Solomon Maimon

Solomon Maimon: Monism, Skepticism, and Mathematics

Meir Buzaglo
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 184
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5hjnkp
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  • Book Info
    Solomon Maimon
    Book Description:

    The philosophy of Solomon Maimon (1753-1800) is usually considered an important link between Kant's transcendental philosophy and German idealism. Highly praised during his lifetime, over the past two centuries Maimon's genius has been poorly understood and often ignored. Meir Buzaglo offers a reconstruction of Maimon's philosophy, revealing that its true nature becomes apparent only when viewed in light of his philosophy of mathematics.This provides the key to understanding Maimon's solution to Kant'squid jurisquestion concerning the connection between intuition and concept in mathematics. Maimon's original approach avoids dispensing with intuition (as in some versions of logicism and formalism) while reducing the reliance on intuition in its Kantian sense. As Buzaglo demonstrates, this led Maimon to question Kant's ultimate rejection of the possibility of metaphysics and, simultaneously, to suggest a unique type of skepticism.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-9059-8
    Subjects: General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    That Maimon’s life was not the happiest is clearly attested in his autobiography—a tale of wandering and misfortune. Yet tragedy in a different sense attaches to his main composition,Versuch über Transcendentalphilosophie (Versuch). The book was not understood by his contemporaries. The editor of theAlgemeine Literature Zeitungwrote Maimon that he had given it to three “of the most profound” scholars and they refused to pass an opinion on the work. Karl Leonard Reinhold, who had assumed the role of Kant’s official interpreter and who eventually became Maimon’s opponent, confessed that for two entire years he tried to...

  7. 1 The Kantian Challenge
    (pp. 11-27)

    In the attic of an old woman’s house, funded by the help of his friend Ben David, Maimon pores over the ubiquitously discussedCritique of Pure Reason. The fruit of Maimon’s labors is his composition about transcendental philosophy, in which he proposes a unified system comprising the doctrines of Spinoza, Leibniz, and Hume. The point of departure of Maimon’s coalition of systems is described in his autobiography when he views theVersuchfrom afar: “The most important problem dealt with in the Critique, namely the ‘quid juris?’, I discussed here in detail in a much broader sense than conceived by...

  8. 2 The Quid Juris Question
    (pp. 28-48)

    For some time before his discovery of Kant, Maimon could be described as philosophically blasé. A dozen years earlier he had exhausted his interest in kabbala; he was “eager to see knowledge in its natural light and not veiled by allegory and parable” (Autobiographyx). Upon becoming acquainted with the philosophy of Wolff, he began shaking loose from the grip of Maimonides and even wrote in criticism of the latter’s Thirteen Principles (except for the eleventh, concerning reward and punishment!). He immersed himself in Spinoza, with whose teachings he was already familiar, but, predominantly, he had devoted two years to...

  9. 3 Maimon’s Ladder
    (pp. 49-76)

    Maimon’s solution to the quid juris question appears in the following passage, which is often referred to in the literature on Maimon: “According to the Kantian system, which states that the sensibility and the understanding are two sources of our cognition, that are completely different from each other, the question, as I have demonstrated, is insoluble; but according to the Leibniz-Wolff system, both of these elements stem from the same source of cognition (the difference between them being only a difference in the degree of the completeness of this cognition), and the question is easily resolved” (Versuch64). As long...

  10. 4 An Interlude: Polarization
    (pp. 77-88)

    Maimon, like Kant, drew on mathematics only to the extent that it could contribute to an understanding of explicitly epistemological or metaphysical questions. The Maimonic reduction carries within it a rationalist, anti-Kantian kernel, which finds its expression in positing a concept of objectivity that is stronger than Kant’s. Thanks to this conception of objectivity, Maimon can renew the possibility of metaphysics and, at the same time, show that the thrust of the Humean skepticism has not been removed from it. The general course is therefore a critique of Kantian transcendentalism: Maimon places the Kantian transcendental in between the rationalist and...

  11. 5 Aesthetics: The Critique of Ideality
    (pp. 89-103)

    The fact that space is an intuition does not obviate the possibility that it may also be a concept. The characteristics proposed in Kant’s metaphysical exposition of space, which are based on the notion that only one space is accessible to us and that space is a condition for any empirical intuition, are not sufficient to reduce the validity of the concept of space. This validity is extended in two ways: space applies to all objects and space is a form for subjects in general. The second part of this extension is clearer than the first, for here Maimon demonstrates...

  12. 6 Reconstructing the Outside
    (pp. 104-117)

    Kant refused to write a letter of recommendation for Maimon’s book, but this was only, writes Kant, “since it is after all largely directedagainst me.” Indeed, Kant admitted, “none of my critics understood me and the main question as well as Mr. Maimon does.” He regarded Maimon as an original philosopher who took a very different path than his. In summing up the difference between his position and Maimon’s, Kant wrote:

    If I have correctly grasped the sense of his work, the intention is to prove that if the understanding is to have a law-giving relationship to sensible intuition...

  13. 7 Substance and Causality
    (pp. 118-132)

    Maimon operates his polarity on Kant’s categories, claiming that what was already discovered for space and time in the case of the straight line applies here, too. The relation between the substance and its accident is the picture of a relation of determinability, and the relation between cause and effect is a picture of a relation between differentials of understanding. However, unlike the case of the straight line, but in accordance with the view on space, we have no certainty that there is any objective relation between what we see as substances and their accidents or causes and effects. It...

  14. Epilogue. Closing the Circle: Maimon and the Kabbala
    (pp. 133-138)

    Maimon’s spiritual journey, according to his own testimony, began with Maimonides and the kabbalisticHeshek Shelomo,Maimon’s earliest work. It proceeded under the inspiriting influence of Hume, Spinoza, and Leibniz and eventually took up the challenge posed by Kant’s philosophy. By the end of this journey, Maimon was no closer to making the transition from the sensuous to the intelligible world than he was when he set off, though in the course of time he did manage to come up with an original system. Yet, did his philosophical pursuit take the shape of a linear progress, as is implicit in...

  15. Appendix: Maimon and Modern Structuralism in Mathematics
    (pp. 139-148)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 149-158)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 159-162)
  18. Index
    (pp. 163-168)