What kind of modern thinker is Maimon? (or, why Maimon?)

Salomon Maimon, born Shlomo ben Joshua, is to say the least, a character. As is well known, he grew up poor and at times (or most of the time), homeless in parts of both Poland and Lithuania. His abandonment of the Talmud is, perhaps, a bit ironic given that he claimed to have mastered Talmud by the time he was eleven. In fact,  given Maimon’s intellectual skills, a wannabe father in law tried to kidnap him.  I think he continually referred to the “Talmudic darkness” as a descripter for the “obscurantism” that continued to take hold in Eastern Europe Jewish communities–something that may still be relevant today I think. From his auto-biography–which I am in the process of re-reading– I remember this: he got sick of spending his time pondering “how many white hairs a red cow may have and still be a red cow,” or how one should get dressed. Fair enough, but that type of pondering is endemic to his philosophical method.  I’m pretty sure, like Rosenzweig, he briefly considered converting to Christianity. Anyways, onto my rambling thoughts about Maimon and my initial contribution to the Maimon reading group..

Traditionally, Judaism and the Jews have been seen as a limit case, a destabilizing challenge, and constant test for Enlightenment rationalism.  In “A State within a State,” Fichte writes:

…the Jewish nation excluded itself…from the German nation by the most binding element of mankind—religion…It (the Jewish nation) separates itself from all others in its duties and rights, from here until eternity.

I see absolutely no way of giving them [the Jews] civic rights, except perhaps if one chops of all of their heads and replaces them with new ones, in which there would not be one single Jewish idea.

One of the interesting things that runs through Maimon (and Mendelssohn) is a kind of desperate, but in the end, pointless attempt to “civilize” German nationalism, that is, re-orienting citizenship not on blood but on law. What one sees above in Fichte, as well as in Kant (and Hegel, albeit in a different manner), is a tendency to exclude Jews from civil life based on some weird psuedo-theology. Michael Mack’s German Idealism and the Jew is quite good on this.  Of course, one need only read Marx’s “On the Jewish Question” to get an analysis of theological underpinnings of the civic inequities of Jews in 19th century Germany, and I think it’s good to contextualize Maimon in terms of this background.  Anyway, back to Mack for a moment.  His book traces a Jewish response to the Idealist deflation of materiality and attempts to unpack two important issues: first, an account of the antisemitism of German idealist philosophy is given by gesturing to how exactly pseudo-theologies/sciences featured prominently in discussions of Jewish “otherness,” from Kant and Hegel to Wagner. For those that are interested, the rest of the book details the counter-narratives cooked up from Mendelssohn to Heine to Graetz to Cohen, and finally, Rosenzweig and Benjamin, all of which try to challenge this secularized Protestant caricaturization of Jews/Judaism. What’s rather interesting is Mack’s account of Kant (Ch 1). In this version, Kant takes on Spinoza’s secular interpretation of ancient Judaism–that is, as a coherent set of civil proscriptions– which he “transcendentalizes.” In turn, we get this idea of Judaism as an “immutable religion without a religion.” Mack has a nice discussion of Kant’s move within the setting of a German Enlightenment, which, due to a variety of reasons opened up an easier path for the formation of a pseudo-religion. In fact, he accuses Kant and Hegel of harboring a bit of a Marcionist position.

Now, one could certainly argue that Judaism does not allow for figuring into a larger preordained drama; as a “light unto the nations” it continually interrupts and refuses any totalizing views.  This is one way to make sense of Fichte’s run of the mill anti-semitism.  Approached from this angle, it is difficult not to think of Kant, who launched a critical investigation into the nature of reason, and found that the a priori principles of reason limited the “pretensions to transcendent insight” of dogmatism and metaphysics. Kant , as is well known, concluded that it was “necessary to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith.” Similarly, for one example, Levinas claims that “Athens” announces a realm beyond the order of being and the rationally necessary laws that form it. Bluntly, it would appear that Athens instructs faith. According to Levinas then, the faith that qualifies “Jerusalem” is not just a satisfactory approach to answering the perpetual questions raised by “Athens,” in fact, it is conceivably the best approach to such questions. So, minimally, there is a family resemblance between the Levinasian and Kantian approaches; both thinkers want to carve out a space within philosophy for faith by limiting the proper auspices of philosophy. Maimon is interesting because I don’t think he fits into the traditional “Athens/Jerusalem” distinction (at least the way I’ve schematized it here), nor does his thinking fall under the category of “limit case” for Enlightenment rationalism, at least in the usual sense (his biography, however, certainly tells a different story, again see Fichte’s comment above).   In fact, Maimon is probably closer to Spinoza in this regard (and one facet of Maimonides, e.g. divine-human intellect). Rather than working through the ethical components of Kant, Maimon retains skeptical elements of  Hume in order to grasp a speculative espistomology that broadens the range of our knowledge that makes possible a “all-encompassing” account of humanity, life etc.  In turn, Maimon would have no reason to carve out a place for faith (or morality). In a completely different context, Hannah Arendt remarked that like Kafka, Maimon was a “conscious pariah.”  I’m not so sure about that either,  but Maimon was certainly wrestling with, and working across two different worlds and two different traditions.   In his interesting account of Maimon’s “radical englightenment,” Abraham Socher writes:

