You are on page 1of 22



IN THE CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON (hereafter CPR!) Kanl makes
multiple allusions to t.he ~ t h i n g in itself. ~ I-Ie also mentions that, while
understanding spontaneously produces concepts, sensibility receives
its objects passively.3 An initial reading would lead us to infer t.he
existence of a material principle that would have a causal effect on
sensibi lity, generating its material in s uch a way that the object of
materially considered knowledge could be wlderstood as the effect. of
a transcendent cause, thal it would be located beyond the phenomenal
sphere. K.:"lnt himself refers to a "cause'" or "ground,"" Ole effect of
which m'e perceptions.
This approach is problematic, since concepts can only reach out
to the phenomenal sphere. To aim to apply them beyond tJlat scope
would imply a return to a precriticaJ position, from which Kant openly
removes himself in CPR."
In view of this problem, we could consider that Friedrich Heinrich
Jacobi 's classical st..:1.tement: "without this presupposition [of the thing
in itself] I cannot enter into the system, but with this presupposition I
cannot remain within it" is totaJly justified.? In other words, the
pretension that would appear to be the basis of K,mtian philosophy is a
Con-espondence lo: Instituto de rliosofla, Universidad de los Andes, Av.
San Carlos de Apoquindo 2200, Las Condes, Santiago, Chi le.
' J used tile Akademieausgabc; Berlin & G6ttingen: De Gruyter, 1900, vol.
3 (A edition of 1781) and 4 (B edit.ion of 1787); and the translation from
N0I111an Kemp Smith; London: Macmillan, 1961.
o! See, for example, CPR B 42-5, 49-72, A 235--601B 29+-315.
'See CPR A 5O-2IB 74-6; A 68IB 93.
, See CPR A 278/B 334; A 372; A 393; A 538/B 566 .
See CPR A 2771B 333; AfJaO; A 613/B 641.
& Sec CPR, for example, A 146-471B 185-87.
; Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, David /fume iibe,. den Glauben oder
ldealismus WId Rea/islltus. Ein Gespriich, in Werke (Darmstadt:
Wissenschafllichc BuchgeselischaJt, 1968), 2:304. The emphasis is original.
All t.ranslations n ~ my own, unless ot.herwise indicated,
17lc NCllielt' of MelO/Jllysic$ (j:J (March 2010): 593-61;1. Copyright (> 2010 by 17/e Rc/;ie!{' of
critical pretension, according to which the only cognoscible thing is
that of which we have an immanent knowledge." For Kant, this
immanent knowledge is always experiential, that is not purely
intellectual, in finite beings.' To state UWl something in itself is
causally determining but ullcognoscible, would require a level of
acceptance tJmt goes beyond the margins of Kantian criticism.
1I0w, then, can the idea of the given to sensibility be understood
so thal it does not contradict the critical pretensions of Kantian
Philosophy? In ot.her words, how can we understand this as not
caused by a transcendent thing in itself?
Salomon Maimon tri ed to answer this question. Not only did he
show the difficulties of the Kantirul proposal, but he s ketched a way of
getting round them. In t.his paper, I will present the Maimonian
position ,md evaluate it in terms of this problem, l1ying to establis h its
contribution to the development of critical philosophy. Prior to this,
however, in order to place this proposal in a proper focus, I will briefly
refer to the issue of the thing in itself as broached by the first
interpreters of t.he CPR: Jacobi, Gottlob El1lst Schulze, and Karl
Leonhard Heinhold.
The issue of lhe given ill the /in;l commentators. The
Maimonian interpretation of the CPR differs somewhat from the
intcll)l'etal.ions of subsequent commentators of tile work, in the sense
that on the one hand, he takes tile stance that to maintain criticism it is
necessary to defuse the metaphysiC:-ll-causal charge of his affirmation,
while on tile other, he does his very best to remain close to
Kantianism, which he underst.ands to be imbued in the critical spirit,
and not simply get riel of t.he CPR. Jacobi, Reinhold, and Schulze
respectively stray from at least one of these two attitudes.
See CPR B -II, B 506-07, note; Ems! Cassia'r, Das ErkellllfnisprolJlplil
il1 de/" Philosophie "I/Illl lVissellschqf/ del' n(>lIeren Zeit III, in E. Cassin'!",
Geswmnelle Welke. Hamburger Ausgabe (I1amburg: Meiner, 2000), 4: 1-2;
Richard Kroner, Von Kant bis Hegel. 4Ul ed. (Tiibingen: fo.'lohr Siebeck, 2007),
"See CPR B 52, 68, 72, 9;1, 148-49, 159, 3;33-35,3-12-46, A :373-74, 389.
Jacobi formulates the isslie of the thing in itself in such a way that
his solution does not appear possible within the framework of the CPR
or of a critical model. He states I hal entering into the Kantian system
involves acknowledging Kant's distinction between a thing in itself that
is uncognoscible and phenomena that are cognoscible. Nonetheless,
this distinction, which at first enables us 1.0 overcome a na'ive realism
that believes ~ h l we rea11y know the thing in itself without involving
our way of knowing, turns against the Kantian system, as this system
considers that it is incorrect to affirm the existence of a lranscendent
thing in Hselr (in other words a thing in itself thaI could be reached
cognoscitively), because knowledge is merely phenomenal.
Now then, a sensible receptive knowledge would in itself
dcmand--owing to a rational requirement- a reference to a thing in
itself that operates as a source of my passive or receptive
representations. To affirm a receptive sensibility would necessarily
imply a thing in itself as a source of the received represellu .... tions. "To
feel passively or to suffer," says Jacobi , "is only one half of a condition
that cannoL be thought of the basis of this half alol1e."1l It will
therefore be necessary to suppose yet again, by need of the same
rational lhought-because the matter cannol be thought of
ot.herwise-Lllat the thing in itself is something existent, in such a way
that the only possible course would be to abandon KanUan criticism.
