XXIX, 1, 2019: Salomon Maimon: alle origini dell’idealismo tedesco. Edited by Luigi Azzariti-Fumaroli and Lidia Gasperoni
“Salomon Maimon, a man with a bizarre life, made of ups and downs, from the heights to the depths. He was a rabbi, with a certain taste for escapes, he died in great misery”. In 1956 Gilles Deleuze introduced, with a perfect antique style, to the students of the Henri IV high school in Paris the person that Marcus Herz, addressing Kant in April 1789, had counted as “among the rudest Polish Jews”, but whom at the same time he had hastened to define among the very few who had read the first Critique with sharpness and sagacity, making, with his Versuch über die Transcendentalphilosophie, a major contribution to the discussion of some of the main issues raised there.
Encouraged by Kant himself, Maimon (pseudonym of Shlomo ben Yeho-shua taken as a tribute to Maimonides, whose work influenced him to a decisive extent) was already considered by his contemporaries an Außenseiter, who having stealthily penetrated Kantian argumentative architecture proceeded to then overturn some of its cardinal principles, above all highlighting the impossibility of achieving the transition from universal concepts and transcendental propositions that refer to experience in general to those that instead refer to particular experiences.
Even more surprising was Maimon’s attempt to go beyond the Kantian dichotomy between understanding and sensibility, invoking an “infinite intellect” as a real principle on which to base knowledge. Testimony thereof is the letter that Fichte sent to Reinhold in the spring of 1795 maintaining that thanks to Versuch, Kantian criticism would be “completely turned upside down”, although this was not yet manifest to those who insisted on judging the thought of Maimon with undisguised contempt or with mocking suspicion. And yet he was sure that “centuries of history” would do him justice.
Indeed, due to a form of writing that usually entails – as noticed by Ernst Cassirer, among the first to resurrect Maimon for the attention of historians – a juxtaposition and enumeration of the most disparate concepts, lady luck did not smile benevolently on Maimon thought, at least until the twentieth century, when, thanks also to its embodiment of both a hybridisation of Kant with discovered Spinozian elements and a constructive scepticism, it was considered among the sources of that thought of difference and repetition that arose from a calling into question of the tendency, starting from Kant, of making transcendent “ideas” (space, time) the horizon of the immanent field of the subject.
Since Martial Gueroult’s 1929 fundamental study – to which several of the contributions collected in this volume by no coincidence refer – we tend to look at Maimon’s reflection as one that, perhaps more than any other in the post-Kantian age, sought to clarify how the idea appears to be a system of links or differential relationships. The notion of “differential of conscience” bears witness, in particular, to the fundamental role that Maimon’s empirical scepticism plays in the aetiology of a conceptual dramatisation, which has as an outcome – wrote Alexis Philonenko – a principle that leads us to judge the real as illusory, to the extent that, with the crisis of idealism not only of Kantian origin, it is no longer possible to discern what is produced (logically) by us and what is produced by the object.
From this point of view, returning to reflect on the work of Maimon, with philological and historiographical precision, but also with the intent to examine more closely some theoretical junctions, would seem to imply above all a need to analyse in greater depth the scope of a thought without anymore the friction that reality exerts. At the same time, “immersing oneself with all one’s body, if body expresses the sum of the peculiarities”, in Maimon’s thought, taking into consideration some of the most salient aspects, must not lead to neglecting intersections with other philosophical experiences. And such consistent with the very vocation of Maimon’s philosophy of being a Koalitions-System: a theory that is composed of heterogeneous elements. Eclecticism is, moreover, one of the dominant figures of his thought and corresponds – as he himself observes – to having established that all philosophical systems contain something true and, to some extent, are equally applicable. The affirmation of the illusory nature of the real, linked to the notion of differential and in turn connected to the centrality that the transcendental imagination assumes in Maimon, can only lead to an absolute theoretical exuberance, supported by a decisive inclination to comment.
His could be defined as an attitude to the Geistesabwesenheit, understood both, literally, as the absence of thought from objective reality, and as that peculiar extravagance which – according to Feurbach – seems to connote idealism as a way of life: among the risk of contempt for reality and the comicalness of its involuntary distance from life. But perhaps it is only a matter of the theory: invisibility, not having identifiable spaces and limited horizons, nor safe contours. In Maimon, the movement of ideas mimics the erring of a thought whose fulfilment seems to be displacement. This is not, however, to be traced back solely to the impossibility of the concept to determine its object through itself and therefore to the role played by the productive imagination.
Nor does it seem possible to resolve everything in a scepticism which – as Hegel wrote, alluding perhaps, according to the authoritative suggestion of Valerio Verra, to the work of Maimon – “does not constitute a particular object of a system, but is the negative side of the knowledge of the absolute itself and immediately presupposes reason as the positive side”. Rather, the dislocation that runs through Maimon’s writings seems to correspond to a form of deixis am phantasma which only refers to images and thoughts that do not provide any indicative help, as they are all located in a universe of fictions.
Maimon develops a “method of the fictions” by means of which a changing object is examined according to a rule, as if it reached the highest degree of its own change, i.e. if at the same time it were and was not the same object. The development of the concept of fiction – just hinted at by Deleuze when he puts Maimon and Novalis on the same level – therefore takes into account the implications of imagination like Einbildungskraft. The “method of the fictions” would in fact seem to meet the needs of an imaginative capacity which, in secret agreement with Bruno’s “Spiritus phantasticus”, not only serves as an instrument of knowledge but is also a repertoire of the potential, of the hypothetical, of what it is neither has been nor will be but could have been. Thus the interpreter’s gesture can only be in accord with the variability of the possible: only the presupposition of the truth under the sign of the hypothesis actually gives rise to “the act of thinking in thought”, like that which arises, almost by forced entry, from the fortuitous.
(click on the titles to view the abstracts)
Luigi Azzariti-Fumaroli, Lidia Gasperoni, Presentazione
Paul Franks, From Quine to Hegel: Naturalism, Anti-Realism and Maimon’s Question Quid Facti
Christoph Asmuth, Salomon Maimon und die Transzendentalphilosophie ganz grundsätzlich
Gideon Freudenthal, Overturning the Narrative: Maimon vs. Kant
Luigi Azzariti-Fumaroli, Uno schlemiel trascendentale. Salomon Maimon fra momenti di vita e movimenti di pensiero
Daniel Elon, Skepsis und System. Salomon Maimons Versuch über die Transzendentalphilosophie und Gottlob E. Schulzes Aenesidemus in chiastischer Gegenüberstellung
Meir Buzaglo, Salomon Maimon and the Regular Decahedron
Gualtiero Lorini, Verità, linguaggio e coscienza in Salomon Maimon
Luca Guidetti, Kant e Maimon: prolegomeni a una topologia del tempo
Gaetano Rametta, Filosofia trascendentale e ontologia della differenza in Salomon Maimon
Lidia Gasperoni, Immaginare approssimando. L’(im)possibilità di un’estetica nella filosofia di Salomon Maimon
Maria Caterina Marinelli, Maimon’s Implicit Influence in the Eigne Meditationen über ElementarPhilosophie of Fichte
David Hereza Modrego, Die Transformation der Frage “quid juris?” bei Kant zu Maimons “Satz der Bestimmbarkeit”