…one can see each of the intellectual worlds that Maimon inhabited struggling with the idea of a fixed human telos.  In the late 18th century Germany this teleological ideal is the changing notion of Bildung, meaning, at least both education and culture which shares, in part, a Aristotelian genealogy.  In the Jewish world…one sees each of the competing parties of Jewish modernity…vying to create a new unitary cultural ideal, often employing theoretical terms of medieval philosophy and mystical traditions such as shelemut hanefesh (perfection of the soul), hatzlachat ha-enoshit (human excellence), and devequt (union with the divine) in new discursive contexts (p11, The Radical Enlightenment of S. Maimon).

I’ll come back to Socher’s suggestion a bit more below, but off hand, I’m not so sure how accurate this claim actually is.  While Moses Mendelssohn inaugurated what has become known as the Berlin Haskalah (e.g.Jewish Enlightenment), in the decades following a new and more diverse movement arose in Eastern Europe and Russia. The Berlin Haskalah generated a philosophical corpus, whereas the Eastern European maskilim (supporters of the Enlightenment) tended toward a range of literary work,  be it satire, romance, poetry and with Maimon, autobiography (though Maimon’s autobiography was also certainly modeled on Rousseau’s Confessions).  What’s interesting–and important to point out– is that the Haskalah in Eastern Europe was quite diverse, ranging from conservative and “rationalist” reforms of traditional forms of Judaism to different forms of secularism.  Many of these movements had wide-ranging and long-lasting effects in Jewish history.

Anyway, going along with rationalist reforms of Judaism, Maimon tended to annoy people when invited to their homes by refusing to say any blessings over wine, challah etc. because–as a short hand– such ritualistic practices did not match up with Enlightenment ideals. Real quick and dirty, Maimon thinks the originary metaphysical impetus of Judaism has been reigned in and blocked by rabbis and mystics, but more on that another time.  Maimon writes:

Moses, as well as the prophets who followed him, sought constantly to inculcate that the end of religion is not external ceremonies, but the knowledge of the true God as the sole incomprehensible cause of all things, and the practice of virtue in accordance with the prescriptions of reason (184).

This is interesting because it smacks in the face of the Rabbinic forms of Judaism of the time, but Maimon did not follow along with the broad Enlightenment poo-pooing of all things medieval.  Amos Funkenstein comments:

The Haskala saw itself as part of the Enlightenment.  many of its basic tenets corresponded to those of the Aufkarler, “philosophers,” and “illuministi.”  Yet, it’s attitude towards the medieval tradition of Jewish philosophy was throughout different and positive: so much so that one can, without exaggeration, tie the beginning of the Haskala to the renewed interest in medieval religious philosophy.  The contrast with the European Enlightenment is blatant and calls for an explanation (Perceptions of Jewish History, 234, quoted in Socher, somewhere).

Enter Maimonides.  Maimon had this to say about Maimonides in his Autobiography:

My reverence for this great teacher went so far that I regarded him as the ideal of a perfect man and looked upon his teachings as if they had been dictated by Divine Wisdom itself. This went so far, that when my passions began to grow, and I had sometimes to fear lest they might seduce me to some action inconsistent with these teachings, I used to employ as a proved antidote the abjuration: “I swear Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon, not to do this act.” And this vow, so far as I can remember, by the reverence which I owe my great teacher, was aiways surricient to restrain me.