Although Jacobi detects the inconsistency t.hat exists in the CPR,
he gives no solution that could be framed within criticism, beyond the
dogmatic implication of t he text, and he simply removes himself from
the Kantian spirit. and the CPR.
Karl Leonhard Reinhold differs from Jacobi in that. he t.lies to
fonnulate the Kantian theory in a plausible way. For Reinhold, there
would effectively be a thing in itself that determines our
representations. To return to realism, overcome by Krult, would be
inconvenient. The thing in itself would not. be directly cognosdble, as
would happen ill a dogmat.ic metaphysics, but its causal effect on
knowledge would be affirmable. "That by means of which the
represented stands apart from the mere fonn of representation
10 Jacobi, lVerke 2:304.
II Ibid. , 2:309.
belongs to lhe thing in ilseU:",t In his theory, Reinhold accepted the
"existence" of something u(J.1;lernallo Htpresenl(ttion.""
This intellJretation of the CPR can also be criticised as dogmatic,
since it strays from one of the fundamental principles of cliticism,
namely that the use of pure concepts of understanding is only
legitimate with regard to phenomena. Criticism aims to do withoUl the
noncognoscible to clarify knowledge. Reinhold, on the other lumd,
does not overcome this "realism" and establishes the existence of a
Iranscendent entity or item that would play an aU-important role in the
explanation of human knowledge. So, although Reinhold does not
reject the CPR, in his attempt at solving the issue, he does stray
beyond the criticism which is its cornerstone.
In this sense, Gotllob Emst Schulze remonstrates Reinhold for the
lranscendent. use of the category of cau5<'l.lity. Cause, effect, and
reality (Wirklichkeit) are concepts that can only be applied validJy,
within the framework of the criticaJ system, on phenomena, not within
the relations between objects "in themselves," which ar e removed
from our capacity of knowledge ancl from our intuitions. II
Nonetheless, Schulze adopts a sceptical position similar to that of
David Iltune, not only against Reinhold's intell)retation of t.he CPR but
aJso against the CPR itself. According to Schulze, the CPR would faJl
into the same error as Schulze says "According to its most
important principles and results," when refening to the CPR,
the categories of cause and actuality [Wirklichkeitj can only be
applied on empi ri c intuitions, if they arc to have a sense and
meaning. But, what we cannot do is to intuit the subject of Ole
representations [the thing in itself] ... , so Ulen it cannot belong to
the realm of objects thaI are cognisable to us; in this way according
to the tenets of critical phil osophy, it is not a cognoscible actuality
U Karl Leonhard Reinhold, Beytrt;ge zw' Bel'idtUgllng bishel'iger
MissversUiminisse del' Philoso])hell, Erster Band, rlas Pwulamenl. der
ElemmU017)hilosopJde betrelfend (Jena: Widlmann & Mauke, 1790), 188. The
emphasis is oliginal. See ibid., 210-11 ; 24 1-47,
' l Ibid"216. The emphasis is original.
11 See GouJob Emst Schulze, Aenesidentus odeI' tiber die F'undamel1l.e
dm' von Herrn PI"OIessoJ' Rei.nhold in Jena gefiejerten ElementoJ'-
Philosophie. Nebst ei.ner Verlhe-idigllng gegen (lie Amnaassungen der
Vemm{flkrilik (Hamburg: Meiner, 1996), 130-37,
)\ See ibid.
[WirkJ ichkeil J with a contelll [rerueJ, neiUlcr a cognosciblc causality
with a
In other words, both Jacobi and Schulze wouJd break off with the
CPR-for opposite reasons-and Reinhold would try to remain close
to it but on the basis of a dogmatism that Schulze finds unacceptable
and which is, in errect, unacceptable if criticism is assumed in a
consequent way.
On the other hand, Maimon will attempt to take that criticism of
the CPR as far as possible, which to a certain degree would imply Ulat
he wHl not aim at completely severing his links with lhe CPR.
Nonetheless, he will not be satisfied with keeping to a dogmatic
interpretation of the work, which accepts the transcendent application
of categories. In any case, this interpretation would imply going
beyond the text of the CPR. What Maimon definitely aims at is to
express in his thought the fundamental clitical intention of the CPR,
wltich he understands to consist in Ule idea that knowledge can only
be clarified with knowledge, without resOlting to entities or items that
are transcendent to knowledge. In critical philosophy "we cannot
refer to thaL which causes knowledge, but rather Lo what is conL:'lined
in it. This intention, which would be the basis of the CPR, is what
Maimon aims at depicting in his doctrine of the given.
Critical Re'inlel1J1Y1lations of lhe Kant.ian Concepts. In his
interpretation of the given, Maimon tries to remain within the
boundaries of critical philosophy. From this point of view, both the
metaphysical-dogmatic realism or pre-Kantian philosophy, together
with Reinhold and-should we accept the intellJreL,llJons of thei r
critics-Kant, when trying to explain knowledge in reference to a thing
in itself, would make the mistake of crossing the threshold of the
cognoscible, and understand that. the category of cause has a
transcendent application.
II Ibid., 155. The emphasis is original.
,t Salomon Maimon, K1'Uische Untersuchungen den mellscillicilell
Geist, in Gesammef(e Werke 7:67; hereafter GW. 1 used lhe Geswmnef(e
Werke, 3rd ed. lIildesheim: Ohn5, 2003, vol. 2, 3, 4, 5, 7.
This means placing reason in the dogmatic position of aiming to
explain knowledge on the basis of an entity or item inaccessible to this
knowledge. So, nothing is clarilied, as this is an obscure item,
unknOv.'11 and removed from the clarity of knowledge. The issue is
rather a simple supposition of "U1 unproved l"C' i ationship, " Maimon
searches more for a self-foundation than for a pseudoexplanation that
is based on items that are beyond knowledge. '"
The consequent asslimption, then, of tile critical attitude implies
the limitation of the application of the concepts of understanding to
the sphere of phenomena and not trying to explain knowledge on the
basis of "causes" or "existences" that are removed from the sphere of
phenomena or knowledge. CtiLi cal knowledge is limited to explaining
that which is immanently accessible to us and not inaccessible
transcendent beings ....
