let us see what sort of truths can be derived from this anywhere in
the world.
concept of force. A substance is either connected with and related to
other substances external to it, or it is not. Because every independenty 1:22
entity contains within itself the complete source of all its determina-
tions, it is not necessary for its existence that it should stand in any
connection with other things.33 That is why substances can exist and
nonetheless have no external relation to other substances, or have no real

v Zusammenfassung x alle Verbindung und Relation

w state of representing the world y selbständige

Natural Science

connectionz with them. Now since there can be no location without

external connections,a positions, and relations, it is quite possible that
a thing actually exists, yet is not present anywhere in the entire world.
This paradoxical statement is a consequence, indeed, a very obvious con-
sequence, of the most familiar of truths, but to my knowledge it has not
yet been noted by anyone. But other propositions derive from the same
source, and these are no less remarkable and occupy the understanding,
so to speak, against its will.

It is true in the One cannot say that something is a part of a whole if it stands in no
properly connectionb with the remaining parts (for otherwise there would be no
metaphysical discernible difference between an actual and an imagined union), but the
sense that more world is an actually composite entity, and so a substance connected with
than one world no thing in the entire world will not belong to the world at all, except
can exist.
perhaps in one’s thoughts, that is, it will be no part of the world. If there
are many such entities which stand in no connectionc with anything in
the world but which have a relation to one another, then this gives rise
to a very special whole; they constitute a very special world. Hence, it is
incorrect to say, as is regularly taught in philosophy lecture halls, that no
more than a single world can exist in the metaphysical sense. It is really
possible, even in the properly metaphysical sense, that God may have
created many millions of worlds, and it therefore remains inconclusive
whether they also really exist or not. The error committed here invariably
arose because close attention was not paid to explaining the world. For
the definition counts as belonging to the world only that which stands in
1:23 a real connection with other things,∗ whereas the theorem forgets this
qualification and refers to all existing things in general.34

If substances It is easy to show that there would be no space and no extension if
had no force to substances had no force to act external to themselves.35 For without this
act external to force there is no connection,d without connection, no order, and, finally,
themselves, without order, no space. Yet it is somewhat more difficult to see how the
then there
would be no
∗ Mundus est rerum omnium contingentium simultanearum et successivarum inter se con-
extension and
also no space. nexarum series. [The world is the series of all simultaneously and successively existing
contingent things that are connected with each other.]

z Verbindung c Verknüpfung
a Verknüpfungen d Verbindung
b Verbindung

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

plurality of dimensions in space derives from the law according to which

this force of substances acts externally.
Because I discern a circular inference in the proof that Herr von The reason for
Leibniz, somewhere in the Theodicy, takes from the number of lines that the three-
can be drawn at right angles to each other from a point, I have sought dimensionality
to demonstrate the three-dimensional charactere of extension from what of space is not
can be discerned from the powers of numbers.36 The first three powers yet known.
are entirely simple and cannot be reduced to any other, but the fourth
power, as the square of the square,f is nothing but a repetition of the
second power. As good as this property of numbers appeared to me as
a means of explaining the three-dimensionality of space, it proved to be
unsound in its application. For the fourth power is an impossibility with
regard to everything we can represent to ourselves concerning space by
means of the imagination. In geometry one cannot multiply a square by
itself, nor can one multiply the cube by its root; hence, the necessity
of three-dimensionality rests not so much on the fact that, in positing
several dimensions, one does no more than repeat the previous ones (as
is the case with the powers of numbers); rather it rests on a certain other
necessity I am not yet in a position to explain.37

§10. 1:24
Because everything found among the properties of a thing must be It is probable
derivable from what contains within itself the complete ground of that the three-
the thing itself, the properties of extension, and hence also its three- dimensionality
dimensionality, must also be based on the properties of the force sub- of space derives
stances possess in respect of the things with which they are connected. from the law
according to
The force by which any substance acts in union with other substances
which the forces
cannot be conceived without a certain law that manifests itself in its of substances
mode of action. Since the kind of law by which substances act on each act on each
other must also determine the kind of union and composition of many other.
substances, the law according to which an entire collection of substances
(i.e., a space) is measured, or the dimension of extension, will derive
from the laws according to which the substances seek to unite by virtue
of their essential forces.
Accordingly, I am of the opinion that substances in the existing world, The three-
of which we are a part, have essential forces of such a kind that they prop- dimensional
agate their effectsg in union with each other according to the inverse- character seems
square relation of the distances; secondly, that the whole to which to derive from
the fact that
substances in
the existing
e die dreifache Dimension g Wirkungen world act on
f Quadratoquadrat

Natural Science

each other in this gives rise has, by virtue of this law, the property of being three-
such a way that dimensional; thirdly, that this law is arbitrary, and that God could have
the strength of chosen another, e.g., the inverse-cube, relation; fourthly, and finally, that
the action is an extension with different properties and dimensions would also have
inversely resulted from a different law.38 A science of all these possible kinds of
space would undoubtedly be the highest geometry that a finite under-
to the square of
standing could undertake. The impossibility we notice in ourselves of
the distances.
representing to ourselves a space of more than three dimensions seems
to me to stem from the circumstance that our soul likewise receives
1:25 impressions from without according to the inverse-square relation of
distances, and because its nature is itself constituted so as not only to be
thus affected, but also to act external to itself in this way.

The condition If it is possible that there are extensions of different dimensions, then it
under which it is also very probable that God has really produced them somewhere. For
is probable that his works have all the greatness and diversity that they can possibly con-
there are many tain. Spaces of this kind could not possibly stand in connection with those
worlds. of an entirely different nature;h hence such spaces would not belong to
our world at all, but would constitute their own worlds. I showed above
that, in a metaphysical sense, more worlds could exist together, but here
is also the condition that, as it seems to me, is the only condition under
which it might also be probable that many worlds really exist. For if the
only possible kind of space is a three-dimensional one, then it would
be possible for the other worlds that I assume to exist apart from the
one in which we exist to be spatially connected with ours, for the spaces
are of one and the same kind. Hence, the question would be why God
separated the one world from the other, since he would certainly have
imparted a greater perfection to his work by linking them; for the more
connection there is, the more harmony and agreement there is in the
world, whereas gaps and divisions violate the laws of order and perfec-
tion. It is thus not probable (though it is inherently possible) that many
worlds exist, unless the many types of space that I have just mentioned are
These thoughts may serve as the outline for a reflection that I reserve
the right to make. However, I cannot deny that I communicate them
as they occur to me and without lending them certainty by means of a
lengthier investigation. I am thus prepared to repudiate them as soon as
a more mature judgment reveals their weakness to me.39

h Wesen

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

The most recent philosophy lays down certain concepts of the essential Some teachers
forces of bodies, but these concepts are unacceptable.40 One calls this 1:26 of
force a perpetual striving toward motion. Besides the mistake that, as metaphysics
I initially showed, this concept carries with it, there is an additional claim that a
mistake which I now wish to discuss. If force were a perpetual endeavori body strives to
to act, then it would be a manifest contradiction if one were to say that move in all
this force’s effort is utterly and completely indeterminate with regard directions by
to external things. For by virtue of its definition, it endeavors to act on virtue of its
other things, and indeed, according to the accepted theorems of the most force.
recent metaphysicians, it really does act on these things. Hence, it appears
that whoever says that it is directed toward all regions rather than that it
is entirely indeterminate with regard to direction, speaks most correctly.
The renowned Herr Hamberger thus asserts that the substantial force of
monads strives toward motion equally in all directions and consequently
maintains itself in a state of rest by the equality of opposing pressures,
just as a pair of scales does.41

According to this system, motion arises when the equilibrium of two First objection
opposite tendencies is removed, and the body moves in the direction to this opinion.
of the greater tendency with the excess of force that this tendency has
gained over the smaller, opposite tendency. This explanation does satisfy
the imagination in a case where the moving body keeps moving forward
simultaneously with the moved body. For this case is similar to the one
in which someone supports one of two scales of equal weight by hand,
thereby causing the other scale to move. However, a body whose motion
is communicated to it by impact continues this motion to infinity, despite
the fact that the driving power ceases to act on it. According to the
system just cited, however, the body would not be able to continue in
its motion, but would rather suddenly come to rest as soon as the body
driving it onward ceased to act on it. For since the tendencies of the
body’s force in all directions are inseparable from the body’s substance, 1:27
the equilibrium of these inclinations will be re-established at the moment
when the external power that had opposed the one tendency ceases to act.

But this is not the only difficulty. Since a thing must be completely Second
determinate, the striving toward motion that substances exert in all objection to the
same opinion.
i Bestrebung

Natural Science

directions must have a certain degree of intensity, for this striving can-
not be infinite; however, a finite endeavor to act is impossible without
a certain quantity of effort;j hence, because the degree of intensity is
finite and determinate, let us suppose that if body A collides with a body
of equal mass with a power three times stronger than all the endeavor
toward motion the latter has in the essential force of its substance, then
this latter body will, through its vim inertiae,k deprive the approaching
body of only a third of its velocity, but it will also itself acquire a velocity
no greater than a third of the velocity of the moving body. Thus, after
the strike is delivered, body A, the approaching body, ought to continue
moving with two units of velocity, whereas body B ought to move in
the same direction with only one unit of velocity. Now because B stands
in the way of body A and does not acquire as much velocity as would
be necessary for it not to impede the motion of body A, but since body
B is nevertheless incapable of arresting the motion of A, A really will
move in direction AC∗ with
Fig. 1. two units of velocity, while
B, which is in the way of A,
will move in the same direc-
tion with one unit of velocity;
nonetheless, the motions will in both cases continue unimpeded. But
this is impossible unless one were to suppose B to be penetrated by A,
which is a metaphysical absurdity.†

1:28 §15.
Dual It is time for me to conclude these metaphysical preliminaries. But I
classification of cannot refrain from adding another remark I consider indispensable for
motion. understanding what follows. I presuppose that my readers are acquainted
with the concepts of dead pressurel and its measure as they are encoun-
tered in mechanics, and in general, I shall not give a complete exposition
of everything pertaining to the doctrine of living and dead forces in these
pages, but rather merely outline some minor thoughts, which appear to
me to be new, and which promote my main purpose of improving on
the Leibnizian measure of force. Hence, I divide all motions into two
main kinds. One kind has the property of conserving itself in the body to

∗ Fig. 1.
† This can be understood more clearly if we consider that body A, after impact, will be at
C when body B has not yet passed beyond point D which divides line AC in half; thus,
body A will have had to penetrate the latter, for otherwise it could not have got ahead
of B.

j Anstrengung l todter Druck

k force of inertia

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

which it is communicated, and of persisting infinitely if no impediment

opposes it. The other is an enduring effect of a constantly driving force
which does not even require resistance to destroy it, but which depends
solely on an external force and disappears as soon as this force ceases to
sustain it. An example of the first kind of motion is fired bulletsm and
all projectiles, an example of the second kind is the motion of a balln
gently pushed forward by hand, or otherwise all bodies that are carried
or pulled with moderate velocity.42

Without entering into deep metaphysical considerations, it is easy to Motion of the
grasp that the force that expresses itself in the first kind of motion has second kind is
something infinite in comparison with the force of the second variety. no different
For the latter partially destroys itself and suddenly ceases as soon as the from dead
driving force is withdrawn; one can therefore regard it as if it vanished pressure.
at every instant but were also generated anew just as often, whereas the
former is an internal source of an intrinsically imperishable force that
performs its action over time. It is consequently related to the other
force as an instant is related to time, or as a point is to a line. A motion
of this kind is therefore no different from dead pressure, as Baron Wolff 1:29
already pointed out in his cosmology.43

Since I actually wish to discuss motion that conserves itself perpetually Motion of the
in empty space, I shall briefly consider the nature of such motion in first kind
accordance with metaphysical concepts. If a freely moving body proceeds presupposes a
in an infinitely subtile space, then its force can be measured by the sum force that
of all the actionso that it performs to eternity.44 For if this aggregate behaves as the
square of
were not equal to its entire force, then, in order to find a sum equal to
the entire intensity of the force, one would require a time longer than
infinite time, which is absurd. Now if one compares two bodies, A and
B, assuming A to have two units and B one unit of velocity, from the
beginning of its motion on, A perpetually pushes at the infinitely small
masses of space it traverses with twice the velocity of B, but it also covers
twice as much space in this infinite time as B, thus the whole quantity
of the action performed by A is proportional to the product of the force
with which it encounters the small parts of space and the number of
these parts, while exactly the same is the case for the force of B. Now

m Kugeln o Wirkungen
n Kugel

Natural Science

the actions of both on the little molecules of space are proportional to

their velocities, and the numbers of these parts are likewise proportional
to the velocities; consequently, the quantity of the whole actionp of the
one body relates to the whole action of the other body as the square of
their velocities, and therefore their forces stand in this relation as well.∗

The second For a better conceptionq of this property of living forces, let us recall
reason 1:30 what was said in § 16. Dead pressures can have nothing more than sim-
for this. ple velocity for their measure; for since their force does not itself depend
on the bodies exerting them, but is rather supplied by an external power,r
the resistance that overcomes this power does not need a certain special
endeavor in respect of the strength with which this force seeks to con-
serve itself in the body (for the force is in no way rooted in the acting
substance, and does not endeavor to conserve itself in this substance),
but rather needs only to destroy the velocity that the body uses to change
its location. But things are completely different with a living force. Since
the state in which a substance is found as it continues in free motion
with a certain velocity is completely grounded in internal determina-
tions, this substance endeavors at the same time to maintain itself in this
state. Thus, in addition to the force that is required to counterbalance
the velocity of this body, external resistance must at the same time still
have a special power to break the striving with which the internal force
of the body works to sustain this state of motion, and the entire strength
of the resistance that is to bring the freely moving bodies to rest must
therefore be in a ratio composed of the proportion of the velocity and
the force with which the body endeavors to remain in this state; that is,
since the two relations are equal, the force that resistance requires is as
the square of the velocity of the approachings bodies.

I may not hope to achieve anything decisive and incontrovertible in a
reflectiont that is merely metaphysical, for which reason I shall turn
to the following chapter, which may perhaps, through the application

∗ Since I intend to raise certain objections to the opinion of Herr von Leibniz in this
work, I seem to contradict myself when I offer a proof confirming his opinion in this
section. But in the final chapter I shall show that Leibniz’s opinion really is supportable
if it is merely qualified in a certain way.

p Wirkung s anläufend
q Begriff t Betrachtung
r Gewalt

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

of mathematics, have more claim to be convincing. Like many other

sciences, our metaphysics is indeed only on the threshold of truly sound
knowledge, and God knows when one will see that it has been crossed. It
is not difficult to discern its weakness in much of what it undertakes. One
very often finds that prejudice is the greatest strength behind its proofs. 1:31
Nothing bears more responsibility for this than the dominant inclination
of those who seek to extend human knowledge. They would like to
possess a philosophy that is great, but it is desirable that it should also be
sound.u It is almost the only recompense for a philosopher’s endeavor
if, after a laborious investigation, he can finally rest in possession of
a properly founded science. It is therefore to demand a great deal of
him that he should only rarely trust in his own approval, that he should
not hide in his own discoveries the imperfections he is incapable of
correcting, and that he should never be so vain as to scorn the true
benefit of insight for the sake of the pleasure afforded by the illusion
of a sound science. The understanding is easily drawn to approval, and
it is certainly very hard to restrain it for long, but one really should
finally accept this restraint in order to sacrifice everything that has such
a general allure for the sake of sound insight.

u gründlich

1:32 chapter two
Examination of the theorems of the Leibnizian
party concerning living forces.

§ 20.
In the treatise that Herr Bülfinger submitted to the Petersburg Academy
I find an observation that I have always used as a rule in the investigation
of truth.45 If men of sound understanding put forward entirely opposed
opinions, and if neither or both of the parties may be presumed to have
ulterior motives,v then the logic of probability requires that we should
look above all for a certain intermediate positionw which concedes that
both parties are to some extent right.

§ 21.
I do not know whether I have been fortunate in other cases in this manner
of thinking, but in the controversy concerning living forces, I hope to be
so. Never has the world been divided more equally over certain opinions
than with those concerning the measure of the force of moving bodies. As
far as can be seen, both parties are equally strong and equally reasonable.
Ulterior motives may, of course, be involved, but of which party could
one say that it is entirely free of these? I therefore choose the surest
course by adopting an opinion whereby both parties receive their due.

1:33 § 22.
Leibniz’s and Before Leibniz, everyone paid homage to the single proposition of
Descartes’s Descartes that made simple velocities alone the measure of the force of
estimation of bodies in general, including those in actual motion.46 It occurred to no
forces. one that it might be possible to cast doubt on this, but Leibniz suddenly
scandalized human reason by pronouncing a new law that eventually
became one of those that presented scholars with the greatest intellec-
tual challenge.x Descartes had estimated the forces of moving bodies
purely according to velocity, whereas Herr von Leibniz posited as their

v fremde Absichten x Wettstreit des Verstandes

w Mittelsatz

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

measure the square of their velocities.47 He did not, as one might think,
put forward this rule of his only under certain conditions, which would
leave some scope for the previous rule, but rather denied Descartes’s law
absolutely and without qualification, and at once replaced it with his own

§ 23.
There are actually two aspects of Herr von Leibniz’s rule I find objec- The first
tionable. The aspect that I shall now discuss entails no important conse- mistake in the
quences for the question of living forces. Nevertheless, one cannot omit Leibnizian
mention of it, so that nothing should be overlooked that might rescue measure of
such a major principle from all the minor objections one might raise forces.
against it.
The Leibnizian measure of force has always been formulated as fol-
lows: If a body is in actual motion, its force is as the square of its
velocity. Thus, according to this proposition, the mark of this measure
of force is nothing but actual motion. But a body can actually move
even if its force is not greater than that which it might exert, say, at
this initial velocity by pressure alone.48 I have already demonstrated this
in the previous chapter, and I repeat it once more. A ball that I gently
push forward on a smooth surface stops moving as soon as I remove my
hand. In a motion such as this, the force of the body therefore disappears 1:34
at every moment, but is just as often replenished by renewed pressure.
Thus, at the same moment that the body meets an object, it no longer
possesses its force from the previous motion; on the contrary, this force
has already been entirely annihilated, and the body possesses only that
force which the driving force communicates to it at precisely the moment
that it touches the object. One can therefore regard the body as if it had
not moved at all and as if it pressed on the impedimenty merely in a state
of rest. Such a body is thus no different from the body that exerts dead
pressure, and its force is not as the square of its velocity, but is rather
as its velocity pure and simple. This is therefore the first qualification
that I place on the Leibnizian law. Leibniz should not have specified
actual motion alone as the mark of living force; it was also necessary to
add free motion. For if the motion is not free, then the body will never
have living force. According to this qualification, the Leibnizian law,
although it is otherwise quite correct, must be formulated as follows:
A body in actual free motion has a force that conforms to the square
etc. etc.

y Widerstand

Natural Science

§ 24.
What actual I shall now make the second comment, which will reveal to us the sources
motion is. of the notorious controversy and which perhaps offers the sole means of
resolving it.
The defenders of the new estimation of living forces are still in agree-
ment with the Cartesians that at the very beginning of their motion
bodies possess a force proportionate to their velocity alone. But as soon
as one can describe the motion as actual, the body has, in their opinion,
the square of the velocity as its measure.
Let us now examine what an actual motion in fact is. For this word was
the cause of the divergence from Descartes, although it may perhaps
also be the cause of renewed agreement.
1:35 One calls a motion actual when it is no longer at its starting point, but
rather when it has lasted for a time. This time between the beginning of
motion and the moment when the body acts, is what makes it possible
to call the motion actual.
But note that this time∗ is not a fixed and determinate quantity, but is
instead wholly indeterminate and can be determined at will. This means
that one can suppose it to be as small as one wishes if one is to use it to
denote an actual motion. For it is not this or that quantity of time that
in fact makes the motion actual, but time as such that does this, however
small or great it may be.

§ 25.
The second Accordingly, the time spent in motion is the true and sole characteristicz
main mistake of living force, and it is this time alone that gives living force a special
in the measure compared to dead force.
Leibnizian Let us represent by line AB the time elapsed from the beginning of
measure of the motion until the body encounters an object on which it acts, so
that the starting point is represented by A.†
Fig. 2. Therefore, the body has a living force at point B,
but it does not have any at the starting point A,
because if it did, it would press on an obstaclea
confronting it merely with an endeavorb toward motion. But let us con-
tinue our deduction as follows.
First, the time AB is a determination of the body located at B whereby
a living force is posited in the body, and the starting point A (that is, if

∗ In the formula of the Leibnizian measure of forces.

† Fig. 2.

z Charakter b Bemühung
a Widerhalt

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

I place the body at this point) is a determination that is a ground of the

dead force.
Second, if I think of this determination expressed by line AB as smaller,
then I place the body closer to the starting point, and it can easily be
understood that if I continue doing this, the body will eventually be
located at A itself; consequently, as the determination AB is shortened,
it will be placed ever closer to the determination at A; for if it did not 1:36
approach this latter determination, the body could never reach point A
by shortening the time, even if I were to continue shortening it to infinity,
which is absurd. Thus, the determination of the body at C comes closer
to the conditions of a dead force than it does at B, and at D it comes
closer than it does at C, and so forth until it fulfills all the conditions
of a dead force at A and the conditions of living force have completely
But if, thirdly, certain determinations that are the cause of a property of
a body are gradually transformed into other determinations that are the
ground of an opposite property, then the property that is a consequence
of the former conditions must change simultaneously and be gradually
transformed into the property that is a consequence of the latter.∗ Now,
since shortening the time AB (which is a condition of a living force at B)
in thought necessarily brings this condition of living force closer to the
condition of a dead force than it was at B, the body at C must also really
have a force that comes closer to the dead force than it does at B, and it
must come even closer to this dead force if I posit it at D. Accordingly,
a body that has a living force under the condition of elapsed time will
not have this force in any arbitrarily short time interval; on the contrary,
this time must be determinate and certain, for if it were shorter, then
the body would no longer have that living force. Leibniz’s law for the
estimation of forces is thus incorrect, for it indiscriminately attributes a
living force to bodies which have been in motion for a time interval (that
is to say, which are actually in motion), however short or long this time
may be.†

∗ According to the rule of posita ratione ponitur rationatum [Having posited the reason, the
consequence is also posited].
† Briefly, the content of this proof is as follows. The time between the beginning of the
motion and the moment when the body collides can be conceived at will as ever shorter
without explaining how the condition of living force thereby disappears (§ 24); but now
diminishing this time is a reason from which it can be understood that, if one continues
with it, the body will ultimately be at the starting point, where the living force really
disappears, as the condition of dead force, by contrast, arises; diminishing this time is
therefore not a reason that takes anything away from the condition of living force, and
yet, at the same time, it is such a reason, which is contradictory.

Natural Science

1:37 § 26.
The same thing What I have now demonstrated is a very precise consequence of the law of
proven from continuity, whose extensive utility has perhaps not yet been sufficiently
the law of recognized. Herr von Leibniz, the discoverer of this law, used it as a
continuity. touchstone whose test Descartes’s laws failed to pass.49 I consider it
to be the greatest proof of his excellence that he is almost the only
one to offer a means of fully revealing the most fundamentalc law of all
mechanics and displaying it in its true form.
One need only direct one’s attention to the manner in which Herr
von Leibniz employs this principle against Descartes, and one will easily
perceive how it must be applied here. He proves that the rule that obtains
when a body collides with another moving body must also apply when a
body collides with a body at rest, for rest is no different from a very small
motion. What applies to collisions of unequal bodies must also apply
when bodies are equal, for a very small inequality can be exchangedd for
an equality.
In this way I also conclude that what generally applies if a body has
been in motion for some time must also apply even if the motion is
merely beginning; for a very small duration of motion is no different
from the mere beginning thereof, and it is appropriate to exchange the
two. I infer from this that if a body had any living force at all when it has
been in motion for a period of time (be it ever so short), then it would
also have to have this force when it first began to move. For it is the same
whether it is only beginning to move or whether it has already continued
to move for an extremely short time. And therefore I conclude that the
Leibnizian law of the estimation of forces is unacceptable, because it
entails the absurdity that there would be a living force even at the onset
of motion.
1:38 It is easy to perceive how counterintuitivee this law is if it is presented to
the understanding in a clear and proper light. It is impossible to persuade
oneself that a body with a dead force at point A is supposed to have a
living force, infinitely larger than the dead force, as soon as it moves an
imperceptibly small distancef from this point. This mental leap is too
abrupt; there is no path that could lead us from the one determination
to the other.

§ 27.
The time that One must pay careful attention to what follows from this. If the time
has elapsed in span is conceived of as indeterminate, then it cannot be a condition of
motion, and
hence also the
actuality of c e
berufenste wie sehr sich der Verstand dawider setzet
d verwechselt f Linie

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

living force, as I have shown above; but if this interval is conceived as motion, is not
determinate and restricted to a certain quantity, then it will still fail to the true
serve as the actual condition of living force, as I shall now prove in the condition under
which living
following manner.
force accrues to
If one supposes that one could demonstrate that after one minute a
a body.
body with a given velocity will have a living force, and that this minute is
the condition under which such a force accrues to the body, then if the
quantity of this time were to be doubled, then everything in the body
that previously, in a single minute,g had already conferred a living force
on it, would be doubled. But suppose (per hypothesinh ) that the quantity
of the first minute added a new dimension to the body’s force, then the
quantity of two minutes would add yet another dimension to the body’s
force, because this quantity involves double the conditions contained in
the first minute. Thus the body that freely continues its motion would
have a force of only one dimension at the starting point of its motion and
a force of two dimensions after one minute had passed; but it would have
a force of three dimensions after the second minute, four dimensions
after the third minute, five dimensions after the fourth, and so on. That
means that its force, with uniform motion, would at one point have for
its measure its simple velocity, then the square of its velocity, then the 1:39
cube thereof, then the square of the square, etc.; and no one will attempt
to defend excesses such as these.
The correctness of these inferences cannot be doubted. For if we
require that a time of a determinate quantity that elapses from the begin-
ning of the motion of a body up to a certain point should completely
contain the conditions of living force, then we also cannot deny that
there would be twice the conditions in double the time; for time has
no determinations other than its quantity. And if, therefore, one unit of
time sufficed to introduce a new dimension into the force of a body, then
double the time would posit two such dimensions (by the rule, rationata
sunt in proportione rationum suarumi ). One can also add that time could
be a condition of a living force only because, with its passing, the body
is distancing itself from the condition of dead force that obtained at the
initial moment, and that this time must therefore have a determinate
quantity, since in less time the body would not have distanced itself from
the determinations of the dead force to the extent required by the quan-
tity of living force. Now, since, in a longer time span, the body would
distance itself ever further from the initial moment, that is, from the con-
dition of a dead force, the longer a body moved, even at uniform velocity,

g nur einzeln genommen

h by the hypothesis
i Consequences are in proportion to their reasons

Natural Science

the more dimensions its force would have to attain, ad infinitum, which
is absurd.
First, therefore, the absence of the actuality of motion is not the
true and proper condition that the estimation of simple velocity
assigns to the force of bodies.
Second, neither the actuality of motion in general and, associated
with it, the general and indeterminate consideration of elapsed
time, nor the determinate and fixedj quantity of time is a suffi-
cient reason for living force and its estimation by the square of the

1:40 § 28.
Mathematics Let us draw two important consequences from this consideration.
cannot The first is that mathematics can never offer any proofs in favor
demonstrate of living forces, and that a force estimated in this way, even if it does
living forces. take place, nevertheless lies outside the domain of mathematical con-
sideration. Everyone knows that if one wishes to estimate the force of
a body moving with a certain velocity in this science, one is not tied
to any specific instant of time that has elapsed during the motion, but
that instead everything is indeterminate and arbitrary with regard to this
restriction. Thus, the estimation of the force of bodies in motion fur-
nished by mathematics is such that it applies to all motions in general,
however short the elapsed time may be, and that in this respect it sets us
no limits. But this type of estimation also applies to the onset of bodily
motion (§§ 25, 26), and thus to a dead force, which has simple velocity
as its measure. And since a single estimation cannot apply to both living
and dead forces, one can easily see that the former are entirely excluded
from any mathematical consideration.
Besides, mathematics considers in the motion of a body only velocity,
mass, and perhaps time, if one wishes to include this as well. Velocity is
never a cause of living force, for even if, in the opinion of the Leibnizians,
the body did possess a living force, it still could not have this force
in every single instant of its motion, but there would rather be a time
interval after the onset of its motion when it would not yet have this
force, even if all its velocity were already present in it (§§ 25, 26). Mass
is even less of a cause of living force. And, finally, we demonstrated
the same with regard to time. Thus, the motion of any body, taken
separately, has nothing in it that, in a mathematical deliberation, would
indicate a living force intrinsic to the motion. Now since all inferences
about what a body in motion does must be derived from the notions

j gesetzte

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

included in the consideration of velocity, mass, and time, they will not, 1:41
if they are drawn out properly, yield any conclusions establishing living
forces. And if it seems that they do perform this service, one should not
trust this illusion, for more would then be contained in the conclusions
than in the premises,k i.e., the rationatuml would be greater than its
After such varied and great efforts by geometers of these two centuries
to dispose of the disagreement between Descartes and Herr von Leibniz
with the help of mathematical doctrines, it may appear rather strange
that I should begin by denying that this science can decide the issue.
Some time ago there was indeed an argument over whether this science
favors Descartes’s laws or whether it defends Herr von Leibniz’s party.
But everyone in this conflict agreed that one must rely on the verdict of
mathematics to settle the issue of the estimation of forces. It is strange
enough that such great logiciansn should have been led astray without
discerning, or even reflecting on, whether this might indeed be the way
to acquiring the truth they were seeking. But I think I find reasons here
that compel me to throw all these odditieso to the wind, and where can
I turn after these reasons have pronounced their verdict?
The second consequence that I draw from the preceding consid- Mathematics
erations is this: mathematical reasons will consistently confirm already
Descartes’s law instead of supporting living forces.51 This point confirms
must already be clear from the propositions in this section, and I can Descartes’s law
also add that mathematical quantities, lines, planes, etc., have exactly according to its
the same properties when they are as small as possible as when they are
arbitrarily large, and therefore, from the smallest mathematical quan-
tities, from the smallest parallelogram or from the fall of a body along
the shortest line,p the very same properties and conclusions must be
deducible as from the largest of their kind. Now, if a line that displaysq
how a motion is constituted immediately after its beginning has the very 1:42
same determinations and properties, and even the same consequences,
as a line expressing a motion long after its inception, then the force we
extrapolate from a mathematical consideration of the motion of a body
will never have any properties different from those present in a body in
the shortest time, i.e., in an infinitely short time, from the moment of
inception. Now since this is a dead force, and therefore has simple veloc-
ity as its measure, each and every motion considered mathematically will
exhibitr no other estimation than that of velocity alone.

k Grundsätze o alles das Wunderbare

l consequence p durch die kleinste Linie
m reason q anzeiget
n Schlußkünstler r darlegen

Natural Science

§ 29.
Accordingly, even before we enter into a closer examination of the mat-
ter, we know that Leibniz’s adherents will be defeated in the notorious
conflict with Descartes, because they seek to defend themselves with
weapons ill-suited to the nature of their case. After this general observa-
tion, let us consider in particular the proofs that Leibniz’s party chiefly
made use of in this dispute.52
Herr von Leibniz was first led to his opinion by observations of the fall
of bodies through their gravity. But it was an incorrectly applied principle
of Descartes that led him into an error that eventually became perhaps
the most glarings mistake ever to insinuate itself to human reason. For
he put forward the following proposition: the same force is needed to
raise a body weighing four pounds one foot high as is needed to raise a
body weighing one pound four feet.53

§ 30.
The principle Since he appeals to the approval of all scholars of mechanicst of his time,
that first led I think he derived this proposition from a rule that Descartes used
Herr von to explain the nature of the lever.54 Descartes assumed that weights
Leibniz 1:43 suspended from a lever traverse the infinitely small spaces that can be
to living forces. plottedu in their distance from the fulcrum.v Now two bodies are in
equilibrium when these spaces are related to each other in inverse pro-
portion to their weights, and so, Leibniz concluded, no more force is
needed to raise a body of one pound to a height of four units than is
needed to raise another body with a mass of four units to a height of
one unit.55 One can easily perceive that this inference from Descartes’s
basic rule can be drawn only if the times of the motion are equal. For
in the case of steelyards,w the times in which the weights would tra-
verse their infinitely small spaces are equal.56 Herr von Leibniz ignored
this condition and drew his inference to motion in non-equal times
as well.

§ 31.
On Herr This man’s defenders seemed to have noticed the objection that could
Herrmann’s be raised against them with regard to time. They therefore attempted to
proof that frame their proofs in such a way that the difference in time may properly
forces are
proportional to
the heights s v
scheinbarste Ruhepunkt
reached by t w
Mechaniker Schnellwage
their means. u beschrieben

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

be regarded as absolutely nil in the case of the force that bodies attain
through their fall.
Let the infinite spring AB∗ represent the Fig. 3.
weight that follows the body in the course A C

of its fall from A to B. Thus, says Herr

Herrmann, the weight will communicate equal
pressure to the body at each point in space.57 He
represents these pressures by means of lines AC,
DE, BF, etc., which together constitute rectan-
gle AF. In his opinion, therefore, the body has a
force equal to the sum of all these pressures, i.e., B F
to rectangle AF, when it reaches point B. Hence,
the force at D is related to the force at B as rectangle AE is related to AF,
i.e., as the traversed space AD is related to space AB, and consequently
as the square of the velocities at D and B.
Herr Herrmann argues in this way by claiming that the action per-
formed by the weight of a body in free fall corresponds to the space
covered during its fall.
By contrast, the Cartesians claim that the effectx of weight is propor-
tional not to the spaces covered in interrupted motions, but rather to 1:44
the times in which the body either falls or rises again.58 I shall now give
a proof that places the opinion of the Cartesians beyond any doubt, a
proof from which one will likewise come to realize where the specious
proof of Herr Herrmann goes wrong.59

§ 32.
An equal amount of force is necessary to compress a single one A proof that
of the five equally stretched springs† A, B, C, D, and E for refutes Herr
one second as is necessary to close all five springs successively Fig. 4. Herrmann’s
in the same period of time. For let the second, as the period of case.
time for which body M compresses spring A, be divided into
five equal parts; and instead of assuming that M presses down
on spring A throughout all these five parts of the second, let C

one assume that it presses on spring A only in the first part of B

the second, and that in the second part of the second another
spring, B, with the same degree of tension as A is substituted. A
Thus, when this substitution is made, no difference will be
encountered in the force that M requires to exert pressure. For springs

∗ Fig. 3.
† Fig. 4.

x Wirkung

Natural Science

A and B are perfectly equal in all respects, and it therefore makes no

difference whether in the second part of the second spring A is still under
pressure or whether it is B. Likewise, it makes no difference whether body
M, in the third part of the second, compresses spring C or still exerts
pressure on the previous spring, B; for one can put one spring in the
place of another, given that they differ in no respect. Body M therefore
applies as much pressure to keep the one spring A closed as it needs
to compress five such springs successively in the same period of time.
The same thing can be said if the time in which the pressure is exerted
is equal, even if one increases the numbery of springs to infinity. Thus,
the force of the body that compresses all the springs is not measured
according to the number of springs it compresses; the right measure is
rather the time during which pressure is exerted.
Now if we suppose the comparison that Herr Herrmann makes
between the actionz of the springs and the pressure of weight, then we
1:45 shall find that the space covered is not the measure by which the whole
action of the body must be estimated; it must rather be estimated by the
length of time that the body’s force can resist the weight.
This is therefore the first experiment that, I believe, confirms what I
said above, namely, that Descartes’s opinion in mathematical proofs is
superior to the law of Herr von Leibniz.

§ 33.
The In the Cartesians’ dispute with the defenders of living forces, which the
Cartesians’ Frau Marquise von Chastelet conducted with much eloquence, I find
mistake in that the Cartesians also made use of the difference in time in order to
asserting the invalidate the Leibnizians’ inferences concerning falling bodies.60 But
same thing. from what she cited from the work of Herr von Mairan against the new
estimation of forces, I see that the latter was unacquainted with the true
advantage that he might have derived from the difference in time and
that I believe I pointed to in the preceding section, which is certainly so
simple and clear that one must wonder how, with an understanding as
lucid as this, it was possible not to perceive it.61
It is certainly quite remarkable how far these men erred in their pursuit
of a true law of nature, namely, that the force that weight deprives a body
of is proportional to time and not to space. After they erred so far as to
concede to the Leibnizians that with twice the velocity a body could
bring about a fourfold effect,a after, I say, they thus ruined their case,
they were then compelled to rescue themselves by a rather poor evasive

y Menge a Wirkung
z Wirkung

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

move, namely that a body produces a fourfold effect, but only in twice
the time. They therefore insisted with uncommon seriousness that the
forces of two bodies must be estimated according to the actionsb they
perform in equal times, and that one does not need to consider at all what
they effect in unequal times. This evasive move has been countered with
infinite clarity, and I do not comprehend how it was possible to resist
the force of the truth any further.
But we also see from this that it is merely the fallacies of the Cartesians 1:46
that allow Leibniz’s party to triumph, and that they do not lose the battle
because of the weakness of their case. They would always retain the upper
hand if they would take up the right weapons, which the nature of the
case actually offers them.

§ 34.
I have shown that the effectsc weight brings about and the resis- A doubt raised
tance it exerts in upward motion correspond to the time that bod- by Herr
ies spend in motion. But I recall an instance that is perhaps suffi- Lichtscheid is
ciently plausible to make this proposition dubious to some. In the Acta laid to rest.
eruditorum, Herr Lichtscheid notes that if a pendulum∗ is permitted
to fall from D in such a way that
the thread runs into the obstacle at E,
Fig. 5.
and hence describes a smaller circle in
ascending from B to C, then, by virtue
of the velocity that it gains at B, it C
again reaches the height of CF, which is
equal to the height of DG from which it
descended. But the time which the pen-
dulum spends in its descent through arc F B
DB is longer than the time of its ascent
to C. Thus, weight has had its effect on the pendulum for a longer period
of time during its descent than during its ascent. Now one might think
that if it is true (as I demonstrated previously) that weight has a greater
effectd over longer periods of time, then the body should have gained a
greater velocity at B than the weight of the movement from B to C is
able to take from it again. By means of this velocity it should be capable
of swinging up beyond point C, which is nevertheless false according to
Herr Lichtscheid’s evidence.62

∗ Fig. 5.

b Wirkungen d Wirkung
c Wirkungen

Natural Science

But if we merely reflect that thread AB is more strongly opposed to

the body when it moves from D to B, and that it hinders its descent more
by its weight than thread EB or EC in its descent from C to B, it can be
easily comprehended that the element of force that is accumulated and
collected at all moments during the descent from D to B is smaller than
1:47 the elementary force that weight introduces into body C at each moment
during the opposing descent from C to B. Since it makes no difference
whether a body fastened to a thread is compelled, by its restraint at A,
to run through arc DB or arc CB, or whether it rolls freely downward
on a correspondingly curved surface BD CB, one can imagine that the
descent in question really takes place on two such hollow surfaces that
are connected with each other. Now if surface DB is less sharply inclined
with respect to the horizontal line than is CB, then the body is exposed to
the motor effectse of weight for longer on the former than on the latter,
but the surface also impedes a greater part of the weight that strives to
become incorporated into the body than does the other surface, CB.
I might have been excused from disposing of this objection, since
Herr von Leibniz’s adherents themselves appear to have perceived its
weakness (for I find that they have nowhere made use of it). But Herr
von Leibniz, whom Herr Lichtscheid selected to be the judge of his
treatise, highly commends it, and it is Leibniz’s reputation that could
lend it some weight.63

§ 35.
Before I leave the matter of the free fall of bodies by virtue of their
weight, I want to give the defenders of living forces yet another case to
resolve, which, it seems to me, should demonstrate sufficiently that it is
impossible to exclude the consideration of time from the estimation of
the force that weight introduces into a body, as Herr von Leibniz and
his defenders have hitherto sought to persuade us.

§ 36.
A new case The case is as follows: In the usual manner of the Cartesians and Leib-
proving that nizians, I imagine the pressures due to weightf that are communicated
time 1:48 to a body from height∗ ab down to the horizontal line bc as represented
must by an infinite number of metal springs AB, CD, EF, GH. Furthermore, I
necessarily be place one body, m, on the inclined plane ac, and I let another body, l, fall
taken into freely from a to b. Now how will the force of body m, which is propelled
consideration in
∗ Fig. 6.

e den Antrieben f die Drucke der Schwere

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

down the inclined plane ac by the pressure of the springs, be The estimation
estimated by the Leibnizians at the end of this Fig. 6. of the force
oblique fall at c? They cannot do otherwise than A B deriving from
l m
use as a measure the product of the numberg of C weight.
springs that propel the body from a to c and the D

force that each spring impresses on that body in E

the direction ac, for their systemh requires this, as
we have seen in the case of Herr Herrmann (§ G H
31). And in the same way, they are also compelled
to estimate the force found in a body, l, in its free
b c
fall from a to b by the Factumi of the numberj of
springs by which it is driven forward and the intensity with which each
spring propelled it. But the numberk of springs on both sides, down the
inclined plane ac as well as throughout the height of ab, is equal, for which
reason only the strength of the force each spring introduces into its body
in both instances remains as the true measure of the forces attained by
bodies l and m at b and c. This strength, with which each one of those
metal springs exerts pressure on body m in the direction of the inclined
plane ac, is related to the intensity of the pressure of these same metal
springs on body l in the direction of its motion from a to b just as ab is
related to ac, as the first principles of mechanics teach us. The force that
body l has at the end of its perpendicular fall at b will therefore be related
to the force that body m has at the end of its oblique fall at c just as ac is
related to ab, which, however, is absurd, for both bodies have the same
velocities at b and c, and thus also the same forces.
The Cartesians avoid this objection by bringing in time as well. For
though each spring introduces less force into body m on the inclined
plane ac (since a part of the force is consumed by the resistance of the
surface), these springs act on body m much longer than on body l, which
is exposed to their pressure for a much shorter period of time.

§ 37.
Now that I have demonstrated that the consideration of bodies falling
due to their weight is in no way favorable to living forces, it is time for 1:49
me to consider another kind of proof on which the defenders of living
forces have always prided themselves. At issue are the proofs that the
doctrine of the motion of elastic bodies appears to offer them.64

g Menge j Menge
h Lehrgebäude k Anzahl
i product

Natural Science

§ 38.
In the division occasioned by Herr von Leibniz’s estimation of forces,
as many illusions and digressions arose among the geometers as could
scarcely be predicted among such great masters of the art of deduction.l
The accounts preserved for us of all the episodes in this notorious con-
troversy will some day occupy a very useful place in the history of the
human understanding. No reflection can more readily triumph over the
imagination of those who rate the correctness of our rational deductionsm
so highly than those delusions that the most acute masters of geometry
were unable to avoid in an investigation which, more than any other,
ought to have brought them clarity and conviction.
It would have been impossible to go astray in this way if the Leib-
nizian gentlemen had been willing to take the trouble of directing their
attention to the construction of those very proofs they now regard as
irrefutable demonstrations of living forces.

§ 39.
The sum of all Nearly all, or at least the most plausible, of those proofs of living forces
proofs taken that were derived from the motions of elastic bodies due to impact
from the originated in the following way. The force present in such bodies after
motion of impact was compared with the force before impact. The first was found
elastic bodies. to be greater than the second if it was measured according to the product
of mass and velocity, but a perfect equality became apparent only when
the square of the velocity instead of simple velocity was posited. The
Leibnizian gentlemen inferred from this that an elastic body would never
be capable of introducing into a body that it strikes as much motion as it
1:50 actually does if that body’s force were simply proportional to its velocity,
for according to this measure, the cause would always be smaller than
the effect produced.

§ 40.
The This inference is completely refuted by the theorems of those very people
Leibnizians who drew it. I need not cite the mechanical discoveries of Wren, Wallis,
refute their Huygens, and others.65 Government Counsellor and Baron Wolff shall
inferences by be my authority.66 If one consults his Mechanics, which is in everyone’s
their own hands, one will find proofs that no longer leave any doubt that elastic
bodies, in complete conformity with the law of the equality of cause
and effects, impart all their motions to other bodies without any need

l Schlußkünstler n Lehrgebäude
m Vernunftschlüße

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

to assume in them a force other than mere velocity. I can also add that
one may know nothing at all about living forces, not even their name,
without being in the least prevented from recognizing that from the
force of a spring-hard body in its impact on other similar bodies flow
just those motions that each body derives from it. After a geometrical
proof in which the force estimated according to mere velocity has been
judged sufficient, is it not strange to derive from this a certain magnitude
of motion in other bodies, is it not strange, I say, after such a proof to
entertain the notion that this force is not of sufficient magnitude for this
purpose? Is this not to retract everything that was formerly demonstrated
with all rigor, and to do this simply because of a slight appearanceo
to the contrary? I ask those who read these pages merely to compare
them with the Mechanics I cited. They cannot possibly feel anything but
the greatest conviction that they require no idea of estimation by the
square in order to find with all rigor those consequences and motions that
are customarily attributed to spring-hard bodies. Let us not therefore be
diverted from this path by any delusions whatsoever. For what is found
to be true in a geometrical proof will remain true forever.

§ 41. 1:51
Let us demonstrate in a particular case what we proved in gen- Herr
eral. In the treatise he composed in defense of living forces, Herrmann’s
Herr Herrmann lets a body A∗ with a mass of 1 and a velocity case of the
of 2 collide on a perfectly smooth impact of three
surface with sphere B, which is at Fig. 7. elastic bodies.
1 1 3
rest and has a mass of 3, but after-
wards, inasmuch as A rebounds C A B

off sphere B and returns with a

certain degree of velocity, he lets it collide with sphere C whose mass is
1.67 Sphere A will communicate one degree of velocity to sphere B and
another to sphere C, at which point it will be at rest. Herr Herrmann
infers from this that if the forces were proportional only to the veloci-
ties, then before impact A would have a force of 2, but after impact there
would be a fourfold force in bodies B and C together, a conclusion which
seems to him to be absurd.
Let us examine how body A, with a force of 2, can introduce a
fourfold force into bodies B and C without a miracle taking place
or without it being necessary to appeal to living forces. Represent
the elastic force of a body A,† which is activated by impact, by

∗ Fig. 7.
† Fig. 8.

o Anscheinung

Natural Science

Fig. 8.
spring AD and the elasticity of
sphere B by spring DB. Now we
1 3 know from the first principles of
A D B mechanics that by means of these
springs, body A introduces ever
new pressures and forces into sphere B until B and A move off with equal
velocities, which occurs when the velocity of these bodies is related to
the velocity of sphere A before the collisionp as mass A is related to the
sum of the two masses A and B together; i.e., in the present case, when
they move with one half the velocity in direction BE. No one denies
that, in this case, the actionq will still be found to be proportional to
the force estimated according to velocity. But let us also examine what
happens to springs AD and DB when, by their means, body A acts on
1:52 sphere B. Because spring AD must exert just as much force on spring
DB at point D as this spring is to impress on body B, yet sphere B resists
with equal strength the action that occurs in itr just as strongly, it is
clear that spring DB will be compressed by the effort of the other spring
with exactly the same degree of force as it introduces into sphere B. In
exactly the same way, sphere A will compress its spring AD with exactly
the same degree with which this spring acts on spring DB at point D,
because spring DB presses against spring AD just as powerfully as the
latter acts on it, and thus also endeavors just as powerfully as sphere A
to compress its spring. Now because the force with which spring DB is
compressed is equal to the resistance of sphere B, and hence also to the
force that this ball thereby receives, but the force of the compression
of spring AD is also equal to the former, both are as great as the force
body B thereby obtained, i.e., the force with which it moves with a mass
of 3 and one half of a degree of velocity. If, therefore, both of these
springs rebound, spring DB gives sphere B a velocity equal to the velocity
before it rebounds, namely, 12 , and spring AD also gives body B three
times as much velocity, namely, 1 + 12 degree, since it has three times
less mass than B, for if the forces are equal, then the velocities are, per
hypothesin,s inversely proportional to the masses. Thus, sphere B has from
the collisiont of body A, and subsequently also from the rebound of its
spring, altogether one degree of velocity, in direction BE. But since the
velocity of 12 in direction AE that still remains in sphere A after impact
must be subtracted from the velocity in direction AC that was introduced
into it by the rebound of the spring, at point D this sphere also receives a

p Anlauf
q Wirkung
r die Wirkung, welche in ihr geschieht, . . . widersteht.
s by hypothesis
t Anlauf

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

degree of velocity, with which it moves off in the direction AC,∗ which is
precisely the case that Herr Herrmann considered impossible to explain
according to the Cartesian law.
I conclude from this that body A, with two degrees of velocity and also
with two degrees of force, can completely achieve the effectu that Herr
Herrmann wished to deny to it, and one violates the law of the equality 1:53
of causes and effects if one claims that the body had four degrees of
force yet effects only as much as it could effect with two degrees.

§ 42.
Let us try to discover in Herr Herrmann’s inferences the real point of The reason for
error that is found in almost all cases where only elastic bodies have been the error in
invoked for the sake of living forces. It has been reasoned that the forces Herr
of bodies after impactv must be equal to the force before impact; for the Herrmann’s
effectsw are as great as the causes that were exhausted in producing the conclusion.
effects. From this I gather that the state and magnitude of the force after
impact has occurred have been held to be the effect solely of the force
that was in the approaching body before impact.x This is the false step
whose consequences we have seen. For the motions that derive actually
and completely from the approaching body A amount to nothing more
than that A and B both moved away with one half the velocity when the
spring was compressed; the compression of the spring was not so much
a special effecty of the force with which A moved forward against B as
rather a consequence of the inertial force of both bodies. For B could not
attain the force of 1+ 12 without reacting just as powerfully against the
pressing spring DB, and spring AD could therefore introduce no force
into B if the state of equilibrium between pressure and counterpressure
had not compressed spring BD at the same time. Moreover, body A could
not compress spring DB by means of its spring AD, if this spring had not
thereby been compressed with the same degree of intensity. One should
not be surprised that two entirely new forces that did not previously
exist in body A alone enter into nature in this way. This actually happens
whenever an inelastic body acts on another body, but in this case the
effectsz of this new force are not preserved, as they are in the case of
spring-hard bodies, but rather are lost. For at the moment when A acts 1:54

∗ I do not involve body C here, for inasmuch as its velocity and mass are in no respect dif-
ferent from the mass and velocity of sphere B, Herr Herrmann has no need to introduce
it in place of body B.

u Wirkung x Anstoß
v Stoß y Wirkung
w Wirkungen z Folgen

Natural Science

At the moment on B with force x, B not only receives this force in the direction of BE; it
when inelastic at the same time reacts on A with intensity x. Thus, two forces of x are
bodies likewise first of all present in nature, namely: x for the pressure exerted by sphere
strike each A on sphere B, and likewise for the counterpressure exerted by sphere
other more B; and second, x as the force that passes from A over into B in direction
force is exerted
BE. The first two powersa are exerted in the collisionb of elastic bodies
than before
to compress two springs that subsequently communicate their forces to
those bodies when they are released. Hence, elastic bodies are those
machines of nature that are designed to preserve the entire magnitude
of force present in nature at the moment of the collision; for without
them, a part of the forces generated by the conflictusc of bodies would be

§ 43.
In solving Herrmann’s case, I have said nothing with regard to the
foundation of this proof, which this philosopher could not have been
acquainted with or which the most prestigious advocates of living forces
would claim to deny if it were important for them to declare themselves
on that account. Herr Herrmann must have known how the motions
originating in the impact of elastic bodies could be derived from their
mere velocity; for without this, it would never have been possible for him
to know a priori that a sphere with one unit of mass and two degrees of
velocity would produce four degrees of force in striking against a body
with three times its mass. I say that this case could not have been known
to him without the type of solution which we have given, for every-
one knows that, in a mechanical investigation, one finds the motions
produced by an elastic body through impact by first searching in par-
ticular for what the body does without its elastic force,d and that one
subsequently adds the effect of the elasticity,e but that one determines
both according to what the body can do in proportion to its mass and
its simple velocity. In the kind of reasoningf called an argumentum ad
hominem, there is nothing stronger to be said against Herr Herrmann
1:55 and the Leibnizians in general. For they must either admit that all the
proofs that they had until then agreed give the reason for the motions
arising from the impact of elastic bodies were false, or they must grant
that such a body produced the motions solely by a force proportional
to the simple combination of mass and velocity, for which reason they
believed it required the square of its velocity.

a Gewalten d Federkraft
b Zusammenstoß e Wirkung der Elasticität
c collision f Schlußrede

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

§ 44.
I am convinced by the controversy between the Frau Marquise von This solution
Chastelet and Herr von Mairan that it has not been superfluous to was unknown
have given a detailed exposition of the manner in which elastic bodies to Frau von
generate a greater quantity of motion through impact than was present Chastelet.
before impact. Herr von Mairan says: elastic force is a true machine of
nature, etc., etc.; that if one wishes to observe in particular all the
effectsg of the impact of elastic bodies by summing up as positive
what they yield in the two opposite directions, then one must
ascribe the new force that appears to arise from this in nature and
that manifests itself through the impact, not to the activity of the
striking body, as if it transferred this activity to the body struck, but
rather to a foreignh source of force, etc., etc. In a word, one must
ascribe it to a certain physical cause of elasticity, whatever it may
be, whose efficacy the impact has merely released and triggered,
so to speak, etc., etc. But I say that if Herr von Mairan says this, then
Frau von Chastelet responds: it is useless to investigate this until
the author of this opinion has taken the trouble to base what he
wished to claim here on some proof. I have done myself the honor
of undertaking this effort in place of Herr von Mairan, which is the
justification by which I excuse my long-windedness in this matter.

§ 45. 1:56
The following objection against the Leibnizians was also raised by Herr Herr Jurin’s
Jurin and others: two inelastic bodies that strike each other with veloci- objection
ties inversely proportional to their masses will remain at rest after impact. concerning the
Now according to the doctrine of living forces, there are two kinds of repercussioni of
forces here, which can be made as unequal as one wishes, but which two inelastic
and unequal
nonetheless preserve each other in equilibrium.
I find in Frau von Chastelet’s physics a response to this objection that,
as I gather from the citation, has the famous Herr Bernoulli as its author. On Herr
Herr Bernoulli did not succeed in finding a defense worthy of his name Bernoulli’s
for his opinion. He says that inelastic bodies, by the compression of their refutation of
parts, have the same effectj on each other this objection
as if they compressed a spring located Fig. 9. through a
between them. Thus, he assumes spring
E with the
R,∗ which simultaneously expands on both A R B
compression of
∗ Fig. 9.

g Wirkungen i Gegenstoß
h fremde j Wirkung

Natural Science

sides and which propelsk bodies of unequal mass on both sides. He proves
that the velocities communicated to the bodies by this spring are inversely
proportional to their masses and hence that if spheres A and B returned
with these velocities, they would return the spring to its original state
of compression. Up to this point everything is correct and in complete
agreement with the theorems of the Cartesians. However, let us see how
he pursues his argument. In springing apart, the parts of the spring move
in part in the direction of sphere A and in part in the direction of sphere
B, but the point of separation is at R, which divides the spring in inverse
proportion to the masses A and B. Part RB of spring R therefore acts on
body B, which has a mass of 3, whereas the other part, RA, communicates
its force to sphere A, which has a mass of 1. But the forces imparted to
these bodies are related to each other as the number of springs that have
1:57 exerted pressure on them; consequently, the forces of spheres A and B
are unequal, although their velocities are inversely proportional to their
masses. Now if spring R has become fully extended, and if the bodies
returned to it with the same velocities that the spring communicated to
them when it was released, then one can easily see that the one body
would bring the other to rest by means of the compression of the spring.
Now their forces are unequal; consequently, one can recognize from
this how it is possible for two bodies with unequal forces to bring one
another to rest. He applies this to the collision of inelastic bodies.

§ 46.
Herr I discern in this argument not the Herr Bernouilli who was accustomed
Bernouilli’s to construct his proofs with far greaterl acuteness. It is indisputably cer-
thoughts are tain that the rebounding spring must communicate to one of the bodies
refuted. A and B just as much force as it communicates to the other. For it brings
to sphere A a force equivalent to the intensity with which it impinges on
sphere B. If it did not meet any resistance,m then it would impart no force
at all to sphere A, for it would spring apart with no effect. This spring
can therefore exertn no force on A without also impressing exactly the
same degree of forceo on the moving sphere B. The forces of spheres A
and B are therefore equal; they are not related to each other as lengths
AR and RB, as Herr Bernouilli falsely persuaded himself they were.
One can easily see how the error in Herr Bernouilli’s argument arose.
Its source is the proposition the Leibnizian party was so insistent on,
namely that the force of a body is proportional to the number of springs

k treibt n anwenden
l vollkommenere o Gewalt
m Widerhalt

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

that have acted on it.∗ We have already refuted this proposition above,
and Herr Bernouilli’s case confirms our thoughts.

§ 47. 1:58
One sees, not without pleasure, how excellently this explanation, which Bernoulli’s idea
was to be used to defend living forces, serves rather as a weapon for confirms our
quashing the defense completely. For since it is now certain that spring R opinion.
confers equal forces on bodies that have 1 and 3 units of mass (§46), and
further, that the ball with one unit of mass has three units of veloc-
ity, while the other ball has one unit of velocity, just as Leibnizians
themselves grant, two consequences follow from this, both of which
directly conflict with living forces. First, that the force that a body obtains
through the pressure of the springs is proportional to the time of the
action of the springs and not to the number of springs that propelled it.
Second, a body with one unit of mass and three units of velocity does
not have more force than another body with three units of mass and only
one unit of velocity.

§ 48.
Up to now, we have seen how Leibniz’s supporters employed the colli- Defense of
sion of elastic bodies to defend living forces. However, their application living forces
was merely mathematical. Yet they also thought that this casep of phoron- through the
omy involves a metaphysical argumentq in support of their opinion. Herr continual
von Leibniz himself is the author of this argument, and his reputation conservation of
the same
lent it no small weight.
quantity of
He willingly accepted Descartes’s principle that the same quantityr force in the
of force is always conserved in the world, but only such force whose world.
quantitys must be estimated by the square of velocity. He showed that
the old measure of force did not allow for this nice rule. For if one
assumes that measure, then the force in nature will constantly increase
or decrease depending on whether the position of bodies relative to each
other is changed. Leibniz believed that it is unseemly for God’s power
and wisdom that he should be compelled, as Newton imagined, to renew
constantly the motion that he had communicated to his work, and that

∗ Bodies A and B thus have equal forces, because springs RA and RB have acted on them
for equal periods and because the parts of these springs were all compressed with equal

p Stück r Größe
q Grund s Quantität

Natural Science

1:59 prompted Leibniz to search for a law by which this difficulty could be

§ 49.
First solution to Because we established in the preceding that living forces could not be
this objection. admitted in the way that their defenders themselves had, namely in a
mathematical sense, God’s power and wisdom already safeguarded itself
here in light of the utter impossibility of the matter. We can always hide
behind this protective shield if, for instance, we should come up short in
giving another kind of response to this objection. For even if, according
to the law of motion that we have put forward, it were necessary for
the universe ultimately to fall into complete disorder after the gradual
depletion of its forces, this attack could not impinge on the power and
wisdom of God. For one can never hold against this power and wisdom
that it failed to create a law that we know to be absolutely impossible
and that therefore could never obtain.

§ 50.
Second response But one should take heart. We are not yet compelled to resort to such a
to the imagined desperate evasive move. That would be to slice through the knot, whereas
objection. we prefer to untie it.
If the Leibnizians maintain that it is absolutely necessary for the
preservation of the mechanical structure of the worldt that the force
of bodies is subject to estimation by the square, we can grant them this
small demand. Everything that I have shown up to now, and everything
that I still intend to show, down to the conclusion of this chapter, is
meant to convince them of the following: neither in abstract consider-
ations nor in nature does the force of bodies permit estimation by the
square along the mathematical lines of the Leibnizians. But I have not
yet for this reason entirely renounced living forces. In the third chapter
1:60 of this treatise, I shall prove that there really are forces in nature whose
measure is the square of their velocity, but with the qualification that
they will never be discovered in the way that has been tried up to now,
that is, that they will be forever hidden from this type of consideration
(namely a mathematical one), and that only a metaphysical investiga-
tion, or possiblyu a special sort of experience, will acquaint us with them.
Hence we do not really contest here the matter itself, but only the modum

t Weltmaschine v mode of cognition

u etwa

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

Accordingly, we agree with the Leibnizians about the main issue, and
we could thus perhaps also come to agree with them about its implica-

§ 51.
Herr von Leibniz’s objection, however, is based on a false presupposition, The source of
which has already been troublesome to philosophy for a long time. For it the Leibnizian
has come to be a principle of the doctrine of nature that no motion arises conclusion
in nature except through matter that is also in actual motion, and that about
therefore motion lost in one part of the world can be restored only by conserving
exactly the
either another actual motion or the direct hand of God. This principle
same quantity
was always the cause of much inconvenience to those who supported it. of force.
They were forced to exhaust their imagination with artificially contrived
vortices and to build one hypothesis on top of another, and instead of
finally leading us to a plan of the cosmos that would be sufficiently
simple and transparent to explain the complex phenomena of nature,
they confuse us with infinitely many strange motions, which are far more
wondrous and incomprehensible than everything those very motions are
supposed to explain.
As far as I know, Herr Hamberger was the first one to present the How this
means to remedy this malady. His idea is beautiful, for it is simple and difficulty can be
thus conforms to nature as well. He shows (though still in a very imperfect remedied.
outline) how a body can receive actual motion through a matter that itself,
however, is merely at rest. This prevents innumerable errors, and indeed,
frequently miraculous actsw that are associated with the contrary opinion. 1:61
Granted, the basis of this idea is metaphysical and thus also not to the
liking of today’s natural scientists,x but at the same time, it is evident that
the very first sources of nature’s operations definitely have to be a subjecty
of metaphysics. Herr Hamberger failed to show the world a new path
leading us to cognition of nature in a shorter and easier fashion. This field
has remained fallow; people have not yet been able to tear themselves
away from the old path to venture on a new one. Isn’t it strange that
they entrust themselves to an ocean of excesses and arbitrary inventions
of the imagination, while disregarding tools that are simple, intelligible,
and, precisely for this reason, natural as well? But this is the common
scourge of the understanding. This current will sweep people along for
a long time to come. They will entertain themselves with convoluted
and contrived considerations, by which the understanding perceives its
own strength. They will have physics full of splendid examples of wit and

w Wunderwerke y Vorwurf
x Naturlehrer

Natural Science

inventiveness, but no plan of nature itself and its operations.z But still,
in the end, the opinion that portrays nature as it is, that is, as simple and
without infinite detours, will gain the upper hand. The path of nature is
but a single path. Hence people must first have tried uncountably many
dead ends before finding the right path.
The Leibnizians, more than others, should embrace Herr Ham-
berger’s view. For they are the ones who claim that a dead pressure
that is conserved in the body to which it was communicated and not
destroyed by an insurmountable obstacle, can turn into an actual motion.
Therefore, they will also not be able to deny that a body that is drawn
to the parts of a surrounding fluid more in one direction than another
will eventually gain an actual motion, provided the fluid is such that it
does not in turn destroy the body’s force by its resistance. This must
persuade them of what I am now asserting, namely that a body can gain
actual motion from matter that is itself at rest.
Decision 1:62 How, then, will we avoid the attack that Leibniz means to deal the
regarding Cartesian law with his observation about God’s wisdom? Everything
Herr von depends on whether a body can attain actual motion through the actiona
Leibniz’s of a matter at rest. This is my foundation. The very first motions in
objection. this universe were not produced by the force of a matter in motion; for
otherwise they would not have been the first. But neither had they been
caused by the direct power of God, or any intelligent being, as long as
it was still possible that they could arise through the actionb of a matter
at rest; for God spares himself as many operationsc as he can without
adversely affecting the mechanical structure of the world,d while making
nature as active and efficacious as is possible. Now, if motion is originally
introduced into the world by the force of an essentially dead matter that
is itself at rest, then it will also be preserved and, if it is lost, restored
by that very matter. One would therefore have to have a great appetite
for doubt if one still had further misgivings about believing that the
structure of the world would suffer no damage if certain forces of bodies
that were present beforehand vanished in impact.

