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The Radical

EnlightenIllent of
SoloIllon MaiInon
Judaism) Heresy) and Philosophy

Abraham P. Sacher

STANFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS

STANFORD, CALIFORNIA

2006
Introduction Solomon Maimon
"He is one of the ra\vest of Polish Jews."
Marcus Herz in a letter
to Immanuel lunt

111 May 1789 1m1nanuel 1Zant wrote to Marcus Herz:


But what were you thinking, dearest friend, in sending me a large
package of the Inost subtle investigations not only to read but to
think through, when I, in Iny 66th year, aln still burdened with con1-
pleting my plan (partly in producing the last Critique, namely that of
judgment, which should appear soon, and partly in working out a sys-
tem of metaphysics, of nature as well as of morals, in conformity with
those critical demands) .... I had half decided to send the Inanuscript
back with this completely adequate apology. But one glance at the
work made me realize its excellence and that not only had none of my
critics understood me and the Inain questions so well as Herr Maiinon
does but also very few men possess so much acumen for very deep
investigations as he. 1
Herz was a doctor and man of letters who had studied with IZant at
1Zonigsberg and had maintained an important philosophical correspon-
dence with hin1 over the previous two decades. Indeed, it was in a letter
to Herz, nine years before the publication of The Critique ofPure Rea-
son, that 1Zant first sketched the outlines of his great critical project
of mapping "the Limits of Sense and Reason." 2 Herz had also been a
close friend and collaborator of Moses Mendelssohn, the leader of the
Berlin Jewish Enlightenment (the Haskala), and along with his wife,
Henriette Herz, presided over the most glittering intellectual salon in
Berlin. 3 The manuscript in question was a commentary to 1Zant's Cri- I

tique of Pure Reason, written by an acquaintance who called hin1self


Solon10n Maimon.
2 Introduction

In the letter that accon1panied his manuscript, Maimon identified


himself as son1eone who had been "condemned at birth to live out the
best years ofn1Y life in the woods of Lithuania," al1d had thereby been
"deprived of every assistance in acquiring knowledge." He went on to
describe his belated and avowedly partial enlightenlnent in Gerlnany,
with the sllpport of such patrons as Mendelssohn and Herz.
I finally had the good fortune to get to Berlin, late though it was.
Here the support of certain noble-minded persons has put me in a
position to study the sciences. It was natural, I think, that my eager-
ness to arrive at my main goal-the truth-should 111ake 111e lleglect
to some extent those subordinate studies, language, 111ethod and
so 011. 4

Maimon's self-portrait, which he was to elaborate 011 three years later


in a widely read autobiography, was underscored by Herz's cover letter
to IZant, which described the allthor as having only recently been "one
of the rawest of Polish Jews." 5
The manuscript itselfwas written in a difficult and ungainly German,
but even more striking was the literary form that it took. The book in-
cluded not only a close reading and criticism of the central doctrines of
IZant's Critique but also a IUl1d ofcommel1.tary upon itself, which refined
and extended the criticism and sketched a possible solution to the philo-
sophical and exegetical problems posed. Throughout, Maimon drew
implicitly and explicitly on an eclectic array ofsources, including the au-
thor's boldly chosen namesake, the twelfth-centlIry Jewish philosopher
Moses ben Main10n, known in the European philosophical tradition as
Moses Maimonides.
IZant's letter to Herz was the turning point of Maimon's career.
Although it was a private communication, addressed to a third party, in
which IZant had specifically written "I assume it is taken for granted that
this is not for publication," it served much the same function as a posi-
tive blurb from a preeminent academic would now. 6 At this particular
historical moment, in which the salon was a forum for peer review and
any letter from IZant a matter for social comment, such praise could be
almost public without being published. 7 Maimon's book, titled VCrsuch
uber die Transcendentalphilosophie, was published in 1790, and his career
as a public intellectual was launched. 8 He became the coeditor ofa lead-
SolOlllon Maimon 3

ing Gern1an journal of philosophical and speculative psychology, pub-


lished work in leading Enlightenment journals in both German and
Hebrew, and engaged vigorously in scholarly controversies throughout
the following decade.
In 1791, Maimon published an extraordinary Hebrew comn1entary to
the first part of Main10nides' Guide ofthe Perplexed, which interpreted
Maimonides in the light of IZant (and vice versa) and was the first
substaI1tial work of moderI1 philosophy written in Hebrew. 9 In 1792,
Maimon made IZant's praise fully public by prolldly quoting it in his odd
and brilliant autobiography, simply titled Salomon Maimons Lebens-
geschichte. 10 Maimon's "life history" was widely read and remarked
upon by both his Jewish and Gentile contemporaries. It was discussed in
the salons, Goethe and Schiller corresponded about it, and it virtually
invented the subsequent genre ofHaskala alltobiography. As the literary
historian Alan Mintz has written, it is "olle of those rare books that le-
gitimately deserves to be called senlinal." 11 Maimon contiI1ued to write
and publish for anot11er seven years, until his death in 1800 at the age
of 47. Over the last two centuries, IZant's letter has been Maimon's le-
gitimating epitaph, qlloted or paraphrased (and often exaggerated) in
both histories of German philosophy and histories of the Haskala since
the mid-nineteenth century.
In a later letter, written to a Gentile philosophical rival of Maimon's
rather than a Jewish sponsor, IZant had not been so kind. In March
1794, he wrote to 1Zarl Leonhard Reinhold, the leading exponent and
popularizer of the 1ZantiaI1 thought at the time:
I feel an inexplicable difficulty when I try to project lllyself into other
people's ideas, so that I seem unable really to grasp anyone else's
systelll.... This is the reason why I can turn out essays of my own,
but, for example, as regards the "improvement" of the critical philos-
ophy by Maimon (Jews always like to do that sort of thing, to gain an
air of importance for themselves at someone's else's expense), I have
never really understood what he is after and must leave the reproof
to others.!2
Too much, perhaps, should not be made of such private (and paren-
thetical) remarks. The letter was written at a time in 1Zant's life in
which he felt that his intellectual faculties were failing him just as he
4 Introduction

was witnessing the defection ofhis nl0st gifted students and expositors,
Reinhold among them. The passage smacks as nluch of academic
gamesmanship as it does of Enlightenlnent anti-Judaism. Nonetheless,
the terms with which I(ant dismisses Maimon are revealing. He is an in-
trusive Jew whose work is unoriginal (perhaps even parasitic) and close
to unintelligible. 13
Maimon's German philosophical writing did betray its Polish-Yiddish
origins, and his exegetical, self-reflexive nlanner of presentation was
strikingly different from the expository prose of the Aufklarung philos-
ophers vvhose ranks he aspired to jOil1. In fact, as I(ant lUlew, Reinhold
had already adnlinistered a scathing reproof to Main10n in an extraordi-
narily heated exchange of philosophical letters, in which he suggested
more than once that Mainl0n ought to improve his literary skills before
publishing anything furt11er. Mainl0n not only ignored the suggestion
bllt, in a characteristic breach of literary etiqllette, published the
exc11ange without Reinhold's perlnission in I793. 14
Herz's description of Maimon as "raw," together with IZant's sneer
and Reinhold's suggestion, is, of course, an example of now familiar
attempts to exclude an llnruly other, no nlatter how clever, from the
public sphere of enlightened European discourse. One way to n1ark the
beginnings of Ellropean Jewish modernity, however, is to note that
Main10n became an influential Gerlnan philosopher 110netheless. An-
other is that Maimon concurred, however ambivalently, with Herz in
his estimation of his own uncultivated "rawness" and the barbarity of
his origins in Lithuanian rabbinic culture. Maimon was both spectacll-
larly successful at entering the highest reaches of European discourse
and self-consciously unsuccessful at doing so as anything but an odd
and exotic Jew.
Maimon, his patrons, and his readers viewed his life and accomplish-
ments as both an inspiring and a cautionary tale of what a Polish Jew
nlight achieve in moving from the barbarism of Eastern European Jew-
ish culture to Western enlightenment. However, there was always a kind
of paradox or nlystification involved in this thought, which is epito-
mized in Maimon's remark to IZant that he had grown IIp "in the woods
of Lithuania." Although it is true that Maimon grew up in the house-
SOlOlTIOn MailTIOn 5

hold of a Jewish leaseholder on the outskirts of a forest, he hardly led a


rural life. Indeed, his Lithuanian Jewish childhood was almost certainly
nlore bookish than that of, say, IZant's upbringing as a Lutheran Pietist
in IZonigsberg. Is
Maimon was the son of a recognized rabbinic scholar and hinlself a
Talmudic prodigy, in a time and place in which such learning held both
cultural prestige and tangible rewards. Moreover, when, as an adoles-
cent and young ad1dt, he rejected the Talmudisn1 to which he was heir,
Maimon turned to alternative conceptions of J1ldaism in IZabbala and
Maimonidean philosophy, which were no less bookish traditions. Even
the Hasidic court of the Maggid of Mezeritch, which he had visited as
a young nlan in the early 1770S, was, enthusiastic practices notwith-
standing, a group of spiritual elitists devoted to a cOlnplex Inystical
tradition, as Maimon's valuable autobiographical account of that visit
makes clear.l 6
Nonetheless, Maimon's autobiography expanded on his portrait of
his barbarous origins and his travels to the West to pursue "the truth,"
as he had underlined it in his first letter to IZant. In doing so, it helped
to develop and popularize the Haskala critiq1le of a traditional Jewish
society that was somewhat paradoxically represented as both ignorantly
barbaric and i111possibly scholarly. SllCh a portrait had SOl1le roots in
traditions of internal Jewish critiq1les ofTall1ludisnl from the rival per-
spectives ofMaimonidean philosophy and IZabbala, b1lt it also reflected
the attitudes of a still Christian Europe toward Jews and, to a lesser ex-
tent, of Western Europe toward the East.l 7
It was this picture of both Maimon and premodern Ashkenazi rab-
binic culture that was largely accepted by nineteenth-century scholars
of Jewish history, who were the more or less direct intellectual heirs of
the Haskala. The characterization of the great nineteenth-century his-
torian Heinrich Graetz is typical:
Of the relnarkable capacity of Jews for culture, Solomon Maimon
was a striking example.... He rose from the thickest cloud of Polish
ignorance to pure philosophical knowledge, attaining this height
by his unaided efforts, but owing to his skepticisnl, he fell prey to
shocking errors. I8
6 Introduction

Graetz's assumption of an easy opposition between "the thickest cloud


of Polish ignorance" into which Maimon was borl1 and the European
philosophical knowledge and culture that he later attained almost ne-
cessitates that he achieved the latter throllgh his "unaided efforts," since
nothing in his background could possibly have prepared him for it.
Thus, Maimon's ambivalent self-invention became history. Although
Maimon has been the subject ofseveral excellent philosophical, literary,
and (to a lesser extent) historical studies, few have questioned the basic
validity of such a biographical approach and none have worked out the
complex and ironic ways in which his thollght, even at its most philo-
sophically radical, grows out of medieval and early modern Hebrew
intellectual traditions. 19
This has been abetted, in part, by two more general historiographic
tendencies in the study ofthe Jewish Enlightenment. The first is to iden-
tify the influel1ce ofpren10dern forn1s of thollght with conservatism, or
at least a kind of moderation. The second has been to represent the
maskilic critique oftraditional culture on more or less its own terms as a
moderate, internal attempt to rationalize Judaism and free it from ob-
scurantism. This can make it difficult to see the, as it were, indigenous,
premodern origins ofMaimon's radical enlightenment, in which he was
not alone, and its significance for understanding the period. 20

A striking feature ofMaimol1's autobiography is the way in which it both


endorses and undercuts the dissociative condescension bordering on
contempt with which cultivated Western Jews such as Marcus Herz held
"raw" Polish Jews such as himself. In a revealing passage, Maimon de-
scribes his early relationship with Herz as marked by just such attitudes.
He took great pleasure in my conversation, and we often discussed
the most important subjects in Natural Theology and Morals on
which I expressed illy thoughts quite frankly. [... ] At first, this friend
regarded me as a speaking animal and entertained himself as one might
with a dog or a starling that has been taught to speak a few words.
The odd mixture of the animal in my Inanners, my expressions and my
whole outward behavior with the rational in my thoughts excited his
ilnagination Inore than the subject of our conversation raised his
understanding. 21
I Solomon Maimon

Ehe passage repays close scrutiny. Maimon would seem to admit the
crude animality of his language and manners, as well as the exotic nov-
lelty ofhis performance in his matter-of-fact acceptance ofHerz's recep-
tion of him as like "a dog or a starling ,vho has been taught to speak a
few words." Nonetheless, he slyly underlines his intellectual superiority
over Herz by contrasting his own rational thoughts with the merely
imaginative ones of his interlocutor. In doing so, Maimon employs the
technical terms of contemporary faculty psychology, imagination, and
understanding, which he makes clear elsew11ere in the autobiography he
understands in the light of both IZantian and MailTIonidean doctrine.
Indeed, in the narrative that precedes this incident, Maimon has al-
ready shown that his easy conceptual mastery of Enlightenment topics
was due not only to his native genius (something he never underesti-
mated) but also to his imlTIersion in the world of premodern Jewish
thought. Maimon may even have been undermining this picture ofhim-
self as "a talking anin1al" (redendes Tier) in the very phrase with which
he asserts it. If we literally translate this phrase back into Hebrew
(Maimon's la11guage of primary literary and philosophical literacy), it
becomes hai ha-medaber, which is the medieval Aristotelian designation
of man as the rational or speaking anima1. 22 Such bilingllal pllns and
allusions were very much a part of Maimon's distinctive literary style.
A crllder example of both Maimon's sly allusiveness and the aggres-
sion with which he confronted enlightened German Jews can be found
in his account of his break with the great exemplar of German-
Jewish Enlightenment, Moses Mendelssohn, in the early 1780s. When
Me11delssohn remonstrated with him for his dissolute and scattered life,
Maimon replied that since morality can prescribe only means to given
ends but not the ends then1selves, the conduct ofone's life is really a mat-
ter oftaste. "We are all," he reports himselfas saying, "Epicureans" (lfTir
sind aIle Epikuraer).23
Althollgh the term "Epicurean" was a term of learned abuse in the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries-and the German reader migl1t
have registered it as such-it could also have been read as a casual clas-
sicism between philosophers. But Maimon, who italicized the phrase,
meant something mllch more aggressive, with a real idiomatic punch. In
both rabbinic Hebrew and Yiddish, the word Epicurean, or apiqores, is
8 Introduction

a standard terln for heretic. 24 Thus, if we translate Maimon's sentence


into the only lingua franca that he and Mendelssohn actually shared, it
becomes not merely a statement ofmoral hedonisn1 but a bold (and per-
haps pained) adlnission and accusation, with a milch wider range of lit-
erary and Halakhic associations. The urbane exemplar of the compati-
bility of Gerlnan-Jewish Enlightenment vvith religious orthodoxy has
no principled basis for either his synthesis or his reproach beyond con-
ventional propriety: "We are all apiqorsim." Mendelssohn and Mai-
mon's Jewish readers would certainly have registered the force of this
remark, to which I will have occasion to retilrn.
Maimon returns again and again to the figure of Epicurils in his
writings. In 1790, for instance, he applied Lucretius's poetic praise of
Epicurus to I(ant in the epigram for his versuch iiber die Transcenden-
talphilosophie. 25 The choice of a Latin epigraph helped establish the
author's worthiness in the European public sphere, but the particular
text still had a sharp, ironic sting for Maimon, if not for many of
his readers. Learned allilsions and sly assertions of intellectual superi-
0rity aside, it is nonetheless true that Maimon made his first appearance
in enlightened society as an exotic, a kind of pl1ilosopher-dog, and he
both accepted and resisted such characterizations in his own self-
presentation. 26
I take Maimon's life, and his presentation of that life, to be of exem-
plary interest, in part, as a site of ilneasy heretical hybridity, rather than
as an example of more or less complete progress, from premodern Ju-
daism or "Polish ig110rance" to Enlightenment philosophy. We Inay
think, then, of the transitions in Maimon's life as consisting not only of
geographic moves from East to West, or as stages of intellectual devel-
opment, but in terms of cilltural translation (in which something is al-
ways lost). Nonetheless, the cultilral distance that such translations had
to travel should not be overstated. Among the reasons for Maimon's suc-
cess (insofar as his life lvas a success) is that the spoken language in which
he was raised, Yiddish, was not as distant, exotic, and uni11telligible as he,
Marcus Herz, and tl1eir contemporaries were wont to characterize it.
It was, after all, a Germanic language. Moreover, the Hebrew philo-
sophical tradition that served him so well was one braid ofthe triple cord
of Christian, Islamic, and Jewish philosophy that comprised Inedieval
SolOlllon Maimol1

philosophy, and although Maimon was far closer to the concerns ofsuch
scholasticism than IZant (or even the "German Aquinas," Christian
Wolff), they were not as alien to either the technical philosophical
concerns or the radical anticlerical spirit of the Enlightenment as its
expo11ents often liked to think.

IZant's letter to Herz about Maimon contained more than the praise
quoted at the outset. It also incillded a fairly detailed response to Mai-
mon's proposed revision of the critical philosophy, which IZant called
"Spinozism." This descriptio!1 of Maimon's philosophy has, at least, a
triple significance.
In the first place, as a technical matter, Maimon's representation of
human understanding as a limited reflection ofa divine intellect in which
sensibility and understanding are ultin1ately unified is Spinozistic, al-
though, as we shall see, it also has philosophical roots extending well
before Spinoza in Inedieval Hebrew philosophy (roots that to some ex-
tent Spinoza's doctrines shared).27 1'Jonetheless, Maimon's doctrines
were also an attempt to resolve genuine philosophical tensions in IZant's
systen1, and they even had systen1atic and textual bases within IZant's
Critique ofPure Reason. Moreover, they would seem to anticipate some
of the ideas of the Critique ofJudgment, on which IZant was working
when he received Maimon's manuscript, as well as those oflater German
Idealism. 28
However, the attribution ofSpinozism was never, or even primarily,
a simple philosophical description in IZant's intellectual context. The so-
called "Pantheism Controversy" (Pantheismusstreit) over whether
Mendelssohn's great friend Gotthold Ephraim Lessing had been a secret
Spinozist was, along with the reception ofIZant's philosophy, at the very
center ofthe German Enlightenment struggle over the authority ofrea-
son in the 1780s. 29 In this context, Spi110zism was never a compliment.
It meant that one had taken reason beyond its acceptable lin1its with
dangerous and untenable resllits. To use IZant's own preferred termi-
nology, such a person had lost his proper bearings, or the correct "ori-
entation in thinking." 30 Finally, Maimon was, as both his and Herz's
cover letters to I(ant made clear, a disside11t Jew, who had abandoned the
traditional Judaism in which he was raised. In 1789, Spinoza was n0J:JT~~ __
10 Introduction

the "God-intoxicated man" he wOll1d shortly become under the aus-


pices ofRon1anticism, but rather still the "accursed Jew."
The awkward11ess of Maimon's Gern1an prose and even the exegeti-
cal character of his philosophy were easily marked as Jewish. However,
the complex, self-consciously ironic but genuinely substantive rela-
tionship between Maimon's thought and Jewish intellectual tradition
(including Spinoza) was less apparent to his peers and even many later
scholars. This was the case despite the fact that, as I have already sug-
gested, he thematized this relationship in his autobiography and,
indeed, eve11 in his very name.
The Inaster concept of lVlaimon's thollght is the idea of a purely ac-
tive or infinite intellect that is, to use a Inedieval Aristotelian formula-
tion, both the knower and the know11. 31 IZnowledge, and thus ulti-
mately human perfection, consists in achieving a telnporary and partial
unity with this divine intellect or-in a later, pregnant forlnulation of
Maimon's, which prefigllred post-IZantian German Idealism-"World
SOld" (Weltseele). Throughollthis philosophical work, and even in his
autobiography, something like this ideal functions as a reglliative idea
toward which the finite epistemological sllbject and Maimon hilnself,
respectively, strive.
The picture of perfection that emerges from Maimon's texts is com-
plex and tension ridden. It has its roots in the premodern Hebrew
philosophical tradition, especially in certain radical interpretations of
Maimonides' Guide ofthe Perplexed, with which Maimon was familiar.
An early Hebrew manuscript of Maimon's, written before his arrival in
Berlin, contains his attempts at working through the philosophical and
theological implications of this ideal. I will discllss this manuscript, the
development of this theme in Maimon's corpus, and its significance in
Chapters 2 and 3. However, in this context it is important to note the
way in whicl1 the breakdown of the idea of a llnitary telos of human per-
fection was an important feature of Enlightenment discourse more
generally.
This is not merely a tech11ical philosophical point. Alisdair MacIn-
tyre has famously argued that the modern abandonment of the Aris-
totelian scheme of "man-as-he-happens-to-be and man-as-he-could-
be-if-he-realized-his-essential-nature" is the central feature (and flaw)
Solotllon MaitllOn II

of the "Enlightenment project." 32 Olle need not elldorse the Inoral or


all of the details of MacIntyre's historical narrative to see that he has
identified something important. 33 This can be seen most recently in the
subtle work of Vivasvall Soni, who llas carefully charted the waning of
the classical idea of happiness as the teleological fulfillment of human
nature deveiopinent in the imaginative literature of the Enlightenn1ent,
froin a completely different theoretical orielltation. 34
Indeed, one can see each of the intellectual worlds that Maiinon in-
habited struggling with the idea of a fixed hllman telos. In late eigh-
teenth century Germany, this teleological ideal is the changing notion
of Bildung, mealling (at least) both education and culture, which shares,
in part, an Aristoteliall genealogy.35 In the Jewish world, I argue, taking
a cue from the work of Isadore Twersky, that one sees each of the com-
peting parties ofearly Jewish modernity-the theoreticians of the Mit-
naged rabbinic establishment, Hasidisn1, and the Haskala-vying to
create a new unitary cultural ideal, often employing theoretical terms of
medieval philosophical and mystical traditions such as shelemut ha-
nefesh (perfection ofthe soul), hatzlachat ha-enoshit (human excellence,
the summum bonum), and devequt (ul1ion with the divine) in new dis-
cllrsive contexts. The importance ofsuch terms and concepts for under-
standing the internal debates oflate eighteenth-century Judaism has yet
to be sufficiently appreciated. They are also precisely the terms in which
Maimon attempted to understand both his life and the philosophical
problems of his age.
Harry Wolfson once described his classic study of t11e medieval
Jewish SOllrces ofSpill0za's Ethics as finding the Baruch under the Be11e-
dictius (a method of Spinoza interpretation that Maimon himself pio-
neered).36 Wolfson's project, although an extraordinary work of schol-
arship, is famously problematic, both in its philological pllzzle-solving
approach to philosophical argun1el1t and in its unlikely governing as-
sumption that Spinoza had been as literate in classical Hebrew literature
as Wolfson. 37 Maimon was, as I(ant perhaps in1plied, comparable to
Spinoza both in terms oftechnical philosophy and in general life pattern.
Indeed, he served for several generations ofnineteenth- and twentieth-
century Eastern European Jewish intellectuals (Wolfson among them)
as a kind ofhomegrown Spinoza. And I will similarly try to show, among
12 Introduction

other things, the premodern Hebrew roots ofMaimon's radical enlight-


enn1ent and aporetic epistemology. However, the principal reason for
this exercise is not to demonstrate the philosophical resources of Jewish
intellectual tradition but rather to provide a rich sense of the cluster
of intellectual and cultural issues that marked the European Jewish
transition to lTIodernity, as they played out in Maimon's life.
MailTIOn can1e to IZant's philosophy as a polyglot approaches a
new language. His work is full of surprising conceptual translations,
odd connections, and revealing structural comparisons. N011etheless,
although MailTIOn'S career was brilliant and idiosyncratic, his struggles
with the concepts and ideals of medieval and early modern Jewish
thought, the Berlin Haskala, and the GerlTIan Enlightenn1ent reflect
larger issues in the two cultures in which he was a marginal figure.
In his second unanswered letter to IZant, written shortly after the
publication ofhis Transcendentalphilosophie, Maimon wrote that he had
"vowed some time ago that I wOl11d henceforth read nothing but your
books." 38 This was n10re than mere sycophancy (although it was that
too). In order to understand Maimon, it is important to get son1e pro-
visional sense ofIZant's epochal importance for the philosophical gener-
ation to which Main10n belonged. Mendelssohn, the last great German
rationalist and Maimon's erstwhile mentor, famollsly called IZant the
"all-destroyer" who had razed the metaphysical bases for beliefin God,
the SOl11, and Eternity.39 IZarl Reinhold, Maimon's erstwhile rival, de-
scribed IZant as a Christ-like figure whose thought had inallgurated a
newage. 40
Despite its extraordi11ary theoretical abstraction and forbidding tech-
nicality' IZant's philosophical project should be understood, at a certain
level of historical abstraction, as an attempt to justify and systematize
the ideals of the Enlig11tenlTIe11t. This is true not only of IZant's moral
a11d political philosophy, but even, or perhaps especially, of the tran-
scendental idealism of the Critique ofPure Reason, which laid the basis
for them. 41 Thus, in the programmatic "Preface to the First Edition" of
that work, IZant described his project as one of bringing not n1erely
"books and systems" but the faculty ofreason itselfbefore the "tribllnal
of pure reason," and he explicitly tied this to the ideals of the Enlight-
Soloillon Maimon 13

enment. "Our age," IZant wrote, "is, in especial degree, the age ofcriti-
cisn1 [I(ritik ] and to criticism everything must sllbmit." 42
The result ofthis criticism, to be preemptively brief(I attend to S01l1e
of the details later), is IZant's "Copernican Revolution," which was sup-
posed to demonstrate that the world l1ecessarily has the structure that it
does because finite Ininds such as ours could not conceive it otherwise.
The epistemological slLbject is thus not merely the passive recipient of
the object ofhis knowledge but rather "spontaneously" and freely takes
up that which is "given" to him in empirical experience and makes it
into an object of knowledge. Such a spontaneous subject necessarily
legislates for itself the conditions (space, tin1e, and the categories of
understanding) under which an object can be known.
The cogency and virtues ofIZant's transcendental idealism are not at
issue for the moment; rather, what should be 110ted is their resonance
with Enlightenment ideals, not only of criticism but also of radical au-
tonomy. Indeed, precisely these twin ideals are echoed at the cultural
level in IZant's famous defil1ition of Enlightenment as "mankind's exit
from its self-incurred immaturity." The consequent challenge to "dare
to know" should be understood precisely as a call to bring cultural and
historical "givens" before the bar of reason, in a way analogous to that
in which the contents of perception must submit to the concepts of
understanding:
Sapere aude! 'Have the courage to use your own understanding!' is
thus the motto of the enlightenn1ent.... If I have a book that has
understanding for me, a pastor who has a conscience for me, a doctor
who judges my diet ... I have no need to think. 43
The dicta given by books, pastors, doctors, and tradition generally are
only authoritative insofar as one makes then1 so. To accept them as an
external, heteronomous authority is not so much an abdication ofone's
self-legislative abilities (strictly speaking an impossibility) as a deluded,
unconscious use of them.
Part of the sociohistorical significance of IZant's philosophy, then, is
in its rigorolls working through of the consequences of radical human
autonomy at every level of discourse. Freedom was, as Ernst Cassirer
once remarked, "always really IZant's n1ain problem." 44 This is so down
14 Introduction

to the very microstructllres of cognition, in which a sense impression is


only "really anything to me" if I take it up as sllch by accoinpanying
it with the proposition "I think," and, correspondingly, I an1 only a
subject, an "I," to the extent which I do SO.45
Maimon was perhaps the first to appreciate the full epistemological
implications of this argun1ent, and the 111anuscript that IZant praised
turned precisely this line of thinking against the first Critique to expose
one of its central tensions. One of the most interesting and extraordi-
nary features of this accomplishment is that Maimon went on to at-
tempt to resolve this te11sion, using the conceptual tools of medieval
Aristotelianisin and, in doing so, laid the grollndwork for the later
idealist systems of Fichte and Hegel.
On a more personal level, Maimon's life enacted IZant's ideal of en-
lightenment as bringing all the cultural givens before the bar of reason
as much as any public figure ofhis generation. He rejected not only each
of the regnant forins ofJudaism but also those of the German and Jew-
ish Enlightenments. His distinctively modern project ofalltobiography
can also be seen through a IZantian lens. An autobiography such as Mai-
man's is not Inerely an assertion ofan autonomous self. It is one in which
that self is constructed precisely through the systematic representation
and ordering ofthe manifold ofone's life. The IZantian subject discovers
itself through the active representation of that which it has been given
in the sensory manifold. We might say that a modern autobiographer
such as Maimon does something similar; in organizing the materials of
his life, he both discovers and creates his subject.

Maimon's historical interest rests not only on his literary or philosoph-


ical achievements (although they were considerable) but on his aln10st
unique position at the intersection of several of the most important so-
cial and intellectual trends of European and Jewish modernity just
evoked. Thus, he is virtually alone, along with the more illustriolls
Mendelssohn, in being an active and original participant in both the
German and Jewish Enlightenments. Moreover, unlike Mendelssohn
(and lesser lights such as Herz), he came to tl1e E11lightenment late, af-
ter having been completely imn1ersed through early adulthood in the
various intellectual forms of premode121J~~i~h_,=-u~t1..lr~,_i?,:l~d_i~g_t~e
Solon10n Maimon 15

Taln1udisn1 of the rabbinic Mitnaged establishme11t in which he was


raised, the populist mysticism of their Hasidic opponents, and the me-
dieval and early modern traditions of Jewish philosophy and mysticism.
In a famous essay, Hannah Arendt suggested that during the modern
period in which "Jews [have] truly lived amidst and not just in the neigh-
borhood of Western European peoples," there have been only two
choices for the aspiring Jewish intellectual. One could be a parvenu, as
she would have classified Herz, or a "consciollS pariah," like Main10n.
Indeed, although she never discussed Maimon at length, she seems to
have regarded him as perhaps the first modern Jewish intellectual to
adopt the role. In the same essay, Arendt writes:
However slender the basis out of which the concept [of the pariah as
a human type] was created and out of which it was developed, it has
nevertheless loomed larger in the thinking of assimilated Jews than
might be inferred from standard Jewish histories. It has endured from
Salomon Mainl0n in the eighteenth century to Franz IZafka in the
early twentieth. 46
If this were truly so, then Maimon would have been the first to trans-
mute the existential fact of his Jewishness into a kind of abstract other-
ness or comic homelessness, but it isn't quite right. It is true of Heine
and eventually of I(afka, both of whom are key members of Arendt's
subterranean Jewish literary tradition, that their Jewishness consists
largely, althollgh not entirely, in a certain style of conscious other-
ness. 47 Bllt unlike these writers, Main10n was, or at least had been, lit-
erally at home in-even a master of-Jewish culture, and his literary
and philosophical accomplishments are inexplicable in the absence of
this fact. His homelessness was, then, both less complete and more self-
consciollsly chosen than that of Arendt's true "conscious pariahs." In
this respect too, Maimon stands on the threshold between (at least)
two different worlds.
Olle way to clarify this point is to retllrn to the comparison with
Mendelssohn, whose unique achievement as the great exemplar of
"German-Jewish symbiosis" might be described as having been to avoid
capture in Arendt's retrospective categories of pariah and parvenu.
Maimon stands in a both chronological and substantive sense between
16 Introduction

Mendelssohn and Heine, at the beginning of the Jewish entry into Ger-
man literature. Unlike Mendelssohn and like Heine, he thematized his
cilltural otherness, flaunted it, and made it a thing of comedy. Like
Mendelssohn (only n10re so) and unlike Hei11e, Maimon was in fact a
product ofthe distinctive literary, intellectual, and religious traditions of
Jewish culture. He is, in an in1portant sense, one of the last figures to
whon1 the traditional tern1 heretic, or apiqores, literally applies.