With tJlis constraint in mind, the only possible solulion to t.he
problem of explaining knowl edge would be to include in some way t he
thing in itself within the realm of what is at least potentially
cognoscible. This is the solution proposed by Maimon. "Maimoll,r
says Samuel Hugo Bergman, Mplaced the two elements of knowledge,
understanding and sensibility, within cognition.""
In thi s Maimonian intcll)retalioll of the CPR, the thing in itself is,
first of all, an idea to be attained, rather than something causal
removed from us,'" "As I see it ," writes Maimon, "knowledge of the
thing in itself is nothing but the complete knowledge of
If the question about the thing in ilself cannOl be answered in a
,. See Salomon Mailllon, Ver!;lIch {'illC/' IlPlleU odf'1" 11leorie de ."
DeI/kellS, Nebsl wlgehiiJlgt(?JI Bl'iefen des Pllilole/es (III Aellesidemlls, in GW
5:185i Cassircr, Dos Erkellntllisproblem, 80-1.
I' See Maimon, Versudt libel" die Tmllszendel/tulphilosopllie, in GW
". See for example, CRP A 146-47/B 185--87; I\ lax liorkheimer, VOJ1esuIIg
libel' die clc'lIfsclte iciealisfisc/te Philosoph ie, in Gesammelte
(Frankflllt a. M.: Suhrkamp, 1990), 10:84-6.
" Samuel Jlugo Bt'I-gmaJl, 77w Philosophy of SolomoJ/ 1I1ai.I11011
(Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, 19(7), 14; see ibid., 12,22,23,29.
;;:! See Samuel Alias, From Critical to Specilialil'l' Idealism. The
Philosophy of Solomoll MoimOll (Der Ilaag: Martinus Nijhofr, 1964) 14-5, 20-
Solomon fo.laimon, Philosoplliscllf'S \Varler/J/lcll oell'l" Beleuelt/ulIY elCI"
lViclltigell Gegellstiincle del" Philosophic in alplwbctise/ter On/lluIlY, in GW
3:200-0 I; see G W 2:366.
melaphysical-dogmatic way, resorting to a simply assumed but
uncognosci bl c cause, and the philosophical-cliticaJ response kept
within Ule realm of what is cognoscibJe and of its anal yticall y
accessible conditions of possibility, Ulen the lcnll "thing in itselr only
has meaning as a compl ete knowl edge of phenomena, like the total
realization of knowledge on the part of the cognoscent s ubject.
SUiclly speaking, the question regarding something Ihat goes beyond
Ihis complete knowledge lacks sense for a philosophy orientated at
cl etcnnining the cognoscible and its conditi ons of possibility.
If we bear the above in mind, it can be said that the question
regarding the place from which the given is given is badly phrased, as
there is nothing like a place that i s transcendent LO knowledge from
which the given call be given. It cannot be given from another prut
beyond the realm of knowledge ruld its conditions because in that case
it would (once again) be a causal given, which, as we have seen, i s
unacceptable from the critical point of view. Maimon writes,
Given docs not mean ... something within us, which has a cause
outside of liS: because this cannol be immediately perceived, only
concluded .... [Given] merely means a represemalion whose way
of appeari ng before us is unknown:
For Maimon, "passivity is not
It is subj ecti vity i tself Ulat gives itself the given from itself. In
Dlher words, the gi ven emerges from a transcendental principle, not
from a transcendent pl ace. "AU [awareness of objectsl would be a
mere modification of tile capaci ty of representation, n Z<> ruld it would not
refer to another cause. The given is pure representation Ihat is not
referred to something transcendent to the representative acti vity of the
subject itself. There is no reference to a world what. can be
On its prut, thi s placement of the given in cognoscible subj ectivity
should nol. be understood causally, as if there were someUling similru'
,j Ibid. , 2:203; see ibid., 7:67.
z.o; Pel er Thielke, and Diversity: Kant. and Maimon on Space and
Time,H in Salol1/OJ/ Mahnon: Rational Dogma/ist, Em1lil'ica{ Skeptic, ed. G.
Freudenthal (Donlrec:hu'Boslon/London: Kluwer Academic Publ ishers, 2003),
:<. Mainlon, GW 2: 16..1.
r. See ibid .. 2:205-00; 5:426-27.
to a hidden entity which we call subject, which causaJJy produces
sensible representations. Such a concept would Illean that there has
been no progress with respect to the dogmatism that Kant and
Reinhold were accused of, since, if this were so, it would be a case of
res0I1ing to an instance beyond knowledge to explain knowledge. The
subjective pol e simply alludes to the function of the act 01' the
reaJizalion of knowledge. "" It is the act of knowledge ilSelf in all its
shapes that is Ule core point of remission of concepts and intuitions,
an act of knowledge that, just as its condition, requires a function of
unity which is the lranscendental subject.""
Now, then, if sensibility is the capacity of receiving in human
knowledge, the previous statements would lead us to concl ude that
sensibility in itself does not exist, if by "receiving" we understand the
passive act of making a place for items that are removed from the
subject itself, because there is nothing different from the
representations that the subject spontaneously gives to himself ....