§ 52.
According to I return now from a digression that diverted me from the main topic
Leibniz’s law, in which I am involved. As I already noted, the defenders of living
the force in the forces fancy that they have accomplished a great deal with the following
between a small
elastic body and z d
Wirkungen Weltmaschine
a larger one is a e
Wirkung Anstoß
the same before b f
Wirkung Stoß
and after c Wirkungen
Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

observation: If the force of bodies is estimated according to Leibniz’s

law, then one and the same magnitude of force is found before and after
impact in the collisiong of elastic bodies. This idea, which seems to favor
living forces in such a wondrous way, should rather assist us in striking
them down. Let us reason as follows. The law which says that, in the 1:63
collision of a smaller elastic body with a larger one, the force before
and after impact is equal, is false. Now, Leibniz’s law is such a law.
Therefore, etc. etc.

§ 53.
Of the assumptions made in this argument, only the major premise needs The
to be proved. Let us do this in the following way. When ball A∗ runs observation
up against a larger ball B, then, at the moment when A strikes and com- cited by the
presses the spring, which we call elasticity, body B acquires no more Leibnizians is
force than it destroys in A through its inertial force, and contrariwise, entirely
contrary to
body A loses no more of its force through the resistance of mass B, whose
living forces.
resistance continues on in it by means of the tension of the spring it com-
presses, than is introduced into this very ball. If one were to deny this,
then it would no longer be certain that the action transmitted to a body is
equal to its reaction. The spring is therefore compressed, and there is the
same force in both bodies taken together as was found previously in ball
A alone. If these springs of mutual elasticity now recoil, they will expand
toward both bodies with equal strength. Now, it is clear that if A, after
the compression of the springs in the direction of AE, still had a force as
great as the one now involved in the recoiling spring, then this recoiling
action could remove just as much force from ball A as spring DB intro-
duces into B on the other side, and therefore, after everything is done,
whether through impact or elasticity, there would certainly be no more
force present in balls A and B than was previously present in A alone.
But it is pointless to presuppose this. After the impact has occurred and
the spring has just been compressed, A has just as much velocity in the
direction of AE as B has, but it has less mass, hence less force, than the
spring exerts in its recoil, for this spring has a tensile forceh as great as
the force of ball B. It follows that elasticity cannot take as much force 1:64
from A as it communicates to body B. For A does not have this much
force, and consequently it cannot be taken away from it either. Accord-
ingly, a new unit of force must be added to B though the operationi of
elasticity without, for that reason, exactly the same being subtracted on

∗ Fig. 8 [see p. 50].

g Anlauf i Wirkung
h Kraft der Spannung

Natural Science

the other side; indeed, a new force is likewise generated in A in addi-

tion. For since elasticity encountered no more of the force than it could
destroy in A, the ball opposed it with only its inertial force and received,
in addition to the force of body A, the degree of powerj that the spring
had possessed beyond the force of body A, in order to return with
it to C.
It is therefore clear that when a smaller elastic body runs up against
a larger one, more force must be present after impact than beforehand.
Now if Leibniz’s measure of force were true, one would have to propose
the opposite, namely that exactly the same quantity of force is found after
impact as before it. Thus, we must either deny this law or else renounce
entirely the conviction afforded us in this section.

§ 54.
The foregoing We will be completely convinced of the correctness of what has now
is even clearer been said if we reverse the previous case and assume that ball B∗ with a
if one considers greater mass runs up against a smaller ball, A. For in the first place, ball
the case of a B loses, through its impact on ball A, neither more nor less force than it
larger elastic thereby generates in ball A (if we consider merely what takes place before
body hitting a
the elasticity becomes evident). Thus, before the elastic forcek acts, the
smaller one.
force in these bodies was neither increased nor diminished. Now, the
elastic force is loaded to the degree with which body A moves toward
C, for which reason its degree of tension is less than the force in body B
moving in the direction of BC; thus, when the elastic force is releasedl
1:65 it will never be exhausted, even if it brings its full power to bear right
away. And thus when the spring compressed by the impact recoils, it will
indeed produce a new force in body A, but it will also destroy just as
much in B as it communicates to the former body. Thus the elastic force
does not increase the total force either, because the amount taken from
the one side is always equal to what is added to the other.
Accordingly we see that it is only when a larger body hits one of lesser
mass that the same degree of force is preserved in the impact, and that
in all other cases, where the elasticity is not capable of destroying as
much force on the one side as it generates on the other, the force after
impact is always greater than prior to it, which destroys the Leibnizian
law. For according to this law, exactly the same quantity of force would
remain preserved in nature in all possible cases, without any decrease or

∗ Fig. 8 [see p. 50].

j Gewalt l aufspringt
k Federkraft

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

§ 55.
Thus the Leibnizians should, if they can, present us with a single example In the case of a
of a larger elastic body colliding with a smaller one that would contradict larger body
Descartes’s estimation, since then no one would be able to object. For hitting a
only such an example would be decisive and allow of no exception, since smaller one,
one certainly always finds in it after impact the whole quantity of force calculation
confirms that
that was there beforehand. But no defender of living forces ever dared
the quantity of
to attack the Cartesian law regarding this type of impact, for such a force remains
defender would necessarily see quite easily that the mechanical rules the same, in
are completely consistent with the Cartesian estimation. For instance, accordance with
assume that a body B has three units of mass and a body A has one unit the Cartesian
of mass, and that B runs up against A with four units of velocity. We can law.
then argue according to the established phoronomic rule that the ratio
of B’s and A’s difference in mass to the sum of their masses equals the
ratio of B’s velocities before and after impact.70 Therefore, after impact
body B will have two units.71 Furthermore, the ratio of A’s velocity after
impact to B’s velocity before impact equals the ratio of twice the mass of
B to the sum of the masses of A and B 2B: A+B.72 Therefore, A attains 1:66
six units of velocity.73 Hence, according to the Cartesian estimation the
force of both bodies after the conflictum adds up to twelve units.74 And
this is what was required.

§ 56.
If one wants to measure the quantity of a force, one must pur- The force with
sue it in its actions.n But first we need to abstract from them those which a smaller
phenomena that are admittedly connected with its actions, but are not a body bounces off
proper consequenceo of the force to be estimated. a larger one
Now, if an elastic body hits another body that has a greater mass, bears the minus
then we know from the laws of motion that after impact the smaller
body bounces back with a certain degree of force. We also learned in
the previous paragraphis p that the force with which a small body bounces
off a larger one equals the surplus of force that the effort of the vivified
elasticity has beyond the force of body A, with which A had advanced
in the direction of AE together with body B before the elastic forcesq
of both bodies became effective. Now (in accordance with what was
demonstrated previously), as long as the elasticity still encountered a
force in body A that was directed from A to D and that could destroy it
to the same degree as it introduced force into B, as long as this occurred,

m collision p paragraphs
n Wirkungen q Federkräfte
o Folge

Natural Science

I say, there was nothing in both bodies combined that did not contain
exactly the same quantity of force that was present previously in A alone,
as cause; consequently, up to this point, the state of both bodies had to
be regarded as a genuine effectr of the force present in A prior to impact.
For the effect is at all times neither greater nor less than the cause. But we
know further that the elastic force,s having already destroyed all the force
that had remained in A in direction AE, introduces new forces in both
bodies A and B, in addition to those that had constituted the genuine and
complete operationt of ball A. Therefore, we will be able to extract these
from the motion of both balls again in the following manner, namely
if we subtract from body A the force with which it returns after the
blow, and if we also subtract just as much from the force acquired by
1:67 ball B: From this we can easily see that the force with which a small
ball bounces off a larger one is of a negative type and bears the minus
sign. If, for example, a ball A with two units of velocity hits a ball with
three units of mass, after impact A will bounce off B with one unit of
velocity and give B this unit as well. Now, if we wish to determine the
total quantity of the actionu exerted by body A, we cannot add the force
with which A returns after impact to the force of ball B. No, it needs to
be subtracted from body A as well as deducted from the force present
in B. The remainder, which is two units, will be the complete actionv
performed by the force of ball A. Therefore, a body with two units of
mass and one unit of velocity has just as much force as another body with
one unit of mass and two units of velocity.

§ 57.
Frau Chastelet It befell the enlightened Frau Marchioness von Chastelet that she
jested about made light of Herr von Mairan at the wrong time. Regarding the obser-
this at the vation that we just cited, she answered him as follows: She believed
wrong time. that he would not lightly perform an experiment and want to find
himself in the way of a body that, marked by the minus sign, would
rebound with 500 or 1000 degrees of force. I, too, believe it, and I
would very much deceive myself if I suspected that Herr von Mairan
would be party to settling the truth in this manner. But the matter does
not depend on the fact that the force designated by the minus sign is not
a real force, as the Frau Marchioness seems to infer. Undoubtedly, Herr
von Mairan did not wish to say this in making that designation. It is in

r rechtmäßige Wirkung u Wirkung

s Federkraft v Wirkung
t Wirkung

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

fact a real force, and it would also exercise real effectsw if one were to put
it to the test. Merely the following is thereby suggested, namely that this
force as well as a part of the force of ball B that is equal to it cannot be
attributed to the complete effect of ball A; rather, one must regard it as
if the force were not at all present in A but would instead be subtracted 1:68
from B, and that only then does the force remaining afterward really
offer the complete effectx of the force present before the collision. But
if one regards a quantity in this way, then it counts for less than nothing
in the summation, and requires the minus sign.

§ 58.
Now, my readers will presume to find certain proofs derived from the The
doctrine of the motion of inelastic bodies in collisions that the Leib- Leibnizians shy
nizians would have employed when defending living forces. But they away from the
deceive themselves. These gentlemen do not find that class of motions examination of
to be too favorable to their opinion, and they therefore seek to wholly living forces in
exclude them from their investigation. This is a sickness from which
those who venture to attain the truth really do suffer. They close their
eyes, as it were, to what seems to contradict the principley that they have
set in their heads. A small pretext, a cold and lame excuse, can satisfy
them when it matters to remove a difficulty that challenges their prej-
udice. One could have spared us many mistakes in philosophy if one
had been willing to exercise some restraint in this regard. If one is in
the process of gathering all the reasons the understanding supplies as
evidence of an opinion that has been advanced, then one should try,
with the same attention and effort, to substantiate the contrary opinion
by all sorts of proofs that suggest themselves in some way. One should
not despise anything that appears to be the least bit advantageous to the
contrary opinion, and that carries its defense to its pinnacle. In such a
balance of the understanding, an opinion would occasionally be rejected
that would certainly have been accepted otherwise. And the truth that
is eventually revealed would present itself in all the more persuasive a

§ 59. 1:69
The defenders of living forces have already been instructed several times With regard to
that the motions of inelastic bodies are far better suited to the determi- living forces,
nation of the presence of living forces than are the motions of elastic inelastic
collisions are
more decisive
w Wirkungen y Satz
than elastic
x Wirkung collisions.

Natural Science

bodies. For in the latter, elastic forcez is always mixed in, which leads to
endless confusions, whereas the motion of the former is determined by
action and reaction alone. There is no doubt that the Leibnizians would
let themselves be persuaded by the clarity of this idea, if only it did not
overturn the entire edifice of living forces.

§ 60.
The stratagem They had therefore been compelled to take refuge in one of the worst
of the stratagems ever to be employed. They claim, namely, that in inelastic
Leibnizians in collisions a part of the force is always lost inasmuch as this part is applied
light of the in denting the parts of the bodies. Thus, half the force of an inelastic
objection from body is lost when striking another body at rest and of equal mass, and is
absorbed in the indentation of its parts.

§ 61.
The origin of This notion has more than one bad aspect to it. Let us consider some of
this erroneous them.
notion. Even at first glance, it should not be hard to perceive the source of
this error. We know partly by experience, and partly by the doctrine
of nature, that a hard body that changes shape on impact only slightly,
or not at all, is always an elastic body, and that, conversely, the parts of
inelastic bodies fit together such that they yield and cave in on impact.
Nature has commonly combined these properties, but in a mathematical
modela we are not compelled to take them together.
1:70 The adherents of living forces became confused in this way. They
imagine that, since an inelastic body is commonly structured in nature
so that its parts yield and cave in on impact, the rules afforded by a purely
mathematical modelb of nature cannot hold good without this property.
This is the origin of the difficulty that we saw in § 60 and that is entirely
groundless, as we shall learn presently.

§ 62.
First response In mathematics, we understand the elastic force of a body simply as the
to the property by which that body repels an impacting body with just the same
Leibnizian degree of force as that of the body that hits it. Hence an inelastic body
stratagem. is one that lacks this property.

z Federkraft b Betrachtung
a Betrachtung

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

Mathematics is not concerned with the way in which this property

emerges in nature. It is and remains entirely indeterminate in mathemat-
ics whether elasticity derives from the change of shape and its sudden
emergence, or whether the source of this property is a hidden entelechy,
a qualitas occulta,c or God knows what other kind of cause. If we find
elasticity described in mechanics as arising from the compression and
rebounding of the parts of a body, we should note that mathematicians
making use of this explanation are meddling in a matter that does not
concern them, that does not contribute to their project, and that is actu-
ally a task for the doctrine of nature.
Accordingly, if the examination of inelastic bodies in mathematics pre-
supposes nothing further than that such a body has within it no force
that would bring about the repulsion of the body that hits it and if this
single determination is what the entire doctrined of the motion of inelas-
tic bodies is built on, then it is incoherent to maintain that the rules of
these motions are what they are because the compression of the parts
of the colliding bodies admit only these rules and no others. For in the
principles from which these laws derive we find no trace of the compres-
sion of parts. All the concepts on which one has constructed these laws
are so indeterminate with respect to this restriction that we can without
detriment count as inelastic both those bodies that do not change their 1:71
figure on impact and those that suffer a compression of their parts. Now,
since this compression was not considered in the construction of these
laws, and since the fundamental concepts do not even involve it, it is very
strange indeed to blame compression for the laws under consideration
being what they are.

§ 63.
We said that in the consideration mathematics gives us of the motion of Second
inelastic bodies, one could regard these bodies as perfectly hard, as if their response:
parts are not caved in by impact. Nature also offers us examples showing Because we can
that a body whose parts yield more than those of another is precisely call a body
not always the more inelastic body, and that occasionally a body whose inelastic
although it is
parts are hardly indented at all is less elastic when compared to a body
perfectly hard.
whose parts yield more easily. For when dropped on the pavement, a
wooden ball, which can be called extraordinarily hard if compared to a
padded ball, will not rebound nearly as high as a quite easily compressed
padded ball. Hence we see that even in nature a body is inelastic not
because its parts are compressed, but only because they do not restore
themselves with a degree of force equal to the one by which they had been

c occult quality d Hauptstück

Natural Science

compressed. Thus we can also posit bodies whose parts yield infinitely
little on impact and characteristically fail to restore themselves from this
infinitely small compression, or, if they do so, then with a degree of
velocity that is far less than that with which they are compressed, as,
say, a wooden ball would behave, if one may compare small things with
great ones. Bodies like those I am speaking of would be perfectly hard,∗
1:72 but would still be inelastic. Accordingly, one could not exclude them
from the laws of inelastic collisions, even though their parts cannot be
indented. How could the exception of the Leibnizians hold up here?

§ 64.
Third We can still grant the Leibnizians their presupposition that inelastic
response: The bodies always suffer a compression of their parts. A body exerts exactly
compression of the same effecte on another moving body whose parts it compresses
parts is no through impact that it would have if there were a spring in between which
reason why a is compressed by the approach. I can freely make use of this idea, not
part of the force
only because it is plain and convincing, but also because Herr Bernoulli,
should be lost in
the great guardian spirit of living forces, used it in just the same case.
collisions. Now if a ball A† is moved toward another, B, and compresses spring
R in its approach, then I say that all the small units of force applied in
compressing the spring transfer into the mass of body B and accumulate
until the entire force that compresses the spring has been transferred into
the imagined body B. For body A does not lose a single unit of force, and
the spring is not compressed in the slightest either except to the extent
that it stiffens against body B. But the spring resists against this ball with
exactly the same degree of powerf with which it would recoilg toward
this side if the body suddenly yielded; that is, it would recoil with the
very force that A exerts by compressing it on the other side, and that this
body expends and uses up in compressing the spring. Now, it is obvious
that exactly the same unit of force with which the spring endeavors to
expand against B, and which the inertial force of ball B opposes, must
enter into this same ball. Thus, in moving in the direction of BE, ball B
receives the entire force used up by A when A compresses spring R.
This application is easy to make. For spring R represents those parts of 1:73
the inelastic bodies A and B that are pushed in by the impact. Thus, while
pushing in parts on either surface,h body A uses up just as much force as

∗ For a body that can be compressed only to an infinitely small degree can legitimately
be called perfectly hard.
† Fig. 9 [see p. 53].

e Wirkung g aufspringen
f Gewalt h von beiden Seiten

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

is transferredi into B, and with which B moves after the collision. Hence,
no part is lost, and certainly not such a large part as the Leibnizians
wrongly claim.

§ 65.
I tire of explicating all the inaccuracies and contradictions involved in this
difficulty that the Leibnizians want to create for us regarding inelastic
collisions. The only one that I still want to cite could already suffice to
eliminate this difficulty.
Even if one granted everything else to our opponents, one still could Fourth
not excuse the audacityj in this demand: that in inelastic collisions just response: on
as much force, no more and no less, should be used up in denting the the proportion
parts as the Leibnizians require in each case by their measure. It is an of the solidity of
audacityk impossible to swallow that we are urged to believe, without inelastic bodies
and the degree
any proof, that a body colliding with an equal body must lose, through
of force of
the indentation of its parts, just half of its force, and that it must lose impact that
just three quarters of its force in its impact on one three times as great, would be
etc., etc., but we are to believe this without anyone being able to specify applicable to
a reason why exactly so much force, not more and not less, goes by the Leibnizian
the board; for granted that the concept of an inelastic body necessarily exception.
requires some loss of force in the indentation, I still do not know how
one would infer that the absence of elasticity requires just so much force,
and no less, to be consumed. The Leibnizians certainly cannot deny that
the softer the solidity of the mass of inelastic bodies is, as compared to
the force of the impacting body, the quicker the force is consumed in the
indentation of the parts, but the harder both bodies are, the less force
must be lost, for if they were perfectly hard, no force would be lost. Thus, 1:74
a certain definite ratio of the hardness of two equal and inelastic bodies is
required if precisely half of the force of the impacting body is to be used
up and destroyed in the collision. And without this proportion more or
less would result, according to whether one makes the colliding bodies
softer or harder. But in the rules of inelastic collisions, to which the
Leibnizians seek an exception, the degree of solidity and even more so
the proportion of solidity and the strength of impact, remain completely
undetermined; consequently, we cannot at all understand from these
rules whether an indentation of parts occurs, whether a force is thereby
consumed, and how much of this force will be lost, and least of all do
these rules offer any basis for understanding that exactly one half of
the force is lost in the impact of one body on another of equal weight.

i überkommen k Verwegenheit
j Kühnheit

Natural Science

For this would not happen without a certain completely and precisely
determined ratio between the hardness of these bodies and the violence
of impact. Now since no such determination that would contain any
ground for a specific loss of force can be found in the principles from
which the laws of collision are deduced, the reason why these rules are
formulated as they are, has nothing to do with the indentation of parts
and a specific and regular loss of force, contrary to what the Leibnizians
Application of Now, since the rationale by which the defenders of living forces try to
our conclusions. avoid the attack leveled against them by all the laws of inelastic collisions,
has been shown to be invalid in more ways than one, nothing further
hinders us from using these laws in the capacity for which they are so
splendidly adapted, namely, to remove living forces from the domain of
mathematics into which they have illicitly inserted themselves.

1:75 § 66.
Inelastic But it is superfluous to explicate in detail the way in which the motion of
collisions fully inelastic bodies abolishes living forces. Any given case would accomplish
eliminate this without the least exception or difficulty. For example, if an inelastic
living forces. body A hits a body B of the same kind and of equal weight that is at
rest, then both bodies will move after impact with half of the velocity
that was present before the collision. Hence according to the Leibnizian
measure, in each and every body there would be one quarter of the force
after collision, and hence half of the force in everything together, since
a full unit of force was present in nature prior to impact. Thus, half
of the force would have been lost without having performed an effect
equal to it, or also without having suffered a single resistance that could
possibly have used it up, which, even by the testimony of our opponents,
is one of the greatest pieces of nonsense to which one could possibly be

§ 67.
General proof: I do not want to end this segment, in which we have refuted living
that the forces by means of the collision of bodies, without first adding a general
collision of observation that includes everything that can possibly be said against
elastic bodiesl living forces. I will establish in this observation that, even if one wished
must always be to grant the Leibnizians their estimation of forces, it would still be wholly
contrary to
contrary to the nature of the matter at issue to demonstrate it from the
living forces.
collision of bodies, and that it never would, or could, afford a measure

l Zusammenstoss elastischer Körper. According to the Academy edition, the text reads:
Zusammenstoss der Körper.

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

but the simple velocity, even if the measure by the square were entirely
true and indubitable. It is impossible, I maintain, that it should be known
from the collision of bodies, even if it revealed itself in a thousand other
cases as evidently as one wished.

§ 68. 1:76
My proof is based on the following. Execution of
It is agreed that one can employ the motion of bodies in collisions for this proof.
the final purpose in question only by regarding the force that a moving
body introduces into other bodies through a collision as the effectm that
measures the quantityn of the cause, which exhausts itself in bringing
about the effect. That is to say, one must seek the quantityo of the cause
in the resulting effects. It goes without saying that in doing so, one must
be especially careful to take only the force in the pushed bodies that is
really nothing other than the effect directly produced by the impact of
the other body; otherwise the entire measure sought would be misleading
and useless. But it is obvious that immediately after the moment at which
the impactingp body exerts its effect on the impactedq body, all the force
found in the latter at that time is undoubtedly the effect of the impact.
Thus, one must make use of this effect, and this effect only, in order
to make it the measure of the force that the oncoming body exerted
in producing it. Now, a body that acquires its motion through impact
by another body, immediately after the instant in which the collision
introduced the force into it and thus when it could not yet have moved
a finite distance away from the impactingr body, has already absorbed
the entire force that the other body could have communicated to it, but
still has no actual motion because it has not been given time to attain
this; instead, it has only the mere endeavors for actual motion, and thus a
force that is dead and whose quantity is simple velocity.t The force found
in the impactingu body exhausted itself in awakening in the other body
a force whose fully precise estimation can never be different from mere
velocity, even if one wanted to assume hypothetically in the impacting
body a force whose measure would be the square of the velocity, or even
the cube, the square of the square, and who knows what further powers
of velocity.
Now, it would be an absurdityv that would completely overturn the
law of the equality of cause and effect if one were to suppose that 1:77

m Wirkung r anstoßenden
n Quantität s Bemühung
o Größe t schlechte Geschwindigkeit
p stoßenden u stoßenden
q gestoßenen v Ungereimtheit

Natural Science

a force requiring the estimation by the square were applied to produce

another force to be estimated by simple velocity. Because the former
is infinitely larger than the latter, this would amount to saying that the
entire area of a square were applied to generate a line, and a finite line
at that. Hence, it is clear that all the laws of both elastic and inelastic
bodies will never provide a proof other than for the measure by simple
velocity, and that those laws, already by their very character, must always
be opposed to living forces, even if one exhausts all one’s ingenuity in
thinking up cases that seemingly support them.

§ 69.
In the preceding section, everything hinges on the fact that one takes as
the measure of the oncoming body’s force only the force of the propelled
body that is present in the latter immediately after the communication
of the effect; because of this, and because the propelled body frees itselfw
from the contact of the colliding body even before this motion actually
occurs, I do not doubt that this will be the point that will above all incense
the gentlemen whom I have the honor of calling my opponents; I would
wish to have the fortune of preempting them with the following.
Continuation Either the force of the pushed body before moving away from the
of the proof colliding body is equal to the force that the former has in actual motion,
that in the after it distances itself from the colliding body, or it is not equal. In
impact of the first case my qualification is not even necessary, for the force of the
bodies one has to pushed body always conforms to simple velocity at any arbitrarily chosen
1:78 instant of its motion,∗ because it is equal to the force that the body had
before its motion was actual. If it is not equal, then one unmistakably
but the initial
velocity of the wishes to say with this the following: The force present in the pushed
pushed body. body, after having already distanced itself from the colliding body, is
greater than it was at contact. But if this were the case, then I confess
that this is precisely the reasonx why I could not employ it for estimating
the force of impact.y For if there were a unit of force in the pushed body
after impact, when the pushed body is already distancing itself from the
colliding body, in addition to the force present in it while still in contact,
then this new unit of force would not be the effect of the colliding body,
for bodies act on each other only as long as they are in contact; instead,

∗ For as long as the motion of the pushed body has not yet become actual (that is, as long
as it has not yet distanced itself from the colliding body), its force still remains dead,
even by the testimony of the Leibnizians.

w sich losmacht y Kraft des Anlaufs

x Ursache

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

it is only the former. Hence the former is best suited for measuring the
force used up in order to produce it.

§ 70.
We have successfully overcome the difficulties that the collision of bodies
might have presented for Descartes’s law. Now I can boldly state, I
think, that Leibniz’s party will not be able to wrest anything away from
Descartes in this regard. We shall try and see now whether we can claim
success in the remaining regards as well.

§ 71.
Let us now consider the cases that the defenders of living forces have Of the defense
taken from the compound motions of bodies in order to bolster their of living forces
estimation. A weak cause typically hides behind obscure and complicated by compound
examples; thus, the party of living forces wanted to exploit the confusion motions.
to which one can easily fall prey in considering compound motions. We
shall try to remove the blanket of obscurity from this consideration,
which has protected living forces all by itself until now. Herr Bilfinger
was the one who rendered the greatest service to this kind of proof, and 1:79
his ideas should therefore be examined first.
We find his essay in the first volume of the St. Petersburg Commen-
taries. The proposition his entire system is based on is the following.∗
A body A that receives two motions simul-
taneously, one in direction AB with veloc- A Fig. 10.
ity AB, and another with velocity AC in
a direction at a right angle to the other
motion, moves along the diagonal path of
this rectangular parallelogram in just the
time it would take to move along either C D
side. But the forces directed along the sides
of the parallelogram are not opposed to one another; hence the one force
cannot subtract anything from the other, so the force that the body has
when it yields to both of them, that is, when moving along the diagonal,
will be equal to the sum of the forces along the sides. By Descartes’s
estimation, however, this would not happen. For the diagonal line AD is
always smaller than the two sides AB and AC taken together; by all other
possible estimations as well, the force of a body moving with velocity
AD would never equal the sum of the forces with velocities AB and AC,
except for the unique case in which these forces are estimated according

∗ Fig. 10.

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to the squares of their velocities. Bilfinger concludes from this that the
force of a body in actual motion can be measured only by the square of
its velocity.

§ 72.
Herr Bilfinger was not entirely mistaken in his proof. In principle, his
inferences are perfectly correct for the matter at hand,z but their appli-
cation is actually quite flawed and bears the mark of an overly hasty
The If one regards the motion that a body has toward side AC∗ in the usual
sense in way, that is, that the body endeavors with this motion to push in a right
which 1:80 angle at the sidea CD, then it is certain that the other lateral motion along
Bilfinger’s the line AB will in this respect not be opposed to it at all, because the
proof is correct. other motion runs parallel to the sideb CD, and consequently neither adds
to nor subtracts from the body’s motion. Likewise, the lateral motion
AC will not at all be opposed to the motion along the other side AB with
respect to the effectc that the body endeavors at with the motion
against the sided BD, because it is similarly parallel to this motion.
But what follows from this? Nothing further than that the body, if it
yields simultaneously to both lateral motions and traverses the diagonal
line, will simultaneously exert the same effectse as it would do in distinct
motions along either side. Thus, with respect to the two sidesf CD
and BD, the body moving along the diagonal has a force equal to the
sum of both forces along the sides. Yet this equality is to be found in it
only under the condition that I stated.

§ 73.
Herr Bilfinger Herr Bilfinger did not uphold this condition, notwithstanding the fact
drew that he should have found himself compelled to do so by the nature of
conclusions that his proof. Indeed, he even concluded: Therefore, the body moving
go beyond the along the diagonal possesses a force equal to the sum of the two
point of the lateral forces.
issue under
This proposition, thus stated without restriction, really does take on
a meaning far removed from the sense of the final inference in Bilfin-
ger’s proof. For if one says that a body possessing such and such velocity
contains such and such force, then one will understand by this the force
∗ Fig. 10.

z der Sache d Reading Seiten [side] for Flächen [surface]

a Reading Seite [side] for Fläche [surface] e Wirkungen
b Reading Seite [side] for Fläche [surface] f Reading Seite [side] for Fläche [surface]
c Wirkung

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

exerted by the body in the straight line of its motion and on an object
that it collides with at a right angle. If we talk about the force of a
body in such a restricted manner, one will therefore have to attempt
to determine its quantity in no other sense but this one; otherwise one
would believe that the body contains some force in the straight lineg
of its motion that, however, it can exert only laterally, when the object
struck is in a certain position. Herr Bilfinger, who did not pay atten-
tion to this, thus exposed himself to a fallaciae ignorationis elenchi.h For
he abandoned the issue under debate and while he should have proved 1:81
that the body moving along the diagonal would push an object at a
right angle to its path of motion with a force equal to the sum of
forces by which the body would push the underlying linesi with distinct
lateral motions, he proved instead that while the body exerts the aggre-
gate of these forces, it does so only against the two lateral linesj CD
and BD, and not against the perpendicular linek directly opposed to its

§ 74.
Thus, everything depends on my proving that a body moving straight The very same
in direction AD on a diagonal line AD does not contain the com- proof is flawed
bined sum of its lateral forces. To do this, I need nothing fur- with respect to
ther than to regard each of the lateral motions as composite, just as the disputed
mathematicians are accustomed to doing.∗ Accordingly, lateral motion point.
AB would be the compound motion
AF and AH, while contrariwise, lat- F

eral motion AC would be the com- Fig. 11.

pound motion AE and AG. Now, since

motions AF and AE directly oppose A B
one another and hence, because they
are equal, will also cancel each other
out, there remain only the motion with
velocity AH and the motion with veloc- E H
ity AG, with which the body moves in C D
the direction of the diagonal line; hence
not the entire force, but only a part of the force of the two lateral motions
is present in the direction of the diagonal line. Furthermore, the motions
AF and AE in any case run parallel to the linel BH that the diagonally

∗ Fig. 11.

g Richtung k Reading Perpendikularseite [perpendicular

h the fallacy of missing the point line] for Perpendikularfläche
i Reading Seiten [line] for Flächen [surface] [perpendicular surface]
j Reading Seiten [line] for Flächen [surface] l Reading Seiten [line] for Flächen [surface]

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moving body passesm at a right angle; from this and the previous point
we see that the body in its motion along line AD will not push at the
object, which is at a right angle to the body’s direction, with the sum of
the forces exerted toward the sides AC and AB.

1:82 § 75.
Conclusions Now everything is sorted out. For now we know: A body moving diago-
from this. nally does not exert against a vertically resisting obstacle the entire sum
of both lateral forces, which the body has in each of its lateral motions
against the equally vertically opposed planes. From this it necessarily fol-
lows that the force in the diagonal is less than both lateral forces taken
together, and that, consequently, a body’s force cannot be estimated
by the square of its velocity, for in this kind of estimation the imagined
equality would necessarily have to be found, but this is in fact not the case.

§ 76.
Living forces We will not stop here. Instead of fearing Herr Bilfinger’s arguments, we
are shall deliberately use them to prove Descartes’s law. A good cause always
automaticallyn has the distinctive trait that even the weapons of its opponents are bound
refuted by to serve for its defense, and we have repeatedly seen that our cause can
Bilfinger’s case. pride itself on this distinction.∗ By what has just been shown, the lateral
motion AB has in the direction of the diagonal only the velocity AH, with
which the body, in an isolated motion, would strike the plane BH at a
right angle. Furthermore, the other lateral motion AC, taken in isolation,
has only the velocity AG, with which the body would strike the plane
CG at a right angle. The forces that accompany these two motions AH
and AG constitute the entire force along the diagonal, and whatever is
not present in the former is not present in the latter either, for otherwise
the sum would contain more than its parts.o Thus the force with velocity
1:83 AD should equal the sum of the force of velocity AH and the force of
velocity AG, which raises the question of what powers of AH, AG, and
AD must be assumed for the identity of the sum of the former two with
the latter. If one wanted to estimate the forces by the powers of the
lines AH, AG, and AD here, it will be clear, by the simplest arithmetic
reasons, that the force of the body with velocity AD estimated in this
manner would be larger than the sum of the forces with velocity AH and
AG, but if one wanted to assume a smaller function (as Herr Bilfinger
puts it) than the function of simple velocities, then the compound of the

∗ Fig. 11 [see p. 73].

m anstösst o als in den Summandis zusammen

n selber

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

component forces would be greater than the complete resulting force, a

force marked by the velocity AD; on the contrary, the compound force
and the resulting force would turn out to be equal if everything taken
together is estimated by simple velocity. It follows from this that we have
either to posit the forces in proportion of the velocity AH, AG, and AD,
or to grant that the sump could be lesser or greater than the parts.q

§ 77.
We can show exactly the same thing in a different way. We suppose, like The same
Herr Bilfinger, that the lateral forces∗ AB and AC are communicated to refutation put
the body a by the impact of two identical balls, which have the velocity differently.
bAr = AB and ca = AC, and that these two simultaneous propulsions
cause motion and force along the
diagonal. Since it amounts to the Fig. 12.

same thing, let us assume that these C

balls move froms C and B, and that
they hit the body a at point D
a B
with the velocity CD = ba and BD h
= ca. It is undeniable that body a b

absorbed at this location exactly the g

force from the assumed ballst that it C

could absorb at point A, for the loca-

tion makes no difference at all, since F
everything else remains the same.
This raises a question: What kind of force would ball a receive, at point
D, by these two simultaneous strikes BD and CD against the perpendic-
ular plane FC u ? I answer: Ball B would communicate to body a moving 1:84
with BD only the velocity BE with respect to the actionv against this
plane, and from the impact of ball C with velocity CD, the same body aw
would attain only the velocity CF, with which it can act, at point D, on
plane FE. For the other two motions, Bg and Ch, which a acquired from
this double strike as well,x run parallel to the plane, and consequently
they do not strike this plane, but rather destroy one another because they
are equal and mutually opposed. With regard to the body striking the
plane diagonally, both lateral forces BD and CD, or both AC and AB,
which amounts to the same thing, gave to the body only a force equal to

∗ Fig. 12.

p Aggregat u Academy edition: FE

q Aggregandi v Wirkung
r Academy edition: ba w Reading a for A
s ausliefen x anoch
t von gedachten Kugeln

Natural Science

the sum of the forces with velocities BE and CF. Consequently, first, the
lateral forces did not give to the body their entire quantity,y and second,
they gave to the body only such a force that must stand in the same ratio
to its composite forces as the velocity AD does to the velocities CF and
BF, and, as I clarified in the previous section, not like the square of these

§ 78.
The straight From the preceding consideration we see that forces would have to be
force in the estimated by the square of velocity, if one assumed that the combined
diagonal is force exerted in diagonal motion along the sides of the parallelogram
unequal were equal to the force in the direction of the diagonal. But, at the same
to the sum of time, we showed that this assumption is false, and that the effects exerted
the forces along
by a body in diagonal motion, until all force within it is exhausted, is
the sides.
always greater than what it would effect by a stroke at a right angle.
This observation looks paradoxical. For it follows that a body could
exert more force with regard to certain planes, which opposed it in a
specific way, than it is supposed to have by itself. For one says that
a body has as much force as it expends in a vertical strike against an
insurmountable obstacle.
1:85 However,z we do not need to worry about the metaphysical resolu-
tion of this difficulty, for once mathematics pronounces its verdict, the
resolution of this difficulty can be as it may, and one can no longer be in
doubt after its judgment.

§ 79.
In the The analysis of motion reveals that a body striking many planes succes-
Leibnizian sively at a slant will completely lose its motion as soon as the sum of the
estimation of squares of the sine of all angles of incidencea amounts to the square of the
forces, the sum total sine,b which indicates the initial velocity of its motion.75 All scholars
of the forces of mechanics agree up to this point, not excepting the Cartesians. But
applied in an
for the Leibnizians, it specifically follows from this that, if one lets the
estimation by the square apply, a body will have lost all of its motion as
direction is
equal to the soon as the sum of the obliquely applied forces equals the body’s force in
diagonal force, a straight direction. But things are entirely different with the Cartesian
but in the estimation. The sum of the forces that a body exerts through many suc-
Cartesian cessive strikes in an oblique direction until all of its motion is consumed,
estimation, the is, by this estimation, far greater than the single undividedc force in a
former is often
infinitely y ihre ganzen Kräfte b des Sinus totus
larger than the z nur immerhin c die einzige unzertheilte
latter. a aller Sinuum angulorum incidentiae

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

straight motion. Therefore, when the sum of all the forces exerted in
separate motionsd is already equal to its complete undivided force, the
body has not yet lost its motion. For a body can have far more effectse
against multiple inclined planes than against a plane struck at a right
angle in a straight motion; indeed, (if one assumes that the dip of the
strike on all inclined planes has the same angle,) the quantity of the force
necessary for a body to use up its force through inclined obstacles will
relate to the quantity required for consuming it in a straight direction
as the total sine does to the sine of the angle of incidence. For instance,
if the total sine and the sine of the angle of incidence are in a 2:1 ratio,
it will accordingly be twice as large as this one; and if the ratio is 8:1, 1:86
the former will be eight times as large, and if the angle of incidence
is infinitely small, then the former will accordingly be infinitely larger
than the power of the obstacles that would have sufficed to consume the
body’s entire motion in a diametrically opposed direction. Thus, by the
Leibnizian estimation, a certain obstacle entirely destroys a body’s force,
while by the Cartesian estimation, the same obstacle, in just the same
direction, can only destroy infinitely little of this force; that is to say, in
the estimation by the square, the moving body suffers a finite loss when
it has overcome the entire power of the sum of the obstacles, let the
motion in which the body overcomes these obstacles be ever so oblique;
in the estimation by the velocities, by contrast, the entire force of the
body’s applied effectsf can be finite and a body’s loss of force can still be
infinitely small if only the angle at which it overcomes all these obstacles
is infinitely acute.
This difference is astonishing. An effect of thisg must be evident some-
where in nature, wherever that may be, and it will be worth the effort
to seek it out. For a consequence of such an effect would be that one
could decide not only whether the force of a body along the diagonal of
a rectangleh is equal to the sum of the lateral forces, but also whether
the Leibnizian or the Cartesian estimation is true. For the one question
is inseparable from the other.

§ 80.
The case that we are looking for is the motion of a body in a circular Living forces
path around a center, toward which the body is pulled by its gravity, that are refuted by
is,i the motion of the planets. another case.

d in zertheilter Bewegung g eine Wirkung hievon

e kann . . . weit mehr ausrichten h eines rechtwinklichten Parallelograms
f der ausgeübten Wirkungen eines Körpers i von welcher Art . . . sind

Natural Science

Let us assume a body that has obtained sufficient centrifugal

momentumj to move on a circular pathk around the Earth. Except for
gravity, let us also ignorel all obstacles that might retardm its motion; it
is thus certain, first, that the velocity of its motion is finite, and second,
that this motion continues to infinity with just the same degree and on
1:87 just the same path. I proceed from these two lemmata, because both par-
ties, the Leibnizian and the Cartesian, accept them. I also assume, third,
that gravity introduces a finite force in a freely moving body during a
finite period of time, or that it uses up a finite force in this body, if the
two forces, the one contained in the body and the other whereby gravity
pushes, act against each other. Now the body in question, which moves
around the given center of a circle, is continuously exposed to the pres-
sure of gravity, accordingly absorbsn a finite force through the sum of
all infinitely small gravitational pressures in a finite period of time, and,
by the third lemma, is driven by this finite force toward the center of its
revolution. Nonetheless, by its own force, the body maintains against all
such pressures its equilibrium, whereby it always keeps the same distance
from the center. Thus in any given finite time, the body will have applied
a finite force against the obstacles of gravity that it has overcome. If one
grants the Leibnizian estimation, it is evident from what we have seen in
§ 79, that a body moving at a slant must suffer the loss of a finite quantity
of its own force when it has overcome a certain number of obstacles,
whose sum amounts to a finite quantity of force. Consequently, by grav-
itational resistance, the body in question loses a finite force in any given
finite time during its circular motion, and accordingly, it will eventually
lose, in a certain finite time, its entire force and velocity, for, by the first
lemma, the body’s velocity in its circular motion is merely finite.
It follows either that the body cannot move in a circle at all, unless its
velocity were infinite, or that one must grant that a body can do infinitely
more by the sum of its inclined actions here than it possesses force in a
direct line of approach, and that the Leibnizian measure of force, which
does not allow this, is false.

§ 81.
Because the idea that we have elaborated here has very rich implications,
we shall remove all the minor difficulties surrounding it and make it as
clear and plain as possible.

j Zentrifugalschwung m vermindern
k in einer Cirkelline n erleidet
l abstrahiren

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

First, one must clearly comprehendp that the force that a body in 1:88 Proof
circular motion applies to maintain its equilibrium with gravity, exerts an that a body in
oblique actionq and is comparable to a body’s impact against an inclined circular motion
plane, as we have pointed out in the previous section. would have the
To this end, represent the infinitely small arcs that
c b d same effect o
a i e f against gravity
a body traverses in its circular motion by so many
as if hitting an
infinitely small straight lines, just as in mathemat- inclined plane.
ics circles are commonly regarded∗ as polygons with Fig. 13.
infinitely many sides. If gravity posed no obstacle to it,
the body traversing the infinitely small line ab would
keep on its straight pathr of motion and arrive at d in the next infinitely
small time interval. But gravitational resistance forces the body to devi-
ate from its path and traverse the infinitely small line be instead. Thus,
per resolutionem virium,s this gravitational resistance deprives the body of
the lateral motion ac, which is represented by the perpendicular line ac
drawn at a right angle to the line bd extended to c. Thus, the body suffers
exactly the same obstacle at point b through gravitational resistance as it
would have suffered by a plane cd hit at angle abc, for the obstacle posed
by this plane can be represented by the small perpendicular line ac, just
as in the case of gravity. Therefore, the force that a body applies in its
circular motion against the downward pull of gravity can be compared
perfectly well with the body’s impact against inclined planes, and one
can estimate the one in just the same way as the other. QED.t

§ 82.
Second, the third of the principles assumed in our proof in § 80 seems to
be in need of some support; at least, one cannot be cautious enough even
with the most obvious truths if one has to do with such opponents, for
the dispute of living forces has sufficiently shown to us, with respect to
certain opinions, how much more powerful and persuasive partisanship
is than the naked strength of truth, and how far the freedom of under- 1:89
standing reaches in still doubting the most evident truths or in deferring
its judgment.
I could appeal to § 32 on behalf of the proposition that, in any given In any given
finite time, gravity introduces into any freely moving body a finite force, finite time, a
body in circular
∗ Fig. 13. motion
performsu the
o Wirkung action of a
p begreifen lernen finite force
q Wirkung against
r Richtung
by the analysis of forces
t W. Z. E. [Was zu erweisen war = which was to be demonstrated]
u thut

Natural Science

but this proposition is already opposed by the defenders of living forces,

and it is better to defeat them with their own weapons. The body in
question, which in its circular motion has traversed the arc af in a finite
time, absorbs the pressures of all the gravitational springs to which it
is continuously exposed in the entire finite space af. Now, even by the
concession of the Leibnizians, the gravitational springs in a certain finite
space introduce into a body a finite force, while continuously communi-
cating their pressure to it. Therefore, etc.

§ 83.
The conclusion. Accordingly, the force exerted in separated motion, if estimated as pro-
portional to the squares of the sides of the rectangle,v is not consistent
with even the most familiar laws of the circular motion of bodies and with
the centrifugal forcesw that these bodies exert. Thus the lateral forces
in every composite motion are not proportional to the squares of their
velocities, as the Leibnizian estimation would require, and for precisely
this reason, the following conclusion is also general: The estimation by
the square is entirely erroneous; for any given motion can be regarded as
a composite motion, as is known from the first principlesx of mechanics.

§ 84.
How the It is still necessary to note how admirably well the Cartesian estimation
Cartesian of forces remedies this difficulty, to which the Leibnizian estimation
estimation succumbs, as we have now seen.
remedies this As we know from mathematics, the small line ac,∗
difficulty. 1:90 c b d which is equal to and parallel with the sinui versoy bi of
a i e
the infinitely small arc ab, is an infinitely small second
order quantity,z and thus infinitely many times smaller
Fig. 13a.
than the infinitely small line ab. Yet ac is the sine of the
angle in which the body acts everywhere in its circular
motion against the pressure of gravity, and ab, as an
infinitely small part of the absolute motion of the body
itself, is the sinus totusa of the same. But from what was proved in § 79,
we know that if a body moving at a slant acts on a certain obstacle such
that the sine of the angle of incidence is throughout infinitely small with
respect to the sinus totius,b then, by the Cartesian estimation, the force

∗ Fig. 13a.

v des rechtwinklichten Parallelograms z ein unendlich Kleines vom zweiten Grade

w Zentralkräften a total sine
x ersten Grundlehren b total sine
y versine

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

lost through obstacles is infinitely small compared to the total power of

all overcome obstacles. Thus, the body in its circular motion does not
lose any finite force through the pressure of gravity, until it has overcome
an infinitely large force in the whole sum of gravitational resistances.c But
the sum of all gravitational pressures will amount to only a finite force
in a finite time (by lemma 3, § 80), and consequently will amount to an
infinite force only after an infinite time; thus, the body moving in a circle
around a center, towardd which it is pulled by its gravity, loses a finite
force by the resistance of gravity only in an infinite time, consequently
losing infinitely little force in any given finite interval. By contrast, the
loss would amount to something finite in exactly these circumstances and
in any given time (§ 80). As a result, in this case the Cartesian estimation is
not subject to the difficulty to which the Leibnizian estimation is always
exposed, as we have seen.

§ 85.
At the same time, the objection made now to living forces reveals a Yet another
peculiar kind of contradiction in the estimation of forces by the square. contradiction to
For everyone agrees that the force estimated by the square of its velocitye which living
must have infinitely more power than the force expressed only by the 1:91 forces
simple measure of velocity, and that the former is to the latter just like a are exposed
plane is to a line. But precisely the opposite is revealed here, namely, in here.
the case we have seen, in which both types of force are posited to act in
wholly identical circumstances, the Leibnizian force can effect infinitely
less, and is consumed by infinitely fewer obstacles, than the Cartesian
force, and a greater contradiction can hardly be conceived.

§ 86.
The destruction of the general principle of the equality of the quantity of
force in composite motion and [the quantity of force in] simple [motion]
is at the same time cause for casting aside many more cases that the
defenders of living forces have constructed on this basis.
Bernoulli’s case, cited by Herr Wolff in his Mechanics, is one of the Refutation of
most reputable among those.76 Bernoulli assumes four springs that all Bernoulli’s case
require the same force to be compressed. Furthermore, he lets a body of the
moving with two units of velocity hitg the first spring at a 30◦ degree angle compressionf of
with a sine equal to one,77 then hit the second spring with the remaining four equal
c der Zurückhaltungen der Schwere
d gegen
e die nach dem Rectangulo der in sich selbst multiplicierten Geschwindigkeit geschätzten Kraft
f Spannung
g anlaufen

Natural Science

motion and at an angle whose sine is also equal to one, next hit the third
spring in the same way, and finally hit the fourth spring vertically. Now,
this body compresses each of these springs; accordingly, with two units
of velocity it exerts four units of force; consequently it had them, for
otherwise it could not have exerted them. Therefore, the force of the
body is not like its two units of velocity, but is rather like the square of
these units.
I do not insist on claiming that the body with two units of velocity
could not apply four units of force under any circumstances. But the
body can apply this force only in an oblique impact, and it suffices to
have shown that its force in a straight impact is always only like two units,
and that it is always larger in an oblique motion than in a perpendicular
motion. But everyone estimates the force of a body by the power found
in it in a vertical impact. Therefore, in that type of action,h which is
1:92 without ambiguity and on which all opponents concur that it is the true
measure of force, the advantage is on Descartes’s side and not on the
side of the party of living forces.

§ 87.
Finally, a further case, which one might call the Achilles of our oppo-
nents, is based on the composition of motion.
Herr von The case is as follows: A body A with one unit of mass and a velocity
Mairan’s of two units suddenly strikes at an angle of a 60 degrees two bodies B
objection to and B, with two units of mass each. After the collision, the striking body,
Herrmann’s A, stays here at rest, and bodies B and B move with one unit of velocity
case. each, and thus both with four units of force combined.
Herr von Mairan perceived quite well how odd and paradoxical this
result is, that a special case, restricted to certain conditions only, should
prove a new estimation of forces that, if it were true, would have to
emerge uniformly in each and every circumstance. The Leibnizians are
always so bold as to demand that if a body exerts four units of force in
whichever way, then one can always safely say that it will exert exactly the
same force also in a vertical direction, but in the present case, it is evident
that everything depends on a specific number of elements being moved
and on their specific position toward the striking body; accordingly the
matter would be entirely different if these determinates were changed,
and one would really deceive oneself in concluding that because the
body exerted this or that force in these circumstances (to speak in such
an indeterminate manner), it must also have this or that force and release
it, if you like, by a vertical effect as well.

h Wirkung

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

I only wanted to try to convey now the sense of Herr von Mairan’s
idea, which he advanced against Herrmann’s case, in reply to Frau von
Chastelet’s objections in her Physics.78 But it seems to me that the whole
issue could be dealt with much more easily and persuasively, and, for 1:93
the most part, has already been dealt with, by means of what we have
observed, up to now, about the composition and analysis of forces, and
thus I believe that, by referring to this reminder, the reader of these
pages will readily absolve me from further circuitousness.

§ 88.
Herr von Mairan is the only one among the defenders of Descartes who
reflected on the choice of reasons on which the Leibnizians wanted to
base a new estimation of forces, but he did so only for the case that we
referred to in the previous section. This kind of inquiry seems at first
glance not to be of great significance, but it is in fact extremely useful,
as only a method in the art of thinking can possibly be.
One needs to have a method that allows one to decide in each case, Utility of Herr
by a general consideration of the principles on which a certain opinion von Mairan’s
is built and by a comparison of this opinion with the implications drawn method.
from those principles, whether the nature of the premises really contains
everything that the doctrines that are drawn as conclusions require. This
happens when one precisely notes the determinations adhering to the
nature of the conclusion and carefully examines whether, in constructing
a proof, one has selected only those principles that are restricted to the
specific determinations contained in the conclusion. If one does not find
this to be so, then one can safely believe only that the arguments,i which
are thus flawed, prove nothing, even if one has not yet been able to
discover where the mistake is actually located, and even if this would
never be found out. Hence I concluded, for example, from the general
consideration of the motion of elastic bodies that the phenomena that
emerge in their collision could never prove a new estimation of forces
different from the Cartesian one. For I remembered that scholars of
mechanics account for all these phenomena from the single source of
the product of mass and velocity, together with elasticity, of which one
can present a hundred examples to the Leibnizians that all have the 1:94
greatest geometers as their authors and that one sees confirmed countless
times by the Leibnizians’ own approval. Thus, I concluded that whatever
is produced merely by the force estimated by the simple measure of
velocity cannot provide evidence for any other estimation. Then I did
not yet know where the mistake in the Leibnizian arguments on elastic
collisions is actually to be sought, but after I had been convinced in the

i Schlüsse

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aforementioned way that there must be a fallacy somewhere in these

arguments, be it ever so concealed, I turned all my attention toward
locating it, and I believe I have found it in more than one place.
This method is In short, this entire treatise should be regarded merely as a creature of
the main source this method. I shall candidly confess: Originally, I regarded all the proofs
of this entire of living forces, whose weakness I now believe to understand completely,
treatise. as so many geometrical demonstrations in which I did not suspect the
least mistake and perhaps never would have found one either, if the
general reflection on the conditions that determine Herr von Leibniz’s
estimation had not given my consideration an entirely different impulse.
I saw that the reality of motion is the condition of this measure of force,
and that it is the essential reason why the force of the moved body is not
to be estimated like the force of the body striving to move. But when I
thought about the nature of this condition, I easily understood that it can
never have a consequence different toto generej from the consequence of
the conditions of dead force, and that it can never remain so infinitely
different from the latter, when the condition, which is a cause of this
consequence, can just be put so closely to the other condition that it
already almost merges with it. This is so, because one can put the condi-
tion in the same class as the condition of dead force, and because the one
differs from the other only with regard to quantity.k Thus, I realized,
1:95 with virtually geometrical certainty, that the reality of motion could not
be a sufficient reason for concluding that the forces of bodies in motion
would have to be like the square of their velocities, because they possess
simple velocity as their measure in infinitely short intervals of motion
or, what is the same, in their mere striving toward motion. From this I
concluded: If mathematics had only the reality of motion as the reason
for the estimation by the square and nothing else, then its arguments
would be quite spurious.l Armed with this reasonable suspicion about all
Leibnizian proofs, I attacked the arguments of the defenders of this esti-
mation, in order to discover the nature of their mistakes, since I already
knew about the existence of their errors. I imagine that my project has
not been a complete failure.

§ 89.
The lack of this People could have spared themselves many errors in philosophy, had they
method was one devoted themselves to this way of thinking; at the very least, it would have
of the causes been a means for tearing themselves away from the errors much sooner.
why certain I even dare to say that the tyranny of errors over human understanding,
evident errors
had remained
hidden for so j l
in its entire kind müsse . . . sehr hinken
long. k Größe

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

which sometimes lasted whole centuries, did largely come from the want
of this or other, similar methods, and that one must be sure to employ
it now instead of alternatives, to prevent that scourge in the future. We
shall prove this.
Suppose that one believes to have proved a certain opinion by means
of certain inferences that conceal a very subtle mistake somewhere,m
and that afterwards one has no other way of seeing the invalidity of the
proof except by first discovering the error hidden in it, and that accord-
ingly one would already have to know in advance what kind of mistake
invalidated the proof before one could say that a mistake was there; if, I
say, one has no other method than this one, then I claim that the error
will remain undiscovered for a terribly long time, and the proof will
deceive countless times before the deception is revealed. The reason is
as follows. I presuppose that if the propositions and inferences in a proof
are perfectly evidentn and have the reputation of best-known truths, 1:96
then the understanding will give its stamp of approval without getting
involved in laborious and protracted quests for a mistake in the proof,
for then the understanding regards the proof to be just as persuasive as
any other with geometrical precision and correctness, and because the
error is not seen, the mistake hidden among the inferences has just as
little effect of diminishing approval as if it were not in the proof in the
first place. Thus either the understanding would have to never accept
any proof, or it would have to approve only those in which it does not
see anything resembling a mistake, that is, where it does not suspect one
even if one is hidden there. Accordingly, the understanding will never
expend any special effort at finding a mistake in such a case, since it has
no motive to do so; consequently, the error will not become apparent
except by way of a fortunate coincidence, and it will usually be hidden
for a very long time before it is discovered, for such a fortunate coinci-
dence can fail to materialize for many years, indeed, sometimes even for
entire centuries. This is nearly the most prominent source of errors that
have lasted for so many epochs, to the disgrace of human understand-
ing, and that afterwards were detected so easily. For, at first glance, the
error hidden somewhere in a proof looks like a known truth, and thus
the proof is considered to be perfectly accurate, no mistake is suspected,
one does not look for one either, and therefore finds it only by accident.
From this it is easy to recognize where the secret will have to be sought How the means
that prevents this difficulty and makes it easier to discover mistakes that must be
have been made. We have to possess the art of guessing and conjecturing constituted to
from the premises whether a proof structured in a certain manner will prevent the
persistence of
m die irgendwo einen Fehler versteckt halten, der sehr scheinbar ist
n scheinbar

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also contain principles that are sufficient and complete for the conclu-
sion. In this way we will recognize whether a mistake must be present in
it, and even if we do not catch sight of it anywhere, we will then nonethe-
1:97 less have sufficient reason to suspect its existence. This will accordingly
be a bulwark against the dangerous readiness of applause, which would
turn all the understanding’s activity away from the examination of a mat-
ter because, without this motive, it would have no occasion for doubt
and suspicion. This method helped us in §§ 25, 40, 62, 65, and 68, and
it will serve us well still further.

§ 90.
Explicating this method somewhat more clearly and indicating the rules
of its application would be an inquiryo of no small utility, but this sort of
investigation does not fall under the jurisdiction of mathematics, which,
actually, should be relevant to this treatise in its entirety. But we still
want to give an example of its utility in the refutation of the arguments
for living forces that are derived from the composition of the motions.
In the composition of dead pressures, e.g., weights, which pull on a
knot in oblique directions, their initial velocities are also expressed by
lines that form the sides of a rectangle when these directions are at right
angles to each other, and the pressure that thus results from it is repre-
sented by the diagonal. Although the square of the diagonal is here equal
to the sum of the squares of the sides as well, it still definitely does not
follow that the compound force relates to one of the componentp forces
as the square to the lines, which express the initial velocities; instead,
everyone agrees that, regardless, the forces in this case are simply pro-
portional to the velocities. Now take the composition of actual motions,
as represented in mathematics, and compare it with this. The lines that
form the sides and the diagonal of the parallelogram are no different
from the velocities in these directions, just as in the case of the com-
position of dead pressures. The diagonal has the same relation to the
sides here as it has there, and the angle is the same as well. Thus, noth-
1:98 ing in the determinations involved in the mathematical representation
of the composite and real motions differs from the determinations by
which we represent the compositesq of dead pressures in just the same
science. Since no estimation by the square of velocities derives from the
former determinations, none can be concluded from the latter either,
for they share the same basic concepts and they have accordingly the
same implications, too. One will still object that there is certainly an

o Betrachtung q Zusammensätze
p einfachen

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

obvious difference between them, because it is presupposed that the

one is from the composition of real motions, while the other is from the
composition of dead pressures. But this presupposition is vain and futile.
It does not concern the design of the basic concepts, which constitute
the theorem, for mathematics does not express the reality of motion.
The lines, which are the objectr of the consideration, are only represen-
tations of the relationship of velocities. Hence the qualification of the
reality of motion is here just a dead and idle concept, thought up only
in passing, and without consequence in the mathematical consideration.
From this kind of investigation of composite motions it follows that
nothing can be concluded in support of living forces, and such support
would have to come from, say, admixed philosophical arguments, but
they are not presently at issue. In this fashion, and with the aid of our
proposed method, we now understand that the mathematical proofs of
living forces from the composition of motions must be false and full of
mistakes; although we do not yet know what kind of errors these are,
we still can make an educated guess, or rather have a certain conviction,
that they are undoubtedly present. Hence we should not spare the effort
of earnestly searching for them. I have exempted my readers from this
effort, for I believe that I found these errors and indicated them in the
immediately preceding sections.