In his essay, “A Philosopher between Two Cultures,” Gideon Freudenthal suggests, correctly in my view, that Maimon writes “systematic philosophy in the form of commentaries:”

This practice of writing and reading commentaries requires and develops certain intellectual abilities at the expense of others.  It develops the ability to infer implications and  implicatures of what is presented, to guess by analogy the author’s position in one case from his position in another, different case, etc.  However, the systematic exposition of a  conceptual system is not learned thereby.  The system is always in the background, and only its partial instantiation–the commentaries on specific questions and loci–is visible.

Midrash reads closely for problems; and sometimes, in the absence of a problem it creates one in order to solicit meaning.  In describing the metonymic type of commentary which appears throughout the Talmud, Levinas comments, “It is of the essence of art to signify only between the lines—like a footprint that would precede the step, or an echo preceding the sound of a voice.”  Jacob Neusner identifies midrash as both a process of interpretation and compilation that utilizes three basic devices, paraphrase, prophecy and allegory. The strategy of the Talmud can be described as one of opening, whose principles deal with specific people and text in order to build meaning.  I’m not suggesting that Maimon is “midrashic” or “doing midrash,” but there are some affinities here I think.  Many critics of Maimon accuse him of obscurity, and again, Freudenthal rightly connects Maimon to Maimonides Guide of the Perplexed, which is a notoriously (and intentionally) unsystematic in its presentation (Strauss’ book on Maimonides is very good on this).  Freudenthal cites the opening lines of the Guide:

Hence you should not ask of me here anythign beyond the chapter headings.  And even those are not set down in order arranged in coherent fashion in this treatise, but rather are         scattered and entangled with other subjects that are to be clarified.  For my purpose is that the truths be glimpsed and then again be concealed so as not to oppose that divine  purpose which one cannot possibly oppose and which has concealed from the vulgar among the people those truths especially requisite for His apprehension…If you wish to grasp the totality of what this Treatise contains, so that nothing of it will escape you, then you must connect its chapters one with another (Guide, 7, 15, Freudenthal, 9)

and juxtaposes it with Maimon’s description of his method of reading Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason:

On first reading I obtained a vague idea of each section.  This I endeavored afterwords to make distinct by my own reflection, and thus to penetrate into the author’s meaning.  Such is properly the process which is called thinking oneself into a system.

Maimon continues,

But as I had already mastered the systems of Spinoza, Hume, and Leibniz, I was naturally led to think of a coalition system.  This, in fact, I found and gradually put into writing in the form of explanatory observations to the Critique of Pure Reason.  This was the origin of my Transcendentalphilosophie.

I’m inclined to agree with Freudenthal here and there are some interesting resonances with Walter Benjamin here as well, I think, at least methodologically.  A final point about Maimonides.  Abraham Socher goes way further than Freudenthal and argues rather forecfully that Maimon was a “radical Maimonidean and the self-conscious heir to a medieval and early modern tradition of Aristotelian naturalism,” especially in his early thought, which carries through to his interpretation of Kant in the Transcendentalphilosophie (56-57, See Chs 2 and 3).  Socher goes onto suggest:

In little more than a decade, Maimon moved from being an exponent of what he called ‘Jewish peripatetic philosophy’ of the Middle Ages, to being a forerunner, if not a founder, of German Idealism (159).

Hmmm–quite a bold, and fascinating, claim.  Add to this Atlas’ comment:

It is fascinating thought to realize that, through the mediation of Maimon, Maimonides’ ideals played their role in shaping the metaphysical systems of the post-Kantian period.  One is overwhelmed in contmeplating the devious and mysterious course of the human spirit; and one is involuntary compelled to ask wonderingly, in paraphrase of the words of Ecclesiastes: Who knows the way of the spirit? (from a 1948 essay, “Solomon Maimon’s Treatment of the Problem of Antinomies and its Relation to Maimonides” in the Hebrew Union College Annual.  Also cited by Yossef Schwartz (in the Freudenthal volume) in his essay, in part, on Maimon’s interpretation of Rambam’s causa materialis in Giv’at Hammore, or, Heights of the Teacher)

