Maimon and Kant on the nature of the mind

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The history of philosophy from 1781 onward is in many ways simply the story of the reception of Immanuel Kant's Critical philosophy. The Critique of Pure Reason, published that year, was to usher in a new era of philosophy, a Copernican revolution in metaphysics and epistemology that would rein in the pretensions of dogmatic metaphysics and answer skepticism. At least, that is what Kant hoped would happen, and, in the minds of many, ultimately did happen. But the reaction from the first wave of readers frustrated Kant. While some recognized the novelty and importance of Kant's philosophy, many seemed not to have understood his argument or his project, forcing Kant to compose his précis, the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics (1783), and to rewrite large parts of the Critique of Pure Reason for its second edition (1787). Of the many contemporary philosophers who engaged with his philosophy, Kant thought that none had understood him and the main questions of his system as well as Salomon Maimon (1753–1800), nor had anyone possessed as much perspicacity in such deep investigations. Maimon was, however, largely a philosophical autodidact, and the quintessential outsider in the German philosophical scene. As he writes to Kant, he was “condemned at birth to live out the best years of [his] life in the woods of Lithuania [and] deprived of every assistance in acquiring knowledge” (Corr, 11:15–16). It was only in his twenties that Maimon was able to travel to Berlin and begin a deeper study of philosophy, mathematics, and the natural sciences, working with, among others, Moses Mendelssohn. In 1787, Maimon came upon Kant's Critique of Pure Reason and devoted himself to its study. Three years later, he published his own working-through of the Critical philosophy, his Versuch über die Transcendentalphilosophie (Essay on Transcendental Philosophy). To Kant and most readers of this work, however, the Versuch was marked by its brilliance and insight, on the one hand, and by its occasional incomprehensibility, on the other. Indeed, many were left not knowing entirely where Maimon stood on the central issue of Kant's philosophy, and Maimon himself did not help matters by offering the following self-description: “To what degree I am a Kantian, an Anti-Kantian, both at once or neither I leave it to the judgment of the thoughtful reader.”

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationKant and his German Contemporaries
Subtitle of host publicationVolume 1, Logic, Mind, Epistemology, Science and Ethics
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781316493229
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2018.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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