Furthenllore, according to this idea, subjectivity must be a
spontaneous principle of knowledge: because it is impossibl e to go to
a thing in itself that is different from the subjecL's knowledge, the only
possibility is that subjectivity is the spontaneous principle of the
totaHty of the phenomena, aHJlOugh, as I have said, not causal ly, but as
:III Maimon rejects metaphysical-dogmatic illtcll)rClaLions of the
Unnscendemal subject. He understands (and approves) that CPR "does not
detem1ine any being like the subject and calise of knowledge, but only
investigates what is contailled in knowledge itself ... The Cri.lique oj Pure
Reason does not determine the mind [Gemiitj as a thing in itself, not as a
nOllrnenon, neiUler as illl idea. Mind in Ulis means no other than !he
completely indeterminate subject. of representations, to whom they refer. The
detemlination of this subject as a thing in itself, nomnenon, or idea would
tum it. into a represent.ation of itselr. 111en, it would stop being t.he mere
subject of representations. For this reason it must remain uncletemlined,
according to its concept.. It is merely thought. of as a logical subject, but not
in the category in which it should COITespond, in other words, never as a
nouJ11enon." Solomon Maimon, Bl'ie.fe des Philaietes (1) AenesidlmlUs, in GW
5;412-13. Nicolai IImtmatm says of the text: by no meilllS is a
hypostatisation of the absolute subject to the subject in itselC Nicolai
Haltmann, Di.e Philosophie des Dell/schen Idcalismlls (Berlin: Walter de
Gruyter, 1960),23.
See Atlas, From Critical to Speculative Idealism, 55-6.
JII wYou should avoid the word 'affecC - 1\'1aimon t.ells
means to Sllffer from t.he effect of an exlemal GW 7:67.
a mere function of knowledge, which is no more than the act of
knowledge itself, of which it is a principle.
But, if the principle of the given is the subject, which is a flUlction
of knowledge, why is lhe given represented passively, namely as if it
were received from elsewhere? I should clarify that in all truth
Maimon considered tilaL sheer receptivity would never be completely
attainable, as this would mean arriving at a point of utter absence of
activity, and t.his is death or the utter void of knowledge. The passivity
of sensation would be "a mere idea, which we are continually
approaching though a reducti on of awareness (but which we will
never be able to reach, because I he absence of aJl awareness = 0, and
consequently it cannot be a modification of the capacity for
knowledge)." !!
Knowledge never contains absolute cognoscitivE' passivity.
Passivity as representation emerges from the reduction of the activity
of the subject, a reduction that brings the emergence of the illusion of
an active extelllal cause that we simply receive. III view of the
incapacity or finite understanding to pcnelrate into the rule of UlC
emergence of the object, imagination tries to replace lack of vision by
adding I he unpenetrated palt5 temporally and spatially.:l:! The
comparison of the greater degrees of awareness with their lesser
count.erparts would bring forward the idea of a receptive passivity of
what i s added t.o space and time, in such a way that what remains in
space and time is assumed to have an origin that is unrelated to
This misunderstanding would be expressed in the Maimoni<.U1
distinction between "representation" (VOl'SteUung) and "presentation"
(Darstellung). The word representation is especially suggestive in
English, as it refers to presenting again or making present again
something absent, alt.hough it already exists as a given thing. Re-
presentation (we inselt the hyphen between "re" and "presentation" to
emphasise the sense of the action of representing again) wouJd simply
J. See ibid. , 2:168.
U See ibid., 2: 18-9, 133; Avraham Ehrlich, Das Problem des Besondel'en
ill del' Iheorcliscllell Philosophie Salomon Mai.mons (Kaln: Diss, 1986),37--8.
J;.! See Maimon, GW 2:419-20; Manfred F'nmk, 'Unel/dUche Ann('.
Die Anjdnge del' pldlosophiscllen Prt'ihmnwnlik , 2nd ed. (Frankfurt, a. M.:
Suhrkamp, 1998), 131, 136.
involve the upgrmUng of the appearance of something which already
exists. The word itself would induce us to fall into an error which
would be to suppose the existence of an object beyond representation
itself. In other words, the meaning of til(> word re-presentation would
make om reason necessarily demand a previously existing
presental i on to which we must rcsOlt for a new presentation. In this
respect, Maimon says:
*The word representation [Vors1.ellung, whose literal translation
from til(' Genllan is 'to plaee in front'l, used in ils plimitiv(' usage,
leads us to all error, because ill fact, in I his case the issue is not a
rcprcscmation, in other words. the mere prescillation of something
that is not presetll, but a presentation, in olher words to represent
as extam what had never existed .....
The word presentation (Darstell wl g) is best a(ljusted to the way in
which knowledge effectively occurs for Maimon. In knowledge,
understanding consLilUtively places the known in front of it The issue
i s not to bring fOl-ward an exi sting object but rather t.o constit.ute it in
the act itself of bringing it forward.-"
Nonethel ess, we should ask oW'selves the reason for the existence
of less awareness 01' reduction of t he activity of knowledge in the
subject., which is exactly the condition of its possibility. We have
already seen thal passivcness cannot be caused by an external thing in
itself because it does not admit Ill<' clitical principle from which Kant
and Maimon operat.e. Therefore, the source of that. relati ve
passiveness or reduction of conscience should, paradoxically, be
located in t he activity of knowledge itsel f. In knowledge, I his source
of relative passi veness could be found ei t.her in t.he understanding or
capacity of rules, or if not, in an autonomous principle, different frolll
In this l ast case, we would have to consider this source of
autonomous passivity as a positive principle or a generator of purely
sensible represent.ations that the subject merel y receives from withjn,
from his own activity, ignoring alll1Jle of emergence because there is
no rul e of emergence whatsoever. The rul es of the emergence of
objects cannot belong 10 a pure sensibility, whose source would be
.. l\1aimon, GW 7:142--43.
'> See ibid . 2:29-30.
transcendental sUQjeclivity, but conceived as a sensibility that would
be separated frOIll the faculty of I he rul es. These rules belong to
understanding, so that consequently this sensibility, considered as an
autonomous posilive plincipie, is a sensibility U13l i s removed from Ule
This sensibility would be impossible as a principle of knowledge.
To say "make emerge" without obeying any law of emergence is
notiling but creating the emergence of something beyond the
necessary rules of emergence and conslitution, in other words,
removed from 1 he way in whi ch uncierst.:'1llding itself operates; this
would make absolutely impossible the conslitulion of objects able to
make the correlative emergence of a conscious knowledge of objects.
Whcn refening to the eventual lack of conceptuality in phenomena,
Kant himself stated: in this situation our own representations would be
"less even than a dream.'''