§ 91.
Finally, our method is also a sword to all the Gordian knots of sophistries
and distinctions by means of which Herr Bilfinger hoped to protect his
arguments, which we have hitherto refuted, from an objection that his 1:99
opponents can raise against him. It is a great advantage for us that we
can cut through this knot, for it would be very strenuous to unravel it
Herr Bilfinger certainly noticed that one would object that his proofs, By means of
if correct, would have to show the same for the composition of dead this method,
pressures. But he fortified himself to this side with a bulwark of convo- the distinctions
luted metaphysical distinctions, which only he knows how to make. He by which Herr
remarks: One must estimate the actions of dead force by the product of Bilfinger hopes
to evade Herr
the intensity and the path taken, but as this is expressed by the square
von Mairan’s
of the line, one can grant the Cartesians that actions are equal in the objections are
compositions of dead pressures, although this does not imply that forces dispatched.
must therefore be equal too. He adds: Actions are like forces in motibus
isochronis solum actiones sunt ut vires, non in nisu mortuo.t A metaphysical

r Vorwurf
s Wirkung
t only in motions performed in equal times, but they are unlike forces in dead pressures

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investigation has an odd effect in a mathematical dispute. The math-

ematical expert believes that he is not competent in such sophistries,
and although he cannot unravel them, he is still far from being thrownu
by them. He proceeds with the guide of geometry and finds all other
paths suspect. The geometers conducted themselves in just this way
with regard to Herr Bilfinger’s evasive moves. As far as I know, no one
has engaged with him over these weapons. People have spared them-
selves this trouble with good reason, for a metaphysical investigation,
especially one so convoluted and complicated, has still countless hide-
outs on all sides, to which one can escape from enemies who would be
incapable of pursuing or pulling one out. We are well advised to attack
Herr Bilfinger’s arguments on the side where, by his own confession,
mathematics alone is decisive. But, as I already said, with our method we
mastered these distinctions as well, regardless of how impenetrable the
blankets of obscurity are that protect them.
Our 1:100 The question here is primarily whether Herr Bilfinger’s distinctions
method can validate the proof of living forces, which he derived from the relation
preempts Herr of the diagonal to the lateral line in the composition of real motions, or
Bilfinger’s whether this mathematical proof nevertheless still fails to serve as a shield
distinctions. wall for the new estimation. This is actually the point of contention, for
if Herr Bilfinger’s edifice rests only on a metaphysical basis, and is not
supported by mathematical concepts of the composition of motions, the
purpose of this chapter will already excuse us from engaging in an inquiry
of this edifice. The relation of diagonal velocity and lateral velocity in
the composition of real motions is shown by one and the same reason,
from which this relation in the composition of dead pressures is likewise
derived. It is therefore true, even if there will be no other properties and
determinations in compound real motions as there are in dead pressures,
because it can fully be shown without anything except what is presup-
posed in compound dead pressures. Thus one cannot conclude from the
ratio of diagonal velocity in real motions that composite forces must be of
a different nature and type of estimation than dead pressures, for just the
same ratio applies nonetheless, even if the nature of composite forces
were no different from dead pressures, because one needs no reasons
to prove this other than those required here. It is therefore futile that
Herr Bilfinger wants to employ these reasons to conclude that forces are
proportional not to their velocities but instead to their squares.
Accordingly, the metaphysical distinctions employed by this philoso-
pher could perhaps provide something from which continued philosoph-
ical reflection would glean various reasons in favor of living forces, but
1:101 these distinctions fail to suffice for supporting the mathematical proof in

u irre machen lassen

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

question, because this proof, by its very nature, must leave undetermined
what the rule requires, which one wants to infer from the proof.

§ 92.
After all these different kinds of proofs, whose inaccuracy we have A special and
demonstrated to the defenders of living forces, I come at last to the complexv case
one constructed by Herr von Leibniz himself, the father of living forces, by Herr von
and which also bears the mark of his brilliance. Leibniz first presented Leibniz.
this proof to the public in Acta Eruditorum,∗ on the occasion of resolv-
ing Abbot Catelan’s objections.79 Afterwards, he appealed specifically to
this publication whenever he wanted to clarifyw the estimation of forces;
hence we must regard and rebut this proof as a main support of living

Fig. 14.

1A F

E C 4B
2A 3A 1B 2B

Let a ball A† of four units of mass fall from point 1A to point 2A on

the curved inclined plane whose height 1AE is unit height, and assume
that it continues its motion on the horizontal plane EC with the one
unit of velocity attained by the fall. Further suppose that it transfers
all of its force to a ball B of one unit of mass and that, thereafter, is at
rest at point 3A. Now which amount of velocity will ball B with one
unit of mass acquire from ball A, which has one unit of velocity and
four units of mass, if B’s force is thereby to become equal to body A’s
force? The Cartesians say that B’s velocity must be four units. Let body
B move accordingly with four units of velocity on the horizontal plane
from point 1B to point 2B, and after meeting the curved inclined plane
2B3B, let it move up this plane and reach, by its acquired velocity, point
3B, whose vertical height 3BC is sixteen units. Suppose further the tilted
steelyard 3A3B, which is suspended at fulcrum F,x whose one arm F3B

∗ Acta 1690.
† Fig. 14.

v zusammengesetzter
w ein Licht geben
x die sich an dem Punkte F bewegt [F = Fulcrum]

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1:102 is slightly more than four times as long as its other arm 3AF, and whose
beam, however, is in balance. Now if body B reaches point 3B, thereby
reaching the arm of the balance, then the following is clear: Because arm
F3B compared to arm 3AF is somewhat larger than the mass of the body
at point 3A compared to the mass of the body at point 3B, the equilibrium
is lifted, and body B sinks from point 3B to point 4B, while, at the same
time, ball A rises from point 3A to point 4A. But the height 4A3A is
almost a quarter of the height 3BC, thus corresponds to four units, and
therefore, body B has lifted ball A to nearly four times of its height in
this way. Now by means of an easy mechanical feat the following can be
accomplished: Ball A returns from point 4A to point 1A, performs certain
mechanical actionsy with the force acquired on its reverse course, rolls
once again from point 1A down the inclined plane 1A2A, recreates the
former state, and, performing everything just as before, even transfers its
force once more to ball B, which, by an imperceptibly small inclination
of plane 2B4B, can be at point 1B again. Herr von Leibniz goes on and
concludes: Therefore, Descartes’s estimation of forces implies that just
as long as one makes good use of its force, a body can perform ever more
actions,z drive machines, compress springs, and surmount obstacles to
perpetuity, without loss in its capacity, exerting its capacity further and
without stop, hence that the effecta could be greater than its cause, and
perpetual motion would be possible, which all scholars of mechanics
think is nonsense.

§ 93.
The fallacious This proof is the only one among all defenses of living forces whose
step in this plausibility could excuse the haste that the Leibnizians have shown in
proof. the defenses of their estimation. Nothing that Herr Bernoulli, Herr
Herrmann, and Wolff had said equals Leibniz’s proof in originality and
evident strength. A man as great as Leibniz could not go astray without
even the very thought that led him into error being worthy of praise.
About this proof we wish to say the same as what Hector boasted of in
Virgil’s Aeneid:

1:103 — Si Pergama dextra defendi possent, etiam hac defensa fuissent.b

I shall briefly summarize my judgment of this proof. After ball A had

been raised by the steelyard to the four unit height 4A3A, and returned
from point 3Ac on the inclined plane to point 1A, while previously
y Wirkungen
z Wirkungen
a Wirkung
b Had Pergamon been defended by my right hand, it would have been defended, too.
c According to Lasswitz, the text should read: 4A

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

exerting certain mechanical forces, Herr von Leibniz should not have
said that the reverse course of ball A is an effectd of the force transferred
into ball B, however much that may appear to be so. Although this exer-
tion of mechanical force is the subsequent state in the machine, which
has been triggered by the force transferred into body B, it still is not an
effecte of this force. We must very carefully avoid the conflation of these
two aspects, for this is the crux of the fallacy on which the illusion in Leib-
niz’s proof rests. For if all these mechanical results are not real effectsf of
the force transferred by body A into body B, then every appearance of a
paradoxical thought will suddenly vanish, even if one says of the machine
that its subsequent state contains more than its preceding state. For the
effect is thereby still not larger than the cause, and perpetual motion
as such is not an absurdity here, because the motion that is produced
is not the real effectg of force, which actually only occasioned it, and
consequently it can still be greater than this motion without violating
the fundamental law of mechanics.

§ 94.
The body B, to which all of ball A’s force had been transferred, applies this The force A
force completely by moving up on the inclined plane 3B2B.h Thus body B acquires from
expends the entire quantity of its action at point 3B and accordingly uses the setup of the
up the entire force communicated to it. Now, when body B happens to machine is not
get on the arm of the balance, it is no longer the previous force whereby an effect
body B lifts the body up from point 3A, but it is only the renewed power of
by the
gravity that performs this action,i and the force that body B had acquired 1:104 force of
from ball A has no part in this. In addition, when ball A is thereby raised to body B.
point 4A, the force of the ball that dominated at point 3B, has performed
its complete actionj in this way, and the force acquired once again by body
B on its return from point 4 A to point 1A is an effect of a new cause,
utterly distinct from, and also far larger than, the actionk of the lever,
namely, the pressure of gravity communicated to the body in free fall.
Thus the force through which body A exerts mechanical effects,l before
it arrives at point 1A again, is admittedly something occasioned by the
force of ball B, which is subject to certain mechanical causes, but does
not have this force itself as its efficient cause.m

d Wirkung i Wirkung
e Wirkung j Wirkung
f rechte Wirkung k Thätigkeit
g wahre Wirkung l mechanische Wirkungen ausübt
h In the Academy edition: 2B3B m hervorbringenden Ursache

Natural Science

§ 95.
This is If the Leibnizians always want to posit just as much force in the next
confirmed. state emerging in nature as the previous state contains, then I would
like to know how they can save themselves from the objection one can
raise against them with their own proof. If I put the ball B on the steel-
yard at point 3B, and B then pushes the arm down, lifting body A from
point 3A up to point 4A in the process, this is the previous state of
nature, but the force acquired by body A afterwards, in its return fall
from point 4A downward, is the next state, triggered by the previous
one. But the next state contains far more force than the previous one.
For the preponderancen of the body 3B over body 3A could, with regard
to B’s own weight, have been imperceptibly small, and the velocity of the
body’s rise from point 3A could accordingly have been extremely slow,
compared to the velocity that A gains in free fall from point 4A back
to point 1A, because here undiminished gravitational pressures accu-
mulate, while only pressures incomparably smaller than the others had
accumulated in the previous state. Thus the next state of force in nature
is indisputably larger than the previous one that triggered it.

1:105 § 96.
The same, The main thing in all of this here is that one be persuaded that the force
demonstrated of body B with four units of velocity is not the efficient cause of the
from the law of actiono revealed in the machine, as the Leibnizians have to presuppose if
continuity. they want to show an absurdity in Descartes’s law. For if this force were
the efficient cause of the action, then the action would diminish only by
a tiny amount when that cause was diminished only by a little. But the
machine reveals something else. If we suppose that a body had somewhat
less than four units of velocity at point 1B, then it would only move up
to a given point ap on the inclined plane 2Ba, where the length 3AF of
one balance bar would be exactly in a 4:1 ratio to the length of the other
lever arm, where accordingly the weight of body B would fail to move
the lever, not pulling body 3A from its place in the slightest. Therefore,
if B has a fraction of force less, a part assumed so small that it hardly
comes into consideration at all, then the body will no longer acquire any
force at all at point 3A; by contrast, as soon as this fraction is added,
this body not only reacquires the force at point 3A that it had originally,
but also gets far more in addition. It is apparent that this leap would not
happen if the force of the body at point 3B were the real efficient cause
of the state revealed in the machine.

n Überwucht p Not drawn in Fig. XIV.

o Wirkung

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

§ 97.
We have the entire quantity of those determinations that occasioned The entire
the force in body A, if we consider the position of the lever in this quantity of the
machine and its geometrical determination with regard to the ratio of sufficient
the bodies, and add to this the excess of the relation of heights 3B4B reason in the
and 1AE over the ratio of the masses of bodies A and B (for the heights preceding state.
3B4B and 1AE are in the ratio of 16:1, while the masses A and B are
only in the ratio of 4:1); now add to all this the gravitational pressures,
made more effective by the favorable arrangement of the geometrical
determinations, and one gets the sum-total of all the sufficient reasons 1:106
that constitute the complete quantity of the force emerging in body A. If
one isolates the individual force of body B from this, then, unsurprisingly,
it will turn out to be far too small to serve as the cause of force entering
into body A. The contribution of body B consists only in the acquisition
of a certain modality when overcoming gravitational resistances, that
is, a certain quantity of height, which happens to be disproportionately
large compared to its velocity and hence to its mass.
The force of body B is therefore not the real efficient cause of the
force produced in body A; the great law of mechanics that effectus quilibet
aequipollet viribus causae plenaeq will accordingly not apply, and in this way,
perpetual motion is still possible without violating this fundamental law
in the least.

§ 98.
Therefore, everything that Leibniz, with his argument, could retort to The sole
us amounts to this: Even if one cannot demonstrate the utter impos- difficulty that
sibility of the matter, it is still highly irregular and unnatural that one could still
force would awaken a larger force, regardless of how this may occur. remain in the
Indeed, Leibniz embraces this position: Sequeretur etiam causam non posse Leibnizian
iterum restitui suoque effectui surrogari; quod quantum abhorreat a more nat-
urae et rationibus rerum facile intelligitur. Et consequens esset: decrescentibus
semper effectibus, neque unquam crescentibus, ipsam continue rerum natu-
ram declinare, perfectione imminuta, neque unquam resurgere atque amissa
recuperare posse sine miraculo. Quor in physicis certe abhorrent a sapientia con-
stantiaque conditoris.∗,s Leibniz would not have spoken so mildly, had he

∗ Act. Erud. (1691): 542.80

q any effect has the same power as the forces of its complete cause
r Academy edition: quae
s This would also imply that the cause could not be restored and put in place of the
effect, and how much this contradicted nature’s way and the reasons of things is easy to
see. And the consequence would be this: Since effects would always decrease and never

Natural Science

not seen that the nature of the subject matter required this moderation
of him. We can definitely be sure that he would have turned against his
1:107 enemy with all the thunder of his geometrical magict and all the power
of mathematics, had his wit not perceived this weakness. Yet he saw him-
self compelled to appeal to God’s wisdom, a sure sign that geometry had
failed to supply him with powerful weapons.
Nec Deus intersit, nisi dignus vindice nodus
Horace, De Arte Poetica

The difficulty But even this minor defense is flimsy. We are speaking only of the
explained. mathematical estimation of forces and it is no surprise if it does not
match God’s wisdom perfectly. Mathematics is a science isolated from
the medium of genuine knowledge, it does not sufficiently meet the rules
of decorum and appropriateness if taken alone, and it must be combined
with the tenets of metaphysics if it is to be perfectly applied to nature.
The harmony present among truths is like the agreement found in a
painting. If one takes one specific part away, then decorum, beauty, and
design will disappear; all parts have rather to be seen together in order
to perceive these same features. The Cartesian estimation is contrary to
the designs of nature; it is accordingly not the true estimation of forces
in nature, but this does not prevent it from being the true and justified
measure of force in mathematics. For the mathematical concepts of the
properties and forces of bodies are quite different from the concepts
encountered in nature, and it is enough to have seen that the Cartesian
estimation is not contrary to mathematical concepts. But in order to
determine the true estimation of force in nature, we must connect the
laws of metaphysics with the rules of mathematics; doing so will fill in
the gap and better meet the designs of God’s wisdom.

§ 99.
Herr Papin’s Herr Papin, one of the most notorious adversaries of living forces, con-
objection. ducted the Cartesian campaign against Leibniz’s demonstration in a very
unfortunate way.81 He left the battlefield to his opponent and fled across
1:108 the fields to make a stand at some other position that could afford him
protection. He concedes to Herr von Leibniz that by the Cartesian esti-
mation, a perpetual motion will result under the presupposition that
body A transferred its entire force to body B, and he very kindly grants

increase, the nature of things would steadily lessen, diminishing the perfection, which
could never rise again and regain the loss without a miracle. This certainly contradicts
the wisdom and constancy of the Author in physical affairs.
t geometrischen Bannes
u And a god should not join in, unless there is a knot worthy of a savior cutting it through.

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

to Leibniz that this type of motion is an absurdity: Quomodo autem per

translationem totius potentiae corporis A in corpus B juxta Cartesium obtineri
possit motus perpetuus, evidentissime demonstrat, atque ita Cartesianos ad
absurdum reductos arbitratur. Ego autem et motum perpetuum absurdum esse
fateor, et Cl. Vir. demonstrationem ex supposita translatione esse legitimam.v
Having spoiled his case in this way, he seeks refuge by denying the pre-
supposition to his opponent that is a very marginal piece in Leibniz’s
argument, and by challenging him to unravel this knot. The following
words reveal his opinion: Sed hypothesis ipsius possibilitatem translationis
nimirum totius potentiae ex corpore A in corpus B pernego, etc.∗,w

§ 100.
Herr von Leibniz disarmed his opponent in one fell swoop and left him
with no way out. Leibniz showed him that the actual transfer of force is
not an essential part in his proof, and that it is sufficient to posit a force in
body B that can be exchanged for the force in body A. One can find the
entire demonstration in his tract in the Acta Eruditorum that we already
referred to above. But I cannot refrain from citing a mistake Herr von
Leibniz made that, in a public discussion, would have handed the victory
to his opponent. It is this: Leibniz, as he himself notes, grants something
that does not really concern the main issue in order to make a minor
point and that, when granted, admittedly supports this minor point, but
that turns the main point of the proof totally on its head.
The case is as follows: Herr Papin was determined to take no excep- A mistake by
tion to his opponent’s objection other than that it is impossible for 1:109 Herr
a body to transfer its entire force to another body, and he tried to von Leibniz.
undermine all the tricksx whereby Herr von Leibniz intended to have
achieved this. Thus he fought
with great zeal against the claim b
Fig. 15. 2a
that a body 1A† with four units 1A C
of mass could transfer its entire 2A B

∗ Acta eruditorum (1691): 9.

† Fig. 15.

v However, he demonstrates absolutely clearly how a perpetual motion, according to

Descartes, could come about by the transfer of the entire force of body A to body B,
and thus he believes to have reduced the Cartesians to absurdity. I myself admit that a
perpetual motion is absurd, and that the demonstration by this famous gentleman from
the transfer assumed is legitimate.
w But I decidedly deny the possibility of his hypothesis about the transfer of the entire
force from body A to body B; etc.
x Kunststücke

Natural Science

force to a body B with one unit of mass, as long as body 1A strikes the
completely stiff lever 1ACB at point 1A, which is a quarter of the distance
CB from fulcrum C, for this is what Herr von Leibniz had embraced by
asserting the mechanical case we discussed. Herr Papin failed to notice
the advantage that his case could have gained by using this very solution
to draw a conclusion against living forces. So he touched on the solution,
but with arguments so weak that they only encouraged his opponent to
persist in the assertion of the claim. Accordingly, Leibniz insisted on the
accuracy of this sleight of hand, which he presumed he could employ
to transfer the entire force of one body into another by a single strike.
With gratitude he accepted the reasons Papin had adduced for showing
the plausibility of the sleight of hand, and cleared the difficulties aside by
which Papin hoped, by the same token, to subvert it. I believe Leibniz
was completely serious when he said: Cum Florentiae essem, dedi amico
aliam adhuc demonstrationem pro possibilitate translationis virium totalium
etc. corpore majore in minus quiescens, prorsus affinem illis ipsis, quae Clariss.
Papinus ingeniosissime pro me juvando excogitavit, pro quibus gratias debeo,
imo et ago sinceritate eius dignas.y Now we shall see that Leibniz really
did his case a disservice by stubbornly continuing to insist on this claim,
which he really should have conceded to his opponent; for although he
would have lost the minor point (whose loss, though, would not have
brought him any disadvantage), he would have scored the main point.
To catch his opponent at his own confession, Herr Papin could, and
even should, have argued in the following manner.
Proof that by If the body 1A with four units of mass strikes the lever with one unit
striking 1:110 of velocity at point 1A, then it will evidently transfer by this impact its
a lever, a body entire force and velocity to another body 2A of equal mass and equidistant
with four units from the fulcrum. But because the velocity that pushes body 2A away
of mass can is a continuation of the very motion by which the lever, repelling the
transfer to a body, traverses the infinitely small spatial interval 2A2a, the velocity
body with unit of this infinitely short motion is equal to the velocity of the repelled
mass four units
body 2A, and thus equal to the velocity with which body 1A strikes the
of velocity.
lever; consequently, this ball 1A, in striking the lever, will press the lever
down along the infinitely short line 1A1a, a distance which the lever will
traverse with just the same velocity that ball 1A had when striking the
lever. Now instead of the body 2A, let us assume a body B with a quarter
of the mass of body 2A,z and which is located four times the distance
from fulcrum C, and see what resistance ball B would then exert against

y When I was in Florence, I gave a friend yet another proof of the possibility of a complete
force transfer, etc., from a larger body to a smaller one at rest, which happens to be quite
similar to the proofs that the famous Papin so most brilliantly devised to help me, for
which I owe him thanks, a gratitude that I indeed extend to him, befitting his sincerity.
z A

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

body 1A,a if 1Ab endeavors to press the lever down from point 1A to
point 1a. It is known that the vis inertiae,c or the resistance that a body,
by means of it, puts into the path of another, is proportional to its mass,
but the quantity of one quarter of the mass at four times the distance
from the fulcrum must be rated equal to the quantity of one unit of mass
at one quarter the distance, and therefore body B at point B offers just
as much resistance to the strike of body 1A on the lever, as body 2A =
1A at 2Ad would have done. Hence even in this case, with ball B instead
of ball 2A on the lever, body 1A will traverse the infinitely short line
1A1a together with the lever, and it will do so with the same velocity
as in the previous case, that is, with a velocity as great as the one it had
when striking point 1A. But body 1A cannot push the lever from point
1A down to point 1a without simultaneously pushing the other end in B
from point B up to point b; the infinitely short line Bb, however, is four
times the line 1A1a, and thus, by this strike on the lever, body B will get
four times the velocity of body 1A striking the lever.
This is clear in yet another way. We can represent all solid bodies as The same
elastic ones, that is, as yielding but rebounding in a collision, and we thing
can accordingly attribute such an elastic force to the rigid lever 1ABC as 1:111 shown
well. Body 1A, therefore, which strikes the lever with one unit of velocity, differently.
applies its entire force to compress the spring 1AC and deformse it by
the distancef 1A1a. Now the units of momentag,82 of the velocity, which
the spring absorbs through its resistance to body 1A during the entire
duration of this pressure, are, due to this compression, equal to those by
which the spring C2A, as the extended arm of the lever, simultaneously
snaps upwards for the distanceh 2A2a; consequently, if this rigid line is
extended to point B, then the momentai of the velocity that spring CB
has, when snapping upwards just beforej the lever 1aCB rights itself again
into the straight line 1aCb, will be four times the momenta,k with which
it would snap back to point 2A (since the distancel bB traversed by point
B in the same period is four times the distance 2A2a). However, because
of the fourfold distance of point B from fulcrum C, spring CB has only a
quarter of the stiffness of spring C2A, and one must in exchange make the
resistance at point B accordingly four times less than at point 2A, and, as
a result, the momentum of the velocity that spring CB introduces into the
body B with a quarter of the mass will be four times the momentum that
spring C2A would apply to the body 2A. Now the period during which

a A g momentum
b A h Raum
c inertial force i momentum
d Körper 2A = 1A in 2A j indem
e aufdrückt k momentum
f Raum l Raum

Natural Science

spring CB actsm is equal to the time it would take for spring C2A to snap
open, and the velocities that bodies 2A and B acquire by the actionsn
of springs C2A and CB are directly proportional to the momentao of the
velocities given by these springs to their bodies, which are accordingly
four times greater in body B than in body 2A, but since the velocity that
body 2A would acquire by the repulsion of the spring C2A is equal to
the velocity of body 1A striking point 1A, the velocity acquired by body
B through this impact of body 1A on the lever would have to be four
times greater than the velocity of body 1A at impact. QED.
How Herr We thus see from this twofold demonstration that a body with four
Papin could units of mass can impart four times the velocity to a body with one unit
have 1:112 of mass. This is true by mechanical principles, which even the most
argued against zealous defenders of living forces could not challenge. Had Herr Papin
Leibniz on this clearly seen his advantage, he could have thus cornered his opponent in
basis. an honest way. He should have told him: You have granted to me that
a body of four units of mass can transfer its entire force into a body of
one unit of mass by means of a lever, as long as the latter is four times
as far away from the fulcrum as the former, but I can show to you that
it imparts to this body four units of velocity under these conditions:
Therefore, a body with one unit of mass and four units of velocity has
the entire force of a body with four units of mass and one unit of velocity,
which, however, was the point of contention, the point that you required
me to deny.

§ 101.
Thus the most devastating attack of them all, by which living forces had
threatened the Cartesian estimation, missed its mark. After this, no hope
now remains that living forces will still find the means to prevail.

– – – vires in ventum effudit, et ultro

Ipse gravis graviterque ad terram pondere vasto
Concidit: ut quondam cava concidit aut Erymantho
Aut Ida in magna radicibus eruta pinus.p
Virgil, Aeneid, book 5

m wirkt
n Wirkung
o momenta
p — — — In vain with his forces he struck out; moreover
To the earth with vast weight, heavy as he was
He fell: as sometimes a hollow pine, on Mount Erymanthus
Or on the Ida up high, falls uprooted.

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

§ 102.
We have mentioned the best and most famous reasons to date for the We have
innovation of living forces and have taken care, by the right of rec- refuted the
ompense, to meet all the criticisms and corrections that this sect so main
often advanced against the students of Descartes. It would be unfair to argumentsq of
demand from us that our party’s complete triumph ought to be based the
on discussing everything written by the Leibnizians on this issue. This
would mean that everything would have to be covered, from the cedars
of Lebanon to the hyssop-weed growing on the wall, only for the sake
of enriching one’s work. We could make yet more incursions into our
enemies’ territory, plunder their estates, and put up so many victory
signs and triumphal archways for the retinue of Descartes, but I believe 1:113
that my readers will not have a great need of this. If there was ever a
reason for saying that a fat book is a great evil, one can say it of a book
that refers to little else but different defenses of one and the same issue,
a very abstract issue at that, and ultimately does so just for the sake of
refuting them all.
However, we cannot renounce such long-winded excesses so com-
pletely as to avoid mention of yet another proof, whose discussion is
justified even though all critics and defenders of the issue would forgive
us its neglect. Only because of the stature of its author can this proof
claim a place in this treatise; however, it does not have the least reputa-
tion among the members of both parties. The Leibnizians did not deem
it to be useful for their opinion, and although they had been frequently
driven into a corner, no one had seen them taking refuge to this proof.

§ 103.
It is from Herr Wolff that we have this proof which, decorated with all An argument
the splendor of method, he presented in volume one of the St. Petersburg by Herr Wolff.
Commentarii.r,83 One could say that the execution of his claim through
a long series of premises, which are fastidiously differentiated and mul-
tiplied by means of a rigorous method, resembles the military ploy of
an army that deceives its enemy and hides its weakness by spreading out
into many units and by widely stretching its flanks.
Everything has been made so verbose and unintelligible by the ana-
lytic tendency shown there, that anyone who reads Wolff ’s tract in the
mentioned Academy text will find it very difficult to ferret out what
precisely constitutes the proper proof. Let us familiarize ourselves, to
some extent, with the character of his enterprise.

q vornehmsten Gründe r Proceedings

Natural Science

1:114 § 104.
The main Herr Papin had maintained that one could not say that a body had acteds
principle of this unless it had overcome obstacles, moved masses, compressed springs, and
argument. so on. Wolff contradicts him for the following reason: If a man carried a
burden over some distance,t then everyone would agree that he has done
and performed something; now, a body carries its own mass through a
space with the force it has in actual motion, and just because of this, its
force has done and exerted something. At the beginning of his treatise,
Wolff promised to dispense with this reason and to demonstrate his
claim independently, but he did not keep his word.
After explaining what he means by harmless effects (effectus innocuos),
namely those in whose production force is not used up, he stipulates a
claim as the basis on which alone his system is built, and which we just
need to take from him to thwart the entire effort of his work. Si duo
mobilia per spatia inaequalia transferentur, effectus innocui sunt ut spatia.u
This is the claim we refer to.∗ Let us see how he set about proving it. He
argues as follows: If the effect in space A is e, then the effect occurring
in an equal or identical space A will also be e; hence the effect will be 2e
in a space twice the size of A, and 3e in a space three times the size of A,
that is, the effects are proportional to the spaces.
His proof accordingly rests on this presupposition: A body traversing
exactly the same space exerts exactly the same harmless effect. This
is the root of the seduction and error that subsequently infects his entire
1:115 text. The uniform identity of space alone is insufficient for the uniform
identity of the effect exerted therein by the same body; the velocity of
the body traversing space must be taken into account as well. If this
does not remain the same, then regardless of the uniformity of space,
the harmless effect will still vary. To see this, we must represent the
space traversed by a body just as we did in § 17, that is, not as perfectly
empty but rather as filled with an infinitely rarefied matter, which has
accordingly infinitely little resistance. We do this only for determining
the true effect and its object,v for apart from this, the effect will still
remain harmless, just as it is in the Wolffian argument. If, therefore,
a body traverses just as much space as another, equal body, then both
will have moved the same amount of matter but still not had the same
∗ Herr Wolff thus attributed certain effects to a body moving through an unresisting,
empty space; he later used them to measure the force of the body and thus failed to keep
his promise.

s gethan habe
t durch einen gewissen Raum
u If two movable objects are carried through unequal spaces, the harmless effects will be
like the spaces traversed.
v ein gewisses Subject derselben

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

effect. For if the one body traversed its space with twice the velocity of
the other, then by its action,w all the particles in its space would have
gained twice the velocity of the particles in the space traversed by the
other body with one unit of velocity; and as a consequence, even though
the mass and space traversed are equal for both, the former body will
have had a greater effect.x

§ 105.
Thus the principle of all of Herr Wolff ’s arguments is evidently false, Another main
and conflicts with what can be proven with the utmost clarity and cer- cause of
tainty by means of the concepts of actionz and motion. The consequence Wolff ’s sloppy
of a single mistake is nothing but a chain of errors. Herr Wolff derives remark.y
another principle from his first one, and it is actually this other prin-
ciple that provides all the grandiose implications to his system, which
so unexpectedly surprise and astonish the reader. It is this: Harmless
effects are like the sums of masses, times, and velocities, because
in uniform motion the spaces are jointly proportional to velocity
and time. On this Wolff bases the following theorem: Actiones, quibus 1:116
idem effectus producitur, sunt ut celeritates.a
There is a fallacy in the proof of this theorem that is possibly even Refutation.
more seriousb than the one we justc noticed. Wolff had proved that if two
equal bodies produce an identical effectd in unequal times, their veloci-
ties will be inversely proportional to the times in which these identical
effectse were produced, that is, a body completing its effectf in half of
the time period has two units of velocity, while another body, required
to spend the whole time period for this, has, by contrast, only one unit
of velocity. From this Wolff infers that because everyone grants that
an actiong has twice the quantity of another if it produces twice the
effecth of the other action in half the time, the actionesi here will be
inversely proportional to the times and directly proportional to the
velocities. He goes on to examine the case of two unequal bodies having

w Wirkung
x Wirkung
y Schediasmatis.
z Wirkens
a Actions that produce an identical effect are proportional to the velocities.
b härter
c kaum
d Wirkung
e Wirkungen
f Wirkung
g Action
h Wirkung
i actions

Natural Science

an identical effectj in equal times. He shows that, in this case, the veloci-
ties will have to be inversely proportional to the masses, and then draws
the following conclusion: Quoniam hic eadem est ratio massarum, quae
in casu priori erat temporum, ratio vero celeritatum eodum modo se habeat:
perinde est, sive massae diversae et tempus idem, sive massae sint eaedem et
tempus diversum etc.k,84 This conclusion is a monstrosity and definitely
not an argument that should be in a mathematical treatise. One needs to
remember in the previous case that the claim of the inverse proportional-
ity of Actionesl of two equal bodies and times, with equal bodies perform-
ing equal effectsm over unequal times, was made only because the Actionn
that produces an effecto more quickly is, precisely for this reason and to
this extent, greater than another that requires more time for producing
the same. Thus this conclusion holds, because the shorter the time of
completing an effect is, the greater the indicated action will always be.
But if I posit the inequality of masses instead of the inequality of times,
as I do here in the second case, then one easily sees that the inequality
of masses will not lead to the result given by the inequality of times.
For in the previous case, the body that completed its effectp in a shorter
time had exerted a greater Actionq than the other precisely because the
time was shorter; while in the second case the body with smaller mass,
1:117 which completes just the same effectr as the other, has a greater activity
precisely not because of the smallness of its mass. Saying that it did
would be completely absurd, for the smallness of mass is a true and essen-
tial reason for the smallness of activity instead, and if a body exerted
just the same effects as another and in equal time despite this smallness
of mass, then one can only conclude that a higher velocity would replace
and compensate what its Actioni t lacks due to its smaller mass, making
it equal to the Actioni u of another. Accordingly, if masses are unequal
but times and effects are equal, then one cannot say that the Actionesv
of bodies are inversely proportional to their masses, even though this

j Wirkung
k Because here the ratio of masses is the same as the ratio of times in the previous case, and
because the ratio of velocities really remains the same, it is irrelevant whether masses
are equal and times unequal, or masses are unequal and times equal, and so on.
l actions
m Wirkung
n action
o Wirkung
p Wirkung
q action
r Wirkung
s Wirkung
t action
u action
v actions

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

proportion applies to times and Actionumw in the case of unequal times

and equal masses. It is therefore not equivalent whether masses are
unequal and times are equal, or whether times are unequal and
masses are equal.
So the proof of a major theorem in Wolff ’s treatise is invalid and
useless, and accordingly living forces will find no reason there that would
sustain them.
Sometimes there are in a text certain moderate mistakes that do not
extend very far and do not wholly destroy the validity of the main point.
But in the text discussed, the method is such that the propositions run
downward as if on a rope; hence one or two errors ruin the entire system
and make it unusable.

§ 106.
Herr Wolff intended to provide us with the first foundations of dynamics We have as yet
in his treatise. His enterprise turned out poorly. Hence we do not have no dynamics.
any dynamic principles at present from which we could justifiably pro-
ceed. Our work, which promises to present the true estimation of living
forces, should make amends for this defect. The third chapter shall be
an attempt at this; but then again, can we really hope to reach this goal 1:118
when even one of the best experts in this sort of inquiry failed to attain it?

§ 107.
Just as I am about to conclude, with the previous case, the refutation of Herr van
the arguments with which the most famous Leibnizians establish their Musschen-
estimation of forces, I receive Herr Professor Gottsched’s translation broek’s
of Herr Peter von Musschenbroek’s Elements of Natural Science, argument.
published at the 1747 Easter book fair.85 This great man, the greatest
natural scientist of our time, and one whose opinions are less affected
by bias and partiality than the doctrines of any other man, this so very
famous philosopher subjected Leibniz’s estimation first to his mathemat-
ical examination, next to the experiments that he so skillfully knows how
to perform, and found it to be confirmed in both. This latter path that
Musschenbroek took does not pertain to the current chapter; only the
former belongs to it. The purpose of this treatise requires me to assess
the difficulties that the famous author thereby creates for Descartes’s
estimation and to deflect them, when possible, from the object whose
defense is our business. But will not the narrow limits of these pages, or,
to express myself frankly, the astonishing inequality that emerges here,
present insurmountable obstacles?

w actions

Natural Science

A Fig. 16. Let us see what sorts of reasons seemed to have math-
ematically proven Leibniz’s law to Musschenbroek.∗
C If some external cause moves together with the body
S pushed, for instance a given spring BC that is attached
to a supportx AS and that pushes body F away, then it will give the
body one unit of velocity if the body is at rest. But as soon as this body
already has one unit, twice the springs will be needed to give it a sec-
ond unit of velocity. For if the single spring extended itself alone once
more, then the body, already in real motion with the unit of velocity
1:119 of the extending spring, would elude this spring and fail to absorb its
pressures. Hence the second spring† DB must be added for bringing
Fig. 17.
it about that point B, to which spring BC is
attached, will pursue the body with just the
F velocity at which the body would escape, and
that, like at the beginning, body F will be
at rest relative to spring BC in this way and thereby acquire one
unit of velocity as soon as spring BC extends itself. Analogously,‡
three springs ED, DB, and BC are needed to give body F, already in
Fig. 18.
possession of two units of velocity,
just a third unit of velocity. A hun-
E F dred and one springs are needed to
give a body already in possession of
one hundred units of velocity a sin-
gle new unit, and so forth. Hence the number of springs needed to give
a body a certain degreey of velocity is like the number of unitsz into
which the body’s total velocity is divided; that is, the total force of the
springs that give a degree of velocity to a body is like the total velocity
that a body would have if it possessed this degree. Now, the lines DE,
FG, HI, etc. are like the lines AD, AF, AH in the triangle¶ ABC, whose
cathetusa AB is divided into equal parts; consequently
D E one can use line DE to identify the spring that gives
G Fig. 19. the body the first unit of velocity, AD; one can use
M line FG, twice as long, to identify the two-fold spring,
N which produces the second unit of velocity, DF; one
R r O can use line HI to identify the three-fold spring,
which producesb the third unit of velocity, FH; and

∗ Fig. 16.
† Fig. 17.
‡ Fig. 18.
¶ Fig. 19.

x Widerhalte a side
y Grad b erweckt
z Grade

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

so on. If one thinks these lines DE, FG, etc. to be infinitely close together,
then they will constitute the entire areac of the triangle ABC, by the
method of infinitesimals that Cavalierid has introduced into geometry.86
Hence the sum of all springs that produce the velocity AB in a body
is like the areae ABC; that is, it is like the square of the velocity AB.
These springs, however, represent the forces that had jointly produced
the assumed velocity in the body; the sum of the forces actingf on a
body is directly proportional to the force produced in the same; and 1:120
therefore, the force of a body is like the square of the velocity it possesses.

§ 108.
I believe that a supporter of Descartes would raise the following objection Examination of
to this proof: this argument.
If one wants to estimate the force transferred to a body by the sum of
certain springs, one needs to take only those springs that actually apply
their power to the body; but those that definitely did not actg on it cannot
be used to posit a corresponding force in the body. This proposition is
one of the clearest of mechanics; no Leibnizian ever questioned it. Even
Herr Musschenbroek acknowledges it at the end of his proof, for these
are his words: The sum of the forces that acth on a body is directly
proportional to the force produced in it.87 But if a body F, which is already
moving with one unit of velocity, acquires a second unit of velocity by
the extensioni of the two springs DB and BC, then of these two springs it
is only spring BC that acts on the body, while spring DB applies none of
its tensile force. For spring DB extends itself with one unit of velocity,
but body F is already really moving with one unit, and therefore body F
eludes the pressure of this spring, which, in its expansion,j will be unable
to reach the body to transfer its force of extensionk to it. All it will do is
carry supportl B, which anchors the other spring BC, after body F, and
carry it with just the velocity with which body F moves, so that support B
will be at rest relative to this body, and spring BC will be able to apply its
whole force, amounting to one unit, to body F. Spring DB is therefore 1:121
only an occasional, not an efficient, cause of the force added in this way
to body F’s previous force, whereas spring BC is the sole efficient cause
of the added force. Furthermore, if this body already has two units of
velocity, then of the three equal springs ED, DB, and BC, only BC will
impart its force and also the third unit of velocity; and so on, to infinity.

c Inhalt h wirken
d Cavalerius i Ausstreckung
e Fläche j Ausbreitung
f wirken k Kraft der Ausspannung
g wirken l Widerhalt

Natural Science

If spring DE∗ was accordingly the first spring whose force entered body
F and produced in it the first unit of velocity, AD, then the equal spring
fG would give body F the second unit of velocity and transfer its force
to body F, and spring hI would give it the third unit of velocity, and so
on; consequently, the sum BC of the springs DE, fG, hI, kM, lN, rO, and
bCm constitutes the entire quantity of force that was applied on body F
at rest and that produced velocity AB in it. But BC is proportional to AB;
BC is force, while AB is velocity; therefore, force is like velocity, not like
its square.

§ 109.
A new case that We are now beyond all the difficulties that could stand in the way of
confirms the our assertion of the Cartesian law. Still, we do not want to let our case
Cartesian rest here. Any opinion that ever becomes reputable and even turns into
measure of prejudice must be hunted down ceaselessly and be chased from all of its
force. hideouts. Such an opinion is like the many-headed monster that sprouts
new heads after each cut.

Vulneribus foecunda suis erat ille: nec ullum

De centum numero caput est impune recisum,
Quin gemino cervix haerede valentior esset.n
Ovid, Metamorphoses

I would be very proud if one faulted this work for having refuted the
Leibnizian estimation of force with redundant and more arguments than
needed, but I would be ashamed if I had let the refutation be deficient
in this.
b Take the inclined steelyard† ABC, whose
Fig. 20.
lever arm CB is four times as long as the
C other, and take body B, which presses down
e on the end of the lever arm of four lengths
and which weighs a fourth of the other
body, A. In the situation in which we have
1:122 set them, these will be at rest and remain in perfect equilibrium with
each other. If a small weight e is hung from body A, body B will be lifted
through arc Bb and A will sink through arc Aa, but in this movement, body
B will gain four times the velocity of body A. Take the weight e away and

∗ Fig. 19. [see p. 104]

† Fig. 20.

m die Summe der Federn DE + fG + hI + kM + lN + rO + bC = BC

n Its wounds were its fertility; not even one
Of its hundred heads was sliced off without impunity
Twice as many new growths instead broadened its neck.

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

hang instead a four times lighter weight d from body b at the end of the
balance arm Cb: Body b will be pushed down through arc bB and a will be
lifted up through arc aA, but b, or B, which is the same, will gain just the
same velocity as in the former case, while a, or A, which is the same, will
get the velocity received in that case as well, only with the difference that
the direction of the motions is reversed. Now, because the actiono exerted
by attached weight e constitutes the force possessed jointly by bodies A
and B, and because the actionp performed by the four times lighter d is
likewise to be posited as the force received jointly by bodies B and A,q it
is clear that these weights e and d must have exerted equal actions,r and
that they consequently must have applied and possessed an equal force.s
However, the velocities with which these weights e and d actt (that is,
their initial velocities as well as the finite velocities received through the
accumulation of all these pressures) are inversely proportional to their
masses; therefore, two bodies whose velocities are inversely proportional
to their masses have equal forces, and this overturns the estimation by
the square.

§ 110.
Never could the Cartesians defy the defenders of living forces more Leibniz’s knot
confidently than on Jurin’s discovery, which showsu in a simple way and of doubts.
with crystal-clear distinctness that the doubling of velocity always posits
only the doubling of force.88 Leibniz denied this in the essay on dynamics 1:123
published in the Actis.∗,89 Let us hear him speak as follows: Cum igitur
comparare vellem corpora diversa, aut diversis celeriatibus praedita, equidem
facile vidi: si corpus A sit simplum, et B duplum, utriusque autem celeritas
aequalis, illius quoque vim esse simplam, huius duplam, cum praecise, quicquid
in illo ponitur semel, in hoc ponatur bis. Nam in B est bis corpus ipsi A aeqale et
aeqivelox nec quicquam ultra. Sed si corpora A et B v sint aequalia, celeritas
autem in A sit simpla et in C dupla, videbam non praecise, quod in A
est, duplari in C.w Jurin untangled this knot with the world’s easiest case.
∗ Acta [Eruditorum] (1695): 155.

o Wirkung
p Wirkung
q b = B und a = A
r gleich große Wirkungen
s gleich viel Kraft
t wirken
u dadurch man . . . einsieht
v This should be C. B was in the original edition; it was an error by Leibniz, not corrected
by Kant; cf. Lasswitz’s discussion in the Academy edition (1:531).
w Thus, when I wanted to compare different bodies, or those with different velocities, of
course I easily saw that if body A is simple and body B is twice that, and both move with

Natural Science

Herr Jurin’s He assumed a movable

solution. Fig. 21. D R
E float, e.g.,∗ a barge AB, that
F A B C moves with one unit of veloc-
ity in direction BC and that
carries along ball E with the
same motion. Through the motion of the float, the ball has accordingly
one unit of velocity and also one unit of force. He further assumed spring
R on this float, which snaps open from support D, and which gives the
imagined ball E yet another unit of velocity and thus also another unit of
force. Ball E has accordingly two units of velocity altogether and thereby
two units of force. Consequently, the doubling of velocity entails noth-
ing but the doubling of force, and not the quadrupling of force, as the
Leibnizians falsely persuaded themselves.
This proof is infinitely clear and does not tolerate any evasive moves,
for the motion of the float can only give the body a velocity equal to its
own, that is, one unit of velocity and consequently one unit of force. And
because the motion of spring R is shared by float and ball, spring R actsx
only with its tensile force. Now, this is just large enough to give a body
like the one in question no more than one unit of velocity and thus one
unit of force as well. Therefore, one will encounter only the causes of
two units of force in everything that goes into the construction of this
problem, and regardless of the direction one turns, there will really be
only two units of velocity there.

1:124 § 111.
Frau von Marchioness Chastelet objected to this argument by Herr Jurin, but in
Chastelet’s a way that she would have been acute enough to notice the weakness of,
objection to were it not for her bias in favor of an opinion, a bias that, once accepted,
Jurin’s could most beautifully coat a bad thing.
argument. She raised the following objection.90 Barge AB is not an immobile
surface; therefore, when spring R pressesy against support D, it will give
some force to the barge, and the two units of force that, by the Leibnizian
estimation, are missing from body E will thus be found again in the
barge’s mass.

∗ Fig. 21.

the same velocity, then the force of the former will be simple and that of the latter will
be double, because whatever is posited once in the one is to be posited precisely twice
in the other. For B is twice the body of A, and of equal velocity, and not a thing more.
But if bodies A and C are equal while velocity is simple in A and double in C, I
realized that not everything that is in A will be doubled in C, etc.
x wirkt
y steift

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

§ 112.
This evasive move involves the mistake of the fallacy known as fallaciam
ignorationis elenchi.z She does not really attack her opponent’s argument
where he had placed the core of his proof, but instead cares about a
contingent secondary aspect that seems to favor her opinion, but which
is not attached to Jurin’s proof by necessity. We can easily get rid of
this bone of contention.a Nothing prevents us from imagining barge
AB as driven by such a force that will not permit the barge to yield in
the least in direction AF due to the effort of the spring against D. To
this purpose we can simply conceive of the barge as being of infinitely
great mass. Then it will yield to the finite force of spring R only by an
infinitely small amount, that is, it will not yield at all; therefore, the body
will receive just the force from the spring that it would get if spring R
snapped open by tensing against a completely immobile support, that is,
it will receive the entire force of spring R.

§ 113.
Herr Richter, who does not deserve an insignificant rank on the list of Herr
contributors to the promotion of the new measure of force, advanced a Richter’s
somewhat more plausible objection to Jurin’s argument.∗,91 objection to
He believes that the very same force could be rather different in rela- 1:125 Jurin’s
tion to different things. Although spring R imparted one unit of force argument.
to ball E with regard to the things that move together with the barge
in one direction and velocity, it imparted three units of force, instead of
one, to ball E with regard to the objects that are outside the barge and
really at rest.
I would really like to know where the two units of force that, in
Richter’s opinion, body E receives in relation to objects at rest, are
supposed to come from, for these units certainly cannot be the result
of his empty abstraction or idle thought; instead there definitely would
have to be active causes and forces to produce these two units of force.
But if everything is absolutely at rest with regard to external things, and
if the barge starts moving with one unit of velocity, then one unit of
absolute force will emerge in body E. From that point on, the barge will
not actb on the body anymore, for it is at rest with regard to the barge;
now, only the tensile force of the spring begins to release its activity. The
spring, however, releases just as much as is needed for producing one
unit of force; one would look in vain for more. Hence no more absolute
∗ Act. Erud. (1735): 511.

z the fallacy of missing the point b thut . . . keine Wirkung

a Stein des Anstoßes

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actionc was performed on the body than just what can be counted as two
units of force. If now in relation to the things at rest, taken in an absolute
sense, four units of force should have been produced in the body, and
yet no more than two units of absolute actiond had been performed, then
two units must have either emerged without rhyme or reason, or crawled
out of nowhere.
To avoid all such doubtse completely, if such a clear case really permits
any doubtf at all, one can arrange Herr Jurin’s case such that, if everything
were at absolute rest, the spring would first transfer a unit of velocity to
body E while the barge is still at rest, and this acquired force of body E
would indisputably be an absolute force. Now if the barge next began
moving with one unit, then this, in turn, would be an absolute motion,
because the barge was previously at rest with regard to all things. The
1:126 barge accordingly imparts a unit of force to everything belonging to its
mass, and consequently also to body E once more, an amount of force
that can be only of one unit, for the cause producing it acted in absolute
motion. Even in this way, there will accordingly emerge in body E no
more than two units of force.
Herr Richter tries to wiggle himself out of this with yet another eva-
sive move, taken from elastic collisions. But his justification proceeds
from the standard hypothesis of the Leibnizians that one would have to
encounter after the collision of elastic bodies precisely the force that was
present prior to the collision. We have refuted this presupposition, and
therefore it is not necessary to engage ourselves specifically with Herr
Richter here.

§ 113 92
Supplements and commentaries
concerning several sections of this chapter
Commentary to § 25.
Clearer Since the theorem of this section is the primary foundationg of our
presentation of current reflections, we shall accordingly present it in a somewhat clearer
§ 25. form.
The trait of real motion is its finite duration. But this duration, the time
elapsed since the beginning of the motion, is indefinite; it can accordingly
be assumed to be arbitrary. Hence, if the finite interval of time of the

c Wirkung f Scrupel
d Wirkung g Grundfeste
e Scrupels

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

elapsed motion is represented by line AB,∗ the body at B will be in real

motion, as it would be at the halfway point C, and also at the quarter-
distance point D, and so on, to ever shorter intervals of time, regardless
of how small one wants to make them; for the indefinite concept of its
quantity permits this. I can accordingly represent this time interval to be
infinitely small, without such representation taking anything away from
the concept of the reality of motion. But if the time of this duration is 1:127
infinitely small, it will have to be counted as nothing; the body will be
only at the starting point; and this means the body will just be striving to
move. Hence, if it is true without qualification, as Leibniz’s law claims,
that a body’s force is measured by the square in any real motion, force
in its mere striving to motion will have to be characterizedh in this way
too, which, however, is something the Leibnizians would have to deny.
At first glance it seems as if the qualification of Leibniz’s law to finite Reason why the
time intervals made it sufficiently clear that the law would not refer indeterminate
to motions of infinitely short duration; for the concept of a finite time concept of finite
signifies a categoryi utterly distinct from the concept of an infinitely time includes
short time: So, in light of this qualification, it appears that whatever is infinitely small
admitted only under the condition of finite time intervals can definitely
not refer to infinitely short times. This is certainly correct, provided
one speaks of finite time so as to presuppose that the time has to be
determined and be of a definite quantity, if the concept of finite time, as
a condition, is supposed to entail this or that property. But if a finite time
interval is required that can still be as long or short as one wants, then
infinitely short time intervals will be included in its categoryj as well.
This cannot be new to the Leibnizians. For they must know that their
original leaderk built the law of continuity on this very foundation:l If one
assumes A larger than B but leaves unspecified how much larger exactly
it is, then one may just as well say that A equals B, without violating the
laws that are true under that condition, or, if one lets A collide with B
and furthermore assumes B to be in motion, then provided its quantitym
of motion remains unspecified, one may as well assume B to be at rest,
without thereby negating what is given by the condition, and all the more
so in other cases.
Finally, if one granted that Leibniz’s estimation is false under the 1:128
condition of finite intervals, but still wanted to say that it is true under Leibniz’s
the condition of finite velocity (despite that saying this evidently con- estimation is
flicts with his doctrine), then one should please note the following: Line not valid under
the condition of
finite velocity
∗ Fig. 2. [see p. 37] either.

h beschaffen k Ahnherr
i Geschlecht l Grund
j Geschlecht m Grad

Natural Science

AB∗ can represent a finite time interval just as well as a finite velocity,
and so it again turns out that the law of the Leibnizians, were it valid for
finite velocity at all, would have to be valid for an infinitely small velocity
as well, which, however, they are forced to deny.

Supplements to §§ 31–36.
Our opponents count this among the clearest concepts that one can
possibly have: A body has exactly the force of all the springs that it
compresses until its entire motion is used up, regardless how much time
the compression of these springs will take. Of those who are not satisfied
with the mere quantityn of springs overcome, and who still inquire into
the compression time, Herr Johann Bernoulli says that they reason just
as absurdly as a person who wants to measure the amount of water in a
cup, and is not content with the real measure in front of him, the capacity
of the cup, but rather believes he still needs to know the time that filling
the cup will take. Insteado of overconfidence and ill will, Bernoulli adds:†
Desine igitur quaerere nodum in scirpo.p Frau Marchioness von Chastelet
has an equally witty remark in store; nonetheless, both are mistaken and,
if I may say so, indeed with damage to their fame that is just as great as
their overconfidence had been when committingq this error.
Reason If each of the springs A, B, C, D, E is such that it resists only a single
why time pressure of body M, while thereby losing its entire efficacy,r and conse-
necessarily quently will no longer acts on body M, regardless how long M continues
matters 1:129 to be exposed to it, then I myself confess that the body has exerted the
in same force, regardless of whether it compressed these springs in one unit
gravitational of time or in four units of time, for having once compressed a spring,
resistance. body M will spend the rest of the time with it in idleness. By contrast, if
the force of the body does not neutralize the activity of the spring when
overcoming its pressure, new units of force will continuouslyt transfer
from the spring to the counteracting body, for the efficacyu of this spring,
which was the cause of a unit of force being extinguished by the body
in the first moment, remains the cause of a unit of force in the second

∗ Fig. 2. [see p. 37]

† Acta Erud. (1735): 210.

n Anzahl
o vor
p So stop looking for difficulties where there are none.
q blicken lassen
r Thätigkeit
s keine Wirkung mehr thut
t alle Augenblicke
u Wirksamkeit

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

moment as well and indeed with the same strength; and it remains so in
the third moment, as well as in all subsequent ones, and so on, to infinity.
Under these conditions it is not irrelevant whether the body overcoming
the pressure of these springs does so in shorter or longer time intervals,
for it sustainsv more pressures in the longer interval. Gravitational pres-
sure, however, is just of this type. Each spring of gravity actsw in all
moments with the same effect,x and a body that overcame gravitational
pressure in the first moment has not done so at all subsequent moments
just because of this. The body will need just as much force for the second,
and so forth. So the force that a body exerts in resisting the pressure of
a single part of gravitational matter is not just like the intensity of grav-
itational pressure, but rather like its Rectangulumy over time.
To the redundant proof of the proposition that time, and not the Yet another
number of springs, is the measure of the exerted action,z one could still refutation of
add this. A body thrown at an oblique angle, whose motion describes living forces.
a parabolic arc, would have to traverse a certain height faster through
the fall and also acquire a much higher velocity and much greater force
toward the end of this fall, than a vertical fall could impart to it from
the same height. For in describing the curved line, the body traverses a
greater distancea until the end of the fall than it would have, had it fallen
vertically. On that longer distanceb the body must necessarily suffer a
greater number of gravitational springs than it could encounter on the
short, straight line, for gravitational matter is uniformly spread in all
directions:c As a result, and according to Leibniz’s claim, the body would
gain more force and velocity in a parabolic fall than in a vertical fall, which
is absurd.

Thoughts on the Dispute 1:130

Frau Marchioness von Chastelet and Herr von Mairan
On Living Forces
Herr von Mairan had the idea of estimating the force of a body by
obstacles not overcome, springs not compressed, and matters not
moved, or, as Frau von Chastelet put it, of estimating the force of a
body by what it does not do. This adversary assumed to have found
something so stranged in this thought that she believed she needed only
to mention it in order to ridicule it. Although this famous man added the

v hat . . . ausgehalten a größern Raum

w wirkt b größeren Raum
x Thätigkeit c Seiten
y square d so etwas Wunderliches
z Wirkung

Natural Science

absolutely crucial qualification to his thought that the springs would

nonetheless have been compressed if one stipulated, by hypothesis,
that the body was conserving or continuously renewing its force, his
adversary sees something so illicit and inappropriate in this hypothesis
that she reproaches him all the more harshly because of it. I shall briefly
show how certain and sure the thought of this distinguished man is, and
that, apart from Herr Jurin’s own argument already mentioned, it is not
easy to devise anything more decisive and exact regarding this matter.
Defense of If one considers what the force of a body has lost after it has overcome
Herr von certain obstacles, if one, I say, measures this loss, one will know with
Mairan’s type complete certainty how large the whole power of the resistance over-
of estimation come had been, for the body would not have been able to overcome this
against Frau resistance or obstacle without exerting a quantitye of force equal to it;
von Chastelet.
moreover, the sizef of the force destroyed and used up in the body equals
the strength of the obstacle, which had deprived the body of its force,
and also equals the strength of the action performed in this way.
1:131 Now take a body rising with five units of velocity vertically from the
ground up,g and, following standard convention, represent the space,
or the height reached, by the area of the triangle∗ ABC, in which
line AB represents the time elapsed andh line BC
A a represents the velocity of the body’s rise. The
D e Fig. 22. equal lines AD, DF, FH, etc. are supposed to rep-
resent the intervals of the entire time period AB;
G consequently, the little triangles, which consti-
H i
J tute the area of the large triangle and which are
K l all the size ADE, represent the elements of the
entire space, or the total number of springs com-
pressed by the body in time period AB. Hence
during the first short interval,i BK, the body begins to rise and com-
presses the nine springs encountered in space KLBC. If the resistance of
these springs did not consume any force in the body, or, if this loss were
continuously replaced from somewhere else, the body would have com-
pressed spring LlC j in addition, which it cannot compress now, because
the very amount of force needed to do so had been neutralized by the
compression of the others. Thus spring LlCk is the measure of that force

∗ The Academy edition has: Fig. 22.

e Grad
f wie groß
g von dem Horizonte senkrecht in die Höhe steigt
h aber
i Zeittheilchen
j Reading (following the Academy edition) LlC for LEC.
k Reading (following the Academy edition) LlC for LEC.

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

which the resistance of the nine compressed springs absorbed in said

body. Now, after it performed this, it continues to rise, with the rest of
its force, which remains with it after the described loss, and compresses
in the second short interval,l KH, the seven springs encountered in space
HIKL. Once more, it is evident here that if said body could have com-
pressed these seven springs without any loss to its force, then in the very
same minute, it would have compressed and overcome spring IiL in addi-
tion, but since it did not do this, it follows that by compressing the seven
other springs, it had lost the very quantitym whose replenishment would
have allowed it to overcome IiL in addition; consequently, this spring
reveals the quantity of the loss that the resistance of the seven springs had
exacted from the body’s force. In just this manner, spring GgI will reveal
the loss of force by gravitational resistance in the third brief interval, FH, 1:132
and so on. Thus, the loss suffered by a freely rising body, in overcoming
the obstacle of gravity, is like the sum of the springs not compressed,
LlC, IiL, GgI, EeG, AaE; and as a consequence, even the quantity of the
obstaclesn overcome, and thus its own force, will be proportional. And
since the springs not compressed are proportional to the times or the
velocities, the force of the body is accordingly like the springs as well.
Furthermore, this shows why Herr von Mairan was justified in stip-
ulating, by hypothesis, that the body had overcome obstacles and yet
kept its entire force, which, at first glance, appears to contradict the first
principle of motions. For the obstacles certainly deprive the body of the
part of its force that is equal to them, but still, it is perfectly possible
to continuously replace this loss, in thought, by some other sourceo and
thusp to preserve the body intact so that one sees how much more the
body would do with a force that remained undiminished in this way,
as compared to when that which the obstaclesq had consumed remained
lost. This will accordingly present us with the entire quantity of the force
that, in reality, the resistance takes from the body, and it will present us
with this entire quantity because it reveals what specific amountr would
have to be added such that the body would have lost nothing.
I cannot avoid adding a note on the way Frau Marquioness attacks
the doctrines of her adversary. I think she could have chosen no bet-
ter method for inflicting the worst attack on him than to busy her-
self with giving his arguments an elements of strangeness and absur-
dity. A serious presentation would provoke the appropriate attention

l Zeittheilchen p dennoch
m den Grad q die Hinderniß
n der Hinderniß selber r was für einen Grad
o anderswoher s Zug

Natural Science

and inquisitivenesst in the reader, and leave the mindu open for all sorts
of reasons that could enter it, from either the one or the other side. But
the strange guise, in which she presents her adversary’s views, imme-
diately takes control of the reader’s gullibility,v destroying the reader’s
motivation for any closer examination. The force of the mind that rules
judgment and reflection is of a lazy and apathetic sort; it is satisfied to
reach the point of its state of rest, and gladly stands by whatever excuses it
from laborious reasoning, and therefore it lets itself easily be captivated
by such ideas that lower the likelihood of one of the two views in one
1:133 fell swoop and that declare the effort of further inquiries unnecessary.
Our philosopher could have used her ridendo dicere verum, or the idea
to tell her adversary the truth with laughter, with greater justification
and perhaps also with better success, had her adversary been incapable
of serious reasons, and one wanted to let him feel his ridiculousness.
The note I am adding here would appear impolite and pedantic to any
other member of the fair sex,w but the distinction of understanding and
scientific training of the person I am talking about not only makes her
superior to all others of her gender, and to a large portion of the other
sex as well, but this distinction also deprives her of the actual privilege
of the fairer portion of humanity: flattery, and praise based on flattery.
Herr von Mairan’s choice turns out to be even better in light of the
following: The springs that are, by his method, the measure of the exerted
force are not only equal, but also are to be compressed in equal time;
consequently, both Leibnizians and Cartesians would be pleased by this,
the Leibnizians, who insist on the equality of space when determining
the equality of force, and the Cartesians, who demand the equality of
time when doing the same.

