Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 November 2012
Kant published On the Volcanoes on the Moon in the March 1785 issue of the Berlinische Monatsschrift, which was edited by F. Gedike and J. E. Biester. The occasion for Kant's essay was Aepinus's claim that Herschel's ‘discovery’ of volcanic activity on the Moon supported his view that volcanic activity could be invoked to explain the irregularities on its surface. Kant wants to reject this explanation in favour of the explanation of the formation of the Moon he had proffered earlier, in his Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens (Chapter 4, this volume). That is, Kant wants to maintain that the Moon, like the Earth and the other planets in the solar system, was formed from chaotic, gaseous material that gradually lost heat on the surface and solidified, albeit with irregular crevices. Therefore, the uneven geographical features of the Moon that could be perceived from Earth were due not to volcanic eruptions, but rather to other kinds of eruptions that occurred as the gaseous materials that constitute the mass of the Earth cooled and gave off heat. The primary novelty of Kant's explanation here, compared to what he offered thirty years earlier, is his adoption of Crawford's theory of heat.