So this passivity is not due to an external cause or to a sensible
autonomous principle in the subject, and ilS source can only lie in
understanding. Nevertheless, this is where two possibiliLies appear.
This first, which would appear as a positive principle, is not
acceptablc, because the issue is the incapacity of understanding to
make cognoscible the mode of rule of emergence of the given, in other
words, of its own activity. So the only possibility is a defect or
limitation in the principle of U1C act of knowing: sensibilHy cannot be
but a mere defect. of the spontaneity of the subject, nothing
else than the expression of finitude of cognoscitive activity.:17
Consequcntly, sensibility and unders tanding would not be two
radically different eiemE'l1l.s, founded all two diverse principles:
"Sensibility is in liS incomplete unders tanding
says Maimon. So that
in a celtain way, scnsibility emerges [rom Wlderstanding and more
prccisely e!\.l)resses ilS finitude. In this way, tile given is not a positive
reality that has full autonomy wit.h regard to understanding; rather, it is
"' CPR A 112.
To See Bergman, Tile Philosophy oj Solomon M(t imoll, 14, 16-7; Alias,
Fl'om Critical. 1.0 S]Jeculalive Idealism, 812; "rutmann, Die Philosopllie des
Deulschen Idealis1llS, 21; Frank, 'Unendliche Annlihe1'll'llg', 123; Ehrlich,
Das Problem des Besollderen, 24-5.
,OJ l\'Jaimon, GW 2: 183.
the defect of human understanding, of its linitude itself ml(i of nothing
Maimon clearly differs from Kant and resolts to the tradilion of
Leibniz and Wolff and understands that the given is a less clear
representation than a conceptual one, " whose specific character
would be caused by the "reduction of conscience" or the activity of the
subject in his cognoscilive act. II ConceptuaJ representations moe
transparent for LIS, we understand them fully_ We would also fully
understand the object iJ13t we would completely create from our
concepts, in !he guise of an infinite understanding. Nonetheless,
Maimon states, with the exception of the mathemalical objects-lhat
we consU'uel in accordance with om conceplS"-the rule of the
emergence of the given is un known to us, 13
Human tmderstanding-the spontaneity of the subject, the
capacity of rules-is then, Maimon admits, finite, in other words, it is
aJways in from of something given whose rule or way of emergence is
unknown..... Finite understanding'S incapacity to understand this
emergence of the given, its way or rule of emergence, is what would
make its temporaJ and spatiaJ representation a si mple addition (with
no sttict unity). 1:i Sensibility would be the realm of representation
whose source is understanding, bu!. whose rule or way of emergence is
not fuUy conscious, 1!! To be affected by perceptions is then definitely
an expression of an action of wulerslandjng that is not totally
perceived by our awar eness; it is the manifestation of an incapacity of
tinite understanding, to be aware in the act of knowledge of the
:Ie See ibid" 29; Charlotte Katzhoff, "Salomon Maimon's Critique of Kant's
Theory of in Zeitsclu'ift fiil' philosopltische Forschul1g 35
(1981): 186--8; Hartmann, Die Phifosophie des Deulscllen ldealisrnlls, 20-1;
Prank, 'Unend/iche Annahelung', 123-32; I-iorkheimer, Gesammefte Schl"iften
10:88--9; Thielke, Mlntuition and Diversity: Kant and Maimon on Space and
103 .
.. See Maimon, GW 2:63-4.
11 See ibid., 2: 168.
Q See, ror example, ibid., 2:2; Slreijereien im Gebiele der Pltilosophie, in
-tJ See ibid., 2: 1-2,203; 5:250; 7:67.
" See ibid., 2:86-7, n. 203.
'1 See ibid. , 2: 18-9, 133.
, . See ibid. , 2: I 82-S3.
conceptual nature of the objects in front. of it (wlderst.,1nding). 17 So,
this is how Maimon views Ule establishment of the relationship
between the originally conceptual character of intuitions and Uw
represt'ntations of intuitions in time and space.
The idea of (III 'infinite understanding For several reasons,
Maimon resorts to the idea of infinite understanding as principle of all
representation. First, Ulcre is the acknowledgement of the linite
nature of human understanding. Second, there is tile statement of the
originall y conceptual nature of sensibility. We have seen ( l) that
hwnan understanding is finite, in other words it docs not acknowl edge
the nile or mode of emergence of its objects. (2) However, sensibiJity
should also be originally conceptual because it cannot proceed (a)
from a third party (thing in itself, which would signify a fall into
dogmatism), (b) nor from an active plinciple of subjectivity, other than
understanding, because this purely sensible active principle would not
be, as we have seen, able to accOlmt for the emergence of awareness
Given, then, (I) that human understanding is finite and (2) that
sensibility musl be originally spontaneous, we come to the need for an
idea of completely spontaneous infinite understanding, which creates
objects in a radically spontaneous way. If not, we would have to
affirm that there are celtai n objects, namel y those thaI are sensilively
gi ven to finile understanding, that completel y lack emergence modes
or rul es. This is impossible because in this way we would be dealing
with objects which, in addition to being uncognoscible (because their
lack of rules or their chaotic nature does not produce the emergence
of an awareness), would have a transcendent origin to transcendental
subjectivity, which is understanding. \II
n See ibid., 2:203.