Maimon's philosophical work had significant influence on later think-


ers, has been the subject of several excellent studies, and is now en-
joying, along with German Idealism more generally, something of a
reviva1. 48 I-lis autobiography was even more influential and set the pat-
tern and standard for Jewish autobiography for the next century. It has
been quoted and referred to often in historical studies of the period but
rarely interpreted with care. The llnpublished Hebrew writings of his
yOllth have been noted by scholars, from Abraham Geiger to Gershom
Scholem and Moshe Idel, but have never been integrated with his later
work. Certainly, no one has attelnpted to show how these texts fit to-
gether and n1ake sense as constituent parts of a single, albeit divided
and hybrid, life or how, taken as a corpus, they shed light on the
different intellectual and cultural worlds in which Maimon lived.
Maimon was an eclectic thinker and writer who gloried in his eclec-
ticisn1. Accordingly, a Stlldy that aims to provide a sense of his life and
its exemplary interest mllst be similarly eclectic. In the following chap-
ters I try to provide something that is both more and less than the tra-
ditional intellectual biography of a philosopher. In each chapter, I ad-
dress one of the central thematic features of Maimon's life and work,
which I have tried to evoke in the preceding pages. In doing so, I em-
phasize the extent to which Maimon must be understood in the verti-
cal context of the Jewish intellectual traditions in which he was edu-
cated and against which he rebelled, as well as the horizontal context
of his late eighteenth-century contemporaries.
Each chapter bears a quote by or about Maimon as its epigraph and
can be taken as a kind of extended commentary on it. In Chapter I, I
provide a historical overview of Main1011's life and work in the varied
contexts in which he lived, fron1 Jewish Lithuania to Enlightenment
Solomon Maimon 17

Berlin and elsewhere. Since the chronology of MailTIOn'S life is not ,vell
known, Chapter I also provides the reader with the biographical and
historicallu10wledge necessary for the detailed interpretive readings of
the following chapters.
In Chapter 2, I locate the center of Maimon's philosophical thought
in the philosophical and theological perfectionislTI first articulated in his
unpublished Hebrew manuscript, Hesheq Shelomo. Along the lines indi-
cated already, I discuss the significance of this perfectionism for an un-
derstanding of the thollght of the early Haskala and its dialogue, or
debate, with Hasidism and the Mitnaged party of rabbinic traditional-
ism. In Chapter 3, I show how Maimon employed the tools and terms of
this medieval philosophical perfectio11ism in his i11flllential revision of
I(antian Idealism in the face of his own skeptical challenge. These two
chapters can also be read as a kind of microhistory ofideas that trace, in
the work ofa single thinker, the transforn1ation ofthe medieval religious
and philosophical ideal of union (devequt) with the divine mind into
the German Romantic ideal of a World Soul. As I argue throughout,
however, these technical arguments have a wider cultllral and literary
resonance as well as an internal philosophical logic. The transition from
active intellect to World Soul is paralleled by the transition from the Mai-
monidean ideal of intellectllal perfection, or shelemut ha-nefesh, to. the
German Enlightenment ideal of Bildung. Neither of these transitions,
however, was free of irony or, indeed, ever really completed.
In Chapter 4, I present my i11terpretation of Maimon's autobio-
graphical self-invention as underwritten by Maimonidean perfection-
ism. In effect, Maimon wrote a Bildungsroman (or Bildungsgeschichte
to be precise) in which German Bildung is not really the reigning ideal.
In this chapter, I also show the extent to which Maimon's incon1plete
revolt against the rabbinic textual practices of commentary and super-
commentary was central to his literary style and persona. I close this
chapter with a thorough exegesis of the puzzling and hitherto untrans-
lated allegory with which MailTIOn ends his autobiography. This allegory
about the history of philosopl1Y, human perfection, and death is, in
many ways, the epitome of Maimon's writing. It is cryptic, comic (even
buffoonish), and extraordinarily learned. As I will show, in addition to
the overt references to the history ofphilosophy, it calls on passages from
18 Introduction

both the Guide ofthe Perplexed and the Zohar and illvites serious com-
parison to passages from the work of such younger contemporaries as
G. V\l. F. Hegel, on the one hand, and Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav on
the other.
In Chapter 5, I sketch the story of Maimon's literary afterlife as a
figure in and an influence on novels, philosophical works, historical
narratives, and the Jewish popular imagination. Finally, in a brief con-
cluding chapter, I discuss ways in which Maimon's career serves as an
instructive (if not, perhaps, decisive) coullterexample to several con-
verging arguments about the llature of the Haskala, the origins of
radical enlightenment, and the possibilities of Jewish thought.
In each of these chapters, I have often relied for both interpretive
and cOlltextual matters on the work of several generations of previous
scholars of what the first such writer, Maimon's friend and memoirist
Sabbattia Wolff, called "Maimoniana."49 What is especially new is the
picture I try to provide of how Maimon's works in two langllages and
several genres fit together as the products of all individual life, with a
set of central concerns and tensions. I further argue that these concerns
also reflect neglected, or incompletely understood, aspects of the
historical transformations through which Maimon lived.
I(enneth Schmitz has eloqllently argued for the importance of
historical studies of philosophers that respect the individuality, even
idiosyncrasy, of their arguments and ideas. He writes:
The history of philosophy starts from a more concrete base [than the
history of ideas], and its integers are neither facts nor ideas but per-
sons. Ideas do not live a free life of their own, but are taken up rather
into the personal thought of a philosopher and suffused with the en-
ergy of his own mind and personality.... More needs to be said
about how the hidden possibilities within ideas and new interrelation-
ships among them are disclosed in the mediunl of actual philosophical
discourse. 50

To this, I would only add that philosophers do not lead "free lives
of their own" either; they live in particular cultures with distinctive
patterns of life and vocabularies. They are, ethereal occupation
notwithstanding, "natives" of somewhere. In tracing the connections
Solomon Main10n 19

between Maimon's different texts and their contexts, I aim to recon-


struct a key mon1el1t ofintellectual and cll1tural transition in Jewish and
European history. Among other things, I hope this study will serve as
a reminder that large processes of secularization, intellectllal and cul-
tural transition, often take the form of hard-won blasphen1Y at the level
of the individual.
One Maimon's Life and "Life History"
"Striving for intellectual culture [Geistesausbildung] in endless
struggles, with tniseries of every kind."
Solomon Main10n, Salomon Maimons Lebensgeschichte,
title of Chapter I3

The first readers ofSolomon Maimon's Lebensgeschichte took it as a pic-


aresque transcription of events in the life ofan extraordinary Polish Jew.
Scholars ofthe last two centuries have, for the most part, made little crit-
ical improven1ent upon this approach. l Maimon's autobiography has
been culled for colorful anecdotes, on the one hand, and treated as an
almost unmediated primary historical source on the other. In later chap-
ters, especially Chapter 4, I try to show how a more nuanced reading can
yield richer results. In this chapter, my aim is more modest: I simply
reconstruct the chronology and principal social contexts of Main10n's
life. In doing so, I have still relied, as one n1ust, largely on his autobiog-
raphy. It is the sole source for the events of Maimon's childhood and,
although it n1ay be corroborated or contextualized at several points, it is
the main source for detailed knowledge of most of the events of his life,
through its publication in 1792. Nonetheless, even here, I will try to
show some ofthe ways in which Maimon's representation ofhis life holds
both biographical and historical interest. It would be a mistake on sev-
erallevels to attempt to understand this life and its significance by sim-
ply rendering in third-person narrative those events that Maimon
narrated incomparably well in the first.
Solomon Maimon was born in 1753 in Sukoviborg, a small town on
a tributary of the Niemen River, near the city ofMirz, in what was then
Polish Lithuania. 2 His given Hebrew name was simply Shelomo ben
Yehoshua (Solon10n, son of Joshua). I11deed, he did not take the sur- 21
name Maimon until he was close to 30 years old, and then only in more
or less formal German contexts, although one such context was the
autobiography in which he introduced himself to the literary world,
Chapter One

Salomon Maimons Lebensgeschichte. I shall continue to refer to him


as Maimon throughout, although I will return to the circun1stances,
significance, and irony of his choice of names later.
Maimon's family was, by the standards of the time and place, rela-
tively prosperous. His grandfather held a lease on a large parcel of land
from the infamous aristocratic magnate Prince I(arol Stanislaw Radzi-
will (1734-1790), which included a farm, a ,\\rarehouse, and a toll bridge.
In eighteenth-centllry Poland, such n1agnates were the virtual sover-
eigns of large estates (latifundia), which included not only farn1land
but towns and eve11 small cities. 3 During Maimon's childhood, more
than half of Polish Jewry (which comprised a total population of about
750,000 people) lived on such estates, and many ofthem formed part of
a nascent middle class of tradesmen and small-business proprietors in
Poland. 4 Thus, Maimon was born in sociologically typical, if somewhat
privileged, circumstances.
Maimon's depiction ofthe workings ofhis grandfather's business and
relations with Prince Radziwill dllring his childhood was both jaundiced
and influential for later accounts of Jewish life in eighteenth-century
Poland. In the very first chapter of his Lebensgeschichte, titled "Des
Grossvaters Okonomie," Main10n gives the reader a vivid account ofa
decrepit bridge near his grandfather's farm. He writes:
In accordance with the terms of the lease the landlord was to repair
everything, and put it in a condition fit for use. But like all Polish mag-
nates, he lived in Warsaw and paid no attention to the improvement of
his estates. His stewards were interested in the ilnprovement of their
own condition rather than their landlord's property. They oppressed
the farmers ... [and] neglected the orders given for improvements. s
The bridge i11 question was in frequent use, and the carriages of travel..,
ing Polish gentry were sometimes damaged. When this happened, "The
poor farmer was then dragged to the bridge and flogged until it was
thought sufficient revenge had been exacted." In order to avoid this
punishment, Maimon's grandfather took extraordinary precautions,
which Maimon dryly describes:
He stationed one of his people to keep watch at the bridge, so that
. . . if any accident were to happen, the sentinel might bring word to
Maimon's Life and "Life History" 23

the house as quickly as possible, and the whole fan1ily would have
tilue to take refuge in the neighboring woods.... This sort of life
lasted for son1e generations. 6

Here and elsewhere in his autobiography, Maimon emphasized the ir-


rationality of each of the economic actors in his story, in particular his
grandfather who could, presumably, have repaired the bridge. Such an-
ecdotes have been adduced by 11istorians of early modern Polish Jewry
to n1ake similar points about the backwardness of the Polish economic
system and the mentality of its agents. Indeed, Hillel Levine uses Mai-
1110n's grandfather as an exemplar of the Jewish economic middlelnan
in eighteenth-century Poland and fran1es his own sociological history
of Jewish-Polish relations with "views" from Main10n's grandfather's
metonymic and perhaps mythical "broken bridge." 7 It has recently
been argued that Maimon may have been telling something close to the
truth in this and related anecdotes, but his polemical intent should still
be underlined. 8 Polish-Jewish relations during his childhood seem to
have been neither as econon1ically irrational nor as inevitably brutal as
his account would suggest. 9
In Maimon's early life, both of his parents, as well as their extended
family and Christian servants, worked with his grandfather in running
the family business.l His father, Joshua, was also a scholar and later
worked in various minor rabbinic capacities after the family fell on hard
times. Maimon does not mention his mother's name or the exact num-
ber of his siblings in his autobiography, which is the sole source for
such inforn1ation. 11

Main10n's education, which, in a real sense, is the main topic of his


autobiography and even, in a certain sense, his philosophical work, will
be discussed in the later chapters ofthis book. For the present purposes,
it suffices to note that Maimon was taught to read the Hebrew Bible
along with classical rabbinic commentaries at an early age by his father,
and the Talmud not very much later. From the ages of about 7 to la,
Maimon was sent to live and study with schoolmasters in Mirz and other
cities in the region. Maimon's angrily ironic description ofthe brutality,
squalor, and ignorance that prevailed in the heder echoed his general
Chapter One

criticism of Polish-Jewish society and was itself echoed by later writers


of the Haskala:
I n1ust now say something about Jewish schools in general. The school
is comlnonly a small smoky hut, and the children are scattered, some
on benches, SaIne on the bare earth. The master, in a dirty shirt, sits
on the table and holds a bowl between his IG1ees in which he grinds
tobacco into snuff with a huge pestle, like the club of Hercules, while
he wields his authority.... Every week some verses froln the begin-
ning of the biblical portion of the week are explained in school, with
every possible grammatical blunder. Nor can it be otherwise. For the
Hebrew must be explicated by means of the mother tongue [Mutter-
spracheJ but the Jewish-Polish n10ther tongue is itself full of defects
and gran11natical inadequacies, so naturally the Hebrew language
which is learned from it must be of the same stamp.12
Nonetheless, Maimon was quicldy recognized by his father and oth-
ers as a Talmudic prodigy, or Illui, which is to say-given his time and
place-not much more than that he was extraordinarily precocious and
a boy. As with other Talmudic prodigies, who formed a recognizable
social category, Maimon was encouraged by his father to concentrate
on Talmud to the exclusion of virtually everything else, and he was
tested and marveled over by local and visiting rabbinic dignitaries. 13 As
Maimon remarks, with bitter hyperbole, in another context, "Every
Polish Je,v is destined from birth to be a rabbi, and only the greatest in-
capacity can exclude him from the office." 14 Maimon was, needless to
say, far from incapable, and he did not avoid an early semikha.
Although Maimon, even in later life, would son1etimes judge others
by their Talmudic attainments (he admired Mendelssohn in part because
he thought him a good Talmudist), the extent of his own technical
mastery of rabbinic literature is difficult to gauge. Unlike some of his
maskilic contemporaries, he did 110t study under any of the well-known
Taln1udic scholars of the age. IS His most traditional extant Hebrew
writings are philosophical or kabbalistic, rather than Halakhic in nature,
and although all ofMain1on's work is strewn with Taln1udic quotations
and allusions, there are no full-fledged discussions that engage in the di-
alectical give-and-take over a Talmudic passa~_~J=~2J-~!~!is_cb~r~-_
Maimon's Life and "Life History" 25

teristic of traditional Talmudic scholarship. However, as a young boy


Main10n was apparently tested several times by Rabbi Raphael IZohe11, a
prominent Lithuanian Talmlldist who would later become both a lead-
ing opponent of the Haskala and a personal adversary. Given Maimon's
demonstrable precocity, his later brilliance in other areas, and the im-
pression he apparently left on IZohen, it seems reasonable to grant that
he really was an excellent yOllng Taln1udist.
Although early modern Eastern European Talmudic study has been
the subject of a great deal of polemical invective and homogenizing de-
scription, beginning (although by no means ending) with the Haskala,
it is probably fair to say that in such study a premium was often put on
conceptual ingenuity and interpretive daring at the expense of modest
interpretive scholarship. Thus, imaginative, if sometin1es philologically
spllrious, con1parisons between widely separated Talmudic passages
(sugyot) were used to arrive at novel interpretations (hiddushim). 16 If
one were to look for a classic exemplar of the Talmudic method in
which Maimon was schooled, a plausible candidate might be the great
Lithuanian Talmudist Rabbi Aryeh Leib Gunzberg (1695-1785), au-
thor of the Sha)aget Aryeh, which is still read in yeshiva circles, and the
teacher of Raphael Kohen. Among direct contemporaries of Maimon,
Rabbi Aryeh Leib Heller from Galicia was a Talmudist with a gift for
the sort of sharp conceptual analysis that would become popular in
nineteenth-century Talmudic scholarship and that is comparable to that
which Maimon displayed in his philosophical work. 17
In his autobiography, Maimon excoriated such Talmudic study in the
strongest terms, as "endless disputation without end or aim," in which
"subtlety, loquacity and impertinence carry the day." Nonetheless, he
never relinquished his proud claim to have mastered such displltation,
and it is not unfair to say, as many have, that his later philosophical work
sometimes exemplified techniques ofTalmudic analysis and the general
exegetical mind-set they presuppose.1 8 Certainly "subtlety, loquacity
and impertinence" remained his calling cards in later life.
As an intellectually inquisitive child and adolescent, Maimon also
studied, or at least wondered about, other subjects (for iI1stance, lan-
guages, art, astronomy, and history). His fascinating a11d literally in-
26 Chapter One

credible account of his covert studies of non-Halakhic books hidden


in his father's cupboard will be discussed in Chapter +. However, it
was as a Taln1udic prodigy that Mailuon achieved a special social status
and, as such, became a prize, even an object of desire, in Lithuanian
rabbinic culture. Mter Maimon's faluily lost their lease and fell on hard
times, his father tried to capitalize on this desirability by offering him
in marriage in exchange for a large vvedding contract. In one of the
more culturally revealing episodes of his autobiography, Maimon re-
counts the bitter rivalry of his prospective parents-in-law, the clever
stratagems, and even attempted kidnapping that preceded his be-
trothal. It is worth remarking Llpon the fact-Maimon takes it for
granted-that all these impassioned maneuveril1gs were centered not
on his bride, Sarah, but on the illui bridegroom, whose status as a fu-
ture rabbi al1d Talmudic scholar (talmid hakham) made him, literally, a
valuable con1modity and an object of desire. Although such a scholar
was not likely to become wealthy, his status within the culture had a
n10netary value.
Maimon was thus married off at the young (and Halakhically dubi-
0us' although not uncommon) age of II to a girl only barely older, in
176+. Such marriages and familial living arrangements were somewhat
common and are attested to in memoirs, responsa, and the archives. 19
Maimon's aCCOl1l1t ofhis years as a married adolescent are bitterly comic.
He candidly admits his illitial preadolescent ignorance and inability re-
garding the erotic "secrets of marriage" in the earliest instance of the
persistent maskilic complaint against debilitating effects of arranged
marriages. 2o He offers little praise for his wife and none for his n10ther-
in-law, with whom he engaged il1 an all-out war. The descriptive subti-
tle ofChapter II ofhis autobiography gives something ofthe flavor ofhis
account: "My marriage in n1Y eleventh year makes me a slave ofmy wife,
and procllres thrashings for me from my Mother-in-Law." 21 One notes
the iro11y in Maimon's description ofwhat was procured (verschafft) for
him through his father's marital wheelings and dealings.
As a married adolescent, Maimon was soon forced out ofhis mot11er-
in-Iaw's house to work as a private tutor, returning home to the Lithuan-
ian town of Mohilna only on holidays. This was a common occupation
for adolescents and young men in Maimon's position. Indeed, if one
Maimon's Life and "Life History" 27

were to write a prosopography of those Eastern European Jews who,


along with Maituon, were among the first generations of Maskilin1, a
period as a family tutor, often poorly paid, would be on the itinerary.22
Although Maimon mentions the birth of his first son, David, when he
was I4 years old, his description ofhis adolescent years is almost entirely
devoted to his private studies and the miseries of his employn1ent. His
wife and fatuily life sin1ply drop out of the narrative, as they would
literally, when he deserted them, a decade later, at the age of 25.
Indeed, Mainl0n's only unreservedly positive description of his wife
comes when he describes her attractiveness to the wolfish Prince Radzi-
will from whom she is forced to flee. 23 The incident itselfis not unlikely,
given Radziwill's reputation for debauchery, but it echoes another odd
and perhaps unintentionally reveali11g anecdote. Earlier in the autobi-
ography, Maimon tells his readers that his mother was attractive and that
the minor Polish nobility and merchants who frequented their house
nicknamed her I(uza, a Polish word that, in apparent euphemism, he
translates as "yollng filly." Maimon recounts the story, which he claims
is his earliest memory, ostensibly to demonstrate his precocious clever-
ness in outwitting both the Polish customer who bribed him to call her
this and his parents who forbade it: "Herr Pilezki wants me to say 'Mama
IZuza', but I will not say 'Mama IZuza', because God pU11ishes anyone
who says 'Man1a IZuza'. Thereupon, I got three pieces of sugar." 24
Maimon's precocious disquotational device aside, the anecdote is dis-
turbing. Regardless of the historical veracity of either incident, it re-
mains the case that Maimon's only praise for either his mother or his wife
(or indeed any woman) comes in the context of their being viewed as
physically desirable by a Polish nobleman. Whether this is a window onto
another aspect of the Polish-Jewish social dynamic or merely onto Mai-
mon's problematic representation ofwomen is impossible to tell. There
certainly is a misogynist theme running through Maimon's autobio-
graphy, which reflects elements of both German Enlightenment and
Eastern European Jewish discourse. 25
The only relationship from his adolescent years that Maimon recalls
wit11 warmth is that with his study partner, fellow skeptic, and "bosom
friend" Moses Lapidoth. The passages in which he recounts their ado-
lescent friendship and covert rebellion against the strictures of religious
28 Chapter One

practice come closer than anything else in the book to a description, at


times almost idyllic, of love. The chapter ends on a melancholy note:
This enthusiastic companionship [Schwarmerische UmgangJ had, like
everything else in the world, to CaIne to an end. As both of us were
ll1arried and our marriages were suitably fruitful [zieni/lich fruchtbar ]
we had to accept positions as family tutors. We were often separated
and later able to spend only a few months in the year together. 26
This passage is as close as MailTIOn comes to mentioning the size of his
own family, although together witl1 a few other cryptic ren1arks (as well
as demographic probability),27 it would seem that he and his wife had
several other children.
Despite the incipient heresy that evidently formed the bond between
Maimon and Lapidoth, their relationship reflects a tension between the
homosocial bond of male intellectual companionship and that of mari-
tal responsibility, which appears to be something close to a structural
feature of rabbinic cultures, dating back to the Talmud. 28 If anything,
this tension intensified in eighteenth-century Lithuania, which might be
described as the last time and place of rabbinic hegemony in Ashkenazi
culture.
A more pious but related version of the te11sion between i11tellectual
study and familial duty ca11 be seen in the life of Rabbi Eliyahu ben She-
101TIO, the "Vilna Gaon" (1720 - 1797), Maimon's older contemporary
and the most acclaimed exemplar of Lithuanian rabbinic culture. 29 The
Gaon was repeatedly described in hagiographies (including one written
by his sons) as having been able to completely dismiss his wife and fam-
ily from his mind in order to concentrate on his studies. 30 Indeed, in his
commentary to the book of Proverbs, the Gaon described the "man of
valor" as one who could ignore his fan1ily's material needs in order to
concentrate on the performance ofthe commandments and the study of
Torah "day and night." 31 Although Maimon gave up on both the per-
formance ofthe commandments and the study ofTorah as a young man
(at least in any sense that tl1e Gaon would have allowed), he retained and
acted on the associated ideal of the talmid hakham, whose intellectual
quest trumped all other responsibilities throughout his life.
*
Main10n's Life and "Life History" 29

During these years of adolescence and young adulthood, Maimon de-


scribes himself as obsessed with books. He disrupts the connubial bliss
of a young mystic and his bride through late-night kabbalistic reading
at the table of their one-room house and travels great distances by foot
in order to obtain Hebrew philosophical works and eventually German
scientific textbooks. 32 It is ilnportant to note that throughout the
Middle Ages and the early modern period, the disciplines of Talmlld,
philosophy, and IZabbala were in competition with one another and
projected alternative intellectual ideals. 33 In moving from Talmudism
to IZabbala and on to philosophy-as well as their eighteenth-century
ideological descendants, Hasidisn1 and Haskala, respectively-Main1on
passed through the main spiritual and intellectual options open to an
Eastern European Jewish intellectllal at the ClISP of modernity.
The ranks of the Haskala and early Hasidism, both of which chal-
lenged Ashkenazi rabbinic authority,34 were to a large extent drawn
from disaffected adolescents and young men such as Maimon and Lapi-
doth. 35 In describing the phenomenon of early Hasidisn1, Maimon
writes that "young men forsook parents, wives and children, and went
en masse to visit its leaders and hear the new doctrine from their lips." 36
MailTIOn depicts himself as a briefly curious outside observer of the
movement, but his experience as a disaffected young man on a self-
described "pilgrimage" to the court of Rabbi Dov Baer, the Maggid of
Mezeritch, at the age Of18 or 19, may have been longer and more typi-
cal than he later wished to acknowledge. 37 Maimon describes his visit as
taking place after he had completed a term as a private tutor. Rather than
returning home with his wages to his young wife and family, who lived
nearby, he walked for several weeks to the center of the new movement,
in Mezeritch. 38
The Maggid was a student of the Baal Shem Tov's and the true
founder of institutional Hasidism. 39 Maimon's chapter is one of the
few and most valuable firsthand accounts of early Hasidism. Its level
of theological and sociological detail also suggests that he may have
spent more time there and was more deeply influenced than his explicit
account suggests. Maimon presents the new movement as a reaction to
the arid legalism of the Mitnaged rabbinic establishment as well as the
30 Chapter One

asceticism of its more saintly figures. 4o The central doctrine of this


"secret society," according to Maimon, was that
true piety does not consist in chastisement of the body, which disturbs
the spiritual quiet and cheerfulness necessary for the knowledge and
love of God. On the contrary, they maintained that Inan must satisfy
all his bodily needs and enjoy the pleasures of the senses . . . since
God has created all for his glory. The true service of God, according
to theIn, consists in exercises of devotion with exertion of all our
powers and annihilation of self before God; for they Inaintain that
Inan, in accordance with his destiny, can reach the highest perfection
[hijchste VollkomenheitJ only when he regards hin1self not as a being
that exists and works for himself but as an organ of the godhead. 41

This is a perceptive and historically valuable description ofwhat has been


called the "spiritual quietism" ofearly Hasidism. 42 It also begins to show
the way in which Maimon took HasidislTI to be related to his own cen-
tral philosophical concern, the natlIre ofhuman perfection and the pos-
sibility of union with the divine n1ind. Indeed, although Main10n ridi-
cules Hasidic adherents for their groundless "enthusiasm" and charges
the Maggid with manipulating his credulous followers, he also describes
Hasidic thought as a genuine "system ofperfection" (Vollkomenheitssys-
tem). The ideas of the Maggid were, Maimon writes, "closer to correct
ideas of religion and morals" than those of his rabbinic opponents, al-
though they relied more on obscure feelings than distinct ideas and were
undermined by the crude sensualisn1 of his followers. It is unclear how
long Maim011 actually spent in the Maggid's cOlIrt, although it cannot
have been very long, since Dov Baer died in 1772. I will return to the
question ofthe Maggid's possible influence on Maimon's mature philo-
sophical work later.
Maimon also continued to plIrsue studies outside Judaism. Mter
having taught himself to read German, he obtained a few old German
textbooks on n1edicine and physics from a rabbi in Slonim who had
studied in GerlTIany and was a representative ofwhat Shmuel Feiner has
called the "Early Haskala."43 Such studies only whetted his desire for
modern scientific knowledge, and at about the age of 25, Maimon left
his young family and set off for the east Prussian city of IZonigsberg on
the ship of a Jewish merchant.
Maimon's Life and "Life History" 31

This move might be compared to the period of wandering, or self-


imposed "exile," undertaken by several of Maimon's pious intellectual
contemporaries, among them the Vilna Gaon himself. In any event, al-
though Maimon's reasons for leaving Lithuania may have been intellec-
tual a11d personal, his move was part of a larger westerly migration of
indigent Jews from Poland to Central and Western Europe (a reversal of
the migratory patterns of the previous two centuries), which had broad
social and demographic ramifications. 44 His trip to Germany was taken,
he wrote in his autobiography, to learn true "human knowledge," a
locution to which we will have occasion to return. 45 Maimon arrived in
IZonigsberg, he recalled, "with a heavy, dirty beard, in torn filthy clothes,
my language a jargon composed of fragments of Hebrew, Jiidisch-
Deutsch and Polish, together with grammatical errors." 46 Nonetheless,
he managed to impress some Jewish students whom he describes as
treating him with the same amused condescension as Marcus Herz
would years later, in Berlin. 47
This encounter is Maimon's first with members of enlightened West-
ern European Jewry, and it sets the pattern for his accounts oflater such
n1eetings. Upon hearing of Maimon's intellectual aspirations, the stu-
dents challenge him to translate Moses Mendelssohn's Phiidon (1767),
"which by chance lay on the table," into Hebrew. The book was an adap-
tation of the Platonic dialogue Phaedo, in which Socrates' arguments
that the soul is perfect and immortal and hence that philosophy is prop-
erly "a training for death" were updated and presented in the language
of contemporary Wolffian metaphysics. Mendelssohn's book was ex-
traordinarily popular, especially with young German Jews for whon1 he
represented all the promises of enlightenment. 48 Nonetheless, the for-
tuitousness of just this book being the subject of Maimon's challenge
has the slightly too-perfect ring to it that we will encounter again, when
we begin to subject Maimon's Lebensgeschichte to closer scrutiny. Thus,
Maimon's first intellectual encou11ter on German soil is, as it were, with
Moses Mendelssohn himself, "the Socrates ofBerlin," 49 and his success
consists precisely in rendering Mendelssohn's mellifluous German
philosophical prose into scholastic Hebrew. 50 This performance, Mai-
mon tells us, astounded his sophisticated Jewish interlocutors, who re-
sponded by clothing him, arranging for his board in IZonigsberg, and
32 Chapter One

advising him, he recalled, "to go to Berlin, where I could best achieve


my purpose." 51
In what is, perhaps, the most well-kno\vn il1cident ofthe alltobiogra-
phy, Maimon's first attempt to enter Berlin was rebuffed by a func-
tionary of the Jewish community at the Rosenthaler Gate. Main10n's
disreputable appearance aroused suspicion, which, he writes, was only
confirmed by his remark that he aspired to publish a commentary to
Mail11onides' Guide ofthe Perplexed, an occupation-or lack of one-
that was both religiously dangerous and economically useless. The study
ofMain10nides' Guide, as opposed to his great legal code Mishneh Torah
and other writings, had a long history of being considered hazardous
to one's piety and by this tin1e had becol11e a kind of emblen1 of Jewish
Enlightenlnent, a perception to which I return in Chapter 2.
Upon failing to gain entry into Berlin 011 his first atten1pt, Maimon
fell into a vagrancy comn10n to many Eastern European Jews of the
time and wandered together with a "professional Jewish beggar" (Bet-
tlejude ex professo) for several months. 52 Dllring this period, he writes,
he taught his companion the rudiments of rational religion while his
companion taught him to curse. Whel1 they arrived in the large Jewish
comillunity of Posen, Maimon attempted to return to something like
his former life (or at least a fantasy of what that life might have been
like without his wife and children). He remembered that Rabbi
Raphael IZohen, who had tested him as a child, had taken the post of
chief rabbi in Posen and 11ad even brollght a friend of Maimon's as an
assistant. When Main10n went to the Beit Midrash to find them, he dis-
covered that IZohen had already left to take an even more prestigious
post, bringing his assistant with him. However, IZohen had left some of
his family in Posen. His son-i11-law had replaced him as chief rabbi, and
his adolescent son had stayed to live with his sister and brother-in-law.
The boy remembered Maimon, and the new chief rabbi, recognizing
Main10n's erudition, arranged for his lodging and employment as a
teacher. Maimon lived there for two years and wrote of this period that
it was "the happiest and most honorable of my life." 53
During this time, he reread several medieval theoretical and exeget-
ical works and struggled to reconcile kabbalistic doctrine with Mai-
monidean philosophy. He collected his writings of this period under
Maimon's Life and "Life History" 33

the title Hesheq Shelomo, "The Desire of Solomon." 54 Although it was


never published, the original manuscript- or at least the blllk of it-
is still extant and will be discussed in Chapter 2. This is the period in
which Maimon - or perhaps here we really should call him Shelomo
ben Yehoshua-came closest to inhabiting the traditional role of a
talmid hakham, which had been expected of him since childhood, and
it is not surprising that he speaks of it as the happiest of his life. None~
theless, his Maimonidean convictions, growing impiety, and irrepress-
ible wit (not to speak of his unmentioned family) n1ade it impossible
for hilll to settle forever in Posen. He stopped attending the synagogue
regularly and went fiAom being a brilliant, idiosyncratic talmid hakham
to something more like the village atheist. Thus when a local cook
thought that she had heard a carp lItter a word as she was cutting it up
for the Sabbath, Maimon could not resist the temptation to mockery.
Thinking the fish possessed, the chief rabbi, Maimon's friend, col-
league, and patron, ordered it buried with full rites. Maimon remarked
that he would have liked to find out what an inspired carp tasted like. 55
Within two years he had worn out his welcome. In 1781 or 1782, Mai-
mon set out, once again, for Berlin.