Supplements to §§ 45, 46, and 47.
I suspect that I could have said nothing more certain and compellingx
but that a spring could impossibly push a body away, if it did not stiffen
and press against its own support with the very power that it uses in its
tensile force for pushing the body on the other end, and since in Herr
Bernoulli’s case there is no support other than body B, the spring would
thus have to apply just the same power of effort against this body as it is
capable of applying against A. For the spring would never push body A
away unless B received the same in the tension of resisting the spring’s
expansion. So body B, since it is not an immobile support, receives all

t Untersuchung w Person ihres Geschlechtes

u Seele x Unwidersprechlicheres
v schwachen Seite

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

the force equally that the spring imparts to A. Despite the fact that the
entire world is in unanimous agreement on this, Herr Johann Bernoulli 1:134
found, on the contrary, I do not know what bright light, on which he
based an absolutey confidence. He says: Non capio, quid pertinacissimus
adversaries, si vel scepticus esset, huic evidentissimae demonstrationi opponere
queat;z and continues: Certe in nostra potestate non est, aliquem eo adigere,
ut fateatur, discere, quando videmusa solem horizontem ascendere.b Let us not
view with indifference this random slipc of human reason in the person
of such a great man, but instead learn from it to place wise suspicion
even into our strongest conviction and to assume always that even there
we are not yet beyond danger of cheating ourselves, and let us learn this
so that the understanding will remain in its equilibrium at least until it
had time to familiarize itself with the circumstances, the proof, and the
opposite in the course of a sufficient examination.
In this very treatise of which we speak, Herr
Bernoulli shows how exactly the same force could F
be given to a body through the pressure of an a b c d
Fig. 23.
equal number of springs in a shorter time. I
already said enough in response to the extent that
this concerns our business, but here I shall add a b F Fig. 24.
an observation that may have its particular use c d
even though it does not concern our project.
Bernoulli says there: Ball F will always receive the
same force from the four springs a, b, c, d, regardless a
b Fig. 25.
of whether one wishes to arrange them along one line c F
as shown in Fig. 23, or in two parts parallel to each
other as shown in Fig. 24, or in four such components,d as shown in
Fig. 25.
One should note the following qualification.e The idea of this claim Reminder of
is true only under the condition that the sequentially connected springs the way that
a, b, c, d∗ do not yet give the body a velocity higher than the one with Herr Bernoulli
which each of these springs, taken in isolation, would release; for as presumed to
impart the
entire force of
∗ multiple
[In the original edition, no footnote is provided. In the Academy edition, Fig. 24 is
springs to one
y unüberwindliche
z I do not understand what even the most stubborn adversary, even if he were a skeptic,
could object to this completely evident proof.
a According to the Academy edition: videt
b Certainly it is not in our power to force someone else to admit that it becomes day when
we see the sun rising on the horizon.
c Zufall
d Zertheilungen
e Cautele

Natural Science

soon as this condition applies, it will be impossible,f contrary to Herr

1:135 Bernoulli’s idea, to give to the body the same velocity by springs in
parallel connection∗ as by springs in sequential connection. For suppose
that the body receives ten units of velocity from a sequence of springs up
until they are fully extended in Fig. 23, but that the individual expansion
of one of the springs, for instance a, has eight units of velocity in isolation;
i.e., without the spring pushing a body away, then, obviously, the four
springs will be able to give only eight units of velocity to the body by
the method shown in Fig. 25. For as soon as the body has received these
units, it will have just as much velocity as the springs that are supposed to
push the body away would have when releasing freely, which accordingly
cannot impart anything else to the body. At the same time, it is beyond
dispute that body F would require the entire ten units of force in Fig. 25
just as in Figs. 23 or 24, if it is supposed to collide with the four springs
again, compressing them. But since this very Fig. 25 can represent the
elastic force of any given body, it is clear that it is possible that a perfectly
elastic body can collide with an immobile support at a certain velocity,
and that nonetheless the velocity of the rebound can be far smaller than
the velocity of the impact. But if one prefers that these four springs give
their entire force to the body pushed, then one must add four tenths to
mass F, for then the four springs will compensate by quantity of mass
what they fail to communicate by velocity.

Commentary to § 105.
Detailed I did not explain myself clearly enough when I wanted to indicate, on
exposition of p. 102, the extraordinary mistake in Herr Baron Wolff ’s argument. At
the mistake in first glance, it seemed as if the conclusion still followed mathematically
Wolff ’s proof. enough, i.e., by the rule aequales rationes sibi substitui invicem possunt,g but
in fact, the conclusion has nothing to do with this rule. The first case was
this: Tempora, quibus duo mobilia, si sunt aequalia, eosdem effectus patrant,
1:136 sunt reciproce ut celeritates.h Next follows, in the second part of the proof,
the claim: Massae corporum inaequalium, quae eosdem effectus patrant, sunt
reciproce ut celeritates.i From this Herr Wolff now infers (for that is his

∗ [In the original edition, no reference is provided. In the Academy edition, Fig. 25 is

f so schlägt es fehl
g equal ratios can be substituted with one another
h The times in which two movables, if they are equal, produce identical effects are inversely
proportional to the velocities.
i The masses of unequal bodies that produce identical effects are inversely proportional
to the velocities of these bodies.

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

argument when appropriately explicated): Because the ratio of times and

masses equals the ratio of velocities in both cases, they are equal to one
another. This can be granted, but only if one does not ignore the con-
ditions under which they are equal to one another, namely that the
masses of unequal bodies that produce identical effects are just like
the times, in which NB,j equal bodies exert just the same action,k for
this is the qualification evidently tied to the ratios. But Herr Wolff ’s
conclusion is this: Therefore, the masses of these bodies are like the
times in which just these unequal bodies exert the same action,l an
evident distortion of the given proportion.
If our author had only had the idea of comparing the two propositions
with each other, which he wants to deduce from one another, he would
have been forced to see with crystal clarity that they do not only not imply
each other, but actually contradict one another. For the first proposition
is this: Actiones, quibus corpora aequalia eosdem effectus patrant, sunt ut
celeritates.m From this he wants to deduce the other proposition, which is
the result of the second part of the proof; that is: Actiones, quibus corpora
inaequalia eosdem effectus patrant, sunt etiam ut ipsorum celeritates; celeritates
autem eorum sunt reciproce ut massae.n
Now, if, in accordance with the first proposition, we take two equal
bodies, A and B, such that B has twice the velocity of A, then, by this
rule, the action whereby B produces exactly the same effect as A, will be
twice as great as the action of body A, because body B, due to its greater
velocity, produces this effect in half the time. But by the second rule, I
could reduce B to half of its mass, and the action in question would still
be just as great as before, provided the velocity remains just as before.
But now it is evident that, if B is twice as small as it was before, and if
its velocity remains the same, it could never produce the given effect
in just that time as its mass was twice as large then, but rather it needs 1:137
more time to do so. Hence, because the action decreases, the more time
is needed for the same effect, it follows that the action must necessarily
be smaller just in case the mass of B with the same velocity is twice as
large, which therefore contradicts the result of the second part.
But we would encounter all of these contradictions in Wolff ’s intended
proof even if one granted him the proposition that he laid down as its
foundation, namely that unequal Actioneso can still have equal Effectus.p

j N[ota] B[ene]: note this well.

k Wirkung
l Wirkung
m The actions whereby equal bodies produce identical effects are like the velocities.
n The actions, whereby unequal bodies produce identical effects, are also like their veloc-
ities; their velocities, however, are inversely proportional to their masses.
o actions
p effects

Natural Science

This proposition, which a mortal would never before have thought to

maintain, is a contradiction of a form as perfectq as could possibly be
devised. For the term Action is a term with a relative meaning, which
indicates the actionr or Effect in something insofar as something else
contains its cause. Thus Effect and Action are precisely the same, and the
sense differs only in that I either refer to what its cause is or consider
things apart from this. So Wolff ’s proposition only amounts to saying
that an action could be unequal to itself. Moreover, it is called Action
only because the Effect depends on it; if the Action contained a part on
which an Effect equal to it did not depend, then that part could not be
called Action either. Even if the times are unequal, in which the same
Effectuss are produced, the Actionest thus applied will nonetheless remain
the same, and the only conclusion that follows is that the Effecteu and the
Actionesv that correspond to them, too, are unequal in equal times.
To briefly explain this: It is immediately obvious that very special
circumstancesw must have been responsible for triggering such excep-
tional mistakes in this tract, that really do not fit the known and highly
praised brilliance of the author, which shines in everything that is his
own. It is not hard to fathom that the admirable urge to save the honor
of Herr von Leibniz, then regarded as the honor of all Germany, pro-
1:138 duced this effort and made the author present the proofs in a shape much
more compelling than they would have appeared to him otherwise and
without this motivation. The matter itself was of such a desperate sort
that it could not have been defended without errors, but at the same
time, its appeal was so tempting that it did not leave any room for being
detachedx during the inquiry. This is all I wish to say about the offenses,
which I either have shown already or will show yet, and which have been
committed by such very famous men, Herr Herrmann, Bernoulli, and
the like, among whom one hardly ever encounters anything deserving
of reproach except this. Thus the honor of the man of whom we speak
remains secure. I take the liberty of dealing with his defense as if it were
not his property. Meanwhile, he can shout at me what an older philoso-
pher exclaimed on an occasion that concerned him somewhat more: You
are only hitting Anaxarchus’s shell.

q in der besten Form u effects

r Wirkung v actions
s effects w Ursachen
t actions x Kaltsinnigkeit

chapter three 1:139

Presenting a new estimation of living forces,

as the true measure of force in nature.

§ 114.
Accordingly, we have shown in detail that the estimation of forces by How that law,
the square turns out to be false in mathematics, and that mathematics which has been
does not allow any measure of force other than the traditional, or Carte- found false in
sian, measure. Still, at various points in the previous chapter, we led the mathematics,
reader to expect that it is nonetheless possible to introduce the estima- can be present
in nature.
tion by the square into nature, and now the time has come to deliver
on our promise. This endeavor will surprise most of my readers, for it
seems to imply that mathematics is not without deceptions, and that we
would now start challengingy its verdict. But the matter is not really like
that. If mathematics pronounced its laws on all bodies in principle, then
natural bodies would be included, too, and hoping for any exception
would be futile. But mathematics defines its concept of body by means
of Axiomatum,z requiring of them that they be presupposed in its body,
even though they actually prohibit and exclude certain properties from
it, properties that are still necessarily found in bodies in nature; hence a 1:140
body in mathematics is a thing utterly distinct from a body in nature, and
something can therefore be true of the latter that still does not belong
to the former.a,93

§ 115.
Now we shall see what specific property is present in the body in nature, Difference
a property that mathematics does not permit in its own body, and that between
accordingly results in the latter being a thing of a completely different mathematical
typeb from the former. Mathematics does not permit its body to have a and natural
force unless it is wholly produced by the external cause of its motion. bodies, and of
the laws
Accordingly, mathematics admits force in the body only insofar as force
was caused in it from the outside, and hence one will always find its both.

y appelliren a auf diesen

z axioms b Geschlechte

Natural Science

force to the same degree in the causes of its motion. This is a basic
law of mechanics, whose presupposition, however, does not admit any
estimation other than the Cartesian. But, as we shall soon show, the body
in nature is of an altogether different constitution. That body has the
capacity to increase, by itself and in itself, the force awakened externally
by the cause of its motion, which means there can be units of force in
it that did not originate from the external cause of motion, that may
be larger than this cause, that therefore cannot be measured with the
same yardstickc as the one used for Cartesian force, and that accordinglyd
involve another estimation. We want to treat this property of the natural
body with all the precision and thoroughness that such an important issue

§ 116.
Velocity is no As we saw in § 3, velocity does not by itself entail a concept of a force.
concept of a For it is a determination of motion, that is, a determination of that
force. 1:141 bodily state in which the body does not apply the force it possesses, but
rather remains inerte with it. But velocity is actually the quantityf of force
possessed by the body at rest, i.e., that a body possesses at an infinitely
slow velocity, that is, it is the quantity whose unitg is the force present
in the body at an infinitely slow velocity. This is most clearly seen in the
type of analysis suggested by Jurin’s excellent case, § 110, namely, if we
consider velocity in terms of its infinitely small parts, in a way similar to
Jurin’s, who observes it as consisting of two equal parts.

§ 117.
There would be Knowing with precision what actually defines the concept of force
no force requires us to proceed in the following way. Force is rightly estimated
without a by the obstacles that break and eliminate it in the body. This shows that
striving for the a body would have no force whatsoever if it did not strive to preserve in
preservation of itself the state that obstacles are supposed to eliminate; for if this were
a state as such.
not the case, then whatever served to overcome the obstacles would be
like zero.
What intension Motion is the outward phenomenon of force, but the striving for pre-
is. serving this motion is the basis of the activity, and velocity indicates how
it must be multiplied to get the whole force. For this purpose, we shall

c Maße f Zahl
d auch g Einheit
e unthätig

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

call the striving intension; hence force equals the product of velocity and
As an example, which may illustrateh these concepts all more clearly, Elucidation of
suppose the quadruple spring a, b, c, d.∗ If we now posit the velocity with this concept.
which each one of the springs starts to stretch out as the unit velocity,
then the initial velocity of the entire spring a d, which is composed of
four springs, will have four units if it extends itself freely, and this seems
to imply that the initial velocity impressed by the quadruple spring on a
body would be four times the initial velocity effected by each individual 1:142
spring. However, the intension in the quadruple spring is four times
smaller than the intension in each individual spring, for the very force
that would compress one of these four connected springs against an
immobile support to a certain degree,i compresses the quadruple spring
four times harder, because each individual spring, if connected in this way
with the three others, will have a mobile support, and thus the stiffness,
or, what amounts to the same here, the intension, of the quadruple spring
will be lacking whatever is transferred by its velocity. For this reason it
so happens that the initial velocity imparted by the quadruple spring to
the body is not larger than the one the body can get from each individual
spring, even though the quadruple spring, when it extends itself freely,
has four times the initial velocity of each individual spring. And this may
serve to make the concept of intension intelligible, and to show why it
must necessarily be taken into account when estimating force.

§ 118.
If a body’s force is such that it strives to preserve the state of motion only If intension is
momentarily, regardless of its particular velocity, then this striving, or like a point,
intension, will be equal at all velocities; consequently, the whole force then force will
of such a body is only proportional to its velocity; for the first factor is be like a line,
always the same, and therefore the product indicating the quantity of that is, like
force is like the second factor.

§ 119.
In such a motion it would be necessary to replenish incessantly and
externally the force that disappears from the body at every instant, and if
the body was supposed to achieve a continual motion in this fashion, then

∗ Fig. 23. [see p. 117]

h vermerken i Maße

Natural Science

the force would always be merely the effectj of a permanent and external
If the intension propulsion. However, this clearly shows, too, that if, by contrast, the
is finite, that is, force of the body were such that it contained a sufficient intrinsic striving
like a 1:143 for preserving motion at a given velocity, and preserving it uniformly,
line, then the incessantly, on its own, and without the help of any external power,k then
force is like the this force would be of an utterly different type and would be infinitely
square. more perfect as well.
For since in the former case its intension would be the same at all
velocities, namely infinitely small and multiplied merely by the numberl
of the units of velocity, it follows in the contrary case that the intension
must always be proportional to the velocity and be multiplied by it as
well, and that doing so will result in the true estimation of force. For a
finite velocity with an infinitely small intension involves force, and the
very force that constitutes this intension at an infinitely small velocity
is the unit. Accordingly, if a body is supposed to base this velocity and
force sufficiently on itself, to possess the full striving for their constant
preservation, then its intension will have to be proportional to this force
or velocity. And that, now, is the origin of a wholly new power that is the
product of the force, which is proportional to velocity, and the inten-
sion, which is now also proportional to velocity; and thus this product
is equal to the square of the velocity. Since in a body with an infinitely
small intension and moving at finite velocity, force was like a line that
represented this velocity, and intension like a point, it is easy to under-
stand that intension in the present case, however, is like a line too, and
the force that thus results is like an area formed from the flow of the first
line, and, in fact, like the square, because these lines are proportional to
one another.
Note that I consistently abstract here from any difference in the
masses, or imagine them to be equal. Second, that I consider space to be
empty when discussing these motions.

§ 120.
The body that Accordingly, any body that bases its motion sufficiently on itself such
contains that its inner striving sufficiently explains that it will, on its own, pre-
an 1:144 serve the motion that it has, freely, permanently, undiminished, and to
intrinsic infinity, has a force whose measure is the square of its velocity or, as
striving for we shall subsequently call it, a living force. By contrast, if its force lacks
preserving its an immanent basism for preserving itself, but rather rests only on the
motion freely
j Wirkung l Menge
has a force like
k äußerliche Machthülfe m Grund . . . in sich
the square of its
Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

presence of an external cause, then this force will be just like velocity,
that is, it will be a dead force.

§ 121.
But now we shall consider the constitution of a body’s force that first By means of its
arises by the actionn of an external cause on the body. Such a force, then, inner drive, the
will inevitably be based on the presence of this external cause, and it body elevates
would not exist in the body at the same moment if the cause did not the externally
awaken the drive. Hence, in the same moment that it depends on the received
presence of an external cause, it will be of such a kind that it would
have to vanish instantly if the former were not present, for we are not higher and to
talking now about whether the body, after this moment, would be able an entirely
to base this force on itself, and what would follow in that case. In this different type.
very moment, then, the intension of the force is therefore infinitely small
and consequently the force that is based solely on the external drive, is
like mere velocity, i.e., is dead. However, if the very same body, later,
bases this imparted velocity on its inner force such that a permanent
and free preservation of motion is generated by its striving, then it will
consequently not be a dead force anymore, but rather a living force,
whose measure is the square, and which needs to be comparedo to the
former like an area to a line. Considering this, the following is clear: If it
continues its impressed velocity freely and by itself, a body will increase
to infinity, in this way and in itself, the force that it has gotten from
an external mechanical cause, and will elevate it to an entirely different
type such that the commentary given in § 115 is demonstrated here, and
living forces are fully excluded from the jurisdiction of mathematics. 1:145
Furthermore, one sees from this that living force could not be pro- The body
duced in a body by an external cause, regardless of how large it may be, cannot receive
for to the extent that force depends on a cause from without, it will always living force
be only like simple velocity, as we have shown; rather, living force will from without.
have to acquire determinations pertaining to the measure by the square
from the inner source of the body’s natural force.

§ 122.
We have shown that a body possesses living force if it has based the There are
cause of its motion sufficiently and completely on itself, such that the infinitely many
constitution of its force explains its immanent, invariant, free, and per- intermediate
manent preservation; but if a body does not at all base its force on itself, steps between
but rather depends on something external in this regard, it will possess dead and living

n Wirkung o zu rechnen ist

Natural Science

only dead force, which is infinitely smaller than living force. This leads
immediately to the following consequence: If the same body bases its
force partlyp on itself, but not completely, its force will partlyq approach
living force and be somewhat different from dead force, and there will
necessarily still be infinitely many intermediate steps between these two
extreme boundaries, completely dead and completely living force, which
lead from the one to the other.
Living force This also implies, by the law of continuity, that the same body that
originates only possesses dead force in an initial moment and acquires living force in the
in a finite time next, a force that is to the former like an area is to the generating line,
interval after gains this force only in a finite time interval. For suppose we posited
the beginning that it acquired this latter force not in a finite time interval after the
of motion.
initial moment, but instead instantly, in the infinitely short periodr after
1:146 the initial moment, then this would be like saying that it already had
this living force in the initial moment itself. For the law of continuity,
and even mathematics as such, demonstrate that it does not make any
difference whether I say that the body happens to be in the initial moment
of its motion, or in the infinitely short periods following it. But in the
initial moment of motion itself the force is dead, and so we cannot say
without contradiction that the force is therefore living if we also statedt
that this living force can be encountered in motion only after a finite
interval, after the actionu of the external cause.
Commentary The body’s natural force actuallyv maintains within itself the exter-
on this point. nally received impression and since through its continuous striving it
accumulates in itself the formerly point-like intension until it becomes
like a line, which is proportional to the velocity-like force caused in it
from without, it accumulates, on its own, the force obtained from the
outside, which was previously only like a line too, until it is eventuallyw
like a plane whose one side represents the externally imparted velocity
and force, while the other side models the intension, which is propor-
tional to this externally imparted velocity and force, which has grown,
on its own, from the body’s interior.

§ 123.
What I call the state in which the force of the body is not yet living but nonethe-
vivification is. less progressing to being alive, the coming-to-life or vivification of

p etwas t festsetzt
q etwas u Wirkung
r Zeittheilchen v nämlich
s Zeittheilchen w jetzt

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

Hence, in the interim period, when the force is elevating itself to living How intension
force, which is definedx as the period between two points, the starting is constituted
point and the point when force is already fully alive, the body has not yet during the
sufficiently based its force and velocity on itself. Perhaps it will now occur vivification of
to my reader to ask how the body can preserve and continue the velocity force.
imparted to it in this interim period, since in this case it does not yet
have a sufficient base for its force and motion in itself, and consequently 1:147
cannot yet do so by itself. To this I answer: In this interim period, force is
admittedly not yet of the sort that allows one to understand a permanent,
free, and undiminished motion on its basis, unless it were elevated still
higher by means of an inner striving. But the issue here is not whether
the striving of force toward its own self-preservation is incomplete in
this manner. The question is only whether the force’s intension, which
has not yet grown to the point of being able to preserve motion in an
undiminished and incessant way, can still preserve motion at least during
the time needed for its complete vivification. This is not just a mere
possibility but is indeed the case, and this is evident from the fact that a
new element of intension arises in the body at each moment during this
whole interim period, which sustains the given velocity for an infinitely
short period;y consequently, all elements of this intension, which arise
in the body during the whole interim period, sustain the same velocity
in each of its moments, that is, in the whole period, which is clearly
illustrated by the comparison with § 18.
Now if we suppose, in the intermediate period of vivification before What would
it reached completion, that the body suddenly stopped accumulating happen to
elements of intension further and making force come fully alive, what motion if
would happen then? Evidently, the body would then base only those vivification
units of velocity on itself and keep sustaining them continuously in free ceased before
motion if they are proportional to the intension that the body had already
gained during this time, whereas other units of velocity that require a
greater intension to attain complete vivification than is really available,
would suddenly have to disappear and cease. For the intension that is
present can base only part of this velocity on itself, and no new elements
of intension that would sustain the given velocity in all moments arise
any longer in each moment, so the remainder would have to disappear
on its own.
Now, if a freely moving body encounters resistance, to which it applies And what
its force, before arriving at complete vivification with its full velocity, 1:148 would
the force exerted by the body will be like the square of that degree force be like in
of velocity that is proportional to and in conformity with the body’s that case?
achieved intension and that could thus have come alive in the given

x begriffen y unendlich kleines Zeittheilchen

Natural Science

time, or else it will be like the square of the intension achieved by the
body; the body is inert with the remaining units, or it acts,z but only
according to the measure of simple velocity, which counts, however, for
nothing as compared to the other force.

§ 124.
New Accordingly, a body that sustains its velocity in free motion to
estimation of infinity has living force, that is, a force whose measure is the square
forces. of velocity.
Conditions of However, these are also the conditions that attach to this law:
this new
estimation. 1. The body must contain the ground in itself for sustaining its motion
uniformly, freely, and permanently in a non-resistant space.
2. One sees from what has been shown above that the body does not get
this force from the external cause that had set the body in motion,
but rather that, after the external trigger,a this force has its source in
the body’s inner natural force itself.
3. That this force is generated in the body during a finite time interval.

§ 125.
This law is the main reason for the new estimation of force of which
I would say that I propose it as the replacement of the estimations by
Descartes and Leibniz, and make it the foundation of the true dynamics,
if the povertyb of my judgments, compared to the greatness of the men
who concern me, permitted me to speak with such authority. Nonethe-
less, I am not disinclined to persuade myself that this law could perhaps
1:149 attainc the very goal which, when not reached, had provoked discord and
disagreement among philosophers of all nations. Having been expelled
from mathematics, living forces are admitted into nature. Neither great
thinker, neither Leibniz nor Descartes, can really be faulted for the error.
Leibniz’s law does not apply even in nature unless first qualifiedd by
Descartes’s estimation. To reconcile reason with itself, which is embod-
ied differently in astute men, and to find the truth, which is never wholly
missed by reason’s thoroughness,e even when such men are in direct
contradiction with one another, means, in a sense, to defend the honor
of human reason.

z wirkt
a Anreizung
b Geringschätzigkeit
c bestimmen
d gemäßigt
e welche dieser ihre Gründlichkeit niemals gänzlich fehlet

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

§ 126.
All that matters is that there are free motions in the world that would There are
be permanently self-sustaining and without loss if there was no external living forces
because there
resistance; this settles the issue, and there certainly are living forces in
are free
nature. The free and permanent motion of the planets, as well as count-
less other experiences, which substantiate that freely moving bodies lose
their motion only through the influencef of resistance and would always
keep it without this influence, supply this guarantee and confirm the
existence of living forces in nature.
At the same time, this also shows that mathematics, in accordance Mathematics
with the rigor of its judgment, does not permit free motion among its does not permit
bodies. For it does not permit what makes motion necessarily free and free motions.
permanent, namely that a body produces striving and force from within
and on its own, which neither does nor can come from an external cause.
For it does not recognize any force in a body except the one generated
by the body that is the cause of its motion.

§ 127.
Although the considerations and demonstrations up to now are such that Simpler
they approach the clarity of mathematical concepts, just to the extent that 1:150 method
the nature of the matter allows this, I shall nonetheless indicate a method for making use
to please those who mistrust anything that has even the appearance of of these
metaphysics and who consistently insist on experience as the ground observations.
of conclusions, a method that allows them to use these considerations
to their better satisfaction. Thus I shall demonstrate, toward the end of
this chapter, from an observationg and with mathematical precision, that
forces really are to be found in nature that have the square of velocity.
By means of this, these gentlemen convince themselves from the result
of all proofs in the second chapter that such a force could not be the
effecth of an external mechanical cause, for as soon as one admitted this
force only as an effecti of a cause that brings motion about, no estimation
could apply except the one by simple velocity. This will subsequently
guide these gentlemen to the way in which this force can spring from
the body’s inner natural force, and will gradually introduce them to my
reflections on the essence of living forces.

§ 128.
I said that the free duration of force, propagated from within the body, Herr Bernoulli
is the genuine feature from which alone one can infer that force is alive was already in
possession of
these concepts
f Maßgebung h Wirkung
g Erfahrung i Wirkung

Natural Science

and measurable by the square. It makes me truly happy to find precisely

this idea in the treatise of Herr Johann Bernoulli mentioned above. As a
mere geometer, he did not express his opinion in the proper metaphysical
terminology, but he nonetheless did so perfectly clearly: Vis viva, he says,
est aliquid reale et substantiale, quod per se subsistit, et quantum in se est, non
dependet ab alio; - - - Vis mortua non est aliquid absolutum et per se durans
etc. etc.j,95
This quotation is no small advantage for my argument.k Otherwise,
1:151 an expert in mathematics would look with some suspicion at conclu-
sions that he believes to result from sophistical metaphysical distinctions,
which would compel him to postpone his applause, and I would have to
worry that he would do the same with my own conclusions, but here the
matter is as clear as day that it will naturally reveal itself l to the most
rigorous geometer in his mathematical assessment.
But he did not Given that Bernoulli had this insightm about the concept of living
support it with force, I am astonished that it was possible for him to go so far astray on
powerful the way toward a proof of this force. He could have easily realized that
reasons. he would not find it in cases that are indeterminate with regard to what
is realis et substantialis, quod per se subsistit et est absolutum aliquid,n or that
lack determinations leading to this force, for such determinations are
the defining featureo of living force, as he realized himself, and whatever
is indeterminate with regard to this character naturallyp cannot lead to
living force. Nonetheless, he believed that it could be found in the case
of springs that expand between two unequal bodies, although not only
is there nothing to be found that would actuallyq lead to living force
by means of the distinguishing featurer noted above, but also the whole
force involved in the structure of his proof is something quod non est
aliquid absolutum, sed dependet ab alio.s
Once more we see from this how dangerous it is to abandon oneself
to the mere direction of applauset in a composite and evidentu proof
without relying on the method that we praised in §§ 88, 89, 90 and

j Living force . . . is something real and substantial, which subsists on its own, and whatever
lies in itself does not depend on anything else; . . . Dead force is not anything absolute
and does not persist on its own; etc.
k Betrachtung
l von selber darstellt
m Erleuchtung
n real and substantial, which subsists on its own and is something absolute
o Geschlechtsmerkmal
p auch
q vielmehr
r Unterscheidungszeichen
s that is not anything absolute but rather depends on something else
t dem bloßen Ausgange des Beifalles
u scheinbaren

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

used with great success, that is, how inevitable and necessary it is to
assess concepts in advance that necessarily belong to the issue that is the
subject of the proof, and to examine afterward whether the conditions
of the proof really include the proper determinations that lead to the
establishment of these concepts.

§ 129.
We have demonstrated that the existence of living forces in nature is Living
based solely on the presupposition of free motions in nature. But accord- forces are
ing to what we established above in this regard, one cannot identify any 1:152 of a
argument in the essential and geometric properties of a body that would contingent
leadv to such a capacity, which the performance of free invariant motion nature.
would require. Hence it follows that living forces are not recognized The
as a necessary property, and that they are instead something hypothet- Leibnizians
ical and contingent. Herr von Leibniz himself recognized this, as he recognized this
specifically acknowledges in the Theodicy, and Herr Nicolaus Bernoulliw as well.
confirms it through what is, in his opinion, the manner required for
demonstrating living forces: that the basic equation dv = pdt needs to be
presupposed, where dv is the element of velocity, p the pressure gener-
ated by velocity, and dt the element of time in which pressure generates
infinitely slow velocity.96 He says that this is something hypothetical And yet they
that must be assumed. The other defenders of living forces, for whom it search for them
was a matter of conscience to disagree with Herr von Leibniz and judge in
things differently, were singing the same tune. And yet they searched for geometrically
living forces in cases that definitely involve geometrical necessity, and necessary
even presumed to have found them there, which is certainly extremely
Herr Herrmann tried to do it in the same way, unfazed by the con- Herr
tingency of living forces. But the positive bias toward Leibniz’s thought Herrmann’s
and the intention of achieving definite success led him to a fallacy that is peculiar lapse
certainly noteworthy. I do not think it would be easy to find anyone to in this matter.
whom it would occur to argue as follows: Two quantities a and b need to
be joined and considered in connection, ergo they must be multiplied by
each other; and still, this literally happened to Herr Herrmann, who was
such a great master in drawing inferences. “Since the body that receives
a new element of force in its fall,” he says, “already moves with velocity,
this velocity must certainly be taken into account as well. Hence one
needs to multiplyx velocity u, which the body already has, by its mass M 1:153

v erkennen geben sollte x zusammen setzen

w Lasswitz suggests: Daniel Bernoulli

Natural Science

and the element of velocity or, what amounts to the same, the product
of gravity g and time; that is, gdt. Ergo dV, the element of living force,
equals gMdt, the product of the mentioned quantities.”97

§ 130.
Experience Our system implies that a freely and uniformly moving body does not
confirms yet have its maximum force at the onset of its motion, but rather that
gradual y this force increases when the body has been in motion for a while. I
vivification. think that everyone is familiar with some experiences that confirm this.
For my part, I have found that the bullet of a gun will penetrate much
deeper into a piece of wood when fired several steps away from the
target, than when shot into the wood from only several inches away,
although the powder loads of the gun were perfectly equal and the other
circumstances matched precisely. Those who have better opportunities
for performing experiments than I do can make more precise and more
finely measured tests. Therefore, experience nonetheless teaches that
intension grows within a uniformly and freely moving body and acquires
its proper magnitude only after a certain time, in conformity with the
propositions demonstrated concerning this.98

§ 131.
Now, having laid the foundation of a new estimation of forces, we ought
to try to indicate those laws that are specifically connected with it and
that constitute, as it were, the framework of a new dynamics.
I am capable of presenting several laws according to which the vivi-
fication or the coming-to-life of force happens, but since this treatise is
an attempt at drafting a first outline of these rather new and unexpected
properties of forces, I must justifiably be worried that my readers, who are
mainly interested in learningz about the main issue, would be annoyed
at finding themselves getting involved in an extensivea investigation of a
1:154 secondary matter, especially since there will be plenty of time to engage
in this after the main work has been developed sufficiently and confirmed
by experience.
As a consequence, I shall merely try to disclose, with the greatest pos-
sible clarity, the most general and valuableb laws associated with our

y successive a tiefen
z gewiß gemacht werden b beobachtungswürdigsten

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

estimation of forces, whose nature cannot be understood properly with-

out them.

§ 132.
The following comment exhibits a completely unknown dynamic law
and is particularly relevant in the estimation of forces.
We have learned that a body that acts in a state of rest exerts only The
a dead pressure, which is wholly distinct from the categoryc of living vivification of
forces, and whose measure, in addition, is merely simple velocity, and force does not
this is something with which both the whole party of the Cartesians and apply to all
the students of Leibniz agree. But a body with an infinitely slow velocity velocities in
actually does not move at all and thus possesses a force that constitutes
a state of rest; therefore its measure is velocity as such.
If we therefore wish to determine the motions that belong to the
categoryd of living forces, then we must not extend them over all motions
regardless of their velocity, that is, without thereby having determined
their velocity. For then the same law would be true for all degrees of
velocity, down to the infinitely smaller ones, and bodies would be able
to have living force even at infinitely slow velocities, which we just now
discovered to be false.
Accordingly the law of the estimation by the square does not apply Velocity must
to all motions regardless of their velocity, which must be taken into be determined
account here. So force cannot come alive when tied to certain degrees in this case.
of velocity, and there will be a certain quantity of velocity at which force
can first attain vivification and below which, in all smaller degrees down
to infinitely slow velocity, it cannot happen. 1:155
Furthermore, since the complete vivification of force is the cause of Consequently
the free and permanent conservation of motion, it follows that such free motion is
conservation is also not possible in all velocities without any qualifi- not possible in
cation, but rather that velocity must be determined here, too, that is, all velocities
velocity must have a certain determinate quantity if a body with this without any
velocity is supposed to attain a permanent, invariant, and free motion;
below this determinate degree, at all smaller degrees, this would be
impossible, until at the infinitely slow degree of velocity, this property
disappears completely, and the duration of motion is merely something
Thus the rule of free and undiminished continuation of motion is valid
not in general, but rather only from a certain degree of velocity onward;
below this all smaller degrees of motion will consume themselves and
disappear, until motion at the infinitely small degree will last merely

c Geschlechte d Geschlechte

Natural Science

a moment and require a continuous replenishment from without. So

Newton’s rule, Corpus quodvis pergit in statu suo, vel quiescendi, vel movendi,
uniformiter, in directum, nisi a causa externa statum mutare cogatur,e is not
valid in its unqualified meaning for bodies in nature.99

§ 133.
Experience Experience confirms this comment, for if an infinitely slow velocity could
confirms this. come alive, then, because of the proportionality with regard to the vivifi-
cation of living forces, § 122, it would have to come alive in an infinitely
short period of time; accordingly two bodies exerting only gravitational
pressure would merely have forces proportional to their velocities, but
as soon as they would be lowered from unnoticeably tiny heights, their
force would immediately have to be like the square of velocity, but this
conflicts with the law of continuity and with experience, for, as we already
mentioned, a body whose weight does not break a glass will also not have
the force to break it if one drops it on the glass from an extremely small
1:156 distance, and two bodies of equal weight will keep each other in balance
even if both are dropped onto the scales a bit, although a significant
swing would have to result to the extent that this happens.
Comment on This rule would accordingly have to be taken into account in deter-
motion in a mining the rules of the resistance of the spatial plenumf in which bodies
resistant move freely. For when velocity really starts to become very slow, the
medium. spatial plenumg will not contribute as much to the diminution of the
motion as before, but rather this is partly lost on its own.

§ 134.
Whether We are at the heart of the most fittingh tasks that theoretical mechanics
vivification and could never have providedi before.
free motion are We raised the question of whether bodies can really reach full vivifi-
possible at all cation of force at all velocities, regardless of how small they may be,
higher degrees and continue their motions freely and unchanged. Now we shall exam-
of velocity to
ine whether they can also achieve this at higher degrees of velocity to
infinity, that is, whether bodies continue freely and conserve motion that
has been imparted to them undiminished, and whether, consequently,
they can reach full vivification of force, regardless of how large the
velocities may be that had been imparted to them.

e Each body continues in its state of rest or uniform straight motion, unless it is forced
by an external cause to change its state.
f Mittelraumes
g Mittelraum
h artigsten
i gewähren

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

Because vivification and the resulting undiminished free continua-

tion of motion are achievements of the body’s inner natural force and
consequently presuppose, at any event, that the inner natural force is
capable of generating them from within and of reaching the required
degree of intension on its own, what alone matters in the performance
of living force in all higher degrees to infinity are the quantity and the
capacityj of this natural force. But no quantity in nature is truly infinite,
as metaphysics unmistakably shows: Therefore, the natural force of each
body noted must have a determinate finite quantity. Thus its capacity for
actingk is also restricted to a finite measure, which implies that it extends 1:157
its ability to generate living forces from itself at ever greater degrees of
velocity only to some finite goal, that is, a body cannot make force come
alive at all degrees of velocity to infinity through its internal force and
thus cannot perform the infinite and undiminished continuation of this
force in free motion, but rather this capacity of bodies generally applies
only to a certain quantity of velocity, with the result that in all higher
degrees, beyond this quantity, the capacity of the body is no longer suf-
ficient to completel the vivification corresponding to this capacity and
to generate such a great force from within.

§ 135.
This implies that if this degree is determinate, then when a body is driven What follows
by an external cause at a greater velocity, it will yield to this cause and from this for
assume this moving velocity as long as the external propulsion lasts, but free motion.
as soon as this stops, it would have to lose, instantly and on its own,
the degree that exceeds its determinate measure, and it would have to
keep in itself and continue, freely and without loss, only the degree that
the body can make come alive according to the measure of its natural
Furthermore, this implies that it is possible, even probable, that the The ability of
natural force of bodies, in their vast diversity in nature, will be of different bodies varies in
quantities in different bodies, hence it is possible, and even probable, that this regard.
one of them may be able to continue a certain velocity, for which the
natural force of another would be insufficient.
There are thus two boundaries that circumscribe the quantity of the Summary.
velocity at which vivification of force can subsist in a certain body, one
below which, and the other above which, vivification and free motion
can no longer be sustained.

j Vermögen l vollführen
k wirken

Natural Science

1:158 § 136.
Living force From § 121 we learned that after it had come alive, the force of a body
can partly is much larger than the mechanical cause that gave it the whole motion,
disappear and that therefore a body with two units of velocity has four units of
without effect. force, even though the external causes of its motion actedm on it with
only two units of force, as Jurin’s method, § 110, suggests. Now we shall
explain how an obstacle with less power than the force of a body can
still take all of its motion away, which implies that just as force arises
partly on its own in the first case, it can also consume itself on its
own in the second case, when overcoming an obstacle far smaller
than itself.
Proof. We merely need to reverse Jurin’s case, § 110, in order to prove this.
Suppose that boat AB moves from C to B with unit velocity. In addi-
tion, suppose that ball E moves with two units of velocity in the same
direction, CB, but does so in free motion and with living force; con-
sequently, this ball will meet obstacle R, represented here by a spring
with one unit of force, only with a single unit of velocity, for it does not
move with the other unit toward the obstacle, because it likewise has
the very same motion in the same direction, consequently only one unit
of motion remains in the body in relation to the obstacle. However, at
a single unit of velocity the force will only amount to one unit as well,
consequently, the ball strikes the obstacle, which has unit force, with one
unit of force too, and accordingly loses through the obstacle just the unit
of velocity and force that is its own. Afterwards, however, only one unit
of absolute motion, and consequently only one unit of force, remains in
it, and they could in turn be destroyed by another obstacle with one unit;
consequently two obstacles, each with only one unit of force, can stop
a body in which we have posited living force and which therefore has
1:159 four units of force at two units of velocity; hence in this way, two units
must accordingly disappear on their own, without being neutralized and
broken by external causes.

§ 137.
As the solution of the previous § reveals, the circumstances in which a
body expends part of its living force without effect are accordingly when
two or more obstacles successively exert resistance to it, and when each
obstacle opposes not the whole, but only a part of the velocity of the
moving body.

m gewirkt

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

How this harmonizes with our conception of living force can be Explanation of
grasped without difficulty in the following way. If the velocity of a body this proposition
is analyzed into its degrees, the living force that is to be found in one of by our
these degrees, isolated from the others, and that the body will therefore conception of
also apply when actingn with this degree alone, without the rest, will living force.
be like the square of this degree; but if the moving body actso with its
whole and undivided velocity at once,p the whole and total force will be
like its square, and consequently, the part of the force that is due to the
specified degree of velocity will be like the rectangulumq of this degree
over the entire velocity, which constitutes a far greater quantity than in
the previous case. For when we assumed, e.g., that the whole velocity
consisted of two units and was successively imparted to the body, living
force only rose to one unit of quantity as long as the velocity remained at
one unit, but after the second unit was added, not only did another unit
arise in the body in proportion to this second unit of velocity alone, but
a natural force also raised the intension in proportion to the increase in
velocity, causing living force to be four times the quantity of the entire
velocity, although the sum of forces, in all isolated units, would have been
only twice this quantity; consequently, a natural force caused that each
unit could exert two units of force when actingr together with others,
while each on its own had only one when actings in isolation. Hence if a
body with living force, therefore with four units of force at two units of 1:160
velocity, applies its whole velocity not all at once, but rather gradually,t
it will exert only a twofold force, while the remaining two, which inhere
in the body at total velocity, vanish on their own after the natural force
has stopped sustaining them, just as they had been generated on their
own by this natural force as well.

§ 138.
This comment rewards our efforts with important implications.
1. We will not encounter the full effectu of living force except where Implications.
obstacles also resist the whole velocity of the body that penetrates them
with living force, and jointly absorb all of its degrees.
2. Wherever, by contrast, the obstacle by itself resists just one degree
of living force, consequently absorbs the whole velocity only successively
in discrete units, a large part of the living force will be lost on its own and

n wirkt r Wirkung
o wirkt s Wirkung
p zugleich t einen Grad nach dem andern
q square u Wirkung

Natural Science

without being destroyed by obstacles, and we would deceive ourselves if

we believed that the obstacles that consumed the whole velocity in this
way had also broken the entire force as such. The smaller the degree of
velocity absorbed by obstacles is as compared to the whole velocity of
the moving body, the larger this loss will always be. For instance, sup-
pose the velocity at which the body possesses its living force is divided
into three equal units, each of which can be resisted by obstacles only
once, then even if the body has living force at each of these units indi-
vidually, the force of each individual unit is one unit of force, and con-
sequently the power of the obstacles that overcomes these three one by
one, will be like three units as well; the whole living force of this body,
however, was like the square of three, that is, like nine; hence six units
of force, two-thirds of the whole, were lost on their own and without
external resistance. By comparison, if we take another obstacle, which
at once absorbs half of the whole velocity mentioned, not a third, and
consequently consumes the entire motion in two separate units, not in
1:161 three, then the loss suffered here by living force apart from what the
obstacles absorb will be only two units, that is, half of the whole, and
thus be smaller than in the previous case. By the same token, if the unit
resisted by the obstacle at once constituted one eighth of total velocity,
the body would waste seven-eighths of its total force, a loss not due to
the obstacle, and so on, to infinity.
3. If the degree of velocity opposed by obstacles at any instant is merely
infinitely small, no trace of living force will be found in the obstacles
overcome, but rather because in such a case each individual unit actsv only
in proportion to its velocity, understood as simple velocity, and because
the sum of all units is equal to the total velocity, the entire actionw of the
body’s force will be proportional only to simple velocity, even though this
force is alive, and the whole quantity of living force disappears entirely
on its own without exerting a corresponding action,x for it is actually like
a plane generated by the flow of the line that represents velocity, which
means that all two-dimensional elementsy will gradually vanish on their
own, and the sole trace of the force within the effectz is proportional
only to the generating line, that is, to velocity as such.
4. In actionsa exerted, or in obstacles overcome, there are therefore
no traces of living force, even though the body really has living force
just in case the momentumb of velocity with which an obstacle resists,
is a finite quantity, but even then, the body really has living force only

v wirkt z Wirkung
w Wirkung a Wirkungen
x Wirkung b Moment
y alle Elemente dieser zweiten Abmessung

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

under the crucial condition that even this quantity of velocity may not
be arbitrarily small, for, as we know from § 132, a certain quantity of
velocity, with which the body moves, is required for the body to have
living force, and if the quantity of velocity determines the momentumc
of the obstacle’s resistance as being too small, no action of living force
will be sensed in this quantity of velocity either.
Toward the end of this chapter in particular, we shall recognize the
highly significant utility of this comment, for there it will serve to prop-
erly illuminate and substantiate the main experience that proves living

§ 139. 1:162
Since the momentumd of gravitational pressure occurs only at infinitely The
slow velocity, the past §’s third item clearly shows that a body that applies phenomena of
its motion to overcome gravitational obstacles, exerts only an actione bodies
proportional to its simple velocity against them, even though the force overcoming
as such is like the square of this velocity, and this fits perfectly with gravity neither
prove, nor
experience, as we have seen at length and in more than one way in the
previous chapter. living forces.
Thus, consider here an experience that does not even seem to admit
any law other than the Cartesian, that indeed displays traits of no estima-
tion other than the Cartesian, and that, on closer inspection, however,
still does not contradict the estimation by the square, but rather permits
its validity, provided one understands it in its correct sense.
Therefore, the action exerted by bodies rising upwards vertically, in
overcoming gravitational obstacles, indisputably refutes Leibniz’s esti-
mation and, strictly speaking, fails to prove our living forces, but it does
not eliminate them either. But if we only pay close attention to it, we
will still find, even here, several aspectsf of our estimation. For a body
could not freely continue its immanent motion and sustain it on its own,
until gradually deprived of it by external resistance, unless it generated
from itself this inner striving or intension that is the joint causeg of free
motion as well as of living force.

§ 140.
From what has been established so far, we see now also the cause of the Examples based
well-known feat of how nearly invincible powers can be offset by rather on this.

c Moment f Strahlen
d Moment g zugleich der Grund
e Wirkung

Natural Science

1:163 minor obstacles. For if the power to be broken stems from living force,
then one should not oppose this power with an obstacle that resists at
once and must be overcome abruptly, for such an obstacle would fre-
quently have to be immeasurably great; rather, it should be opposed by
an obstacle that receives and consumes the force only gradually and with
its smaller degrees of velocity, for in this way surprisingly large pow-
ers can be thwarted by rather insignificant oppositions, as, for instance,
people used to neutralize blows of battering rams with wool bales, blows
that would have shattered walls, had they struck them directly.100

§ 141.
Soft bodies do It is clear, furthermore, that bodies that are soft and easily compressed
not act with in a collision, definitely do not apply their complete force at impact and
their entire that they frequently exert effects that are rather slight and that would
force. be far greater if more solidity were involved with the same force and
mass. I am well aware that other causes join in, in addition to the one
mentioned, which contribute their part to this loss, or rather, which are
responsible for the appearance of one, but the cause we mentioned is
indisputably the main one and indeed responsible for a real loss.

§ 142.
A question We shall now examine the actioni of a body endowed with living force
raised: but with a mass assumed to be infinitely small, for such an examination
Whether the will later show whether, under identical circumstances, the forces of two
actionh of bodies bodies that are both alive, could exert actions proportional to these living
is proportional forces, if placed in identical circumstances and if the mass of one body
to their living
is arbitrarily small, or, rather, whether one of the bodies would have to
force regardless
of their mass.
possess a certain quantity of mass such that if one were to reduce this
quantity, the action exerted could not be proportional to its living force.
1:164 If a body with finite mass has living force, it is certainly unmistakable
that any of its parts, regardless how small they may be, will have to
have living force as well, and would have this even if it was moving in
isolation from others, but here the question arises whether such a small,
or, as we shall assume here, an infinitely small particle could exert, all
by itself, an effectj in nature proportional to its living force, if one put
it in circumstances identical to those in which a larger part acted in that
proportion. We shall find that this cannot be true, and that a body with
living force would not exert such an effectk in nature proportional to its

h Wirkung j Wirkung
i Wirkung k Wirkung

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

living force, if its mass were smaller than it would have to be, according
tol the rule that we shall prove, but rather that the smaller the mass of
such a body happens to be, the less it will approach this proportion, until
after the mass according to which the body acts has become infinitely
small, the body can act only in proportion to its simple velocity, even if
it has living force, and even if another body, in identical circumstances,
with just the same velocity and a living force, but with a good-sized
mass, would exert an action proportionalm to the square of its velocity
multiplied by mass.

§ 143.
What alone settles the matter here is that all obstacles in nature that Answer.
can be overcome by some force do not immediately oppose this force
at the point of contact right away, with a finite degree of resistance, but
rather they first do so with an infinitely small degree, and so on, until
the encountered resistance becomes finite after the moving force has
broken through an infinitely tiny volume.n This I presuppose, in light
of the agreement of the true doctrine of nature, without going here into
a discussion of the various reasons that confirm this. Hence Newton’s
students use this occasion to say that bodies act on others even if they are
not yet in contact. As a result, we shall encounter a specific difference
between the action exercised by a particle of infinitely small mass on 1:165
such obstacles in nature, and what is accomplished by one when its mass
is of some finite quantity, if we just consider the difference arising solely
from the notion of our living force and disregard the already well-known
differences that always concern the forces of two bodies with different
For even if a body possesses living force, we already know that its
effecto will remain proportional only to its simple velocity, and that its
whole intension, which is the mark of living force, will vanish without
effect,p if this force is applied to overcome the resistance of gravitational
pressures. But the counterpressure of gravity acts with an infinitely small
stirringq on the inner core of the body’s mass, that is, it acts immediately
on the infinitely small parts of the moving body, therefore this state of
the body is identical to the state of a particle that has living force but an
infinitely small mass, and that collides with any obstacle in nature, for, as
we have noted, even here, this particle will always suffer a resistance that
opposes it directly and with infinitely small pushes,r just like gravity;

l nach Maßgebung der p Wirkung

m gemäß q Sollicitation
n Räumchen r Sollicitation
o Wirkung

Natural Science

consequently, such an infinitely small mass will also consume in the

same way its living force in itself, and act on all obstacles in nature only
in proportion to its velocity.
However, that this happens only to an infinitely small body, and that,
by contrast, a body with a finite and definite mass would exert an effects
on the obstacle that corresponds to the body’s living force, is clearly
elucidated by our assumption that obstacles exert their resistance only
externally and without affecting the inner core as gravity does; conse-
quently, a finite body will lose only infinitely little, that is to say, noth-
ing, even where an infinitely small mass would lose its entire velocity
to the continuous and infinitely small contrary striving of the obstacles;
rather, a finite body will exert its force only against the finite degrees
of a contrary striving, degrees that an infinitely small mass would fail to
penetrate; hence a finite body will arrive at the very circumstances of any
body that applies its living force to an actiont proportional to it, as we
have seen in § 38u no. 4.

1:166 § 144.
A body exerts Now, since the effectv of a body moving with finite force but infinitely
an action in small mass is only proportional to velocity as such, and never propor-
proportion to tional to the square of velocity anywhere in nature, it follows, in virtue of
its living force the inferential method that must already be familiar due to its frequent
only if its mass usage, that one cannot generally and without qualification say that, in
is determinate;
suitable∗ circumstances, a body with living force would also have an
masses with
effectw proportional to its living force, regardless of how small its mass
quantities are may be; rather, a certain quantity of mass would be required to be able
incapable of to say this, and beneath this specified measure no effectx of such a body
doing this. on natural obstacles could be proportional to its living force, regardless
of what these obstacles may be, indeed, the farther the quantity of mass
is beneath this specified measure, the greater the effecty will diverge
from the proportion of living force, whereas it is evident that in all those
quantities that are above this measure, such a divergence is not to be

∗ That is, in those circumstances in which another body of larger mass and with equal
velocity would expend its living force completely.

s Wirkung w Wirkung
t Wirkung x Wirkung
u Lasswitz reads: § 138 y Wirkung
v Wirkung

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

§ 145.
This entails the following comments: Consequences.
1. That a small particle of matter, in a stable union with a large mass
possessing living force, can exert an effectz that is completely different
from and far larger than what it could perform on its own and in isolation
from the large mass.
2. That this difference is nonetheless not necessary, but depends rather
on this contingent property of nature; that, in accordance with the rule
of continuity, all of nature’s obstacles already arise from afar and by
infinitely small degrees, before they use their finite resistance to oppose
a colliding body; and that, regardless of this, nature permits no other
3. That it is not true without qualification that the actionsb of two 1:167
bodies, whose forces are alive and whose velocities are equal, behave, in
identical circumstances, according to their masses, for if one of them is
smaller than it should be, as judged byc the stated rule, then its effect
will diverge from the measure of the square of the velocity and therefore
be much smaller than it should have been according to the ratio of the
masses alone.
4. That a change in the shape of bodies, without altering their mass,
can already bring it about that their action is proportional to velocity in
the circumstances suggested, even though the force is proportional to
the square; and that, therefore, a body with living force could perform
an actiond far smaller simply because its shape had been changed, while
its mass, velocity, living force, or the makeup of the obstacles have not
changed in the slightest. For example, a gold ball with living force would
have to perform a far greater actione than would the same gold mass,
with identical velocity and force, when colliding with the same obstacle,
if that mass had previously been pounded into a thin and widely stretched
gold leaf. For although nothing changed here with regard to force, the
change of shape is nonetheless responsible for the fact that the smallest
parts hit the obstacles here just as if they had struck it separately and in
isolation from one another, consequently, by what has just been shown,
they are far from acting with living force and in proportion to it, but
rather perform an effect that either approaches or attains the measure
of simple velocity; for if, by contrast, the mass was in the shape of a
solid ball when colliding with the obstacles, it would hit them on such a
small area that the infinitely small moments of resistance encountered in

z Wirkung c nach Maßgebung der

a Wirkung d Wirkung
b Wirkungen e Wirkung

Natural Science

such a small regionf would be incapable of absorbing the motion of this

mass, thus leaving the living force intact solely in order to be applied
to the finite degrees of resistance in these obstacles; but it is equally
evident that the mass in its previous shape would cover an extraordinarily
large area of the obstacles and consequently would suffer, with the same
mass, an unbelievably larger resistance from the infinitely small stirringg
1:168 encountered in each point of the obstacles, with the result that these
stirrings must be able to be absorbed by it more easily, with either a
complete or at least a considerable loss of living force, something that
would not happen in the first way.

§ 146.
Fluids act in However, the most important conclusion that I draw from the law estab-
proportion to lished now, is one that follows perfectly naturally from it, namely that in
the square of collisions liquid bodies act proportional to the square of their velocities,∗
the velocity. although, if the actionh here was supposed to be proportional to their
living forces, it would have to act according to the measure of the cube of
their velocities, not of the square;101 and how this does not conflict with
our theory of living forces, even though it eliminates Herr von Leibniz’s
living forces, as Herr Jurin already noted correctly.
How this For liquids are divided into the finest of parts, which could be regarded
follows from as infinitely small, and do not jointly constitute any cohesive solid body,
the preceding. but rather all act successively, each one by itself and in isolation from
others; consequently, they will suffer the loss of living force that infinitely
small particles inevitably suffer, as we have noted, when colliding with
any natural obstacle regardless of what it is, and therefore they act only
in proportion to their velocity, despite the fact that their force is like the
square of the velocity.
Herr Richter wasted a lot of effort to deflect this attack by Herr
Jurin.102 His case could not be helped, because it was bound by the
rule that forces are solely proportional to their actions.i
On the Finally, from this anyone will easily understand why freely moving
resistance of a bodies with living force will experience resistance only in proportion to
medium. the square of their velocity in a liquid medium, and that this does not
1:169 undermine our living forces, even though it conflicts with the Leibnizian
estimation, by which such resistance would have to be proportional to
the cube of the velocity.

∗ As Mariotte has shown experimentally.

f Raume h Wirkung
g Sollicitation i Wirkungen

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

§ 147.
There are countless experiences confirming the rule we have discussed Empirical
up to now. Although they are not precisely determined, they are still confirmation.
unmistakable and enjoy the agreement of general approval.
For if we did not grant our rule, we would have to suppose that a
body, no matter how small and negligible, would, in the same circum-
stances, perform an action in a collision that was just as great as one
performed by a large mass, provided that one would only make their
velocities inversely proportional to the square roots of their masses or,
by Descartes’s rule, as long as they are inversely proportional to the
masses themselves. But experience contradicts this. For everyone agrees
that a down feather, or a speck of dust, in free motion, would not achieve
the effectsj of a cannonball, even if one could attribute as many degrees of
velocity to the former two as one demands; and no one, I believe, would
suspect that either of them could smash solid blocks of matter and break
through walls, if it should strike them with an arbitrarily high velocity
in free motion. None of this can be tested and confirmed by a properly
designed experiment, but the countless experiences that occur of simi-
lar cases, albeit not to such an extreme, let no one doubt the outcomek
Still, it cannot be denied that said small particles, by necessity, would
have to possess the same force as large bodies in the mentioned arrange-
ment of their velocity, be this by Descartes’s, Leibniz’s, or by our
measure of force; therefore, the only remaining possible explanation
is that a small body would have to exert an actionl far smaller than what
should occur according to its force, and that most of its living force is 1:170
thwarted without effect,m just as we demonstrated of small bodies in
§§ 43, 44, 45.n

§ 148.
Finally, the motions of elastic bodies in collisions, which we discussed Motions of
in detail in the previous chapter and which are all to be shown true elastic bodies
in wholly unmistakable experiments, belong to those phenomenao that eliminate
seem to permit no trace of an estimation other than the Cartesian, and Leibniz’s
that accordingly seem to contradict our measure of force. Indeed, they estimation, but
not ours.
completely eliminate Leibniz’s measure by the square, in virtue of the
presupposition inseparably tied to it, that is, in virtue of the claim that

j Wirkungen m Wirkung
k Erfolg n Lasswitz reads: §§ 143–145
l Wirkung o Erfahrungen

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actionsp are always equal to the force that consumes itself in their pro-
duction. Ours has the well-founded advantage of being free from this
law and therefore avoids this attack.
We already know from the above that living force is not something
that can be produced in a body from the outside and by an external cause,
for instance by an impact, which can already teach us that living forces of
struck bodies are not to be regarded as the effectsq of the striking bodies,
nor that the former are measurable by the latter. By contrast, the actual
solution of this whole difficulty, to the extent that one still presumes to
encounter one here, consists in the following.

§ 149.
Proof. Anyone competent in mechanicsr must know that an elastic body acts
on another not with its whole velocity and at once, but rather by a
continued accumulation of infinitely small degrees, which an elastic body
successively imparts to another. I do not need to delve into the particular
causes of this; it is enough for me that unanimous approval is on my side
and that everyone recognizes that no law of motion could be explained
without this presupposition. The real cause of this is presumably this:
1:171 Since elasticity, according to the nature of a spring, opposes only that
units of velocity that suffices to compress it, with each infinitely small
degreet of impression absorbed, it consequently always enduresu only
an infinitely small degree of the velocity of the striking body and hence
opposes and absorbs at any given moment not the entire velocity but
only an infinitely small degree of it, until successive accumulation has
transferred the entire velocity to the passive body in this fashion.
From the above it follows that because the striking body acts only suc-
cessively with individual, infinitely small degrees of velocity, it will also
act only in simple proportion to its velocity and without any disadvantage
to its living force, which it can possess regardless.

§ 150.
Herr von Leibniz’s popular law of the unchanged conservation of one
and the same quantity of force in the world is another objection that
seems to require close scrutiny here. If there is something substantialv
in the considerations so far, it will be immediately obviousw that this law

p Wirkungen t Grad
q Wirkungen u erduldet
r Alle Mechanikverständige v etwas Gegründetes
s Grad w leuchtet . . . in die Augen

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

cannot be correct in the usually accepted sense. However, the naturex of

our project, and the exhaustion, which I rightfully fear in the attention of
my educated reader in such a rough and uncharted matter and that I am
afraid to have perhaps already offended all too much, does not allow me to
elaborate properly what our estimation would introduce into this matter
and how it could satisfy the rules of universal harmony and order, which
have made the Leibnizian law so praiseworthy, although I can present
an outline of some of this.

§ 151.
We find ourselves now in the realm of experience, but before settling
down there, we must first make sure that we have demolished those
claims that pretend to a more compelling titley to it and that want to
drive us out of this territory. The effort that we have applied to it so far 1:172
would be incomplete if we passed over the experimental demonstration
in mechanics performed by the most illustrious Herr von Musschenbroek,
which is correspondingly persuasive and astute, and if we failed to protect
the theory of forces we have adopted from it. He intended to defend living
forces in the Leibnizian sense by means of this demonstration, and it is
for that reason our duty to examine it.
A more careful consideration of this demonstration will teach us that
it does not have the success hoped for, but rather confirms Descartes’s
measure of force. And our comment, so often repeated, will confirm
this once more: No trace of a force measurable by the square will be
encountered as long as one presumes to find its origin solely in external
causes; genuinely living force is not generated in the body from without,
but is rather the consequencez of the striving that emerges in the body
from its inner natural power, on the occasion of external pushes;a and all
those who assume only the measure of externally acting and mechanical
causes for the determination of the measure of force in the passive body,
will therefore never encounter anything but Descartes’s estimation, as
long as they judge correctly.

§ 152.
Herr von Musschenbroek’s proof is the following. Musschenbroek’s
Take a hollow cylinder with an affixed spring.103 A rod with holes mechanical
must protrude from the cylinder, and this rod is passed through the proof of living
opening of a stiff metal sheet. If you now forcefully push the steel spring forces.

x Beschaffenheit z Erfolg
y ein gegründeteres Recht a Sollicitation

Natural Science

Fig. 26. toward this sheet, compressing it such that the rod
D protrudes farther out from the opening, then you
can keep it in this tension by slipping a peg through
A the holes of the rod, on the side of the sheet where
the rod sticks out. Finally, you hang the cylinder
C F on two strings from a given machine, like a pen-
dulum, then pull the peg out, and as a result, the
spring will recoil, imparting to the cylinder a cer-
E tain velocity, which is recognizable by the height
1:173 it attains. Take that velocity as a velocity of ten
units. Then make the cylinder twice as heavy as it originally was, by
putting as many weights inside as are necessary for this, and tighten the
spring as before. If you then let it snap open once more, you will see,
by the height attained, that the velocity involved amounts to 7.07 units.
From this Musschenbroek argues as follows.
The spring was equally compressed both times, and thus had equal
force in both cases, and it also imparted equal forces to the cylinder both
times, since it applies its entire force each time; therefore, the force of
a body with one unit of mass and a velocity of ten units must be iden-
tical to the force found in another body with a mass of two units and a
velocity of 7.07 units. But this is possible only if one estimated the force
by the product of mass and the square of velocity, for all other possible
configurationsb of velocity would preclude this identity, but only by the
estimation of the square will the square roots of the numbers 10 and
7.07 be quam proximec in an inverse ratio to the masses quantified as 1
and 2, and consequently the products of their velocities and their respec-
tive masses are equal.
Therefore, he concludes that the forces are to be estimated not by the
measure of the velocities, but instead by their square.