One of the things I’m interested in thinking about as this reading group progresses is the contribution of Maimon’s Jewish background to his philosophy (if there is any), as well as his broader “integration” into German Enlightenment (note: I don’t expect anyone else to follow along with my idiosyncratic thinking patterns).  As of now I’m not really sure there are any Maimonidean positions that are actually upheld by Maimon. Given what I know, Maimon pretty much demolishes Maimonides’ physics, astronomy, and cosmology, challenges the validity of Maimonides’ refutation of  atomism, and pretty much washes away any the relevance of Maimonides’ consideration of Aristotle’s theory of the eternity of the universe. It seems that such an angle is a complete wash.  However, if it’s true that Maimon disagreed  with virtually all of Maimonidean physics and metaphysics (and even with the very distinction drawn between these two fields by the Aristotelians), why bother at all with Maimonides?  One reason is methodological and has to do with Maimon’s background, as I note above, the other reason is historical, and I don’t have enough background to say anything all that intelligible about it.  Yossef Schwartz’s essay–along with Socher, albeit in a different register– offers a third possibility:  Schwartz compares Maimon’s effort to introduce his Jewish (or rather, Hebrew) readers to Kantian philosophy in his commentary on The Guide of the Perplexed and his German-language readers to Maimonides vis a vis his Autobiography, in his ongoing effort to legitimize modern philosophy to the Jewish community and Maimonides and the tradition of Jewish thought to the philosophers of his time.  The “test case” –a case that appears throughout the literature, actually–is the problem of God and material causality, which also puts Maimon into conversation with a good deal of other modern philosophers, esp Leibniz, Spinoza, Bruno and Mendelssohn.  How this plays out in the Essay on Transcedental Philosophy remains to be seen.

11 thoughts on “What kind of modern thinker is Maimon? (or, why Maimon?)

  1. this is going to end up in advanced disgression, so i keep it short, but since there was a mention of arendt”s ‘consious pariah’ i am, let’s say, somewhat suspicious of how arendt operates the notion of the cheerful unconcerned pariah, whether it being applicable to maimon remaining a totally different question altogether.

    otherwise, i wonder, did benjamin write something on maimon? i will look it up.

    “All this is another way of saying that the humanitarism of brotherhood scarcely befits those who do not belong among the insulted and the injured and can share it only through their compassion. The warmth of the pariah people cannot rightfully extend to those whose different position in the world imposes on them a responsibility for the world and does not allow them to share the cheerful unconcern of the pariah. But it is true that in “dark times” the warmth which is the pariahs’ substitute for light exerts a great fascination upon all those who are so ashamed of the world as it is that they would like to take refuge in invisibility. And in invisibility, in that obscurity in which a man who is himself hidden need no longer see the visible world either, only the warmth and fraternity of closely packed human beings can compensate for the weird irreality that human relationships assume wherever they develop in absolute worldlessness, unrelated to the world common to all people.”

    from her essay “On Humanity in dark times: Thoughts about Lessing”:

  2. I hate to just drop a quote like this, but this might be of interest. This from Leo Strauss’s Spinoza book.

    “The philosophy of Kant’s great successors was consciously a synthesis of Spinoza’s and Kant’s philosophies. Spinoza’s characteristic contribution to this synthesis was a novel conception of God. He thus showed the way toward a new religion or religiousness which was to inspire a wholly new kind of society, a new kind of Church. He became the sole father of the new Church which was to be universal in fact and not merely in claim, like other Churches, because its foundation was no longer any positive revelation. It was a church whose rulers were not priests and pastors but philosophers and artists and whose flock were the circles of culture and property. It was of the utmost importance to that Church that its father was not a Christian but a Jew who had informally embraced a Christianity without dogmas and sacraments. The millenial antagonism between Judaism and Christianity was about to disappear. The new Church would transform Jews and Christians into human beings-into human beings of a certain kind: cultured human beings, human beings who because they possessed science and art, did not need religion in addition. The new society, constituted by the aspiration common to all its members toward the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, emancipated the Jews in Germany. Spinoza became the symbol of that emancipation which was to be more than emancipation but secular redemption.”

  3. That’s from the “Preface” to Spinoza’s Critique of Religion, I think. There’s a lot more there, if I remember correctly, I should reread that preface but I don’t know if I have the book handy. Maybe Shahar does.