I have sketched Maimon's place in enlightened Berlin Jewish society in


the introduction. Maimon describes his introduction to Mendelssohn
as having taken place after he sent him a refutation of Christian Wolff's
lIse of the Principle of Sufficient Reason to establish God's existence.
The essay was written in Hebrew and compared the system ofWolff and
Leibniz, to which Mendelssohn adhered, unfavorably with the Aris-
totelian n1etaphysics of Maimonides. Maimon's brilliance and idiosyn-
crasy n1ade a spectacular impressiol1 on Mendelssohn and his circle.
Nonetheless, within two or three years, Maimon had mal1aged to scan-
dalize and disappoint his patrons by his seemingly unfocused and cer-
tainly unremunerative intellectual pursuits, his forthright defenses of
Spinoza, and his fondness for "spirited society ... pubs, pleasure trips"
and brothels. 56 Philanthropists in Mendelssohn's circle attempted to
make Maimon into a pharmacist, but although he willingly studied med-
icine and chemistry, he ren1ained stubbornly "unproductivized." Moses
Mendelssohn himself, who had recognized Maim011's talent and had
Chapter One

taken an interest in his developn1ent, eventually suggested that MailTIOn


leave the city. Maimon complied, although not without (at least in auto-
biographical retrospect) having the last Epicurean word in the exchange
quoted in the introduction.
There was probably more to this exchange, or at least Maimon's
account of it, than previous scholars have noted. Main10n and Men-
delssohn's exchange would have taken place sometime in 1783. 57 This
was at the height of the controversy in which Mendelssohn had been
challenged by the anonymous author of a polen1ical essay titled "The
Searching for Light and Bjght in a Letter to Mr. Moses Mendelssohn."
In it, the author challenged Mendelssohn to reconcile his public rejec-
tion of the rabbinic power of excomlTIunication with his adherence to
Judaism. Mendelssohn replied in his brilliant apologia Jerusalem: Or on
Religious Power and Judaism, which n1aintained his rejection of the
power of excolTImunication while vindicating Judaism as a religion that
required belief only in the tenets of natural religion. 58 It is likely that
Maimon's debauchery, religious skepticism, and philosophical radical-
ism (he described Mendelssohn's adherence to the Wolffian system as
"a political dodge and a piece of hypocrisy") would have been espe-
cially embarrassing to Mendelssohn at the time. In these circumstances
it is not surprising that Mendelssohn would have asked his wild young
protege to leave, but Maimon has, at least in retrospect, the last laugh.
He shows Mendelssohn, the great defender of religious freedom, in the
act of a de facto excommunication while insisting that, although he is
less politically prudent than Mendelssohn, "We are all Epicureans." 59
Maimon's subsequent stays in An1sterdam and Hamburg were even
less successful than his time in Berlin. In Amsterdam he contemplated
throwing himself off a bridge on the Jewish holiday of Purim, only to
find that his feet refused to follow his head. In Hamburg, with frank op-
portunism, he proposed his conversion to a Lutheran pastor in a letter,
which stipulated that Judaism was closer to the truth ofnatural religion
and that he would accept the Christian mysteries only allegorically. This
generous offer, which I will analyze in detail in Chapter 4-, also failed.
One critic has interpreted Maimon's comic description of his failed
suicide attempt as "symbolic of his wretched predicament-that of the
enlightened Jew from the East who wanted to live among unenlightened
MailTIOn'S Life and "Life History" 35

Jews of the West-or rather i11 the regional territory of bourgeois en-
lightenment."6o It is an inge11ious suggestion, and there is little doubt
that here, as elsewhere, Maimon is doing more than merely reporting an
incident in his life, but it seelns to me that the symbolism and allusions
ofthis passage lie elsewhere. In writing his autobiography, Main10n was
influenced by his friend and editor I(arl Philipp Moritz's autobiograph-
ical novel about his liberatioI1 from German Pietism, Anton Reiser. At a
crucial moment in that account, the protagonist is described as being
brought to the point of suicide by a crisis of identity:
The fact that he always had to be himself and could never be anyone
else . . . gradually brought him to a degree of despair that led hilTI to
the banks of the river that flowed through part of the city, to a place
where there was no protective railing.
An acute critic has pointed out that this incident was a version of the
Pietist self-annihilation through union with God. 61 Maimon, who, as
I will show in Chapter 4, evokes related themes of human perfection
through divine union in his comical attempt at conversion, may well
have had this passage in mi11d. But Maimon's description of his failed
suicide should probably also be taken as another one of his sly in-group
jokes: Purim is precisely the one Jewish holiday whose carnivalesqlle cel-
ebration turns on sllrprising reversals. In early modern Ashkenazi com-
munities, the biblical phrase "the opposite happened" (Esther 9: I) was
taken as a kind ofritual imperative for drunkenness, cross-dressing, role
reversals, and other acts ofsymbolic transgression on Purim. 62 Mainlon's
story ofhis feet refusing to follow the directions ofhis head wOll1d seen1
to be in the same spirit. Moreover, his easy allusion to this set oftexts and
cultural practices underlines the extent to which his subsequent failed
conversion (in which, one might say, his l1ead refused to follow his feet)
was also an attempted suicide.
In Hamburg, Maimon's fortunes were saved by yet another patron,
who offered to pay his tuition as an irregular adult student (he was
abollt 31) at the liberal Gymnasium Christianeum in nearby Altona.
Maimon's description of his two years in the gymnasium is closest in
tone and language to that of his two years as a philosophical talmid
hakham in Posen. Here, too, he was far froin any family obligations,
36 Chapter One

supported financially, and given close to free intellectual rein. It was in


the gymnasiun1 th.at he picked up his (actually rather limited) knowl-
edge of English, French (perhaps), Latil1, and classical literature, which
he later liked to flaunt in his writing. More in1portant, he learned (al-
though imperfectly) German con1position and excelled in mathelnat-
ics, vvhich would later playa significant role in his philosophical work.
He also apparently took "Maimon" as his last nanle during these years
(1784 or 1785), in tribute to his philosophical hero, the great twelfth-
century Jewish thinker Moses Maimonides, or Moshe ben Main1on. 63
Although the Jewish adoption of a surname was one of the great sym-
bolic and adlninistrative den1ands of European emancipation, the au-
dacity and prima facie oddness of this choice ought to be remarked
upon. 64 Rather than formalizing his patronymic (as in Jewish names
such as Mendelssohn or Bendavid) or place of origin (e.g., Satanow,
Dubno), Shelomo ben Joshua chose to nan1e himself after the out-
standing intellectual figure of the Jewish Middle Ages. 65 SOlnething of
the boldness of this choice, as well as the peculiar role of medieval
Hebrew scholasticism in early Jewish versions of European Enlighten-
ment, can be seen ifone simply imagines a contemporary lapsed Catho-
lic philosophe or Aufklarer renan1ing himself Aquinas. The reasons-
cultural, historical, and personal-that made it possible for Maimon to
do somethil1g analogolls to this, indeed to make Maimonides the basis
ofhis self-invention, are at the center ofthis study, although it should be
remembered that he never used the name in his Hebrew writings.

Main10n was not, in fact, quite as far from the life he had left behind in
Lithuania as he had hoped when he changed his name in Altona. A
message from his wife, who had heard of his whereabouts, spurred
Raphael IZohen, now chief rabbi of the triple community of Hamburg,
Altona, and Wandsbeck, to request al1 interview with Maimon. Al-
though Maimon coyly omits the n1ention of IZohen's name here and
throughout the alltobiography, he expected his contemporary Jewish
readers to recognize the rabbi of the prestigious community, if not,
perhaps, the extent of his lifelong association with him. IZohen was a
well-known scourge of heretics who rlded his community with a heavy
hand. He was a famously frequent user of the rabbinic ban of herem, or
Main10n's Life and "Life History" 37

excon11TIunication, who had opposed Mendelssohn's Bible translation


project, publicly feuded with Maimon's friend, the gifted rabbinic
forger Saul Berlin, and staunchly opposed the Hasidisn1 of the Maggid
ofMezeritch. 66 IZohen demanded that Maimon either return to Poland
or grant his abandoned wife a divorce, thus releasing her from her sta-
tus as an Aguna (a grass widow, "chained" to a defunct n1arriage).
Main10n declined to do either and recounts his skeptical provocations
and the fruitless rebukes of IZohen with apparent glee:
My conduct, I told hiIn, was as little opposed to religion (properly
understood) as it was to reason.... We entered into a lengthy dispute
in which each Inaintained his right. As he could not influence ll1e by
such disputation, he began to serlTIonize, but when this was also to
no avail he cried aloud "Shofar! Shofar" (This is the naiTIe of the horn
which is blown on the holiday of the New Year as a SUmiTIOnS to re-
pentance, and of which it is supposed Satan is horribly afraid). As the
chief rabbi called out the word, he pointed to a Shofar that lay before
him on a table and asked n1e "Do you lU10w what that is?" I replied
quite boldly "Oh yes! It's a raIn's horn." At these words the chief
rabbi fell back into his chair and began to lament over ll1y lost sou1. 67
The insouciance ofMaimon's narrative tone and his insistence upon de-
scribing a central religious symbol ofthe world in which he was raised as
if he were an unsympathetic anthropologist are belied by his eagerness
to engage in rabbinic dispute with the Talmudist who had tested him as
a child, as well as his refusal to grant his wife a divorce (an action that
would actually sever his last formal connection with that world). In this
passage one sees Maimon glorying, at least retrospectively, in IZohen's
clerical impotence while simultaIleously claiming that 11e got the best of
the rabbinic argument. Moreover, Main10n deliberately misleads the
general reader in explaining IZohen's reference to the shofar as merely a
call to repentance. He knew very well that the shofar was also blown dur-
ing the ceremony of excommunication, which could be invoked by a
rabbinical court for heresy and, on occasion, for refusing to grant one's
wife a divorce. 68 Heinrich Heine, who enjoyed MailTIOn'S deadpan de-
scription of the shofar as a n1ere ram's horn and compared his position
to Spinoza, understood the implication in his witty essay on Religion
and Philosophy in Germany.69
38 Chapter One

In fact, IZohen was an early theorist of the Mitnaged ideology of the


absolute primacy of Talmudic knowledge and Stlldy, who once wrote
that anyone who studied secular literature violated the biblical admoni-
tion to look at one's ritual fringes (tzitzit) so as not to "follow your heart
and eyes in your lustful urge" (Numbers I5: 39). One could hardly imag-
ine a less receptive audience for the argument of the author of the He-
sheq Shelomo that religion, properly understood in the light ofrationalsist
philosophy, actually required his attendance at the Altona Gymnasium
Christianeum.
In I785, Maimon left the gyn1nasillm and returned to Berlin with the
intention of llsing his nevvly won lingllistic skills. Maimon is not en-
tirely forthcoming about the reasons for his departure from the gym-
nasium, but they may well have included a feeling that he was not free
fron1 his wife's inqlliries or Rabbi IZohen's ecclesiastic powers so long
as he remained there.
In Berlin, Maimon turned to Mendelssohn and some of the leading
maskilic patrons of his circle, among them his physician, Dr. Marcus
Bloch; Daniel Itzig, a prominent Jewish businessman with an out-
standing library; a11d David Friedlander, who was Itzig's s011-in-law, a
student of IZant's, and Mendelssohn's leading disciple?O These Mask-
ilim suggested that "in order to enlighten the Polish Jews still living in
darkness," Maimon should translate some scholarly work into Hebrew,
using his newfound understanding of European languages. One sug-
gestion was to translate Jacqlles Basnage's Histoire des fuifs, and Mai-
mon reports producing a specime11 ofwhich Mendelssohn approved?l
The discussion over what Maimon should translate echoes a passage
from one ofthe founding documents of the Haskala, Naftali Herz \Ves-
sely's Divrei Shalom ve-Emet, written three years earlier. In the course
of arguing for sweeping educational reform, Wessely described "our
Polish brothers" who had recently come to Berlin seeking enlighten-
ment. Such men might arrive with a fairly good knowledge of geome-
try and astronomy through the reading of medieval and early modern
Hebrew works on the subject, but
they did not lmow natural sciences, since nothing is written of them in
Hebrew. Nor, it goes without saying, did they know geography and
MailTIOn'S Life and "Life History" 39

history, even though they are easier than the deep sciences they have
studied, since nothing is written about them in Hebrew. 72
It was precisely the lack of "depth" ofsuch subjects that dissuaded Mai-
luon from continuing with the commission as a translation ofBasnage.
He wrote to his patrons that such works would offend orthodox sensi-
bilities too much, on the one hand, ,vithout exciting sufficient intel-
lectual stimulation for sharp Polish Talmudists on the other. One such
Taln1udist in question might have been Mailuon hin1self. It is hard to
imagine Main10n laboring for very long over Basnage's n1any volumes.
In addition to the obligatory pious assumption that the Jevvs would
eventually convert, Basnage's history was credulous on various points
on which Maimon was already a skeptic, including the early rabbinic
composition of the Zohar and Maimonides' actual theological posi-
tions. Basnage also repeatedly condemned his conten1porary Spinoza
as a damnable heretic in terms that Maimon is not likely to have been
interested in reproducing for his Polish brethren. 73
Instead, Main10n proposed to write a Hebrew algebra textbook. The
book would begin with self-evident propositions and lead the reader
into higher mathematics, thus making it both more "suitable for the de-
velopment of the mind" and less offensive to religiolls sensibilities than
the other works. 74 Apparently, neither Maimon nor his patrons knew
that another contemporary Lithuania11 Jew had already published such
a work, a translation of an English textbook of algebra and trigonome-
try in 1783.75 In any event, Maimon's proposal was approved, and he
wrote the textbook "using the Latin work by Wolff as its basis." How-
ever, when the book was finished and Maimon requested payment,
his erstwhile patrons complained that it was too long, typograpl1ically
complicated, and impractical to pri11t. Eventually Mendelssohn resolved
the dispute by suggesting that Maimon take up a subscription for the
work, including but not liluited to his principal patrons. Maimon re-
ports that "Mendelssohn and the other enlightened Jews of Berlin sub-
scribed," but the work was never published, leaving both Maimon and
his patrons bitter. 76
The dispute may have had as much to do with Maimon and his pa-
trons' differing views of his intellectual role as it did with the specific
4-0 Chapter One

details of paylnent and publication. Mendelssohn and his circle appear


to have thought that the best use of Maimon's talents was to serve as a
publicist for Enlightenment to other Polish Jews. This was in keeping
with the educational goals of the Haskala in general, but it n1ay also
have reflected a certain condescension to\vard Maimon as a quirky,
Yiddish-speaking autodidact fron1 Poland who could, perhaps, do some
useful work writing for other such Jews. This had certainly been their
attitude toward Rabbi Barukh Schick, the pious rabbi fron1 Shklov who
had preempted Maimon by publishing an algebra textbook in Hebrew
in 1783 and, Inore famously, a translation of the first six chapters of
Euclid's Elements in 1780.77 In 1777, Schick had visited Berlin and re-
ceived encouragement, generous subvention, and lavish praise, along
,with a certain measure of condescension. 78
Another contemporary figllre whose career was even closer to what
the Maskilim appear to have envisioned for Mailnon was the great East-
ern European maskilic publicist Mendel Lefin, an almost exact con-
temporary of Maimon's fron1 Satanow who had lived in Berlin in the
early 1780s and had gone on to a prolific career of translation, adapta-
tion' and popularization of edifying ethical, homiletic, and n1edical
works of a predominantly moderate Enlightenlnent cast. 79 But Mai-
man was neither pious nor moderate. More to the point, he had a gen-
uine belief in himself as a thinker whose intellectual goals ("the truth"
as he would italicize it in his first letter to IZant) 80 trumped all else.

Shortly after the dispute, Maimon decided yet again that his positio11
in Berlin was untenable, and he moved to Breslau in 1786. In Breslau,
Maimon was able to enter into the life of enlightened intellectual ex-
change (as well as mild debauchery) more confidently than he ever had
before, although his German was still imperfect. He tutored the chil-
dren of the wealthy Maskil Aaron Zadig in Hebrew, n1athematics, and
physics, attended medical lectures, befriended some of the more en-
lightened teachers at the Jesuits College, and frequented the coffee-
hOllses and taverns with "a short, round man of enlightened mind and
cheerful disposition," named Hien1a11n Lisse. 81
In tutoring for Zadig, Maimon reports himselfas declining to replace
the traditional Polish-Jewish tutor whom they l1ad already engaged.
Maimon's Life and "Life History" 41

I thought it would be unfair to displace this poor man, who had a


family of his own to support.... Accordingly Rabbi Manoth contin-
ued his lessons, and I gave mine. 82
Such throwaway anecdotes have the ring of historical trllth, but Mai-
mon's reasons for refusing to displace Manoth were, at least, likely to
have been more complicated than he admitted. In working side by side
with such a man, Maimon would have been able to retain some con-
nection with the Yiddish-speaking rabbinic culture he had abandoned.
Indeed, Main10n's own identity as an apiqores made sense only in jux-
taposition to that which he had left, and he seen1S to have sought out
cOllfrontations with representatives of Jewish orthodoxy throughout
his later life, just as his literary practice turned on the conjuring up of
such juxtapositions through satirical description, ironic quotation, and
allusions. Finally, it should be noted that it was precisely in Breslau that
his own fan1ily responsibilities returned to haunt him in the palpable
form of his wife and eldest son, whom he had deserted some eight years
earlier. 83
Maimon's most important intellectual interlocutors in Breslau were
the distinguished philosopher Christian Garve (1742-1798) and the
eccentric German-Jewish poet Ephraim I(iih (1731-1790). Garve was,
along with Mendelssohn, one of the leading "popular philosophers"
(popularphilosophen) of the period, and upon his arrival in the city,
Maimon almost immediately presented him with a set of philosophical
"aphorisms" on the impossibility of establishing a First Cause from
Leibniz's Principle of Sufficie11t Reason. These aphorisms may well
have been a revised German version of the Hebrew essay he had sent to
Mendelssohn in refutation of Wolff. Garve was apparently impressed
enough to introduce Maimon to his intellectual circle, as well as to a
wealthy Jewish patron, Lipmann Meier.
I(iih was an odd and fascinating man who had been raised in a well-
to-do Breslau home. 84 Unlike Maimon, he had been taught literary
German at a relatively early age. As a young man, he too had gone to
Berlin and had become a minor poet in the German Neo-Classicist style
ofthe time. In 1768, he left Berlin for a tour ofthe great cities ofEurope.
Upon his returl1, in 1771, he suffered a nervous breakdown when he was
4-2 Chapter One

identified as a Jew subject to special taxes by a Saxon customs official. In


the last two decades of his life in Breslau, IZiih bitterly attacked the local
Jewish establishment, flirted (like MailTIOn) with the possibility of con-
version to Lutheran Christianity, and compulsively wrote hundreds of
epigran1matic pOelTIS, lTIany of which tl1elTIatize the dilemma of the
cultured Jew mocked with "bitter laughter" by his Christian peers. 85
MailTIOn, whose philosophical ambitio11s lTIatched IZiih's poetic ones,
describes IZiih as delighting in his company and chan1pionil1g his cause
to possible patrons, in the face of the reports of intellectual radicalism
and personal vices that had followed him from Berlin (although this may
not have helped). 86
In Breslau, then, one can see Maimon reconstrllcti11g his life along
the lines it had taken dllring his stays in Berlin, with Garve serving as a
philosophical mentor in place ofMendelssohn, and IZiih, Lisse, Manoth,
and Maimon's students and patrons each making possible a kind of ex-
patriate life. This was all put in jeopardy by the arrival ofhis wife and their
eldest son (by then a young adult), who demanded that he return with
them to Poland. Maimon's description ofthis visit will repay close study:
A won1an of rude education and manners [rauher Erziehung und
Lebensart], but of good sense and the courage of an Atnazon [bon sens
und Amazonenmut] , she demanded that I ilnmediately return home
with her, not seeing the ilnpossibility of what she asked. I had now
lived some years in Germany, had happily emancipated myself from
the fetters of superstition [Fesseln des Aberglaubens] and religious prej-
udice' had abandoned the rude manner of life in which I had been
brought up, and extended n1Y knowledge in many directions. I could
not return to my barbarous and miserable condition, deprive myself of
all the advantages I had gained and expose myself to rabbinical rage at
the slightest deviation of ceremonial law, or the utterance of a free
thought. 87

Maimon's description of 11is wife repeats the precise adjective (rauhe)


and general tone with which his own patron Marcus Herz described
him in his letter to IZant. Even Maimon's praise of his wife's "good
sense," which balances her uncultivated "raWl1ess" and "Amazonian"
foreignness, seems calculated to distance himself from her, byemploy-
ing a current philosophical term of art for the subrational faculty of the
MailTIOn'S Life and "Life History" 4-3

conscience (in French, no less).88 Maimon's description of Jewish life


in Lithuallia as barbarous and subject to rabbinic tyranny, and thus 11n-
thinkable for an enliglltened person such as hilTIself, sin1ilarly mimics
the characterizations of enlightened German Jews such as Herz.
Maimon also recounts an attempt to convince his son, David, "by sev-
eral passages in [Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed] that enlighten-
ment of the understanding and refinement of manners are much more
favorable to religion than the alternative." 89 This argument for the pri-
macy ofwhat he elsewhere termed "hun1an knowledge" would seem to
be a version of the same argument l1e mentions having posed to Rabbi
Rap11ael IZohen in Hamburg. In Chapter 4, I will argue that it is, in fact,
a version of the same radical Mainl0nidean argument that he presented
to the Lutheran pastor in explanation of his abortive request for
conversion.
Maimon did 110t give his wife a divorce imn1ediately and appears to
have seriously considered the possibility ofretl1rning with her ifhe could
raise "two or three hundred Thalers" in order to live independently of
the Jewish authorities in Poland. Presumably, this was another attempt
to get himself supported as a representative of "enlightened under-
standing" and "refined manners" within Polish Lithuania. His patrons
seem to have largely resisted the opportunity, and, eventually, Maimon
gave his wife a divorce, after another satisfying dispute with the local Beit
Din (rabbinical court). Maimon's account of these episodes ofrabbini-
cal jousting over his wife and family's future are among his least self-
aware and certainly most obnoxious autobiographical moments. 90 It is,
perhaps, worth noting here that his friend and contemporary Sabbattia
Wolffwrote in his memoir of Main10n that "when the subject of his di-
vorce came up in conversation it was easy to read in his face the deep sor-
row he felt, and his liveliness faded away." 91 The episode cannot have
done much for Maimon's reputation in Breslau. Once again within less
than two years, he had again run out of patrons and protectors and
resolved to return to Berlin.
On his fourth and final trip to Berlin, in 1789, Maimon decided to
tackle IZant's Critique ofPure Reason, which had been published in 178r
and, in an important revised edition, in 1787. In his autobiography and
elsewhere, Maimon claimed not to have read IZant's Critique until he
44 Chapter One

had returned to Berlin. This may well have been true, for Maimon writes
with the genuine enthusiasm of someone to whom a new intellectual
world has been revealed, and his interest and excitement reflect the re-
newed attention that IZant's difficult work began to receive at the end of
the decade. Nonetheless, Maimon may also have been exaggerating his
lack of familiarity with the Critique. In the first place, his sometime pa-
tron Marcus Herz had been I(ant's student, his philosophical corre-
spondent, a11d among his first readers. Second, although Mendelssohn
wrote that he no longer had the i11tellectual stamina to read the first Cri-
tique, his Morgenstunden (1785), which Maimon had already translated
into Hebrew, carried on a covert argument with IZa11t's transcendental
idealism, which an astllte philosophical reader such as Maimon cannot
have failed to miss.9 2 Finally, as noted, Maimon had sought out the com-
pany and patronage of the philosopher Christian Garve and his circle in
Breslau. Garve had been the at-first anonymous allthor of the first and
most controversial review of the Critique, in 1782, which provoked an
extended controversy and a massive response from IZant in the form of
his Prologomena to Any Future Metaphysics (1783).93 It is hard to inlag-
ine, then, that Maimon was quite as innocent of the details of the Criti-
cal Philosophy before arriving in Berli11, and his association with Garve,
whom IZant regarded as an empiricist enen1Y, n1ay have given him added
reason to profess such innocence.

The dramatic reception of Maimon's subsequent commentary, VCrsuch


iiber die Transcendentalphilosophie (1790), by IZant himself and others
has already been discllssed in the introduction. However, we are now in
a position to see both the long process tl1at led up to the pllblic
discovery of this "rawest of Polish Jews" and the way in which it con-
formed to the earlier patterns of his life. The publication of his Tran-
scendentalphilosophie opened doors for Maimon. He became a coeditor
with the brilliant IZarl Philipp Moritz of a curious journal of empirical
psychology, parapsychological investigations, and anthropological
case studies, titled Gnothi Sauton oder Magazin zur Erfahrungssee-
lenkunde. 94 He also published philosophical articles in the leading jour-
nals of the German Enlightenment, the Berlinische Monatschrift and
the Journal fur Aufklarung.
Maimon's Life and "Life History" 4-5

In 1791, Maimon published two books, one in German and one in


Hebrew. The first was a philosophical dictionary titled Philosophisches
Wiirterbuch, which, in keeping with the identity Maimon was con-
structing for himself, began with an entry on superstition (Aberglaube)
and ended with one on skepticism (ZweiJel).95 If his Transcendental-
philosophie can be described as a kind of Maimonidean cOlnmentary on
Kant, then the second book Maimon published in this year, Giva)at ha-
Moreh, is even more straightforwardly a post-IZantian reading of Mai-
monides. 96 As such it is a locus, as is Maimon's life, for the intersection
of several different intellectual and cultural trends. Here, the philo-
sophical ideals of the Enlightenment in their most radical form are
worked through medieval Aristotelian philosophy and rendered in
maskilic Hebrew. It is, in fact, the first work of modern philosophy
composed in Hebrew, and yet it is written, as to some extent were al-
most all Maimon's writings, in the most traditional form of Jewish
writing, a cOlnmentary.
It was in the wake of both his cultural alienation and his philosophi-
cal success that Maimon published his autobiography, which was simply
titled Salomon Maimons Lebensgeschichte. 97 The first chapters were
published anonyn10usly in the Magazin zur Erfahrungsseelenkunde, as
a third-person ethnography of the life of a Polish Jew named "Solomon
ben Josua." This reflects a deep ambivalence that runs through the
Lebensgeschichte and Maimon's corpus as a whole. In the published book
version, however, Maimon assumes the first person, which was crucial to
its success, for what made the Lebensgeschichte so interesting to German
readers of the time was the literary voice of this Polish Jew who had be-
come a German philosopher. Indeed, the autobiography was in an im-
portant sense predicated on Maimon's public philosophical success. It
describes the arc from Lithuanian Talmudic prodigy to German IZantian
philosopher.
Maimon's Lebensgeschichte is, arguably, the first modern Jewish auto-
biography.98 It is not merely a collection of memoirs, such as those of
Maimon's older contemporary, Ber ofBelechov. 99 Nor is it an exemplary
account written for one's heirs, such as the now-famous work ofGliickel
ofHameln. 1oo Main10n's work is, rather, like Rousseau's Confessions, an
attempt to grasp one's life whole an9_l2!~~Q~!!=_~efQr~_a_Qr9~ci ?l1d _
46 Chapter One

anonymous reading public. In this it also differs from the only other
prominent example of eighteenth-century Ashkenazi self-narrative,
Rabbi Jacob Elnden's Megillat Sefer. 101 Elnden's work is far too self-
absorbed to truly count as either an ethical will or a set of memoirs, but
it was never n1eant for publication. 11oreover, it begins vvith a recitation
ofthe names ofEmden's forefathers, whose purpose seems to be to em-
bed Emden within a larger fan1ily narrative. "They were a holy seed," he
writes, "men ofdiscernn1ent and purity amidst times ofdecrees and de-
struction.... [They] were among the great leaders ofAshkenaz in ear-
lier times." 102 The book then turns to a long biographical account of
Emden's father, whose life, he claims, set the pattern for his own. The
contrast with Mendelssohn's determination to distance himselffrom his
father and grandfather's traditional irrationality could not be clearer.
Another point to make about each of these works is that they were
vvritten in a Jewish language: in Gluckel and Ber's case, Yiddish; in En1-
den's, Hebrew. Neither book was published, or even prepared for pub-
lication, during their authors' lifetimes. Indeed, each of these books is
addressed, at least ostensibly, to the author's heirs and was preserved
within the family until published by scholars at the turn of this cen-
tury.103 As such, they belong in many respects to the medieval Hebrew
genre of the ethical will, which was left for the writer's heirs as an act of
religious and moral instruction. 104 Despite the fact that these works and
others like thein are often discussed together with Maimon's autobiog-
raphy, it is not irrelevant to point out that Maimon himself could not
have read them, or even known of their existence. Although such docu-
n1ents afford the reader precious access to the lives ofearly modern Jews,
they were still written in a context in which the primary ful1ction ofsuch
writing was still cultural transmission within a family, rather than a
presentation of self.
For Maimon, 1793 and 1794 were years of prodigious activity. He
published a major essay, Uber die Progressen der Philosophie (1793); a
book proposing a new transcendental logic, versuch einer neuen Logik
oder Theorie des Denkens (1794); and three commentaries on the works
of other philosophers: Die JCathegorien des Aristoteles (1794), a critical
commentary on Aristotle's Categories that further elaborated Maimon's
Maimon's Life and "Life History" 4-7

transcendental logic and epistemological theory; a brief comn1entary


to a German translation of Bacon's New Organon; and Anfangsgriinde
der NeJvtonischen Philosophie von Dr. Pemberton, an annotated transla-
tion of an English exposition of Newtonian physics and natural philos-
ophy, which pushed his skeptical challenge to IZant into the realm of
the philosophy of science. lOS He also, rather scandalously, published
his polemical correspondence with IZarl Reinhold, without Reinhold's
permission. lo6
Three things should be noted about this explosion of philosophical
creativity. First is the extent to which Maimon's thought was almost in-
evitablyexegetical. One recalls IZant's jibe about Jews liking to do that
sort of thing "to gain an air of importance for themselves at someone's
expense," and, n10re in1portant, the Jewish intellectual traditio11s of
commentary in which Maimon was schooled. lo7 Second, it should be
noted that, despite the variety ofpublications, Maimon knew (or at least
propounded) one thing in all of his writings: a post-IZa11tian epistemo-
logical monism, which attempted to meet his own skeptical challenge to
the IZantian dualism ofconcepts and intllitio11s. According to Maimon,
IZant's unbridgeable dualism could be overcome through recourse to
the ultimate identity of the knower and the known in an infinite mind,
or, as he later termed it, a "World Soul." Finally, although the nature of
this early version of what later came to be called Absolute Idealism a11d
Maimon's ambivalent advocacy of t11e theory will occupy us later, it
should be repeated that the notion of human cognition as ultimately
explicable through recourse to a divine n1ind was, in Maimon's case, a
direct application of Maimonidea11 ideas.
Maimon's best editor and patron, IZarl Philipp Moritz, also died in
1793- Maimon wrote a final essay for the journal that he had helped
Moritz to edit, summing up the studies of the past ten years, and cast
about for another patron. Johann Wolfgang Goethe had once written
that he considered Moritz to be exactly like himself, only less fortunate,
and Maimon seems to have had a similar thought. lo8 In 1794, he wrote
to Goethe to inquire about visiting Weimar. Goethe had been an en-
thusiastic reader of Main10n's Lebensgeschichte as well as his philosophi-
cal essays, which he discussed with Friedrich Schiller and others, a fact
48 Chapter One

that Maimon Inight have known from David Veit or Rahel Varnhagen. lo9
There seen1S to have been a briefflurry ofinterest on Goethe's part, but
nothii1g n10re, and Maimon never visited Weimar.