<8 Maimon's tJlOught regm'ding tJle fact that "knowledge of the thing in
itself is nothing but the complete knowledge of phenomena
is thus validated
ibid., 3:200--01; sec ibid., 2:366. There is no "otJler world" beyond the
cognoscible, when cognosdble is lhe possible object of an infinite
Despite the limitation of finite human understanding, which
determines the presence of sensibil ity and the given in our knowledge,
l\1aimon sees I hat there is a difference in degree but not in e s s e n c e ~
between human understanding affected by finitude (which prevents us
from apprehending the rule of the emergence of the sensitive) and
infinite understanding. Maimon Slates "Our understanding is exactly
the same [as the infinite] but morc limited.",o Although infinite
understanding can be in plinciple distinguished from the finite, as the
former is not faced with something received of which there is no
awareness of the l"uJe of emergence (as it is totally spontaneous), finite
understanding is definitely the same as its infinite coume1vart, and as
such can also be the creHtor in lhe field of mathematics, for exmnp[e,
where it would be capable of creal ing objects according to Hs own
All in all, the definite reason that would make impossible their
essential differentiation is lhat there is nothing like an essence of the
sensible. The sensibility is only a defect, 01', in other words, a lesser
degree of awareness in an understanding that, therefore, has the same
essence with that which realizes it to an ultimate degree. Human
understanding stops being infinite understanding, because it is no
longer understood totally and transparently in a conceptually aware
mode within its activity of knowledge.
Beyond lhe CPR. In his aHempt at solving the issue, Maimon is
laking a step which, although inspired by criticism, goes beyond Kant,
who clearly establishes t.he presence of the given as a dimension that is
irreducible to understanding."" The separation of the given regarding
'" See ibid., 2:65.
~ Ibid., 2:65; see Frank, 'Uncmllichc Amdilwnmg', 130.
'" See i\laimon, GW 2:2, 4:42.
'" 111is identification gives the finishing touch to the step towards strong
idealism, which will laler be developed by riehle; see Bergman, 77le
Philosophy of Solomon Maimon, 240; KUllO Fischer, Gescllicllfe del" lIellcren
Philosophic (Heidelberg: Winter, 1914), 0:47-50; Wilhelm Winde1band, A
His/olY of PltilosopllY (New York: i\Jacmillan, 1919), 570; Wilhelm Dilthey,
the subject is repl aced by t he idea of an infinite understanding that is
immanent to knowledge and that operates in it as the principle of all
r epresentations, both conscious and unconscious.
On the other hand, in CPR A 271-2 Kant clearly states the
presence of determinations of the object that correspond to Uw
dimension of the given and which are irreducible to the spontaneity of
understanding and its concepts. Understanding and its concepts are
unable to explain the given in an overall way, since there are objects
that have a different nature from conceptuaJ nature. There is a part of
the phenomenon that is simpl y given from an instance of
nonconceplUaJ nature. Por Kant, not every difference between obj ects
could be explained conceptual ly. There are merely positional
differences beLwel2'n conceptuall y identical objects.
If [ know a drop of water in all its intemal determinations as a thi ng
in itself, and if th(" whole concept of anyone drop is identical with
that of every other, I cannot allow that any drop is different from
any other. But if the drop is an appearance in space, it has its
location not only in understanding (wlCl er concepts) but in sensible
outer intuition (in space) .... Difference of locations, without any
fm1.her conditions, makes the pluralily and distinction of objects, as
appearances, not only possible but also
In the CPR, it. is only intuition which can make it possible to
distinguish two objects which have an identical concept.
Conceptuality is not enough, not even with all the detelllli nations it
provides, to finish demarcating the phenomena. Sensibility is just able
to ma ke possible the emergence of multiple phenomena, regardless of
their identical concept. So sens ibility operates as a principl e of
nonconceptual nature. So Kant cannot give a sol ution similar to that
of Maimon, for whom what is given sensibly is in the end explainable
in a conceptual way. ""'
With his position, Kanl remains bound to a cel1ain realism, as he
cannot explain the given without referri ng to an item that is beyond
knowledge itself, namely what is sensibly given, which in aJl truth is
not a real explanation. Maimon radicalises Ule Kantian questioning in
Roslockcr Kamhandschriftcn," in Gesalnm.eite Scl/rijten. 6
(Gotlingcn: Vandcnhocck & Ruprecht, 1990),4:319.
,... CPR A 272; sec A 282.
,.. See M. Frank, Auswege (IUS dem Delltschen IdealistnllS (Pr:.mkfurt u.
M.: Suhrkamp. 2007), 397-406.
the measure that he completely reduces the given to understanding as
a condition of knowledge. The given is definitely the result of the
finitude of that understanding. So, in principle, he makes it possible
for understanding- in its capacity as a funclion of knowledge-to be
the only thing that can explain the way in which knowledge happens.
Knowledge would fuln], at least in respect of the given, the critical
ideal of explaining itself to itself and not by reference to uncognoscible
external instances.
Relevance and Lim'italians Qr lhe Mctimonian Solution (0 lite
Issue oj the Given. With his doctrine of the given, Maimon radicaUy
crosses the line of realism and understands the thing in itself as ml
idea Ulat alludes to Ule complete knowledge of the phenomenon,
which, although never totally reaUzable by finite understanding, could
be paltially atlained. According to Maimon (years before Schulz.e) the
thing in itself should not be unders tood causall y, if we ru'e to be
consistent with the critical dye of the CPR. Nonetheless, he differs
from Schulze and Jacobi, as he looks for a way of overcoming the
problem of the tiling in itself with a systematic interpretation of the
CPR so that the aJl1nmllion of the thing in iLSelf becomes plausible. On
the other hand, the latter ended up by abandoning Kant.
Maimon's solulion, to a certain degree, breaks away (rom what he
considered to be dogmatic remnants of the Kantian philosophy and
triggers a fundamental reflection that provides the foundations of later
idealism.'"' In Maimon, the step towards an idealism more radical than
Kant's would have already been taken. As in F'ichte, in Maimon we can
distinguish subjectivity as the source of all representations, including
sensitive representations, 11 with respect to empi ri cal awareness, which
considers sensibility receptive, despite the fact that it is also active in
See Maimon, GW 2:103, 209.
',oj See Johann GOlliieb FichlC, Gesmnlausgabe del" 8ayerischcn
Akademie del' \vissellsclwf/en (StuugartlBad Cannslatt: Fl'Ommann-
Ilolzboog, 1962.), 312:282; 4/1:212.