  4. This business of “carving out space for faith” is something I always found a bit cheesy in Kant, to put it more or less bluntly. Although I think I understand what he was trying to say, I find the very use of the notion of “faith” here rather odd. It’s not religion as such and it’s not necessarily some sort of the opposite of knowledge, but it reads a bit escapist and even conciliatory to the possible theological critique – a sort of “oh well, it seems that our capabilities are limited in this and that way, now at least the church folk can stop meddling with philosophy and we can stop pretending to be interested in theology”…

    Does critical or skeptical position necessarily require some sort of “space for faith”? Thinking without contradiction is not knowing (outside of limits of knowledge), but it is not faith, is it? I think that the business of thinking vs unthinkable shouldn’t necessarily translate into reason vs. faith. The limitations of our cognitive capacity is not a reason for despair but a simple statement of fact, it seems. All these usual sighs about how after Kant our world became small and crowded since we can no longer fly away on the wings of our speculations about the molten caramel cores of objects and so on.

    To put it shortly, I’m intrigued by your statement that Maimon has no reason to carve a space for faith – maybe you can extend it, if you have time (or interest)?

  5. I’m intrigued by your statement that Maimon has no reason to carve a space for faith

    Ok, I think there’s three things to be said here, and I’m certainly not the only one to notice such things. The first two are relatively straightforward, the third is a bit more involved (and has to do with the Strauss citation above from Spinoza’s Critique of Religion). So, for now, I’ll just quickly comment on the two.

    1. If we take seriously the (philosophical/methodological) influence of Maimonides on Maimon, the former’s identification of the core of philosophy (e.g. natural science and divine science) with the highest “secrets” of the law, then philosophy is the gateway to the absoulte/divine etc. From the SEP:

    …Maimon’s idea of Enlightenment was that of propagating science and philosophy. This understanding of Enlightenment was deeply imbedded in Maimon’s inheritance of Maimonidean philosophy, which took philosophy and the sciences to be the highest stages of religious work, through which one comes to know God in the deepest sense. This attitude is clearly demonstrated in Maimon’s 1791 commentary on the Guide of the Perplexed — Giva’ath ha-Moreh (Hebrew: The Hill of the Guide). In this work Maimon frequently interprets the claims of Maimonides according to 18th century science and philosophy (especially Kant). While this form of intentional anachronism reveals Maimon’s view of philosophy as a perennial discourse, it was also designed to serve the propagation of modern science and thought among its readers (Maimon himself explains in a similar way Maimonides’ decision to open his legal codex, the Mishne Torah, with a summary of Aristotelian first philosophy).

    This is plausible, I think.

    2. The other reason, which also has to do with Maimonides, I think (and will certainly come up again so I’ll just gloss over it) has to do with his “solution” to Kant’s notion of the thing-in-itself and the role that the “infinite mind” plays. In short, I think that along the lines you note above, Maimon (and perhaps Kant) isn’t in any way a deflationary thinker. In fact, I think that Maimon anticipated a good deal of what Cohen ends up saying, e.g. the D-an-S is not a metaphysical entity but rather, a limiting concept of the full rationalization of the data of experience toward which reason struggles into infinity. Maimon introduces this business of the infinite mind in order to guarantee the ideal of the rationalization of the “stuff” of experience. Unless it is (metaphysically) rational under the watch of God it cannot be rationalized (scientifically) by us. In turn, humanity shares, or better, is part of the Infinite Mind. So, again, no need to “make room” for faith.

  6. I’m sure much of this will come up in the discussion of the thing-in-itself as a limiting concept later, but Maimon’s take on experience in terms of infinitesimals is one area I’d like to understand better. As limited as my understanding of calculus is, I always thought I got the basic premises, that is until I read Maimon’s attempt to apply those ideas, then I’m completely dumbfounded. So hopefully there’ll be more of all things infinite later.

    Hopefully I’ll have time to post my short take on Maimon later today, got a bit busy with school yesterday, but this combination of skepticism and metaphysics is quite peculiar in Maimon – on one hand, he severly limits already limited reason in Kant (or so it seems), and yet his talk of infinite understanding and complete determination and so on is sort of precursor of “wild speculations” which is, I have to say, I don’t really care for (but I’m intrigued by Maimon’s combination, so maybe that’s a secret – “Speculate but be skeptical”?)

    So do you think that Kant’s (and German Enlightenment’s) attitude of “space for faith” is, in a way, a dualistic approach to the entirely of human knowledge based on Kantian critique of reason? Bransen frames Maimon’s critique of Kant in terms of his critique of three dichotomies (that he claims cannot be maintained in a way Kant wants, or so I understood it): appearances vs things-in-themselves, synthetic a priori vs analytic a priori, and concepts vs. intuitions. So there’s a kind of “new dogmatism” arising with Kant’s necessary dualisms, at least if we read Maimon this way, while Fichte and Hegel goes in a more speculative direction of ultimately denying any sort of duality – it’s all on the same plane of reference then, philosophy, science, religion and so on…

    Just thinking aloud while drinking my morning coffee – ahh, the smell of Kantianism in the morning (on a second thought, Kantianism probably smells a bit like formaldehyde, doesn’t it?)