In 1795, Maimon found his final, and perhaps lnost generous patron, a
free-thinking young count named Adolf Kalkrellth, who invited him to
live with him in his Berlin residence and, later, to n10ve to his estate in
Niegersdorf, Silesia, where Maimon stayed for the rest ofhis life. In 1797,
Main10n published his final major work, J(ritische Unterschungen iiber
menschlichen Geist oder das hijhere Erkenntnis und Willensvermijgen,
which was an atten1pt to synthesize his earlier work and give systen1atic
forln to his idiosyncratic Idealism, which we could call a Maimonidean
revision ofIZant. l1o The five years spent in Count IZalkreuth's residence
in Silesia was probably the longest period in Maimon's adult life in which
he stayed in one place, and at least one writer depicts him as having lived
his last years in triumph over his petty detractors in Berlin. Other ac-
counts have hin11iving his final years in a drunken stupor, his intellectual
creativity spent. Neither would seem to be the case. In fact, he had ar-
ticles in press at the time ofhis death and was plotting a return to Berlin,
which he had always regarded as the polestar ofhis intellectual life. Only
a few months before his death, in a letter to his fellow Kantian and some-
time patron, Lazarus Bendavid, MailTIOn wrote:
Do SaInething that I might come back to Berlin; what this depends
on you can figure out by yourself. Maybe we can undertake sOITlething
together. Speak about it with Mr. Levi, or even better with Madame
Levi.!ll

This letter and another he wrote to Bendavid in the same year show
Maimon in full intellectual form, discussing the nature of philosophy,
defending Fichte against the attacks of Kant, and tweaking Bendavid
for a mistake in a published mathematical proof. In an irritated letter
to a publisher, written at about the same time, he complained about
the failure to publish his article and promised further work that would,
among other things, explain "das Absolut" once and for all.
Solomon Maimon died in Siegersdorf on Noven1ber 22, 1800. The
date of Main10n's death is known because a local Protestant clergyman,
Main10n's Life and "Life History" 49

J.C. Tscheggey, visited hin1 during the last weeks of his life to discuss
n1atters of philosophy and religion and published a memoir of their
c011versations shortly after Maimon died. It is impossible to say how ac-
curately Tscheggey depicted his interchanges with Maimon. Certainly,
they do not read as the fluid record of actual conversation. On the
other hand, the conversations do accurately reflect MaitTIon's philo-
sophical preoccupations. This, according to Tscheggey, is Maimon's
deathbed conversation:
T: I an1 sorry to find you so ill today.
M: There will perhaps be some improvement yet.
T: You look so ill that I am doubtful of your recovery.
M: What does it matter after all? When I aill dead, I aill gone.
T: How can you say that, dear friend? Your n1ind, which aillong the
most unfavorable of circumstances soared to ever higher attain-
ments' which bore such fair flowers and fruits-shall it be trodden
in the dust along with the poor covering in which it has been
clothed? Do you not at this moment feel that there is something in
you which is not body, not matter, not subject to the conditions of
space and time?
M: Ach, these are beautiful dreams and hopes [sehijne Traume und
HoffnungenJ .
T: Which will surely be fulfilled .... You maintained not long ago that
here we cannot reach above mere legality. Let this be admitted. Now,
perhaps, you are about to pass over soon into a condition in which
you will rise to the state of true morality, since you and all ofus have
a natural capacity for it. Wouldn't you wish to come into the society
of one WhOlll you honored as much as Mendelssohn?
M: Oy me! I have been a foolish man, the most foolish among the
foolish-and how earnestly I wished otherwise!
T: This is proof that you are not yet in complete accord with your
unbelief. No you will not all die. Your spirit will surely live on.
M: SO far as mere faith and hope are concerned, I can go a good way.
But what does that help us?
T: It helps us at least to peace.
M: I am at peace. [feh bin ruh~.J 112

The account invites historical doubt. Its dialogue is stilted to the


point of bathos, and the scenario of the unrepe~t~~t_s}c~p_t~c_~n_ hi~ _
50 Chapter One

deathbed is both a literary topos and a bit reminiscent of Boswell's fa-


mous last conversation with David HUlne, in 1776. 113 On the other
hand, Tscheggey's brief allusion to Maimon's distinction between
"mere legality" and true knowledge is a gen-uine description of Mai-
mon's idiosyncratic Maimonidea11 idealism, which he consistently
maintai11ed llntil the end of his life. 114 Moreover, Maimon's reply that
ilnmortality is a "beautiful dream," while hardly original, does echo his
eventual position that union with the divine mind or World Soul is a
kind of limit-concept. lls
IZant once wrote "that the aim of those who have a clergyma11 sum-
moned to them at the end oflife is normally to find a comforter" against
a bad conscience and compared this llnfavorably to the administering of
opium. 116 The well-meaning Tscheggey seems to have been offering a
similar narcotic, bllt Maimon, apparently, would have none of it. I will
not speculate on the nature of his regrets or on the source of his peace,
ifhe had either. In any event, none of Maimon's great friends or inter-
locutors were with him when he died, and Maimon's passing went
largely unrell1arked in Berlin, as Rahel Varnhagen lamented, in passing,
in a letter to David Veit. 117 Lazarus Bendavid, who had been Maimon's
student, patron, and rival, wrote a brief memoir.l 18
Maimon's body was delivered by Count IZalkreuth to the nearby
Jewish commllnity of Glogau. He was apparently given the derisory fu-
neral of an excoll1municated apiqores (though I have no evidence that
he was ever formally placed in herem) and buried in an unmarked grave
olltside the cemetery proper, in keeping with the traditional practice
for the bllrial of heretics. T11e nineteenth-century Jewish historian
Simon Bernfeld paints an even grimmer picture:
Soloillon Mainlon was brought [to Glogau] for burial and put in a
grave covered with scorn and shame. Moreover, the members of the
Burial Society [Hevra Qadisha] abused the body of this great man be-
fore burying it. This was reported to me personally by Dr. Brann of
Breslau who had read it in a letter at the time. The details of this inci-
dent are very ugly.119

Jakob Fromer, who edited a popular early twentieth-century edition of


Maimon's autobiography, adds that children threw stones at the coffin
Mailllon's Life and "Life History" 51

and shouted, presumably at the prompting of discerning adults,


"Apiqores!" 120 When Count IZalkreuth inquired about Maimon's fu-
neral, he was, by one account, told that Mainl0n had been buried in a
special area reserved only for philosophers, which would, in a sense,
have been true. IZalkreuth was apparently not satisfied and had a lne-
morial stone erected in Maimon's honor, which still stands. I21 A de-
cade later, Sabbattia Wolff published a longer, entertaining, if llnre-
liable, lnemoir of his friend, but Mainl0n was remembered largely
because of his own remarkable autobiography.I22
T1VO Maimon's Medieval Desire:
The Hesheq Shelomo
"I keep it [the Hesheq ShelomoJ with lue even now as a nlenl0rial
to the striving of the hunlan spirit for perfection, despite all the
hindrances which stand in its way."
Solomon Mainl0n, Salomon Maimons Lebensgeschichte

In his autobiography, Maimon describes having been turned away at


the Rosenthaler Gate in his first attempt to enter Berlin, sometin1e in
the mid 1770S, after a conversation with a local rabbi.
This rabbi told the elders of the comlnunity that I was going to issue a
new edition of the Guide ofthe Perplexed with a commentary, and that
my intention was not so much to study medicine, as to devote myself to
the sciences in general, and to extend my knowledge. This the ortho-
dox Jews look upon as sOlnething dangerous to religion and good
morals. They believe this to be especially true of the Polish Rabbis,
who, having by some lucky accident been delivered from the bondage
of superstition, suddenly catch a gleam of the light of reason and set
themselves free from their chains. And this belief is to some extent well-
founded. Persons in such a position may be compared to a n1an who af-
ter being famished for a long time suddenly comes upon a well-spread
table, and attacks the food with violent greed, and overfills himself. 1

A few years later, when Maimon attempted to return from Posen, he


was ahnost thrown out again for merely owning a copy of Moses
Mendelssohn's popular edition of Maimonides' Millot ha-Higgayon, a
brief treatise on philosophical terms and methods. "That's just the sort
of book!" Maimon reports an incensed community officer exclaiming
upon spying it. 2 The Jewish officer's objection had not been to the
Aristotelian syllogism any luore than the pious rabbi's had been to Mai-
52 mon's understanding of the nature of the active intellect. In both cases
it was understood that the study of medieval Jewish philosophy, which
was epitomized in the philosophical work of Mailnonides, indicated a
heretical mode of thought and that its renewal was somehow part of a
Maimon's Medieval Desire: The Hesheq Shelomo 53

dangerous new progralTI of reform. Indeed, when MailTIon finally did


realize his Maimonidean an1bition in 1791 and republished the first part
of the Guide together with his commentary, it was issued by the same
Berlin publishing house that produced the flagship journal of the
Berlin Haskala,ha-Meassef, and edited by ha-Meassef)s editor, Isaac
Euchel, the great literary entrepreneur of the movement. 3
This is not to say that Maimon's particular brand of philosophical
radicalism was not also viewed as dangerous within the Haskala. When
Mendelssohn himself finally suggested that Maimon quit the city, Mai-
mon interpreted it as an indictment of his philosophical ambitions and
forthrightness as much as ofhis disreputable life. Although he acknowl-
edged (even reveled in) his debauchery, Maimon also aspired to an aus-
tere Maimonidean ideal of intellectual perfection, cared as little for
philosophical tact as he did for conventional propriety, and certainly had
no interest in being the enlightenedgebildet pharmacist or middlebrow
translator that his patrons had hoped he would becon1e.
Here and elsewhere, as I have already suggested, incidents in Mai-
mon's Lebensgeschichte may have the slightly too polished feel of the
perfect anecdote. One lTIay wonder whether an autobiography in which
the protago11ist attempts to enter the capital of philosophical enlight-
enment but is repeatedly rejected for being too much of a philosopher
might not have a tighter thematic structure than its picaresque sllrface
suggests. I shall return to such literary questions in Chapter 4. In any
event, Maimon was, at the minimllm, n1aking a live polemical point in
SllCh anecdotes.
The philosophical works of Maimonides and other medieval Jewish
thinkers were championed by the forces of Jewish Enlig11tenment and
opposed by the rabbinic establishment. This is, in fact, a central feature
of the debates over the Haskala in the eighteenth century, and the rea-
sons for this centrality remain historically puzzling. Amos Funkenstein
made the point sharply, by contrasting the characteristic Enlightenment
disdain for all things medieval with the centrality of medieval Jewish
philosophy to the Haskala.
The Haskala saw itself as part of the Enlightenment. Many of its
basic tenets corresponded indeed to those of the "Aufklarer,"
54 Chapter Two

"philosophes," and "illuluinisti." Yet its attitude towards the medieval


tradition of Jewish philosophy was throughout different and positive:
so luuch 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. 4
Funkenstein mentions five leading Maskilim who were deeply engaged
with the medieval Jewish philosophical tradition: Maimon; his con-
temporary Aaron Wolfson-Halle (1754-1835); fellow Maskilim from
Poland, Isaac Satanov (1732-1804) and Mendel Lefin (1749-1826); and,
of course, his erstwhile mentor, Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786).
Funkenstein's list is brief but well chosen. It includes two generations
of Maskilim, from both Germany and Poland, and cuts across many of
the standard distinctions made between different types of Maskilim in
the historiography of the Haskala. Some of these Maskilim composed
work primarily in Jewish languages (Satanov and Lefin, who also wrote
in Yiddish), some in both Hebrevv and German (Mendelssohn, Mai-
mon, and Wolfson-Halle), and they include among their number so-
called moderates like Lefin and, perhaps, Mendelssohn, as well as "rad-
icals" like Maimon, Wolfson-Halle, and, at times, Satanov. 5 Yet each of
these men had a deep intellectual engagement with medieval Jewish
philosophy and that of Maimonides in particular.
This self-conscious identification of the Haskala with medieval
Jewish philosophy was summed up in the fan10us slogan that paired
the great exemplars of each movement: "from Moses [Maimonides] to
Moses [Mendelssohn], no one arose like Moses,"6 a saying that had
been first applied to Maimonides and his biblical namesake in the high
Middle Ages? Wolfson-Halle later dramatized this identification in a
satirical play in which Maimonides and Mendelssohn meet in heaven
and find themselves to be intellectual soulmates who both reject the
hairsplitting Halakhic discourse of a Polish rabbi. 8 When Maimon's
Giva)at ha-Moreh was reissued in a second edition, in 1795, Isaac
Satanov's commentaries to the second and third parts were added to
produce a completely enlightened, if somewhat inconsistent, Guide. 9
Mendel Lefin later produced a rival edition ofthe Guide, which replaced
Mailllon's Medieval Desire: The Hesheq Shelomo 55

the difficult medieval Hebrew translation of Samuel Ibn Tibbon with a


Hebrew text in the flowery (and philosophically imprecise) style favored
by the Haskala. lo The medieval absorption of these figures of the late
eighteenth-centllry Jewish Enlightenment really is striking. Character-
istically, however, Maimon embodies Funkenstein's paradox of a back-
ward-looking modernism at its most blatant. He was by far the n10st
thorough Maimonidean of this grollp, from 11is philosophical doctrines
down to his self-chosen name, bllt he was also a genuine Aufkla'rer
who fully endorsed the radical Enlightenment critique of religion and
traditional authority.
As Funkenstein recognized, one of the main reasons for this
eighteenth-century anomaly was biographical. Maimon, Mendelssohn,
Wolfson-Halle, Satanov, Lefin, and many of their intellectual contem-
poraries' first encounter with any version ofsystematic philosophical ra-
tionalism had been through the work of Maimonides and his commen-
tators and opponents, which they read as young students of rabbinic
literature. Such a reader could gain access to this tradition most readily
through the philosophical sections of Maimonides' canonical Halakhic
works, the Commentary on the Mishna and his comprehensive code of
Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah, which were a part of any complete rab-
binic library. Further study sometimes led to Maimonides' Guide ofthe
Perplexed (Mendelssohn attributed his hll11chback to an adolescence
bent over the Guide), which had been republished together with the
comn1entary of three late medieval commentators, for the first time in
aln10st two centuries in 1742 by the enterprising Wulffian Press, which
published several other non-Halakhic books. II Finally, the independent
works of other medieval and early modern Jewish philosophers and sci-
entists, and even ofAristotle and his great twelfth-century Arabic com-
mentator Ibn Rushd (Averroes), still circulated in Hebrew manuscripts
and a few rare early modern editions.
Such works had introduced the Maskilim to the possibilities of a
philosophical rationalism and science, which was, ifnot quite commen-
surate with current European thought, at least intelligibly related to it in
a way that other genres of Hebrew literature, such as Halakhic responsa
and codes, Talmlldic commentaries and novellae, biblical commentaries
56 Chapter Two

and sermons, were not. 12 In republishing and commenting on Mai-


n10nides and others in the Jewish philosophical tradition, these early
Maskilim sought to influence others in an intellectual culture whose ep-
istemic ideal was still the well-glossed text, rather than empirical obser-
vation or mathematical demonstration. However, the question remains
as to what the relatio11ship was between such texts and the philosophi-
cal discourse of the Enlightenment in the eyes of the Maskilim.
In a formidable series ofbooks and essays, David Sorkin has addressed
Funkenstein's question by reframing the Haskala in the context of the
contemporary movelnents of the Protestant theological Enlightenment
and Reform Catholicism as a third moderate, harmonizing attempt at
internal religiolls reform in eighteenth-century Germany.13 Although
this is suggestive and although, no doubt, certain ideas were in the air,
it is important to note the minimal extent to which Sorkin traces den10n-
strable lines of horizontal influence. More critically, his attelnpt fails to
grapple with either the antirabbinic animus of many of the Maskilim
who drew on the medieval tradition or some of the specific philosophi-
cal taproots of their ideas.l 4 His ge11eral claim that the Haskala drew
upon the moderate fideistic "Hispano-Jewish" tradition of thought,
epitomized by a medieval figure like Judah Halevi, is suggestive but un-
derestimates the importance of more radical voices in that same tradi-
tion (including Maimonides and his followers). More crucially, it un-
derestimates the extent to which the radical and moderate voices were
part ofa single discourse that the Maskilim were attempting to renew in
radically changed social circumstances.
In fact, the Maskilim, including those on Fllnkenstein's list, engaged
Main10nides and the medieval philosophical tradition in different ways
and at varying levels of intensity. Mendelssohn, for instance, may have
been the moderate fideist he often appeared to be, closer to the spirit of
Halevi's I(uzari than that of Main10nides' Guide, although the ques-
tion remains open (perhaps permanently so). 15 Mendel Lefin almost
certainly was. 16 Satanov was a virtually unclassifiable eclectic who pub-
lished everything from pseudepigraphic works of biblical poetry and
IZabbala to the commentaries on Maimonides' Guide, mentioned ear-
lier. Maimon, as I will show in this chapter, was a radical Maimonidean
and the self-conscious heir to a medieval and early modern tradition of
Main1on's Medieval Desire: The Hesheq Shelomo 57

Aristotelian naturalism. Nonetheless, each of these Maskilim, and much


of their intellectual cohort, shared a set of distinctive texts, argun1ents,
and concepts-in short, a world of discourse-at the center of which
stood Main10nides' medieval Aristotelianism.
In the rest of this chapter, I trace the outlines of Maimon's early
philosophical thought through a close reading of key passages from
his unpublished Hebrew manuscript, Hesheq Shelomo. In doing so, I do
not claim that Maimon's intellectual development was typical of Jewish
E11lightenment figures. Main10n was an idiosyncratic thinker, if anyone
ever was, and a genuine, if minor, philosophical genius. Nonetheless,
he shared a particular set of intellectllal contexts and traditions with
Mendelssohn, Satanov, Euchel, and others. In explicating his texts, I
show at least one way in which the medieval philosophy of Maimonides
and his successors entered the eightee11th-century Jewish Enlighten-
n1ent, and from there the idiosyncratic but influential post-Kantian
Idealism of Maimon. At the end of the chapter and in the chapters that
follow, I return to the question of how Maimon's use of medieval phi-
10sophy echoed that of other Maskilim, and how this discourse is con-
nected to contemporary argllments over Hasidism on the one hand
and enlightened discussions of Bildung on the other.

In his autobiography, Maimon recalled having traveled "thirty n1iles


on foot to look at a Hebrew book of peripatetic philosophy [hebraisch-
peripathetisch-philosophisches BuchJ from the Tenth Century," as an
adolescent. 17 The greatest tenth-century work of Jewish rationalism,
and Maimon's probable object, was Saadia Gaon's Sefer Emunot ve-Deot
("Book of Beliefs and Opinions"). Maimon knew that neither Emunot
ve-Deot nor any other tenth-century Jewish philosophical work was truly
Aristotelian, but he was unable to resist the pun. 18 In any event, by the
time of his first extant writings, collected in the Hesheq Shelomo manu-
script, Maimon himself was a critical exponent of "Jewish peripatetic
philosophy." He used its tools and vocabulary, struggled with its reli-
gious and philosophical implications, and felt compelled to resolve its
apparent contradictions with rabbinic legal tradition, IZabbala (by now
the regnant Jewish theology ofAshkenazic Jewry), and his own inchoate
sense of modern scientific progress.
58 Chapter T\vo

As discussed in Chapter I, Main10n wrote, or at least compiled, the


Hesheq Shelomo after having been tllrned away from Berlin, during his
stay in Posen in the late 1770S. Toward the end of a long, rich intro-
ductory essay, Maimon lists the manuscript's contents: an incomplete
comn1entary on the fourteenth -century philosophical sern10ns of
Rabbenu Nissim of Gerona, Derashot haRan, vvhich had, according to
Mailllon, "appeared to the ll1e11 of our gelleration as a sealed book";
a supercoll1mentary to parts of Abraham Ibn Ezra's classic eleventh-
centllry commentary to the Torah, which Maimon valued for both its
graillmatical erudition a11d its scattered bits ofNeoplatonic doctrine; a
dense essay on the relationsflip between IZabbala and philosophy titled
Livnat ha-Sapir; fragments of another supercolume11tary to the popu-
1ar fourteenth-centllry mystical Torah comme11tary of Rabbe11u Bahya;
and, finally-and with typical i11congruousness-a Hebrew textbook
of "higher algebra." 19 The n1anuscript also included a brief and fasci-
nating section that Maimon did not mention in the introduction,
titled "Digest of Topics in the Guide in the Order of Its Chapters,"
which is appended to the e11d of the luanuscript. This section is prob-
ably a version of the "commentary on Maimonides" that Maimon had
incautiously shown to that officious rabbi upon his first arrival in
Berlin. 20 Throughout, Maimon quotes or alludes to a wide array of me-
dieval and early lllodern Hebrew writi11gs and simply assumes (as did
they) a wide rabbinic erudition.
The manuscript is best understood as a discon11ected set of philo-
sophical and exegetical notebooks, w11ich Maimon initially attempted
to revise and weld together in Posen, perhaps at the urging of his stu-
dents and patrons, to whom he gives the customary fulsome praise in
the introduction. Nonetheless, the concern with knowledge as the hu-
man telos toward which man is, or ought to be, irresistibly drawn does
give the manuscript a loose thematic unity, as well as its title. The title
alludes, in accepted rabbinic fashion, both to the first name of the au-
thor and to a biblical phrase, in which his name appeared, in this case
"and that which Solomon desired" (I IZings 9: 19, 2 Chronicles 8: 6) .21
The scriptural object of desire had been merely architectural (what Sol-
omon wanted to build), but the p11rase had come to refer to Solomon's
Maimon's Medieval Desire: The Hesheq Shelomo 59

11lore fa11lous desires, both illtellectual and erotic. In his autobiography,


MaimOll wrote of this early work that
I keep it with nle even now as a merTIorial to the striving of the hunlan
spirit for perfection [Vollkomenheit], despite all the hindrances which
stand in its way. 22

Both the title of Maimon's first book and llis alltobiographical descrip-
tion evoke its central concern, the nature of human cognition and the
.human telos, with n10re precision than nl0st of his readers were likely to
notice. l-'he use of the Hebrew term hesheq in this sense derives from
the cognate Arabic terln for desire, ishk, which was used by Ibn Sina
(Avicenna), Maimonides, and others to describe philosophical eros, the
desire for IG10wledge. 23 Such a desire is consllmmated in intellectllal per-
fection, a complete IG10wledge, wllich can be had only through llnion,
or devequt, with the divine mind, or active intellect. In the technical ter-
minology ofmedieval Hebrew philosophy, to which the Hesheq Shelomo
was a belated addition, this perfection is terlned shelemut, for which the
German Vollkomenheit is Maimon's consistent translation. 24
Indeed, Mainl0n begins the Hesheq Shelomo on just tllisAristotelian
note. He writes:
When we investigate the true purpose of the species man, that pur-
pose being one of the four causes which account for all existents,
[we will find that] lmowledge of this purpose is very beneficial for the
conduct of nlan. For when the purpose is lUlown we can define and
represent the actions which will necessarily bring one to that purpose,
as is explained in The Book of Virtues [i.e., Aristotle's Ethics].25

Thus, in the late 1770S, we find Maimon framing the questions ofethics
and politics in pllrely medieval Aristotelian terms as the question of
what the final cause, or telos (for which Maimon's takhlit is, again, the
precise translation in scholastic Hebrew), of man is. Indeed, it is worth
noting that Aristotle's Ethics is the first authority that MaimOll cites. 26
Although Aristotle had long been supplanted as the leading philo-
sophical authority in the rest of Europe, he still stood at the head of
the only philosophical tradition available to an eighteenth-century
Hebrew reader.
60 Chapter Two

The Aristotelian question ofman's telos, with which Maimon opened


his investigations, retained the religious danger it had possessed in the
Middle Ages to challenge the sovereignty ofHalakha and tradition. The
answer to this question might not merely be "very useful" for human
conduct but might threaten to supplant any law not constructed solely
on its basis. MailTIOn both jllstifies alld answers his question about man's
purpose through a selective quotation ofan extraordinarily long passage
from Maimonides' Commentary to the Mishna. In it, Maimonides out-
lines an allegorical method for understanding rabbi11ic dicta as philo-
sophical remarks. Maimon then interprets one sucl1 remark (albeit in
an abbreviated and somewhat esoteric fashion) to show that the divine
governance of the world is entirely through the laws of nature and that
the cognition of God through these natural, universal laws (rather than
those ofHalakha) is luan's ll1timate purpose. The passage begins:
They [the rabbis] said "the Holy One Blessed Be He has no part in
the world, except for the four cubits of halacha alone" [T.B. Berakhot
8a]. Now concentrate on this statement, for if you look at its plain
meaning, you will find yourself very far from the truth, as if the 4 cu-
bits of halacha were the only true end to be sought, and all the other
sciences and true beliefs were worthless, and in the time of Shem and
Ever [i.e., before the revelation of the Torah], when there was no
Halacha, it would be possible to say that the Holy One Blessed Be
He had no part in the world at all. But if you inquire into this matter
philosophically, you will see that they said a wonderful thing. 27
In this passage, Maimonides interpreted the Talmudic statement in
precise contradiction to its manifest intent-that Halakha is the 10CllS
of divine concern in the universe-to be somehow hiding the wonder-
ful but dangerous truth that God's relationship to the universe was in
fact not exhausted by the prescriptions of Jewish law. Maimon, who sets
this quote directly after mentioning the Aristotelian four causes, was
intent on unpacking MailTIonides' allegorical reading of the statement
somewhat more forthrightly, and perhaps more radically, than Mai-
n10nides himself. On this interpretation, God's only relationship to the
world is through physical laws, in particular the four causes (material,
formal, efficient, and final) of Aristotelian science. In retrieving such
an argument from Maimonides' undeniably canonical text, Maimon
Maimon's Medieval Desire: The Hesheq Shelomo 61

justified a thoroughgoing naturalism regarding the universe and man's


purpose within it. I return to the radically pantheistic way in which
Maimon was to take this thought later in this chapter.
Just as important, a Maimonidean passage such as this also helped
Maimon to oppose the regnant Lithuanian rabbinic ideology in which
he had been educated. This ideology took the sentiment expressed by
another famous rabbinic dictum, "the study of Toral1 is equal to every-
thing else," as radically as possible, more or less equated Torah with Tal-
il1l1d, and excluded virtually everything else from the curriculum. 28 One
of the polemical functions ofMaimo11idean texts such as this one, since
the Middle Ages, had been to legitimate intellectual pursuits other than
Torah study and beyond the "four cubits of halacha." 29 If the allthor of
the Mishneh Torah, the most comprehe11sive code of Jewish law, could
mandate the study of philosophy and the natural world, Maimon and
other early Maskilim argued, then it could not possibly be forbidden.
A few lines later in the Hesheq Shelomo, Maimon quotes Maimonides'
statement that the scientific knowledge of the created world is, insofar
as it is possible, the highest human achievement and the fulfillment of
the ultimate purpose of man. Maimonides exemplifies the possibility of
such intellectual perfection with a description ofI<ing Solomon.
The wiser one is, the greater the desire to learn and the clearer the
concept, the lTIOre complete will be one's knowledge. Accordingly, the
Holy One gave Solomon the knowledge of the secrets of creation of
the species, insofar as it is possible for a man to know them. 30

In the pages that follow, Maimon quotes his master's brief exposition
of man's unique purpose as just such knowledge, and the purpose of
both the natural and social world (includi11g its innumerable fools) as en-
abling the existence of such a "perfect man, who possesses all wisdom
and [good] deeds." 31 According to the interpretation of Main10nides
favored by Maimon, bodily health, political well-being, and even ethical
virtue are all merely instrun1ental goods that create the conditions for
the intellectual perfection of the philosopher. 32 Such extraordinary in-
tellectual elitism had, for Maimon, the great advantage of counterbal-
ancing the Mitnaged ideology of Talmudism while fulfilling an analo-
gOllS need. The i11tellectual virtuoso was still the most important person
62 Chapter Two

in society under this scheme, but that person was a philosopher, not a
Talmid Hakham.
Toward the end of this introductory essay, Maimon makes this con-
trast explicit. He argues that all the parties of Jewish intellectual life
agree that the telos ofman is some sort ofintellectual or spiritual perfec-
tion. However, they differ radically as to w11at that perfection consists in.
The disputants can be divided into three principal camps. The first and
largest party is that of the Talmudists, or lomdim, who hold that
the sole end of an Israelite man is to toil constantly in God's Written
and Oral Torah, to be careful about its words to the best of his ability
and carefully fulfill all of its comn1andments in order to acquire [life]
in this world and the world to come. 33
Maimon quickly adds that most Tahnudists actually disdain the Stlldy of
the Bible, or written Torah, as well as the Hebrew gran1111ar necessary to
understand it properly and reserve all of their intellectual energy for the
study of oral Torah. Even within the pages of the Talmlld, such lomdim
focus only on the exoteric legal discussions, ignoring the scattered
Midrashim, which contain hidden p11ilosophical truths. 34 Indeed, those
who especially pride themselves on their Talmudic sharpness (Mainl0n
uses the untranslatable Hebrew adjective harif, which literally means
hot or pungent) hold that such ability and biblical or Aggadic study are
mutually exclusive. Moreover, they accuse those who enlploy philolog-
ical or philosophical tools in their Stlldy with rank heresy (apiqorsut). 35
The second party consists of the IZabbalists, who recognize that the
Bible and rabbinic lore contain hidden metaphysical truths and that their
attainment is the ultimate object of human life. However, as Maimon
goes on to argue in detail in Livnat ha-Sapir, they lose themselves in a
dream world of strange symbols, whose meaning has become opaque
even to them. 36 In Livnat ha-Sapir, Maimol1 writes:
Their words are sealed and are like the words within sealed books, to
which a literate person must respond "I cannot since it is sealed" they
are like a dream without interpretation. 37
Insofar as one can assign any meaning at all to silch discussions of
Creation (.LMaJaseh Bereshit) and the Godhead (MaJaseh Merkavah),
Maimon's Medieval Desire: The Hesheq Shelomo 63

they should be understood as corresponding to the scientific and meta-


physical doctrines of Main10nidean philosophy.
Whoever has not philosophized through the books of the religious
philosophers, in particular Maimonides' Guide, in order to understand
the negation of attributes, changes and passions with regard to God,
may He be blessed, has no entrance, in any way, into the chambers of
IZabbala. This gate will be closed and not open. 38
This returns Maimon to the third and smallest party to the debate,
the Aristotelian philosophers:
They recognize the value of the intellect and the great value of the
sciences, as the greatest sage of humanity [Aristotle] has written. And
I saw that the advantage of wisdom over foolishness was like that of
light over darkness. They [the philosophers] realize that wisdom and
Torah are a single subject, for the Torah is nothing but a representa-
tion of the world, its universals and particulars. 39
Maimon, with apparent sincerity, praises the piety of such an approach
btlt recognizes the contempt and suspicion with which it is viewed by the
Talmudists and the lZabbalists, who erroneously regard Torah and phi-
losophy as opposites, hate philosophers, and mistakenly regard them as
"impure" scoffers and heretics. 40
Such spiritual typologies were a n10tif of high medieval and early
modern rabbinic literature. In these typologies, religious practice is ac-
cepted as a given, and the question is what brand of theoretical study
ought to both justify and supplement that practice. The teleological and
curricular schema in which this question is generally framed is Aris-
totelian, btlt the answer need not be. The question arises as much from
the centrality ofTalmudic study to the rabbinic religious system and its
apparent inability to systematically address certain n1etaphysical or spir-
itual questions, as it does from the need to frame Judaism in Aristotelian
terms. lZabbala, which claims to provide an indigenous, distinctively
Jewish set oftheoretical answers to such questions, is the inevitable third
option in these typologies, although occasionally a fourth option (for
instance, biblicism)41 is added or a sharp distinction is made within, say,
the kabbalistic party.42
64- Chapter Two

Although such discussions contain stereotypical elements, there is no


reason to suspect that they did not also reflect real intellectual options-
facts on the ground, as it were. (Olle cOllld say the same ofcharacteriza-
tions of twentieth-century U.S. political factions in terms of right, cen-
ter, and left.) A better approach would be to say that such discussions lay
bare some of the intellectual presuppositions and tensions of premod-
ern Judaism. Isadore Twersky, who identified and mapped these discus-
sions in a series of extraordinary bibliographical essays, characterized
them in the following way:
The issue in the heated dialogue or trialogue between Talnludists,
philosophers and kabbalists is attainnlent of spirituality.... The key
term in the vocabulary of [this] spirituality ... is perfection (shelemut
or hashlamat ha-nefesh).43

This ideal of intellectual perfection and the ternls, tropes, and argu-
ments associated with it persisted in Maimon's later work, just as, one
is tempted to say, he carried the physical manuscript of the Hesheq
Shelomo manuscript with him for the rest of his life. But this is not quite
right, because one of the features ofMaimon's later writillgs that makes
them so interesting is the way in which these tropes of medieval He-
brew thought are transfornled. They are fought with, ironized, trans-
lated, and secularized in his autobiography, his maskilic commentary to
the Guide, and his post-IZantian philosophical writings. However, be-
fore tllrning to these developments, we lnust understand the medieval
Aristotelian picture of perfection as Maimon received it. The Aris-
totelian mechanism of perfect knowledge was a kind of activation of
the potential of the passive human intellect (sekhel ha-koach) through
the divine active intellect (sekhel ha-poal), which is in a continual and
perfect state of thought. This dark doctrine was central to the medieval
Aristotelian tradition, and although I have alluded to it more than
once, it is important to llnderstand it-and Maimon's struggles with
its implications-in some detail.

