Salomon Maimon

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Salomon ben Josua Maimon
Solomon maimon.gif
Salomon Maimon
Born 1753
Zhukov Borok near Mir, Lithuania, Poland-Lithuania
Died 22 November 1800
Nieder-Siegersdorf near Freystadt in Schlesien, Silesia, Habsburg Monarchy
Era 18th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School German Idealism
Main interests
Epistemology, Metaphysics, Ethics
Notable ideas
Critique of Kant's quid juris and quid factis, the Doctrine of Differentials, the Principle of Determinability

Salomon ben Josua Maimon (/ˈmmɒn/; German: [ˈmaɪmoːn]; Hebrew: שלמה מימון‎‎; 1753 – 22 November 1800) was a German-speaking philosopher, born of Jewish parentage in present-day Belarus.

Early years[edit]

Salomon Maimon was born in the town of Zhukov Borok near Mir in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (present-day Belarus), where his grandfather leased an estate from a Prince Karol Stanisław "Panie Kochanku" Radziwiłł.[3]:21–22 He was taught Torah and Talmud, first by his father, and later by instructors in Mir. He was recognized as a prodigy in Talmudic studies, which he later described as "endless disputation without end or aim".[3]:25 His parents fell on hard times, and betrothed him to two separate girls in order to take advantage of their dowries, leading to a bitter rivalry.[3]:26 At the age of eleven he was married to one of the two prospects, a girl from Nesvizh. At the age 14 he was already a father and was making money by teaching Talmud. Later he learned some German from books and walked all the way to Slutsk, where he met a rabbi who had studied in Germany. He borrowed German books on physics, optics and medicine from him. After that he became determined to study further. He abandoned his family at the age of 22.

Interest in Kabbalah[edit]

Maimon describes how he took an interest in kabbalah, and made a pilgrimage to the court of the Maggid of Mezritch. He ridicules the Maggid's adherents for their enthusiasm, and charges the Maggid with manipulating his followers.[3]:30 He also wrote that the Maggid's ideas are "closer to correct ideas of religion and morals" than those he was taught in cheder.[3]:30"

In Germany[edit]

At the age of 25 Maimon left his home area for Germany. Maimon's first attempt to take up residence in Berlin in 1778 failed. He was expelled for possession of the Moreh Nebukhim of Maimonides. A later attempt to convert into Christianity in Hamburg failed due to admitted lack of belief in Christian dogma.[4] His second attempt to settle in Berlin in 1781 succeeded. After first studying language in a gymnasium, Maimon devoted himself to the study of philosophy along the lines of Wolff and Moses Mendelssohn. The latter introduced him to some wealthy Jews in Berlin, upon whom Mamimon relied for patronage while he pursued his studies. After many vicissitudes he found a peaceful residence in the house of Count Kalkreuth at Nieder-Siegersdorf in 1790. In 1791 he published his Autobiography. Maimon never was able to gain full admittance to German society because of his poverty and his lack of language skills. It was not until 1788 that he became acquainted with Kantian philosophy, and in 1790 he published the Essay on Transcendental Philosophy, in which he formulates his objections to Kant's system. Kant seems to have considered Maimon one of his most astute critics.[5] Maimon also published a commentary on the Moreh Nebuchim of Maimonides in 1790. Maimon died at the age of 48 from apparent alcoholism.[6][7]



He seizes upon the fundamental incompatibility of a consciousness which can apprehend, and yet is separated from, the thing-in-itself. That which is object of thought cannot be outside consciousness; just as in mathematics "–1" is an unreal quantity, so things-in-themselves are ex hypothesi outside consciousness, i.e. are unthinkable. The Kantian paradox he explains as the result of an attempt to explain the origin of the given in consciousness. The form of things is admittedly subjective; the mind endeavours to explain the material of the given in the same terms, an attempt which is not only impossible but involves a denial of the elementary laws of thought. Knowledge of the given is, therefore, essentially incomplete. Complete or perfect knowledge is confined to the domain of pure thought, to logic and mathematics. Thus the problem of the thing-in-itself is dismissed from the inquiry, and philosophy is limited to the sphere of pure thought.

Application of the categories[edit]

The Kantian categories are demonstrable and true, but their application to the given is meaningless and unthinkable. By this critical scepticism Maimon takes up a position intermediate between Kant and Hume. Hume's attitude to the empirical is entirely supported by Maimon. The causal concept, as given by experience, expresses not a necessary objective order of things, but an ordered scheme of perception; it is subjective and cannot be postulated as a concrete law apart from consciousness.