  7. Pleasantly surprised to see all this reference to Strauss, whose name I feared would be a weird idiosyncrasy of my own remarks.

    I am more friendly to the “make room for faith” angle of Kant, which I suspect is one of the things that makes him bete noir for Meillassoux; but I am also intrigued by the argument that Maimon doesn’t even need this. (At one point in the “Brief Overview” he claims to actually reconcile theism and atheism, “provided these are both correctly understood,” of course (I am [mis?]quoting from memory).)

    • Well, it’s probably a weird idiosyncrasy on both our parts. Frankly, there’s a good deal about Strauss that I don’t like, but I think Spinoza’s Critique of Religion, at least in this context, is best understood as an attempt to challenge the necessity of Enlightenment secularism or better, the notion of critique. Maimon is interesting in this case because he has his feet in both the Haskalah and the Enlightenment. I think you can begin to see Strauss’ turning away from Cohen et al here, e.g. Neo-Kantian methodology etc. Strauss’s comparison of Spinoza and Maimonides– a comparison of different types of rationalism, as well as the relation between philosophy and Jewish law–is at bottom concerned with the role reason should play within one political community or another and moreover, the very nature of “critique.” While Spinoza and other figures of the modern Enlightenment thrust reason into the public and tried to show the public that reason could serve their interests, Maimonides (in this version) tried to protect “the public” from the potential instability that skeptical reason could produce. Reason, thought Strauss’s Maimonides, tended to lead community members to question the very traditions that had maintained harmony on each and every level of society. I wonder if Strauss, who was fairly young when he wrote his book on Spinoza, anticipated the later Strauss of Persecution and the Art of Writing who argued forcefully that Rambam and others, of course, wrote layered texts that held both “exoteric” and “esoteric” dimensions, so that the philosophical lessons would only reveal themselves completely to the proper readers. I’m not wholly convinced that this is going on in Maimon, at least the Maimon of the Essay. That remains to be seen. As is well known, Strauss was bothered by the Enlightenment’s disregard for the effects of knowledge on “the public realm” favoring instead the “medieval approach” (for lack of a better term) given its cognizance of the effects of rationalism on the public/social order. For Strauss, I think that Spinoza’s rationalism, by which he has in mind Spinoza’s critique of religion, was by definition a public practice. Spinoza becomes then, an architect or founder of liberal modernity, to which his criticism of religion was necessary. So, unlike Spinoza, who according to Strauss ignores the needs of the Jewish community whenever those demands conflicted with the demadns of science, Maimonides (at least Strauss’s version) was well-aware of the need to place limits on philosophy if it threatened the legal authority of Judaism, which of course, also means the political authority as well. From this vantage point, I wonder if Maimon comes out more on the side of Spinoza, so as I noted in my post the other day, I think Maimon takes methodological cues from Maimonides, as well as this business of the infinite intellect, but I’m not sure how much further I’d want to go in that direction. We’ll see…

  8. Not everything in Strauss is agreeable to me either. My own take on the idea of esotericism in philosophy is more or less that philosophy classically aims at cultivating the experience of insight, and that “doctrines” are secondary to it. Strauss seems to think that a contradictory text, for instance, is meant to conceal which of a number of more or less plausible readings is actually “intended” by the philosopher (and it always turns out to be some socially threatening interpretation, hence the need to conceal it). I on the other hand tend to see contradiction (or various other ploys in a text) as forcing the reader to engage in philosophy to attain a ‘eureka’ of their own. This doesn’t mean that there are no surface clues as to “what the author really thinks.” Wittgenstein at the end of the Tractatus does point the reader off the map of discourse, but what has gone before is not without pertinence to his own position. What interests me in Maimon, in this respect, is his consistent refusal of system in the name of truth, even his claim to be able to find “the point where “materialist, idealists, Leibnizians, Spinozans, and yes, even theists and atheists can be united.” Switch out some of the anachronisms and I think this could probably do service for Averroes or Maimonides as well.

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