In raising the question ofthe active intellect, Maimon was heir to a long
and complicated philosophical tradition by way of the writings of Mai-
monides and his philosophically informed medieval commentators and
Maimon's Medieval Desire: The Hesheq Shelomo 65

successors. The doctrine's ultimate source is a pregnant passage ofAris-


totle's De Anima and the miasn1a of cOlnlnentary and elaboration it
elicited from pagan, Christian, Muslin1, a11d Jewish writers from late an-
tiquity through the n1edieval period. The crucial passage in question is:
Since in every class of things, as in nature as a whole, we find two fac-
tors involved, a Inatter which is potentially all the particulars included
in the class, and a cause which is productive in the sense that it n1akes
them all (the latter standing to the forn1er as an artist to its Inaterial),
these distinct elelnents must likewise be found in the soul. And there
is an intellect which is of this kind by becolning all things, and there is
another which is so by making all things: this is a sort of positive state
like light; for in a sense light Inakes potential colors into actual colors.
And this [latter] intellect is distinct, unaffected and unlnixed, being
in essence activity. For that which acts is always superior to that which
is affected, the originating force to the Inatter. Actuallu10wledge is
identical with its object; but potential knowledge is prior in time in
the individual, but absolutely it is not prior even in time. It does not
sometin1es think and sOlnetimes not think. In separation it is just
what it is, and this alone is ilnmortal and eternal (we do not relnem-
ber because while this is unaffected, passive mind is perishable); and
without this nothing thinks. 44
Although the meaning-indeed the gramlnar-of this passage has
never been clear, it was take11 by an inflllentialline of commentators be-
ginning with the second-century philosopher Alexander ofAphrodisias
(whom Maimon mentions) to suggest that there were two distinct in-
tellects: a potential or passive intellect (nous pathetikos) , which provides
the matter of thought, al1d an active intellect (nous poietikos) , which
gives it form. 45 The passive intellect is, then, the stuff of thought that
has the potential to become anything thinkable, just as prime n1atter
has the potential to become anything physical. The active intellect
takes up this material and gives it form in the shape of thoughts. In do-
ing so, it realizes the potential of the passive intellect in something like
the way that a sculptor realizes the potential of l1is material. 46
It should be noted that the thoughts in question are to be distin-
guished from mere sensory perceptiol1S. True Aristotelian thoughts
are not of particular things but universal essences. The object of my
66 Chapter Two

perception may be a particlliar ephemeral bit of wood, but the object


of any consequent knolvledge I might have on the slLbject must be the
eternal essence of wood, stripped (as Maimonides vvould later phrase
it) of all matter. This makes it easier to understand Aristotle's statement
that "actual knowledge," that is to say, the passive intellect actualized
in the forln ofSOlne essence, "is identical to its object." There are many
particular bits of vvood and none of them are in my mind, but there is
only one essence of wood, which is universal, not particular. If I have
truly grasped that universal, then my knowledge of the essence ofwood
just is: the essence wood. In such an act of cognition, not only is the
knowledge idel1tical to its object bllt both are also identical to the
IU10wer, which is the active intellect giving form to the passive intellect
in the shape, as it were, of this eternal essence.
Aristotle describes the passive intellect as perishable and the active
intellect as immortal, which raises the question of whether they are
both faculties of the hllman soul or whether the active intellect is en-
tirely transcendent. An influel1tialline of interpretation, to which Mai-
mon was heir, generally took the transcendent view of Alexander and
held the active intellect to be singular and distinct from the individual
thinker. At the n10ment of cognition, the active intellect conjoins with
the passive intellect of the thinker. Having grasped (or, perhaps, been
grasped by) a universal truth, the thinker's passive intellect is trans-
formed into an acquired intellect (a term completely unattested in
Aristotle) and receives at least a taste of immortality.47
Here, two other Aristotelian doctrines were of special importance:
the first was cosmological; the second, ethical. Medieval philosophers
of this tradition held that our sublunar world is contained within nine
concentric celestial spheres whose motions (visible in the motions of
the stars) govern our world and which, as "separate il1telligences," are
intermediate between the intelligence of man and that of God. 48 The
first of these intelligences emanates from the activity of the thought of
the unmoved mover himself, whereas the next intelligence elnanates
from the activity of its predecessor and so on until the ninth and final
intelligence, the active intellect, beneath which lies our sublunar world.
This doctrine was suggested by passages in On the Heavens and the
Metaphysics, but it was perhaps first clearly articulated by Alfarabi, who,
MailTIon's Medieval Desire: The Hesheq Shelomo 67

as Herbert Davidson writes, fashiol1ed his system out of "Aristotelian


bricks and mortar borrowed from Neoplatonic philosop11y."49
The second doctrine was Aristotle's statement in the Nicomachean
Ethics that a life of study is the ultimate human telos and constitutes an
"almost god-like" life. 50 Such a life wOILld consist as much as possible in
the theoretical contemplation of essences rather than the cultivation
ofpractical virtues and is godlike because God's life is itselfone ofcease-
less self-contemplation, or as another distinguished historian of philos-
ophy has put it, "Nous, 110using nous." 51 This conten1plation of eterl1al
truths constitutes the true l1appiness, or Eudaemonia, which transcends
all others.
The cOlnbination of these two doctrines led to the idea that the
object of this "godlike" theoretical contemplation was God Himself,
whose existence both grounds and comprises the set of all eternal
truths, or at least close. More precisely, it was held by Maimonides and
others to be I-lis n10st proxin1ate agent, the active intellect. 52 The
essence of this intellect is, as stated in the De Anima passage, activity,
and in this it both thinks and produces the eternal essences. Combin-
ing these doctrines, we get the picture of man's telos as kl10wledge of
the eternal essences through the activity of the active intellect, whose
essence is just the activity of eternally thinking these essences. Man's
truest desire, ultimate purpose, and literal end consist in a conjunction
or unification with the divine n1ind of the active intellect, which results
in a knowledge of the llniversal trl1ths of metaphysics, free from the
transience of human existence. This pictllre provided the metaphysical
underpinning for the religious l011ging for a union with God (devequt),
the perfection (shelemut ha-nefesh) that follows such a union, and the
consequent immortality, although not, as I have already hinted, with-
out technical difficulties.
This medieval line of interpretation of Aristotle is as textually plau-
sible as any other, at least in its general outline, and I will, for the most
part, leave aside the question of what the philosophical impetus for
such a view might be beyond its basis in Aristotle's texts. 53 However, it
should be noted that the doctrine of the active intellect may be the first
theoretical attempt to do justice to the way in which human thought
seems to be both an act of passively finding something and an act of
68 Chapter Two

making it. To anticipate IZantian terllli110logy, it can be seen as an at-


ten1pt to describe the interplay between the receptivity and the spon-
taneity of human cognition.

In the Hesheq Shelomo, Maimon sums up this world picture by quoting


Mailllonides' famous discussion of another TahTIudic statement:
In the world to con1e there will be no eating, drinking, bathing,
anointing or sex, but only the righteous sitting with crowns on their
heads enjoying the splendor of the divine presence (Shekhina). 54

MailTI011ides takes this statement to mean that the afterlife is a purely


incorporeal and intellectual affair, in which the soul has left the bodily
se11ses behind. However, in his allegorical i11terpretation, he also gives
it a more detern1inate Aristotelian sense than its author, Rav, or his
rabbinic interlocutors were likely to have envisioned.
"Crowns upon their heads" means the ilTIlTIortality of the soul in the
attainn1ent of the known, which is God, blessed be He, in which ...
the known and the [knower] are one thing, as is explained by the
great philosophers.... "Enjoying the splendor of the divine pres-
ence," means that the souls are pleased by what they apprehend froni
the being of the Creator, just as the hayyot ha-qodesh and the other an-
gels [or intelligences] are pleased by what they grasp of His Existence.
Happiness and the final end are to achieve this status. 55
This noetic afterlife, which, according to Maimonides, is equivalent to
Aristotle's Eudaemonia, is a perpetual act of cog11ition of the universal
truths that are also the object of the divine mind. At least, in the lim-
ited case of a con1plete and perfect knowledge, this would amou11t to a
cognition of, and union with, God, who is perpetually self-occupied.
But at least in this passage, Maimonides seen1S to suggest a final state
that is more partial and mediated and that falls well short of a perfect
and total lmowledge (which is not even given to the higher intelli-
gences). Indeed, MailTIonides' remark about the pleasure that the an-
gels, or separate intelligences, take in their thou.ght points toward an
interpretation in which the radiance of the Shekhina is to be under-
stood as an allegory for the ceaseless activity of the last of these intelli-
gences' the active intellect. Thus, trlle human happiness and the final
Main1on's Medieval Desire: The Hesheq Shelomo 69

end of man is the knowledge of eter11al truths through perpetual con-


junction with the active intellect, an endless seminar in natural philos-
ophy with the divine mind.
Maimon sums up his account of Maimo11ides' position by empha-
sizing that it is, in fact, the consensual picture of the entire philosoph-
ical tradition with which he is familiar. Echoing Maimonides, he writes:
This is the opinion of all philosophers, that the summum bonum of
man is to bring his intellect froin the potential to the actual and
thereby cleave to the active intellect, and become immortal in its
imn10rtality, as is well known from their writings. 56
Within a few years of writing this, Maimon would encounter a world
ofphilosophical discourse in which this was no longer trlle, and, indeed
had not been trlle for at least two centuries. Nonetheless, Maimon had
doubts about the medieval Aristotelian system, although at this point
they were still doubts expressed largely from within that system. In his
first objection, Main10n writes:
When I philosophized about these matters, I saw that there was lTIuch
to doubt. Namely, if the soul or intellect, whose essence is the active
intellect, returns [to the active intellect], then there is no eternity of
the [individual] soul at all. For it adds nothing to the active intellect,
which for reasons [i.e., of its perfection and unity] discussed above
cannot be added to or subtracted from. Rather, the ennoblelnent of the
acquired intellect in lnan fro111 the active intellect is like the lighting of
one candle from another, in which nothing is gained [or lost] .... It is
clear from this that there is no place for imn10rtality [of the individual
soul] at all. 57

Maimon argues that if the active intellect, which is eternal, is necessary


for hun1an thOllght ("without this," Aristotle wrote, "nothing thinks")
and the passive intellect is perishable, then even if we have a share, as it
were, in its eternal activity when we think, this share cannot survive our
bodies. We may call this qllickened phase of hllman thought the "ac-
quired intellect" (sekhel ha-niqneh), but it is still a phase in the life ofthe
passive and perishable intellect. So there is no way, even for the righ-
teous, to continue to enjoy the splendor of cognition after their bodies
have perished. At best, their individual shares of the active intellect will
70 Chapter Two

return to their source, like the Neoplatonic sOld that is reabsorbed in the
One from which it emanated.
Some version of this skepticism over i11dividual immortality was a
persistent worry of the medieval tradition of thought that Maimon in-
herited. Alfarabi seems to have suggested that the idea of individual
imn10rtality was "an old wives tale" in his lost commentary to the Nico-
machean Ethics. 58 Avicen11a, whom Maimon's friend and editor Euchel
studied, strllggled against any such conclusion. 59 In his Guide, Mai-
m011ides cited the position of Ibn Bajjah (Aven1pace) that individual
immortality is conceptllally impossible, because where there are no
bodies, "t11ere can be no thought of multiplicity." Maimonides does
not demur, suggesting that this was in fact his true esoteric position,
despite statements from his Commentary to the Mishna, quoted ear-
lier. 60 Averroes, who deeply influenced the Maimonidean commenta-
tors that Maimon prized most, infamously l1eld the almost Hegelian
position that, strictly speaking, individual human cognition was in1-
possible even in this life. 61 His reason was, apparently that the passive
intellect could be construed only as transpersonal and shared by all hu-
manity' thus making an individual noetic afterlife doubly impossible. 62
Maimon's second objection to the idea of a noetic afterlife is more
original and perhaps distinctively modern in its insistence on an idea of
open-ended progress in knowledge.
Moreover, the philosophers have not delimited or defined for us
whether immortality and the passing from passive to active [intellect]
is consequent upon the comprehension of all sciences or merely some
of all of them, or a single one completely ... but this is impossible,
for who inforn1ed thein [the natural philosophers] of all of the sci-
ences? It is possible that a new science will be invented that had not
been IU10wn up till now, of which they knew nothing at all. Similarly,
who has defined anyone of the sciences so that it is this much and
no more? An example of this would be alchemists who can transforn1
iron into silver or copper into gold. Who told them that no one will
be found in a future generation who can turn sulfur into gold? And,
indeed, we see that the sciences progress and multiply in each gen-
eration. In which case even the ancients, according to their own
doctrines, did not attain immortality and the eternity which they
desired. 63
Maimon's Medieval Desire: The Hesheq Shelomo 71

This is an interesting criticism. Maimon notes that the vvhole 11le-


dieval Aristotelian schema that he has just patiently quoted and expli-
cated from Maimonides turns 011 the assertion that we live i11 a kind of
epistemically closed lU1iverse, in which it is at least ideally possible to
have a complete knowledge, which approximates that of the active in-
tellect. 64 Indeed, J\1aimonides' replltation and his effect on centuries of
readers such as Maimon, who had mastered both religious tradition and
Aristotelian science, was to have been an exemplar of just such intellec-
tual perfection. 65 As Maimon later described his own attitude toward
Maimonides in his autobiography, "He was, in my eyes, the ideal and
perfect man, and I regarded his teaching as if it had been spoken as the
trlle word of God." 66 Such an image becomes increasingly implausible
once the epistemological universe is opeI1ed up a11d a sense of historic-
ity enters. How cOll1d Maimonides or any other "ancient" achieve com-
plete knowledge in a given discipline, let alone all ofthem, when they did
not even all exist in his time? The ideal of intellectual perfection (and
hence the ideas. of immortality and the fulfillment of the human telos)
begins to look more like a notional possibility, ifthat. 67
Maimon's second point, about the sig11ificance of new scientific
discoveries, strengthens the argument considerably. Although his naive
example of alchemy may reveal something of his conception of science
in the 1770S, it is also a philosophically clever choice. If immortality is
the knowledge of eternal essences, theI1 what if future alchen1ical re-
search shows that the esse11ce of, for instance, gold is not what it had
always been thought to be and that ullder certain conditions it is equiv-
alent to sulfur? It would change the jewelry business, among other
things, but it would also show that all previolls contemplators of gold
had failed to completely grasp that eternal essence and had, at least to
that degree, failed to achieve intellectual immortality. It might turn out
that Maimonides, for instance, had never thought abollt the essence of
gold at all. 68
This line of argument was, I think, only partly anticipated in the n1e-
dieval literature. The great fourteenth-centllry Aristotelian Levi ben
Gershom (Gersonides), whom Maimon cites elsewhere, argued that
there were a finite number of sciences, some of which had been per-
fected by the tin1e of Aristotle (e.g., physics), some later (e.g., Galen's
72 Chapter Two

anatomy), and some of which, like astronomy (Gersonides was a dis-


tingllished astronolner), had yet to be perfected. 69 This doctrine, to-
gether with an ingenious argument for the preservation of the indi-
vidllality of human acquired intellects in the afterlife, seems to have
allowed Gersonides to envision an afterlife in which the righteous (or
at least the intelligent) basked in the light of the active intellect for
eternity, in rank order of intellectual achievement. 7o Bllt Gersonides
did not envision either the possibility of entirely new sciences or radi-
cal revisions of such basic and perfected sciences as physics.
Maimon suggests one way out of this dilemma, which may con-
sciously echo Gersonides' position but quickly rejects it as undermining
the very idea ofil1tellectual perfection. He writes:
And ifyou say that even one who comprehends merely a bit of son1e-
thing attains this immortality, then-by Iny life-I do not know if this
distinguishes anybody, for each man among men, even the stupidest
among them, knows some intellectible or another, like the prima intel-
ligibilia [principles that are available to all men]. Moreover, what of
those who exert their souls without quiet or rest froin the pursuit of the
sciences, and delve into them and are not satisfied even after they know
some theological or philosophical proofs, and the like?-Since they
have already merited the aforementioned level [ofilnmortality ].71

The sllggestion Main10n envisions here is one that turns on the doc-
trine that any cognition at all necessarily involves the active intellect
and hence, perhaps, that any lmowledge at all guarantees immortality.
But, as Maimon immediately points out, such a doctrine is unsatisfy-
ing for the opposite reason: It trivializes immortality as the telosof a
life of theoretical contemplation. 72 At this point Maimon seems to fall
back on a familiar kind of skeptical fideism.
The end of the matter is that their words are not at all adequate to
explain immortality, if they are not strengthened from the side of faith
in Torah which informs us of matters that are higher than the com-
prehension of the intellect. Nonetheless, we ought not cease from
approaching the subject of the intellect?3

It is not clear to what extent Maimon was satisfied by such a soilltion


to the problem at this stage of his intellectual developn1ent, or indeed
Maimon's Medieval Desire: The Hesheq Shelomo 73

whether he was satisfied at all, even at this point in his career. A weak
but pious rejoinder to a vigorollsly stated philosophical argument is, of
course, one of the telltale marks of an esoteric text alTIOng the radical
followers of Mainl0nides and Averroes. 74

The philosophical world picture to \vllich MailTIOn was heir was Aris-
totelian, bllt, as I have already noted, it was a Platonized Aristotle. In
particular, the doctrine of llnion with the active intellect can also be
described as one in which the human soul rellnites with its heavenly
SOllrce. Along these lines, it call be helpful, at least as a heuristic device,
to frame the scheme in the explicitly Neoplatonic terms ofthe "Upward
Way" and the "Downward Way." In these terills, the Upward Way of
the passive human intellect's Llnion with the active intellect, in cognition
(or prophecy), is precisely the reverse of the process of the Downward
Way, in which tIle active intellect gives form to the world through a
conjunction with its ITIatter.7 5
One ofthe underlying problems ofthis pictllre, which is behind some
of Maimon's worries over the possibility of conjunction, is the dualist
problem ofhow intellectual form and physical nlatter can be conjoined.
Thus, one ofthe most basic problems with individual immortality in this
picture is just that what is immortal cannot be physically individuated
and what is physically i11dividuated (this body) cannot be immortal.
These dualist difficulties also attend to the Downward Way, namely, how
matter is prepared to take on form, or even more starkly, how matter
can exist at all if it must emerge from a purely spiritual (or intellectual)
source. One answer to SllCh difficulties is to opt for some version of
metaphysical monism that denies, or internalizes, the dualism of form
and matter, God and world.
Main10n raises this monist possibility several times in the Hesheq
Shelomo in connection with such problems. For instance, in his com-
mentary to a sermon of Derashot ha-Ran, which discusses "the great
union (devequt ha-gadol) between man and his creator, the Shekhina," 76
Maimon writes:
I have seen fit to explain this phrase which is so COmiTIonly on the lips of
authors, and in particular among kabbalists who use it a great deal. It is
74 Chapter Two

already known, as the philosophers have explained, and MaiInoI1ides


also Inentions in the Guide, how nature prepares the material objects
to receive the forins. These forins are given by the Separate Form which
is the active intellect, according to Main10nides and all philosophers.
However, we, in the naine of God, will say that we have already ex-
plained how He, may His naine be blessed, activates everything in two
aspects. Namely, trOIn the beginning He prepares the Inatter and after-
wards gives the forin. Note that the true activity is the preparation of
the Inatter [to receive the form] and this happens in ti111e, but the giv-
ing of the form cannot be called an action, for the form is nothing but
He, n1ay He be blessed, Hiinself resting upon the matter, in accordance
with its status. And this is like a Inan who builds a house for hiinself,
and afterwards dwells (shokhen ) there, and this is clear. Note that even
though everything comes from Him, Inay He be blessed, nonetheless
this is froin two separate perspectives. That is to say, there is the aspect
ofpreparing the 111atter and we call this the Shekhina and the giving of
the form we call The Holy One Blessed Be He. There are distinct levels
here, for some Inatter is more sublime than others. Accordingly it re-
ceives a more sublin1e form. This is the secret in the saying "The Holy
One Blessed Be He sits and arranges n1arriages [literally "pairs pairs"],"
for in truth He is always doing this. Understand this,?7

Although the passage is not as clear as one wOllld like, several impor-
tant points do en1erge. First, Maimon makes explicit the conceptual
C011nection between the Upward Way of devequt with the active intel-
lect a11d the Downward Way of the active intellect's giving form to mat-
ter. Second, he seems to suggest that forn1 and matter are really two as-
pects of a single thing or process. Third, he associates these two aspects
with two different aspects, or sefirot, of the Godhead, the "Holy One
Blessed Be He" and the Shekhina, which are understood to be male
and female, respectively.78 God is always already, as it were, arranging
the marriage between form (or intellect) and matter. Fourth, one n1ay
wonder where these marriages are taking place. Could part of the "se-
cret" be that the marriage is always actually between the Holy One
Blessed Be He and the Shekhina, within God? If so, then there is an-
other level to Maimon's talk of two aspects, in which the material world
itself would only be an aspect of God. Finally, it should be noted that
MailTIon's Medieval Desire: The Hesheq Shelomo 75

t11is comment is i11 keeping with Main10n's claiIn, discussed earlier, that
the IZabbala is merely philosophy clothed in vivid symbols.
In his introduction to the Hesheq Shelomo, Maimon had hinted that
the "wonderful thing" that Maimonides found i11 the rabbinic saying
that God "has no part in the world, except for the four cubits of
halacha alone" was that God's only relationship to the world is through
the material, forinal, efficient, and final callses of Aristotelian science.
This interpretive suggestion does have a certain textual plausibility, but
its implicit pantheisn1 also radically controverts official Maimonidean
doctrine.7 9 As Maimonides makes explicitly clear in the Guide, he en-
dorses the "opinion of the philosophers," that God is only the efficient,
forinal, and final cause of the universe:
God is the efficient cause, that He is the forIn, and that he is the end.
Thus, it is for this reason that they say that He, Inay He be exalted, is
a cause and a ground, in order to comprise these three causes-that
is, the fact that God is the efficient cause of the world, its form and
its end. 80
God is not, however, the material cause of the world (as, say, the mar-
ble is of the statue), or so it would seem. Nonetheless, in the brief" Di-
gest of Topics in the Guide in the Order of its Chapters," which closes
the Hesheq Shelomo, Maimon reiterates his pantheistic suggestion in his
con1n1ent to precisely the sequence of chapters in which the above
statement is made:
IZnow that the universal intellect is the best and first reality. And it is
the cause of the least and last reality external to the intellect, just as
the intellectual forln in the artisan is the best and first reality, and the
cause of the least and the last reality external to the intellect. And
since He is an active intellect, therefore the intellect, the intellecting
subject and the intellected object will be one. And He will include the
four causes of [all] existents which are: the material, the formal, the
efficient, and the final [causes ].81

Maimon goes on to illustrate in the standard, classical vvays how God is


the architect, maker, and telos of the universe, but he does not elaborate
on his radically pantheistic suggestion that God is also the material cause
76 Chapter Two

(i.e., simply the material) of the universe, although it was an idea he


would return to in his later philosophy.82
Whatever the details of Mailnon's early monism, he was not alone
an10ng eighteenth-century Jewish thinkers in suggesting that God and
the universe were somehow one, and that this makes union, or devequt,
between the human and divine possible. 83 In fact, MaiITIOn'S remarks
echo the Hasidic theosophy of Rabbi Dov Baer, the Maggid ofMezer-
itch, whom he had visited a few years earlier. In a saying that dates to
precisely the period in which Maimon visited the Maggid and that was
published only three years after 11aimon compiled the Hesheq Shelomo,
Dov Baer asserted that
In truth, whatever one thinks about, that is the place where one is.
And, in truth, the whole earth is full of His glory, and there is no
place devoid of Hin1. So wherever one is he may find devotion to the
creator, n1ay He be praised, because there is no place devoid of Him. 84
The Maggid's ilnplicit argument here would also seem to turn on the
classical doctrine that to truly think abollt or know something entails be-
coming one with that thing. "Whatever one thinks about," the Maggid
says, is "where one is." But since God is literally everywhere and "no
place is devoid of him," cognition of anything in the universe, high or
low, entails a cognition ofGod. 85
The picture of Hasidism that Maimon painted in his autobiography
emphasized the Maggid's cynical manipulation of his followers, but the
lnost interesting part of his account focused on the way in which the
pantheistic doctrine and ideal of devequt played out in religious life.
Thlls, Maimon describes an emissary fron1 the court of the Maggid as
"clapping his hand to his brow as if he were waiting for il1spiration
from the Holy Spirit," when repeating the following homily:
When the musician played the spirit of God came upon him (2 I(ings
3: 15). This is explained in the following way. As long as a man is self-
active, he is incapable of receiving the effects of the Holy Spirit; for
this purpose he must hold hin1self like an instrument in a purely
passive state. The meaning of the verse is this: When the musician
(ha-menagen), or servant of God, becomes like his instrulnent
(ke-nagen), then the spirit of God comes upon him. 86
Maimon's Medieval Desire: The Hesheq Shelomo 77

The clever wordplay expresses the central point: One must realize that
he is not the active musician but the passive instrument upon whonl
the spirit of God plays. Joseph Weiss has made a persuasive argument
.for this homily as an authentic teaching from the Maggid's circle. 87
Maimon explains the metaphysical sources for this doctrine of devequt
through "self-annihilation":
They maintain that Ilian, in accordance with his destiny, can reach the
highest perfection [hiichste Vollkomenheit] only vvhen he regards him-
self not as a being that exists and works for hilTIself but as an organ of
the godhead. 88
This is, of course, true, Maimon adds from the later vantage point of
Maimonidean and Spinozistic post-I(antian idealism, "but only to the
degree to which that person has achieved perfection." 89
Maimon's pantheisn1, or "acosmism" as he would later insist on call-
ing it (because the doctrine is that everything in the cosmos is God),
was probably influenced by his encounter with the thought ofthe Mag-
gid, as well as with an early inclination to read Maimo11ides against the
grain. Indeed, when Maimon mentions the kabbalistic works that es-
pecially influenced him in his autobiography, they are not only texts
that tend toward theological monism and elnphasize devequt as the ul-
timate end of religious experie11ce, such as Pardes Rimonim of Moses
Cordovero and the Sha)arei Qsdusha 90 of Hayyim Vital, but also pre-
cisely the texts that were most popular i11 the Maggid's court. 91

Maimon's insistent focus on the ideal and mechanism for intellectual


perfection through devequt in his Hesheq Shelomo was indebted to con-
temporary developlnents in Hasidism. Indeed, he was very likely in-
cluding the Maggid's "New Hasidin1" under the rubric of "kabbalists"
when he depicted the three main parties ofJewish intellectual life. How-
ever, it is important to see that it was not only Hasidism that employed
this teleological rubric to express the curricular a11d spiritual ideals in the
late eighteenth century. The party of the rabbinic establishment, the
Mitnagdim, who Maimon refers to as "Talmudists" or simply "scholars"
(lomdim), also used these terms and invoked some of the same classical
texts to justify their position that the lLltimate telos of man (at least of a
78 Chapter Two

Jewish man) was to become just the kind of Talmid Hakham that Mai-
Illon had been groon1ed to be. In scattered exegetical remarks, Rabbi
Eliyahu ben Shelomo of ViIna, the patron saint of Lithuanian rabbinic
culture, gestured at a theory of Torah study as both the means and end
of devequt in a way that perhaps unconsciously echoed medieval ac-
counts of Aristotelian theoria as intellectual perfection (shelemut ha-
nefesh ).92 This line of thought was given full theoretical articulation by
the Gaon's leading student and Maimon's historical contemporary,
Rabbi Hayyim ofVolozhin (174-9-1820). Rabbi Hayyim's theory made
the study of Torah for its own sake (Torah Lishma), paradigIllatically
study of the Talmud, the crucial spiritual and intellectual act. In his
magnum opus, Nefesh ha-Hayyim, Rabbi Hayyim wrote:
When one is truly studying Torah, it is certain that one need not con-
centrate on union with the Divine at all, for this study alone is true
union with His Will and His Word. Moreover He and His Will and
His Word are one. 93
In a110ther work, Rabbi HayyiIll llnderlined the point in the explicit
terms of traditional Taln1l1dic study as human union, or devequt, with
the divine as a union of the knower and the known in the act of
knowledge.
Through studying the Talmud and commentaries and all the pilpulim,
everything is Inade to cling to the Holy One, Blessed Be He ... and
by cleaving to his Torah it is as if one is cleaving to Him. 94
At such moments, which profoundly express the ideals of the Lithuan-
ian Jewish intellectllal culture in which Maimon was raised in a theoret-
ical register, the talmid hakham and the Divine are virtually identified
with the text. IZnower and known merge in the reading of the text.
It might be imagined that this was simply an argument between
Hasidism and Mitnagdut and that when Maimon wrote, in the Hesheq
Shelomo, of a third party of "philosophers," he was merely retllrning to
the terms of the medieval topos, or wishing that he was more than a
party of one in Posen. But this is only partly true, for, as I have already
indicated, many of Maimon's peers in the Haskala were profoundly en-
gaged not only with the work of Maimonides but with the Aristotelian
philosophical tradition more generally. To take just two examples that
Maimon's Medieval Desire: The Hesheq Shelomo 79

invoke precisely the medieval Aristotelian theme of the human telos as


conjunction with the active intellect, Mailllon's eventual editor, Isaac
Euchel, translated part of Ibn Sinna's eleventh-century philosophical
n1agnum opus, The Book of the Healing of the Soul, into Hebrew and
published it in the flagship journal of the Haskala, ha-Meassef;95 and
Isaac Satanov, who succeeded Euchel as the director of the Freischule's
maskilic press, published precisely the medieval Hebrew translation of
Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, which Maimon had quoted in the
Hesheq Shelomo a decade earlier. 96
In fact, n1edieval philosophical language and topoi were common in
the works ofthe Berlin Haskala as well as those mid-eighteenth-century
writers sometimes represented as "forerunners of the Haskala," who
proceeded then1. The significance and extent of this usage has yet to be
carefully or systematically studied, and it has often been misrepresented.
Thus, Moshe Pelli, a leading literary historian of the Haskala, identifies
terms such as hatzlachat ha-adam or hatzlachat ha-enoshit a11d osher
(happiness) as principal terms of maskilic moral discourse and sees this
as simply mirroring contemporary discussions ofthis-worldly happiness
in the European Enlightenment. 97 As I have already ShOW11, however,
the first term is a precise translation ofthe Aristotelian summum bonum.
Osher has the closely related meaning in n1edieval philosophical Hebrew
ofhappiness in the Aristotelian sense of Eudaemonia. 98 Both terms are,
of course, just as characteristic of much of medieval Jewish philosophy
as the Haskala. Indeed, the leading primary source that Pelli qllotes in
this connection is an article ofIsaac Euchel's, the translator ofAvicenna
and editor of Maimon's edition of the Guide, on the thoroughly
medieval topic of "Hatzlachat ha-Adam ve-Osher Bichlal." 99
This is not to say that the Maskilim simply revived or continued me-
dieval philosophical traditions any more than the Hasidim simply con-
tinued certain kabbalistic traditions ofthe Middle Ages. But both move-
ments' along with their Mit11aged opposition, inherited and employed
the tropes, arguments, a11d terms of art of their medieval predecessors.
One ofthe main functions ofa literary tradition is to allow historically
remote texts to serve as proximate stimuli for a thinker or movement.
The Haskala was, at least at its outset, such a moven1ent, bllt its later
transformations and success have served to obscure its intellectual roots.
80 Chapter Two

To understand what is new about these moven1ents, one must set their
texts against this historical backdrop. Maimon was not an ordinary
member ofthe Haskala (or anything else ), but l1is i11tense preoccupation
with the question of man's telos, the ultin1ate object of human knowl-
edge, and the possibility ofunity with the divine Inind points to a larger
discourse ofperfection that had both a history and a social context. One
of the interesting features of Inaskilic discussio11s of perfection vvas the
extent to which it was ambiguous between the classical cognitive ideal,
which obsessed Maimon, and a less precise cultural ideal of urbane so-
ciability, aesthetic good taste, and social tolerance, which approximated
that of Bildung in the Gerlnan Enlightenn1ent. 10o I will retllrn to this
crucial ambiguity and its effect on Maimon's writings in Chapter 4.