§ 153.
I should avoid making the reminder overly lengthy that I shall present
against this argument, and for that reason do not want to mention any-
thing regarding a substantiald objection I could make here, too, that even
for the Leibnizians, the moments of pressure in the releasinge spring are
only dead forces, and consequently both these forces, and the moments
of force imparted thereby to the body, and hence the whole force, that
is, the sum of these moments, are to be estimated only by simple veloc-
ities; rather, I shall proceed in a mechanistic fashion, which is familiar

b Funktionen d gegründeten
c approximately e der sich ausspannenden

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

to everyone and involves geometrical precision, but at the same time

elucidate somewhat more extensively, not as if the matter were not suf-
ficiently simple to permit a quicker comprehension as well, but rather 1:174
to clear up all confusions about the actions of springsf once and for
all, which have hitherto prevailed in the quarrel over the estimation of

§ 154.
Herr von Musschenbroek says that the spring is equally compressed in
both cases; consequently it possesses equal force in both cases; but since
it communicates its entire force to the cylinder each time, when stretched
out it therefore imparts equal force to the cylinder both times. This is
the basis of the proof, but also of its error, although the latter is not so
much a personal error by Herr von Musschenbroek, but rather is typical
of all defenders of the Leibnizian measure of force.
If one talks about the whole force of a spring, then one can mean by An equally
this only the intension of its tension,g which is equal to the force trans- compressed
ferred to the body acted on in one instanth of its pressure. About this spring imparts
force one can certainly say that it is equal regardless of the size of the greater force to
body on which the spring acts. But if one looks at the other force, which a larger body
than to a
this force imparts to a body by its continued pressure over some time,
smaller body.
then it is obvious that the quantity of the force imparted to the body in
this way will depend on the quantity of time during which the constant
pressurei accumulates in the body, and that the greater this time is, the
larger the force will be that is imparted to the body by the evenly com-
pressed spring in this period. Now, however, as everyone knows, if one
enlarges the mass that is supposed to be propelled, one can arbitrarily
prolong the time needed by the spring for its full release when pro-
pelling a body; therefore, depending on whether the mass propelled by
the spring is increased or diminished, one can also arbitrarily arrange that
this very spring communicates through its release, with equal tension,
sometimes more, sometimes less force. This elucidates how contrary to
nature it is to say that by its extensionj the spring imparts its entire force
to a body propelled by it. For the force given to a body by the spring is
a consequencek that depends not only on the spring’s force, but also on 1:175
the makeup of the pushed body, according to which it is exposed to the
pressures of this spring longer or shorter, that is, according to whether

f der Wirkung der Federn i gleiche Drückung

g die Intension ihrer Spannung j Ausstreckung
h Moment k Erfolg

Natural Science

its mass is larger or smaller, but the force of the spring, if considered in
isolation, is nothing but the moment of its expansion.l

§ 155.
Resolution of It is now easy to avoid the confusion in Musschenbroek’s proof.
Musschen- The cylinder, when twice as heavy, is exposed to the pressures of the
broek’s expanding spring longer than the cylinder of one unit of mass. With
difficulty. equal tensile force, the spring propels the latter faster, traversing the
volume of its extension quicker when attached to the latter than to the
former. However, since the moment of force, impressed by the spring
on the cylinders at any instant, is equal in both (for the moment of its
velocity is inversely proportional to the masses), the heavier cylinder
must absorbm more force through the spring’s thrust than the lighter
one. Therefore, the estimation by which these forces are found to be
equal in both is false, that is, they cannot be estimated by the square of

§ 156.
Why the If one still wants to know the reason why, now, the velocities of the
squares of cylinders that were received from the same spring, are here proportioned
the velocities of in just the way that their squares are inversely like the masses (a ratio
the cylinders that actually attracted Herr von Leibniz’s defender in the first place),
are in inverse then we can clarify this without difficulty as well, without having to take
proportion to
recourse to anything else except Descartes’s measure.
their masses.
For it is known from the first principles of mechanics that the squares
of the velocities attained in uniformly accelerated motion (motu uni-
formiter acceleratonn ) are like the spaces traversed; consequently, if the
moments of the velocities of two bodies, both in motu uniformiter
1:176 accelerato,o are unequal, the squares of the velocities attained in such
motion stand in a compound relation of the spaces and these moments.
Now, in Musschenbroek’s experiment, however, the equally compressed
spring communicates its motion to each cylinder motu uniformiter acceler-
ato, and the cylinders traverse equal spaces with such accelerated motion
while the spring is being stretched out to the point of its maximum
extension, and therefore the squares of the velocities that are thereby
transferred are like the moments of the velocity imparted to each cylin-
der by the pressure of the spring, that is, the squares of the velocities are
like the inverse of the masses of these cylinders.

l Ausspannung n with a uniformly accelerated motion

m überkommen o in uniformly accelerated motion

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

§ 157.
Now I come to the point of presenting the experiments and observationsp
that incontrovertibly demonstrate the reality and existence of the forces
in nature that are to be estimated by the square of the velocity, and
that shall reward my benevolent reader for all the laborious attention
demanded by this bad essay with a victorious conviction.
I am concerned only with those who are familiar enough with the Attempts at
character of the dispute over living forces. Hence I presuppose that my proving living
readers are sufficiently acquainted with the notorious experiments by forces.
Herren Riccioli, s’Gravesande, Poleni, and von Musschenbroek, who explored
the forces of bodies by measuring the impressions they made in
collisionsq with soft materials.104 I shall only briefly mention that balls of
equal size and mass that fell freely from unequal heights onto soft mate-
rial, such as tallow wax, struck holes in it that were proportional to the
heights from which they fell, that is, proportional to the square of their
velocities, and that if balls of equal size and unequal mass were dropped
from heights inversely proportional to these masses, they left holes in
the soft material that were subsequently determined to be equal. The 1:177
Cartesians could not object to the accuracy of these experiments, only
the conclusion drawn from them became the subject of controversy.
The Leibnizians argued perfectly correctly from these experiments in
the following way. The obstacle that the soft material presents to the
force of a penetrating body, is only the cohesion of its parts, and for
that reason the action of the body, when penetrating the material, con-
sists only in the separation of those parts. But this cohesion is uniform
throughout the entire soft mass, and therefore the quantity of resis-
tance, and for that reason also the quantity of force that the body needs
to apply to overcome the resistance, is like the sum of the separated
parts; that is, it is like the sizer of the holes struck. But by the mentioned
experiment, the holes are like the squares of the velocities of the pene-
trating bodies, and their forces are consequently like the squares of their

§ 158.
Descartes’s defenders could not raise any substantial objections to this. The
However, since they had already understood, with undoubted certainty, Cartesians’
that living forces were condemned by mathematics, to which, however, objection.
the Leibnizians appealed as well, the Cartesians tried to get out of this

p Erfahrungen r Größe
q Stoß

Natural Science

difficulty as best as they could, by not doubting that an experiment had

to be deceptive if it appeared to establish something geometry did not
allow. We already mentioned above the requisite reminder; now we
shall merely consider the type of evasive move that the Cartesians used
to disavow the experiment described above.
They objected that the Leibnizians did not pay attention to the time
required for the impression of these holes. In overcoming the obstacles
of this soft material, time is the same kind of problem as it had been in
overcoming gravity. The impressions of the holes were not produced
in equal time periods. In short, they were convinced that the objection
1:178 regarding time was valid for overcoming the obstacles of gravity (as it
indeed was, too), and now, they thought, they could utilize it again here,
and employ it with equal success against living forces.

§ 159.
Refuted. I am well aware that the Leibnizians quickly deflected this criticism, by,
among other things, dropping two cones with differently sized bases
on the soft material, whereby the times required for striking the holes
necessarily had to be identical, and where the outcomes was nonetheless
the same as before; but I shall abstain from this advantage too and dispose
of the difficulty posed by the Cartesians from the ground up.
Time is All one needs to do is to consider why the resistance of the gravitational
relevant for the pressure that a body is supposed to overcome is proportional not to
actiont of space but rather to time. Now the reason is this. If the body overcomes
gravity. a spring of gravity, it will not thereby destroy the latter’s efficacy, but
rather only furnishes the counterweight to it, while the gravitational
spring still sustains its opposing striving undiminished so that it keeps
acting on the body as long as the body remains subject to it. If, by
overcoming any spring of gravity, the body would, as it were, shatter
and destroy its force, then, since every spring has the same force, the
resistance suffered by the body would doubtless be equal to the sum of
all the shattered springs regardless of time. However, each spring keeps
its force of pressure regardless of whether it is overcome by the body,
and continues to propagate this force in the body for as long as the body
remains subject to it; consequently, no single and indivisible pressure
can be specified for the effectu brought about by a single spring, but the
spring rather exerts a continuous sequence of pressures, which increases
with the length of time the body is subject to it, for example, the time
intervalv of the body’s presence is longer in those parts of space in which

s Erfolg u Wirkung
t Wirkung v das Zeittheilchen

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

its motion is slower than in the parts of space in which its motion is
faster, and the body consequently undergoes by each individual spring
a sequence of equal pressures that is longer in the former parts than in
the latter.
Yet this is completely different in the case of separating a soft mass. 1:179 This is
Each element of a soft mass has the same force of cohesion, and through completely
this force the mass deprives the body separating them of an equal different with
amountw of force, but just by doing so, they are also simultaneously soft materials.
separated and subsequently offer no resistance anymore, regardless of
the time the body remains with the mass. For here the spring is immedi-
ately broken by the very actionx that equals its resistance, and therefore
it cannot keep acting, in contrast to the essentially indestructible spring
of gravity. For that reason, the resistance that the soft mass offers to the
penetrating body is like the sum of the springs that are shattered by it,
that is, it is like the hole struck by the body, and time has nothing to do
with this at all.

§ 160.
The Leibnizians have reason to triumph, with no small satisfaction, over
this important mistake made by the Cartesians. This incident avenges
the blame that the Leibnizians incurred for various missteps, since their
opponents now suffer the same fate. What does it matter that the Leib-
nizians presumed to find living forces where they were not present? For
the Cartesians failed to see them where they really existed and where no
one could have overlooked them unless struck utterly blind.

§ 161.
Thus, the experiment cited proves the existence of such forces in nature
that have the square of velocity as their measure, but our previous consid-
erations explain the conditions under which these forces do not obtain,
as well as what the sole conditions are under which they can emerge. If
one employs all of this in line with our suggestions, then one acquires
not only sufficient certainty about living forces, but also a concept of
their nature that is not just more correct, but also more complete, than 1:180
it ever was or otherwise could have been. This particular feature of the
experiment that we have in front of us presents several other extraordi-
nary features that could be mentioned in turn, but I definitely cannot
engage with them, since the attention of the benevolent reader, tired by

w Grad x Wirkung

Natural Science

so many complex investigations, wishes perhaps nothing more than the

conclusion of these observations.
But there is still one feature that I cannot leave untouched because
it confirms the previous laws and sheds a good deal of light on them.
The experiment in front of us proves forces that are associated with the
estimation by the square of velocity; hence according to § 138 no. 4, the
opposite striving of each element of the obstacles must involve velocities
of finite degrees, for if they involved only infinitely small degrees, as
is the case with gravitational pressures, then overcoming such striving
would not reveal a force measurable by the square, just as it does not
with gravitational pressures § 139. Thus we shall prove that the renisusy
of any given element in the soft mass does not occur with infinitely small
velocity, as it does in gravity, but rather with a velocity of a finite degree.

§ 162.
The moment of If one analyzes the cylindrical hole that the spherical body made in the
the obstacle soft material, into infinitely thin circular disks that are stacked on top of
presented by each other, then each of them will indicate an element of the displaced
soft material mass. Because all of them jointly deprive the penetrating body of its
occurs with entire force, each of them takes from this body an infinitely small part
finite velocity.
of its velocity. However, since the quantity of such a circular disk is
infinitely small with regard to the mass of the ball, the velocity of its
contrary striving must be of a finite magnitude for it to be able to deprive
the body of an infinitely small portion of its motion by means of such
resistance. Thus every element of the soft material offers resistance to
the striking body by a striving that has a finite measure of velocity. QED.

1:181 § 163.
Thus we have completed our business, which was large enough in light of
the intended project, if only its execution had lived up to this undertaking.
Particularly with regard to the main issue, I believe I can lay claim to an
incontrovertible certainty. In light of the merit that I presume for myself,
I cannot conclude the present tract without first giving credit to the
erudition and inventiveness of my interlocutors. After the astute efforts
of the Cartesians, it was not difficult to avoid the confusion between
the estimation by the square by means of mathematics, and after the
profound labor of the Leibnizians, it was almost impossible to fail to find
this estimation in nature. Knowing these two outer limits was bound to
lead, without difficulty, to the point at which the truth involved in both
sides coincided. To reach this point, great acumen was not really needed;

y resistance

Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces

all it required was a little absence of partisanship, and a brief balance of

one’s intellectual inclinations, and the difficulty dissolved immediately.
If I have succeeded in noticing several mistakes in Herr von Leibniz’s
case, then I would still be in this great man’s debt even in this regard, for
I could have done nothing without the guiding thread of the splendid
law of continuity, for which we have to thank this immortal inventor,
and which was the only tool for finding the exit from this labyrinth. In
sum, even if the matter turns out optimally to my advantage, the share
of honor left to me will actually be so minor that I do not fear ambition
would steep so low as to begrudge it to me.

[The end.]


Examination of the question whether the

rotation of the Earth on its axis by which it
brings about the alternation of day and
night has undergone any change since its
origin and how one can be certain of this,
which [question] was set by the Royal
Academy of Sciences in Berlin as the prize
question for the current year

editor’s introduction
In 1752, the Prussian Royal Academy of Sciences in Berlin announced
its prize essay question on whether the rate of rotation of the Earth on
its axis would decrease over time and if so, how one could know this to be
the case.1 The deadline for submissions was initially set for 1754, though
it was later extended, unbeknown to Kant, to 1756. During the summer
of 1754, after leaving his employment as house tutor for Count Keyser-
lingk’s three sons and returning to Königsberg (possibly supervising a
member of the Keyserlingk family studying at the university then), Kant
wrote an essay in response to the prize essay question. However, instead
of submitting this essay to the Academy, he published it, in two parts,
in the June 8 and June 15, 1754 issues of the Wöchentliche Königsbergische
Frag- und Anzeigungs-Nachrichten, a weekly newspaper with articles on
sundry topics of interest to the citizens of Königsberg. The essay that
eventually won the prize for this question was written by Paolo Frisi
(1728–84), an Italian mathematician and astronomer, who argued that
the Earth’s rate of rotation would not decrease over time.
Rather than pursuing historical comparisons of potentially unreliable
data on the length of years and days in the past, Kant, following Newto-
nian principles, considers what external causes could effect any changes
in the rotation of the earth. If the earth were a completely solid and
homogeneous spherical mass, the Sun and the Moon (which are the two
bodies that have the greatest gravitational effect on the earth) would

On the rotation of the Earth on its axis

act equally on all parts of the Earth and there would be no (cause for
a) diminution of its rotation. However, given that the Earth contains a
considerable amount of liquid (primarily water in the form of oceans,
seas, and lakes), it is not a perfectly solid mass, and for that reason, the
gravitational effect of the Sun and the Moon causes tides. But the tides
that are caused by the Sun and Moon move contrary to the direction of
rotation of the Earth and thus cause a decrease in the rotation around its
axis. Granted, the resistance that the tides provide against the rotation
of the Earth is very small, but with enough time, even very small forces
will have a measurable effect, in this case, a gradual slowing of the rota-
tion of the Earth until it rotates at the same speed as the Moon orbits
around the Earth. By Kant’s (erroneous) calculations, this would occur
in two billion years, which is, he surmises, longer than human beings will
inhabit the Earth. Given the inauspicious publication venue of Kant’s
essay and the fact that it was never republished in his lifetime, it is not
surprising that it attracted little attention.
It may be noted that modern geologists accept that the rate of rotation
of the Earth is indeed reduced over time as a result of ‘tidal friction’, so the
length of a day was less in earlier times than it is today. The argument
from physical reasoning has been supported by evidence provided by
the annual and daily growth rings of corals, which make it possible to
determine the number of days in a year.

Examination of the Question 1:183


the Rotation of the Earth on its Axis

by which it

Brings About the Alternation of Day and Night

has Undergone any Change Since its Origin

How One Can be Certain of This,


was set by the Royal Academy of Sciences in Berlin

as the Prize Question

for the Current Year.

Natural Science

1:185 The decision of the Royal Academy of Sciences on the essays that con-
tested the prize on the problem set for this year will shortly be known. I
have reflected on this question, and since I have considered it only from
its physical perspective, I have recently tried to draw up my thoughts
on this matter, while realizing that by the [very] nature of the question
this perspective cannot bring it to that degree of perfection which the
prize-winning treatise must have.
The problem posed by the Academy consists in the following: whether
the axial rotation of the Earth which brings about the alternation of day and
night has undergone any change since its origin, what the cause of this may
be, and how one can be certain of it. This question can be pursued histor-
ically by comparing the records from the remotest periods of antiquity
concerning the length of the year, and the intercalations to which they
had to resort to prevent the beginning of the year from moving through
all the seasons, with the length of the year as fixed in our time, in order
to see whether the year in the earliest periods contained more or fewer
days or hours than it does at present; in the first of these cases, the speed
of rotation has decreased, in the second it has increased down to the
present. In my proposal, I shall not seek to obtain elucidation by means
1:186 of history. I find this source so obscure and its information in respect of
the present question so unreliable that the theory one might devise to
make it correspond to natural principles would presumably smack very
much of fantasy. For this reason, I shall adhere closely to nature, whose
connections clearly point to the result and can give us cause to channel
historical observations in the right direction.
The Earth turns continually on its axis with a free motion which,
once impressed on it at the time of its formation, would thenceforth
continue unchanged and at the same speed and direction ad infinitum,
if there were no obstacles or external causes to retard or accelerate it.
I take it upon myself to show that an external cause really is present, a
cause which gradually reduces the Earth’s motion and even conspires
over immeasurably long periods to stop its rotation altogether. This
event, which we may expect to take place one day, is so important and
remarkable, that the certainty of this impending fate and the continual
approach of nature to it is in itself a worthy object of wonderment and
investigation, even though the fateful time of its occurrence is so distant
that even the habitability of the Earth and the survival of the human race
will perhaps not last for one tenth of this time.
If spacez were filled with some relatively resistant matter, the daily
rotation of the Earth would encounter a continuous impediment as
a result of which its speed would gradually be depleted and finally

z Himmelsraum

On the rotation of the Earth on its axis

exhausted. But we need not fear such a resistance since Newton has con-
vincingly demonstrated that space, which permits free and unimpeded
motion even to the light vapours of comets, is filled with a substance
of infinitely small resistance. Apart from this unlikely hindrance, there
is no external cause that could have an influence on the Earth’s motion
except for the attraction of the Moon and the Sun, which, since it is
the universal driving force of nature, on the basis of which Newton has
unravelled its secrets in a manner that is as clear as it is beyond doubt,
provides us with a secure foundation on which a reliable investigation 1:187
can be conducted.
If the Earth were an entirely solid mass, without any fluids, neither
the attraction of the Sun nor of the Moon would do anything to change
its free rotation on its axis; for it attracts the eastern and the western
parts of the globe with equal force and thereby causes no inclination to
one side or the other, and so leaves the Earth in complete freedom to
continue this rotation unhindered as though no external influence were
present. But in the event that a planet contains a considerable quantity
of the liquid element, the combined attractions of the Moon and the
Sun, by moving this liquid matter, will impress a part of this motion on
the Earth. Our Earth is in this situation. The waters of the ocean cover
at least one third of its surface and, as a result of the attraction of the
heavenly bodies mentioned above, are in constant motion, which in fact
takes place in the direction opposite to that of the axial rotation. It is
thus worth considering whether this cause is capable of bringing about
some change in the rotation. The attraction of the Moon, which has the
greatest part in this effect, keeps the waters of the ocean[s] in constant
upward motion, whereby the water endeavours to flow to and rise at
the points immediately beneath the Moon both on the side facing it and
also on the opposite side; and because these points of high water move
from east to west, they impart a constant current in this direction to all
the water of the world’s oceans. The experience of sailors has long since
removed any doubt concerning this general motion, and it is observed
most clearly in straits and bights where the water increases its speed
because it has to pass through a narrow passage. Since this current is
exactly opposite to the direction of the Earth’s rotation, we have a cause
which we surely rely on ceaselessly to weaken and reduce this rotation
as much as is in its power.
It is true that, if one compares the slowness of this motion with the 1:188
speed of the Earth, the small quantity of water with the size of the globe,
and the lightness of the former in relation to the weight of the lat-
ter, it might appear that its effect could be considered negligible. But
against this, if one considers that this impulsea is continuous, has always

a Antrieb

Natural Science

been there and will continue forever, that the Earth’s rotation is a free
motion in which the smallest quantity of which it is deprived remains
lost without replacement, whereas the cause of the decrease remains
effective incessantly and with equal strength, then it would be a very
improper prejudice for a philosopher to declare negligible a small effect
which by constant summation, must ultimately exhaust even the greatest
In order for us to estimate the magnitude of the effect that the constant
motion of the ocean[s] from east to west opposes to the axial rotation of
the Earth, let us estimate the impact of the ocean on the east coast of the
American continent by extending it to both Poles, more than compen-
sating for the missing portion by [taking account of] the projecting tip
of Africa and the eastern coasts of Asia. Let us assume the velocity of the
motion of the ocean as mentioned above to be one foot per second at the
Equator, decreasing towards the Poles in the same proportion as that of
[points on] the parallels of latitude; finally, let the height of the surface
which the land presents to the action of the water, estimated as vertical
depth, be 100 toises,2 then we shall find the force with which the sea in
its motion presses against the opposing surface to be equal to the weight
of a body of water whose base is equal to the whole aforementioned sur-
face from Pole to Pole but whose height equals 1/124 feet. This body
of water, which encompasses eleven hundred thousand cubic toises, is
exceeded by the size of the globe 123 billion times, and since the weight
of this body of water always presses against the motion of the Earth,
one can easily determine how much time would have to elapse before
this impediment exhausted the Earth’s entire motion. Two million years
would be required if one were to assume the velocity of the tidal sea to
1:189 be constant until the end [of the process] and the globe to be of the
same density as the matter of the waters. On this basis, the decrease [in
velocity], measured in moderate periods, for example over a period of
two thousand years, in which the decrease mentioned above does not yet
amount to much, would discharge so much that a year would be 8 1/2
hours shorter than before, because the axial rotation had become that
much slower.
Now, the diminution in the daily motion is subject to major qualifica-
tions because: 1. the density of the whole mass of the globe is not equal to
that of the specific weight of the water, as has been assumed here; 2. the
velocity of the tidal motion in the open sea appears to be very much less
than one foot per second; on the other hand, however, this deficiency is
more than compensated for firstly by the fact that the force of the globe,
which we had calculated here as being in forward motion with the veloc-
ity of a [given] point at the Equator, is only an axial rotation that is very
much smaller, and in addition, an impediment applied to the surface of a

On the rotation of the Earth on its axis

rotating globeb has the advantage of a [mechanical] lever by virtue of its

distance from the centre, and these two causes taken together increase
the reduction by the impact of the waters by 5/2; secondly, however (and
this is the most important factor), this effect of the moving ocean occurs
not only against all protuberances on the ocean floor, the continents,
islands, and cliffs, but is exercised over the entire sea floor; and while it is
true that, at any point, it is incomparably smaller than the vertical impact
of the first calculation, the enormous scale on which it takes place, which
exceeds the above-mentioned surface by over 1/8th of a million times,
must be replaced with a very great excess.
Accordingly, there can be no further doubt that the perpetual motion
of the ocean[s] from west to east, since it is a real and considerable power,
also contributes something to the decrease in the rotation of the Earth,
the result of which must necessarily be apparent over long periods. It
would now be appropriate to adduce the evidence of history in support
of this hypothesis; but I must admit that I cannot find any traces of an
event that can be presumed to be so probable, and so I leave to others 1:190
the credit for possibly making good this deficiency.
If the Earth is approaching the cessation of its rotation in continuous
steps, this change will be completed when its surface comes to rest in
relation to the Moon, that is, when it turns on its axis in the same period
as the Moon circles it, and in consequence always turns the same side
to it. This situation will be caused by the motion of the liquid matter
that covers part of its surface to only a slight depth. If the Earth were
entirely liquid to the centre, the attraction of the Moon would reduce its
rotation to this limited remainder in a very short time. This also clearly
shows why the Moon always turns the same side to the Earth in its cir-
cuit around it. It is not an excess of weight of the side turned towards
us compared with the other side that causes us always to see the same
side but a truly uniform turning of the Moon on its axis in precisely the
time it takes to go around the Earth. From this we can reliably con-
clude that the attraction exercised by the Earth on the Moon must have
brought the rotation of the Moon, which must have been much greater
at the time of its formation when its mass was still liquid, to its present
state in the manner explained above. This also allows us to see that the
Moon is a later heavenly body added to the Earth after the latter had
already given up its liquid state and taken on a solid state; otherwise
the attraction of the Moon would inevitably have subjected it in a short
time to the same fate as the Moon has suffered from our Earth. This last
remark can be taken as a sample of a natural history of the heavens, in
which the initial condition of nature, the formation of planets and the

b Kugel

Natural Science

causes of their systematic relationships, can be deduced from the char-

acteristics that the relations of the universe display. This observation,
which on a large, or rather, an infinite scale is [the same as] what the
1:191 history of the Earth encompasses on a small scale, can be understood
just as reliably when expanded to these dimensions as those endeavours
to describe our own globe which have been made in our own time. I
have devoted a long series of reflections to this matter and have com-
bined them into a system which will shortly be published under the title:
Cosmogony, or an attempt to derive the origin of the universe, the formation
of the heavenly bodies and the causes of their motion from the universal laws of
motion of matter in accordance with Newton’s theory.3


The question, whether the Earth is

ageing, considered from a physical point
of view

editor’s introduction
Like the previous essay on the rotation of the earth, Kant wrote this essay
during the summer of 1754 and published it in six successive issues of the
Wöchentliche Königsbergische Frag- und Anzeigungs-Nachrichten, between
August 10 and September 14 in 1754. In it he defines what it would mean
for the earth to be ageing, warning in particular against anthropocen-
tric conceptions. He also provides detailed evaluations of four different
accounts of how the earth might be ageing and by what causal mecha-
nisms: (1) by the rivers stripping fertile salts from the land and delivering
them into the ocean, thereby robbing the land of its ability to grow and
sustain life; (2) by the rivers depositing sediment into the sea, which raises
the sea until it inundates the land; (3) by the decrease of water (from the
oceans) and the resultant increase of land; (4) by the decrease and gradual
exhaustion of a hypothetical general ‘world spirit’ that sustains all living
beings on earth.
Kant rejects the first account, accepts the general idea, but not the
quantitative estimations, of the second account, finds the details of the
third account questionable, before giving a surprisingly positive endorse-
ment of the final account, provided that the ‘world soul’ is understood in
an appropriate way. He concludes by criticizing those who would appeal
to comets to explain “all manner of extraordinary” events.
A partial English translation of Kant’s essay was made by Thomas de
Quincey in an article titled “Age of the Earth” and published in Tait’s
Edinburgh Magazine in 1833 and also by Reinhardt and Oldroyd in Annals
of Science in 1982.

The question, 1:193

Whether the Earth is

Considered From a Physical

Point of View.
Natural Science

1:195 If one wants to know whether something should be called old, very old,
or still young, then one should not estimate it by the number of years
it has existed but by the relation between the latter and the total time
that it is to last. The length of time that can be called a great age for
one kind of creature is not so for another. In the time in which a dog
grows old a human being has hardly got beyond childhood, and the oaks
and cedars of Lebanon have not yet reached maturity when lime trees
or firs are old and withered. Man makes the greatest mistake when he
tries to use the sequence of human generations that have elapsed in a
particular [period of] time as a measure for the age of God’s works at
large. It is to be feared that his way of judging is like that of Fontenelle’s
roses1 contemplating the age of their gardener: Our gardener, they said,
is a very old man; in rose memory he is just the same as he has always been; he
doesn’t die or even change. If one considers the durability encountered in
the really large-scale phenomena of creation, which approaches infinity,
then one is led to conclude that the passage of five or six thousand years
in the time span allotted to the Earth is perhaps not even what a year is
in relation to the life of a human being.
To tell the truth, we have no indications in revelation from which we
1:196 can deduce whether the Earth is now young or old, whether it should be
thought of as in the flower of its perfection or the decline of its powers.
It is true that it [revelation] has revealed to us the time of its [the Earth’s]
formation and the time of its infancy, but we do not know which of its
two end-points it is now closer to, the beginning or the end. Indeed,
it seems to be a subject worthy of enquiry to determine whether the
Earth is ageing gradually and whether it is now in its declining phase,
or whether its constitution is still in good health, or indeed whether the
perfection to which it is to develop has not yet been fully attained and it
has perhaps not yet passed beyond its childhood.
When we listen to the complaints of the elderly, we hear that nature
is ageing perceptibly, and that one can sense the steps by which it is
approaching its decline. The weather, they say, is not as good as it used
to be. The powersc of nature are exhausted; its beauty and order are in
decline. People no longer grow so strong or as old as they used to do. This
decline, they say, can be observed not only in the natural constitution
of the Earth but also extends to the moral condition. The old virtues
have died out; in their place are new vices. Falsehood and deceit have
taken the place of former sincerity. This illusion, which is not worth
contradicting, is the result not so much of error but of egotism. The
honest old fellows, vain enough to persuade themselves that Heaven so
cared for them that they were born at the time of greatest perfection,
cannot bring themselves to accept that, after their death, life on Earth

c Kräfte der Natur

Whether the Earth is ageing, from a physical point of view

will continue just as well as it did before they were born. They like to
imagine that nature is ageing simultaneously with them, so that they
need not regret leaving a world that is itself close to its end.
As unfounded as is this idea of trying to gauge the age and durability
of nature by the measure of a single human life span, another conjecture
does not seem so absurd at first sight, namely that in a few thousand
years some change in the constitution of the surface of the Earth might be
discernible. It is not sufficient here to note with Fontenelle that the trees 1:197
of old did not grow taller than today, that humans were neither older nor
stronger than at present; this, I say, is not enough to allow us to conclude
that nature is not ageing. These characteristics have limitations as a
result of their essential features, which even the most favourable natural
conditions and the most prosperous circumstances cannot transcend. In
this respect, all countries are the same: fertiled lands situated in the best
regions of the Earth have in this no advantage over those that are lean
and barren; but it seems that light might be thrown on the problem
at hand if one could compare reliable reports from ancient times with
the accurate observation[s] of the present time, to establish whether a
difference in the fertility of the Earth could be detected, and whether the
Earth formerly required less attention to provide the human race with
sustenance than at present. It would place before our eyes, as it were,
the first links of a long chain, by which we could recognize which state
of its development the Earth is slowly approaching in the long periods
of its duration. But such a comparison is very uncertain, or rather it is
impossible. Human industry contributes so greatly to the Earth’s fertility
that it will scarcely be possible to determine whether the negligence of
the people or a decrease in the Earth’s productivity is chiefly responsible
for the return to a wild state and the formation of desert in those lands that
once were flourishing states and are now almost entirely depopulated.
I commend this task to those who have greater skill and inclination
to examine this question according to the two possibilities and with
reference to the monuments of history. [For myself,] I propose to discuss
it simply as a naturalist,e so as to reach a thorough understanding from
this perspective, if at all possible.
The opinion of most naturalistsf who have developed theories of the
Earth is that its productivity is gradually declining, that it is slowly
becoming deserted and less populous, and that it is only a matter of
time before we see nature utterly old and dead, its powers exhausted.
This question is important and it is worth the effort to exercise caution
in reaching the above conclusion.

d fett f Naturforscher
e Naturkündiger

Natural Science

But let us first define the concept of the ageing of a body that is
1:198 developing towards a state of perfection by natural processes and which
is modified by the powers of the elements.
In the sequence of its changes, the ageing of a being is not a phase
inaugurated by external and violent causes. The causes by which a thing
reaches perfection and is sustained therein in turn bring it closer to its end
by imperceptible stages. There is a natural gradationg in the continuity
of its existence and it is by the very causes which brought it to maturity
that it must ultimately decay and perish. All things in nature are subject
to the law that the same mechanism that worked for their perfection
in the beginning gradually causes their deterioration, and finally leads
to their destruction, for it continues to change things after they have
reached their most perfect condition. This process of nature can be seen
clearly in the economy of the plant and animal kingdoms: the very driveh
that makes trees grow [also] causes their death when they have com-
pleted their growth. When the fibres and vessels are incapable of further
dilation their nutrient sap begins to clog up and constrict the interior of
the vessels by continuing to assimilate into the parts, so that the organism
finally dies off and dries out because of the restriction of the movement
of the sap. The same mechanism by which man and animals live and
grow ultimately causes their death when growth is complete. For when
the sustaining nutrient fluids no longer extend and enlarge the channels
in which they are deposited they restrict the internal space, inhibiting the
circulation of fluids [so that] the animal becomes bent, ages, and dies. In
the same way, the gradual decay of the healthy constitution of the Earth
is intimately linked with the succession of changes that initially brought
about its state of perfection, so that the process can be recognized only
over long periods of time. Therefore, we must cast a glance at the chang-
ing scenes which nature presents from its beginning to its fulfilment, in
order to understand the whole chain of events, of which destruction is
the last link.
1:199 When it emerged from chaos, the Earth was undoubtedly in a fluid
state. Not only its round form, but particularly its spheroidal shape show
that its massi had, by itself, the capacity to take on the form required
for equilibrium under the given circumstances, for the surface always
formed at right angles to the direction of gravity, as modified by the
centrifugal force.j It passed from the fluid to the solid state; indeed we see
indubitable indications that the surface solidified first, while the interior
of the mass,k in which the elements continued to separate according

g Schattierung j Kraft der Umdrehung

h Trieb k des Klumpens
i Masse

Whether the Earth is ageing, from a physical point of view

to the laws of equilibrium, sent up intermingled particles of the elastic

aerial element under the solidified crust, giving rise to large cavities
thereunder. The crust sank into these cavities, with numerous bendings,
thereby producing the inequalities of the surface, the land masses, the
mountain ranges, the vast ocean depths, and the separation of the dry
[land] from the waters. We have equally indisputable natural monuments
which enable us to recognize that, viewed over long periods of time, these
revolutions have not entirely ceased, as is appropriate for an [immense]
fluid globe such as the interior of our Earth then was and remained for a
long time, which also means that the separation of the elements and the
separation of the air intermingled in the general chaos is not achieved
very rapidly; but the cavities created are gradually increased in size and
the foundations of the large vaults are shaken and collapse once more,
and by this means whole regions which were buried under the depths
of the sea were uncovered while others were in turn submerged. After
the interior of the Earth had become more solid and the destruction had
ceased, the surface of this sphere became somewhat more settled, but it
was still far from being completely formed; the elements had first to be
contained within their proper limits, so that order and beauty would be
maintained, and all confusion prevented, over the whole surface of the
Earth. The sea itself raised the shoreline by the deposition of matter,l
thereby deepening its own bed; it threw up dunes and [sand] banks,
which hindered inundations. The rivers, which were to remove the water 1:200
from the land, were not yet enclosed in their proper beds; they still
flooded the plains until eventually they restricted themselves to particular
channels and produced a regular slope from source to sea. After nature
attained this state of order and established itself in this condition, all the
elements on the surface of the Earth were in a condition of equilibrium.
Fertility spread its riches in every direction, and the Earth was fresh
in the flower of its strength, or if, I may so put it, it was in its age of
The nature of our terrestrial sphere has not reached the same state
of development everywhere. Some parts thereof are young and fresh
while others seem to decline and age. In certain areas it is immaturen
and only partly formed while others are in their prime, and still others
are gradually approaching a state of decay having completed their best
period. In general, the elevated parts of the Earth are the oldest, being the
first to be raised up from chaos and having completed their development
first; the lower parts are younger and reached their state of perfection
later. According to this sequence, the higher regions will be the first to

l Materien n roh
m in ihrem männlichen Alter

Natural Science

decay, while the lower ones are still much further from their destined
Human beings inhabited the highest regions of the Earth first; only
at a late stage did they descend to the plains and they had to set to work
themselves to speed up the development of nature, which was too slow to
change for man’s rapid increase in numbers. Egypt, that gift of the River
Nile, was inhabited and populous in its upper reaches when half of Lower
Egypt, the whole delta and the area in which the Nile raised the level
of the land through the deposition of silt and threw up clearly defined
river banks, was still a relatively uninhabited swamp. At present, the area
of ancient Thebes seems to have little left of that exceptional fertility
and flowering which made its prosperity so remarkable; by contrast, the
beauty of nature has moved down to the lower and younger parts of
the country which are now much more fertile than the higher regions.
1:201 The area of lower Germany, a product of the Rhine, the flattest parts
of Lower Saxony, the part of Prussia in which the Vistula divides into
so many branches, and as it were bent on [asserting its] eternal rights,
frequently tries to inundate the lands that human industry has partly
claimed, these areas seem younger, more fertile, and more flourishing
than the most elevated regions of the sources of these rivers, which
were already inhabited when the rivers themselves were still swamps
and bays.
This change of nature is worthy of comment. When the dry land was
freed from the sea, the rivers did not at first have ready-prepared chan-
nels and a preformed regular slope for their courses. They still broke
their banks in many places and formed stagnant water, which made the
land unusable. Gradually they hollowed channels for themselves out
of the fresh, soft earth and formed their own banks on both sides, out
of the silt with which they were filled. These banks were able to con-
tain the river when the water level was low, but were gradually raised
by the flooding when the level was high, until their completely formed
courses were in a position to drain the water from the surrounding coun-
tryside with a uniform and regular slope to the sea. The highest areas
were the first to enjoy this necessary evolution of nature, and were there-
fore inhabited first, while the lower regions for a time contended with a
state of confusion, and it was only later that they attained a perfect condi-
tion. Since then, the low-lying countries have been enriching themselves
at the expense of the elevated regions. When the rivers are in flood and
laden with silt, they deposit this near their mouths, raise the level of
the land over which they spread, and form dry land. After the river has
raised its banks to the proper levels, the dry ground becomes habitable
and, fertilized by the fertility of the high regions, more productive than

Whether the Earth is ageing, from a physical point of view

By this continuing formation and change suffered by the figureo of the

Earth, the lower areas become habitable as the heights cease to be so.
However, this change particularly affects only those countries that suffer
from a lack of rain, and thus, without periodic flooding, they go without
the requisite moisture, and must remain uninhabited desert, when the 1:202
rivers have themselves set limits to these floods by building up their
banks. Egypt offers the clearest example of this change, since it has been
so changed in its features that, according to the evidence of Herodotus,
nine hundred years before his time the whole country had been flooded
when the river rose only eight feet, while in his time the river had to
rise fifteen feet to cover the country completely and in our day a rise of
twenty-four feet is required. From this we may observe the increasingly
threatening destruction of this country.
But because this changep brought about by nature is insignificant and
minor, in that it affects only some parts of the Earth’s surface, the ques-
tion of the ageing of the Earth must be determined by [reference to] the
whole, and to this end, one should first examine the causes that most
naturalistsq invoke to account for this effect, and that they have consid-
ered an adequate means of predictingr the decay of the nature of this
The first suggested cause [of the ageing of the Earth] appears in the
opinion of those who ascribe the salinity of the sea to the rivers which
carry the salt leached out of the soil and brought by the rain to their
streams to the sea, where it remains and accumulates as the fresh water
constantly evaporates. In this way the sea has acquired all the salt it now
still contains. From this one might readily conclude that, since salt is
the principal cause of growth and the source of fertility, this hypothesis
implies that the Earth, robbed more and more of its strength,s must
necessarily be reduced to a dead and infertile state.
The second suggested cause is to be found in the effect of the rain and
the rivers through their washing away of the soil and its transport to the
sea, which thus appears to be filled up more and more while the level
of the land is constantly reduced, so it is to be feared that the sea, being
raised more and more, must ultimately be forced once more to inundate
the dry land which was previously freed from its dominion.
The third suggested cause is the suspicion of those who, observing
that, over long periods of time, the sea is retreating from most shores 1:203
and transforming large areas that were formerly at the bottom of the sea

o Gestalt r vorherverkündigen
p Abänderung s Kraft
q Naturforscher

Natural Science

into dry land, assume either an actual consumption of this liquid element
through a kind of transmutation into a solid state, or fear other causes
that will prevent the rain produced by evaporation from the sea from
returning whence it came.
The fourth and last suggested cause is that of those who presuppose a
general ‘world spirit’, an imperceptible but universally active principle,
as the secret driving forcet of nature, whose subtle matter is continually
consumed through the incessant generation [of living organisms], so
that nature is in danger of ageing and dying as a result of its [the active
principle’s] decrease and gradual exhaustion.
These are the opinions that I want first to examine briefly and then I
want to establish the one that seems to me to be correct.
If the first were correct, it would follow that all the salt, with which
the waters of the ocean and all inland seas are impregnated, was previ-
ously mixed with the soil covering the dry land, and, washed out of it
by rain and carried by the rivers [to the seas], would continue to be car-
ried there in the same manner. Fortunately for the Earth, however, and
in contradiction of those who think that this hypothesis offers a simple
explanation of the salinity of the sea, this assumption is seen on closer
inspection to be without foundation. For, given that the mean quantity
of rainwater falling on the Earth in a year is eighteen inches, this being
the amount observed in the temperate zone, given that all rivers have
their source in and are fed by rainwater, given further that of the rain
that falls on the land only two-thirds returns to the sea through the rivers
while of the remaining third some evaporates and some is utilized in the
growth of plants, and given finally that the sea occupies only half the
Earth’s surface, which is the minimum that can be assumed, then
the proposed opinion will have been placed in the most favourable light.
Yet all the rivers on the surface of the Earth will carry only one footu
1:204 of water to the sea per annum, and would not, assuming a mean depth
of only a hundred fathoms,v fill the sea for six hundred years, during
which time the evaporation would have dried out the sea completely. By
this calculation, the ocean would already, by the inflow of all the rivers
and streams, have been filled ten times since the Creation. But the salt
remaining from these rivers after evaporation could only amount to ten
times that with which it is naturally endowed; from which it would fol-
low that in order to arrive at the [present] degree of salinity of the sea
one would merely have to allow a cubic foot of river water to evaporate
ten times,2 whereupon the quantity of salt remaining would amount to

t Triebwerk v Klafter
u Schuh

Whether the Earth is ageing, from a physical point of view

the same as that which an equal quantity of sea water would leave after
a single evaporation; which is so improbable that it would not convince
even an ignoramus, since, according to the calculation of Wallerius,3 the
water of the North Sea, in those places where there are few rivers run-
ning into the sea, contains a tenth part, and sometimes a seventh part,
of salt, while in the Gulf of Bothnia, where the water is greatly diluted
with fresh river water, it nevertheless contains a fortieth part. Thus the
Earth is adequately ensured of not losing its salt and fertility through [the
action of] rain and rivers. It is rather to be supposed that the sea, instead
of depriving the dry land of its saline parts, imparts some of its own to
it; for although the evaporation leaves crude salt behind, it nonetheless
removes some volatile salt, which is carried with the vapours over the
dry land and provides the rain with that fertility which makes it superior
even to river water.
The second opinion is more credible, and much more self-consistent.
Manfred, who treated it in a learned and judicious manner in the
Commentario4 of the Bologna Institute, and whose exposition may be
found in the Allgemeines Magazin der Natur, may, for the purposes of
our examination, be the spokesman for this position. He observes that
the old floor of the Cathedral in Ravenna, which is found covered with
rubble under the new floor, is eight inches below the water level of the
sea at high tide, and thus at the time of its erection must have been under
water at every high tide, if the sea had not been lower than at present,
for old records show that at that time the sea reached as far as the town. 1:205
To confirm his opinion that the level of the sea has constantly risen,
he [also] brings forward as evidence the floor of St Mark’s church in
Venice, which is now so low that when the lagoon is flooded, St Mark’s
Square as well as the Cathedral floor are sometimes under water; yet it
is most unlikely that it was built like this. Similarly, he refers to the mar-
ble platform running around the Town Hall, presumably to assist ship
passengers to step into their boats, which is at present virtually useless
for this purpose since it is half a foot under water during an ordinary
high tide. From this, we may infer that the sea must now be at a higher
level than in former times. In order to explain this notion, he asserts that
the rivers carry the silt with which they are charged when flooded, and
which the streams have washed from the high areas of the country to the
sea, and thereby have raised the sea-floor, for the sea was made to rise
to the extent that its bed was gradually built up. In order to make
the elevation of the sea agree with actual indications, he tried to esti-
mate the quantity of silt that the streams carry when flooded by drawing
water in late spring from the river flowing by Bologna, and, after letting
the silt settle, he found it to be one one-hundred-and-seventy-fourth
part of the water in which it was contained. From this, and from the

Natural Science

amount of water that the rivers carry to the sea in a year, he established
the level to which the sea would gradually rise from this cause, so that
in 348 years it would have to be five inches higher.
By the observation that we quoted concerning the marble platform
around St Mark’s Town Hall in Venice, and through the need to have a
measure by which to determine the magnitude of his other observations,
Manfred was persuaded to increase the aforementioned raising of the sea-
level to the extent that it amounted to one foot in 230 years, because, as
he asserts, the rivers carry much sand, stones, etc., into the sea in addition
1:206 to the fine silt, which makes their water turbid. On this basis, a world
catastrophe would come quite quickly, although he is much more careful
than Hartsoecker5 who, on the basis of similar observations on the Rhine,
states that within ten thousand years the habitable parts of the Earth will
be washed away, the sea will cover everything, and nothing but bare
rocks would protrude from it; from which one can easily calculate the
amount of decay in a somewhat lesser period, for example two thousand
The true error of this notion lies only in the precision of the estimate;
otherwise it is essentially correct. It is true that the rain and the rivers
wash soil into the sea, but it is quite wrong to say that they do it to
the extent that the author supposes. He arbitrarily assumed that the
rivers flow all year with as much turbidity as they do at times when the
melting snows in the mountains produce torrential streams, which have
the force needed to attack the soil, and since the soil itself is completely
waterlogged and has become soft during the preceding winter, it can
be washed away with great ease. If he had combined this care with the
attention he ought to have paid to the differences between rivers, of
which those that are fed by mountains contain more washed-away soil,
because of the power of the torrents running into them, than those fed
by a flat terrain, then his calculated result would have fallen so much that
he would probably not have tried to explain the observed changes on that
basis. If, finally, one also considers that the sea, because of the motion
on account of which it is said that it will suffer no dead thing to be part
of it, that is, because of the removal to its shores of all matter not having
the same degree of mobility, does not allow this mud to accumulate on
its bottom, but immediately deposits it on land and thereby increases the
amount of dry land, then the fear of seeing the depths of the sea filled up
with it would turn into the well-founded hope of constantly gaining new
coastal land at the expense of the high regions. For in fact in all gulfs,
for example that known as the Red Sea or in the Gulf of Venice, the
1:207 sea is gradually retreating from the head of the gulf and the dry land is
constantly making new acquisitions from Neptune’s realm, rather than
the waters spreading more and more over the coast, burying the dry land

Whether the Earth is ageing, from a physical point of view

under the humid element, as would be the case if the hypothesis of the
aforementioned naturalistw were well founded.
But concerning the cause of the lowering of regions on the Adriatic
coast (insofar as it is in fact the case that it was not always in its present
state), I should prefer to turn to a feature of the landscape that Italy
has to a higher degree than many other countries. We know that the
foundations of this country are cavernous and that the earthquakes, even
though they cause havoc mostly in lower Italy, nonetheless also vent
their fury in upper Italy, and, through their extension over large areas
and even under the seas, betray [the existence of] connected subterranean
caverns. Now if the tremblings due to the subterranean conflagrations
have the power to move the Earth’s foundations, and indeed have often
done so, then may it not be assumed that the crust has sunk after many
violent attacks, and might have fallen relative to sea-level?
The third notion, which regards the increase of the dry land and the
decrease of the water on the Earth’s surface as heralding its destruction,
seems to have as much support from observation as the previous one, but
the cause suggested to explain the observations is less easy to understand.
It is certainly the case that, overall, the sea appears to maintain a balance
such that on the one hand some land is gradually drying out while on
the other the sea overruns areas into which it penetrates; yet on closer
inspection far larger areas are emerging from the sea than are being
submerged by it. In particular, the sea is retreating from low-lying areas
and eating away at high coasts, because these are especially vulnerable
to its attack, while the former frustrate it because of their gentle slopes.
This alone could prove that the sea-level is not rising at all. For one
would observe the difference most clearly on those coasts where the land
declines very gradually to the bottom of the sea; there a ten-foot rise in
the water level would capture much territory. Since the opposite is rather 1:208
the case, and the sea now no longer reaches as far as the embankments,
which it doubtless formerly threw up and even went beyond, this proves
that it has subsequently dropped in level. For example, the two large
sand-spits in East Prussia and the dunes on the Dutch and English coasts,
are merely sand-hills which the sea once threw up but which now serve
as protective bulwarks against the sea, for the sea no longer reaches a
level sufficient to wash over them.
But in order to give this phenomenon due recognition, are we to
take refuge in the assumption that there is an actual diminution of the
liquid element and its transformation into a solid state, or a disappearance
of rainwater into the bowels of the Earth, or that there is a continual
lowering of the sea-bed because of its perpetual motion? The first of

w Naturforscher

Natural Science

these reasons would probably make the least contribution to any per-
ceptible change, even though it does not contradict sound science as
much as it seems to. For just as other liquid materials sometimes take
on a solid state without losing their substance, e.g., quicksilver which in
the experiments of Boerhaave6 assumes the form of a red powder, or air,
which Hales7 found in a solid state in all vegetable products, especially
tartar, so doubtless the same applies to water. The parts of water seem to
leave their fluid state in the formation of plants, with the result that even
the driest wood-dust still gives off water upon chemical decomposition,
from which it is likely that a portion of the waters of the Earth’s surface
is used in the formation of vegetable matter, and does not return to the
sea. However, this decrease is negligible. The second reason is equally
indisputable in its literal sense. Rainwater, which the Earth absorbs, only
sinks in to the point where it reaches somewhat denser layers which are
impermeable to it, which cause it to search for a way out on the slopes
of these layers, and thus feed wells. There will, however, always be some
percolation through all the layers down to the bedrock, and even in this
1:209 it seeps through crevices and subterranean water accumulates, which
has broken out and flooded the countryside on the occasion of some
earthquakes.∗ This loss of sea water could possibly be quite significant,
and would warrant closer examination. But the third reason seems to
make the greatest and least controversial contribution to the decrease in
sea-level, which must continue to fall the more it deepens its bed, though
we have no reason to fear the destruction of the Earth in this manner.
What, then, is the result of our examination of the opinions consid-
ered thus far? We have rejected the first three. The soil does not lose
its salinity through being washed by rain and streams; the fertile earth
is not transported by the rivers to the sea, to be lost irreplaceably, so as
ultimately to fill it and raise its waters over the inhabited land. In fact,
the rivers carry what they have taken from the high regions to the sea,
which uses it to form a deposit on the shores of the dry land. [Also,]
the maintenance and formation of vegetable matter costs the sea a real
expenditure of evaporated water, of which a considerable part appears
to leave the fluid state and to compensate the soil for its loss. Finally, the
notion of a real decrease of the ocean’s waters is, despite its plausibility,
insufficiently established to allow a firm hypothesis to be stated deci-
sively. Thus, there remains a single cause for the change in the figure of
the Earth that may be relied upon with certainty. This is that the rain
and the streams, by constantly attacking the soil and washing it from
high to low areas, gradually endeavour to level out the heights, and, as
much as they can, to deprive the Earth of its irregularities. This effect is

∗ See the Physical Transactions of the Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris; the translation by
von Steinwehr, Vol. 2, p. 246.

Whether the Earth is ageing, from a physical point of view

certain and sure. The soil is continually subject to this process so long
as there is material on the slopes of the high ground that can be attacked
and washed away by rainwater and this process will go on until the loose
layers have been washed away and their rocky foundations, which admit
of no further change, constitute the only high ground. This change is the 1:210
likely cause of the Earth’s impending destruction, not only because of
the removal of the layers, of which the most fertile are deposited under
the ‘dead’ ones, but rather because of the elimination of the useful divi-
sion of the dry land into hills and valleys. When one observes the present
arrangement of the dry land, one comes to admire the regular relation
of the high to the low areas, that over large areas the land surface gradu-
ally slopes towards the course of a river, which occupies the lowest part
of a valley, and, after passing through this, it has a steadily progressing
slope to the sea, into which it empties. This well-ordered state of affairs,
draining the land of excess rainwater, depends to a large extent on degree
of slope, so that there is neither too great a declivity, draining the water
that is to be used for fertility too quickly, nor too little, allowing it to
remain and accumulate too long as a result of an insufficient declivity.
However, this advantageous disposition of things is constantly impaired
by the ceaseless effect of the rain, which by diminishing the heights or
transporting the eroded material into the lower regions, causes the figure
of the Earth gradually to approach the one it would have if all irregular-
ities were to disappear from the surface and the undrained accumulating
water that the rain spreads over the ground would make it sodden to its
very depths and make things uninhabitable. I have already noted that the
ageing of the Earth, although hardly perceptible, even over long periods
of time, is nonetheless a definite and important conjecture of philosoph-
ical concern in which the small things are no longer insignificant, and,
by means of ceaseless additions, bring important change[s] ever nearer
so that destruction needs only time in order to be completed. But this
does not mean that the stages by which this change is brought about are
wholly imperceptible. If the heights [are] constantly diminish[ed], the
flow of water to the lower regions that maintains the lakes and streams
is also constantly diminished. By their decrease in size, the lakes and 1:211
streams show evidence of such change. Indeed one will find indications
in all lakes that they were formerly larger. The high part of Prussia is a
country full of lakes. It is not easy to find any of these that is not flanked
by a large flat area, which is so even that there is doubt that it must
have belonged to the lake previously and was left dry only after the lake
gradually receded as its water slowly diminished. To give an example
according to reliable evidence, Lake Drausen formerly extended to the
town of Preussisch-Holland8 and was navigable, but now it has receded
to a distance of a mile from the town. Its former bed is indicated by
a long, almost completely flat, piece of land and by its previous raised

Natural Science

banks on both sides. This gradual change is thus, as it were, a part of

a continuing chain of events, the last link of which is almost infinitely
distant from the beginning and perhaps will never be reached, for Rev-
elation predicts for our Earth a sudden end, the fulfilment of which will
interrupt its course in the midst of its prosperity, giving it insufficient
time to age in imperceptible stages, and, so to speak, to die a natural
I still owe an evaluation of the fourth opinion concerning the ageing
of the Earth: whether the ever-effective power, which, as it were, con-
stitutes the life of nature, and which, although imperceptible to the eye,
is active in all generation and the economy of all three realms of nature,
gradually becomes exhausted, and thereby causes the ageing of nature.
Those who assume the existence of a general world spirit in this sense do
not understand by it some non-material power, a world soul, or plastic
natures, the creations of a bold imagination, but a subtle though uni-
versally active matter which, in the products of nature, constitutes the
active principle and, as a true Proteus, is able to assume all shapes and
forms. Such a conception is not so opposed to sound natural science and
observation as one might think. If one considers that, in the vegetable
1:212 kingdom, nature has placed the strongest and spiritual part in a certain
oil whose viscosity limits its volatility and the removal of which, be it
through evaporation or chemical artifice, causes no perceptible loss in
weight although the residue is then nothing more than a dead mass. If
one considers this spiritus rector, as the chemists call it, this quintessence
that constitutes the specific difference of any growing thing, as it is cre-
ated equally easily by any aliment whatsoever, namely by pure water and
air, and if one considers further the volatile acid called into being in this
way, which is distributed everywhere in the air and which constitutes the
active principle in most kinds of salts, the essential part of sulphur, and
the leading principle of the combustible element of fire, whose powers
of attraction and repulsion are so clearly revealed in electricity, which
is so well able to overcome the elasticity of air and to generate forms.x
If one considers this Proteus of nature, then one is, with some justifica-
tion, led to suppose the existence of a subtle universally active matter, a
so-called world spirit; but one will also be concerned that the constant
acts of generation may perhaps consume more of it [viz. the spirit] than
the destruction of natural formsy restores, so that nature may perhaps be
constantly forfeiting something of its power by this consumption.
If I compare the drive of the ancients towards great accomplishments,
such as their enthusiasm for fame, virtue and love of liberty, which filled
them with high ideals and raised them above themselves, with the limited

x Bildungen y Bildungen

Whether the Earth is ageing, from a physical point of view

and cold disposition of our times, then on the one hand I find reason to
congratulate our epoch on such a change, which is equally beneficial to
moral philosophy and the sciences, but on the other hand I am tempted
to suppose that this is an indication of a certain cooling down of that
fire which filled human nature with life and whose ardour produced as
much in the way of excess as of beauty. By contrast, if I consider the
great influence exercised on temperament and morals by the form of
government, education and example, I doubt whether such equivocal
indications can be proofs of a true change in nature.
Thus I have not treated the question posed about the ageing of the 1:213
Earth decisively, as would be required by the enterprising spirit of a
sanguine natural philosopher,z but critically, as is required by the very
nature of the question. I have attempted to define the concept of this
change more precisely. There may be other causes that might bring
about the destruction of the Earth through some sudden revolution. For
without invoking comets, which for some time have been conveniently
used to [account for] all manner of extraordinary dispensations, there
seems to be hidden in the interior of the Earth itself the realm of Vulcan
and a large supply of burning and flammable matter which may perhaps
be gaining the upper hand under the crust, accumulating stores of fire
and undermining the foundations of the uppermost cavities, the possible
collapse of which could bring the flammable element to the surface and
cause its destruction by fire. However, such contingencies have no more
to do with the question of the ageing of the Earth than earthquakes and
fire have to do with consideration of the ways in which a building ages.

z Naturforscher

Universal natural history and theory of
the heavens or essay on the constitution and
the mechanical origin of the whole
universe according to Newtonian principles

editor’s introduction
After publishing two short essays on the Earth (Chapters 2 and 3) in
1754, in March of 1755 Kant, who, it must be remembered, still had
no official teaching position at a university nor even a university degree,
arranged for the anonymous publication of Universal Natural History and
Theory of the Heavens with the publisher Johann Friedrich Petersen. It
was dedicated to King Frederick II of Prussia (though there is no record
showing that the king read it or even held it in his hands). Given its
grand scope and its targeted dedication, Kant clearly hoped that it would
attract widespread attention from more powerful European figures (as
opposed to contributing primarily to the scientific education of the
citizens of Königsberg, as the previous essays did) and establish for him-
self a prominent scholarly reputation (much as winning an academy’s
prize essay question might do). To understand why Kant would have
had such high hopes for this work, it is helpful to see the basic contours
of his argument.
In general terms, Kant’s aim in the Universal Natural History and Theory
of the Heavens is to show that the main elements of the entire observable
universe – which include the constitution and regular motions not only
of the Sun, the Earth, and the other planets, but also that of the moons,
comets, and even other solar systems – can all be explained on the basis
of three assumptions: (i) a certain initial state – a chaos in which matters
endowed with different densities are distributed throughout space in the
form of various indeterminate nebula; (ii) Newtonian mechanical prin-
ciples – primarily attractive and repulsive forces, coupled with the law
of universal gravitation; and (iii) the motions that these matters would
have initiated and the states that they would eventually come to be in
due to these motions and mechanical laws. In this way, Kant intended
to lay bare the basic structure that governs the universe. Various limita-
tions attach to his project – he drew on the views of various predecessors

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

(such as Descartes, Whiston, Buffon, Bentley, Maupertuis, Wright of

Durham, Bradley, and of course Newton) such that his position was
not completely original; his descriptions and methods of argumentation
were not rigorously quantitative (in the way in which Newton’s Principia
was), but rather depended quite extensively on qualitative analogies; he
did not even attempt to undertake the kinds of experimental observa-
tions that would be required to provide empirical support for his main
conclusions (as Herschel would later do); many of his central claims
and detailed assertions are, as a result, untenable from a contemporary
perspective. Nonetheless, it is clear that Kant’s account in the Univer-
sal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens is an extremely ambitious
project, one that clearly made a genuine contribution to natural philos-
ophy. For providing an account of the formation of the entire known
physical universe that is at once comprehensive, systematic, and unified
while still being based on accepted physical principles, is a significant
intellectual accomplishment.
Kant carries out this project in a preparatory section and three parts.
In the preface, he is primarily interested in explaining why the view he
wants to defend not only represents no threat to religious orthodoxy,
but actually provides support for it insofar as the purely mechanical
account of the formation of the universe that he recommends does not
render God superfluous and thus dispensable, as is sometimes claimed,
but instead reveals, on further reflection, that God is positively required
as the source of the necessity of the laws of nature and of the consequent
order of nature. In the first part, after briefly describing what he takes to
be the essential features of Newton’s account of the motions of the heav-
enly bodies, Kant draws an analogy between the structure of our solar
system and that of the Milky Way and then between the Milky Way and
the fixed stars, which he views, based on the analogy, as an infinite multi-
tude of further systems that were then formed and now move according
to the same principles as our own (even if their distance from us makes it
impossible for us to perceive these motions); and given this connection,
he maintains that the entire universe displays a single systematic consti-
tution. The second, and by far longest, part then presents the core of his
account by explaining the formation of the various significant bodies in
our solar system and some of their most distinctive features. In the third
part, Kant concludes his treatment by engaging in fanciful speculation
about the inhabitants of the other planets of our solar system, and by
providing a glimpse of the conditions human beings might experience in
the next life, he returns to the theological context with which he began.
To appreciate the character and force of Kant’s argument, it is worth
considering an outline of its basic structure as it is presented in the
eight chapters that constitute the second part of the Universal Natural
History and Theory of the Heavens.1 In the first chapter, Kant presents his

Natural Science

most basic hypothesis, often referred to today as the nebular hypothesis.