~ See Maimon, GW 2:205.
nature. Yl F'i chle's felt i s similar to Maimon's infinite understanding," In
Maimon, human underSk'1nding is not essentially different from infinite
understanding-the difference is only expressed in degrees-so it
would perhaps be possible to consider the identification of both,'"
Most Maimonian scholars share t.he opinion that Maimon's
thought could be taken as a step from transcendental Kantian
philosophy to the idealism of F'ichte later of Schelling,' Thi s
histori cal-philosophicaJ relevance would be both negative and positive,
since Maimon not only showed the inadequacy and problems of the
Kantian approach, but he also tried to sol ve them.1I2 Thi s is the case as
regards the issue of the given. It is precisely t he inclus ion of the thing
... See ibid., 2: 168, 205-06.
(,/I Sec Frcderick C. Beiser, TIte Fale oj Reason. German Philosophy
from Kant to Fichte (CambJidgc!London: Hruvard Universit y Press, 1987)
110 l\Jaimon. GW 2:65; given is Ulcn that whose way of emerging in
the subject remains unknown to us .... Both material and [oml belong to the
subject." J-iat1.mmm, Die Pldlosophie des Dcutsclten IdeolisJnlls, 21; see
Katzhoff. Maimon's Critique of Kant's Theory of Consciousness,
61 In this way, AUas says thaI philosophy constitutes "a necessary and
logical transition, between critical thought and metaphysical speculation."
that would return with idealism. Atl as, Prom Critical to Speculative
Idealism, 1. Bergman speaks of great impOltance for the
understanding of the development of philosophical thought in the post-
Kamian pcriod," Bergman, 71te Philosophy of Solomon Maimon, vi ii. Fol'
Beiser, this Essay would be ';a work of the first importance for the history of
posl-Kantian i<lealism.M Beiser, 17le Fale oj Reason, 286. lIe adds study
I;khte, Schelling or lIegel without having read Maimon's Versuch is like
studying Kant without having rcad lIume's ibid. Prank takes the
opportunity to show Maimon's influence over F'ichte; see Frrulk 'Unel/dliclte
AnnalterIlJlg', 124, 126, 127-28, 131--32, 136; in this s..'unc sense see Atlas.
From Critical to Speculali"ve fll ealism, 54. The Maimonian interpretation of
the givcn as established in the subject would be what pcnniued the step
towards F'icht("s id('alism, In this way, Frank concluded that the real founder
of the new stream was Maimon and not Pichte, as is most usually given; see
Frank 'Unendliclte Anniilwrung', 123-24, 130--32, 136--37. This step is given
thanks to his rcinlCIl)retation of the given not as an "cxtemar or causall y
operating thing in itself, but as something that is clearly understood as not
known conceptually; see Beiser, Tile Fal e of Reason, 294, 306--09;
Das Erkennf1l isproblem, 86.
!i.! See Beiser, 771f! Fate oj Reason, 286.
in ilseJf within the cognitive faculty, which enables him to surpass
Kant and pave the road for FichlC.'"
Despite its merits, the Maimonian proposal does have its
problems. I should like to refer to onc which, I beli eve, affects its very
core. Maimon's explanaLions of the given solve Ihe problem, as posed
in the CPR, and advance towards a more radi cal position from a
critical point of view. However, in this pass.. ... ge, he appears to abandon
criticism. On affinning that an uncognoscible item is the basi s of
knowledge, namely, inflllite understanding, he set aside the
explanation of knowledge in terms of what is revealed in it and in
doing so would be resOIting to external uncognoscible condit ions.
A possibility of savi ng Maimon from falling into this pit would be
to intell)ret the inlinite understanding in his texts as an idea which he
could consider as playing a purely regulatory role in human
)Glowledge.'" Nonetheless, I believe that this interpretation faces
serious constrai nts. First, Maimon expressly states the existence .md
constituti ve nature of infinite understanding: ''This schema (finite
understanding] pOints at the idea [of inlinite understanding], and the
idea at the thing itself or at its existence, without which this idea and
its would be impossible.''''' The second, and perhaps more
imp0l1ant, difllculty is that the originally conceptual nature of IJle
objects of experience is a condition of a conscious knowledge of
objects, and this originally conceptual nalUre implies an infinite
understmlding that is the base of these objects. If we take infinite
undersLanding as a merely regulatory idea, the explanation is no longer
val id because it is no longer possible to afl111n that objects are
original ly conceptual, when the constituti ve basis of their
conceptuality has disappeared. Kant himself saw that regulative ideas
do not explain the way in which objects are constituted in human
knowledge but only subsequently to order those that already
m See Bergman, TIle Philosophy oj Solomon Maimoll, 240; Windelband,
A His/ory oj Philosophy, 570; Dilthey, GesQlnmelle Schr({Icn, 4:319; Fischer,
Geschicftle del' IIcuenm Plrilosopliic, 6:47-50 .
.... SCC' Alias From Critical 10 Speculative Idealism, 330; Beiser, 77le F(I(c
oj Reasoll, 304-05. There would exist a cerlain basis in Maimon's texIS to
SUppOlt Ulis: see GW 2:6.J; 7: 16:3.
" See Maimon, GW 2:365-66. The intcrpretcrs or 1I1aimon admit this
dogmatic' tenc\en('y of his thought, for example, Cassirer, Dos
constituted,'" To say thai infinite understanding is a regulalive idea
would consequently mean denying it i ts role in t.he constitution of
objects, which is a function which Maimon also gives it.
The other possibility is to take infinite lUlderslanding as
constitutive, and this necessarily implies faJling into the clutches of
dogmatism once again. A constituting infinite understanding can only
be understood as an absolute and self-conscious constitutive item. So
white it is inJinite, it is able to produce tiw complete object. from
within itself, wlti le understanding is completely produced from i ts own
conceplS; in other words, it should be Cul1y aware of constitutive
activity in ilSelf and what has been constituted as s uch. Taken as such,
an understanding of this kind must be substantial.
Nonetheless, l\'Iaimoinian dogmatism is shaded. As I have said,
there is no essential difference between finite and infinite
understanding, the difference can only be expressed in degrees, so we
are aware of the nature of the infinite understanding as understanding.