Scarcely more than a decade after he had written the Hesheq Shelomo,
Maimon was an active literary participant in both the Aufklarung and
the Haskala. He published his llersuch uber die Transcendentalphiloso-
phie and contributed to ha-Meassef It was at this point in his career that
Maimon realized his Maimonidean an1bition of producing a new edi-
tion of the first part of The Guide of the Perplexed, together with his
o\vn n10dern commentary, Giva)at ha-Moreh, in which, among other
things, Maimon finally made his argument for metaphysical monism
explicit. I will discuss some of the systematic philosophical positions
that Maimon stakes out in the Giva)at ha-Moreh and other writings in
Chapter 3. In the present context it is important to note how much this
project is still fran1ed in terms of the "Jewish peripatetic philosophy,"
with which Maimon struggled in the Hesheq Shelomo, and how he con-
nected this to the concerns of the Haskala.
One of the most interesting things about this project is the genuine
enthusiasm that Euchel, who was arg-uably the n10st influential literary
Maskil of the period, showed for the republication and interpretive
renovation of the most canonical work of medieval Jewish philosophy.
Needless to say, no lapsed Catholic Aufkliirer, or even proponent of
Catholic Reform, ever performed such services for Aquinas's Summa.
Euchel and an anonymous Maimon published a prospectus for the work
in ha-Meassefthat promised to elucidate, correct, and supplement Mai-
monides' "peripatetic philosophy ... which follows Aristotle and those
Maimon's Medieval Desire: The Hesheq Shelomo 81

who followed hin1" in light of the author's deep and sustained study of
modern philosophy.101 They published his commelltary together with
the fourteenth-century Averroist conlmentary of Moses of Narbonlle
(Narboni). Narboni had completed his Beur to the Guide in 1362, and,
although it had been known by Maimollidean cognoscenti for cen-
tllries, the comlnentary had never been published. In exhorting the
readers of ha-Meassefto support the publication of Giva)at ha-Moreh,
. Euchel placed it squarely in the tradition of radical Maimonidean com-
mentary, emphasizing that it elucidated not only the Guide bllt Nar-
boni's comnlentary as well.
Maskilim! You see the great value of these commentaries, the depth
of the thought of the sage Narboni, and the lucid way in which he is
explicated by the author of Giva)at ha-Moreh, who establishes each
idea and enlightens with the lamp of his conlmentary ... both the
Guide and Narboni clearly. There is no need to speak further in their
praise for you will judge their excellence and utility for us in this
time.l2
In sllort, Maimon's comnlentary promised to help renl0tivate not
merely a canonical work of Jewish philosophy but also the world and
vocabulary of medieval Jewish philosophical discourse. It is worth not-
ing, in this connection, the particular place that Narboni occupied in
that world. In 1625, Joseph Solomon Delmedigo, a Jewish philosopher
from Crete, wrote to a student that the tOl-lr leading COlnmentators 011
the Guide of the Perplexed-he was fanliliar with eighteen-were like
the "four sons" of the Passover Haggadah. One was wise, one wicked,
one simple, and one did not know how to ask. 103 The three "good"
sons were, respectively, Shem Tov ben Joseph bell Shem Tov,104 Asher
ben Abraham Crescas, and Profiat Dllran, whose commentaries had
been included in the Renaissance edition of the Guide alld its 1741
reprint. The wicked son was, of COllrse, Narboni, whose comnlents of-
ten u11packed or radicalized (depending on one's perspective) the eso-
teric philosophical doctrine of Maimonides' text in an Averroist key. lOS
The remark was probably meant as a compliment by Delmedigo, who
was himself a radical Aristotelian and who is sometimes listed among
the last figures of medieval Jewish philosophy.l06
82 Chapter Two

Narboni's wickedness, and that of other Jewish Averroists, had been


to find within Maimonides' Guide a set of radical Aristotelian theses re-
garding topics such as creation, God's knowledge of particulars, and-
of special interest in the present context-the linked topics of human
knowledge and the possibility of immortality.l07 In each case, such
interpreters understood Maimonides' project to be one in which the
received doctrines ofbiblical and rabbinic tradition were brought before
the tribunal of n1edieval Aristotelian reason and reinterpreted, if neces-
sary, to conform with it. Perhaps most radically, was the general under-
standing that, according to MailTIonides, Jewish religious doctrine and
practice were not so much c011stitutive of the good life as a means
toward it. Thus, the beliefs and commandments of the Torah were un-
derstood to have been promulgated because they lead the adherent to
human perfection, which, strictly speaking, lies beyond then1, for that
perfection consists not in devout religious practice or beliefbut rather in
Aristotelian theoria: the contemplation ofthe universal truths ofscience
and metaphysics and theology, through union with the active intellect.
On such a reading, Maimonides' Guide genllinely demonstrates the
social utility ofthe apparent irrationalities and superfluities ofJewish re-
ligious doctrine and practice, but it also points beyond them to a knowl-
edge whose universality is unmarked by the particularities of religion,
or, indeed, any particulars at all.
The appeal of this philosophical vision to Mask_ilim such as Maimon
and Euchel was that it provided a traditional (although always con-
tested) basis for the sovereignty of universal reason over religion. Such
a vision mirrored the social promise of the Enlightenment that Jews
might meet with their Christian counterparts as equals within the pub-
lic sphere ofdiscourse. 108 Moreover, it did so using the biblical and rab-
binic proof texts and Hebrew theological idion1 in which Maimon, Eu-
chel, and their readers were schooled. The danger of such a philosophy
was in the antinomian possibilities of its instrumentalization of reli-
gion. If the commandn1ents of the Torah were prescribed only as a first
approximation of the philosophical life to which they ultimately point,
why not dispense with them altogether?109 The special resonance of
Delmedigo's witticism about Narboni, and his attraction to Maimon,
should now be clear. The wicked son asks, "What is this service to
Maimon's Medieval Desire: The Hesheq Shelomo 83

you?" from some standpoint outside the culture, and in doing so, re-
lTIOVeS himself from the community of believers. Maimon opens the
Giva)at ha-Moreh with the following programmatic statement:
The telos [takhlit] of Inan's activities, in his aspect as a possessor of
freewill and choice, is human excellence [hatzlachat ha-enoshit] , and
this human excellence necessarily follows upon the attainment of per-
fection [shelemut]. Here, then, isa topic worthy of research: what is
the nature of this attainment of perfection, which we have n1entioned?
And what are the means through which it is possible to reach it? And
we shall say: the perfection of any being consists in the passing over
from the potential to the actual, as with the perfection of a tree, for
example, which produces fruit. And the perfection of man is intellec-
tion [Haskala] .110

AJthough Maimon eventually goes on to develop this line of thought


in ways that can no longer be called peripatetic, each of the key terms
as well as the overall argument of this passage are thoroughly Aris-
totelian, and his conclusion that the telos of man, and the nature of
human excellence, is simply a true cognition of the world is in keeping
with the radical Maimonidean tradition. 111 But Maimon's precise
choice of words to describe this cognition is telling. He refers to it as
Haskala. Here too, Maimon is employing medieval philosophical ter-
minology with care, because the word is just the abstract ,noun form of
the Hebrew word for intellect, sekhel, but it is also, of course, the self-
chosen name of the Jewish Enlightenment. Thus, Maimon can also be
taken to be making the polemical claim that the ultimate purpose of
man is conforming to the ideal of the Berlin Jewish Enlightenment, or,
perhaps more plausibly, for staking out a version of the Haskala that
was closer to the shelemut ofMaimonides and Narboni than the Bildung
of Mendelssohn and Herz.
Maimon's pllnning polemic, and its theoretical background, did not
go entirely unnoticed. A few years later, Pinhas Eliyahu Hurwitz, an
Eastern European traditionalist who had also lived for a while in Berlin,
objected:
And I saw the philosopher and author of the Giva)at ha-Moreh, in the
Introduction to his con1mentary to the Guide ofthe Perplexed, boast
84 Chapter Two

that philosophy brings us to the final perfection in our times. And his
"vords are not surprising, for in all of the previous generations, philos-
ophers have spoken like this, in particular since Aristotle. 1 12
Hurwitz was familiar with the terms of Maimon's argument and even
agreed with him that the Haskala was silnply another version of me-
dieval Jewish philosophy. But he also held that the results of this phi-
10sophy could never be conclusively established and ultimately be-
trayed the particular terms of the Jewish covenant with GOd. 113
Main10n himself more or less en1braced this conclusion (n1uch of the
pain, charm, and interest of his work lie in this ambivalence) and was,
consequently, rather infamous. Because the work itself was intended as
part of a program to educate traditional Hebrew readers toward some
form of enlightenment, GivaJat ha-Moreh was published anonymously,
carrying only Euchel's name. However, Maimon hinted at both his
given Hebrew name and the painful distance from his origins, which his
inability to use it implied, with this rather poignant bit ofriddling verse:
My beloved Maskil Reader
You 'will know my name and the name of IllY father
In considering the word "exile" 114
The Hebrew word for exile (Shevi), above which asterisks had been
placed, is the abbreviation of Maimon's Hebrew name and that of his
father, Shelomo ben Yehoshua. 11s
III the next chapter, I will examine some of the philosophical uses to
which Main10n put his medieval Jewish Aristotelianism in his years of
exile as the wicked son of modern Maimonidean scholarship in his
GivaJat ha-Moreh.
Three German Idealism in a Maimonidean I(ey
"We are in this respect similar to God."
Solomon MailTIOn, Uber die
Progressen der Philosophie

Maimon described his approach to IZant's Critique of Pure Reason as


one of independent and eclectic exegesis:
The method by which I studied this work was altogether peculiar.
On the first read-through I obtained an obscure idea of each section.
Mterwards, I endeavored to make this distinct by my own reflection
and so to penetrate the author's meaning. This is the proper process
for what I call thinking oneselfinto a system. But as I had already ll1as-
tered 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
ofPure Reason. This was the origin of my Transcendentalphilosophie. 1

The description, which is quoted in almost every discussion of Mai-


mon's work, is itselfin need ofexegesis. 2 It should first be noted, as I will
show, that the very movement from "obscure ideas" to distinct under-
standing, with which Main10n describes his study ofKant, is itselfa sub-
stantive feature of his proposed revision of Transcendental Idealism,
which drew on the ideas with which he wrestled in his Hesheq Shelomo.
Moreover, Maimon's method of commentary in the Transcendental-
philosophie was not so much peculiar or idiosyncratic as it was culturally
foreign. His work on Kant was, like his Giva)at ha-Moreh, in the style
of a medieval Hebrew philosophical commentary. Finally, there is the
interesting omission of Maimonides in his list of sources, which has
encouraged some commentators to omit him as a principal melnber of 85
the "coalition," although, later in the chapter, Maimon enumerates his
intellectual debts more fully as "Peripatetic, Spinozist, Leibnizian, Kant-
ian and lastly Sceptic." 3 In fact, like Spinoza, Main10n's philosophical
86 Chapter Three

work presents a double aspect. It can be best understood as having been


written in two contexts: that ofmedieval Aristotelian Jewish philosophy
and that of modern Ellropean philosophy. Each of these issues of doc-
trine, genre, and influence will playa role in my account of Maimon's
mature post-IZantian philosophy.

One way to frame the project ofIZant's first Critique is as an attempt to


adjudicate between the competing claims of empiricism and rational-
ism. In an early formulation ofhis critical project of "mapping the Lim-
its ofSense and Reason," IZant wrote to his student and Maimon's even-
tual patron, Marcus Herz, that the "key to the whole heretofore obscur~
metaphysics" is in the realization that the human mind is neither purely
passive (an intellectus ectypus) nor purely active (an intellectus archety-
pUS).4 The empiricist assumes the former, taking the passive representa-
tions of our senses as a paradigm of knowledge. The rationalist, on the
other hand, assumes that our knowledge is adequate just to the extent
that it corresponds to the eternal propositions contained within a pro-
ductive divine mind. 5 According to IZa11t, neither ofthese does justice to
the a priori knowledge we genuinely have of concepts such as causality,
because we cannot abstract them from any number ofsensible represen-
tations, as Hllme's skeptical arguments had shown. Nor are we gods,
whose knowledge is prodllced, not given by an external world of things
in themselves.
In the Critique ofPure Reason, IZant went on to argue that ordinary
empirical knowledge and experience was inconceivable except as struc-
tured by a priori concepts, such as cause and effect. In the famous for-
mlLlation that opens the chapter on Transcendental Logic, IZant wrote:
Our knowledge springs from two fundamental sources of the mind;
the first is the capacity of receiving representations ... the second is
the power of knowing an object through these representations....
Our nature is so constituted that our intuition can never be other
than sensible; that is, it contains only the mode in which we are af-
fected by objects. The faculty, on the other hand, which enables us to
think the object of sensible intuition is the understanding. Without
sensibility no object would be given to us, without understanding
Gerlnan Idealism in a MailTIonidean I(ey 87

no object would be thought. Thoughts without content are empty,


intuitions without concepts are blind. 6
The human n1ind is, in short, discursive. We sense, or intuit, objects
that are given to us from without but can think about them only inso-
far as we actively take up these objects with the a priori concepts of un-
derstanding. In order to put the divided, discursive nature of intellects
such as ours into sharp relief, IZant returned to the contrast with a con-
ceivable divine mind at several key mon1ents in his work. For instance,
in the Transcendental Deduction, IZant writes:
An understanding which through its self-consciousness could supply
to itself the Inanifold of intuition-an understanding that is to say
through whose representation the objects of the representation
should at the saIne time exist-would not require, for the unity of
consciousness, a special act of synthesis of the Inanifold. For the hu-
man understanding, however, which thinks only, and does not intuit,
that act is necessary. It is indeed the first principle of human under-
standing, and is so indispensable that we cannot form the least con-
ception of any other possible understanding. 7
The mind of such an intelleetus arehetypus, or intuitive intellect, would
be, as it were, undivided. Its knowledge would spring from only one
source, since an intuition ofan object would be equivalent to its presen-
tation in consciousness. For SllCh a mind, thinking would already be cre-
ating, a pure and llnconstrained activity. Its thoughts would not be
empty and its intuitions would not be blind, because they would be one
and the same. But we know, according to IZant, nothing of such an in-
tellect; it is a kind of limit-concept that highlights the fact that we are
precisely not the sort ofcognitive beings who produce t11e objects of0llr
knowledge.
Despite all the differences between the Aristotelian picture of cogni-
tion, discussed in C11apter 2, and IZant's, and the role each plays in a
complex and ramified philosophical system, it should also be clear that
both pictures attempt to do justice to the interplay between passivity
and activity that seems to underlie the activity of human knowing.
Main10n came to IZant after a deep immersion in medieval Aristotelian
thought and was well positioned to see the parallels between IZant's new
88 Chapter Three

critical philosophy and earlier theories, to play one set of ideas off the
other, and to see the unresolved tensions in both.
Maimon granted that Kant had demonstrated that empirical knowl-
edge must be the product ofthe matter ofsensible intuitions given form
by the conceptual categories, but this, as I(ant llnderstood, was not
enough. In the section ofthe Critique ofPure Reason called the Schema-
tism, I(ant attempted to show how universal cOl1cepts actually applied to
particular intuitions through the medium of time. Later, in the Second
Analogy, I(ant worked this out in detail for the key concept of causality.
In doing so, he made good, or tried to, on his transcendental defense of
a chastened empirical realism against Humean skepticism, although he
also admitted that
this schematism of our understanding, in its application to appear-
ances and their mere form, is an art concealed in the idepths of the
human soul, whose real modes of activity nature is hardly likely ever
to allow us to discover and to have open to our gaze. 8
This is precisely where Maimon attacked. He denied that Kant had,
or could possibly have, a coherent account of how the categories ap-
plied to the particulars of intuition; how the forn1 of thought made
contact with its matter. Kant had made such a gldf between concepts
and intuitions that there was no way for the concepts to do their un-
deniably necessary work of giving shape to sensible intuitions. In a
striking analogy that underlines the historical depth which Maimon
brought to Kant's philosophy, Maimon puts the point this way in the
Yersuch iiber die Transcendentalphilosophie, upon whose subtlety I(ant
had remarked.
The question quid juris of the legitimacy of applying the forms of
understanding to what is sensibly given, addressed in IZant's transcen-
dental deduction is one and the same as the important question that
has been treated by all previous philosophers, namely the explanation
of the community between soul and body, or as the explanation of
the origination of the world (with respect to its matter) from an
intelligenceY
It was clever to note that Kant's problem of intuition and understand-
ing is an epistemic version ofthe Cartesian problen1 ofgetting body and
German Idealism in a Maimonidean Key 89

mind together (with I(ant's Schen1a serving as a kind ofmethodological


pineal gland that only defers the difficulties), although I(ant and others
saw this similarity as well. But it was a genuine and altogether more orig-
inal insight to see that the problem also resembled the almost forgotten
medieval problem ofwhat, in Chapter 2, I refer to as the Downward Way
between the active intellect and sublunar matter. Maimon suggests that
I(ant's faculty ofunderstanding ful1ctions as a kind ofinternalized active
intellect (or Platonic demiurge), but the faculty of understanding has
just as much trouble giving forin to the given provided by sensible
intuition as the active intellect did in producing (or giving form to)
prime n1atter.
In short, Kant does not have, according to Maimon, any more ade-
quate notion of the workings of a discursive hllman understanding
than he does ofthe notional intuitive intellect of God. On the contrary,
his account of human discursivity seemed to make it impossible. As
Maimon later wrote to I(arl Leonhard Reinhold: "Philosophy has not
been able to build a bridge which makes possible the transition from
the transcendental to the particular." 10 Reinhold thought he had
solved this problen1 in his own version of the Critical Philosophy, but
Maimon was not convinced that he, al1d perhaps even IZant, had even
fully understood it.
In pressing his skeptical claims, Maimon did not ignore Kant's inno-
vative account of concepts as rules. Indeed, in a prescient line of attack,
Maimon argued that no amount ofspecificity in the formulation ofuni-
versal rules could guarantee that, say, the category ofcausality would ap-
ply to all and only the instances to which it ought to.!1 So I(ant might
have shown that coherent experience presupposed the application of
conceptual categories, but he had 110t shown that we, in fact, have any
such experience or knowledge. If concepts without intuition are empty
and if intuitions without concepts are blind, then perhaps our thought
is never better than empty and blind. At best, Kant will have only shown
that we must proceed as if we were entitled to employ such concepts,
not that we are in fact entitled to do so. Elsewhere, Maimon wrote "in
the sense that Kant gives to experience, I have no experience." 12 In the
apt formulation of Frederick Beiser, Maimon "renews the skeptical
challenge within the critical philosophy itself." 13
90 Chapter Three

Maimon's reintroduction of Humean skepticism i11tO the heart of


IZant's transcendental idealislTI was a signal achievement, but he also
sketched the outlines of a possible solution that both anticipated those
of later German Idealists and returned to the ideas of medieval radical
Aristotelianism. I say "possible solution" because Main10n seen1S to
have remained ambivalent about its viability, just as he had earlier been
an1bivalent about the compromises that n1edieval philosophers had
struck on the nature of individual immortality and the consolatory
promises of religion. His skeptical problem, as well as his proposed so-
lution, consciously echoed themes withi11 the medieval Aristotelian tra-
dition that he first encollntered in Maimonides' Guide ofthe Perplexed,
and its comn1entators.

Main10n accepted that IZant's account of human cognition as divided


and discursive was a perspicuous description of the conditio11 in which
man seems to find himself, bllt he argued that the condition was not one
of.knowledge. Ifwe are to have knowledge, then the pure concepts of
understanding must be truly con1bined with the data of the sensory
manifold in a way that IZant did not and could not explain. The crllX of
his proposed solution was to argue that human thought is precisely a
striving to overcome this condition through an act of knowledge in
which the subject, the object, and the act ofknowing are all one and the
same. This ideal is, of course, a version of the medieval doctri11e of per-
fection through union with the active intellect, whose attainn1ent he
had both doubted and desired in his Hesheq Shelomo. In explaining this
doctrine, Maimon returned to IZant's contrast between a passive and an
intuitive intellect, but he argued that the difference between the two was
one of degree, not ofkind. Indeed, the human intellect is characterized
not merely by its finitude but by its atten1pt to overcome that finitude,
or at least to approximate the activity of an infinite divine intellect.
In a crucial passage of his VCrsuch iiber die Transcendentalphilosophie,
Maimon wrote:
We assume (at least as an idea) an infinite understanding for whon1 the
forms are also the objects of thought ... our own understanding is
this very same understanding but in a limited degree. 14
German Idealism in a Maimonidean I(ey 91

A few lines later, he vvrites with g110mic forcefulness, "Our understand-


ing is exactly the same as God's infinite understanding, though only of
a limited kind." Maimon's paradigm case of the way in which the finite
human intellect call be seen as, somehow, a restriction or limited ex-
pression of the infinite intellect is mathematical construction.
God, as an infinite power of representation from all eternity thinks
hilnself as all possible essences, that is he thinks himself as restricted
in every possible way. He does not think as we do, that is discursively;
rather his thoughts are at one and the saIne tilne presentations [of
their objects]. If someone objects that we have no conception of such
a style of thinking, my answer is: We do in fact have a concept of it,
since we partly have this style in our possession. All mathematical ob-
jects are at the same time thought by us and exhibited as real objects
through a priori construction. Thus we are in this respect similar
to God. 15

For such a God, knowledge and creation are the same thing, and both
tllrn on a Spinozistic restriction ofthe infinite being in a particular way.
We intuit mathematical objects (say, a triangle) by constructing them in
somethi11g like the way this God both knows and constructs real objects.
In both cases, to construct such an object is to lG10W it and vice versa, or,
at any rate, this is almost true, since we do not achieve a complete deter-
mination, or llnified knowledge, ofeven mathematical objects. Maimon
illustrates this point colorfully in another text:
The understanding prescribes a rule to the productive imagination,
namely to produce a space enclosed by three lines. The imagination
obeys and constructs the trilateral figure; but look, three angles sud-
denly obtrude themselves, which the understanding had not asked
for. ... The understanding then puts on an imperious face and says
"a trilateral figure must have three angles," as if it were the legislator
in the affair, although in fact it must obey a legislator completely
unknown to it.l 6
Unlike us, the infinite intellect has no legislator other than itself and is
completely self-transparent. We approach the activity of such a God in
positing a geometric figure or a number, but we don't quite get there.
Empirical knowledge must be understood on this constructive model.
92 Chapter Three

The thing-in-itself is not an unattainable exterl1al object that somehow


impinges on our senses, but rather the ideal limit to which human
knowledge aspires.
It is possible to see the source of Maimon's proposed doctrine as re-
sponding to internal hints within I(ant about the intuitive intellect, or
as a revival of Leibnizian rationalism in a new philosophical context.
Kal1t hilTIself called it a peculiar form of Spinozism in his letter to Herz
acknowledging Maimon's manuscript. Maimon was indebted to each
of these sources, but, in light of the discussion of the previous chapters,
I suggest that the leading member of Main10n's coalition system was,
in fact, Maimonides-or, more precisely, Maimonides as understood
by his more radical interpreters (within whose ranks Maimon probably
would have placed Spinoza). One can, perhaps, also hear the echoes of
what Maimon called Dov Baer of Mezeritch's pantheistic "system of
perfection" in a more intellectualist and sober register. This comes Ollt
most clearly in Maimon's Giva)at ha-Moreh, which, as I have discussed
earlier, is prefaced with a long discussion of intellectual perfection as
man's telos, in Aristotelian terms.
In the first chapter ofthe Guide ofthe Perplexed, Maimonides glossed
the biblical verse "Let us make Inan after our image and in our likeness"
(Genesis I : 26), as being an allegorical represe11tation ofthe relatiol1ship
between the passive and active intellects, rather than an anthropomor-
phic doctrine, with the following remark:
Man possesses as his proprium something in hin1 that is very strange,
as it is not found in anything else that exists under the sphere of the
moon, namely intellectual apprehension. In the exercise of this, no
sense, no part of the body ... [is] used; and therefore this apprehen-
sion was likened unto the apprehension of the deity ... although in
reality it is not like the latter apprehension.... It was because of this
something, I mean because of this divine intellect conjoined with man
that it is said of the latter that he was "in the image of God and after
his likeness." 17

In Giva)at ha-Moreh, Maimon explicates this Aristotelian schema in


terms of his own post-IZantian doctrine of the continuum between the
finite and infinite intellects. He writes that "the finite intellect and in-
finite intellect are thus of the same kind, they differ only in degree." 18
Gerlnan Idealisn1 in a Maimonidean I(ey 93

Elsewhere, in unpacking a cryptic hint of Maimonides about Jacob's


ladder, Main10n remarks that the phrase "the Lord stood above it"
(Genesis 28: 13) means that the necessary end of finite reason is to shed
its finitude and form a concept of universal, infinite reason.l 9
The issue ofnoetic perfection is the principal unifying theme of Mai-
mon's comments on the Guide, but his most extel1sive discussion is in
his commentary to Maimonides' discussion of the triple identity of the
knower, knowledge, and the lG10wn in Guide 1:68. The importance of
these passages has been noted in most discussions of Giva)at ha-Moreh,
although the extent to which they are both the culmination of more
than twenty years of close study of the Guide and its commentators and
the true source of Maimon's idiosyncratic idealism is less often regis-
tered. 20 In these passages Main10n reads the noetic doctrine of the
Guide through IZantian lenses and vice versa. Thus, in the midst ofa long
commentary on "the dictum of the philosophers ... that He is the in-
tellect as well as the intellectually cognizing subject and the intellectu-
ally cognized object," MaiiTIOn describes the faculty of understanding
and its concepts:
These forms of similarity [and difference] define the understanding
and distinguish it from everything else. It follows from this that the
intelligibles, that is the forn1s just mentioned, are the understanding
itself. Similarly, the intellect, that is the cause which produces these
forins is the understanding, for the entire force of its operation is the
understanding itself. 21
Maimon underlines this point repeatedly. A few pages later he writes:
The infinite understanding, praised be He, produces with the help of
the forms of understanding the objects [of its knowledge] themselves,
which are the intelligibles. 22
This reframing of the medieval "dictum of the philosophers" in
terms of IZantian faculty psychology comes in the midst of a reiterated
challenge to IZant's application of the concepts of understanding, in
particular, that of causality. Maimon argues that even if IZant can prove
that the causal principle (i.e., "every event has a cause which precedes
it")23 is a necessary rule of the understanding, which all coherent ex-
perience must presuppose, he cannot provide a criterion that will apply
94 Chapter Three

it to just the right cases. 24 In short, our concepts will remain empty and
our intuitions blind so long as IZant maintains that they are entirely
heterogeneous.
Maimon's proposed answer is, ofcourse, that concepts and intuitions
actually are homogeneous, although they may not appear so to us. He
posits a continuum between sensible intuition and pure concepts that
mirrors the continuum between the finite and infinite minds. Space and
time are not the nonconceptual forms through which we intuit the
world, but rather the basic conceptual conditions for distinguishing
objects. Thus IZant's distinctions between the faculties of sense and
understanding are brought in house, as it were.
In his comments to the following chapter of the Guide, MailTIOn
explicitly develops the monist implications of this line of thought. In
response to Maimonides' assertion that "God is the efficient, final and
forn1al cause" of the world, Maimon adds:
One ought wonder why the philosophers did not say that God, may
He be exalted, is also the material cause. I mean to say, the ultimate
subject of everything which is not a predicate of anything else. And in
this He, may He be exalted, He will be the ultimate cause of all the
causes mentioned. For if we assume that God is the efficient, formal
and final cause but not the material cause as well, we would have to
assume the existence of prilTIordial matter which has no cause. How-
ever this would contradict the notion of God, may He be exalted,
that is, the universal cause of everything that is. But the truth is that
God is indeed the ultimate cause in every respect. 25

This comn1ent appears to be a direct descendant of the more reticent


pantheistic comment on this subject in the Hesheq Shelomo, discussed
in Chapter 2 (although as Maimon remarked with regard to Spinoza's
philosophy, it might be better to call such a position "acosmic," be-
cause the doctrine is that the world is God). It also develops a radical
suggestion in Moses Narboni's commentary to this chapter of the
Guide, thus justifying Euchel's faith in Maimon's ability to draw out
the full implications of the radical Maimonidean position. Narboni re-
marks that if God is the form of the world as well as its efficient cause,
He must be "with" the world in an especially intimate way.
German Idealism in a Maimonidean I(ey 95

A decade earlier, Maimon had seemed to hint (echoing Dov Baer,


perhaps) that the Upward Way of devequt with the divine intellect was
conceivable precisely because God was the immanent material of the
world as well as its transcendent maker. Similarly, in his revision ofIZant,
Maimon now suggests that the gap between the finite and infinite intel-
lects can be closed by seeing that they form a continuum that is all im-
n1anent within a si11gle universal substance. This allows the further real-
ization that sensible intuition need not be seen as a distinct and passive
mental matter given from without that awaits formation by the internal
concepts ofunderstanding. Rather, it lies on a continuum with the pure
concepts ofunderstanding.
In the discussion that follows his radical revision of Maimonides'
description of God, Maimon develops the implications of his Idealist
acosmisn1. Strikingly, he does not do so in terms of the philosophy of
Spinoza, whose discussion of the way in which we understand God (or
Nature) through singular things and the way i11 which the infinite sub-
stance of the deity understands itself through this limited understand-
ing, in Book V of The Ethics, seems particularly apposite. Nor does he do
so in reference to anyone ofthe other named "coalition" partners ofhis
philosophy but rather in terms of the work of Giordano Bruno. In do-
ing so, Maimon applies Bruno's tern1 for the immanent intellect of the
universe, the "World Soul" (ruah ha-olam; Weltseele), as an equivalent
of his own infinite intellect, a term that he often returned to in later
writings. 26
The reasons for this choice of philosophers, however, would appear
to be more tactical than substantive. In the Giva)at ha-Moreh, Maimon
had ren1ained anonymous, in part so as not to offend traditionalist read-
ers who might be brought from obscure ideas to philosophically exact
notions more easily if they did not know who was bringing them there.
A positive discussion of Spinoza would undermine this aim at least as
much as Maimon plltting his less infamous name to the work. Bruno
was, in this regard, a witty substitute: an early modern Christian heretic
of whom Jewish readers could be presumed to be entirely ignorant.
Moreover, Bruno's profile as the flamboyant "knight errant" of philos-
ophy, who was condemned by a dazzling array of religious authorities
96 Chapter Three

before being finally burned at the stake, Inade hin1 a figure whose philo-
sophical and social accolnplishlnents Mailnon cOll1d adlnire. 27

Maimon's work on I(ant was remarkable in at least three ways. He was


an10ng the first to understand I(ant's Transcendental Idealisn1 as a gen-
uine answer to Hume's skepticism, which showed that en1pirical experi-
ence was incoherent without the organizing capacity ofconcepts such as
causality. But he was also the first to show that the Humean skeptical
challenge could be replicated within Transcendental Idealism, through
close attention to the tensions within I(ant's discursive picture ofhuman
reason. To return to I(ant's forn1ula, thoughts and sensible intuitions
Inight need each other to keep froll1 being empty and blil1d, but that
does not guarantee that concepts such as causality legitimately and ac-
tually do apply to our manifold ofintuition. Like the intellect and mat-
ter of medieval Aristotelians, they are too heterogeneous. This leads us
to the third way in which Maimon's work was remarkable: His solution
was a return to the philosophical framework ofMaimonides and some of
his more radical Hebrew commentators. Maimon's proposed answer
was a version of their medieval cosmology, which sllggested that there
is no "homogeneity problem," because intuitions and concepts are of
a piece. The sensible matter of intuitions can be brought into the con-
ceptual realm because, although it is far removed from concepts, it is
not different in kind. It is, no doubt, difficult for us to see this, but it is
clear to the infinite intellect in which intllitions are ideas and ideas are
intuitions. Our desire to know is a striving toward this state of clarity.
I have repeatedly referred to this picture as Maimon's "proposed so-
lution" and can 110 longer avoid the question OfjllSt how seriously he in-
tended the proposal. IfMaimon's infinite intellect is, like I(ant's, merely
a regulative idea, as he seemed to sllggest when he spoke ofits assump-
tion "at least as an idea," then its reality is at best problematic. But then
how is his proposal an improvement on I(ant's regulative use of the
intuitive intellect, or intellectus archetypus? It would seem that only the
real existence of an infinite intellect or World Soul could guarantee that
cognition is actually a striving toward something and that the confused
ideas ofsensation are on a continuum with the distinct ideas ofthe pure
concepts. Maimon would seem to need a real metaphysical entity to play
German Idealism in a Main10nidean IZey 97

son1ething like the cognitive role that the active intellect played in the
attainment ofintellectual perfection in the medieval Aristotelian system
with which Mainlon began his philosophical career. But it is no more
clear whether he believed in the "infinite intellect," or "World Soul," in
the 1790S than it is that he believed in the active intellect in the 1770S.
What, in short, was MailTIOn doing in proposing this solution to the
antinomy he had uncovered in I(ant's systemr
This is a crux ofMaimon scholarship, and the son1etimes indistinct or
fraglTIentary and exegetical nature ofhis writings does not seem to allow
for a clear, defillitive answer. Beiser, for instance, suggests that Maimon
moved froIn an early constitutive view of the infinite intellect to a later
regulative one, but the chronology is, llnfortunately, not so clear. The
regulative remark quoted earlier ("at least as an idea") is from Mainl0n's
first German work, the Transcendentalphilosophie, and the more consti-
tlltive qllotes from the Giva)at ha-Moreh are, apparently, later. 28 On the
other hand, in another comment in Giva)at ha-Moreh, Maimon specific-
ally indicates that the idea of God is regulative and its reality problem-
atic (mesupaq).29 Friedrich I(untze tll0ught that Maimon's final posi-
tion was skeptical, whereas Samuel Atlas, as is clear from his title, argues
that Maimon progressed from skepticism to full-fledged "Speculative
Idealism," as does Bergman. 30 Ernst Cassirer seems to have thought that
Maimon had anticipated the insights of neo- I(antiallism in arriving at a
position that avoided the pitfalls of both, by internalizing the given and
eliminating the thing-in-itself as anything but all endless cognitive task.
Most recently, Jan Bransen has argued that Maimon uncovered the fun-
damental antinomy ofhuman knowledge, which is always both a passive
finding alld an active making. 31 My own position is closest to Bransen's,
but before turnillg to my reasons for this (still tentative) interpretation,
it will be useful to examine Maimon's descriptions of the finite and
active intellects and their relations more closely.
One of the keys to Maimon's thought seems to be his repeated in-
sistence that the finite human intellect is, somehow, a restriction or lim-
ited expression of the infinite intellect. As I suggested earlier, one way
to ITIotivate this extraordinary thought might have been through a
close reading of Book V of The Ethics, in particular Spinoza's doctrine
of the "third kind" of knowledge. Unfortunately, Maimon never did
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
98 Chapter Three

this; however, in his autobiography he does describe a striking conver-


sation he had with Marcus Herz on the topic. The scene is MailTIon's
.attempt to explain Spinoza's philosophy to Marcus Herz when he was
still a "raw" Polish Jew and the great controversy over Lessing's alleged
PantheislTI was just over the horizon.
A few examples will give an idea of the way in which I conducted a dis-
cussion at the tin1e, of the ellipses in my diction arising from Iny defi-
ciency of expression, and of the way in which I illustrated everything
by examples. I tried once to make Spinoza's system intelligible-to
show that all things are merely accidents of a single substance. My
friend interrupted Ine and said, "but n1Y God! Aren't you and I differ-
ent men and do we not each possess an existence of our own?" "Close
the shutters! " I called in reply to his objection. This strange expression
astonished him. He did not know what I meant. Finally, I explained
Inyself. "See," I said, "the sun shines through the windows. The square
window gives you a square reflection and the round window gives you
a round reflection. Are they on that account different things and not
one and the same sunshine?" 32

The passage both provides a vivid metaphor for Maimon's interpretation


of the idea that finite hllman beings and their thoughts are at the same
time limitations of the infinite divine thought, which both produces
them and thinks through them. It also shows the way in which he both
hinted at and deliberately obscured his medieval intellectual inheritance.
As with other autobiographical accounts of Maimon's encounters with
the Berlin Jewish elite, we are plainly meant to marvel at the native wit
and philosophical acun1en that underlie the linguistic and social awk-
wardness ofthis philosophical bumpkin from the "woods ofLithllania."
However, it is worth noting that here, as elsewhere, Maimon may actu-
ally be alluding to a n1edieval Jewish philosophical text in the radical
Averroist tradition. In Moses Narboni's Hebrew translation and con1-
mentary to Averroes's Epistle on the Possibility of Conjunction with the
Active Intellect, Narboni quotes a pseudo-Platonic source that is very
close to Maimon's example: "as Plato said 'the soul resembles the sun-
light which passes through a variety of windows.'" 33 Maimon almost
inevitably "thought his way into a system" by thinking it back into the
categories of the medieval tradition of radical Aristotelianism, which
German Idealism in a Maimonidean I(ey 99

included Mainl0nides, Averroes, and Narboni, an inheritance that to


sonle extent Spinoza, in fact, shared. 34
As we have already seen, mathematics provided another rich set of
metaphors for the picture that MaimOl1 attempted to draw. The influ-
ence on IZant of the exact sciences, al1d the mathematically determinate
picture that they gave of the physical world, is well known. 35 What was
perhaps more influential for Maimon was precisely the imprecision of
calculus, or rather its infinitely determinable precision. Our noetic striv-
ing toward the perfect knowledge of the infinite il1tellect is like the end-
less aSYlTIptotic progression ofa curve toward its limit. 36 We can, to take
another favorite mathematical example of Maimon's, represent an infi-
nite series only imaginatively as a complete object, or add to it item by
item, but the infinite intellect presents it whole. The finite hunlan intel-
lect seems to oscillate between this llnjustifiable imaginative leap and the
endless task of adding a further itelTI to an infinite series.