According to it, the state of nature that would exist immediately after
creation would be one in which the matter that now constitutes the
various celestial bodies was originally dispersed, chaotic and unformed
(hence like a nebula or cloud), throughout the universe in a state of rest.
Because, however, the original materials had different specific densities
and different masses, they attracted each other differentially such that
the lighter materials start to move towards the heavier materials. Over
time, some of the lighter materials that are spread out in a region of
space surrounding a heavier body are acted on by its attractive force
and fall into it to form a central body, in our case, the Sun, leaving
empty the region that they had previously occupied. Others, however,
that have somewhat greater densities, are repulsed by this central body
and, after they incorporate less dense materials that lie in the regions
through which they pass, their motion leads them to adopt a roughly
circular orbit, whose magnitude corresponds to the amount of motion
that they acquired in their original motion towards the emergent central
body. In this way the various planets are formed with their stable orbits
around a central body in otherwise empty space.
In the second chapter, Kant explains the varying densities of the plan-
ets and the differences of their relative masses and finds confirmation in
the agreement of this account with the relative densities of the Earth and
its moon. Specifically, Kant argues that although the original distance
between a material and its central body is a factor in determining the
ultimate density of the planet, the main factor lies in the density of the
original material ( pace Newton, who appealed to the planets’ ability to
withstand the Sun’s heat). And for this reason, there is, in general, an
inverse relation between the density of a planet and its distance from
the central body. With respect to the relative masses of the planets,
Kant considers several factors that derive from his hypothesis in order
to determine the agreement of his account with Newton’s calculations
of the masses of the planets such that, with the exception of Mars, which
lost some of the mass that it would otherwise have had to the inordinate
strength of Jupiter’s attractive force, the mass of a planet stands in direct
proportion to its distance from the Sun, though the Sun, as the central
body, has a much greater mass.
Kant then turns to explain both the eccentricity of the orbits of planets
and the most distinctive features of comets in the third chapter. In line
with his account of the formation of planets, Kant first shows that, given
the different original densities, masses, and motions of the matter that
forms the planets, their orbits will not be perfect circles. He then argues
that comets are not different in kind from planets. They simply have
more eccentric orbits (due to the lightness of their material) and can
thus be explained in the same way. He also addresses several further

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

features of comets: their atmospheres and tails (which are not, he argues,
due to the heat of the Sun, since some comets never approach the Sun);
their presence throughout all areas of the zodiac; and their densities and
In the fourth chapter, Kant addresses the formation of moons. He
argues that the basic process involved in the formation of the planets
around the Sun is also involved in the formation of the various moons
around their planets, which lent further support to his basic hypothesis.
Moons are thus created whenever there is enough matter left in the space
immediately surrounding a planet and the planet also has enough mass
to maintain that matter in an orbit. Jupiter, Saturn, and the Earth all
have moons, with Jupiter and Saturn, proportional to their mass, having
the most moons, and Mars losing out due to its relatively small mass. He
also discusses various features of the axial rotation of planets and moons
as further astronomical data that must also be accounted for.
The fifth chapter provides an extended account of the nature, origin,
and maintenance of a phenomenon thought at that time to be unique
in our solar system, namely Saturn’s rings. Specifically, Kant argues
that since there is no difference in kind between planets and comets,
Saturn is composed of the same kinds of materials as comets, which
have atmospheres and tails. As a result, Saturn’s rings are composed
of lighter materials that are at first brought together on the surface
of Saturn and then raised from the surface due to the heat gener-
ated by the planet and the higher rotational velocity at its equator
(which explains the position of the rings around Saturn’s equator). Given
that the different matters composing Saturn’s rings will be moving at
different velocities at different distances from the surface, the rings can
be maintained, Kant surmises, only if there is not too much interaction
between the particles of each ring. For this reason, he asserts that the
rings are separated from each other by small gaps. He also attempts to
use the ratios of Saturn’s rings to determine the rotational velocity of
Saturn, which could not be observed with any reliability from the tele-
scopes then in use. He also speculates as to the reasons why no other
planet currently has rings like Saturn’s. The sixth chapter contains a brief
discussion of the Zodiacal Light, and of its (apparent) similarities to and
(real) differences from Saturn’s rings.
In the remarkable seventh chapter, Kant broadens the scope of his
explanatory aims so as to entertain the possibility not only that space
and time are infinite, but also that the same structure that obtains for
our solar system and those other solar systems with which we are familiar,
also obtains throughout the infinity of space and time. Thus, although
it does not make sense to speak of a centre point in an infinite space,
there must be, he reasons by analogy, a very large mass that serves as
the centre point of all of the galaxies that are connected with each other

Natural Science

by their attractive forces, which extend to infinity. And just as our solar
system formed over time out of a nebulous expanse of original matters
endowed with different specific densities, so too the various galaxies that
extend out from this centre point form over time. Furthermore, just as
bodies become determinate in ever larger spaces over time, so too what
has already formed will return to its original state through a process of
decay, at which point it will re-form itself again out of its ashes, just like
a “phoenix of nature”. Moreover, Kant describes this entire speculative
story as one that would be both pleasing and appropriate to the infinitude
and perfection of God, displaying a kind of beauty that poets (such as
Haller, Addison, and especially Pope) have attempted to express through
their verse. Kant concludes his discussion, which consists of speculative
metaphysical and aesthetic pronouncements, with a strikingly scientific
supplementary chapter that seeks to explain the constitution of suns (as
fiery bodies that would eventually be extinguished after having consumed
all of the air that is required for their fires to burn).
In the eighth chapter Kant concludes the second part by summariz-
ing the main features of his mechanical account of the formation of the
universe. His attention throughout is focused not only on adducing the
inherent plausibility of his own account, but also on showing the weak-
nesses of its main competitor, namely the view that the specific features of
the universe on which Kant bases his account are instead the immediate
consequence of God’s particular intentions (or, as he puts it, the hand of
God). Why, for example, would all the planets orbit the Sun in the same
direction if it were not due to their common mechanical origin? Why
wouldn’t they have perfectly circular motions if their orbits were selected
by God directly? Why would the masses of the planets correspond to the
empty region that surrounds each of their orbits? In all these cases, Kant
suggests that his mechanical account provides a superior explanation that
involves neither miracles nor improbable coincidences.
Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond Kant’s control, the
Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens had much less of
an immediate influence than he had hoped. First, shortly after its publi-
cation, his publisher went bankrupt and the warehouse in which a sub-
stantial number of copies of Kant’s book were held, was impounded. A
year later, however, a publisher in Königsberg, Johann Friedrich Driest,
sold some copies. Kant’s book was also sent out to several appropriate
scholarly periodicals and it was reviewed in the Freyen Urtheilen und
Nachrichten in Hamburg in 1755. Also Kant’s The Only Possible Argument
in Support of a Demonstration of the Existence of God (1763) contains a sketch
of the basic argument as well (in the Seventh Reflection of the Second
Part, 2:137–151), and he later tried to have the book reissued, without
success. J. F. Gensichen, a friend and younger colleague of Kant, did pub-
lish a selection from the work along with a German translation of three

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

essays by Herschel, in Über den Bau des Himmels (Königsberg: Nicolovius,

1791). At the same time, these circumstances obviously contributed to
the fact that both Johann Lambert and Pierre-Simon Laplace, who pub-
lished cosmogonies that were similar in their fundamental orientation to
Kant’s in 1761 and 1799–1825 (respectively), were most likely unaware
of his work during the formation of their views.2 During the course
of the nineteenth century, however, Kant’s work became more widely

There have been three previous English translations of this work: one
by William Hastie in 1900;3 another by Stanley L. Jaki in 1981;4 and
a third by Ian Johnston in 1998.5 Hastie’s translation was incomplete,
leaving out everything after the supplement to the seventh chapter of the
second part, corresponding to thirty-five pages of Academy edition text.
Jaki’s very literal translation, which obscures Kant’s thought on occasion,
contains valuable information in a long introductory essay and in its
footnotes, though his highly critical and often polemical perspective on
Kant’s achievements can make it difficult to separate the wheat from the
chaff. Johnston’s recently completed translation strives for readability
(for undergraduate students) by breaking up Kant’s at times long German
sentences into more manageable English ones, but at the cost of not
always providing an exact sense of what Kant intended. Though the
present translation was completed in draft form prior to any close study
of these other translations, it proved useful to consult them in later stages
regarding certain passages that had presented special difficulties for their


[Dedication] 192
Preface 194
Contents of the Whole Work 206
part one Summary of a Universal Systematic Constitution
among the Fixed Stars and also of the Vast Number of such
Systems of Fixed Stars 211
Concerning the Systematic Constitution among the Fixed
Stars 215
part two On the First State of Nature, the Formation of the
Heavenly Bodies, the Causes of their Motion and their
Systematic Relations within the Planetary Structure in
Particular as well as in Respect of the Whole of Creation 225
Chapter One Concerning the Origin of the Planetary
System as such as the Causes of its Motion 226
Chapter Two Concerning the Varying Density of the
Planets and the Ratios of their Masses 232
Chapter Three On the Eccentricity of the Planetary Orbits
and the Origin of Comets 238
Chapter Four Concerning the Origin of the Moons and the
Motion of the Planets around their Axes 243
Chapter Five On the Origin of Saturn’s Ring and Calculation
of the Daily Rotation of this Planet from its Ratios 248
Chapter Six On the Light of the Zodiac 259
Chapter Seven On Creation in the Entire Extent of its
Infinity both in Space and in Time 260
Supplement to Chapter Seven Universal Theory and History
of the Sun 273
Chapter Eight General Proof of the Correctness of a
Mechanical Doctrine of the Arrangement of the
Universe overall, Particularly of the Certainty of the
Present One 280
part three An Attempt to Compare the Inhabitants of the
Different Planets on the Basis of the Analogies of Nature 294
Appendix On the Inhabitants of the Planets 295
Conclusion 307

Universal 1:215

Natural History and Theory of

the Heavens

on the Constitution and the Mechanical Origin

of the Whole Universe

according to

Newtonian Principles.6
1:217 To the

Most Noble, Most Mighty King and Lord

King of Prussia,
Markgrave of Brandenburg,
Lord Chamberlain and Elector of the Holy Roman
Sovereign and Chief Duke of Silesia etc. etc. etc.,

To My Most Gracious King and Lord.

Most Noble, 1:219
Most Mighty King,
Most Gracious King and Lord!

The awareness of my own unworthiness and the brilliance of the throne

cannot cause my bashfulness to be as timid as the mercy which the most
gracious Monarch spreads over all his subjects with equal magnanimity,
gives me the hope that the boldness I am undertaking will not be regarded
with ungracious eyes. With the most humble respect, I hereby place one
of the least examples of that zeal at the feet of Your Royal Majesty
with which Your Most Noble Academies have been exhorted by the
encouragement and the protection of their Sovereign to emulate other
nations in the sciences. How happy would I be if the present efforts with
which the most humble and respectful subject is ceaselessly striving to
make himself useful to his fatherland, were to be successful in acquiring
the very highest pleasure of his Monarch. I die in the most profound

Your Royal Majesty’s

Most humble servant,
14th March 1755.
The Author

I have chosen a project which, from the aspect both of its inherent
difficulty and in relation to religion, is capable of influencing the reader
to adopt an unfavourable prejudice from the very beginning. To discover
the system that connects the great parts of creation in the whole extent
of infinity, to derive the formation of the celestial bodies themselves
and the origin of their motion out of the first state of nature through
mechanical laws: insights such as these would appear to go well beyond
the powers of human reason. From the other side, religion threatens us
with a solemn accusation for the audacity with which one might make
so bold as to ascribe to nature, which is left to itself, such consequences
in which one can rightly become aware of the immediate hand of the
highest being, and is concerned to find protection for the atheist in the
forwardness of such observations. I see all these difficulties clearly, and
yet am not faint of heart. I feel all the power of the obstacles in my way
and do not despair. I have dared to undertake a dangerous journey on the
basis of a slight supposition and already see the foothills of new lands.
Those who have the courage to pursue the exploration, will step onto
those lands and have the pleasure of bestowing their own name upon
I did not set out upon this enterprise until I saw myself secure in
relation to the duties of religion. My eagerness was redoubled when I
1:222 saw that with every step the mists dispersed whose darkness seemed to
hide monsters; and after they parted, the glory of the highest being shone
forth with the most vivid brilliance. Since I know these efforts to be free
of all reproach, I will sincerely adduce anything that well-intentioned,
but also weak minds might find offensive in my plan, and am prepared to
submit it to the severity of the orthodox Areopagus7 with the frankness
that is characteristic of an honest disposition. The champion of faith may
nonetheless make his reasons heard first.
If the universeb with all its order and beauty is merely an effect of mat-
ter left to its general laws of motion, if the blind mechanism of the powers
of nature knows how to develop so magnificently and to such perfection
all of its own accord: then the proof of the divine Author, which one
derives from the sight of the beauty of the universe, is entirely stripped
of its power, nature is sufficient in itself, divine government is superflu-
ous, Epicure lives again in the middle of Christendom, and an unholy
philosophy tramples faith under foot, which hands that philosophy a
bright light to illuminate it.

a Vorwurf b Weltbau

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

If I had found this objection well-founded, the conviction I have

regarding the infallibility of divine truths is so powerfulc in me that
I would consider everything that contradicts them to be sufficiently
disproved and would reject it. It is, however, precisely the agreement
between my system and religion that raises my confidence to a fearless
serenity in the face of all difficulties.
I am aware of the entire value of those proofs that are adduced from the
beauty and perfect arrangement of the universe to confirm a most wise
Author. If one is not arbitrarily opposed to all convincing arguments,
one must hand the victory to such incontrovertible reasons. I, however,
maintain that the defenders of religion, by using these reasons in a bad
way, will perpetuate the argument with the naturalists,8 offering a weak
flank without any need to do so.
People are accustomed to note and emphasize the harmony, the
beauty, the purposes, and a perfect correspondence of the means to 1:223
them in nature. But, by elevating nature from this perspective, one also
seeks to lower it from another perspective. This harmony, people say,
is foreign to it; left to its own universal laws, nature would bring about
nothing but disorder. These harmonies point to a foreign hand that has
been able to force a wise plan onto matter devoid of all regularity. But I
answer: If the universal laws of causation of matter are also a result of the
highest plan, then they can presumably have no purpose other than that
which strives to fulfil of their own accord that plan which the highest
wisdom has set itself; or, if this is not the case, one ought not to fall into
the temptation of believing that at least matter and its universal laws are
independent and that the wisest power, which has been able to use the
laws in so laudable a fashion, is great yet not infinite, powerful yet not
entirely self-sufficient.
The defender of religion is concerned that those harmonies that can be
explained by a natural tendency of matter can be said to prove the inde-
pendence of nature from divine providence. He admits it quite clearly:
that if natural causes can be discovered for all the order in the universe
that can be brought about by the most general and most essential prop-
erties of matter, then it is not necessary to invoke a highest governing
power. The naturalist finds his satisfaction by not disputing this premise.
But he unearths examples that prove the fruitfulness of the universal laws
of nature by means of perfectly beautiful consequences, and with such
grounds, which could become invincible weapons in his hands, he puts
the orthodox believer into danger. I will quote some examples. It has
frequently been cited as one of the clearest proofs of a beneficent prov-
idence watching over human beings that in the hottest regions of the

c vermögend

Natural Science

earth, sea breezes waft across the heated land and refresh it at just the
time when it is most in need of them, almost as though they had been
ordered. For example, on the island of Jamaica, as soon as the sun has
risen to the point where it throws its greatest heat onto the land, soon
after 9 o’clock in the morning, a wind begins to rise from the sea which
blows across the land from all sides; its strength increases in relation to
1:224 the height of the sun. At one o’clock in the afternoon, when it is naturally
hottest, the wind is strongest and gradually decreases with the setting of
the sun so that in the evening the same stillness prevails as at sunrise.
Without this desirable arrangement, this island would be uninhabitable.
This same relief is enjoyed by all the coasts of countries in hot zones.
They are also the ones that need it most, because, as they are the low-
est lying regions of the dry land, they are subject to the greatest heat;
for the regions that are situated higher up, where this sea breeze does
not reach, do not need it as much, since their more elevated situation
places them in a cooler region. Is all this not beautiful, are these not
visible purposes achieved by cleverly applied means? But in opposition,
the naturalist must find the natural causes of this in the most universal
properties of the air without being able to presume special arrangements
for this reason. He observes correctly that these sea breezes must make
such periodic motions even if there were no human beings living on the
island, that is, as a result of no property of the air other than what is
inevitably necessary for the growth of plants, even without any intention
in relation to this, namely a result of its elasticity and mass. The heat of
the sun cancels out the balancing effect of the air by making that which
is over land thinner and thus causes the cooler sea air to raise it from its
position and occupy its place.
In any case, what benefits do the winds not have for the good of the
globe, and what uses does the astuteness of man not make of them! There
are, however, no arrangements necessary to bring them about other than
that same universal character of the air and of heat which must have been
present on the Earth irrespective of these purposes.
At this point, the free thinker says: admit that if useful constitutions
directed at particular purposes can be derived from the most universal
and simple laws of nature without any necessity for any special govern-
ment by a highest wisdom, then see now the proofs which will catch
you by your own admission. All nature, especially unorganized nature,
is full of such proofs which show that matter, which determines itself
through the mechanism of its forces, has a certain rightness in its con-
1:225 sequences and satisfies the rules of propriety without being forced to. If
a well-intentioned person were to try to dispute this capacity of the uni-
versal laws of nature in order to save the good cause of religion, then he
will place himself into an embarrassing situation and give the unbeliever
cause to triumph through a bad defence.

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

But let us see how these reasons, which are feared as being harmful
in the hands of one’s enemies, are instead powerful weapons to dispute
them. Matter, which determines itself through its most universal laws,
by its natural behaviour or, if one wishes to call it so, by a blind mecha-
nism, creates good consequences that appear to be the plan of a highest
wisdom. Air, water, and heat, if one observes them left to their own
devices, cause winds and clouds, rain, rivers that bring moisture to the
lands, and all those useful consequences without which nature would
necessarily remain sad, empty, and barren. However, they do not bring
those consequences by some mere chance or accident that might just as
easily have turned out to be detrimental, but rather, we see that they
are limited by their natural laws to have this and no other effect. What
are we to think of this harmony? How could it be possible that things
of different natures in connection with one another should aim to bring
about such excellent harmonies and beauty, even for the purposes of such
things which are located, as it were, outside the range of dead matter,
that is, to the benefit of human beings and animals, if they did not have a
common origin, that is, an infinite reason, in which the essential natures
of all things were conceived in relation to each other? If their natures
were necessary for themselves and independently of each other, what
amazing chance, or rather, what an impossibility it would be, that their
natural endeavours should fit them together in such a way as a deliberate
clever choice could have united them.
Now I will confidently apply this to my current purpose. I assume the
matter of the whole world to be universally dispersed and I make com-
plete chaos out of it. I see matter form in accordance with the established
laws of attraction and modify its motion through repulsion. Without the
assistance of any arbitrary inventions, I enjoy the pleasure of seeing the 1:226
creation of a well-ordered whole by reason of established laws of motion
which looks so much like the system of the world we have before our
eyes that I cannot help but regard it as the same. This unexpected devel-
opment of the order of nature on a large scale initially seems suspicious
to me because it bases such a composite rightness on such a poor and
simple foundation. Finally, I instruct myself from the aforementioned
observation that such a development of nature is not something unheard
of, but that its essential endeavour necessarily brings with it such a devel-
opment, and that this is the most magnificent evidence of its dependence
on that original being which contains within itself even the origins of
beings themselves and their first laws of causation.d This insight redou-
bles my trust in the proposal I have made. My confidence increases with
every step I take forward and my timidity ceases completely.

d Wirkungsgesetze

Natural Science

But the defence of your system, people will say, is also the defence of
Epicure’s opinions, which have the greatest similarity with them. I do not
reject all agreement with him. Many have become atheists through the
semblancee of such reasons, which, on closer consideration, could have
convinced them most powerfully of the certainty of the highest being.
The consequences a confused understanding draws from the most fault-
less principles are often very faulty, and this was the case with Epicure’s
conclusions, even though his conception was in accord with the keenness
of a great mind.
I will therefore not deny that Lucretius’ theory or that of his predeces-
sors, Epicure, Leucippus, and Democritus, has much in common with
mine. Like those philosophers, I posit a first state of nature as a universal
dispersion of the original material of all world-bodies, or atoms as they
call them. Epicure posited a heaviness that caused these elementary par-
ticles to fall and this does not seem to be very different to Newtonian
attraction, which I accept; he also accorded them a certain deviation from
the straight linear motion of their fall, even though he had absurd notions
of their causes and effects: This deviation to some extent corresponds
1:227 to the change in the straight fall that we attribute to the repulsive force
of the particles; finally, the whirlpools that arose out of the perturbedf
motion of the atoms were a centrepiece of the theories of Leucippus and
Democritus, and they will also be found in ours. The close relationship
with a doctrine that was the proper theory of the denial of the divine in
antiquity, will not, however, drag mine into association with their errors.
Even in the most senseless opinions that have succeeded in gaining the
applause of men, we will always find some truth. One false principle or a
few ill-considered connecting principles will lead men from the path of
truth via imperceptible errors right into the abyss. Despite the similarity
I have just mentioned, there does nonetheless remain one basic differ-
ence between ancient cosmogony and the current one, which allows us
to draw quite opposite conclusions from the latter.
The aforementioned teachers of the mechanical origins of the
universeg derived all the order that could be perceived in it from the
accidental chance that made the atoms come together so fortuitously
that they constituted a well-ordered whole. Epicure was even so impu-
dent that he insisted that the atoms deviated from their straight motion
without any reason in order to be able to encounter one another. All of
them together took this nonsense to the point that they made this blind
coincidence the origin of all living creatures and really derived reason
from the lack of reason.9 In my theory, however, I find that matter is

e Schein g Weltbaues
f verwirrten

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

tied to certain necessary laws. In their complete dissolution and disper-

sion, I see a beautiful and orderly whole develop quite naturally. This
does not happen through accident and by chance, but rather one can
see that natural properties bring it about in a necessary fashion. Does
not this move one to ask: Why did matter have to have precisely such
laws as have order and propriety as their purpose? Was it really possible
that many things, each of which has a nature independent of the others,
should determine each other by themselves in precisely such a way that
a well-ordered whole emerges from it, and if they do this, does this not
provide an undeniable proof of their common first origin, which must
be an all-sufficient highest mind in which the natures of things were 1:228
designed in accordance with unified purposes?
Matter, which is the original materialh of all things, is thus bound by
certain laws, and if it is left freely to these laws, it must necessarily bring
forth beautiful combinations. It is not at liberty to deviate from this plan
of perfection. Since, therefore, it is subject to a most wise purpose, it
must necessarily have been placed into such harmonious connections by
a first cause that ruled over it, and a God exists precisely because nature
cannot behave in any way other than in a regular and orderly manner, even in
I have such a good opinion of the honest attitude of those who do
my proposal the honour of examining it that I consider myself assured
that the reasons mentioned will at least put the purity of my intention
beyond doubt, even if they do not yet remove all concerns about the
harmful consequences of my system. If, notwithstanding this, there are
spiteful zealots who regard it as a worthy duty of their holy calling to
attach harmful interpretations to the most innocent opinions, then I am
sure that their judgement will have an effect on all reasonable people
that is exactly the opposite of their intention. Furthermore, I will not
be deprived of the right that Descartes always enjoyed from fair judges
when he dared to explain the formation of the heavenly bodies from
purely mechanical laws. I will therefore quote the authors of the uni-
versal history of the world:∗ “We, however, cannot but believe that the
attempt by this philosopher, who attempts to explain the formation of
the world over a certain period of time from chaotic matter by the simple
continuation of a motion once impressed on it and has reduced this to a
few simple and universal laws of motion, just as little as others who have
since then and with much applause tried to do the same thing from the orig-
inal and created properties of matter, is punishable or demeaning of God

∗ Part I, §88.

h Urstoff

Natural Science

as many have imagined, because instead, a higher conception of his infinite

wisdom is brought about by this means.”10
1:229 I have attempted to remove the difficulties that appeared to threaten
my propositions from the point of view of religion. There are several that
are no less significant in relation to the matter itself. If it is true, people
will say, that God has placed into the forces of nature a secret ability to
form itself out of chaos into a perfect world constitution,i then will the
mind of man, which is so weak in relation to the lowest things, be capable
of investigating the hidden properties in so great a subject matterj ? Such
an endeavourk is the same as if one were to say: just give me matter and
I will build you a world out of it. Cannot the weakness of your insights,
which is made as nought by the slightest things that occur near you every
day, teach you that it is futile to try to discover the immeasurable and
what took place in nature even before the world existed? I shall destroy
this difficulty by demonstrating clearly that of all the investigations that
could be raised in the study of nature, this is the one in which one can
most easily and most surely reach back as far as its beginning. Just as
of all the tasks facing research into nature, none has been resolved with
greater accuracy and certainty than the true constitution of the universel
on the large scale, the laws of motion, and the internal mechanism of
the orbits of all the planets into which Newtonian philosophy can give
such insights as can be found in no other part of philosophy: just so, I
maintain, that of all the things in nature whose first cause we can investi-
gate, the origin of the world systemm and the generation of the heavenly
bodies together with the causes of their motions is the one which we
might first hope to understand thoroughly and reliably. The reason for
this is simple to see. The heavenly bodies are spherical masses, that is,
of the simplest form that any body can have whose origin one seeks.
Their motion is similarly unmixed. It is nothing other than a free con-
tinuation of a tangential force11 once impressed,n which, combined with
the attraction of the body in the centre, becomes circular. Furthermore,
the space in which they move is empty, the distances separating them
are quite uncommonly great and thus all are placed most clearly sep-
arate from one another both in unimpededo motion and for the clear
1:230 observation of it. It seems to me that in a certain sense one could say
here without being presumptuous: Give me matter and I will build a world
out of it, that is, give me matter and I will show you how a world is to
come into being out of it. Because if matter endowed with an essential

i Weltverfassung m Weltsystems
j Vorwurfe n eines einmal eingedrückten Schwunges
k Unterfangen o unverwirrten
l Verfassung des Weltbaues

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

attractive force is present, then it is not difficult to determine those causes

that can have contributed to the arrangement of the world system,p
viewed on the large scale. We know what is necessary for a body to
achieve a spherical shape, we understand what is required for free-
floating spheres to adopt a circular motion around the centre point to
which they are attracted. The position of the orbits in relation to each
other, the coincidence of the direction, the eccentricity, all this can be
reduced to the simplest mechanical causes, and we can confidently hope
to discover them because they can be posited on the simplest and clearest
grounds. But can we claim such advantages about the most insignificant
plant or insect? Are we in a position to say: Give me matter and I will show
you how a caterpillar can be created ? Do we not get stuck at the first step due
to ignorance about the true inner nature of the object and the complexity
of the diversity contained in it? It should therefore not be thought strange
if I dare to say that we will understand the formation of all the heav-
enly bodies, the cause of their motion, in short, the origin of the whole
present constitution of the universeq sooner than the creation of a single
plant or caterpillar becomes clearly and completely known on mechanical
These are the reasons upon which I base my confidence that the phys-
ical part of cosmologyr may in future hope for that completeness to
which Newton raised its mathematical half. Next to the laws governing
the universes in its current constitution, there are perhaps no others in
the whole of research on nature capable of being so determined mathe-
matically as those according to which it came about, and without doubt
the hand of a practised mathematician would cultivate fruitful fields
After I have made the effort to commend a favourable reception for
the subjectt of my observations, I may be allowed briefly to explain the 1:231
way in which I have treated it. The first part is concerned with a new
system of the structure of the universeu on the large scale. Herr Wright
of Durham,12 with whose treatise I became acquainted through the
Hamburg Freie Urteile of the year 1751,13 first gave me cause to regard
the fixed stars not as a scattered milling mass without any visible order,
but rather as a system with the greatest similarity to a planetary one, so
that, just as in the latter the planets are very close to a common plane,
so also the fixed stars in their position relate as closely as possible to
a certain plane, which has to be thought of as extending through the
entire heavens, and where they are most densely massed, they form the

p Weltsystems s Weltbau
q Weltbau t Vorwurf
r Weltwissenschaft u Weltgebäude

Natural Science

bright band that is called the Milky Way. I have become convinced that,
because this zone, illuminated by countless suns, has very exactly the
direction of a very large circle, our sun must also be very close to this
large plane of reference. While pursuing the causes of this feature, I
have found the following to be very probable: that the fixed stars could
actually be slowly moving planets of a higher order. As confirmation of
what will be found about this thought in its proper place, I will quote
here just one section of Herr Bradley’s treatise on the motion of fixed
stars.14 “If a judgement may be formed, <with regard to this matter,>
from the result of the comparison of our best modern observations, with
such as were formerly made with any tolerable degree of exactness; there
appears to have been a real change in the position of some of the fixed
stars with respect to each other; and such, as seems independent of any
motion in our own system, and can only be referred to some motion in
the stars themselves. Arcturus affords a strong proof of this. For if its
present declination be compared with its place, as determined either by
Tycho or Flamsteed, the difference will be found to be much greater
than what can be suspected to arise from the uncertainty of their obser-
vations. It is reasonable to expect that other instances of the like kind
must also occur among the great number of visible stars; because their
1:232 relative positions may be altered by various means. For if our own solar
system be conceived to change its place with respect to absolute space,
this might, in process of time, occasion an apparent change in the angular
distances of the fixed stars; and in such a case, the places of the nearest
stars being more affected, than of those that are very remote; their rela-
tive positions might seem to alter; tho’ the stars themselves were really
immoveable. And on the other hand, if our own system be at rest and
any of the stars really in motion, this might likewise vary their apparent
positions; and the more so, the nearer they are to us, <or the swifter
their motions are,> or the more proper the direction of the motion is,
to be rendered visible by us. Since then the <relative> places of the
stars may be changed from such a variety of causes, considering the
amazing distances at which it is certain that some of them are placed,
it may require the observation of many ages, to determine the laws of
the apparent changes, even of a single star; much more difficult there-
fore must it be, to settle the laws relating to all the most remarkable
I cannot determine exactly the borders between the system of Herr
Wright and my own and in what ways I have merely imitated his model
or have explained it further. But acceptable reasons presented themselves
to me afterwards to extend it considerably in one direction. I observed

v Texts enclosed within <> are in the original, but not in Kant’s text.

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

the kind of nebulous stars that Herr von Maupertius considers in his
Treatise on the Figure of the Stars∗,16 and which have the figure of more 1:233
or less open ellipses, and readily assured myself that they could be noth-
ing other than an accumulation of many fixed stars. The roundness of
these figures that is measured at all times taught me that an inconceiv-
ably numerous mass of stars must be arranged here around a common
centre point, because otherwise their free positions in relation to one
another would present irregular shapes but not measured figures. I also
realized that in the system in which they are united, they must be mainly
limited to one plane, because they do not present circular but elliptical
figures and that, because of their pale light, they must be incompre-
hensibly distant from us. The treatise itself will present to the inves-
tigation of the unprejudiced reader what I have concluded from these 1:234

∗ Because I do not have the quoted treatise to hand, I will add here the relevant pieces from
the explanation in the Ouvrages diverses de Msr de Maupertius in the Actis Erud. (1745).
The first phenomenon are those bright spots in the sky that are called nebulous stars
and are thought to be an accumulation of small fixed stars. With the aid of excellent
telescopes, however, astronomers have found them to be merely large oblong spots that
are somewhat brighter than the rest of the sky. Huygen was the first to find something of
this sort in Orion; Halley discusses six such spots in the Anglical Trans: 1. In the sword of
Orion, 2. In Sagittarius, 3. In the Centaur, 4. In front of the right foot of Antinous, 5. In
Hercules, 6. In the belt of Andromeda. If these are viewed through a reflective telescope
of 8 feet, one can see that only a quarter of them can be considered as a mass of stars; the 1:233
remainder have only presented whitish spots without any significant difference, except
that one is more in the nature of a round circle, another is more oblong. It also appears
that in the case of the former, the small stars visible through the telescope cannot be
the cause of their whitish shimmer. Halley believes that these phenomena can explain
what is found in the beginning of the creation story in Genesis, namely that light was
created before the Sun. Derham compares them with openings through which a further
immeasurable region and perhaps the fire sky shines through. He thinks he has been
able to observe that those stars that have been seen near these spots are much closer
to us than lighter places. To these observations the author appends a list of nebulous
stars from Hevelius. He regards these phenomena as great light masses that have been
flattened by a mighty change. If the matter of which they consist had the same power
of light as the other stars, they would have to be of immense size so that, viewed from a
far greater distance than the other stars, they are still able to appear in the telescope as
having remarkable shape and size. If, however, they were approximately similar to the
other fixed stars in size, they would not only have to be much closer to us but also give
off a much weaker light, since they have such a pale shimmer despite such proximity and
apparent size. It would therefore be worth the effort to discover their parallax if they
have one. For those who say they have none are perhaps extrapolating their conclusion
from some cases to all. The small stars encountered in the middle of these spots, as in
Orion (or even better in the one in front of the right foot of Antinous, which looks no
different to a fixed star surrounded by a nebula), would, if they were closer to us, be
seen either in the manner of a projection onto it, or would shine through those masses,
as though through the tails of comets.

Natural Science

In the second part, which contains the most essential objectw of this
treatise, I seek to develop the constitution of the universex from the
simplest state of nature through mechanical laws alone. If I may dare to
suggest to those who are outraged at the boldness of this undertaking that
they adopt a certain order in their examination with which they honour
my thoughts, then I would request that they read the eighth chapter
first, which I hope may prepare their judgement towards a correct insight.
If, however, I invite the gentle reader to examine my opinions, then I
am rightly concerned that, since hypotheses of this type are usually not
held in higher esteem than philosophical dreams, it will be a sour favour
for a reader to decide to undertake a careful examination of the histories
of nature that I have thought up for myself and patiently to follow the
author through the twists and turns by which he avoids the difficulties
he encounters, in order finally perhaps to laugh at his own gullibility,
like the audience of the London market crier.∗,17 I can, however, confi-
dently promise that if the reader is hopefully persuaded by the suggested
preparatory section to dare to undertake such a physical adventure on the
basis of such probable conjectures, he will not encounter as many dead
ends and impassable obstacles on his way as he might have originally
It is with the greatest care that I have indeed relinquished all arbitrary
inventions. I have, after I placed the world in the simplest chaos, made
use of no forces other than those of attraction and repulsion to develop
the great order of nature, two forces which are equally certain, equally
simple, and equally original and universal. They have both been bor-
rowed from Newtonian philosophy. The former is now a law of nature
that is beyond doubt. The second, which Newtonian science is unable
to provide with as much clarity as it has for the first, I will assume here
1:235 only in the sense that no one rejects it, namely in relation to the small-
est dispersion of matter as, for instance, in vapours. It is for these so
simple reasons that I have derived the following system, without any
artifice or consideration of other consequences than those upon which
the attention of the reader would have arrived by itself.
Finally, I ask to be permitted a short explanation relating to the validity
and the presumed value of those propositions which will appear in the
following theory and according to which I would wish to be examined by
fair judges. The author is properly judged according to the stamp he puts
on his wares; I therefore hope that one will not require any more strict
responsibility of my opinions in the different parts of this treatise than
the value I give to them myself. In fact, the greatest geometrical acuity

∗ Cf. Gellert’s fable: Hans Nord

w Vorwurf x Weltbau

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

and mathematical infallibility can never be demanded of a treatise of this

kind. If the system is based on analogies and harmonies in accordance
with the rules of credibility and a correct way of thinking, it has satisfied
all the requirements of its object. I believe that I have attained this level
of competence in some parts of this treatise, such as in the theory of
the system of fixed stars, in the hypothesis of the nature of the nebulous
stars, in the general plan of the mechanical creation of the universe,y in
the theory of the ring of Saturn and several others. Certain other parts of
my explanation will be less satisfying, for instance the determination of
the relations of eccentricity, the comparison of the masses of the planets,
the varied deviations of the comets, and some others.
If, therefore, in the seventh chapter, enticed by the fruitfulness of the
system and the attractiveness of the greatest and most admirable thing
we are capable of imagining, and while adhering to the thread of analogy
and a reasonable credibility, I extend the results of our doctrinez as far as
possible; if I represent the infinite nature of all creation, the formation
of new worlds and the decline of the old ones and the unlimited realm of
the chaos of the imagination: I hope the reader will grant the charming
attractiveness of the object and the pleasure one experiences in seeing the
agreement of a theory in its greatest extension, sufficient consideration so 1:236
as not to judge it according to the greatest geometrical strictness, which
does not in any case have any relevance in this type of consideration. It is
precisely this fairness I expect in the third part. Nonetheless, the reader
will find somewhat more than mere arbitrariness but somewhat less than
undoubtedness in it.

y des Weltbaues z des Lehrgebäudes

1:237 Contents
of the whole work.

part one.
Summary of a universal systematic constitution among the fixed
stars, derived from the phenomena of the Milky Way. Similarity
of this system of fixed stars with the system of the planets. Discovery of
many such systems that show themselves in the vastness of the heavens in
the shape of elliptical figures. New concept of the systematic constitution
of all creation.
Conclusion. Probable supposition of several planets beyond Saturn
based on the law according to which the eccentricity of the planets
increases with distance.

part two.
Chapter One.
Reasons for the doctrine of a mechanical origin of the world. Rea-
sons to the contrary. The only concept among all those possible that will
satisfy both. First state of nature. Dispersion of the elements of all mat-
ter throughout the entire universe.a First movementb through attraction.
Beginning of the formation of a body at the point of the most powerful
attraction. General sinking of the elements towards this central body.
Repellent force of the smallest parts in which matter has been dissolved.
Altered direction of the sinking motion through the combination of this
force with the former. Uniform direction of all these motions towards
one and the same area. Endeavour of all particles to reach a common
plane and to congregate there. Moderation of the velocity of their motion
1:238 to an equilibrium with the gravity of the distance of their place. Free orbit
of all particles around the central body in circles. Formation of the plan-
ets out of these moved elements. Free motion of the planets thus formed
in the same direction on a common plane near the centre point in almost
circular orbits and with increasing degrees of eccentricity further away
from it.

a Weltraum b Regung

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

Chapter Two.
Treats of the varying density of the planets and the relationship of
their masses. Reason why the closer planets are of a denser type than
the distant ones. Insufficiency of Newton’s explanation. Why the central
body is of a lighter kind than the spheres orbiting next to it. Relationship
of the mass of the planets in proportion to the distances. Causes from
the manner of their formation, according to which the central body
has the greatest mass. Calculation of the thinnessc with which all the
elements of the world matter were dispersed. Probability and necessity
of this thinning. Important proof of the manner of the formation of the
heavenly bodies based on a remarkable analogy by Herr de Buffon.

Chapter Three.
Concerning the eccentricity of the planetary orbits and the origin
of comets. The eccentricity increases in direct proportion to the distance
from the Sun. Cause of this law from cosmogony. Why the orbits of
comets diverge freely from the plane of the eclipse. Proof that the comets
are formed from the lightest type of material. Incidental comment on
the Northern Lights.

Chapter Four.
On the origin of moons and the rotation of planets on their axis.
The material for the formation of the moons was contained in the sphere
from which the planet gathered the parts for its own formation. Cause of
the motion of these moons with all their determinations. Why only the
large planets have moons. On the axial rotation of the planets. Whether
the Moon once had a more rapid rotation? Whether the velocity of the
Earth’s rotation is decreasing? Concerning the position of the axis of the
planets in relation to the plane of their orbits. Shifting of their axis.

Chapter Five.
Concerning the origin of the ring around Saturn and the calcu-
lation of its daily revolution from its relations. First state of Saturn
compared to the constitution of a comet. Formation of a ring from the 1:239
particles of its atmosphere by means of the motions impressed by its
orbit. Determination of its axial rotation on the basis of this hypothesis.
Observation of the shape of Saturn. On the spheroidal flattening of the
heavenly bodies in general. More detailed description of the constitution

c Dünnigkeit

Natural Science

of this ring. Probable assumption of new discoveries. Whether the Earth

had a ring before the Great Flood?

Chapter Six.
Concerning the Zodiacal Light.

Chapter Seven.
Concerning creation in the whole extent of its infinity in terms
of space as well as of time. Origin of a great system of fixed stars.
Central bodiesd in the centre of the stellar system. Infinity of creation.
Universal systematic relationship in its entire essence.e Central bodies
of all nature. Successive continuation of creation in all infinity of time
and space through the unceasing formation of new worlds. Observation
on the chaos of unformed nature. Gradual decay and collapse of the
universe.f Proper nature of such a concept. Rejuvenation of decayed

Supplement to Chapter Seven.

Universal theory and history of the Sun in general. Why the central
body of a universeg is a fiery body. Closer observation of its nature.
Thoughts on the changes of the air surrounding it. Extinction of suns.
Detailed view of their form. Opinion of Herr Wrigth [sic] on the centre
point of all nature. Correction of this.

Chapter Eight.
General proof of the correctness of a mechanical doctrine of the
arrangement of the universeh in general, especially of the certainty
of the present one. The essential ability of the natures of things to raise
themselves to order and perfection is the most beautiful proof of the
existence of God. Defence against naturalism’s objections.
The constitution of the universei is simple and not beyond the pow-
ers of nature. Analogies that prove the mechanical origin of the world
1:240 with certainty. The same proved from deviations. Adducing an imme-
diate divine ordering is not sufficient for these questions. Difficulty that
caused Newton to give up the mechanical theory. Resolution of this

d Centralkörper g Weltbau
e Inbegriffe h Weltbau
f Weltbau i Weltbau

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

difficulty. The system advanced is the only means of all possible ones to
do justice to both kinds of reasons. It is proved further by the ratio of
the density of the planets, their masses, the distances between them, and
the graded connection of their determinations. The motivations behind
God’s choice do not determine these circumstances directly. Justifica-
tion in relation to religion. Difficulties arising from a doctrine of direct
divine ordering.

part three.
Contains a comparison between the inhabitants of the heavenly
Whether all planets are inhabited. Reasons for doubting it. Grounds
for the physical relations between the inhabitants of different plan-
ets. Observation of human beings. Causes of the imperfection of their
nature. Natural ratio of bodily properties of living creatures in accor-
dance with the differing distance from the Sun. Consequences of the ratio
for their mental abilities. Comparison of thinking natures on different
heavenly bodies. Confirmation on the basis of certain circumstances of
their abode. Further proof from the arrangements of divine providence
that are made for their good.j Brief digression.

The conditions of human beings in the next life.

j zu ihrem Besten

Universal 1:241

Natural History and Theory of the Heavens

Part One.
Summary of a systematic constitution among the
fixed stars
and also

of the vast number of such systems of fixed stars

Is the great chain that draws all to agree,

And drawn supports, upheld by God or thee?
1:243 Short summary of the most essential basic
Newtonian science,∗
which are necessary for understanding what

Six planets, three of which have satellites, Mercury, Venus, Earth with
its Moon, Mars, Jupiter with four and Saturn with five satellites, which
describe orbits with the Sun at the centre, as well as the comets which
do likewise, coming from all sides in very extensive orbits, constitute
a system which we call the solar systemk or the planetary universe.l,19
Because it is circular and is on a closed orbit, the motion of all these
bodies presupposes two forces that are both equally necessary in every
type of doctrine, that is, a shooting force,m which would cause them
to continue in a direction straight ahead at every point of their curved
path and move into an infinity if there were not also a second force,
whatever it may be, which constantly forced them to leave that path and
to proceed in a curved path with the Sun at its centrepoint. This second
force, as is indubitably determined by geometry itself, aims at the Sun
from all points and is thus called the sinking, the centripetal force or also
1:244 If the orbits of the heavenly bodies were exact circles, then the sim-
plest analysis of the composition of curved motions would show that a
continuous push towards the centre point is required for this; however,
although these motions of all planets and comets are ellipses with the
Sun as a common focus, higher geometry, with the assistance of Kepler’s
Analogy20 (according to which the radius vector, or the line drawn
from the planets to the Sun, always sweeps out such spaces from the
elliptical orbit that are proportional to the times), demonstrates with
infallible certainty that a force would have to continuously drive the

∗ I wanted to provide this brief introduction, which may perhaps be superfluous in the
view of most readers, for those who are not sufficiently knowledgeable about Newtonian
principles, as a preparation for understanding the theory that follows.

k System der Sonne m schießende Kraft

l Weltbau

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

planet throughout its entire orbit to the centre point of the Sun. This
lowering forcen then, which applies throughout the entire planetary sys-
tem and is directed towards the Sun, is an established phenomenon of
nature, and the law by which this force extends from the centre to the far
reaches of space has been equally reliably proved. It always decreases in
inverse proportion to the square of the increase in distance from the cen-
tre. This rule flows in just as infallible a manner from the time required
by the planets for their orbits at varying distances. These times are always
the square roots of the cube of the mean distances from the Sun, from
which we can deduce that the force attracting these heavenly bodies to
the centre point of their revolutions must decrease in inverse proportion
to the square of the distance.21
Precisely the same law that applies among the planets in so far as
they orbit around the Sun, is also found in small systems, namely those
constituted by moons orbiting around their main planets. The durations
of their orbits are proportional to the distances in precisely the same way
and establish precisely the same ratio of the lowering force in relation
to the planet as that to which the planet is subject in relation to the
Sun. All this is forever beyond any contradiction as a result of the most
infallible geometry based on indisputable observations. In addition there
is the idea that this lowering forceo is the same impetus as what is called
gravity on the surface of the planet and which decreases gradually with
distance in accordance with the above law. This may be observed by
comparing the quantum of gravity on the surface of the Earth with the 1:245
force that drives the Moon to the centre point of its orbit, which stands to
it exactly as does the attraction in the entire universe, that is, in inverse
proportion to the square of the distances. This is the reason why the
often mentioned central force is also called gravity.
Furthermore, because it is probable in the highest degree that if an
effect occurs only in the presence of and in proportion to the attraction
to a particular body, its direction is also related precisely to that body,
we may believe that this body is the cause, in whatever manner, of that
effect; so it has been thought that there was sufficient reason on account
of this to ascribe this general sinking of the planets towards the Sun to
an attracting force of the latter and to attribute this capacity of attraction
to all heavenly bodies in general.
If, therefore, a body is left freely to this drive, which causes it to sink
towards the Sun or some planet, then it will fall down towards it at a
constantly accelerated motion and unite with that mass in a short time.
If, however, it has received a blow to one side, then, provided the blow is
not so strong as to be exactly equivalent to the force of the sinking, it will

n Senkungskraft o Senkungskraft

Natural Science

sink towards the central body in a curved motion and if the tangential
forcep impressed upon it was at least as powerful as to remove it before
it touches its surface from the vertical line by half the thickness of the
body at the centre, then it will not touch its surface but, after it has swung
closely around it, it will rise as high again as it has fallen by means of the
velocity it has reached in falling, so that it will continue its path around
it in a constant orbital motion.
The difference between the orbits of the comets and the planets there-
fore consists in the deviationq of the sideways motion against the pressure
that drives them to fall; which two forces, the more they approach equal-
ity, the more the orbit is similar to the shape of a circle and the less similar
they are, the weaker the shooting forcer is in relation to the central force,
the more elongated the circle, or as it is called, the more eccentric it is
because the heavenly body approaches the Sun very much more closely
in one part of its orbit than in another part.
1:246 Because nothing in all of nature is balanced with complete precision,
no planet has a completely circular motion, but comets deviate from it
most because the tangential forces that has been impressed upon them
from the side was least proportional to the central force of its original
In the treatise, I shall frequently use the expression of a systematic
constitution of the universe.t So that there will be no difficulty in
understanding what is meant by this, I shall explain it briefly. Actually, all
the planets and comets that belong to our universeu constitute a system
simply because they orbit around a common central body. But I take
this term in a narrower meaning in that I consider the more precise
relationships that have made their connection to one another regular
and uniform. The orbits of the planets relate as closely as possible to
a common plane, namely to the extended equatorial plane of the Sun;
the deviation from this rule occurs only at the outermost border of the
system, where all motions gradually cease. If, therefore, a certain number
of heavenly bodies that are arranged around a common central point and
move around this, are simultaneously restricted to a certain plane in such
a way that they have the freedom to deviate from it to either side only
as little as possible; if such deviation occurs gradually only in those that
are most remote from the centre point and thus participate less in the
relationships than the others: then, I say, that these bodies are related to
each other in a systematic constitution.

p Schwung s Schwung
q Abwiegung t systematische Verfassung des Weltbaues
r schießende Kraft u Weltbau

Universal 1:247

Natural History and Theory of the Heavens.

part one.
Concerning the systematic constitution among the fixed stars.
The theoryv of the universal constitution of the universe has attained no
noticeable increase since the times of Huygens.22 We know no more now
than was known at that time, namely that six planets with ten satellites,
all of which have the circles of their orbits directed nearly onto one
plane, and the eternal cometic spheres spreading out in all directions
make a system, the centre of which is the Sun, towards which everything
sinks, around which all their motions go, and by which they are all lit,
warmed, and filled with life;w that, finally, the fixed stars are the suns of
just as many similar systems, in which everything may be just as large and
arranged in just so orderly a way as in our system, and that infinite space
is brimming with solar systems,x the number and excellence of which
has a relationship to the immeasurableness of their creator.
The systematic aspects that took place in the connection of the planets
orbiting around their suns disappeared here in the multitude of the fixed
stars, and it seemed that the relationships that were found on a small scale
and had the character of laws, did not apply on the large scale among
the parts of the universe; the fixed stars were not given any law by which
their situations in relation to each other were restricted and they were
seen to fill all the heavens and all the heavens of heavens without any 1:248
order or intention. Ever since mankind’s desire for knowledge has placed
these limits upon itself, no one has done anything more than to deduce
from it and admire the greatness of the one who has revealed himself in
such inconceivably great works.
It was given to Herr Wright of Durham,23 an Englishman, to under-
take a fortunate step towards an observation that he does not seem to
have put to any very useful purpose and the useful application of which
he did not observe sufficiently. He regarded the fixed stars not as a disor-
derly mass distributed without any intent, but rather found a systematic

v Lehrbegriff x Weltgebäuden
w belebt

Natural Science

constitution in the whole and a universal relationship between these stars

and a main plane of the space they occupy.y
We shall try to improve upon the idea he advanced and to give it that
turn by which it can be productive of important consequences, the full
confirmation of which will be reserved for future times.
Anyone who looks at the sky full of stars on a clear night will be aware
of the bright band that, because of the large number of stars that are
concentrated there more than elsewhere and because of the fact that in
the enormous distances they can no longer be seen as individual stars,
exhibits a uniform light, which has been given the name of the Milky
Way. It is amazing that observers of the heavens were not moved long
ago by the nature of this noticeably different zone to adduce particular
characteristics in the position of the fixed stars from it. For it can be
seen to occupy the direction of a great circle and in an uninterrupted
connection around the entire heavens, two conditions that contain within
themselves such a precise determination and characteristics that are so
noticeably different from the vagueness of the arbitrary that attentive
astronomers ought naturally to have been inspired by this to seek an
explanation of such a phenomenon with diligence.
Because the stars are not placed on the apparently concave heavenly
sphere but rather, with one being further from our point of view than
the other, lose themselves in the depths of the heavens, it follows from
this phenomenon that at the distances in which they stand from us one
1:249 behind the other, they are not distributed in all directions arbitrarily,
but must relate principally to a particular plane that passes through our
point of view and to which they are set to be found as close as possible.
This relationship is so undoubted a phenomenon that even the remain-
ing stars that are not included in the whitish band of the Milky Way,
are nonetheless seen to be more concentrated and more dense the closer
their position is to the circle of the Milky Way, such that, of the 2,000
stars visible to the naked eye, the greater part is found in a not very wide
zone of which the Milky Way is the centre.
Now, if we think a plane drawn through the firmament in unlimited
distances and assume that all the fixed stars and systems stand in a uni-
versal relationship to this plane so that they are closer to it than to other
regions, then an eye situated in this plane of reference will perceive, in
its view into the field of stars at the concave spherical surface of the
firmament, this densest concentration of stars in the direction of such
a drawn plane in the form of a zone illuminated by much more light.
This light band will extend in the direction of a largest circle because the
position of the observer is in the plane itself. In this zone there will be a

y gegen einen Hauptplan der Räume, die sie einnehmen

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

multitude of stars which, because they are so small as to be indistinguish-

able as individual bright points and because of their apparent density,
appear as a uniform whitish shimmering, in a word, as a milky way. The
remaining heavenly array, the relationship of which to the drawn plane
gradually diminishes or which may also be closer to the standpoint of the
observer, will be perceived as more widely distributed even though still
related to this plane on account of its concentration. Finally, it follows
from this that, because from our solar systemz this system of fixed stars
is perceived in the direction of a largest circle, it is part of this very same
great plane and constitutes a system with them.
In order to delve better into the nature of the universal connection
ruling the universe,a we shall try to discover the reason why the places
of the fixed stars are related to a common plane.
The Sun does not limit the extent of its attractive force to the nar- 1:250
row region of the planetary system. To all appearances, it extends it to
infinity. The comets, which travel very far beyond the orbit of Saturn,
are forced by the attraction of the Sun to return again and to proceed
in orbits. Although, therefore, it is in the nature of a force that appears
to be incorporated into the essence of matter that it should be more
appropriate to it to be unlimited, and it really is acknowledged as such
by those who accept Newton’s laws, we want it to be admitted only that
this attraction of the Sun extends approximately to the nearest fixed star,
and that the fixed stars are efficacious to the same extent as so many suns,
so that it follows that the entire host of these is striving to draw closer to
each other by attraction; thus all the solar systemsb are in the situation
that, by unceasing and unhindered reciprocal approaching, they would
sooner or later collapse into one lump were it not that this destruction
was prevented, just as the spheres in our own planetary system are, by
forces fleeing the centre point, because they divert the heavenly bodies
from a straight fall and, together with the forces of attraction, create the
eternal orbits, as a result of which the edificec of creation is protected
from destruction and made appropriate to an unending duration.
Thus all the suns of the firmament have orbital motions either around
one universal centre point or around many. In this context, we may
use the analogy of what has been observed in the orbits of our solar
system,d namely that the same cause that has imparted centrifugal forcee
to the planets as a result of which they describe their orbits, has also
arranged them in such a way that they all relate to one plane, which is
therefore also the cause, whatever it may be, that what has given the

z Sonnenwelt c Gebäude
a Weltbau d Sonnenwelt
b Weltsysteme e Centerfliehkraft

Natural Science

power of rotationf,24 to the suns of the upper world, as so many moving

stars of higher orders of worlds, has, at the same time, brought their
orbits into one plane as much as possible and striven to limit deviations
According to this representation, the system of the fixed stars may be
described approximately by the planetary one, if the latter is extended
infinitely. Because if, instead of the six planets with their ten satellites,
we assume as many thousands of them and instead of the twenty-eight or
1:251 thirty comets that have been observed, we assume a hundred or thousand
times as many, if we think of these very bodies as self-illuminating, then
to the eye of an observer looking from the Earth, they would create the
appearance as of the fixed stars of the Milky Way. Because the planets
under consideration, through their proximity to their common plane of
reference, would exhibit for us, who are in precisely the same plane on
our Earth, a zone brightly illuminated by countless stars directed towards
the greatest circle; this bright band would be filled with plenty of stars
everywhere, even though according to the hypothesis, they would be
moving stars and thus not attached to one place, because there would
always be enough stars on one side through its displacement, even though
others had changed their place.
The width of this illuminated zone, which represents a kind of zodiac,
will be caused by the different degrees of deviation of the aforementioned
planetsg from their plane of reference and by the inclination of their
orbits towards the same surface, and because most of them are close to
this plane, their number will appear more dispersed according to the
degree of their distance from this plane, but the comets, which occupy
all regions without distinction, will cover the field of the heavens on both
The shape of the heavens of the fixed stars therefore has no other cause
than being exactly the same systematic constitution on a large scale as
the planetary system has on a small one, in that all suns make up one
system, whose universal plane of reference is the Milky Way. Those with
the least reference to this plane are seen as being to one side, but they
are less concentrated precisely because they are more widely dispersed
and rarer. They are, as it were, the comets among the suns.
This new doctrine, however, attributes to the suns a motion away
from each other, but everyone cognizes them as unmoving and fixed in
their places from the beginning. The name that was given to the fixed
stars for this reason appears to be confirmed and undoubted through
the observations of all the centuries. This difficulty would destroy the
doctrine advanced above if it were with foundation. However, to all

f Kraft der Umwendung g Irrsterne

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

appearances, this lack of motion is merely apparent.h It is either only

an exceptional slowness brought about by the great distance from the
common centrepoint of their orbit, or by its imperceptible nature on 1:252
account of the distance from the point of observation. Let us estimate the
probability of this conception by calculating the motion that a fixed star
near our Sun would have if we assume that our Sun were the centre point
of its orbit. If its radius is assumed to be more than 21,000 times greater
than the distance of the Sun from the Earth, using Huygens’ figures,
then according to the established law of the duration of orbits, which are
in the ratio of the square root of the cube of the distance from the centre,
the time it would take to complete its orbit around the Sun once would
be more than one and a half million years and this would posit a change in
its position of only one degree in 4,000 years.25 Now since perhaps only
very few fixed stars are as close to the Sun as Huygens supposed Sirius
to be, since the distance of the rest of the mass of the heavenly bodies
perhaps exceeds the latter enormously and would therefore require very
much longer times for such a periodic revolution and, furthermore, it is
more probable that the motion of the suns of the starry heavens proceeds
around a common centre point, the distance of which is uncommonly
great and the progress of the stars may therefore be extremely slow, we
can probably deduce from this that the whole time in which we have been
observing the heavens is perhaps still not sufficient to notice the changes
that have taken place in their positions. We should not, however, give up
hope that these will be discovered in time. Subtle and careful observers
as well as a comparison of widely separated observations will be required
for this. These observations would have to be directed principally at the
stars of the Milky Way,∗ which is the main plane of all motion. Herr
Bradley has observed some scarcely perceptible motions of the stars.
The Ancients noticed stars at certain points of the heavens and we see
new stars at other points. Who knows whether these were the same ones
that had merely changed position. The excellence of the tools and the
perfection of astronomy give us well-founded hope of discovering such 1:253
strange peculiarities.† The credibility of the matter itself for reasons of
nature and analogy support this hope so well that they can stimulate the
attention of researchers of nature to bring them to fulfilment.

∗ Similarly with those concentrations of stars, many of which are close to one another in
a small space, such as for example the Seven Sisters, which may perhaps constitute a
small system within a larger one.
† De la Hire 26 observes in the Mémoires of the Academy in Paris of 1693 that he has
perceived a major change in the positions of the stars in the Seven Sisters in his own
observations as well as by comparison of these with those by Ricciolus.27

h etwas Scheinbares

Natural Science

The Milky Way is, so to speak, also the zodiac of new stars that can be
seen first to appear and then to disappear as in almost no other region
of the heavens than in this one. When this alternation in its visibility
results from its periodic distance and proximity to us, it seems from the
systematic constitution of the stars noted above that such a phenomenon
can only be seen in the region of the Milky Way. For, as these are stars
that orbit in very oblong circles around other fixed stars as satellites
around their main planets, then the analogy with our planetary system, in
which only those heavenly bodies near the common plane have satellites
orbiting around them, requires that only the stars that are in the Milky
Way have suns orbiting around them.28
I now come to that part of the doctrine advanced that makes it most
attractive because of the sublime view it presents of the plan of creation.
The sequence of thoughts that have led me to it is short and plain. It
consists of the following. If a system of fixed stars, in which their positions
are in a common plane, such as we have sketched the Milky Way, is so
far away from us that all recognition of the individual stars of which it
consists cannot be detected even by a telescope; if its distance relative to
the distance of the stars of the Milky Way is the same as the distance of
the Sun to us – in short, if such a world of fixed stars is viewed at such an
immeasurable distance from the eye of the observer which is outside it,
1:254 then it will appear under a small angle as a minute space illuminated by
a weak light, the shape of which will be round as a circle when its plane
presents itself straight to the eye and elliptical when it is seen from the
side. The weakness of the light, the figure and the perceptible magnitude
of its diameter will clearly distinguish such a phenomenon, if it is present,
from all other stars that can be observed individually.
We need not search long for this phenomenon among the obser-
vations of the astronomers. It has been perceived clearly by various
observers. People have been surprised by its rarity; they have made
assumptions and sometimes imagined wondrous things and sometimes
given way to apparent conceptions that, however, turned out to be as
unfounded as the first. We refer here to the nebulous stars, or rather
one type of them, which Herr von Maupertius describes as follows:∗
That they are small places illuminated a little more than the dark-
ness of the empty space of the heavens, which all have in common
that they represent more or less open ellipses but whose light is
much weaker than any other that we perceive in the heavens.29
The author of astrotheology imagined that they were openings in the
firmament through which he believed he could see the fiery heavens.30
A philosopher of more enlightened insights, the Herr von Maupertius

∗ Treatise on the figure of stars.

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

already mentioned, regards them, on the basis of their shape and know-
able diameters, as amazingly large heavenly bodies which, viewed from
the side, exhibit elliptical shapes because of the great flattening caused
by the rotational motion.i
It is easy to see that this latter explanation cannot be true either.
Because this kind of nebulous star must without doubt be at least as
distant from us as the other fixed stars, not only would their size be
astounding, since it would exceed that of the largest stars by many
thousands of times, but it would be most strange that, given that they
are self-illuminating bodies and suns, they would show the dullest and
weakest light with this extraordinary size.
It is much more natural and conceivable that these are not single stars
of such size, but systems of many stars, whose distance from us exhibits 1:255
them as being in so narrow a space that the light, which is imperceptible
from each one individually, becomes a uniform pale shimmering with
their immeasurable number. The analogy with the solar system in which
we exist, its shape which is just as it must be according to our theory,
the weakness of the light, which requires us to presuppose an infinite
distance: all this is in agreement with holding the elliptical figures to be
the same solar systems and, so to speak, Milky Ways, the constitution
of which we have just developed; and if presumptions in which analogy
and observation correspond to support each other completely have the
same value as formal proofs, then we will have to regard the certainty of
these systems as proved.31
Now the attention of the observers of the heavens has enough moti-
vation to occupy themselves with this suggestion. The fixed stars, as we
know, all relate to a common plane and thus constitute an orderly whole,
which is a world of worlds. One can see that in the immeasurable dis-
tances, there are more such star systems, and that creation in the entire
infinite scope of its size is everywhere systematic and interrelated.
One could also speculate that these higher orders of worlds are not
without connection to one another and that, through this mutual rela-
tionship, they constitute in turn an even more immeasurable system.
Indeed, it can be seen that the elliptical figures of this type of nebulous
star adduced by Herr von Maupertius are very closely related to the plane
of the Milky Way. A vast field is open here to discoveries, for which the
key must be provided by observation. Those stars that are called nebu-
lous and those about which there is argument would have to be examined
and tested in terms of this doctrine. If the parts of nature are observed
according to intentionsj and a discovered plan, certain properties are
revealed that would otherwise be overlooked and remain hidden if our
observation is spread over all objects without any guidance.

i Drehungsschwunge j Absichten

Natural Science

The theory we have put forward opens a perspective onto the infinite
1:256 field of creation for us and presents some inkling of God’s work that is
appropriate to the infinitude of the great architect.k If the magnitude of
a planetary system in which the Earth is as a grain of sand and scarcely
noticeable puts our reason into a state of wonderment, then with what
amazement are we delighted when we contemplate the infinite multitude
of worlds and systems that constitute the sum total of the Milky Way; but
how much does this amazement increase when one becomes aware that
all these immeasurable orders of stars in turn are the unit of a number
whose end we do not know, and which is perhaps just as inconceivably
great as these and yet is in turn only the unit of a new combination
of numbers. We see the first members of a progressive relationship of
worlds and systems, and the first part of this infinite progression already
gives us to understand what we can suppose about the whole. There is
no end here but rather an abyss of a true immeasurability into which
all capacity of human concepts sinks even if it is raised with the help of
mathematics. The wisdom, the goodness, the power that has revealed
itself, is infinite and in the same measure fruitful and industrious; the plan
of its revelation must for that reason be as infinite and without limits as
it is.
Important discoveries that serve to extend the idea we have of the
magnitude of creation are, however, to be made not only on the large
scale of things. On the smaller scale there is no less that is as yet undis-
covered, and we see even in our solar system the parts of a system that are
immeasurably distant from each other and between which the interme-
diate parts have not yet been discovered. Should there not be between
Saturn, the outermost of the planets we know, and the least eccentric
comet, which come down to us from a perhaps ten or more times greater
distance, any other planet whose motion is closer to the cometic one than
to that of Saturn? And should there not be still others that change the
planets gradually into comets through a convergence of their determi-
nations by means of a series of intermediate links, and the latter type be
connected to the former?
The law according to which the eccentricity of the planetary orbits is
inversely proportional to its distance from the Sun supports this assump-
1:257 tion. The eccentricity in the motions of the planets increases with their
distance from the Sun and the remote planets thus come closer to the
properties of the comets. It is therefore to be assumed that there will be
other planets beyond Saturn, which, being even more eccentric and thus
more closely related to comets, will ultimately, by a continuous ladder,
turn them into comets. The eccentricity of Venus is 1/126th of half the
axis of its elliptical orbit, that of the Earth is 1/58th, of Jupiter 1/20th

k Werkmeister

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

and of Saturn 1/17th; it therefore evidently increases with the distances.

