Maimon Conference Report

Gary Banham posted a nice report from Maimon conference that took place at Manchester Metropolitan University on August 19th. Take a look:

The event of the week was certainly attending the one-day conference on Salomon Maimon that was staged at my own university, Manchester Metropolitan, this week. The event was organised in celebration of the translation of Maimon’s Essay and it certainly revealed further reasons for taking Maimon seriously as a major philosopher.

Maimon Conference and More

As we mentioned before, Manchester Metropolitan University is having a one-day conference on Maimon’s Essay. The event is tomorrow, August 19th. The program and locations are listed here. If anyone is interested in posting a short description of the various papers and discussion, feel free to email me and I’ll post it here, since I’m not able to go myself. Hopefully, some of the papers can be made available online.

Gary Banham (of Inter Kant) posted a promise to respond to some of the papers and continue on with the discussion. If you are doing something similar, send me a note and I’ll post it up here as well.

Maimon Reading Group: Chapter 10.

This is a summary of the final chapter of the Essay, although the chapter is fairly short and hardly requires summarizing, so in addition to the summary, I think it would be fair to say a few words about the book as a whole.

The chapter discusses in a somewhat disjoined manner two topics: the question of the I and the issue of Maimon’s own position vis-a-vis materialism, idealism and dualism.

The section dedicated to “the I” presents a rather Kantian discussion of the basic difficulty of thinking the I – to put it bluntly (and simply): how can I think about the I if this very I is what does the thinking? Surely, I can think about thinking, but if the I is the ground of thinking (“a condition of all intuitions and concepts”), then my attempt to get at it is likely to fail since what I perceive/synthesize when I think about the I is already at work while I do what I do. To put it in Maimon’s terms, “as a result, it [the I, das Ich] can be thought as an object in general, but we do not have any cognition of it as a determined object (just because it is common to all objects).” [85/155-56] As Maimon illustrates this point, I can think of the I as a substance, but there is no way for me to have a cognition of the I as a substance because I have no intuition to subsume under it. Continue reading

Maimon Reading Group: Chapter 9 – Truth, Subjective, Objective, Logical, Metaphysical

Another fairly brief chapter but again very rich. Maimon’s aim is to distinguish and clarify various ways in which the word ‘truth’ can be used (the chapter’s title lists these) as well as to reflect on the objectivity of the forms of thought delineated in the Essay, all the time continuing certain broadly Kantian observations whilst entertaining certain criticisms of the Kantian project.

The chapter opens by defining truth not as a property of thoughts but of signs (Zeichen) and expressions (Ausdrücke) in relation to thoughts. Thus the expression ‘a right angled triangle’ is a true concept because through it a triangle can be thought as determinable and being-right-angled can be thought as a determination and the two then ‘taken together’ (zusammengenommen – see Chapter 7), the necessary connection of subject and predicate becoming visible. A false concept is one which “is taken to refer to something (a thought unity) that it cannot refer to” (80). A third possibility exists, of a concept which is neither true nor false, e.g. ‘a black triangle’ where thinking black does not lead automatically to the thought of a triangle; the one can be thought without the other and in fact nothing (or very little) is thought in such an expression. Continue reading

Maimon Reading Group: Chapter 7 Rejoinder.

This rejoinder is meant to add some of my observations to those already made by Utisz. Hopefully this will be helpful, these are the sorts of issues I found interesting in Chapter 7. Generally, these reflections are an attempt to tackle Utisz’ question: How far, if at all, is Maimon disagreeing with Kant or taking the idea in a direction other than Kant’s intention?

Although, as Utisz points out, chapter 7 is rather short, it’s certainly not lacking in depth. If we take extensive and intensive magnitudes as attempts not only to think about quantitative and qualitative differences, but also as a continuation of the previous discussion of the nature of cognition, then the “definition” of extensive and intensive magnitudes, it seems to me, is the central claim of the chapter: Continue reading

Maimon Reading Group: Chapter 7 – Magnitude; Chapter 8 – Alteration, Change, etc.

Chapter 7: Magnitude

A short chapter this, just two pages, and rather than take up your time with a commentary longer than the original I’ve restricted myself to summarising and explaining the main arguments before offering a few questions for possible discussion. Chapter 7 continues in the vein of elaborating some key Kantian and pre-Kantian notions, the focus here being a distinction between extensive and intensive magnitude, a contrast familiar from Leibniz but also taken up by Kant and which Maimon illustrates in nicely straightforward terms. Continue reading

What is it like to be an object? Hume and Maïmon

[cross-posted at Abberant Monism]