Such descriptions and metaphors make Mairnon's doctrine more vivid,


but it is still llnclear whether he is positing a metaphysical entity, like
Spinoza's "God or Nature," or a methodological notion, like the neo-
IZantian idea of the thing-ill-itself as an infinite task. Two further doc-
trines round out Maimon's picture, although they do not necessarily
clarify it. The first is his doctrine of differentials, which was also sug-
gested by advances in mathematics, and the second is his "Principle of
Determinability" (Grundsatz der Bestimmbarkeit). Both of these doc-
trines are extraordinarily obscure, and I know of no interpretation that
fully clarifies them. In discussing tllem here, I will nlerely try to sketch
their function in Maimon's proposed system and their connection to
the medieval noetic philosophy that was Maimon's tOllchstone.
The differentials are Maimoll's attempt to spell out what it would
mean to say that the data of the senses and the ideas of the understand-
ing are on a continuum. The notion arises from IZant's discussion ofthe
intensive magnitudes of sensation. 37 The intensive magnitude is simply
the degree to which our senses are affected by their stimrLli, measllred on
a scale from zero to infinity. Zero is fornl without matter, and infinity is
matter without form. Maimon's innovation is to suggest that a given
magnitude of sensation is infinitely complex alld, as such, subject to an
100 Chapter Three

analysis in which the faculty ofunderstanding expresses the abstract rule


by which the sensation was generated. ThlIs the boundary between sen-
sation and concept, the form and n1atter of the mind, is expressed by a
differential equation of the form dx: dy == a: b, meaning that a differs
with respect to b as x does to y. 38 Sensibility is inescapable for our finite
minds, so we can, so to speak, only run the eqlIations one way; we can
approach the pure concepts only through sensation, but an infinite in-
tellect for whom all such equations are resolved would be able to pro-
duce the experience through the plIre rules of understanding without
recourse to the given. The details ofthis doctrine are dark, but the philo-
sophical n10tivation should be clear. 39 The differentials are a mechanism
to build a kind ofpsychological bridge between the llniversais ofunder-
standing and the particulars ofsensation, or to pave a road toward intel-
lectual perfection. Nonetheless, a defender ofI(ant might point out that
Maimon's theory seems to posit a process jllSt as "concealed in the
depths ofthe hun1an soul" as that which I(ant proposed iI1 order to solve
the problem.
Maimon's Principle of Determinability attempts to COI1struct the
saIne bridge at the level of speculative logic. This logic is not purely
forInal but transcendental, or content sensitive. To use an example of
Maimon's, the principle wOlIld distinguish between the descriptions
"straight line," in which the predicate n10difies the subject and is de-
pendeI1t on it, and "sweet line," in which the predicate can find no
ground in its subject. 4o On Maimon's account, a properly constructed
judgn1ent always resolves into components and expresses this kind of
one-way dependence: A line is conceivable whether it is straight or not,
but we cannot have the predicate of straightness without the line. Any-
thing else is simply arbitrary, such as "sweet line," or ultimately analytic,
SllCh as a == a.
One of the sources for this doctrine is obviously Spinoza's distinc-
tion between a substance, which is "that whose knowledge does not
require the knowledge of any other thing," and a mode that is con-
ceived through a substance. 41 As in Spinoza, ,ve seem to have a genus-
species classificatory scheme in wl1ich every particll1ar is subsumed un-
der a hierarchy of universals at the top ofwhich is God, or substance or
Maimon's infinite intellect. 42 This scheme is both the scaffolding that
German Idealisn1 in a Main10nidean I(ey 101

llnderlies correct hun1an judgments and the nature of the knowledge


that an infinite intellect would have. 43
Main10n's doctrines try to show a way out ofIZant's dualisn1 ofsensi-
bility and understanding by positing a U11ity within mind and nature. In
doing so, they were also part of Maimon's long-standing attempts to
puzzle out the connection between the 11ulnan and divine intellects.
Nonetheless, this still does not a11swer our question ofwhether Maimon
held the intuitive intellect to be a metaphysical reality (in which case
he would seem required to prove it) or a regulative concept (in which
case, if a true synthesis and knowledge are never achieved, how does
it help?). To use the Neoplatonic terms of the previous c11apter, is it
n1eaningful to have an Upward Way of differentials if the Principle of
Detern1inability does not map a true Downward Way?
Further skeptical and dogmatic quotations could be easily adduced,
but this would not solve the metaphysical alnbivalence that runs
throughout Maimon's published work. Although I would not claim
that Maimon is thoroughly consistent, it seems to n1e that there is, in
general, a point to his apparent self-contradiction.
It is tempting to suggest that Maimon might be engaging in a lat-
ter-day version of the philosophical esotericism that he learned from
Maimonides here. It is certainly true that he was acutely aware of t11e
possibilities of multiple levels of meaning in philosophical writing. He
seems to have been the first to recognize that Spinoza's phrase "The-
ologia Politica" ought to be retroactively applied to Maimonides'
Guide, and he regarded Leibniz as 11aving prodllced a brilliant but finally
superfluous version ofSpinoza's system. 44 Finally, as I noted earlier, his
own anonymity as the author of GivaJat ha-Moreh and his mobilization
of Giordano Bruno to propound his metaphysical acosmism are esoteric
tactics. However, even in GivaJatha-Moreh, this seems to be more in the
nature of literary gamesmanship than a carefully crafted esoteric policy.
Indeed, his own choice ofclassical commentaries to accompany his own
was precisely that of the frankly "wicked" Averroist son of Guide schol-
arship who publicly unpacked its secrets. Moreover, he criticized both
Leibniz and Mendelssohn for refusing to confront Spinoza's philosophy
directly. In fact, I know ofonly two instances in which Maimon thanked
God in print, and both times it was for the same thing: "that in these
102 Chapter Three

times we have no need for esotericism (thank God)." 45 He seems to have


considered nl0dern philosophy as an advance on medieval philosophy
chiefly in the fact that it had no need for esotericism.
What, then, was the purpose ofMaimon's ambivalent presentation? I
would suggest that it was precisely to display the ilnpasse at which IZant's
critical philosophy leaves off. A kind of triple movement can be dis-
cerned amid the welter of Maimon's philosopllical argllments, inlages,
and glosses. First, there is his skeptical attack on IZant's Transcendental
Idealism. Mailnon dramatizes this conflict with a playful bit of biblical
exegesis:
Critical philosophy and skeptical philosophy, stand in the same rela-
tionship to each other as the first man and the serpent: He will bruise
you upon the head (which 11leans that the critical philosopher will al-
ways disturb the skeptic with the demand for the necessary and uni-
versally valid principles required for scientific knowledge), but you the
serpent 1vill bite the heel ofthe man (that is to say the skeptic will always
annoy the critical philosopher with the assertion that his necessary
and universally valid principles have no reality, quid facti).46
In the next stage ofMaimon's philosophy, he moves beyolld this ilnpasse
to sketch an alternative idealism that draws, especially, on Maimonides,
Narboni, Spinoza, and others and anticipates that ofsuch later figures as
Fichte and Hegel in mapping an escape fronl the finitude of the IZantian
subject. Finally, there is the recognition that such an escape is at best
"problelnatic," although no less problematic than the impossible fini-
tude in which the IZantian subject is trapped, unable to penetrate the
thing-in-itself or even match its sensible intuitions to its concepts. Mai-
mon llnderstood that his own proposed solution would work but only
at the price of making Adam into a god, or, alternatively, of positing a
striving toward that state, which would be a successful solution only to
the extent that it was fulfilled, per impossible.

One way to see the extent to which Maimon remained in the debt of
nl_edieval Aristotelianism for this theory, even as he anticipated the
Absolute Idealism ofFichte, Schelling, and Hegel, is to focus on the im-
plications of his epistemological and metaphysical views for his ethical
Gennan IdealislTI in a Mailnonidean I(ey 103

theory. Despite the overwheln1ing contelnporary influence of IZant,


Maimon's ethics was thoroughly Aristotelian in the intellectualist tra-
dition of Maimonides and Averroistic commentators such as Narboni
throughout his career. 47 Thus, in his last 111ajor philosophical work,
I(ritische Untersuchungen iiber den menschlichen Geist (1797), Maimon
argues that, at best, IZant's categorical in1perative is only the formal
cause of morality, but its final cause lnust be that state of eudaen10nic
bliss that attends theoretical knowledge, and its efficient one is the
desire to attain that state. 48
Maimon explicitly distinguishes this state from mere creaturely hap-
piness and emphasizes that it is characterized by perfection (Vollkomen-
heit) in lG10wledge and fulfills the human telos. 49 Morality is not a dis-
tinct sphere ofpractical knovvledge, for the only truths are philosophical
or sciel1tific, and ethical action is just action in conformity with truth.
To the extent that morality does not follow from such knowledge, it is
just obedience to rules. Thus, where IZant and n1any of his Sllccessors
saw in practical knowledge a key area in which n1an might transcend his
finitude, Maimon saw only convention. This is a doctrine that Maimon
also explained in his commentary to Maimol1ides' discussion of moral
knowledge of good and evil as expressing social or conventional rules
(mefursamot) as opposed to theoretical truths:
I(now that the true good is the attainlnent of perfection [qinyan ha-
shelemut], that is to say the passing from the potential to the actual.
And [true] evil is just the opposite ... and that is good and evil with
regard to itself [as opposed to with regard to society]. 50
Finally, when Maimon discusses the possibility of actually attaining the
perfect knowledge that we desire, he acknowledges that it would entail
losing one's individual identity in the knowledge of, and participation
in, the greater whole. 51 This picture should be familiar, because it is, in
fact, an aln10st direct translation of the medieval Aristotelian scheme of
conjunction with the active intellect that he described as the doctrine
of "all philosophers" in his Hesheq Shelomo.
Nonetheless, Maimon again seems to adopt this Aristotelian system
only on a problematic basis. In his last published essay, "Der Mor~'ilis
cher Skeptiker," he describes the possibility of a fully articulated posi-
104 Chapter Three

tive ethical system as a so far unrealized and perhaps in1possible goal.


The IZantian moral philosopher and the moral skeptic are, in the end,
both like Moses as he gazed at the pron1ised land that he could not en-
ter: "I have caused you to see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross
over there" (Deuteronomy 34:4).52

The comparison of IZant to Moses, as another stern lawgiver, was not


original to Main10n, although biblical verses came to his lips with par-
ticular ease. 53 The cOlnparison was apt at the level of metaphysics and
epistemology as well. IZant had led philosophy out of its doglnatic
bondage, but only so far. It was unclear to his readers, and perhaps to
IZant at times as well, whether the critical systen1 was all the Inetaphysics
it was possible to have or whether it was really a prolegomenon to some
future system, which would answer questions it could not without
violating its strictures. Moreover, although Maimon was early among
those who had both entered into the spirit of the system and wanted to
improve on it, he was not alone. A whole generation of philosophical
work, culminating in that of Hegel, was ain1ed at fulfilling the task of
Joshua and bringing philosophy to the promised land ofa post-IZantian
idealism.
Each ofthe key figures in this history- Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, and
perhaps even the late IZant of the third Critique as well-followed Mai-
mon in identifying the stumbling block of the critical philosophy as its
irremediable dualism and sought to solve it through a development of
the idea of an intuitive intellect. IZant hin1self, who was impressed with
Maimon's Transcendentalphilosophie at precisely the n10ment he was fin-
ishing his Critique ofJudgment, suggested in that work that in our cog-
nition of the "unconditioned necessity" and purposiveness of nature,
we approach the activity ofintellectual intuition. 54
Schelling is often taken to be the first German Idealist to have ar-
gued that, as he wrote in r800, "intellectual intuition is the organ of all
transcendental thinking." 55 Although it is clear that Schelling read
Maimon, his emphasis on the role of intellectual intuition stemmed
from his reading of IZant's third Critique. Maimon's direct influence
on Schelling seems to have been minimal; nonetheless, it is important
to note that Maimon had both diagnosed IZant's dualist problem and
Gern1an Idealislll in a Maimonidean I(ey 105

offered (albeit ambivalently) a prescription tl~at crucially involved some


sort ofhun~an connection to intellectual intuition before IZant had even
finished vvriting his Critique ofJudgment. 56 Of course, it remains un-
clear whether this was a good idea, regardless of who thought of it
first, or whether it betrayed the fundan1ental tenets of Transcendental
Idealism-killing the patient, as it were, in an attempt to save him. 57
Maimon's iI1fluence on Johann Gottlob Fichte, who along with
Schelling, was the great historical intermediary between IZant and
Hegel, is much more clear. Fic11te acknowledged Maimon's influence on
more than one occasion. In a perhaps deliberately provocative letter to
Maimon's bitter philosophical rival, IZarl Leonhard Reinhold, he wrote:
My respect for Main10n's talents knows no bounds. I firmly believe
that he has completely overturned the entire IZantian philosophy as
it has been understood by everyone until now, including you. No
one noticed what he had done; they looked down at him froin their
heights. I believe that future centuries will mock us bitterly. 58
Academic politics aside, it is clear that Fichte was influenced both by
Main~on's skeptical attack on 1Zant's philosophy and by the key ele-
ments of his proposed solution, the idea of an infinite or intuitive in-
tellect and the necessity or task of the finite human intellect to strive
toward that infinite condition. The principal difference between Mai-
mon and Fichte, indeed the entire later tradition ofAbsolute Idealism,
is that Maimon sees mathematics as the paradigm of human knowledge
that is closest to the unconstrained spontaneity of an active intellect,
whereas Fichte sees it in precisely the moral realm that Maimon depre-
cated. 59 What is as unclear in Fichte, as it is in Maimon, is whether
Maimon is really propounding the extravagant doctrine that the thing-
in-itself, what is given, is somehow the unconscious product of the
spontaneous activity of the finite, human self. 60
The relation between Hegel and Maimon is less direct. I know of no
overt references to Maimon in Hegel's corpus. S. H. Bergman has
pointed to a passage in Hegel's Logic, in which he defends Spinoza's
philosophy as acosmism rather than pantheism, and claims that Mai-
mon was the first to make this distinction. 61 This Inay be, but even so,
it is not clear that Hegel took the distinctio11 directly from Maimon.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - --
106 Chapter Three

More significant is the extent to which Maimon's diagnosis and rejec-


tion of IZant's dualisln, his recuperation of Spinoza to revise IZant, the
substantive logic of his Principle of Determinability, and his talk of the
infinite intellect as a World Soul, all foreshadow important t11emes in
Hegel's philosophy. More speculatively, I think that the centrality of
the drive for intellectual perfection, Vollkolnenheit or shelemut ha-
nefesh, in Maimon's philosop11Y is suggestive of Hegel's later use of Bil-
dung. One notices, in particular, the way in which in several texts Mai-
mon pairs the intellectual perfection of t11e i11dividual with a sketch of
the history ofphilosophy. 62 Here, I an1 Sllre there was no il1flllence, but
there n1ay have been an interesting prelnonition on Maimon's part of
a radically different way for the finite and infinite intellects to make
cOl1tact, via the medium of history.
A Inajor difference between MaimOl1 and Hegel is the diffidence, or
ambivalence, with which Maimon proposed his form(s) of Absolute
Idealisn1. Nathan Rotenstreich made this POil1t vividly:
Maimon forn1ulated the progralTI of nineteenth century idealism
fully aware that the program could not be carried out. Nineteenth
century idealism ll1ay be described as a philosophical ll10vement which
endeavors, or dares, to undertake the execution of Maimon's program.
Idealism tries to abolish the sceptical boundary set by MailTIOn; it
attelTIpts to abolish the difference between finite consciousness and
infinite-divine consciousness. 63
It is possible, even likely, that Hegel read Maimon, even ifhe was not
deeply influenced by his writings as Fichte had been. It is clear, however,
that for the next halfcentury Maimon's German philosophical work was
rarely read or discussed and had little impact. Indeed, significantly, the
only philosophical work of Maimon's to be .reprinted in the century
after his death (insofar as the Lebensgeschichte cannot be considered a
philosophical book) was his Hebrew commentary to the Guide of the
Perplexed, GivaJat ha-Moreh, which served as an introduction to the
theories and terms of modern philosophy for several generations of
Hebrew readers and which was reprinted three times. 64 This neglect of
Maimon's German philosophical writings continued until the middle
of the nineteenth century, when he was "rediscovered" as one of the
German Idealism in a Main10nidean I(ey r07

founders of German Idealism by the historian of philosophy, Johann


Erdmann. 65 Wilhelm Diltheywas one ofthe first to state clearlyw11at has
become close to the standard account of Main10n's importance in the
early developlnent of German Idealisln:
Solomon Maimon deserves to be accorded the great distinction of
having introduced in justification of the IZantian interpretation, the
following principle that was later adopted by Fichte. The reason that
sensation arises in us as a given is that it is not produced in us as a
completely conscious process. Thus the "given" is only that whose
cause and origin are unknown to us. The given for the conscious ac-
tivities of the faculty of cognition COlnes as it were from without; they
simply find it as having arisen outside of them, as something that can-
not be resolved in them.... A thing-in-itself outside of consciousness
would be a non-entity, nonsense, a no-thing. 66
This, together with the neo-IZantian movement's call to go "back to
IZant" initiated a small revival ofinterest in Maimon, who, after all, read
IZant very closely if not, perhaps, loyally.67 His idea of the finite human
intellect as striving toward the infinite intellect as a kind of endless task
was congenial to the neo-IZantian version of Idealism, as was his em-
phasis on mathematics as the paradign1 of knowledge. Maimon's
thought has clear affinities to that ofthe Marburg School and Hermann
Cohen, who even propounded a silnilar theory of differentials. 68 Bllt
Maimon's influence on Cohen is a vexed issue, because Cohen himself
vigorously denied any such i11fluence. My own hypothesis is that this de-
nial had more to do with Maimon's disreputable nature as a heretic to-
gether wit11 his very un-Germanic character, which were likely to have
offended the great champion of Deutschtum und judentum, than it had
to do with the actual question of philosophical influence. 69 Certainly
close students of both Cohen and Maimon have found a great deal of
similarity.70
In any event, there has been a more or less small but steady stream
of philosophical work on Maimon ever since the neo-IZantian revival,
and that work has succeeded in making Maimon's texts available and in
clarifying many of their darker aspects. However, even those studies
that have acknowledged the u11deniable in1portance of Maimonidean
108 Chapter Three

philosophy for Maimon have often failed to take the full n1easure of this
influence. More important, they have not taken account of the way in
which, like Spinoza only more so, MailTIOn was not simply a n10dern
European philosopher whose cllrriculluTI was enhanced by certain clas-
sical Hebrew works of medieval philosophy. He has to be understood,
instead, as a philosopher who worked in two intellectual contexts: that
of medieval Jewish philosophy and that of modern German philosophy.
This allowed for a unique set of argun1ents and insights, as well as a
rather foreign style and genre of philosophical expression.
This double aspect of Maimon's thought also allows one to trace
the history of a philosophical idea within a single consciousness. In
Maimon's writings we can see how the medieval active intellect became
the World Soul of German Idealisnl, although the fit, as always with
Maimon, was not quite perfect. In th.e next chapter I explore the cultural
and psychological effects of the parallel process by which the ideal ofin-
tellectllal perfection, or shelemut ha-nefesh, became (albeit imperfectly)
the ideal of Bildung, in Maimon's autobiography. In fact, the tension be-
tween these ideals llnderlies much of the humor, pain, and blasphemy
that make Maimon's Lebensgeschichte such a fascinating book.
F0 u r From Shelomo ben Yehoshua
to Solomon Maimon
"I have left my nation, the land of Iny birth and Iny family in search
of the truth."
Solon10n MailnOI1, Salo1non Maimons Lebensgeschichte

In 1792, Karl Philipp Moritz introduced Maimon's autobiography as a


book that would attract all readers interested in the "way in which the
force of thought (Denkraft) can develop itself in a human mind even
under the most oppressive ofcirCllmstances" and suggested further that
what gives this book particular worth in yet another respect is its
nonpartisan and unprejudiced presentation of Judaism, of which one
can justifiably lllaintain that it is the first of its kind. It is, then espe-
cially at present, when the education [Bildung] and en.lightenment
[AufkliirungJ of the Jewish nation has become an object of reflection
in its own right, that it deserves attention of the first order. ... One is
transported by the author's narrative into the area alllong the people
where chance let him be born and reason let his spirit ripen to a level
of education that found no nourishment on this soil, and therefore
had to seek under foreign skies what had now become a necessity for
that education. 1

Salomon Maimons Lebensgeschichte was, indeed, both a book in which


Maimon described his own struggle for enlightenment a11d one that pre-
sented a striking picture of Jewish religion and culture at a crucial mo-
ment in the political process of Jewish emancipation. Although it was
hardly a "nonpartisan and unprejlldiced" (unparteiische und vorurteils-
freie) presentation ofJudaism, or ofanything else, it was an autobiogra-
phy that, like Rousseau's Confessions, clainled above all else to be candid.
Moritz was perceptive in recognizing that the unifying theme of Mai- 109
mon's Lebensgeschichte was "the desire for knowledge," although he
does not tell the reader (and perhaps did not himself understand) that
110 Chapter Four

this was a central concept for Maimon, with a long and complicated
philosophical genealogy, as well as a socially resonant personal an1bition.
The Jewish desire for secular knowledge, and the growing possibility
ofits satisfaction, was peculiarly relevant at this mon1ent in the German
Enlightenment when the question of the "education and enlighten-
ment of the Jewish nation" as a whole was indeed "an object of reflec-
tion." The word that I have translated as "education" is Bildung, which
also has the sense of cultivation or self-formation. In late eighteenth-
century Gerlnan discussions, the term Bildung came to express a con-
stellation of cultural ideals that underlay the forn1ation of both modern
German and German-Jewish identity. Although the exact contours of
the concept varied, depending on the writer, a certain set of attributes
to which the educated Burgher ought to aspire did emerge. These in-
cluded a clear command ofnascent modern German and its literature, a
modicum ofclassical learning, and adherence to a certain set ofaesthetic
and moral judgments, together with a kind of enlightened sociability
and a respectable profession. 2 A "raw" Polish Jew such as Maimon, to
use Herz's description, was, in language, manners, and dress, among
those who were often counted as paradigms of Unbildung-a prejudice
that Maimon's autobiography tended to confirm as well as belie. 3
As I argued in Chapter I, Maimon's autobiography takes on two tasks
that were not previously attempted in Jewish literary history and that
were rare in European literary history before the eighteenth century.4
The first task is the attempt, to use George Gusdorf's formulation, to
"reconstruct the unity of a life across time." 5 Maimon approaches his
life with the autobiographical conviction that there is a thematic and not
merely chronological unity to be found in his experiences. This is, to cite
another influential theorist of the genre, "the secret project of all auto,..
biography, the discovery of the order of a life." 6 This idea that a life can
be grasped (despite the author's being in the midst of it) in something
approximating its essential wholeness turns on the idea of the subject
possessing a unique and private individuality. In discovering this indi-
viduality' the alltobiographer justifies his, or her, life? The second task
Maimon undertakes in his Lebensgeschichte is to present that individllal-
ity to an anonymous reading public. The two tasks are not unrelated.
One justifies one's self to someone, and notions of privacy and publicity
From Shelomo ben Yehoshua to SOlOlTIOn MailTIOn III

necessarily come into being together. 111 the case of the modern Euro-
pean sense ofprivacy, Jiirgen Habermas has persuasively argued that the
Enlightenn1ent cultivation ofa private and unique individuality was "al-
ways already oriented towards a public." 8 The presentation of a private
selfwould seem to have reqllired a public reception.
Maimon was, of course, inspired by Rousseau's Confessions, which
had been published more than a decade earlier. The Lebensgeschichte
includes several allusions to Rousseau and the Confessions. A youthful
crime is referred to as "a theft a la Rousseau," Main10n is deliberately un-
apologetic in his depiction of his abandonment of his young wife and
family, and an aCCOllnt ofMain10nides' allegorical reading of the expul-
sion from Eden is described as "al1tirousseauische" in its failure to de-
pict Adam as a noble savage. Nonetheless, such allusions are very much
at the surface of the work, and Maimon, who was above all cerebral, is,
in many ways, a poor match for the author who wrote that the cause of
all his misfortunes was his "sensitive heart." He was more directly influ-
enced by 1(arl Philipp Moritz's autobiographical novel Anton Reiser,
which described Moritz's rise from ascetic pietism to enlightenment.
Neither the Confessions nor Anton Reiser, however, exhibits the key
feature of Maimon's autobiography, which is that it is a presentation of
both himself and the culture from which he had become alienated.
Indeed, it is precisely in this alienation from "my nation, the land of
my birth and my fan1ily in search of the truth" that Maimon finds his
identity.
The first chapters ofMaimon's autobiography were published in 1792
in Moritz's journal, the Gnothi Sauton oder Magazin zur Erfahrungssee-
lenkunde. The "Fragmente aus Ben Josuas Lebensgeschichte," which
began with a sociological sketch of the place ofJews in Poland al1d con-
tinued with episodes from Maimon's childhood, provided an account of
the life and struggle for enlightenment of a Polish Jew, at a moment of
intense public debate over the question of Jewish emancipation and at
a time, moreover, when Poland (and hence its Jewish population) was
undergoing partition by the German states and Russia.
In the late 1780s and early 1790S, the terms in which Jewish emanci-
pation was discussed in the German states had chal1ged. The enlight-
ened brief for Jewish rights, which had begun with Christian Wilhelm
112 Chapter Four

von Dohm's famous argument that the sin1ple removal ofthe disabilities
under which the Jews suffered wOll1d ilnprove their adlnittedly degraded
n10ral and social character, had evolved into an argllment in wl1ich the
terms of the excha11ge had been reversed. 9 Jewish advocates of enlight-
en111ent and emancipation, such as David Friedlander and Lazarus Ben..
david, argued that Jews ought first relinquish the "Jewish characteris-
tics" and invidious dogma that divided what Friedlander called (in a
term borrowed from Mendelssohn) the "Jewish colonies" from the rest
of society, before civil elnancipation could take place. lo In such argu-
111ents, the unenlightened Polish Jew began to figure as the epitome of
that which German Jewry had to overcome in order to enter modern so-
ciety.11 In short, they had to be worthy ofentrance into tl1e enlightened
ranks of the Bildungsbiirgertum.
Maimon's "fragn1ents" of "Ben Josua's life history" entered into this
debate by placing an engaging hun1an narrative of such a Jew and his
strivings for enlightenment next to the polemics and abstract analyses
of what would later be called the "Jewish question." This portrait was,
however, crucially ambivalent. Maimon both observed himself through
the eyes of Germans and sophisticated Berlin Jews, such as Friedlander
and Bendavid (both of whom had been patrons), and subverted this
perception through the repeated demonstration of his i11tellectual su-
periority and even the depths of the tradition that he rejected (and of
which they were comparatively ignorant).
This ambivalence can even be seen in the formal characteristics of
the narrative in the initial fragments, which were published anony-
mously and written in the third person. Although it was hinted that the
author and subject were identical, the "life history of Ben Josua" was
not yet framed as the remarkable childhood of a prominent Aufkliirer,
but rather of an obscure Jew who, in the somewhat comical darkness of
Poland, had struggled for enlightenment. 12
The form in which these first chapters were first published is worth
dwelling on for a moment. Although I have characterized them as
anonymous, this is not quite true. "Ben Josua" was, after all, Maimon's
patronymic, the name with which he was born and the name that he used
throughout his life in Hebrew contexts. Nonetheless, "Maimon" was
more than the German pseudonym of a Polish Jew; it was an achieved
Froin Sheloino ben Yehoshua to Solomon Main10n 113

(or ahnost achieved) identity within the pllblic sphere of the German
Enlightenn1ent. The distance, by turns ironic, ethnographic, and defen-
sive' between the narrator and the subject in these "FragInents," persists
even after Main10n has become the first-person voice of his Lebens-
geschichte. Maimon's narrative stance continues to oscillate between
confession and that ofa kind of beInused participant-observer.
There is, perhaps inevitably, a narrative distance that lies between the
first-person narrative voice ofthe autobiographer and the subject whose
life is described. 13 However, in Maimon's case, this distance also seen1S
to be an expression ofwhat W. E. B. DuBois fan10usly diagnosed as the
divided psyche of the minority thinker:
this double consciousness, this sense of always looking at oneself
through the eyes of others, of Ineasuring one's soul by the tape of
a world that looks on in an amused contempt and pity.14
In Maimon's case, and perhaps that of other Jews of his time and place,
we might also speak of a double alienation, both from the cultllre in
which he was raised and the one to which he aspired. It is Maimon's ac-
count of these alienations, the ways in which he did and did not achieve
Moritz's Aufklarung and Bildung, to which I now turn.

Moritz's introduction gave no notice of this crucial an1bigllity. Indeed,


it prepares the reader for neither the striking oddness nor the subtleties
of the Lebensgeschichte. Both features are on display in Maimon's own
preface to the second part of his autobiography, in which he wrote:
I am not, indeed, a great man; neither a world philosopher, nor a
comedian. I have never in IUy life suffocated a dozen mice with an air
pump, nor tortured frogs, nor n1ade anin1als dance with electricity.
But what of this? I love the truth and when a matter touches upon
the truth, I am not worried about a demon or its Grandmother. That
being the case, I have left my nation, the land of my birth and my
family in search of the truth.l 5
This passage, with its con1bination ofthe high a11d the low, is character-
istic of Maimon. Having previously cited Tere11ce's well-known dictum
that "I am a man, nothing human is alien to me" 16 in the original Latin,
he now ridicules the worldly philosophy of Enlightenment scientists,
114- Chapter Four

men such as fellow autobiographer Benjan1in Franldin, who are obsessed


with the mastery of n1erely empirical phenomena, and finally asserts
his own impartiality before enduring philosophical truth with a crude
proverb: "I aln not worried about a demon or its Grandmother" 17-all
in a Gerlnan prose style in which Yiddish is never very far from the
surface.
Main10n's rejection of scientific experin1ents and technological con-
trol for a more classical and contemplative ideal ofmetaphysical truth is,
as I have shown, central to his philosophy. It is also central to his auto-
biography. However, what is important for the moment is the hybrid
style in which this preference is declared. The allusiveness ofthat style is
especially importal1t in the final sentence of the passage. In speaking of
leaving his nation, homeland, and family, Maimon deliberately invokes
God's call to the patriarch Abraham: "Get you out ofyour land, and your
birth place and the house ofyour father" (Genesis 12 : I). Here, Maimon
is both translating (as he often is) and secularizing: from the biblical
me-artzekha u-me-moladatekha u-mi-beit avikha to the German meine
Nation) mein Vaterland) und meine Familie. 18 The allusion, however, is
not merely biblical, for it implicitly invokes the Main10nidean figuring
of Abraham as the first philosopher, whose alienation from his native
culture was a prerequisite for the philosophical attainment ofmonothe-
ism. 19 The irony is that Maimon's story is one ofmovement in the other
direction, away from the faith of his forefathers, although, of COllrse, it
is not really that simple.