It is true that Mercury and Mars are exceptions to this law because their
eccentricity is much greater than the measure of their distance from
the Sun permits, but we shall learn in what follows that precisely the
same cause why some planets were granted a smaller mass at their for-
mation also resulted in a lack of the tangential forcel necessary for an
orbital motion, consequently in eccentricity, consequently has left them
incomplete in both these respects.
As a result, is it not probable that the decrease32 in the eccentricity
of the heavenly bodies immediately beyond Saturn should be just as
moderate as it is in the closer ones, and that the planets, because of less
sudden decreases,m are related to the class of comets? For it is certain that
precisely this eccentricity constitutes the essential difference between
comets and planets and that their tails and nebulous spheres are merely a
consequence thereof; similarly it is certain that the same cause, whatever
it may be, that has given the heavenly bodies their orbits, was not only
weaker at greater distances to make the tangential forcen equal to the
sinking forceo and has thus left the motions eccentric, but was for that
reason also less able to bring the orbits of these spheres to a common
plane on which the lower ones move and has thus brought about the
deviation of the comets in all directions.
According to this assumption, we might perhaps still have hopes
for the discovery of new planets beyond Saturn that would be more
eccentric than and thus closer to the cometic property; but for just this
reason we would be able to see it for only a brief time, namely in the
time of its perihelion, which circumstance, together with the low degree 1:258
of approach and the weakness of the light, has so far prevented their
discovery and must make it difficult in the future as well. The last planet
and the first comet could, if people so wished, be called that one whose
eccentricity would be so great that in its perihelion it would transect
the orbit of the planet closest to it, perhaps, therefore, that of Saturn.

l Schwunges n Drehungsschwung
m Abfälle o Senkungskraft

Universal 1:259

Natural History and Theory of the Heavens

Part Two
On the first state of nature, the formation of the
heavenly bodies, the causes of their motion and
their systematic relations within the planetary
structure in particular as well as in respect of the
whole of creation

See plastic Nature working to this end,

The single atoms each to other tend.
Attract, attracted to, the next in place,
Formed and impelled its neighbour to embrace,
See Matter next, with various life endu’d,
Press to one centre still.
1:261 Universal
Natural History and Theory of the Heavens.

part two.
chapter one.
Concerning the origin of the planetary systemp as such and the
causes of its motions.
Observation of the universe shows, in consideration of the changed rela-
tionships its parts have to one another and by which they show the cause
from which they originate, two sides that are both equally probable and
acceptable. If, on the one hand, we consider that six planets with ten
satellites describe orbits around the Sun as their centre and all of them
move towards one side, namely that side to which the Sun itself turns,
which rules over all their orbits through the force of its attraction, that
the orbits do not deviate far from a common plane, namely that of the
extended equator of the suns, that in the case of the heavenly bodies most
distant but still belonging to our solar system, where the common cause
of the motion, according to what we can assume, was not as powerful as
it was near the centre, deviations from those precise determinations took
place that have a sufficient relation to the lack of impressed motion, if,
as I say, we consider all these connections: then we are moved to believe
that one cause, whatever it may be, has had a pervasive influence in the
entire space of the system, and that the unity in the direction and posi-
1:262 tion of the planetary orbits is a consequence of the agreement they all
must have had with the material cause by which they were set in motion.
On the other hand, if we consider the space in which the planets of
our system orbit, it is completely empty∗ and deprived of any matter
that might bring about a community of influence on these heavenly
bodies and the agreement among their motions. This circumstance has
been established with complete certainty and exceeds, if possible, the
previous probability. Persuaded by this reason, Newton could not allow
any material cause that would maintain the community of motions by
extending it into the realm of the planetary system. He asserted that the
∗ I am here not examining whether this space can be called empty in the most proper
sense. For here it suffices to note that all matter that might be encountered in this space
is far too powerless to have any influence on the moved masses at issue.

p Weltbau

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

direct hand of God had arranged this order without the application of
the forces of nature.
An impartial examination shows that the reasons are equally strong
on both sides and both are to be regarded as being completely certain.
However, it is just as clear that there must be a concept in which these
apparently mutually conflicting reasons can and should be united and
that we may seek the true system in this new concept. We propose to
indicate it briefly. In the current constitution of space, in which the
spheres of the entire world of planets orbit, there is no material cause
that could impress or direct their motions. This space is completely
empty or at least as good as empty; therefore it must once have been
constituted differently and been filled with matter sufficiently power-
ful to transmit motion onto all the heavenly bodies contained in it and
to make it consonant with its own and thus with that of all the others,
and after the attraction had purified all the above-mentioned spaces and
assembled all the dispersed matter in particular lumps, the planets, with
the motions once impressed on them, must then continue their orbits
freely and unchanged in a non-resisting space. The reasons for the prob- 1:263
ability first proposed certainly require this concept, and because there
is no third possibility between these two cases, it may be regarded with
an excellent kind of approval that elevates it above the appearance of a
hypothesis. One might, if one wished to be expansive, ultimately arrive
at the framework I propose to present of the origin of the universeq
by pursuing on one’s own a series of conclusions following from one
another in the way of a mathematical method with all the splendour this
involves and with even greater lustre than the presentation of physical
matters generally tends to display; however I would prefer to present
my opinions in the form of a hypothesis and leave it to the insight of
the reader to examine their worthiness rather than to make their validity
suspect by the illusion of a fallacious argument and, by convincing the
ignorant, to lose the approval of the experts.
I assume that when all matter of which the spheres that constitute our
solar system, all the planets and comets, consist, was dissolved into its
elementary basic material at the beginning of all things, it occupied the
entire space of the universer in which these formed bodies now orbit.
This state of nature, even if one considers it in and for itself without
regard to any system, appears to be the simplest that could follow upon
nothingness. At that time, nothing had formed yet. The arrangement
of heavenly bodies distant from one another, their distance moderated
by attraction, and their shape that derives from the equilibrium of the
assembled matter, are a later state. Nature as it bordered directly on

q Weltgebäude r Weltgebäude

Natural Science

creation, was as raw, as unformed as possible. However, even in the

essential properties of the elements that make up chaos, the characteristic
of that perfection can be felt that they have from their origin, in that
their essence is a consequence of the eternal idea of divine reason. The
simplest, the most universal properties that appear to have been designed
without any intention, matter that seems to be merely passive and in need
of forms and arrangement, has, in its simplest state, an endeavour to form
itself into a more perfect state by a natural development. However, the
difference in the kinds of elements contributes the greatest part to the
1:264 regulation of nature and the formation from chaos by which the state of
rest that would prevail under a universal equality among the dispersed
elements, is eliminated and the chaos in the points of the more strongly
attracting particles begins to form. The species of this basic material are
without doubt infinitely varied judging by the immeasurability nature
shows in all directions. For that reason, those with the greatest specific
density and attractive force, which, on their own, occupy less space and
are also less common, will, with the same distribution throughout the
space of the world, be more widely dispersed than the lighter types.
Elements of 1,000 times greater specific mass are a thousand, perhaps
a million times more dispersed than those lighter by the same measure.
And since these gradations have to be thought of as being as infinite as
possible, the former type of dispersed elements will be distant by a so
much greater distance from one another as the latter, just as there can
be bodily constituents of one type that exceeds another in density in the
same measure as a sphere that has been described with the radius of the
solar system does another that has a diameter of one thousandth of a
In a space filled in such a way, universal rest lasts only a moment. The
elements have essential forces to put each other into motion and they are
a source of life for themselves. Matter immediately endeavours to form
itself. The dispersed elements of the denser type collect all the matter
of lesser specific weight from a sphere around themselves by means of
attraction, but they themselves, together with the matter they have united
within themselves, collect at those points where particles of even greater
density are found, and these collect in the same way at yet denser ones
and so forth. By following this self-forming nature in thought through
the entire space of chaos, one will easily realize that all consequences
of this activity would ultimately consist of the composition of various
lumps, which would, after they had completed their formation, remain
at rest and eternally unmoving because of the equality of attraction.
Nature, however, has still other forces in store which are expressed
primarily when matter is dissolved into its particles, by which forces
1:265 they can repel one another and, by their conflict with the attractive
force, bring about that motion that is, as it were, a continuous life in

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

nature.35 Through this repulsive force, which is revealed in the elasticity

of vapours, in the emission of strong-smelling bodies, and in the disper-
sion of all spirituous matter, and which is an undisputed phenomenon of
nature, the elements descending to their attraction points are deflected
from the straight line of their motion to one side, and the vertical descent
ultimately changes into orbital motions encompassing the centre point
of the descent.36 In order to understand clearly the formation of the
universe,s we shall now limit our observation from the infinite sum total
of nature to one particular system, such as the one belonging to our Sun.
After we have considered its creation, we shall proceed in a similar man-
ner to the origin of the higher world orders and be able to summarize
the infinity of the whole of creation in one doctrine.
If, accordingly, in a very large space, there is one point at which
the attraction of the elements present there has a greater effect than
elsewhere around it, then the basic materialt of the elementary parti-
cles dispersed all around will descend to this point. The first effect of
this universal descent is the formation of a body in this centre point
of attraction, which grows, so to speak, from an infinitely small seed
in rapid steps,37 but at precisely the same rate as this mass increases, it
also moves the surrounding particles with greater force to unite with it.
When the mass of this central body has grown to the extent that the
velocity with which it attracts the particles from great distances, is bent
sideways by the weak degrees of repulsion by which the particles hin-
der each other, and changes into sideways motions that are capable of
encompassing the central body in a circle through centrifugal force,u
then great eddies of particles are created, each of which describes its
own curved line as a result of the combination of attractive force and
the turning force directed sideways, which types of orbits all intersect
each other, for which their great dispersion in this space gives them
room.38 These motions that are in conflict with one another in many
ways, however, naturally strive to bring themselves into line with each
other, that is, into a state in which one motion is as little hindrance to the
other as possible. This occurs, firstly, by the particles of one restricting 1:266
the motion of the other until they are all moving in the same direction;
secondly, that the particles restrict their vertical motion, by which they
approach the centre of attraction until they are all as it were horizontal,
that is, moving in parallel orbits with the Sun as the centre point until
they no longer traverse each other and maintain themselves eternally in
free orbits at the height at which they hover because of the equality of
the tangential forcev with the descending force, so that ultimately only

s Weltbau u Centerfliehkraft
t Grundstoff v Schwungskraft

Natural Science

those particles remain floating in the area of the space that have attained
a speed through their descent and, through the resistance of the others,
a direction such that they can continue a free orbital motion.39 In this
state, where all particles move in one direction and in parallel circles,
namely in free orbital motion around the central body by means of the
tangential forcesw they have attained, the conflict and the convergence
of the elements is resolved and everything is in the state of least inter-
action. This is the natural result into which matter, in all cases when
it is involved in conflicting motions, is placed. It is clear therefore that
of the dispersed particles a large number must arrive at such precise
determinations by the resistance through which they seek to bring one
another to this state, although an even much greater number does not
arrive at it and merely serves to augment the lump of the central body
into which they descend, since they cannot freely maintain themselves at
the height at which they hover, but they transect the circles of the lower
ones and finally lose all motion through their resistance. This body at
the centre point of attraction, which according to the above has become
the main piece of the planetary structure through the quantity of its col-
lected matter, is the Sun, even though at that time it does not yet have
the flaming heat that breaks out upon its surface after its formation is
entirely complete.
It should be noted further that, since all the elements of self-forming
nature are thus, as proved above, moving in one direction around the
centre point of the Sun, in such orbits directed to a single region that run
on a single common axis as it were, the rotation of fine matter cannot
continue in this manner, because in accordance with the laws of central
1:267 motion, all orbits must transect the centre point of attraction with the
plane of their orbits, but among all these orbits running in one direction
around a common axis, there is only one that transects the centre point
of the Sun, for which reason all matter rushes from both sides of this
axis drawn in thought to that circle which goes through the axis of the
rotation exactly in the centre point of the common descent. Which circle
is the plane of reference of all the floating elements, around which they
accumulate as much as possible and leave the regions distant from this
area empty; for those that cannot come so close to the area to which
everything is crowding, will not always be able to maintain themselves
in the places where they hover, but rather will bring about their ultimate
fall to the Sun by bumping into the elements floating around.
If, therefore, one considers this basic materialx of the universey float-
ing around in such a state into which it places itself by attraction and
by the mechanical result of the general laws of resistance, then we see a

w Schwungskräfte y Weltmaterie
x Grundstoff

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

space contained between two areas not far removed from one another,
in the middle of which there is the general plane of reference, spread
out from the centre point of the Sun into unknown distances, in which
all the included particles, each according to its height and the attrac-
tion prevalent there, carry out measured circular motions in free orbits
and thus, since in this state they hinder each other as little as possible
anymore, would always remain in that state, if the attraction of these
particles of the basic material among each other did not begin to have
its effect and bring about new formations which are the seeds of planets
that are to come into being. For since the elements moving around the
Sun in parallel circles, taken in not too great a difference of their dis-
tance from the Sun, are almost at rest in respect to each other because
of the equality of their parallel motion, the pull of the elements found
there immediately has a considerable effect,∗ through superior specific
attraction, of beginning the accumulation of the next particles for the 1:268
formation of a body, which extends its attraction in accordance with the
degree of the growth of its lump and moves the elements from a large
distance to constitute it.
The formation of the planets in this system has this advantage over
any other possible doctrine: that the origin of the masses also represents
the origin of the motions and the position of the orbits at one and the
same time; indeed, that even the deviations from the greatest precision
in these determinations, as well as the agreements, are revealed from
one perspective. The planets are formed out of particles that have pre-
cise motions as circular orbitsz at the height at which they hover: thus
the masses that are constituted by them will continue exactly the
same motions in exactly the same degree in exactly the same direc-
tion. This is sufficient to have insight into why the motion of the planets
is approximately circular in form and their orbits are on one plane. Indeed
they would be completely precise circles† if the distance out of which they

∗ The beginning of forming planets cannot be sought in Newtonian attraction alone. In

the case of a small particle of such exceptional fineness, it would be too slow and too
weak. One would rather say that in this space, the first formation would occur through
the flowing together of some elements which unite according to the ordinary laws of
combination, until the lump that resulted from it has gradually grown so much that
Newtonian attractive force would enable it to become ever larger through its activity
in the distance.
† The measured orbital motion actually affects only the planets near the Sun: for at the
great distances where the furthest planets or even the comets were formed, it can easily
be supposed that because the descending motion of the basic material is much weaker
there, the enormity of the spaces in which they are dispersed is also greater, the elements
there deviate by themselves from the circular motion and thus must be the cause of the
bodies formed from them.

z Zirkelkreisen

Natural Science

accumulate the elements for their formation were very small and the dif-
ferences in their motions were thus very slight. But since for this it is
necessary for there to be a wide circumference to form a dense lump of
a planet out of the fine basic matter that is so very much dispersed in
the heavens: thus the difference between the distances of these elements
from the Sun and thus also the difference between their velocities is no
longer insignificant, so that it would be necessary that, in order for the
equality of the central forces and the circular velocity to be maintained
for the planets with this difference between the motions, the particles
1:269 that accumulate on it from different levels with different motions, would
replace the deficits of each other precisely, which, though it in fact hap-
pens fairly precisely,∗ nonetheless, since there is something missing in
this complete replacement, affects the decline of the orbital motions and
the eccentricity. It is equally clear that, even though the orbits of all the
planets really ought to be in one plane, we do nonetheless encounter a
slight deviation in this because, as already mentioned, the elementary
particles, since they are as close as possible to the general maintenance
plane of their motions, nonetheless include some space on either side
of it; since it would then be altogether too great a coincidence if all the
planets were to begin forming exactly in the centre between these two
sides in the plane of the relation, which would already cause some incli-
nation of their orbits towards each other, even though the endeavour of
the particles to limit this deviation as much as possible from both sides,
allows it only narrow limits. One should therefore not be surprised to
come upon the most precise determinations here no more than in all
things of nature because in general the large number of different cir-
cumstances that form part of any aspect of nature does not permit a
measured regularity.

chapter two.
Concerning the varying density of the planets and the ratios of
their masses.
We have shown that the particles of the elementary basic material, since
they were, considered by themselves, equally dispersed throughout
the universe, have, through their descent towards the Sun, remained
hovering in those places where the velocity they attained in their fall was
1:270 equal to the attractive force and thus their direction was deflected verti-
cally against the orbital ray such as it should be with an orbital motion.
∗ For the particles from the region nearer the Sun, which have a greater orbital velocity
than is required where they accumulate on the planet, replace the velocity that is lacking
in the particles further from the Sun that are incorporated into the same body, in order
to move in a circular manner at the distance of the planet.

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

However, if we now consider particles of differential specific density at

the same distance from the Sun, then those of greater specific weight
penetrate further through the resistance of the others to the Sun and
are not deflected as quickly from their path as the lighter ones, with the
result that their motion becomes circular only with a greater proximity
to the Sun. The elements of the lighter kind, by contrast, which are more
readily deflected from the straight line of their fall, will change into
orbital motions before they have penetrated so deeply to the centre, and
will thus remain hovering at greater distances, and cannot penetrate so
far through the filled space of the elements without their motion
through these being weakened by their resistance and they are unable
to achieve the high degree of velocity required for orbiting closer to the
centre;40 thus, after the equality of the motions has been attained, the
specifically lighter particles will orbit at greater distances from the Sun,
while the heavier ones will be found at closer distances and the planets
formed by them will therefore be of a denser kind and closer to the Sun
than those forming themselves out of the accumulation of those atoms
further from it.
It is thus a kind of a static law that determines the heights of the
matter of the universe in inverse ratio to their density. Even so it is
just as easy to comprehend that any height need not admit only parti-
cles of the same specific density. Of the particles of a certain specific
type, those that have descended to their orbit from greater distances,
remain hovering at greater distances from the Sun and attain the mod-
eration of their descent necessary for a constant orbit at a greater dis-
tance, while those whose original position was nearer the Sun at the
universal distribution of matter in the chaos will come closer to the
Sun for their orbit, even if they are not necessarily denser. And there-
fore since the positions of the materials in respect of the centre point
of their descent are determined not only by their specific weight but
also by their original positions in the first state of rest in nature, it is
easy to consider that their very different types will come together at any 1:271
given distance from the Sun, remaining hanging41 there, but that gener-
ally the denser matter will be encountered closer to the centre point than
further from it, and that therefore, even though the planets will be a mix-
ture of very different matters, their masses must be altogether denser the
closer they are to the Sun, and of lower density the greater their distance
from it.
In consideration of this law of the density of planets, our system shows
an excellent perfection compared to all those concepts people have had,
or might yet have, about their cause. Newton, who had established the
density of some planets through calculation, believed he had found the
cause of their ratio arranged according to distance in the propriety of
God’s choice and in the motivations of his final purpose: because the

Natural Science

planets closer to the Sun have to tolerate greater heat from it and the
more distant ones have to manage with fewer degrees of warmth, which
appears not to be possible if the planets closer to the Sun were not
of a denser kind and the more distant ones not composed of lighter
matter.42 However, it does not take a great deal of reflection to have
insight into the inadequacy of such an explanation. A planet, for instance
our Earth, is composed of very greatly differing types of matter; among
these it was necessary that the lighter ones, which are penetrated more
and moved by the same effect of the Sun and whose composition has a
ratio to the warmth by which its rays have their effect, had to be spread
out on the surface; but it does not follow from this that the mixture of
the other matter in the whole of the lump must have the same ratio;
since the Sun has no effect upon the inside of the planet at all. Newton
feared that if the Earth were lowered into the rays of the Sun as far
as the distance of Mercury, it would burn like a comet and its matter
would not have sufficient resistance to fire not to be dispersed by this
heat. But how much more would the matter of the Sun itself, which is
four times lighter than that of which the Earth consists, be destroyed
by this heat, or why is the Moon twice as dense as the Earth when it
orbits at the same distance from the Sun? Thus one cannot ascribe the
1:272 proportionate densities to their relation to the Sun’s warmth without
involving oneself in the greatest contradictions. Rather one will see that
a cause that distributes the positions of the planets according to the
density of their lumps, would have to have a ratio to the interior of
its matter and not the surface; regardless of this consequence which it
determined, it must also allow a difference in the matter in that same
heavenly body and establish this relationship of density only in terms of
the whole of the composition; and I leave it to the insight of the reader
to judge whether there is any law of statics other than that advanced in
our doctrines that will do justice to all of this.
The ratio of the densities of the planets involves another issue that
confirms the correctness of our doctrine by way of the complete cor-
respondence with the explanation outlined earlier. That heavenly body
that stands at the centre of other spheres orbiting around it is usually of
a lighter kind than the body orbiting next to it. The Earth in relation
to the Moon and the Sun in relation to the Earth evince such a ratio
of their densities. According to the conception we have presented, this
is a necessary state of affairs. For, since the lower planets were formed
mainly from the remainders of elementary matter, which by the advan-
tage of its density have been able to make their way to such a proximity
to the centre point with the requisite degree of velocity, whereas the
body at the centre point itself has been piled together without any dif-
ference out of the materials of all available types which have not attained

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

their motion in accordance with law,a among which since the lighter
materials constitute the largest proportion, it is easy to see that, because
the heavenly body, or bodies, orbiting nearest to the centre point con-
tains within itself as it were a separation of denser types, while the central
body contains an undifferentiated mixture, the former will be of a denser
kind than the latter. In fact, the Moon is twice as dense as the Earth and
the Earth is four times denser than the Sun, which, according to what
we can suppose, will be surpassed in yet greater degrees of density by
the still lower planets, Venus and Mercury.43
We now turn our attention to the ratio that the masses of the heav-
enly bodies ought to have according to our doctrine in comparison to 1:273
their distances in order to test the result of our system against Newton’s
infallible calculations. We do not need many words to make it compre-
hensible that the central body must always be the main part of its system
and that therefore the Sun must be much greater in mass than all the
planets, just as this will apply to Jupiter in relation to its satellites and to
Saturn in relation to its own. The central body is formed from the precip-
itation of all the particles out of the entire area of its sphere of attraction,
which have not been able to obtain the most precise determination of
the orbital motion and the close relationship to the common plane and
of which there must be a very much greater number than the latter. To
apply this observation primarily to the Sun: if we were to wish to estimate
the extent of the space by which the orbiting particles that served the
planets as their basic matter have deviated from the common plane at
the furthest point, then we may assume it to be approximately somewhat
larger than the extent of the greatest deviation of the planetary orbits
from one another. Now, however, their greatest inclination towards one
another, when they deviate in both directions from the common plane,
is hardly seven and a half degrees. We can therefore represent all the
matter from which the planets were formed as having been dispersed
in that space which was between two surfaces encompassing an angle of
seven and a half degrees from the perspective of the centre point of the
Sun. Now, a zone of seven and a half degrees breadth in the direction of
the greatest orbit is a little more than one seventeenth part of the surface
area of the sphere, that is, the physical space between the two planes that
excise the spheroidal space in the size of the aforementioned angle is
somewhat more than one seventeenth part of the physical content of the
whole sphere. According to this hypothesis, therefore, all the matter that
was required for the formation of the planets, constitutes approximately
one seventeenth part of that matter which the Sun has accumulated from
both sides for its composition from the distance of the outermost planet.

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This central body, however, has an advantage of the lump as against the
total content of all planets which is not in a ratio of 17:1, but of 650 to 1,
as determined by Newton’s calculations;44 but it is also easy to see that in
1:274 the higher spaces above Saturn, where planetary formations either cease
or are rare, where only a few cometic bodies have formed,45 and where
primarily the motions of the basic matter, in that they are not suited
to attaining that equality of the central powers governed by the laws of
nature, as in the areas close to the centre, precipitate only an almost uni-
versal descent to the centre point and supplement the Sun with all the
matter from such widely distributed spaces that, I say, for these reasons
the lump of the Sun would have to reach such a particularly large size of
However, to compare the planets in respect of their masses, we note
firstly that, in accordance with the method of formation shown above,
the quantity of matter in the composition of a planet depends on its
distance from the Sun: 1) because the Sun limits the sphere of attraction
of a planet by its own attraction, but it does not limit the more distant
ones as much as the closer ones under the same circumstances; 2) because
the orbits from which all the particles have accumulated to constitute a
more distant planet are described by a larger radius, that is, more basic
matter than is contained in the smaller orbits; 3) because for the reason
just given, the width between the two planes of the largest deviation is
greater at greater heights at the same number of degrees than in smaller
ones. By contrast, this advantage of the more distant planets compared
to the closer ones is limited by the fact that the particles closer to the
Sun will be of a more dense kind and, by all appearances, less spread out
than those at a great distance; it is, however, easy to appreciate that the
former advantages for the formation of large masses nonetheless greatly
surpass the latter limitations and that altogether, the planets that form
at a great distance from the Sun must receive greater masses than those
closer. This, then, takes place insofar as we imagine the formation of a
planet only in the presence of the Sun; but if we have several planets form
at varying distances, then one will limit the extent of the attraction of
the other by its sphere of attraction, and this creates an exception to the
above law. For that planet which is close to another of exceptional mass,
1:275 will lose a great deal of the sphere of its formation and thus become
much smaller than the ratio of its distance from the Sun alone would
require. Although, therefore, in general the planets are of greater mass
the further they are from the Sun, as altogether Saturn and Jupiter, the
two main elements of our system, are in fact the largest because they are
most distant from the Sun, there are nonetheless departures from this
analogy, in which however the characteristic of the general formation,
which we assert for all heavenly bodies, shines forth at all times: namely
that a planet of exceptional size will deprive those planets nearest to it on

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

both sides of the mass that would be due to them because of their distance
from the Sun, by absorbing part of the matter that should have belonged
to their formation. In fact, Mars, which should be larger than the Earth
given its position, has lost some of its mass through the attractive force
of Jupiter which is so large and close to it; and Saturn itself, even though
it has an advantage over Mars on account of its distance, has not been
entirely free from suffering a considerable loss from Jupiter’s attraction,
and it seems to me that Mercury owes the exceptional smallness of its
mass not only to the attraction of the mighty Sun so close to it, but also
to the proximity of Venus, which, if we were to compare its density with
its size, must be a planet of considerable mass.
Now since everything fits together in as excellent a manner as one
might wish to confirm the adequacy of a mechanical doctrine at the ori-
gin of the universe and the heavenly bodies, we will now, by estimating
the space in which the basic matter of the planets was spread before their
formation, consider to what degree of thinness this intermediate space
was then filled, and with what freedom, or with how few hindrances, the
floating particles were able to behave in it according to the laws of their
motion. If the space that encompassed all the matter of the planets was
contained in that part of the sphere of Saturn which, viewed from the
centre point of the Sun, was encompassed between two planes separated
from each other at all heights by seven degrees and was therefore one sev-
enteenth part of the whole sphere that one can describe with the radius
of the height of Saturn, then, to calculate the thinness of the planetary 1:276
basic matter when it filled this space, we will assume the height of Saturn
to be only 100,000 diameters of the Earth; therefore the whole sphere
of the orbit of Saturn will exceed the volume of the Earth’s sphere 1000
billion46 times,47 of which, if we assume only a twentieth instead of a
seventeenth part, the space in which the elementary basic material hov-
ered, must still exceed the volume of the Earth’s sphere 50 billion times.
Now if we assume with Newton that the mass of all the planets and their
satellites is 1/650 of that of the Sun, then the ratio of the Earth, which
is only 1/169282 of it, to the total mass of all planetary matter is 1 to
276 1/2, and if one were then to bring all this matter to the same specific
density of the Earth, a body would be created that would occupy a space
277 1/2 times that of the Earth. If, therefore, we assume the density
of the Earth in its entire lump to be not much greater than the
density of the firm matter we find under the topmost surface, as the
properties of the figure of the Earth require, and assume that these
upper materials are approximately 4 to 5 times denser than water and
water 1,000 times heavier than air,48 then the matter of all planets, if it
were spread out to the thinness of the air, would occupy a space almost
14 times a hundred thousand times greater than the Earth. This space,
compared with the space in which, according to our assumption, all the

Natural Science

matter of the planets was spread out, is thirty million times smaller:
therefore the dispersion of the matter of the planets in this space also
constitutes a thinning as many times greater than that which the par-
ticles of our atmosphere have. In fact, this magnitude of dispersion, as
incredible as it may seem, was neither unnecessary nor unnatural. It had
to be as great as possible to permit all freedom of motion to the hover-
ing particles almost as though they were in empty space, and to reduce
infinitely the resistance they can offer to each other, but they were also
able to take on such a state of thinning by themselves, which one may
not doubt if one knows a little of the expansion that matter suffers when
it is transformed into vapours, or if, to remain with the heavens, one
1:277 considers the thinning of matter in the tails of comets, which, despite so
enormous a thickness of their cross-section, which probably exceeds the
diameter of the Earth a hundred times, are nonetheless so transparent
that small stars can be seen through them,49 which our air does not per-
mit when it is illuminated by the Sun at a height that is many thousand
times smaller.
I shall conclude this chapter by adding an analogy which, all by itself,
is able to raise the present theory of the mechanical formation of the
heavenly bodies from the probability of a hypothesis to a certainty. If
the Sun is made up of the particles of the same basic material of which
the planets have constituted themselves, and if the only difference lies
in the fact that in the former the matter of all types has been gathered
without any differentiation, while in the latter they have been distributed
at various distances in accordance with the constitution of the density
of their varieties by their very own attractive forces,50 and so if the mat-
ter of all the planets together is considered in its entire distribution, a
density will have to emerge which is almost equivalent to the density of
the Sun’s body. Now this necessary consequence of our system finds a
fortunate confirmation in the comparison that Herr von Buffon,51 that
so deservedly famous philosopher, has proposed between the densities of
the entire planetary matter and of the suns; he found a similarity between
the two of them that was 640 to 650. If the necessary consequences that
result from a doctrine in a non-artificial way are confirmed by the actual
relations in nature, then can we believe that mere arbitrariness has caused
this agreement between theory and observation?

chapter three.
On the eccentricity of the planetary orbits and the
origin of comets.
It is not possible to create a special type of heavenly bodies out of the
comets that is entirely distinct from the family of planets. Nature acts

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

here, as elsewhere, through imperceptible gradations, and, by passing 1:278

through all stages of change, it connects the distant properties to the
closer ones by means of a chain of links. Eccentricity in the planets is a
consequence of the deficiency in that effort by which nature strives to
make the planetary motions like a circle, which, however, it can never
attain completely because various circumstances get in the way, but from
which it deviates more at greater distances than at smaller ones.
This determination leads, through all possible stages of eccentric-
ity, via a continuous ladder from the planets finally to the comets and
although this connection appears to be severed at Saturn by a great
chasm, which completely separates the cometic family from the planets,
we did note in the first part that there may well be other planets beyond
Saturn, which approach the orbits of the comets more closely by a greater
deviation from the circular nature of the orbits, and that it is only as a
result of a lack of observation, or of the difficulty of observation, that
this relationship is not just as visible to the eye as it has been shown to
be for the understanding.
In the first chapter of this part we already cited one cause that may
make eccentric the orbit of a heavenly body that is formed from the basic
material hovering about, even if one assumes that this possesses in all of
its places forces that correspond exactly to circular motion. For, since
the planet gathers them from heights that are very distant from each
other where the velocities of the orbits are different, they encounter
it with different degrees of inherent orbital motion that deviate from
the degree of velocity appropriate to the distance of the planet and in
this way give it an eccentricity to the extent that these varying impres-
sions of the particles are unable to replace completely one another’s
If the eccentricity had no other cause, then it would be moderate
everywhere: it would be less in planets that are smaller and more distant
from the Sun than in those that are closer and larger: that is, if one were to
assume that the particles of the basic material really did previously have
precisely circular motions. Now, as these conditions do not correspond 1:279
to observation in that, as already noted, the eccentricity increases with
the distance from the Sun, and the smallness of the masses appears rather
to constitute an exception to the increase, as we see in the case of Mars,
so we are forced to restrict the hypothesis of the precise circular motion
of the particles of the basic material in such a way that we admit that they
come very close to this precise determination in those regions close to
the Sun but deviate from it more the further these elementary particles
have floated away from the Sun. Moderating the principle of free circular
motion of the basic material in this way is more appropriate to nature.
For, irrespective of the thinness of space that seems to leave them the
freedom to limit each other to the point of a perfectly balanced equality

Natural Science

of central forces, the causes, nonetheless, are no less considerable to

prevent this purpose of nature from reaching its fulfilment. The further
the dispersed parts of the original material are distant from the Sun, the
weaker the force that causes it to descend: The resistance of the lower
parts, which are to bend their fall sidewards and force it to arrange its
direction horizontally to the orbital ray, is reduced to the extent that
these sink away from under it, either to become incorporated into the
Sun, or to begin orbits in closer regions. The specific eminent lightness
of this higher matter does not permit them to arrange the falling motion
that is the ground of everything with the pressure that is required to
cause the resisting particles to give way; and perhaps that these distant
particles limit one another and finally reach this uniformity after a long
period: thus, small masses have already formed as the beginnings of so
many heavenly bodies which, because they condense out of weakly moved
matter, have only an eccentric motion by which they sink towards the
Sun and in so doing are increasingly bent away from a vertical fall by
incorporating faster moving particles, but ultimately do remain comets
when those spaces in which they have formed have become purified
and empty by descending to the Sun or by condensing into separate
lumps. This is the cause of the eccentricity of the planets increasing with
1:280 their distance from the Sun and of those heavenly bodies that are called
comets because they greatly exceed the former in this property. It is
true that there are still two exceptions that violate the law of eccentricity
increasing with the distance from the Sun, and these may be observed
with the two smallest planets of our system, Mars and Mercury; but in
the case of the former, the cause is presumably the proximity of the great
Jupiter, which, because it deprives Mars of the particles for its formation
by its attraction towards its side, leaving it mainly only room to expand
in the direction of the Sun, thus attains an excess of central force and
eccentricity. As concerns Mercury, however, the lowest and also most
eccentric of the planets, it is easy to see that, since the Sun does not
come anywhere close to the speed of Mercury in its axial rotation, the
resistance it offers to matter in the space around it would not deprive
the nearest particles of their central motion but could easily extend this
resistance as far as Mercury and in this way reduce its orbital speed
Eccentricity is the principal distinguishing feature of comets. Their
atmospheres and tails, which expand when they approach the Sun due
to its heat, are only consequences of the former, even though in times
of ignorance they served as frightening images to announce imaginary
fates to the rabble. Those astronomers who devoted more attention to
the laws of motion than to the strangeness of their form, noticed a second
property that distinguishes the family of comets from that of the planets,
namely that they, unlike the others, are not bound to the zones of the

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

zodiac but arrange their orbits freely in all regions of the heavens. This
peculiarity has the same cause as the eccentricity. If the planets have
enclosed their orbits in the narrow regions of the zodiac because the
elementary matter near the Sun attains circular motions, which attempt
to cross the plane of reference at every orbit and will not allow the body
once formed to deviate from this plane, to which all matter strives from
both sides: therefore, the basic material of the spaces distant from the
centre point, which, moved weakly by attraction, cannot attain a free cir- 1:281
cular orbit, precisely for the same reason that creates eccentricity must
not be capable of consolidating itself at this level to the plane of refer-
ence of all planetary motion to maintain the bodies formed there in this
track; rather, the dispersed basic material, because it is not restricted to
a particular region as the lower planets are, will be formed into heav-
enly bodies just as easily on one side as on the other and far from the
plane of reference just as often as close to it. For this reason the comets
will come down to us from all regions with complete freedom; but those
whose place of first formation is not elevated much above the orbit of the
planets, will show less deviation from the boundaries of their orbits as
well as less eccentricity. This lawless freedom of the comets, in relation
to their deviations, increases with the distance from the centre point
of the system, and loses itself in the depths of the heavens in a total
absence of rotation, which leaves the bodies that are formed furthest
away to fall freely to the Sun and sets the last borders to the systematic
In this outline of the motions of comets, I presuppose that for the most
part, they will have they same direction as that of the planets. For the
nearest comets this seems to me to be beyond doubt, and this uniformity
cannot be lost in the depths of the heavens before the point where the
elementary basic material in the greatest dullnessb of motion brings about
a rotation in any direction caused by, say, the descent, because the time
required to unify them in regards to direction through the community
of the lower motions, is, on account of the great distance, too long for
it to extend that far while the formation of nature in the lower regions
is taking place. There may therefore perhaps be comets that complete
their orbits in the opposite direction, that is from east to west, even
though, for reasons I would be reluctant to elaborate upon here, I would
almost be persuaded that of the 19 comets where this peculiarity has
been observed, optical illusions may have been the cause.
I must still note something about the masses of comets and about the 1:282
density of their material. For reasons adduced in the previous chapter,
in the upper areas of the formation of these heavenly bodies, greater
masses ought by rights to form in relation to the distance. And it is also

b Mattigkeit

Natural Science

credible that some comets are larger than Saturn and Jupiter; but it is
just not credible that this size of the masses will continue to increase
in this way. The dispersion of the basic material, the specific lightness
of its particles slow the formation in the most distant region of space;
its indeterminate spreading in the whole immeasurable extent of this
distance without any determination to become more condensed in the
direction of a particular plane, brings about many smaller formations
instead of a single considerable one and the lack of any central force
attracts the greater part of the particles down to the Sun without having
condensed into masses.
The specific density of the material of which the comets are formed
is of greater interest than the size of their masses. Presumably, since
they form in the uppermost region of the universe,c the particles of their
constituents are of the lightest type; and we cannot doubt that this is the
principal cause of the vaporous spheres and the tails that characterize
them in relation to other heavenly bodies. We cannot regard the effects
of the heat of the Sun as the principal cause of this dispersion of the
cometic matter into a vapour; some comets scarcely reach down to
the Earth’s orbit in their proximity to the Sun; many remain between
the orbit of the Earth and that of Venus and then return. If so moderate
a degree of heat dissolves and thins the materials on the surface of these
bodies to such an extent, then they must consist of the lightest matter,
which suffers greater thinning through heat than any other material in
all of nature.
Nor can we attribute these vapours that rise so frequently from the
comets to the heat that its body has retained from some earlier proxim-
ity to the Sun: for while it can be presumed that a comet, at the time
of its formation, has covered numerous orbits with greater eccentric-
ity and that they have only gradually been decreased, the other planets,
of which we might suppose the same, do not exhibit this phenomenon.
1:283 They would, however, display it themselves if the kinds of the lightest
matter that are included in the constitution of the planet were present
as commonly as they are in the comets.
The Earth has something about it that may be compared to the dis-
persion of the cometic vapours and their tails.∗ The finest particles that
the Sun’s activity draws from its surface are concentrated around one of
its poles, when the Sun proceeds through half of its orbit towards the
opposite hemisphere. The smallest and most active particles that rise
up in the burning belt52 of the Earth, after they have reached a certain
height of the atmosphere, are forced by the activity of the Sun’s rays to

∗ These are the Northern Lights.

c Weltgebäude

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

retreat to and to condense in those areas which are then turned away
from the Sun and buried in a long night, and so compensate the inhab-
itants of the Arctic for the absence of the great light, which sends the
effects of its warmth even at this distance. Precisely the same force of
the Sun’s rays that creates the Northern Lights would also bring about
a vapour circle with a tail if the finest and most fleeting particles were to
be found as commonly on Earth as they are on the comets.

chapter four.
Concerning the origin of the moons and the motion of the
planets around their axes.
A planet’s endeavour to form itself out of the surroundings of the ele-
mentary matter is at the same time the cause of its revolving around
its axis and brings about the moons that are to orbit around it. What
the Sun is to its planets on a large scale is represented on a smaller one
by a planet that has a widely dispersed sphere of attraction, namely the
main part of a system, the parts of which have been set in motion by
the attraction of the central body. As the planet forms, by moving the
particles of the basic material out of the entire surroundings to form it, it
will create circular motions out of all these sinking motions by means of
their reciprocal effects and indeed finally create such motions that will 1:284
adopt a common direction and of these one part receives an appropriate
measured of the free orbit and in this limitation will find itself close to
a common plane. In this space, moons will form around it, just as the
main planets do around the Sun, if the distance of the attraction of such
heavenly bodies provides favourable circumstances for their creation.
What has been said in addition about the origin of the solar system can
be applied with sufficient similarity to the system of Jupiter and that of
Saturn. The moons will all have arranged the circles of their orbits in
one direction and almost in one plane and this, indeed, for the same
reasons as determine the analogy on the large scale. But why do these
satellites move in their common direction in the direction in which the
planets move rather than in any other? Their orbits are, after all, not
created by the circular motions: They merely recognize the attraction of
the main planet as the cause, and in consideration of this, all directions
are equivalent; some merely arbitrary thing will decide the direction out
of all those possible that the descending motion of the material will take
in orbits. In fact, the orbit of the main planet does nothing to impress
any revolutions into the material that is to form the moons around it; all
the particles around the planet move in the same motion with it around

d Mäßigung

Natural Science

the Sun and are thus at rest relative to it. The attraction of the planet
alone does everything. But the circular motion which is to arise from
it, because in and of itself it is equivalent in relation to all directions,
requires only a small external determination to move in one direction
rather than another; and it receives this small degree of direction from
the advancement of the elementary particles which also orbit around
the Sun but with greater velocity and come into the planet’s sphere of
attraction. For this forces the particles nearer the Sun, which orbit with
a greater tangential force,e to depart from the direction of their track and
to elevate themselves above the planet in an oblong deviation. Because
they have a greater degree of velocity than the planet itself, when these
1:285 are brought to descend by its attraction, they impart to their straight fall
and also to the fall of the others a deviation from west to east and this
slight steering is all that is required to cause the orbit that the fall, brought
about by the attraction, takes on, to adopt this direction rather than any
other. For this reason, all the moons will coincide with the direction
of the orbit of the main planet. However, the plane of its path cannot
depart much from the plane of the planetary orbit, because the matter
from which they are formed is steered, for the same reason that we have
advanced about directions altogether, to its most precise determination,
namely the coincidence with the plane of the main orbits.
From all this one can see clearly under what circumstances a planet
might acquire satellites. Its attractive force must be great and conse-
quently the extent of its sphere of activity must be extensive, so that
the particles, moved by a lengthy fall towards the planet, regardless of
what the resistance cancels out, can attain a sufficient velocity for a free
orbit and in addition there must be enough material present in the area
for the formation of the moons, which cannot occur if the attraction is
too small. Therefore only planets with a great mass and at a great dis-
tance are endowed with satellites. Jupiter and Saturn, the two largest and
most distant of the planets have the largest number of moons. The Earth,
which is much smaller than they, has only received one; and Mars, which
would deserve some share in this advantage on account of its distance
goes empty-handed because its mass is so small.
It gives one some pleasure to observe how the same attraction of the
planet that supplied the material for the formation of the moons and, at
the same time, determined their motion, also extends to its own body
and that this, through the same action by which it forms itself, gives
itself a rotation around its axis in the general direction of west to east.
The particles of the falling basic material, which, as mentioned above,
acquire a general motion from west to east, fall for the most part onto
the surface of the planet and are mixed with its lump, because they do

e Schwung

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

not have the degrees requisite to maintain themselves in free suspension

in orbital motions. Now when they combine with the planet, being parts 1:286
of it, they must continue the same rotation in the same direction that
they had before they were united with it. And because it can be seen
from the above in any case that the number of particles that the lack of
the requisite motion causes to crash onto the central body must greatly
exceed the number of those others which have been able to acquire the
requisite degree of velocity, it is easy to understand why this body will
not have nearly the velocity to achieve a balance between the gravity
on its surface and the centrifugal force, but nonetheless the velocity
will be much larger with planets of great mass and far away than with
small and close ones. In fact Jupiter has the fastest axial rotation that we
are aware of53 and I do not know according to what system one could
make it compatible with a body whose lump exceeds all others unless one
considers its motions as themselves the effect of that attraction which this
celestial body exercises in accordance with the measure of this very lump.
If the axial rotation were an effect of an external cause, then Mars would
have to have a faster one than Jupiter, because the very same motive
force moves a smaller body more than a larger one, and, in addition,
one would rightly be astonished at this, how, since all motions decrease
the further they are from the centre point, the velocities of the rotations
increase with the same distances and in the case of Jupiter are even three
and a half times greater than its annual motion itself could be.
Since one is therefore forced to recognize the same cause in the daily
rotation of the planets that is the universal source of motion in nature,
namely attraction, this manner of explanation will validate its legitimacy
by the natural prerogative of its basic concept and by the effortless con-
sequences thereof.
If, however, it is the formation of a body itself that causes rotation
around an axis, then it stands to reason that all spheres in the universef
must have it; but why does the Moon not have it, which appears to some,
albeit wrongly, to have that kind of rotation by which it always shows
the same side to the earth because of a kind of excess weight of one of its
hemispheres rather than from an actual motiong of revolution? Could it 1:287
be that it once rotated more rapidly around its axis and has since, for I
know not what reason, slowed down to this slight and definite remainder?
One has only to answer this question in relation to one of the planets
to see that the result applies to all. I shall save this solution for another
occasion54 because it is necessarily related to the topic set for the prize
by the Royal Academy of Sciences in Berlin for 1754.

f Weltbau g Schwung

Natural Science

Any theory seeking to explain the origin of rotations must also be

capable of deducing the position of their axes in relation to the plane
of their orbits from the same causes. We have reason to wonder why
the equator of daily rotation is not in the same plane as the surface of
the moons that orbit the same planet; because the same motion that has
determined the orbit of a satellite ought, by extending to the body of the
planet, also to bring about rotation around the axis and to give it the same
direction and position. Heavenly bodies that have no satellites orbiting
around them would nonetheless set themselves into an axial rotation
through the very same motion of particles that served as their material
and through the same law that restricted them to the plane of their
periodic orbit, which had to correspond to the direction of its plane of
orbit for the same reason. As a consequence of these causes, the axes of all
heavenly bodies would properly have to be vertical to the universal plane
of reference of the planetary system, which does not deviate far from the
ecliptic. They are, however, vertical only in the two most significant parts
of this solar system, namely in the case of Jupiter and of the Sun; the
others whose rotations are known to us, incline their axes towards the
plane of their orbits, Saturn more than the others, and the Earth more
than Mars, whose axis is almost vertical to the ecliptic. The equator of
Saturn (insofar as we can consider it given by the direction of its ring)
inclines at an angle of 31 degrees to the plane of its orbit, while that of
1:288 the Earth is only 23 1/2. One can perhaps also attribute the cause of these
deviations to the difference in the motions of the material that have come
together to form the planet. In the direction of the plane of its orbit the
principal motion of the particles was around its centre and the plane of
reference was there around which the elementary particles accumulated
in order to make the motion there as close to a circle as possible and to
accumulate material to form satellites, which never deviate far from the
orbit for this reason. If the planet had been formed for the most part
only of these particles, its axial rotation would have deviated from it at
its original formation only as little as the satellites which circle around
it; but it formed, as the theory has shown, more out of the particles that
descended on both sides and the number and velocity of which does not
appear to have been so completely balanced that one hemisphere may
not have received a slightly greater impulse of motion than the other
and therefore some deviation from its axis.
Despite these reasons, I am advancing this explanation only as a con-
jecture I do not trust myself to decide. My real opinion comes to this:
that the rotation of the planets around their axes in the original state
of their first formation coincided fairly exactly with the plane of their
annual orbit and that there were causes present to push this axis out
of its original position. A heavenly body changing from its first fluid
state into a solid state undergoes a great change in the regularity of its

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

surface when it forms completely in this way. The surface becomes firm
and hardened while the deeper matters have not yet sunk sufficiently in
accordance with their specific gravity;h the lighter types that were inter-
mingled with their lumps, after they have separated out from the others,
finally move underneath the topmost crust that has become firm and cre-
ate the great caves, the largest and most extensive of which, for reasons
that would take too long to adduce here, are to be found at or near the
equator, into which the aforementioned crust finally sinks and creates
all types of irregularities, mountains, and caves. Now, if the surface has
become uneven in this way, as evidently happened with the Earth, the
Moon, and Venus, then it can no longer achieve a rotational balancei in 1:289
its axial rotation on all sides. Some protruding parts of considerable mass,
which had nothing on the other side that could provide them a counter-
effect to their tangential force,j would then have had to shift the axis of
the rotation and strive to put it into a position such that all the matter
remains in balance. Therefore, the very same cause that changed the
surface of a heavenly body from a level state to broken-off irregularities
during its complete formation, this universal cause has necessitated some
change in the original position of the axis of all the heavenly bodies that
can be observed clearly enough with a telescope. This change, however,
has its limits so that it will not deviate too far. As already mentioned, the
irregularities are generated more near the equator of a rotating heav-
enly sphere than far from it; towards the poles, they disappear almost
entirely, the causes of which I propose to explain on another occasion.
For this reason the masses protruding furthest above the even surface
will be found near the equinoctial circle and as these strive to approach
the circle through the advantage of tangential force,k they will be able
to raise the axis of the heavenly body at most by only a few degrees from
a position vertical to the plane of its orbit. As a consequence, a heavenly
body that is not yet fully formed will still retain this right-angled posi-
tion of its axis to its orbit, which it will perhaps change only over the
course of many centuries. Jupiter appears to be in this state still. The
advantage of its mass and size, the lightness of its matter have forced it
to overcome the firm state of its matter several centuries later than other
heavenly bodies. Perhaps the interior of its lump is still in the motion
of lowering the parts of its constituents to the centre in accordance with
their mass and by separating the thinner types from the heavier ones to
overcome the state of firmness. In this state of affairs its surface cannot
yet appear calm. Devastation and ruins rule there. Even the telescope has
assured us of this. The appearance of this planet is constantly changing
while the Moon, Venus, and the Earth retain theirs unchanged. Also,

h Schwere j Schwung
i das Gleichgewicht des Umschwunges k Schwung

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1:290 one can probably rightly imagine the completion of the period of for-
mation as being several centuries later in the case of a heavenly body that
surpasses our Earth in size by more than twenty thousand times and is
only a quarter as dense. When its surface has attained a calm condition,
then without doubt far greater irregularities than those that cover the
Earth will, related to the speedl of its rotation,m give its rotation that
constant position which the balance of forces on it will demand in a not
very long time.
Saturn, three times smaller than Jupiter, may have obtained an advan-
tage of a more rapid formation ahead of Jupiter, perhaps because of its
greater distance; at least its much faster axial rotation and the large ratio
of its centrifugal forcen to the gravity on its surface (which is to be pre-
sented in the following chapter) will bring it about that the irregularities
presumably caused thereby on the surface will soon have been decisive
on the side of the superior force by a shift in the axis. I freely admit that
this part of my system, which is related to the position of the planetary
axes, is still incomplete and rather far from being subjected to geometric
calculations. I preferred to reveal this honestly rather than to detract
from the power the rest of the doctrine has to be convincing by having
recourse to all kinds of borrowed implausible reasons and thus giving
it a weak side. The following chapter can provide a confirmation of the
credibility of the whole hypothesis by which we have sought to explain
the motions of the universe.o

chapter five.
On the origin of Saturn’s ring and calculation of the daily
rotation of this planet from its ratios.55
Thanks to the systematic constitution in the universe,p its parts are con-
nected by a gradual alteration of their properties, and one may assume
1:291 that a planet in the furthermost region of the universe would have approx-
imately such determinations as the next comet might take on if it were
to be elevated to the family of planets through a reduction of its eccen-
tricity. Accordingly, we shall consider Saturn in such a way as though it
had travelled numerous orbits with greater eccentricity in the manner
of cometic motion and had gradually been brought onto a track more

l Schnelligkeit o Weltbau
m Schwung p Weltgebäude
n Centerfliehkraft

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

similar to a circle.∗ The heat it acquired when it was close to the Sun
raised from its surface the light material, which, as we know from the
previous chapters, is exceedingly thin on the highest heavenly bodies,
and lets it expand by slight degrees of heat. However, after the planet
had been brought to its current distance after numerous revolutions, in
such a temperate climate it gradually lost the heat it had acquired, and the
gases that continued to spread around it gradually ceased to rise as far as
into the tails. Nor did any new ones arise frequently enough to increase
the old ones; in short, the vapours that already surrounded it continued
to hover around it for reasons we shall give in a moment and retained for
it the characteristic of its former comet-like nature in a constant ring,
while its body emitted the heat and finally became a quiet and purified
planet. Now we shall reveal the secret that has enabled the heavenly body
to retain its risen vapours hovering freely, indeed to transform it from
an atmosphere spread out all around it into the shape of a ring at a dis-
tance all around. I am assuming that Saturn has had an axial rotation and
nothing more than this is needed to reveal the whole secret. No other
mechanismq than this single one has, by means of a direct mechanical
result, brought about the above-mentioned phenomenon for the planet
and I venture to assert that in all of nature, there are only a few things
that can be attributed to so comprehensible an origin as this peculiarity 1:292
of the heavens can be developed from the raw state of its first formation.
The vapours rising from Saturn had motion in themselves and con-
tinued it freely at the height to which they had risen and that they had
as parts at its axial rotation. Those particles that rose near the equator of
the planet must have had the fastest motion while the motion was weaker
further away towards the poles in proportion to the latitude of the place
from which they rose. The particles were assigned to the various heights
to which they rose according to the ratio of their specific gravity, but
only those particles were able to maintain the places of their distance in
a constantly free orbital motion whose distances, into which they had
been placed, required such a central force as they were able to achieve
with the velocity they had from the orbital motion; the remaining ones,
insofar as they cannot be brought to this precision by the interaction of
the others, must either depart from the sphere of the planet with the
excess motion, or else be forced to sink back onto the planet by a lack of
motion. The particles dispersed through the entire extent of the vapour

∗ Or, what may be more probable, that in its comet-like nature, which it still has about
it now thanks to its eccentricity, before its lightest surface matter had been completely
dispersed, it spread a cometic atmosphere.

q Triebwerk

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sphere will seek, by means of the very same central laws, in the motion
of its revolution, to transect the equatorial plane of the planet from both
sides and they will accumulate there when they detain one another, by
meeting one another in this plane from both hemispheres; and because
I assume that the aforementioned vapours are the ones that the planet
sends up last in its cooling, all the dispersed vaporous matter will accu-
mulate next to this plane in a narrow space and leave the spaces empty on
both sides. But in this new and changed direction, they will nonetheless
continue the same motion that maintains them hovering in free con-
centric orbits. In this way the vapour circle changes its shape, which
was a filled sphere, into the shape of an extended plane which coincides
exactly with Saturn’s equator; but for the same mechanical reasons, this
shape too must ultimately adopt the form of a ring, the outer edge of
which is determined by the effect of the Sun’s rays, which disperses and
removes those particles that have moved to a certain distance from the
1:293 centre point of the planet; this is the same effect as happens in the case
of comets and in this way it delineates the outer border of its circle of
vapour. The interior edge of this emerging ring is determined by the
ratio of the velocity of the planet at its equator. For, at the distance from
its centre where this velocity achieves a balance with the attraction of the
place is the greatest proximity in which the particles that have risen from
its body can describe circular orbits through the motion peculiar to the
axial rotation. The closer particles, because they require greater speed
for such an orbit, which they cannot have since the motion is no faster
even at the equator of the planet, will by this means acquire eccentric
orbits that cross each other, weaken each other’s motion, and finally all
crash onto the planet from which they had risen. Here we now see that
wondrously strange phenomenon, the sight of which has always filled
astronomers with admiration since it was first discovered and to discover
the cause of which no one has had even a probable hope, emerge in an
easy mechanical manner, free from all hypotheses. What has happened
to Saturn would, as can be seen from the above, happen just as regularly
to every comet that had sufficient axial rotation, if it were placed in a
constant height at which its body could gradually cool down. Even in
chaos, nature is productive of excellent developments when its forces
are left to themselves, and the ensuing formation brings with it such
glorious connections and harmonies for the common benefit of creation
that even in the eternal and immutable laws of its essential properties,
they reveal with unanimous certainty that great Being in which they,
as a result of their commonr dependence, combine in a total harmony.
Saturn has great advantages from its rings; it lengthens its day and lights
up the night under so many moons to such an extent that it would be

r gemeinschaftlichen

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

easy to forget the absence of the Sun there. But must one therefore deny
that the universal developments of matter in accordance with mechanical
laws has been able to bring about connections that have created benefits 1:294
for creatures with reason without requiring laws other than their univer-
sal determinations? All beings are related as a result of one cause, which
is the understanding of God; therefore they can have no consequences
other than those that include a representation of perfection in that very
same divine idea.
We shall now try to calculate the time of the axial rotation of this
heavenly body from the ratios of its ring in accordance with the above
hypothesis of its genesis. Because all motion of the particles of the ring
is a motion embodied by the axial rotation of Saturn on whose surface
they were placed, the most rapid motion of these particles coincides with
the fastest rotation that can be found on the surface of Saturn; that is,
the velocity with which the particles of the ring circle at the inside edge
is equal to what the planet has at its equator. However, this can easily be
found by seeking it in the velocity of one of Saturn’s satellites by taking
it in the ratio of the square root of the distances from the centre of the
planet. From the velocity calculated, the duration of Saturn’s rotation on
its axis follows directly; it is six hours twenty-three minutes and fifty-three
seconds.56 This mathematical calculation of an unknown motion of a
heavenly body, which is perhaps the only prediction of its kind in natural
science proper, still awaits confirmation by the observation of future
times. The telescopes known at present do not enlarge Saturn sufficiently
to enable us to discover the spots we can assume to be on its surface so
that we might see its rotation on its axis by their shifting. But telescopes
have perhaps not yet attained the perfection one might hope from them
and which the hard work and skill of the artisans seems to promise us.
If in future we were to give proof to our conjectures by observation,
what certainty would the theory of Saturn be given and what splendid
credibility would the whole system have that is based upon the same
reasons. The time of the daily rotation of Saturn also entails the ratio of
the centrifugal forcet of its equator to the gravity on its surface: this ratio 1:295
is 20:32. That is, gravity is only about 3/5th greater than the centrifugal
force.u So great a ratio necessarily causes a very considerable difference in
the diameters57 of this planet and one might be concerned that it would
have to emerge so large that observation of this planet, although magni-
fied only a little by the telescope, would nonetheless show this only too
clearly, which does not occur in reality, and that there could therefore be
a detrimental effect on the theory. A thorough examination removes this
difficulty completely. According to Huygens’ hypothesis, which assumes

s Entwickelung u Centerfliehkraft
t fliehende Kraft

Natural Science

that the gravity in the interior of a planet is the same throughout, the
difference of the diameters is in a ratio to the diameter of the equator
two times smaller than the centrifugal forcev has to the gravity at the
poles. For example, since in the case of Earth the centrifugal forcew of
the equator is 1/289th of the gravity at the poles, according to Huygens’
hypothesis58 the diameter of the equatorial plane must be 1/578th
greater than the Earth’s axis. The cause is this: since, according to the
assumption, the gravity in the interior of the Earth’s lump is as great at all
distances from the centre as on the surface, while the centrifugal forcex
decreases as it approaches the centre, it is not 1/289th of the gravity
everywhere but rather the whole decrease of gravity of the fluid column
in the equatorial plane for this reason amounts not to 1/289th but to
half of it, namely 1/578th. On the contrary, on Newton’s hypothesis,59
the centrifugal force,y which causes the axial rotation, has the same
ratio to the gravity of the place in the whole plane of the Equator to
the centre point; because, in the interior of the planet (if it is assumed
to be of uniform density throughout), this decreases with the distance
from the centre in the same proportion as the centrifugal force,z that
is, it is always 1/289th of the former. This causes a lightening of the
fluid column in the equatorial plane and also raises it by 1/289th,
which difference of the diameters is further increased, according to this
doctrine, by the shortening of the axis bringing about a convergence
of the parts to the centre, that is an increase in the gravity, while the
lengthening of the equatorial diameter results in a distancing of the
1:296 parts from the same centre and thus a decrease of its gravity and for this
reason increases the flattening of the Newtonian spheroid in such a way
that the difference of the diameters is raised from 1/289th to 1/250th.
For these reasons, the diameters of Saturn ought to stand in a greater
ratio to one another than 20 to 32; they ought to come close to a pro-
portion of 1 to 2, a difference that is so great that even the least attention
could not fail to notice it, small though Saturn might appear in tele-
scopes. However, from this it can be seen that the assumption of equal
density that seems to be fairly correctly applied to the Earth deviates
far too far from the truth for Saturn; which in itself is already proba-
ble for a planet the lump of which consists of the lightest materials for
the greatest part of its content and in its compositiona allows those of the
heavier kind much greater freedom in sinking to the centre in accordance
with their gravity than those heavenly bodies whose much denser matter
delays the deposition of the matter and allows them to solidify before
the sinking can take place. Thus, when we suppose that the density of

v Centerfliehkraft y Centerfliehkraft
w fliehende Kraft z Centerfliehkraft
x Centrifugalkraft a Zusammensatz