Early in his Treatise Hume proposes a simple challenge to anyone who would deal his system a fatal blow: come up with an idea that cannot be traced to a corresponding impression. Hume then offers a possible example, namely the case of the missing shade of blue. If we had experienced all shades of blue except for a single shade, and if all these shades were spread out before us except for the missing shade, would we be able to come up with an idea of this shade despite the fact that we had never had the corresponding impression of it? Hume claims we no doubt could and then quickly dismisses the case as exceptional and of little threat to his system. David Pears, Jonathan Bennett, and others believe Hume was mistaken to dismiss the missing shade as an insignificant exceptional case and argue that it does indeed pose a serious challenge to his system. There has been much ink put to paper to address this issue. Then towards the end of the Treatise, in the Appendix, Hume makes another claim concerning simple ideas that has also caused much consternation. After claiming that ‘simple ideas may have a similarity or resemblance to each other,’ he argues that ‘Blue and green are different simple ideas, but are more resembling than blue and scarlet’; moreover, these comparisons can be made without relying upon or ‘having any common circumstance the same.’ (T 637). As simple ideas, blue, green, and scarlet are qualities that are not composites and yet they may and do vary by degree. As Hume puts it, all the degrees in any quality – degrees of blue, intensity of color, etc., ‘are all resembling’ – they all resemble the simple idea blue – ‘and yet the quality, in any individual, is not distinct from the degree.’ (ibid.). In other words, if we think of the missing shade of blue as one of the qualitative degrees of intensity of the simple idea blue, then the missing shade is not distinct from the qualitative simple idea we do possess, and hence the inseparability of degree from quality enables one to come up with the idea of the missing shade. This is why the Laplander, to refer to another of Hume’s examples from the first Enquiry, is unable to come up with the idea of wine – they had not had a single impression of wine and hence no degrees of quality either. Continue reading

Maimon Reading Group: Chapter 6 – Identity, Difference, Opposition, Reality, Logical and Transcendental Negation

[by Corey McCall, Elmira College]

The concepts of identity and difference are more general than the categories.  Identity and difference refer to determinable things rather than determined things, while the categories refer to determined things (i.e. they are conditioned).  Identity and difference are relational concepts, which means that they are reciprocally determining, but they are determinable with respect to the categories.  A and B must be thought as different, for they are more than thing.  A=A refers to more than one thing as well, insofar as we are referring to things at different times. While concepts can be self-identical, an object cannot.  Maimon’s point here recalls Hume’s notion of the emptiness of metaphysical speculation in The Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding: “Man is a reasonable being; and as such, receives from science his proper food and nourishment: But so narrow are the bounds of human understanding, that little satisfaction can be hoped for in this particular, either from the extent or security of his acquisitions” (Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 3).  It also recalls Maimon’s own point from the end of Ch. 4 that these syntheses only occur within time (54). Continue reading

Maimon Reading Group: Chapter 5 – Thing, Possible, Necessary, Ground, Etc.

[by Corey McCall, Elmira College]

1. Introduction

I’ve divided my post on the fifth chapter into two unequal parts.  The first, lengthier part deals with modality and covers approximately the first two pages of Maimon’s text.  Once I realized I’d never post anything worth reading if I kept going at this pace, I decided to wrap up with a much shorter section on the notion of the thing, which roughly covers the rest of the chapter.  It amounts to a series of notes which are my attempt to make sense of what’s going on in the chapter.  I discuss David Lachterman’s article “Mathematical Construction, Symbolic Cognition, and the Infinite Intellect: Reflections on Maimon and Maimonides,” Journal of the History of Philosophy, 30 (1992), pp. 497-522; I believe all the remaining texts that I cite have been cited by either Jon or Nick in their posts.  I’m becoming increasingly interested in the role that the imagination plays in Maimon’s work, and I’m hoping to be able to write something more on this in my post on the symbolic cognition appendix during the first week in August.  I’ll post on chapter six in the next couple days. Continue reading

Maimon Reading Group: Chapter 4

[by Nick Midgley, London]

Chapter 4 : Subject and Predicate, the Determinable and the Determination


This chapter launches straight into an analysis of how in a synthesis one term is defined as subject and the other as predicate, it establishes a criterion for these attributions. The first paragraph analyses syntheses that Maimon describes as ‘one-sided’ and which give rise to ‘absolute’ concepts, whereas the second paragraph begins with an analysis of syntheses that are ‘reciprocal’ and give rise to ‘relational’ concepts. Later in the chapter both these syntheses, as syntheses of the understanding containing necessity, are contrasted with the merely contingent syntheses of the imagination. The distinction between these three kinds of synthesis had already been introduced in chapter 2 (s.35-6), and Maimon will discuss it further in chapter 8. Chapter 4 as a whole concentrates on one-sided syntheses, and it is only these syntheses that are characterized as the determination of a determinable, the topic of the chapter. Continue reading