The idea of infinite understanding would be the complet.e realization of
knowledge in which we have a PaJt, namely by mCaJ1S of a conceptual
construct.ion, which we woul d realise in mathemat.ics. "All t he
nwlllffnwlical concepts are thought by us and at the same time
established as real objects through construction a pri01'i. Thus we are
in this respect similaJ' to God. " 0; Our knowl edge of infinite
underst.anding would consequentl y be dhect., "as i n pmt we have the
same [way of thinking of infinite understandingj.""
However, this shading in dogmatism is not enough to overcome it.
For the latter to occur, Maimon would have 1.0 effectively give us a
knowledge of infinite understanding, in other words, of a purely
conceptual and not inl.uilive knowleflge, conscious of the creation of
objects from pure concepts.
We are not really aware of this acl. of creati ng objects on tJ1C basis
of pure concepts in natural science or in maUlematics. We are not
aware of the way in which natural objects emerge from concepts.
However, ('ven when we are aware of the construct ion of objects in
mathematics, they are really constructions based on a certain material,
" Sec CPR A 64MB 672,
"'" l\laimon, GW -1:,12. The emphasis is original.
''' Ibid., -1:..\2.
and we are not aware of the respective constitutive act of tllis material.
In this way, for example, we are not aware of the creative act which
gives way to the spatiality which is the basis of geometrical
constructions ..... Only if this consciolls knowledge took place, wouJd
we have a correlative immanent knowledge of infinite understanding
and nol a mere conclusion that reaches out to what would definitely
be a transcendent substance.
It would seem possible to indirectl y show that the intuitive has a
conceptual root, in the mcasm"e that the impossibility of the KanHan
dualism is proven and gives credit to the conceptual origin of the
given. On the other hand, given the finitude of underslanding, it is
impossible to give evidence of pure and non in lUi Li ve knowledge. This
is the impossibility that allows Kant to argue, for example, against the
attempt lO explain conceptually sensible differences of objects that are
conceptually identical.
Maimon saw the problem clearly. In his Essay on 1
Philosophy, when he speaks of the difficulty of tJle "explanation of the
emergence of the world (in accordance with its malleI') from
intelligence,"'" he is obviously refening to infinite or creative
intelHgence. He outlines an explanation based on his theory of
differentials, 71 affinning the purely conceptual nature of mathematical
knowledge;'" he even gives an example of how what inil ially would
appear as a mere intuitive conjunction could become conceptual.'"
III This will delennine t.hat thcre cannot exist a coincidence between
geomelJ"ical concepts and their constnlction; see ibid., 3: 188; Gideon
Definition and COllstl"llcl,ion. Salomon Maimon's Philosophy
oj Geomelly (Max-Planck-lnstitul flir Wissenschaftsgeschichte, 2006),
Prcprint, 317:118-20.
;II Maimon, GW 2:62.
n Differentials would be the last intellectual pm1.s of what. is sensibly
presented to finite understanding; see ibid., 2:27-34, 290-92; Bergman, 77w
Pllilosophy oj Solomon Ma.i1no11, 59-68, 257-71; Salomon Zac, Solomon
Matmon. Critique de Kant (Paris: Les Editions du Cerf, 1988), 155-71; Achim
Engstlcr, Untersuchungen zum Jciea/ismus Salomon Maimolls (Stuttgm1f
Bad Cmmslatt: Fromman-lIolzboog, 1990), 47-50, 128-43, 165-89; Meir
Buzaglo, Solomon Marmon. Monism, Skepticism, and Malllcnwtics
(Pittsburg: University of Piusburg Press, 2002), 124-28; Atlas, Prom Critical
to Speculative fdealism, 109-23.
:-: See Maimon, GW 4:42; 2:2.
;:1 In his Essay he tries to redirect. the intuitive natw'e of U1C line
(recutude) towards a conceptual definilion; see ibid., 2:65-70.
Nonelheiess, these are only simple indicaLions of how the test would
be possible, not ils rendition. The issue remains until the test
is finally given.
I tend to doubt the reality of the solution because we cannot
conceive a purely conceplual knowledge of how objects constitute
themselves completely [rom the conceptual and how the conceplUal
becomes an object.
According to habitual readings of his works, Kant on his part
holds his position that understanding and sensibility are sources of
knowledge that are mutually irreducible. He is thus saved from the
problems related to the affinnation of an infinite understanding as the
basis of knowledge. Nonetheless, he must face the difficult and
apparently insoluble question of explaining the origin of the given as
something independent from the transcendental subject which is not
causally conceivable-as I have uied to put forward here-and the
other difficult issue of the relationship of understanding with an
um-elated sensibility, frolll which necessarily detenninecl objects
should emerge, an issue that is so ample that it exceeds the boundaries
of this papcr.
Universidad de los Andes, InSfillll0 de PilosoJfa
71 I have broached these t.opics elsewhere. This paper is prut of the
results of the FONDECYT 11075027 Project, "The Juridical Standpoint and the
Factic Standpoint in Salomon Maimon's Versuch iibe/" die
TJ"(lIIszelldelllaiphilosophie." I am grateful to Rafael Simirul and Mario
I\IoJina for vely helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.
Salomon Maimon's Commentary on the Subject of the Given in Immanuel
Kant's Critique of Pure Reason
Rev Metaphys 63 no3 Mr 2010 p. 593-613
Philosophy Education Society, Inc
Catholic University of America, Washington, DC 20064
The magazine publisher is the copyright holder of this article and it is reproduced
with permission. Further reproduction of this article in violation of the copyright is
prohibited. To contact the publisher:
This article may be used for research, teaching and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematic reproduction, re-distribution, re-selling, loan or sub-
licensing, systematic supply or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make
any representation that the contents will be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any instructions, formulae and drug doses should be independently
verified with primary sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss, actions, claims, proceedings, demand or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever
caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.