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

the materials in Saturn’s interior increases as it approaches the centre,

the gravity no longer decreases in this ratio; rather the increasing density
compensates for the absence of the parts that are positioned above the
height of the point in the planet and do not contribute anything to its
gravityb by their attractive force.∗ If this particular density of the deepest
matters is very great, then in accordance with the laws of attraction, it
changes the gravity that decreases as it nears the centre of the interior
into an almost uniform one and brings the ratio of the diameters close
to Huygens’ ratio, which is always half of the ratio between the cen- 1:297
trifugal forcec and the gravity; consequently as these were to each other
as 2:3, the difference of the diameters of this planet will be not 1/3rd
but 1/6th of the equatorial diameter; this difference, finally, is hidden
due to the fact that Saturn, whose axis forms an angle of 31 degrees
to the plane of its orbit at all times, never shows its position towards
its equator, the way Jupiter does, which reduces the appearance of the
aforementioned difference by almost one third. Under such conditions
and especially in view of the great distance of this planet, one can easily
understand that the flattened shape of its body is not as easily visible as
one might think; nonetheless, astronomy, whose progress depends pri-
marily on the perfection of its tools, will be put in a position to discover
so remarkable a property by their assistance, if I do not flatter myself
too much.
What I say about the figure of Saturn can to some extent serve as a
general remark concerning the doctrine of nature concerning the heav-
ens. Jupiter, which according to a precise calculation has a ratio of gravity
to centrifugal forced at its equator of at least 9 1/4:1, ought to present
an even greater difference than 1/9 between its axis and the equatorial
diameter if its lump were of uniform density throughout, according to
Newton’s theorems.60 Cassini,61 however, found it to be only 1/16th and
Pound62 1/12th or 1/14th; all these different observations, which con-
firm the difficulty of this measurement by their differences, at least agree
in positing it as much smaller than it ought to be according to Newton’s
system, or rather according to his hypothesis of uniform density. And if
therefore one were to change the precondition of the uniform density
that causes such a great deviation of the theory from observation into
the much more probable one in which the density of the planetary lump

∗ For according to Newton’s laws of attraction, a body in the interior of a sphere is

attracted only by that part of it which has been described spherically around it at the
distance it is from the centre point. The concentric parts outside this distance, because
of the balance of their attractions that cancel each other out, add nothing to move the
body either towards the centre or away from it.

b Gravität d Centrifugalkraft
c Centrifugalkraft

Natural Science

is supposed to increase towards its centre, one will not only justify the
observation in the case of Jupiter, but also, in the case of Saturn, a planet
much more difficult to measure, have a more distinct insight into the
cause of a lesser flattening of its spheroid body.
1:298 We have used the opportunity of the generation of Saturn’s ring to
take the bold step of determining by calculation the time of its axial
rotation, which telescopes are not able to discover. Let us add another
to this attempt at a physical prediction on this same planet which will
await the proof of its correctness from the more perfect tools of future
In accordance with our assumption that the ring of Saturn is an accu-
mulation of particles which, after they rose from the surface of this heav-
enly body as vapours, constantly maintain themselves freely in orbits at
the height of their distance by means of the tangential forcee they have
and continue from the axial rotation, so they do not have the same peri-
odic revolutions at all distances from the centre; rather, their ratio is
as the square roots of the cubes of their distance if they are to main-
tain themselves hovering by the laws of the central forces.63 Now, the
time in which the particles of the inner edge complete their orbit is,
according to this hypothesis, about 10 hours and the orbital time of the
particles in the outer edge is 15 hours, after due calculation; that is, when
the lowest parts of the ring have completed their orbits three times,
the most distant ones have done so only twice. However, though we
might estimate the interference the particles exert against one another
in their great dispersion in the plane of the ring to be as low as we
like, it is probable that the slowness of the more distant particles in
each of their orbits gradually delays and holds up the faster moving
lower parts, while these must impress a part of their motion on the
higher parts for a more rapid orbit, which, if this interaction were not
ultimately interrupted, would continue until the higher and lower par-
ticles of the ring had all been brought to the point of orbiting in the
same time, so that in that state they would be at rest in relation to each
other and by moving away they would have no effect on each other. But
if the motion of the ring were to turn out like this, such a state would
totally destroy the ring, because, if one takes the middle of the plane of
the ring and assumes that the motion of the ring there would remain in
1:299 the state it previously was and must be in order to be able to perform
a free orbit, the lower particles, since they had been held back consid-
erably, would not maintain their height suspended, but would rather
transect each other in oblique and eccentric motions, but the more dis-
tant ones, through the impression of a motion larger than it ought to be
for the central force of its distance, would have to turn further away from

e Schwung

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

Saturn than the effect of the Sun determines the outer border of the ring,
would, by the same effect, have to be scattered behind the planet and
carried away.
However, we need not fear all this disorder. The mechanism of the
motion that created the ring leads to a determination which puts the
ring into a secure state by means of precisely the same causes that should
destroy it, because it is divided into numerous concentric circular bands,
which, due to the spaces separating them, have nothing more in common
with each other. For when the particles circling the interior edge of the
ring carry the higher ones along with them somewhat through their
more rapid motion and accelerate their orbits, the increased degrees of
velocity bring about in these an excess of centrifugal forcef and a motion
away from the position in which they were suspended. If, however, one
presupposes that, when these endeavoured to separate themselves from
the lower ones, they have a certain connection to overcome that appears
to be not entirely insignificant in them even though they are scattered
vapours, then this increased level of tangential forceg will endeavour to
overcome the connection mentioned above, but will not overcome it as
long as the excess of centrifugal forceh that it uses in the same orbiting
time as the lowest ones does not exceed this cohesion beyond the central
forcei of its place.j And for this reason, the connection must remain in a
certain breadth of a band of this ring, even though the upper ones must
apply an endeavour to tear themselves away from the lower ones, since
its parts complete their rotation in the same time; but not in a greater
breadth, because while the velocity of these particles that are moved
in equal times increases with the distance, hence more than it ought
to according to the central laws, when it has exceeded the degree that
the connection of the vapour particles can manage, they tear themselves
away from these and must adopt a distance which is appropriate to the
excess of the rotational forcek over the central force of the place. In 1:300
this way the distance that separates the first band of the ring from the
others is established; and in the same way, the accelerated motion of
the upper particles resulting from the rapid revolution of the lower ones
and their connection that strives to prevent the separation, creates the
second concentric ring, from which the third stands apart by a moderate
interval. We could calculate the number of these circular bands and the
width of the intervals between them if we knew the degree of attraction
that connects the particles to each other; however, we can be content
with having surmised with a good degree of probability the composition

f Centrifugalkraft i Centralkraft
g des Schwunges j Anhängen
h Centerfliehkraft k Umwendungskraft

Natural Science

of Saturn’s ring, which prevents its destruction and maintains it hovering

by means of free motions.
This conjecture pleases me not a little because of the hope of see-
ing it confirmed by actual observation one day. A few years ago, news
came from London that, in observing Saturn through a new Newto-
nian telescope improved by Herr Bradley, it appeared that its ring was
actually a combination of many concentric rings separated by spaces.
1:301 This news has not been continued since then.∗ The tools of vision have
opened the furthest regions of the universel to our understanding. Now
if it depends primarily on them to take new steps here, then the atten-
tiveness of the century to everything that can extend the insights of
human beings will in all probability give us hope that it will primar-
ily turn to a side that presents it with the greatest hope of important
But if Saturn has been so fortunate as to acquire a ring for itself, why
then has no other planet been able to participate in this advantage? The
cause is clear. Because a ring is supposed to emerge from the evaporation
of a planet given off in its raw state, and the axial rotation must give them
the tangential forcem that they have merely to continue once they have
attained the height at which they can produce an exact balance with this
established motion countering the gravitation towards the planet, we
can easily calculate the height to which these vapours must rise above a
planet for them to maintain free orbital motion by means of the motions
they had at the planet’s equator, if we know the diameter of the planet,
the duration of its revolution, and the gravity on its surface. According
to the law of central motion, the distance of a body that can freely circle
a planet with a velocity equal to that of its axial rotation will be in the

∗ After I wrote this, I discovered a confirmation of this conjecture, which leaves virtually
no doubt as to its correctness, in the Mémoires of the Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris
for the year 1705 in a treatise by Herr Cassini On the satellites and the ring of Saturn
on page 571 of Part two of the von Steinwehr translation. 64 After Herr Cassini has
advanced an idea that could to some extent have been a small approach to the truth we
have brought out, even though it is improbable in itself, namely that perhaps this ring
could be a swarm of small satellites which, seen from Saturn, would look as the Milky
Way does from the Earth (which thought could be considered if one takes the vapour
particles that circle around it with the same motion to be the small satellites). He then
goes on to say: This thought is confirmed by the observations made in those years
when the ring of Saturn appeared broader and more open. For the breadth of the
ring was seen as being divided into two parts by a dark elliptical line, with the
part nearest to the sphere brighter than the most distant one. This line marked
as it were a small space between the two parts, just as the distance of the sphere
from the rings is indicated by the greatest darkness between them both.

l Weltgebäudes m Schwung

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

same ratio to half the diameter of the planet as the centrifugal forcen at
its equator is to its gravity. For these reasons, the distance of the inner
edge of Saturn’s ring was as 8, if the half diameter is assumed to be
5, which two numbers are in the same ratio as 32:20 and which, as we
have noted above, express the proportion between the gravity and the
centrifugal forceo at the equator. For the same reasons, if one were to
suppose that Jupiter had a ring produced in the same way, its smallest
semi-diameter would exceed half the width of Jupiter 10 times, which
would place it exactly where its most distant satellite revolves around it 1:302
and hence, for these reasons as well as because the evaporation of a planet
cannot extend so far from it, it is impossible. If one wished to know why
the Earth has not acquired a ring, one would find the answer in the size
of the semi-diameter its inner edge would have to have, which would
have to be 289 semi-diameters of the Earth in size. In the case of the
slower moving planets, the production of a ring is even further removed
from possibility; therefore, no case remains where a planet could have
acquired a ring in the manner we have explained, other than that of
the planet that really does have one, which is no small increase in the
credibility of our mode of explanation.
However, what makes me almost sure that the ring around Saturn
did not come about in the usual manner and was not produced by the
universal laws of formationp that applied throughout the whole planetary
system and provided Saturn with its satellites as well, that, I say this
external matter did not supply its materials for this purpose but is rather
a creature of the planet itself, which has raised its most volatile parts
by means of heat and given them the tangential forceq for orbitingr
through its own axial rotation, is this: that the ring, unlike the planet’s
other satellites and all rotating bodies located in the company of the
main planets in general is not directed in the general plane of reference
of planetary motions, but deviates from it very much, which is a sure
proof that it is not formed out of the universal basic material and did
not receive its motion from its sinking, but rather rose from the planet
long after its formation was complete and received motion and direction
as a separate part of it based on the planet’s axial rotation through its
established rotational force.s
The pleasure at having understood one of the rarest peculiarities of
the heavens in the entirety of its being and generation has involved us
in so extensive a discussion. Let us, with the approval of our obliging
readers, carry it further to the point of excess as much as we like so that,
after we have abandoned ourselves in a pleasant way to arbitrary opinions

n fliehende Kraft q Schwung

o Centerfliehkraft r Umwendung
p Bildungsgesetze s Umschwungskräfte

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1:303 with a kind of lack of restraint, we can return again to the truth with all
the greater care and caution.
Could we not imagine that the Earth once had a ring like Saturn? It
could have risen from its surface just as Saturn’s did and have remained
for a long time while the Earth was slowed down by who knows what
cause from a much faster rotation to its present rate, or that we can
consider that universal basic material falling sideways was capable of
having formed it in accordance with the rules explained above, which
we do not have to take completely seriously if we want to indulge our
penchant for oddities. But what a stock of lovely explanations and con-
sequences such an idea presents us with! A ring around the Earth! What
a beautiful sight for those created to inhabit the Earth as a paradise;
what comfort for those on which nature smiles from all sides! But this is
nothing compared with the confirmation such a hypothesis can borrow
from the chronicle of the story of creation and which is no small recom-
mendation for applause for those who believe they are not desecrating
but rather confirming the honour of revealed religion when they make
use of it to give the excesses of their wits some prestige. The water of
the firmament mentioned in Moses’ description has already caused the
interpreters some effort. Could one not use this ring to help to get one-
self out of this difficulty? Without a doubt this ring consisted of watery
vapours, and in addition to the advantage it was able to provide the first
inhabitants of the Earth, there is the additional one of having it break
when required so that floods could punish the world which had made
itself unworthy of such beauty. Either a comet, whose attraction brought
confusion into the regular motions of its parts, or the cooling of the area
of its location unified its dispersed vaporous particles and hurled it down
onto the earth in one of the most gruesome cloudbursts. It is easy to
know what the consequences of this were. The whole world disappeared
under the water and in the strange and volatile vapours of this unnatural
1:304 rain also absorbed that slow poison which brought all creatures closer
to death and destruction. Now the figure of a pale and light arc had
disappeared from the horizon and the new world, which could never
remember this sight without feeling terror in the face of this terrible
tool of divine revenge, perhaps saw, with not a little consternation, in
the first rain that coloured arc that appeared to copy the first in shape but,
through the assurance of the reconciled heavens, was to be a sign of grace
and a memorial of a continuing preservation of the Earth, changed as it
now was. The similarity of the shape of this memorial sign with the event
it signified could commend such a hypothesis to those who are devoted
to the dominant tendency of bringing the miracles of revelation into the
same system as the ordinary laws of nature. I consider it more advisable
completely to forgo the fleeting applause such correspondences might
arouse for the true pleasure that arises from the perception of regular

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

connections when physical analogies support each other to designate

physical truths.

chapter six.
On the light of the Zodiac.
The Sun is surrounded by a subtle and vaporous essencet which sur-
rounds it in the plane of its equator with a very small width on both sides
up to a great height and where we cannot be certain whether it abuts
the surface of the Sun in the shape of an elevated polished glass (figura
lenticulari) as Herr von Mairan65 depicts it, or whether, like the ring of
Saturn, it is separated from it all around. Regardless of whether it is the
one or the other, there is sufficient similarity to permit a comparison of
this phenomenon with the rings of Saturn and to derive it from a com-
mon origin. If this dispersed matter is an outflow from the Sun, as is the
most probable way of viewing it, then we cannot fail to see the cause that
has brought it into a common plane with the Sun’s equator. The lightest 1:305
and most volatile material that the Sun’s fire lifts from its surface and
has done for a long time, is driven away far above it through its activityu
and, in accordance with its lightness, remains hovering at a distance at
which the repelling activityv of the rays achieves a balance with the grav-
ity of these vaporous particles, or they are supported by the influx of
new particles which are added to them continuously. Now, because the
Sun, in turning on its axis, imparts its motion evenly to these vapours
torn from its surface, they retain a certain tangential forcew for rotation,
such that, in accordance with the laws of central forces, they endeavour
from both sides to transect the extended equatorial plane of the Sun in
the circle of their motion; and therefore, since they push towards it from
both hemispheres with the same quantity, they accumulate there with
equal forces and form an extended level in the plane of reference of the
Sun’s equator.
Regardless of this similarity with the ring of Saturn, however, there
remains an essential difference that makes the phenomenon of the zodi-
acal light very different from the former. The particles of the former
maintain their free floating orbits by means of the rotational motion
impressed on them, but the particles of the latter are maintained at their
height by the force of the Sun’s rays, without which the motion imparted
to them by solar rotation would be insufficient by far to prevent them,
in their free rotation, from falling. Because, as the centrifugal forcex of

t Wesen w Schwung
u Wirkung x fliehende Kraft
v forttreibende Wirkung

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the axial rotation on the surface of the Sun is not even 1/40,000 of the
attraction, these risen vapours would have to be at a distance of 40,000
solar semi-diameters from it before it encountered a gravitation that
could achieve a balance with that of the motion imparted to it. We are
therefore sure that we cannot attribute this phenomenon to the Sun in
the same way as was the case with the ring of Saturn.
Nonetheless, there remains a not inconsiderable probability that this
necklace of the Sun perhaps has the same origin that all of nature has,
namely its formation from the universal basic material, whose parts, since
they had hovered around in the highest regions of the solar system, sank
down to the Sun in a late fall only after the formation of the whole
1:306 system had been completely finished, in a weakened motion that still,
however, curved from west to east, and, by means of this type of circular
motion, transected the extended solar equatorial plane and, by staying
there through their accumulation from both sides, adopted an extended
plane in that position, in which they now maintain themselves continu-
ally, by being driven back partly by the Sun’s rays, partly by the circular
motion they have actually attained. The present explanation has no merit
other than that which is due to conjectures and no claim other than for
arbitrary approval; the judgement of the reader may turn to whichever
side seems the most acceptable.

chapter seven.
On Creation in the entire extent of its infinity both
in space and in time.
By its immeasurable magnitude and by the infinite diversity and beauty
that shines forth from it on all sides, the universey puts us into silent
astonishment. While the representation of all this perfection moves the
imagination, another sort of delight captures our understanding when
it contemplates how so much splendour, so much grandeur flows from
a single universal rule with an eternal and rightz order. The planetary
system,a in which the Sun, from the centre point of all orbits, makes the
inhabited spheres of its system circle around in eternal orbits by means
of its mighty attraction, is, as we have seen, entirely formed from the
originally dispersed basic material of all worldly matter.b All the fixed
stars that the eye discovers in the hollow depth of the heavens and that
appear to demonstrate a kind of extravagance, are suns and centre points
of similar systems. The analogy thus does not permit any doubt here
that these were formed and generated in the same manner as the one in

y Weltgebäude a planetische Weltbau

z richtigen b aller Weltmaterie

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

which we find ourselves, out of the smallest parts of elementary matter

that filled empty space, that infinite extentc of divine presence.
Now if all the worlds and world-orders recognized the same type of 1:307
origin, if the attraction is unlimited and universal, while the repulsion of
the elements is similarly constantly active, if the large and the small are
both small for the infinite being: Should not all the planetary systemse
have adopted an interrelated constitution and a systematic relation to one
another, in the same way as the heavenly bodies of our solar system have
on a small scale, like Saturn, Jupiter, and the Earth, which are separate
systems by themselves and yet are related to each other as parts in a yet
much greater system? If one were to assume a point in the immeasurable
space in which all the suns of the Milky Way have formed, around which
for I know not what cause the first formation of nature began out of chaos,
then the greatest mass and a body of the most uncommon attraction will
have arisen there, which in this way became capable of forcing all the
systems that were in the process of formation within a vast sphere to
descend towards it as their centre point and to establish around itself a
system that is identical on the scale of the whole as the same elementary
basic matter that formed the planets has made around the Sun on a small
scale. Observation makes this conjecture almost indubitable. Through
its position relative to a common plane, the army of stars constitutes a
system just as much as the planets of our solar system do around the Sun.
The Milky Way is the zodiac of these higher world-orders, which deviate
as little as possible from its zone, and whose band is always illuminated
by its light, just as the zodiac of the planets shimmers from the light of
these spheres now and then, albeit only at very few points. Each one of
these suns with its circulating planets constitutes a separate system for
itself; but this does not prevent them from being parts of a still greater
system, just as Jupiter or Saturn, their own satellites notwithstanding, is
contained within the systematic constitution of an even larger system.f
Can we not recognize the same cause and manner of generation in so
precise an agreement in their constitution?
Now if the fixed stars constitute a system the extent of which is deter-
mined by the attractive sphere of the body in the centre, will not more
solar systems and, so to speak, more milky ways have arisen in the lim- 1:308
itless field of space?g We have seen with astonishment shapes in the
heavens that are nothing other than systems of such fixed stars limited to
a common plane, such milky ways, if I may express myself in this way, that
exhibit elliptical shapes in different positions in relation to the eye with
a weakened shimmering as is appropriate to their infinite distance; they

c Umfang f Weltbaues
d erkennen g Weltraumes
e Weltgebäude

Natural Science

are systems of, so to speak, infinity times infinity greater diameter than
that of our solar system,h but that, without doubt, are generated in the
same way, ordered and arranged by the same causes, and that maintain
themselves by the same mechanismi as this one in its constitution.
If we consider these star systems in turn as links in the great chain of
all nature, then we have just as much cause as before to think of them as
being in a reciprocal relationship and in connections which, by the power
of the law of first formation that governs all nature, constitutes a new,
even larger system that is ruled by the attraction of a body of incompara-
bly more powerful attraction than the ones mentioned previously from
the centre point of their regular positions. The attraction that is the
cause of the systematic constitution among the fixed stars of the Milky
Way is effective even at the distance of precisely these world-orders to
bring them out of their positions and to bury the world in an inevitably
imminent chaos if there were not regularly distributed tangential forcesj
providing a counterbalance to the attraction and both together produce
that relationship that is the basis for the systematic constitution. Attrac-
tion is without doubt a quality of matter that is just as pervasive as the
coexistence that makes space in that it combines substances by recip-
rocal dependences, or, to put it more accurately, attraction is precisely
that universal relationship that unites the parts of nature in one space:
it therefore extends to the entire expanse of space into all the reaches
of its infinity. If the light from these distant systems reaches us, light,
which is merely an impressed motion, then must not rather attraction,
this original source of motion, which is earlier than all motion and which
1:309 requires no external causes and cannot be held up by any impediment,
because it acts on what is innermost in matter without any impact even
in a universal stasis of nature, must not, I say, attraction have set these
systems of fixed stars in motion, despite their immeasurable distances,
at the formless dispersion of its material at the beginning movementk
of nature, which, just as we have seen on a small scale, is the source of
the systematic connection and of the lasting constancy of its parts that
secures them from destruction?
But what then will ultimately be the endl of the systematic arrange-
ments? Where will creation itself stop? It is easy to see that, in order
to think of it in relationship to the might of the infinite being, it must
have no limits at all. We do not come any closer to the infinitude of
God’s creative power if we enclose the space of its revelation within a
sphere described by the radius of the Milky Way than if we were to limit
it to a ball of one inch diameter. Everything that is finite, that has its

h Sonnenbaues k Regung
i Triebwerk l das Ende
j Schwungskräfte

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

limits and a determinate relationship to a unit, is equally distant from

the infinite. Now it would be nonsense to posit the deity as activem in
an infinitely small part of its creative capacity and to consider its infinite
force, the store of a true immeasurability of natures and worlds, as being
idle and locked in an eternal state of not being exercised.n Is it not instead
more appropriateo or, expressed better, is it not necessary to describe the
sump of creation as it must be, in order to be a testimonial of that power
that cannot be measured by any measuring stick? For this reason the
field of the revelation of divine qualities is just as infinite as these are
themselves.∗ Eternity is insufficient to grasp the manifestations of the 1:310
highest being unless it is related to the infinity of space. It is true that
the formation, the shape, the beauty and perfection are relationships of
the building blocksq and of the substances that constitute the material
of the universe;r and we observe it in the measures that the wisdom of
God is still taking all the time; and it is most appropriate to it that they
evolves by an unforced succession from these universal laws implanted
in them. Therefore we can posit with good reason that the ordering and
arrangement of the universest occurs from the store of the created mate-
rial of nature gradually in a temporal sequence; only the basic matter
itself, the properties and forces of which underlie all changes, is a direct
consequence of the divine existence: this must therefore be at once so
rich, so perfect that the development of its compositions could, in the
passage of eternity, spread over a plane that contains in itself everything
that can exist, that adopts no measure,u in short, that is infinite.

∗ The concept of an infinite extension of the world has enemies among the advocates
of metaphysics and has found one in Herr M. Weitenkampf 66 only recently. If these
gentlemen cannot bring themselves to accept this idea because of the alleged impossi-
bility of a quantity without number or limits, then for the time being I would just ask
whether the future succession of eternity will not encompass in itself a true infinity of
manifolds and changes, and whether this infinite order is not already fully present all
at once in the divine understanding. Now, if it were possible that God can make actual
the concept of infinity that is in his mind all at once, in a sequence in which one follows 1:310
upon the other, why should God not be able to exhibit the concept of another infinity in
a spatially combined connection and in this way make the extent of the world without
limits? While people will try to answer this question, I will take the opportunity that
presents itself to eliminate the supposed difficulty by means of an explanation from the
nature of numbers, insofar as one can, with due consideration, still view it as a question
requiring discussion: whether the relation between what a force accompanied by the
highest wisdom has brought about in order to reveal itself and what it could have
brought about is that of a differential coefficient.

m in Wirksamkeit zu setzen r Weltbau

n Ausübung s herauswickeln
o Anständig t der Weltgebäude
p Inbegriff u Maß [e.g., no unit of measurement]
q Grundstücke

Natural Science

Now, if creation is therefore infinite as regards spaces, or really has

been since the beginning at least with respect to matter, but is prepared
to become so according to the form or development,v the space of the
universew will be enlivened with worlds without number and without
end. Will then that systematic relationship that we considered earlier in
all parts separately now extend to the whole and encompass the entire
universe,x everything in nature, in a single system through the combi-
nation of attraction and centrifugal forcey ? I say yes; if there were only
1:311 separate galaxiesz that, between them, have no unified connection to
a whole, then, if one were to assume this chain of links to be actually
infinite, one could well think that an exactly equal attraction of its parts
from all sides could keep these systems safe from the destruction with
which the inner reciprocal attraction threatens them. This, however,
would require such a precisely measured determination in the distances
balanced according to the attraction, that even the slightest disarrange-
ment would bring about the destruction of the universea and deliver it
unto collapse in long periods that would ultimately still have to come to
an end. A world constitutionb that could not sustain itself without a mir-
acle does not have the character of permanence that is a feature of God’s
choice; thus it is far more appropriate if we were to make one system
out of the whole of creation, one that relates all worlds and world-orders
that fill the entirety of infinite space to a single centre point. A dispersed
plethorac of galaxies,d even though they may be separated by ever such
great distances from one another, would rush with an unimpeded ten-
dency to ruin and destruction if a certain arrangement relating towards
a universal centre point, the centre of attraction of the universee and the
supporting point of all nature, had not been made through systematic
We can assume as probable that it was around this universal centre
point of the sinking of all nature, both formed and raw, at which the
lump with the most exceptional attraction is doubtless to be found, which
embraces in its sphere of attraction all the worlds and orders that time has
produced and that eternity will produce, that nature made the beginning
of its formation, and that the systems will be most densely concentrated
there but that further away in the infinitude of space, they will become
lost with ever greater degrees of dispersion. We could deduce this rule
from the analogy with our solar system,f and this constitution can in any

v Ausbildung b Weltverfassung
w Weltraum c Gewimmel
x Universum d Weltgebäuden
y fliehende Kraft e Universi
z Weltgebäude f Sonnenbaues
a Universo

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

case serve to show that at great distances, not only the universal central
body but also all the systems orbiting next to it unite their attraction
together and exert it from one lump, as it were, towards the systems at
an even greater distance. This will then be one of the things that will be 1:312
helpful in understanding the whole of nature in the whole infinitude of
its extent within a single system.
Now, in order to trace the establishment of this universal system of
nature from the mechanical laws of matter endeavouring towards for-
mation, at some place in the infinite space of the spread out elementary
basic material, this basic material must have had its densest concentra-
tion, in order to have provided, through the initial formation occurring
there, a mass for the entire universeg that would serve it as a supporting
point. It is certainly true that in an infinite space, no point can properly
have the prerogative of being called the centre point; but by means of
a certain relationship that is based on the essential degrees of the den-
sity of the original material, according to which, at its creation, this is
initially more densely concentrated at a particular place and increases in
its dispersion with distance from that place, such a point can have the
prerogative of being called the centre point and it actually does become
such through the formation of the central mass of the strongest attrac-
tion therein, to which all the remaining elementary matter that is in the
process of coalescing into particular formations descends and thereby,
however far the evolutionh of nature might extend, makes just a sin-
gle system out of the whole of the universei in the infinite sphere of
But this is something important, which, insofar as it gains approval, is
worthy of the greatest attention, that according to the order of nature
in our system, creation, or rather the formation of nature, first begins
at this centre point and in a constant advance is gradually dispersed
into all distant expanses to fill infinite space with worlds and orders
in the progress of eternity. Let us pursue this concept for a moment
with quiet pleasure. I find nothing that can raise the human spirit to
nobler astonishment, by giving us a perspectivej on the unending field
of the almighty, than this part of the theory that concerns the successive
completion of creation. If people concede to me that matter, which is the
material for the formation of all worlds, was not uniformly spread out in
the whole infinite space of the divine presence, but according to a certain
law that perhaps related to the density of the particles and according to 1:313
which the dispersion of the original material increased with the distance
from a certain point that was the place of the densest concentration: then,

g Universo i aus dem ganzen All

h Auswickelung j Aussicht

Natural Science

in the original movementk of nature, the formation will have begun

nearest this centre and then in a progressive time sequence the more
distant space will gradually have formed worlds and world-orders with
a systematic constitution related to that centre. Every finite period, the
length of which stands in a relationship to the size of the work to be
fulfilled, will only ever bring one finite sphere of this centre point to
formation; the remaining infinite part meanwhile will still be in conflict
with confusion and chaos and will be as much further from the state of
perfected formation the greater its distance from the sphere of already
formed nature. As a consequence of this, even though from the place
of our abode in the universel we have a perspectivem on an apparently
completely perfected world and, so to speak, into an infinite host of world
orders that are systematically connected, we actually find ourselves only
in a proximity to the centre point of all nature, where it has already
evolved from chaos and attained the perfection appropriate to it. If we
were able to transcend a certain sphere, we would see there the chaos and
dispersion of the elements, that in proportion to how close they are to this
centre point have partly left the raw state and are nearer to completing
their formation but are gradually lost in complete dispersal with the
degrees of distance. We would see how the infinite space of the divine
presence, where the storen of all possible formations of nature can be
found, lies buried in a silent night full of matter to serve as the material for
worlds to be generated in the future, and of the driving forceo to set them
in motion, that, with a slight movement,p will begin those motions with
which the infinitude of those empty spaces is to be brought to life in the
future. Perhaps a number of millions of years has passed before the sphere
of formed nature in which we find ourselves has grown to the perfection
that now attends it; and perhaps an equally long period will elapse before
1:314 nature takes an equally large step in the chaos: but the sphere of formed
nature is incessantly occupied in spreading itself. Creation is not the work
of one moment. After it has made a beginning with the production of
an infinity of substances and matter, it is effective throughout the entire
sequence of eternity with ever increasing degrees of fruitfulness. Millions
and whole mountain ranges of millions of centuries will pass within which
ever new worlds and world-orders will form and attain completion one
after another in the remote distances from the centre point of nature;
regardless of the systematic constitution among its parts, they will attain
a universal relationship to the centre point that has become the first
point of formation and the centre of creation by the attractive capacity

k Regung n Vorrath
l Universo o Triebfeder
m Aussicht p Regung

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

of its pre-eminentq mass. The infinity of future temporal succession with

respect to which eternity is inexhaustible, will fill all the spaces of the
presence of God completely and gradually put them into the regularity
that is appropriate to the excellence of his design; and if, with a bold
idea, one were able to summarize all eternity, so to speak, into one
concept, then one would also be able to see the whole of infinite space
filled with world-orders and creation completed. But because in fact
the part of the time of eternity that still remains is always infinite and
the elapsed part is finite, the sphere of formed nature is always only an
infinitely small part of that essence which has within it the seed of future
worlds and strives to evolver out of the raw state of chaos over longer or
shorter periods. Creation is never complete. It is true that it began once,
but it will never stop. It is always occupied with bringing forth more
phenomenas of nature, new things and new worlds. The work it brings
about is proportionate to the time it spends on it. It requires nothing
less than eternity to fill the whole limitless expanse of the infinite spaces
with worlds without number and without end. We can say of it what the
most sublime among the German poets writes of eternity:

Infinity! Who misses you? 1:315

Before you, worlds are days and people moments;
Perhaps the thousandth sun is turning now,
And a thousand are behind it still.
Like a clock, enlivened by a weight,
A sun hurries, moved by God’s power:
Its force expires, and another sounds,
But you remain and count them not.
v. Haller.67

It is a not inconsiderable pleasure to allow one’s imagination to roam

freely beyond the limits of perfected creation into the realm of chaos
and to see half raw nature in the proximity of the sphere of the formed
world lose itself bit by bit through all stages and shadings of incomple-
tion in the whole of unformed space. But is it not reprehensible boldness,
people will say, to set up a hypothesis and to praise it as an objectt of
delight for our understanding when it is perhaps only much too arbitrary
if it is maintained that nature is formed only in an infinitely small part
and infinite spaces are still in conflict with chaos so as to present whole
hosts of worlds and world-orders in all proper order and beauty in the
sequence of future times? I am not so devoted to the consequences my
theory offers that I would not recognize how the conjecture about the

q vorzüglich s Auftritte
r auszuwickeln t Vorwurf

Natural Science

successive expansion of creation through the infinite spaces that con-

tain the material for this in themselves could not completely reject the
objection of unprovability. I do, however, expect from those who are in a
position to appreciate degrees of probability that such a map of infinity,
even though it encompasses a proposal that appears to be determined
to remain forever obscured from human understanding, will not
immediately be regarded as a fantasy for this reason, especially if one
appeals to analogy, which must always guide us in such cases where
understanding lacks the thread of infallible proofs.
But analogy can also be supported by acceptable reasons and the
insight of the reader, in so far as I can flatter myself with such approval,
will perhaps be able to add to them with even more important ones.
1:316 For if one considers that constancy is not a characteristic of creation
if it does not oppose the universal endeavour of the attraction that is
effective throughout all its parts, to an equally pervasive determination
that can sufficiently resist the tendency of the former towards destruc-
tion and lack of order, if it did not distribute tangential forcesu which, in
combination with the central inclination, establish a universal system-
atic constitution; then one is obliged to assume a universal central point
of the whole universe that holds all of its parts together in a connected
relationship and makes just one system out of the sum totalv of nature. If
one adds to this the concept of the formation of the celestial bodies out
of the dispersed elementary matter, as we have outlined above, but does
not restrict it here to a particular system, but rather extends it over the
whole of nature, then one is obliged to consider a dispersion of the basic
material in the space of original chaos such that it naturally includes
one centre point of the whole of creation so that the active mass that
encompasses the whole of nature in its sphere can be brought together
in it and a thoroughgoing relation can be produced, whereby all worlds
constitute only a single structure.w But, in infinite space, it is hardly pos-
sible to think of any kind of dispersion of the original basic material that
could posit a true centre and sinking point of all nature other than that
it is arranged in accordance with a law of increasing dispersion from this
point onwards into all the furthest distances. This law, however, also
posits a difference in the time that a system requires in the various areas
of infinite space to attain the maturity of its formation, so that this period
is shorter the closer the formation place of a world structurex is situated
to the centre of creation, because there, the elements of the material are
more densely concentrated, and it requires a longer time, by contrast,
the greater the distance is, because the particles there are more widely
dispersed and come to formation later.

u Schwungskräfte w Gebäude
v aus dem ganzen Inbegriff x Weltgebäde

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

If one considers the entire hypothesis I am outlining in the whole

extent of both what I have said and what I will still actually present, then
one will at least not regard the boldness of its demands as incapable of
accepting an apology. The inevitable tendency of every perfected world 1:317
structurey gradually towards its destruction can be reckoned among the
grounds that can establish that the universez will, by contrast, be pro-
ductive of worlds in other regions in order to replace the deficiency it
has suffered in one place. The whole piece of nature that we know, even
if it be merely an atom in view of what remains concealed above or below
our field of vision, still confirms this fruitfulness of nature that is without
limits because it is nothing other than the exercise of divine omnipotence
itself. Countless animals and plants are destroyed daily and are victims
of transience, but through an unexhausted generative capacity nature
brings forth no less again in other places and fills the void. Considerable
areas of the earth that we inhabit are buried again in the sea from which a
favourable period had dragged them; but in other places, nature replaces
the deficiency and brings forth other regions that had been concealed in
the depths of the water to spread new riches of its fruitfulness over them.
In the same way, worlds and world-orders pass away and are swallowed
by the abyss of eternities; by contrast, creation is ever busy carrying out
new formations in other regions of the heavens and replacing what has
gone with advantage.
We should not be astonished at allowing transience even in the great-
ness of God’s works. Everything that is finite, that has a beginning and an
origin, has in itself the quality of its limited nature; it must pass and have
an end. The duration of a world structurea has, thanks to the excellence
of its arrangement, a constancy that approaches an infinite duration in
terms of our concepts. Perhaps a thousand, perhaps a million centuries
will not destroy it, but because the vanity that attaches to finite natures
is constantly working at its destruction, eternity will contain all possible
periods and, by a gradual decay, bring about the time of its destruc-
tion. Newton, that great admirer of God’s qualities from the perfection
of his works, who combined the most profound insight into the excel-
lence of nature with the greatest reverence towards the revelation of
divine omnipotence, saw himself obliged to proclaim to nature its decay 1:318
through the natural tendency that the mechanics of motion has. If a
systematic constitution, through the essentialb consequence of its frailty
over great periods of time, brings even the tiniest part one can imagine
closer to the state of its confusion, then in the infinite passage of eternity
there must surely be a point in time when the gradual diminution has
exhausted all motion.

y Weltgebäude a Weltgebäude
z das Universum b wesentliche

Natural Science

However, we must not lament the end of a world structurec as a true

loss of nature. Nature shows its bounty in a kind of extravagance, which,
while some parts pay their tribute to transience, maintains itself regard-
less through countless new creations in the whole extent of its perfection.
What a countless mass of flowers and insects does not a single cold day
destroy; but how little do we miss them even though they are splendid
artworks of nature and proofs of divine omnipotence! In another place,
this loss is replaced again with abundance. Human beings, who appear
to be the masterpiece of creation, are themselves not excluded from this
law. Nature shows that it is just as bountiful, just as inexhaustible in the
production of the most excellent of creatures as it is in that of those of
low regard, and that even their end is a necessary gradation in the diver-
sity of its suns, because their creation costs it nothing. The deleterious
effects of infected air, earthquakes, floods eradicate whole peoples from
the face of the earth, but it does not appear that nature has suffered any
disadvantage through this. In a similar way, whole worlds and systems
leave the scene after they have finished playing their roles. The infinity
of creation is great enough for us to view a world or a Milky Way of
worlds in comparison to it, just as we view a flower or an insect in com-
parison to the Earth. Meanwhile, so that nature will beautify eternity
with changeable scenes, God remains busy in ceaseless creation to make
the materiald for the formation of even greater worlds.

He who, being the creator of everything, with the same eye

Sees a hero perish and a little sparrow fall,
Sees a water bubble burst and a whole world end.
Pope in Brocke’s translation.68

1:319 Let us therefore accustom our eye to these frightening upheavals as

being the ordinary ways of providence and even regard them with a kind
of appreciation. And indeed nothing is more appropriate to the bounty of
nature than this. For when, in the long sequence of its duration, a world
systeme exhausts all the diversity that its arrangement can encompass,
when it has now become a superfluous link in the chain of beings, then
nothing is more proper than that it should play the final role in the play
of changes unfolding in the universef that is given to every finite thing,
namely to pay its dues to transience. Nature shows, as mentioned above,
even in the small part of its essenceg this rule of its method that eternal
destiny has prescribed for it in the whole, and I say it again, the greatness
of what is to come to an end is not in the least a hindrance in this, for
all that is great will become small, indeed it will become, as it were, only

c Weltgebäude f Universi
d Zeug g Inbegriff
e Weltsystem

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

a point when compared to the infinitude that creation will represent in

unlimited space throughout the sequence of eternity.
It appears that this endh that has been imposed on the worlds as well
as on all things in nature is subject to a certain law, the consideration
of which gives the theory a new touch of propriety. According to this,
it begins with those celestial bodies that are nearest the centre point of
the universe, just as the generation and formation initially began next
to this centre; from there decay and destruction spread bit by bit into
the more remote distances in order finally to bury all the worlds that
have completed their term through a gradual decline of motions in one
total chaos. On the other hand, on the opposite border of the formed
universe,i nature is constantly occupied in forming new worlds out of
the raw material of the dispersed elements, and while it is ageing on
the side near the centre, it is young and fruitful with new creations
on the other. According to this, the formed world is restricted in the
middle between the ruins of destroyed nature and between the chaos of
unformed nature and if, as is probable, one imagines that a world already
grown to perfection could last for a longer time than it required to be
formed, then, in spite of all the devastation that transience unceasingly 1:320
causes, the extent of the universej in general will still increase.
However, if finally people are prepared to leave space for an idea that
is just as probable as it is proper to the constitution of divine works, then
the satisfaction stimulated by such a description of changes in nature
will be raised to the highest degree of pleasure. Can one not believe that
nature, which was capable of placing itself out of chaos into a regular
order and into a clever system, is equally in a position to produce itself
again just as easily out of the chaos in which the diminution of its motions
had sunk it, and to renew the original combination? Can the springs that
brought the material of dispersed matter into motion and order, after the
standstill of the machine has brought them to a stop, not become effective
again through extended forces and restrict themselves to a harmony in
accordance with just the same universal laws through which the original
formation was brought into being? People will not have reservations
about admitting this for long when they consider that, after the final
exhaustionk of the orbital motions in the solar systeml has hurled the
planets and comets all together down onto the Sun, the heat of which
must increase immeasurably as a result of the mixing of so many and
such large lumps, principally because, according to our theory proven
above, the distant spheres of the solar system contain the material that
is lightest in all nature and most effective in a fire. This fire, changed

h Ende k endliche Mattigkeit

i Welt l Weltgebäude
j Universi

Natural Science

into the greatest intensity by new fuel and the most volatile matter,
will, without a doubt, not only dissolve everything into the smallest
elements again, but will also disperse and distribute them in this way
with an expansive force appropriate to the heat and with a velocity that
is not weakened by any resistance of the surrounding space into the same
huge spaces again that they have occupied before the first formation of
nature, and, after the intensity of the central fire has been reduced by
the almost total dispersion of its mass, by a combination of the attractive
and repelling forces, repeat the old creationsm and systematically related
motions with no less regularity and represent a new world structure.n If
1:321 then a particular planetary system has fallen into decay in this manner
and has generated itself again by means of essential forces, if indeed it
repeats this game more than once: then finally that period will approach
which will in the same way gather the great system of which the fixed
stars are members into one chaos through the decay of its motions. One
will have even fewer doubts here that the unification of so infinite a
quantity of flammable matter as these burning suns represent, together
with the retinue of their planets dissolved by the ineffable heat, will
disperse the material of their masses in the old space of their sphere
of formation and there the materials for new formations are provided
through the same mechanical laws, through which again the empty space
can be populated with worlds and systems. If we follow this phoenix of
nature, which burns itself only to rise rejuvenated from its ashes to new
life through all infinity of time and space; when one sees how, even in
the region where it decays and ages, it continues unexhausted with new
appearances and on the other border of creation it proceeds in the space
of unformed raw matter with constant steps for the expansion of the
plan of divine revelation to fill eternity as well as all the spaces with its
wonders: then the mind that contemplates all this sinks into a profound
astonishment; and yet still unsatisfied with this so great object, whose
transience cannot satisfy the soul sufficiently, he wishes to get to know
at close quarters that being whose understanding, whose greatness is
the source of that light which spreads over all of nature as though from
one centre point. With what kind of reverence does not the soul have
to regard even its own being, when it considers that it is to survive all
these changes, it can then say to itself what the philosophical poet says of
When then a second nothingness will bury this world,
When of every thing itself nothing remains but the place,
When even many a sky, illuminated by other stars
Will have completed its course:

m Zeugungen n Weltgebäude

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

You shall be as young as now, just as far from your death,

Just as eternally future as today.
v. Haller.69

O happy if, among the tumult of the elements and the ruins of nature, 1:322
it is always positioned at a height from which it can see the devastations
that frailty causes the things of the world to rush past under its feet,
so to speak! A happiness such as reason may not even have the temerity
to wish for, revelation teaches us to hope for with conviction. When
the shackles that hold us to the vanity of creatures have fallen off at the
moment that has been determined for the transfiguration of our being,
then the immortal spirit, liberated from dependence on finite things,
and in the company of the infinite being, will find the enjoyment of
true happiness. The whole of nature, which has a universal harmonious
relationship with the pleasure of the divinity, cannot fill that reasonable
creature that is at one with this original source of all perfection with any-
thing other than everlasting satisfaction. Nature, seen from this centre
point, will show nothing but certainty, nothing but propriety from all
sides. The changeable scenes of nature are not capable of disturbing the
peace of happiness of a spirit that has been raised to such heights. While
it tastes this state in advance through a sweet hope, it can exercise its
mouth in those paeans of praise with which all eternities will one day

When one day the structure of the world has hurried back into its
And the work of your hands is no longer separated by night and day
Then shall my moved spirit, strengthened by you, attempt
Always to stand before your throne in adoration of your omnipotence
My mouth, filled with thanks, shall through all eternities
Present you and your majesty with unending praise;
Even if I can say no perfect praise: for, O Lord! you are so great
Eternity would not suffice to praise you as you are worthy of it.
Addisson [sic]
In Gottsched’s translation.70

supplement 1:323
to chapter seven.
Universal theory and history of the Sun.
There is one major question the resolution of which is indispensable
in the doctrine of nature of the heavens and in a complete cosmogony.
Why is the centre point of every system occupied by a flaming body?

Natural Science

Our planetary systemo has the Sun as its central body and the fixed stars
we see are to all appearances centre points of similar systems.
In order to understand why, in the formation of a planetary structurep
the body that serves as the middle point of the attraction had to be a fiery
body, while the remaining spheres in its range of attraction stayed dark
and cold celestial bodies, one need only recall the manner in which a
systemq is generated that we have outlined in detail above. In the widely
spread space in which the dispersed elementary basic material embarks
on formations and systematic motions, planets and comets form only
out of that part of the elementary basic material sinking towards the
centre point of attraction that has been determined by the fall and the
interaction of all the particles for the precise restriction of direction and
velocity required for rotation. This part is, as shown above, the least
of the whole sumr of the matter sinking downwards, and in fact only
the detritus of denser kinds that have been able to attain this degree
of precision through the resistance of the others. In this mixs there are
upwards floating kinds of outstanding lightness, which, hindered by the
resistance of space, do not reach the appropriate velocityt of periodic
rotation through their fall and which as a result are all thrown down to
the central body in the decrease of their tangential force.u Now because
precisely these lighter and volatile parts are also the most effective in
maintaining fire, we can see that, by adding them, the body and central
point of the system attains the advantage of becoming a flaming sphere,
in a word, a sun. Conversely, the heavier and powerless material and the
1:324 absence of these fire-feeding particles will make of the planets only cold
and dead lumps that are deprived of this quality.
It is also through this addition of such light matters that the Sun has
attained the lesser specific density by which it is four times inferior even
to our Earth, the third planet in distance from it; although it is natural
to believe that the heaviest and densest types of matter should be found
in this centre point of the world structure,v being its lowest point so that
it would surpass the density of all planets without the addition of such a
large quantity of the lightest material.
The blending of denser and heavier types of elements with these
lighter and more volatile ones also serves to prepare the central body
for the fiercest heat that is to burn and be maintained on its surface.
For we know that a fire, in the feeding material of which dense mat-
ters are blended with volatile ones, has a great advantage of fierceness
over those flames that are maintained only by light types. However, this

o Weltbau s Gemenge
p Weltgebäude t Schnelligkeit
q Weltbau u in der Mattigkeit ihres Schwunges
r Menge v Weltbau

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

intermingling of some heavy types among the lighter ones is a necessary

consequence of our doctrine of the formation of the celestial bodies and
additionally has this benefit, that the force of the heat does not suddenly
disperse the combustible matter of the surface and that it is gradually
and constantly fed by the influx of fuel from the interior.
After the question has now been resolved why the central body of a
great stellar system is a flaming sphere, that is, a sun, it does not seem
superfluous to occupy ourselves with this subjectw for a while and to
explore the state of such a heavenly body with a careful examination,
particularly as conjectures here can be derived from more valid reasons
than they generally tend to be with studies of the constitution of distant
heavenly bodies.
First of all, I establish that there can be no doubt that the Sun really
is a flaming body and not merely a mass of molten and glowing matter
heated to an extreme degree as some have tried to conclude from certain
difficulties they thought they had encountered with the first opinion.
For if one considers that a flaming fire has this essential advantage over
every other kind of heat that it, so to speak, is active out of itself instead 1:325
of diminishing or exhausting itself by transference, but rather thereby
acquires more strength and fierceness and thus requires only material
and feeding for its maintenance in order to continue on and on; the
incandescencex of a mass heated to the highest degree, by contrast, is a
merely passive state that incessantly diminishes by community with the
matter it touches and has no powers of its own to spread from a small
beginning or to come back to life again after being diminished, if, I say,
one considers this, one will be able to see clearly from this, and I say
nothing about the other reasons, that the sun, the source of light and
heat in every world structure,y will in all probability have to be accorded
this quality.
Now, if the Sun, or suns altogether, are flaming spheres, then the first
quality of their surface that can be deduced from this is that air must be
there, since no fire will burn without air. This circumstance gives rise
to noteworthy conclusions. For if we first place the atmosphere of the
Sun and its mass in relation to the lump of the Sun, in what state of
pressure will this air not be, and how capable will it not thereby become
of maintaining the most violent degrees of fire through its elastic force?z
In all probability smoke clouds from the matter burnt by the flames
also rise in this atmosphere, and there can be no doubt that this matter
contains a mix of coarse and lighter particles which, after they have risen
to a height that fosters cooler air for them, crash down in heavy rains of
pitch and sulphur and provide new nourishment for the flames. Precisely

w Vorwurfe y Weltbau
x Gluth z Federkraft

Natural Science

this atmosphere is not free from the motions of the windsa for the same
reasons as on our Earth, but which from all appearances must greatly
exceed in vehemence everything the imagination can picture for itself.
Whenever some region on the surface of the Sun lessens the outbreak
of the flame, either as a result of the asphyxiating force of the vapours
breaking out or by the sparing influx of flammable matter, the air above
1:326 cools somewhat and, as it contracts, it makes room for the air next to
it, with a force appropriate to the excess of its expansion, to reignite the
extinguished flame.
Nonetheless all flames always devour much air and there is no doubt
that the elastic forceb of the liquid element of air that surrounds the Sun
must suffer over time a not inconsiderable disadvantage thereby. If we
were to apply on a large scale what Herr Hales71 has confirmed through
careful experiments about the actionc of flame in our atmosphere, then we
can consider the continuous endeavour of the smoke particles deriving
from the flame to destroy the elasticity of the Sun’s atmosphere as one
principal knot, the solution of which is bound up with difficulties. For
because the flame that burns over the entire surface of the Sun takes
away from itself the air that is necessary for it to burn, the Sun is in
danger of being completely extinguished when the greatest part of its
atmosphere has been consumed. It is true that fire also creates air by
the dissolution of certain matters, but experiments prove that more is
always consumed than is produced. On the one hand, when one part
of the sun’s fire is robbed of the air that serves to maintain it through
suffocating vapours, then, as we have noted above, violent storms will try
to disperse them and conduct them away. On the other hand, in general
we can make the replacement of this required element understandable
in the following way if we take into consideration that, since in a flaming
fire the heat acts almost only above and only very little below it, when
it has been suffocated by the cause mentioned above, it turns its vigour
towards the interior of the Sun’s body and forces the deep chasms there
to let the air locked in its caverns to break out and to stoke the fire anew;
if, by taking a liberty that is not forbidden in the case of so unknown
an object, we primarily posit in its innards matters that, like saltpetre,
are inexhaustibly productive of elastic air, then the Sun’s fire will not
readily suffer the absence of a constantly renewed air supply over very
long periods.
Nonetheless we can see the distinct characteristics of transience even
in this immeasurabled fire that nature has set up as a torch for the world.
There will come a time when it will be extinguished. The removal of
1:327 the most volatile and finest matters, which, dispersed by the violence

a Wege c Wirkung
b Federkraft d unschätzbaren

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

of the heat, will never return and increase the material of the zodiacal
light, the accumulation of non-combustible and burnt out matter, e.g.,
the ash on the surface, and finally too the absence of air will set an
ende to the Sun’s days as its flame will go out one day and its place,
now the centre point of light and life for the whole planetary system,f
will be occupied by eternal darkness. The alternating endeavour of its
fire to flare up again by opening up new caverns, by means of which it
perhaps rejuvenates itself repeatedly in the face of its demise, could be an
explanation for the disappearance and reappearance of some fixed stars.
These would be suns that are close to their extinction and that attempt to
revive themselves out of their ashes a number of times. This explanation
may deserve approval or not, but in any case we will certainly have to let
this observation serve to make us realize that, since, one way or another,
the perfection of all world-orders is threatened by inevitable destruction,
we shall find no difficulty in the aforementioned law of their demise by
means of the tendency of the mechanical arrangement, which, however,
becomes acceptable, principally because it bears within itself the seed of
renewal even in being conjoined with chaos.
Finally, let us have our imagination represent a wonderfully strange
object such as a burning sun as it were from close up. In one glance, we
see broad lakes of fire lifting their flames up to the sky, raging storms
whose fury redoubles the violence of the former, which, by making them
swell up over their banks, now cover the raised areas of this celestial body,
now make them sink back to within their borders; burnt-out rocks that
stretch their terrible peaks out of the flaming maws, and whose flooding
or uncovering by the surging fiery element is the cause of the alternating
appearance and disappearance of the sunspots; dense vapours that choke
the fire and, raised by the force of the winds, constitute dark clouds
which in turn crash down in fiery showers of rain and, in the form of
burning rivers, pour into the flaming valleys from the heights of the firm
land of the Sun∗ , the crashing of the elements, the detritus of burnt-out 1:328
matters, and nature wrestling with destruction, which even in the most

∗ It is not without cause that I ascribe to the suns all the unevennesses of firm land,
mountains, and valleys that we encounter on our Earth and other celestial bodies.
The formation of a world sphere that is transforming itself from a liquid into a solid state
necessarily brings about such unevennesses on its surface. As the surface hardens, while
in the fluid interior parts of such a mass, the matters are still sinking towards the centre
point in accordance with their weights, the particles of the elastic air or fire element
that is mixed in with these matters are driven out and accumulate under the meanwhile
solidified crust under which they generate large caves immense in proportion to the
lump of the sun, into which the topmost crust mentioned above ultimately sinks with
various folds and in this way prepares raised regions and mountain ranges as well as
valleys and flood plains of broad fire lakes.

e Ziel f Weltgebäude

Natural Science

loathsome state of its disorder brings about the beauty of the world and
the benefit of the creatures.
If therefore the centre points of all great world systemsg are flaming
bodies, then this can be assumed to apply most to the central body of that
immeasurable system that the fixed stars constitute. But if it were a self-
illuminating body or a sun, would not this body, the mass of which must
stand in a ratio to the magnitude of its system, be obvious through its
pre-eminent brilliance and magnitude? Despite this, we do not see any
such exceptionally distinct fixed star shining forth among the heavenly
hosts. Indeed we should not be surprised if this does not happen. Even
if it exceeded our Sun 10,000 times in size, and we were to assume its
distance to be 100 times greater than that of Sirius, it could not appear
larger and brighter than that star.
Perhaps, however, it is given to future times at least to discover the
1:329 region where the centre point∗ of the fixed star system to which our
Sun belongs is to be found, or perhaps even to determine where we
must posit the central body of the universeh to which all its parts are
aiming with unanimous descent. As regards the constitution of this fun-
damental piece of the entirety of creation and what one might find on
it, we shall allow Herr Wright of Durham to determine, who, with a

∗ I have a conjecture according to which it seems very likely to me that Sirius or the Dog
Star in the system of stars that make up the Milky Way is the central body and occupies
the centre point to which they all refer. If one were to consider this system in terms of
the outline in the first part of this treatise as a milling massi of suns heaped together
into a common plane, which has been strewn in all directions from its central point
and yet constitutes a certain, as it were, circle-shaped space that also extends widthways
from both sides as a result of minor deviations from the plane of reference; then the
1:329 Sun, which is also near this plane, will see the appearance of this circle-shaped, white-
shimmering zone most broadly towards that side to which it is closest to the furthest
limit of the system, for it is easy to suppose that it would hardly be at the centre point.
Now the band of the Milky Way is broadest in the section between the sign of the
Cygnus and that of Sagittarius, therefore this will be the side where the place of our Sun
is closest to the periphery of the circle-shaped system; and it is in this section that we will
consider the place where the constellations of the Aquila and the Vulpecula stand with
the Anser particularly as the very closest, because it is there that the greatest apparent
dispersion of stars shines forth from the space where the Milky Way divides. Therefore,
if one draws a line approximately from a point next to the tail of Aquila through the
middle of the plane of the Milky Way to the opposite point, then it must meet the centre
point of the system and indeed it very precisely meets Sirius, the brightest star in the
whole sky which, because of its fortunate coinciding that harmonizes so well with its
splendid figure, seems to deserve to be regarded as the central body itself. According to
this notion it would be seen precisely in the band of the Milky Way were it not that the
position of our Sun, deviating somewhat from the plane at the tail of Aquila, causes the
optical distance of the centre point towards the other side of that zone.

g Weltsystemen i Gewimmel
h Universi

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

fanatical enthusiasm, raised, in this fortunate place as it were onto a

throne of all nature, a powerful being of a divine sort with spiritual powers
of attraction and repulsion, which, effectivej in an infinite sphere around
itself, drew all virtue to itself but drove back all vice. We do not wish
to allow free rein to the boldness of our conjectures, which we perhaps
have permitted only too much, to the point of arbitrary inventions. The
deity is equally present in the infinity of the entire universe; wherever
there are beings capable of elevating themselves above the dependence
of creatures to the community of the highest being, it is equally close.
All of creation is permeated by its powers but only someone who is
capable of liberating oneself from being a creature, who is so noble as to 1:330
realize that the highest level of happiness is to be sought solely in partak-
ing of this original source of perfection, that one alone is capable of being
closer to this true reference point of all excellence than anything else in
all of nature. However, if I, without participating in the enthusiastic ideas
of the Englishman, were to make conjectures about the different grades
of the spiritual world on the basis of the physical relations of their domi-
ciles to the centre point of creation, then I would seek the most perfect
classes of rational beings further away from this centre point than closer
to it. The perfection of creatures endowed with reason, insofar as it is
dependent on the constitution of matter, in the connection with which
they are restricted, depends very much on the fineness of the material
whose influence determines them in their imagek of the world and in
their reaction to it. The inertia and the resistance of matter restricts the
freedom of spiritual beings for actionl and the clarity of their sensation
of external things far too much, it makes their capacities blunt in that
they do not obey its motions with appropriate lightness. Therefore, if
we assume, as is likely, the densest and heaviest types of matter to be
near the centre point of nature, while degrees of fineness and lightness
increase at greater distances in accordance with the analogy that rules
our universe,m then the consequence is understandable. Those rational
beings, whose place of origin and residence is closer to the centre point
of creation, are mired in a stiff and immovable matter that contains their
strength locked in an insuperable inertia and is also just as incapable of
transmitting and communicating the impressions of the universen with
the requisite distinctness and ease. We will therefore have to reckon
these thinking beings as being part of the low class; by contrast, this
perfection of the spiritual world, which rests upon a mutual dependence
on matter, will increase with the distances from the universal centre like
a constant ladder. As a result we have to place the worst and least perfect

j wirksam m Weltbau
k Vorstellung n Universi
l zum Wirken

Natural Science

types of thinking natures in the most profound lowering to this sinking

point, and it is in this direction that this excellence of beings, with all
1:331 shades of diminution, is finally lost in the complete absence of reflec-
tion and thinking. Indeed, when one considers that the centre point of
nature constitutes simultaneously the beginning of its formation out of
raw materialo and its border with chaos; if one adds to this that the per-
fection of spiritual beings, which certainly has an outermost limit of its
beginning, where their capabilities collide with lack of reason,p but no
limits of continuation beyond which they could not be raised, but rather
finds itself confronted on that side with complete infinity; then, if a law
is to be in place according to which the domiciles of intelligent creatures
are distributed in the order of their relation to the common centre point,
we shall have to place the lowest and least complete type that constitutes,
as it were, the beginning of the type of the spiritual world, at that region
that can be called the beginning of the entire universeq in order to fill
simultaneously with this and in equal progression all infinity of time
and spaces with increasing degrees of perfection of the capacity to think
and as it were gradually to approach the goalr of the highest excellence,
namely the divinity without, however, ever being able to attain it.

chapter eight.
General proof of the correctness of a mechanical doctrine of the
arrangement of the universe overall, particularly of the certainty
of the present one.
One cannot look at the universes without recognizing the most excellent
order in its arrangement and the sure characteristics of the hand of God
in the perfection of its relations. Reason, having considered and admired
so much beauty, so much excellence, is rightly incensed at the bold fool-
ishness that has the audacity to attribute all this to coincidence and a
1:332 fortuitous chance. The highest wisdom must have made the design and
an infinite power carried it out, otherwise it would be impossible that so
many intentions that come together for one purpose could be encoun-
tered in the constitution of the universe.t It is simply a matter of deciding
whether the design of the arrangement of the universeu had already been
placed in the essential determinations of the eternal natures and planted
into the universal laws of motion by the highest understanding so that

o Zeug s Weltgebäude
p Unvernunft t Weltgebäudes
q Universi u Universi
r Ziel

Universal natural history and theory of the heavens

it developed out of them naturally in a manner proper to the most per-

fect order, or whether the general properties of the constituent parts of
the world have a complete incapacity for harmony and not the slightest
reference to any combination and definitely required an external hand
to acquire that limitation and coordination that shows perfection and
beauty in it. An almost universal prejudice has set most philosophers
against nature’s ability to produce anything orderly through its univer-
sal laws just as though it would be disputing God’s governance of the
world if one were to seek original formations in the forces of nature
and as though these were a principle independent of the divinity and an
eternal blind fate.
However, if one considers that nature and the eternal laws that are pre-
scribed to substances for their interaction, are not a principle indepen-
dent and necessary without God, that precisely because of the fact that
it shows so much correspondence and order in what it produces through
universal laws, we can see that the essences of all things must have their
common origin in a certain primitive beingv and that for this reason they
reveal many reciprocal relationships and much harmony because their
properties have their source in a single highest understanding, whose
sage idea designed them in constant proportions and implanted in them
that ability by which they produce much beauty, much order in the state
of activity if left to themselves, if, I say, one considers this, then nature
will appear to us more dignified than it is commonly regarded and one
will expect from its unfoldingw nothing but correspondence, nothing
but order. If, by contrast, one gives credit to an