Doctrine of the differentials[edit]

Whereas Kant posed a dualism between understanding and sensibility, or between concepts and the given, Maimon refers both these faculties back to a single source of cognition. Sensibility, in Maimon's view, is therefore not completely without conceptual content, but is generated according to rules that Maimon calls differentials. In calling them this, Maimon is referring to the differentials from the calculus, which are entities that despite being neither qualitative nor quantitative, can nevertheless give rise to a determinate quantity and quality when related to other differentials. The operations of the faculty of sensibility are for Maimon therefore not principally different from those of mathematical intuition: seeing the colour red is the same procedure as drawing a geometrical figure such as a line in a circle in thought. The reason that qualities are nevertheless 'given' is that it is only an infinite understanding that can grasp the rules for the generation of qualities in the way that a human understanding can grasp the rules for drawing a circle.

Kant's comments[edit]

Kant had received the first chapter of Maimon's book in manuscript from Markus Herz. In a letter to Herz from May 26, 1789, Kant writes the following:

"I had half decided to send the manuscript back in its immediately .... But one glance at the work made me realize its excellence and that not only had none of my critics understood me and the main questions as well as Herr Maimon does but also very few men possess so much acumen for such deep investigations as he..."[8]

Nevertheless, Kant does not agree with Maimon's assessment. For Kant, the question of the relationship of the faculties is adequately answered by the Transcendental Deduction, in which Kant argues that the categories make experience possible. Furthermore, as an explanation of the harmony of the faculties, Kant offers the Leibnizian account of a pre-established harmony.


  • Maimon, Salomon. Gesammelte Werke, edited by Valerio Verra, 7 volumes, Hildsheim: Olms, 1965–1976.

English translations[edit]

  • Maimon, Salomon. The Autobiography of Salomon Maimon with an Essay on Maimon's Philosophy, Introduction by Michael Shapiro, Translated by J. Clark Murray, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001 (original edition: London, Boston : A. Gardner, 1888).
  • Maimon, Salomon. Essay on transcendental philosophy. Translated by Nick Midgley, Henry Somers-Hall, Alistair Welchman, and Merten Reglitz, London, New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2010, ISBN 978-1-4411-1384-9.
  • Maimon, Salomon. Essay Towards a New Logic or Theory of Thought, Together Letters of Philaletes to Aenesidemus in: G. di Giovanni, H.S. Harris (eds.), Between Kant and Hegel: Texts in the Development of Post-Kantian Idealism, Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 2001, pp. 158–203.
  • Maimon, Salomon. Essay on Transcendental Philosophy. A Short Overview of the Whole Work, translated by H. Somers-Hall and M. Reglitz, in Pli: The Warwick Journal of Philosophy 19 (2008), pp. 127–165.
  • Maimon, Salomon. The Philosophical Language-Confusion in: Jere Paul Surber, Metacritique. The Linguistic Assault on German Idealism, Amherst:Humanity Books, 2001, pp. 71–84


  1. ^ "Maimon, Solomon", The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy .
  2. ^ "Gilles Deleuze", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy .
  3. ^ a b c d e Socher, Abraham P. (2006). The Radical Enlightenment of Solomon Maimon: Judaism, Heresy, and Philosophy. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0804751366. 
  4. ^ Solomon Maimon: An Autobiography, trans. J. Clark Murray, University of Illinois Press, 2001
  5. ^ Thielke, Peter. "Salomon Maimon". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 
  6. ^ Elon, Amos. The pity of it all. A portrait of the German-Jewish Epoch, 1743–1933. Picador, A metropolitan book. NY, Henry Holt and Company, 2002. Page 59
  7. ^ Maimon, Solomon. Solomon Maimon: An autobiography, Introduction by Michael Shapiro, Translated by J. Clark Murray, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001.
  8. ^ * Kant, Immanuel. Correspondence. Translated and edited by A. Zweig. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Pages 311-311.


  • Atlas, Samuel. From Critical to Speculative Idealism: The Philosophy of Solomon Maimon. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1965.
  • Bansen, Jan. The Antinomy of Thought: Maimonian Skepticism and the Relation between Thoughts and Objects. Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1991.
  • Bergmann, Samuel, Hugo. The Philosophy of Salomon Maimon. Translated from the Hebrew by Noah J. Jacobs. Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, 1967.
  • Herrera, Hugo Eduardo. Salomon Maimon's Commentary on the Subject of the Given in Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, in: The Review of Metaphysics 63.3, 2010. pp. 593–613.
  • Elon, Amos. The pity of it all. A portrait of the German-Jewish Epoch, 1743–1933. Picador, A metropolitanan book. NY, Henry Holt and Company, 2002. pp. 54–59
  • Maimon, Solomon. Gesammelte Werke. Volumes 1–7. Edited by V. Verra. Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1970.


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