Maimon's Lebensgeschichte is alternately confessional, picaresque, eth-


nographic, and philosophical, but what makes it a distinctively modern
autobiography is-to return to our earlier discussion-Maimon'sin-
sistence on finding the order in his life. Maimon found this unifying
narrative of his life, as I have suggested, in his exile from "n1Y nation,
the land of my birth and my family" in pursuit of a philosophical ideal.
In order to understand Maimon's text, then, we have to understand the
nature of that ideal (which was not quite the same as Moritz's Bildung
und Aufklarung) , the culture that he left (or at least his representation
of that culture), and the relationship between the two. That is to say,
Maimon's autobiography is an answer, through hi~~~~~~s~~!"!~t_~l~JY
FrOITI ShelolTIO ben Yehoshua to SOlOITIOn Main10n 115

of the question of Jewish fitness for Enlighteninent and civil emanci-


pation but also to the more general bllt not unrelated question, What
is Enlightenment?
Maimon begins his autobiography with a socioeconoinic sketch of
his nation and his homeland. "The inhabitants of Poland," he begins,
"may be reasonably divided into six classes: the sllperior nobility, the
inferior nobility, the half-noble, burgl1ers, peasants and Jews." Accord-
ing to Main10n, only the last two of these classes are eco110Inically use-
ful, namely, the peasants and the Jews, who attend to agriculture and
the professions and small business, respectively.20
The Jews of Poland are, Maimon says, afforded free exercise of their
religion, but this does not exempt them froin the 1110St barbarous forms
ofl1atred (he will later describe a supposed blood libel, directed against
his grandfather). The paradoxical nature of this situation is to be ex-
plained by the fundamental backwardl1ess of Poland. Maimon writes:
The religious and civil liberty [of the Jews in Poland] ... does not
have its source in any respect for the universal rights of mankind;
while on the other hand the religious hatred and persecution are by
no means the result of a wise policy designed to remove what is injuri-
ous to morality and the welfare of the state. Both phenomena result
from the political ignorance and laziness prevalent in the country.
With all their defects the Jews are almost the only useful inhabitants
in the country.21

Maimon's insistence on the l111ique "usefulness" of Polish Jewry reflects


the tern1S of the debate over Jewish emancipation in both Germany and
Poland as well as the economic rivalry that existed between Polish
Burghers and Jews. Despite this advocacy, one notes that Maimon im-
plies that a state policy that reformed Jewish religion and character in
some unspecified ways would be both "wise" and socially justified. This
implication is underlined by his schematic description of the internal
Jewish social order, which is, in its way, as irrational as that ofthe greater
Polish society in which it is to be foul1d.
The Jews, in turn, may be divided into three classes: the unlearned
working people, those who make learning their profession, and
those who completely devote themselves to learning without any
116 Chapter Four

remunerative profession, being supported by the working people. To


the second class belong the chief rabbis, preachers, judges, school-
teachers and others of silnilar profession. The third class consists of
those who, by their pre-eminent abilities and learning attract the re-
gard of the unlearned, are taken by them into their families, married
to their daughters and supported for some years with wife and chil-
dren. Mterwards, however, the wife is obliged to take upon herself
the support of the holy idler and the children (who are usually very
numerous); and for this, as is natural, she thillks a good deal of
herself. 22
This sudden, vivid digression from sociological generalization to em-
bittered autobiography with which this passage ends is not a stylistic
aberration. Rather, it prefigures the story Maimon is about to tell, for
he was precisely one of those whose intellectual abilities entitled him
to the status of"holy idler." 23 Indeed, the casual reference to the wives
of such men is an implicit reference to his own wife and their troubled
relations, and the parenthetical reference to "numerous" children is
as close as Maimon gets to describing the size of his own abandoned
fan1ily. Moreover, despite his retrospective class analysis, Maimon never
seems to have given up the idea that someone else ought to support his
studies, although the identity of the patron and the nature of those
studies changed.
In his autobiography, Maimon sketches a picture of a brutally irra-
tional socioeconon1ic system enforced by tradition, privilege, and
sloth. His real ire, however, is reserved for the textual culture that
thrived within this system. This textual culture is also an expression of
a kind of despotic irrationality, although a note of pride and even long-
ing is often sounded in Maimon's descriptions. This despotism of the
learned and those who have some pretension to it is central, in Mai-
mon's account, to the place of Talmud in traditional Jewish society.
Thus the Talmud scholar is not only the matrimonial prize but also the
most honored member of the community. Maimon writes:
If he enters an assenlbly-be he of any age or rank-everyone rises
before him most respectfully and the most honorable place is assigned
to him. He is director of conscience, lawgiver and judge of the
common man. 24
Fron1 Shelomo ben Yehoshua to Solomon Maimon 117

It is against the background of such descriptions that Maimon's tales


of his enlightenment must be read.

Maimon begins his account of his education in the third chapter of his
autobiography with a dialogue between himself and his father, over the
opening lines of Genesis.
In my sixth year my father began to read the Bible with me.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
Here I interrupted my father, and asked, "But Papa, who created
God?"
F: God was not created by anyone, He existed from all eternity.
I: Did he also exist ten years ago?
F: Oh yes, He even existed one hundred years ago.
I: Then maybe God is already a thousand years old?
F: Silence! God is eternal.
I: But he must have been born some time?
F: No little fool! He was forever and ever and ever.
I was not satisfied with this answer, but I thought, "Papa must know
better than I, so I must leave it at that." 25

Maimon immediately follows this little scene ofinstruction with a dense


philosophical digression, which quickly leads from a discussion of the
relationship between the faculties of llnderstanding and imagination
(Einbildungskraft) in childhood to the IZantian critique ofthe category
ofa cause, and finally to Maimon's own idealist revision ofIZant in which
such notions figure as "fictional" regulative ideas. The discussion is sub-
stantively and stylistically characteristic of Maimon in the way it moves
both from a biblical verse to epistemological theory and from broad
comedy to scholastic precision in a few lines. For the moment what is
important is the plausibility of the anecdote,which itself bears a certain
air of the fictional, as the Israeli literary critic Pinchas Lahover once
noted. 26
Although the problem ofinfinity is often among a child's first philo-
sophical puzzlements, there is a staged sense to this dialogue between
the dogmatic father and his inqllisitive S011, which is only increased by
the fact that the issue of infinite series was central to Maimon's mature
118 Chapter Four

philosophical thought. More telli11g is the fact (with which Main10n's


German audience would have been unlikely to be fan1iliar) that Jewish
boys were traditionally initiated into biblical studies with the divine in-
struction on ritllal sacrifice, which begins the book of Leviticus, rather
than with the act of creation with which Genesis begins. 27
Maimon's narration of his progressive alienation from tradition be-
gins with this dubious dialogue and unfolds in several discrete episodes.
In the same chapter, titled "Private Edllcation and Independent Study,"
Maimon writes of his discovery of both art and science, and the way in
which his desire for each was frustrated.
From childhood on I had the inclination and skill for drawing. In my
father's house, to be sure, I never had the opportunity to see a prod-
uct of the drafts111an's art, but I did find woodcuts of foliage, birds,
and the like on the title pages of Hebrew books. These afforded me
great pleasure and I sought to copy them with a bit of chalk or char-
coal. What however strengthened this inclination in Ine still more
was a Hebrew book of fables, in which the characters-the animals-
,vere represented in sin1ilar woodcuts. I copied all the figures with the
greatest exactness. My father ad111ired my skill but rebuked me at the
same time, saying: "Do you wish to become a painter? You 111USt study
the Talmud and become a rabbi. Whoever understands the Talmud
understands all." 28

We ought to note that Maimon's father's question is presented as rhe-


torical: There were, perhaps, a few Jewish painters in eighteenth-century
Poland who specialized in synagogue interiors, but it was not a profes-
sion for the brilliant son of a talmid hakham. 29 This was in accordance
with the same set of Halakhic strictures on image making that Inade it
obvious that there would be no representative art in his father's house. 30
Moreover, the opposition between the textual world of the Talmud,
which contains everything-or at least everything worth knowing-
and aesthetic enjoyment is a classical rabbinic theme, epitomized by the
well-known statement in PirqeiAvot:
One who walks on the road while studying and interrupts his studies
to remark "how beautiful is this tree," or "how beautiful is this field,"
is considered by Scripture as one who has forfeited his life. 31
FraIn Shelomo ben Yehoshua to Solomon Mailnon 119

Such rabbinic interests are, here as elsewhere, crucial to understanding


Maimon's Lebensgeschichte. More important here, however, is the way
in which Maimon represents himself as having discovered representa-
tional art. It is, in the first place, from just the sort of rabbinic books
that his father prescribed, but only their most incidental and almost
nontextual features, namely the title pages. 32 The "book offables" that
Maimon mentions as his second source of inspiration was very likely
Mashal ha-Qadmoni, which was a leading instance of a genre of adap-
tations of midrashim and folktales for children. 33 Such books were held
in contelnpt by Talmudic scholars, such as Maimon's father, as trivial
diversions from true textual learning. Maimon learns of art, then, from
books, but only from their most incidental features, or from books that
are themselves at the n1argin of his textual world. Moreover, Maimon
does not suggest that he went on from t11is to attempt sketches of the
Lithuanian countryside. Indeed, whether Maimon realizes it or not,
there is the added irony that he too does not think to move beyond the
margins of the text to attempt to represent the world at large.
Maimon's description of his discovery of astronomy (if not of stars)
continues the epistemological theme.
In his study my father had a cupboard filled with books, but he for-
bade me to read any but the Talmud. But prohibitions were of no
avail. ... There was a Hebrew chronicle entitled Zemah David by a
sensible chief rabbi in Prague named David Gans, as well as an astro-
non1ical work by the same author ... who had enjoyed the distinc-
tion of acquaintance with Tycho Brahe.... Think of a small child of
about seven, situated as I was, with an astronomical work thrown in
his way and exciting his interest. I had no notion of the first elements
of Inathematics ... nor even if he would have been willing to do so
could my father have enlightened me. How must the spirit of a child,
thirsting for lmowledge, have been inflamed by such a discovery! 34
The astronomical treatise by R. David Gans was titled Nehmad ve-
Naim. Gans was a sixteenth-century Prague scholar, a student of the
famous Maharal of Prague, who had indeed enjoyed a relationship with
lycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler and consequently had served as a
model of early modern Ashkenazi enlightenment for Maimon and
others of his generation. 35
120 Chapter Four

Maimon goes on to describe, how after a day of studying Taln1ud he


would sneak off at night to study Gans's book in secret. Mter several
evenings he comes upon a diagralTI of the celestial spheres, about which
the author made the sensible advice, that, since the manifold circles
could not be represented in a plane figure except by straight lines, he
should ... nlake for himself either an ordinary globe or an armillary
sphere. 36
Maimon follows this advice, making a rudimentary lTIodel of the solar
systen1 from twisted rods and hiding it behind the cupboard. When
Maimon's father discovers this model, his n1ain reaction is astonishment
that "the figure on the page could possibly represent the sphere he held
in his hand." 37 That is to say, Maimon's father, who had apparently ac-
quired this book and hid it becallse of a certain interest with the natural
world, still cannot imagine that a book could point to something out-
side the flat world oftexts. Maimon's discovery ofboth art and scie11ce-
the empirical world outside the text-were, then, discovered precisely
in books. But the relationship to these books would seen1 to be a pro-
foundly ambivalent one.
This ambivalence is intensified in the episodes of enlightenment that
follow, his first encounters with the German language and with
n10dern philosophy. Here, then, is Maimon's well-know11 account of
his first adolescent steps toward learning German, his language of
Enlightenment:
At last a fortunate accident came to my help. I observed in some stout
Hebrew volumes that they contained several alphabets, and that the
number of their signatures was indicated not Inerely by Hebrew let-
ters, but that for this purpose the characters of a second and third
alphabet had also been enlployed, these, being commonly in Latin
and German. Now I had not the slightest idea of printing.... I pre-
sumed, however, that the characters which stood in corresponding
places must represent one and the same letter, and as I had already
heard something of the order of the alphabet in these languages, I
supposed that, for example, a, standing in the same place as aleph,
must likewise be an aleph in sound. In this way I gradually learned the
Latin and German characters. By a kind of deciphering German letters
into words; but as the characters corresponding to the Hebrew letters
From Shelomo ben Yehoshua to Solomon Maimon 121

might be son1ething quite different I was always in doubt whether


the whole of my labor in this operation might be in vain, till fortu-
nately a few pages of an old German book fell into my hand. I began
to read. 38
Here, as in the case of his youthful encounter with art, Maimon learns
from an encounter with the rabbinic books, but only from their most
contingent, nontextual features. In this case the objects of scrutiny are
not even intended for the reader; rather, they are printer's marks, placed
inconspicuously in the bottom margin, for the assembly of the leaves in
the proper order before binding. Indeed, Maimon's reasoning here does
not turn on textual interpretation ofany sort but rather on a kind ofem-
pirical hypothesis about the correlation between alphabets. Note, more-
over, the way in which his hypotheses are confirmed by "a few pages of
an old German book [which] fell into my hand," that is, by a few scraps
torn from a book whose actual topic is irrelevant.
Finally, let us examine Maimon's account of his first encounter with
modern philosophy. This incident takes place after Maimon has finally
made his successful entry into Berlin, on his second attempt.
By chance I went into a butter shop one day, and found the dealer in
the act of anatomizing [anatomieren] a somewhat old book for the
use of his trade. I looked and found to Iny astonishment, that it was
Wolff's Metaphysics) or the Doctrine of God) of the World) and ofMan)s
Soul. I could not understand how in a city as enlightened as Berlin
such important works could be treated in so barbarous a fashion.
I turned to the dealer and asked if he would not sell the book. He
was ready to part from it for two groschen. Without thinking long
about it I paid the price at once, and went home delighted with my
treasure. 39
Maimon immediately reads the text, feverishly composes a Hebrew
commentary in refutation of the book, which contested Wolff's use of
the Principle ofSufficient Reason to establish God's existence, and com-
pared the system to the Aristotelian metaphysics of Main10nides. He
then sends the manuscript to Mendelssohn, who invites him to visit.
Maimon's appearance in Mendelssohn's circle was his first great secular
success, his first moment in the sphere of German Enlightenment.
122 Chapter Four

Maimon's learning of both German and German philosophy contin-


ues the ambivalence about texts and textual study that I noted in Mai-
mon's account ofhis discovery ofart and natural science. These are mo-
ments ofviolence against a text-moments when the particularity, the
physicality, of the text are revealed and instrumentalized. That is, in the
case oflearning to read German, knowledge is gotten not froll1 the body
of the text but at its margil1s, and not from the words of the author but
fron1 the marks of the printer. The linguistic knowledge extrapolated
froiTI this is then confirmed by torn scraps ofGerman prose. The second
case is, if anything, even more striking. This brutal blItcher of a butter
ITIaker is actually "anatomizing" Wolff's philosophical text, dismember-
ing its parts, to lIse them in their grossest material aspect, as wrapping
paper. This is an act that, Maimon, will, in a certain sense, repeat in his
point-by-point refutation. These events are historically unverifiable, and
their veracity is not really the point. Rather, they should be connected
to Maimon's account of unenlightened Talmudic culture on the one
hand, and the ineradicably exegetical character of his own writing on
the other, a characteristic that both Maimon and his contemporaries
recognized.
When these passages of, and to, Enlightenment are strung together,
they amount to a narrative of how Maimon learned science and the lib-
eral arts by persistently removing himself from the body of the text. But
not so very far. He n10ves to the margins, title pages, to scraps and re-
mains of books, but he never removes himself from them entirely. He
does not, as I noted earlier, sketc11 the countryside, nor does he gaze at
the stars themselves or learn German by speaking to traveling merchants.
Main1on's account of these merest of "chances" and most "fortu-
nate" of curricular accidents have often been repeated. Thus, to take
just one example, Moses Hadas, the editor of the popular abridged
English edition of the Autobiography, echoes Maimon himself when
he writes:
Think of a child learning astronomy by means of an arn1illary sphere
that he had himself secretly contrived! Think of learning foreign lan-
guages from the printers alphabet on successive signatures of bound
Hebrew books! 40
FrOIn Shelomo ben Yehoshua to Solon1on Maimon 123

Such remarks help celebrate Maimon's undollbtable, if, perhaps, exag-


gerated genius, while ignoring the cll1tural and rhetorical significance
of these accounts. It should be noted that in each of these pivotal epi-
sodes ofenlightenment a profound an1bivalence about texts and textual
knowledge is expressed.
Maimon's autobiograp11ical descriptions of enlightenment suggest
both a parricidal rage against the textual culture of his fatherland, and,
as, perhaps, with all such conflicts, a11 inability to escape them. Here is
Maimon's rage at full force:
And what can I say regarding the monstrous number of books that
concern laws that are no longer practiced.... The pen falls from IllY
hand as I recall tll-at I, and many like me, spent our best years, when
the faculties are the strongest in this intellectually spirit-deadening
business [geistestotenden GeschaftJ, staying up at nights attempting to
bring meaning where there was no Illeaning; exercise our wit to dis-
cover contradictions were there were none; use our acumen to remove
them were they were obviously to be met; grasp at shadows through a
long chain of inferences, build castles in the air.41

Main10n's lament that "the pen falls from his hand" should be n1arked.
It would seem to be precisely the memory of the spirit-deadening
business of Talmudic study that threatens Maimo11's ability to write. In
another description of his early life Maimon wrote:
My life in Poland, from the tiIlle of my marriage and emigration, a
period in which I possessed my fullest strength, was a series of
diverse miseries, lack of all that could support my development, and
a waste of energy that necessarily followed from it. The quill falls
from my hand at its description and I seek to squelch my painful
recollection. 42
Jean Starobinski, one of the great critics of the genre, has called atten-
tion to phrases such as "the hand that holds the pen" as tokens of the
problematic but crucial identification between author and protagonist
in autobiography.43 In Maimon's case the men10ry of his cultllral and
geographic origins would appear to threaten precisely this identifica-
ti011. That is to say, the memory of Poland, his studies, and his young
family-the "nation, birthplace and fan1ily" that Maimon had aban-
124 Chapter Four

doned "in search ofthe truth"-ahnost literally deprive hin1 ofhis iden-
tity as an author of Germa11 prose, a participa11t in the public sphere of
Enlightenment reason.
What, then, was Main10n doing in repeatedly removi11g hilTIselffron1
the text, as it were, in his tales of Enlightenment? And how is this to be
connected with the dissociative way in which Maimon describes his
earlier self and his hOlTIe culture?
What is crucial to understand is that, in a certain, very real sense, the
homeland from which Main10n exiled himself was as mllch, or more, a
set of texts together with an interpretive commllnity, as it was a geo-
graphic location.
In this textual culture, a rabbinic scholar was inevitably kl10wn not by
his given name but by the title of his first or most influential book. One
can hear the effects ofthis practice in the passage cited earlier, when Mai-
lTIOn is unable to name the author of the astronomical treatise, Nehmad
ve-Naim, which he had read as a child without mentioning the title of
Gans's other, more influential book, Zemah David, for which, and by
which, he was known. 44 But this identification ofthe man with the book
was not just a matter of rabbinic authorial conceit. As Maimon himself
relTIarks, "I11deed, every rabbi ifhe possesses sufficient acuteness, is to be
used as a living COlTImentary."45
There is an old Yiddish idiolTI in which a good Jewish boy, in partic-
ular, a Talmlldic prodigy sllch as MailTIOn, is called a Sefer Torah, that is,
a scroll ofthe law, a Bible. Ifsuch a child fulfills his promise in adulthood,
then he "wears the crown of Torah" and one is obligated to rise before
him wl1en he walks into a room just as one would for a Sefer Torah. 46
Main10n was such a child and, briefly before his heretical turn, such a
man. There was, in fact, a dense web ofrabbinic, and in particular Ashke-
nazi, cultural practices, idioms, a11d expectations that all tend to identify
the Jewish man with the Torah at key ritual moments. 47 In the insight-
ful forn1ulation of Harvey Goldberg, such ritllals identify the propaga-
tors of Jewish biological and cultural reproduction. 48 Claude Levi-
Strauss famously spoke of "things which are good to think with" in a
given cultllre. 49 I would suggest that in the Ashkenazi culture from
which Maimon came, among those things were books, even in nonelite
culture and even in their material aspects.
From ShelolTIO ben Yehoshua to SOlOlTIOn Mainl0n 125

In an iI1teresting essay, the critic Michael Warner has argued that par-
ticipation in the eI1lightened discourse of the public sphere required of
its participants a peculiarly Inodern kind of self-abstraction. He writes:
The Public Sphere calls for a rhetoric of disincorporation in two senses:
renl0ving one's selffrOln a particular corporation and renl0ving one's
selffroln one's own corporeal body.50
For a Jew like Maimon, the assall1t on textlIality constituted the requi-
site disincorporation in both senses: both froln his Jewish body, which
he identified with the body of the text (the Torah), and from the cor-
porate entity of the Jewish people wllo were constituted precisely by
their relationship to this text. And yet one of the interesting features of
Mainl0n's writing is the extent to which he is incapable of effecting this
disincorporation, of shedding his origins and the exegetical consciollS-
ness that accompanies them.
One can also see Maimon's anxiety over his origins operating in the
Lebensgeschichte, even when he is not studying mlltilated texts and the
peI1 is not falling from his hand. Thus, Mainlon often makes reflexive
and spurious allllsions to classical literature at lTIOments when he is de-
scribing his previolls life, especially the texts and learning that were at
the center of that life. Thus when he describes the brutality of his Heder
teacher, Maimon underlines his own cll1tlIral distance froln the scene.
The master, sits at the table in a dirty blouse and holds between
his knees a bowl in which he grinds tobacco into snuff with a huge
pestle like the club ofHercules, while at the saIne tinle he ,;yields his
authority. 51

Elsewhere in the text, Main10n ironically describes the figure of a


young talmid hakham SllCh as himself as "a kind of a Phoenix" and his
mother-in-law as "Xanthippe-like." 52 In each case the allusion func-
tions to ironically distance the narrator from his earlier self. Such awk-
ward and literarily uninteresting classical allusions should be cOlnpared
to MailTIOn'S genuinely original and entirely natural use of biblical
verses, such as Abrahan1's call in Genesis 12: I, in which he manages to
be both parodic and serious, while activating a whole set of exegetical
intertexts. 53
*
126 Chapter Four

If, in leaving "the land of his birth," Main1011 was leaving a textual cul-
ture as much as the geographic area of Lithuania, what was his destina-
tion? Here his answer was the same as it was in the cover letter he had
sent to I(ant along with his Transcendentalphilosophie, and just as un-
equivocal: "the truth." Maimon's idea of the trut11 was, as I have shown
in the previous two chapters, some version of the Aristotelian notion of
the eternal propositions held in the n1ind of God, or at least the active
intellect. This, needless to say, is not quite the same as the Bildung and
Aufklarung that Moritz described as Maimon's ultimate goal. This
leads to an interesting set of tensions, for Moritz was at one with both
Maimon's patrons and readers in presuming that Bildung, convention-
ally understood, was, or ought to be, his ultimate goal. Few, ifany, com-
mentators have noted the extent to which the narrative of Maimon's
autobiography is oriel1ted toward a more excillsively intellectual and
philosophically austere goal. Maimon's Solomonic desire for intellectual
perfection is as important to the emplotment of his Lebensgeschichte as
Augustine's Neoplatonic desire for God is for the Confessions.
The common failure to note the intellectual perfectionism that is at
the heart of Maimon's text is not becallse it is hidden. On the contrary,
Maimon places ten chapters that limn Maimonides' entire system in
the form of a classic medieval epiton1e at the very cel1ter of his autobi-
ography. He tells the reader that he does so because Maimonides' phi-
losophy exercised "the most decisive influence" on his life. 54 This as-
sertion has been effectively ignored by Maimon's modern editors, who
have relegated the chapters to appendixes or excised them altogether,
together with most other theoretical excurses. Maimon's English trans-
lator, J. Clark Murray, notes that these chapters are not "biographical"
and "excite just the faintest suspicion of 'padding,'" so he does not
include them at all. 55
This attitude is somewhat reminiscent of that displayed by the
English editor of Gliickel of Hameln's Memoirs, who writes that his
edition is "complete save for an abridgement ofGluckel's theologizing,
the omission ofa few ofher borrowed tales.... Nothing has been omit-
ted of her own experience." 56 The presumption here, that Gluckel's
Judisch- Deutsch rendition of Ellropean tales and her "theologizing"
were not aspects of her experience, presupposes, first, that experience is
From Shelomo ben Yehoshua to SOlOlTIOn Maimon 127

what the reader is after and, second, that we would know what experi-
ence consisted in before engaging with the full autobiographical text.
Maimon's modern editors, it seems to me, have made a similar mistake.
A proper understanding of MailTIOn and l1is autobiography must come
to grips with the fact that he placed a ten-chapter epitome of Mai-
n10nidean philosophy at its very center.
However, in arguing my case for intellectual perfection as the gov-
erning ideal of the Lebensgeschichte, I focus on the vvay in which this
ideal is crucial to understanding three important narrative episodes.
The first is Maimon's description of his interaction with Mendelssohn
and his other enlightened Jewish patrons. The second is an odd en-
counter with a Lutheran minister in which he makes a rather preSllll1p-
tuous proposal to convert. The third is ostensibly not about Maimon
at all but rather the odd and comic allegory of the history of philoso-
phy as a masked ball with which Maimon ends his autobiography.
These three episodes should be placed with Main10n's description of
early Hasidism as a genuine VOllkomenheitssystem as well as his repeated
descriptions of both his work and his life as striving toward intellectllal
perfection. What they show is that Main10nides' philosophy lies at the
center of Maimon's autobiography because it is its interpretive key.57
Since I have discussed aspects of the first two episodes earlier, in Chap-
ters I and 2, I will discuss them more briefly here.
When Maimon describes his first expulsion from Berlin at the
Rosenthaler Gate, he remarks that the attitude of the German rabbinic
establishment toward Jews such as himself who were seeking rational
enlightenment was, in a certain sense, justified.
They believe this to be especially true of the Polish Rabbis, who, having
by some lucky accident been delivered from the bondage of supersti-
tion, suddenly catch a gleam of the light ofreason and set themselves
free from their chains. And this beliefis to some extent well-founded.
Persons in such a position may be con1pared to a man who after being
famished for a long time suddenly comes upon a well-spread table, and
attacks the food with violent greed, and overfills himself. 58
Maimon's choice of a sumptuary simile is, perhaps, revealing. Such
"raw" Polish Jews (to return to Herz's de~~il?~i~El!e_~s_gl~~t9!191.1~ _
128 Chapter Four

and uncouth in their desire for knowledge as they were at the table, or
at least Maimon was.
MailTIon records several conversations with Mendelssohn that raised
precisely these issues of moderation and the desire for knowledge
during his second, and somewhat n10re successful, visit to Berlin. In
some of these conversations he C011trasts his own allegiance to the Mai-
monidean ideal of intellectual perfection to Mendelssohn's position:
The inlnl0rtality of the soul for lne (following MailTIonides) consisted
in union with the universal World Soul [dem allgemeinen WeltgeisteJ
of that part of the faculty of knowledge which has been brought into
actuality, in proportion to its degree of actuality; in accordance with
this doctrine I held that only those who occupy themselves with
eternal truths participate in this ilTIlTIOrtality, and only to the degree
which they do so. The soul with its attainment of this high immortal-
ity lnust lose its individuality. That Mendelssohn, following lnodern
[WolffianJ philosophy thought otherwise, everyone will readily
believe. 59
Maimon n1ay be suggesting that, although "everyone will readily be-
lieve" that Mendelssohn subscribed to the doctrille of the immortality
of the individual soul-he had, after all, written his most successful
book in its defense-Mendelssohn privately concurred with Maimon's
radical Mainlonideanism. In any case, MaimOl1's exclusive interest in
the theoretical truths that afforded the only immortality he thought
available gave Maimon little appetite for the belles lettres and artistic
interests pursued by Mendelssohn and his circle. In another conversa-
tion he records Mendelssohn's gentle attempts to civilize him through
aesthetic edllcation:
Once when I was going on a stroll with Mendelssohn, the topic arose
of when I would read the poets he recoffilnended. I replied: "No, I
will read no poets; what is a poet but a liar?" Mendelssohn smiled at
this and said: "You agree with Plato who banished the poets from his
Republic. But I hope that with time you will think entirely otherwise
on the subject. And so it happened soon." 60

Maimon writes that he went on to read Longinus's On the Sublime and


writes with special fervor about his enjoym~f!:!_cif_GgJ1l~n_tr~n~atiQl1s_-
FrOln 5he101110 bel1 Yehoshua to 5010111011 Mai111011 129

of the great eighteenth-centllry forgery, the poetry of Ossian. 61 How-


ever he did not pursue this aesthetic education systematically, or with
much fervor.
Mendelssohn and my other friends were uncomlnonly pleased at this
change. They wished me to devote n1yself regularly to the hUlnanities
[humanoriaJ as without these a lnan can hardly n1ake his intellectual
products [Geistesprodukten ] of use to the world. But it was very hard
to convince lne of this. 62

Instead of pursuing the refined pleasures of the humanoria, Maimon


recounts his turn to an enthllsiastic enjoyment of less literary forms of
"the good and the beautiful," 'Nith, l1e says, "an enthusiasil1 which over-
stepped all boundaries." 63 Main10n's exuberant discovery of the less re-
fined pleasures ofBerlin was not what Mendelssohn, Herz, and his other
patrons had in Inind, but it was not their only disappointlnent. Although
he read prodigiollsly, Maimon also failed to take up any other regular,
systematic form ofStlldy, which might have led to him being ofsome use
to society.
Then someone proposed that I should learn pharmacy, and since I
had already some acquaintance with physics and chemistry, I con-
sented. My object in this was not to make any practical use of n1Y at-
tainments, but ll1erely to acquire theoretical k11owledge. Accordingly,
instead of setting to with my own hands, and thereby acquiring
expertise in the art, I merely observed important chemical processes.
In this way I learned pharn1acy without ever becon1ing a pharmacist.
Mter three years, Madame Rosen, in whose shop I was apprenticed,
was duly paid the fee of sixty thalers by Herr J. D. I received a certifi-
cate that I had perfectly mastered the art of pharmacy and this ended
the matter. This too, however, served to alienate my friends. 64
It should be noted that in disdai11ing the practical application of his sci-
entific studies, Maimon was remai11i11g entirely true to his repeatedly
restated aspiration to attain the contemplative ideal of theoria. The pas-
sage records the imperfect match between Maim011's version of the
Hebrew philosophical ideal ofperfection and the social ideal of Bildung
that prevailed in enlightened Berlin. This discrepancy was, in part,
a difference between the elite individualism implied by the radical
130 Chapter Four

Mailnonidean ideal of shelemut ha-nefesh and the more practical and so-
cial ideal of Bildung, which emphasized finding one's place in the social
whole. Maimon's ultilnate goal was not, and never would be, to become
a Iniddle-class pharlnacist with an interest in philosophy, as, say Marcus
Herz was a philosophical physician and Mendelssohn himselfwas a busi-
nessman-philosopher. It was also a result ofMain10n's inability to accept
the consequences ofhis self-imposed exile from Lithuanian rabbinic cul-
ture. He seen1S to have acted as if he cOll1d discard the socioreligious
structure that Inade possible the institution ofthe talmid hakham with-
out relinquishing the status of the "holy idler" to which he had once
been entitled.
Maimon's spectacular failure to achieve the Bildung that his patrons
prescribed for him was too much. Mendelssohn himself felt con1pelled
to ask Maimon to leave Berlin, as recounted in Chapter I, and yet, what-
ever his regrets, Maimon's autobiography betrays no regrets about this
failllre, which, in addition to personal idiosy11crasy, was the result of his
adherence to the ideal of shelemut ha-nefesh and his disdain for the stric-
tures ofeither Halakha or enlightened society, which ll1ight have curbed
his gluttonous tendencies. He was, in short, immoderate in both realms,
like a starving man who "suddenly comes llpon a well-spread table, and
attacks the food with violent greed, a11d overfills himself."
Maimon's banishment from Berlin initiated another series of travels
in which Maimon managed to impress, insll1t, and alienate a series of
patrons in Holland and Hamburg. After his comical suicide attelnpt on
Purim, he c011sidered his predicament and options and decided that
the best course n1ight be conversion to Christianity. His account of this
predicament and his subsequent proposal is revealing and worth quot-
ing at something close to its full length:
I had grown too enlightened [aufgeklart] to return to Poland ... on
the other hand I could not count on success in Gerillany owing to my
ignorance of the n1anners and customs of the people, to which I had
never been able to adapt myself to properly. . . . I was not even master
of any particular language. It occurred to me therefore that there was
no alternative but to embrace the Christian religion Accordingly I
resolved to go to the first clergyn1an I came upon and inform him
of IllY resolution. But as I could not express Illyself well orally, I put
From ShelolTIO ben Yehoshua to Solomon Maimon 131

lny thoughts into writing in German with Hebrew characters, \vent to


a schooln1aster and got him to copy it into German characters... :
I aln a native of Poland, belonging to the Jewish nation, destined
by lny education and studies to be a rabbi; but in the thickest darkness
I have perceived SOlne light. This induced lne to search further after
light and truth, and to free lnyself completely fron1 the darkness of
superstition and ignorance. To this end, which could not be attained
in my native place, I came to Berlin, \vhere by support of SOlne en-
lightened men of our nation I studied for SOlne years, not indeed after
any plan, but lnerely to satisfy lny search for IU10wledge. But as our
nation is unable to use not only such planless studies but even those
conducted on the lnost perfect plan, it cannot be blalned for ... pro-
nouncing them useless. I have therefore resolved, in order to secure
temporal as well as eternal happiness [e1vige GliickseligkeitJ, which
depends on the attainment ofperfection [Erlangung der Vollkommen-
heitJ; and in order to become useful to myself as well as others, to
elnbrace the Christian religion. The Jewish religion, it is true, cOlnes
nearer to reason over the forlner, ... but in practical use [praktischen
GebrauchsJ the latter has an advantage over the former.... Moreover
I hold the mysteries of the Christian religion for that which they are,
that is allegorical representations of the truths that are most ilnportant
for man.... I therefore lTIOSt respectfully beg an answer whether after
this confession I am worthy of the Christian religion or not. 65

Needless to say, Maimol1's request is denied, although we ought to


note the historical context in which he n1ade it, or at least represented
himself to have n1ade it. Rumors that Mendelssohn himself might ac-
cept some such Soci11ian version of Christianity had swirled about En-
1ightenment circles for almost two decades. Moreover, Maimon sets
the time of his letter at the very moment dllring which Mendelssohn
was composing his reply to the anonylTIOUS challenge to convert by the
"Searcher after Light and truth," which was published as Jerusalem in
April 1783. Nor was Maimon's offer to convert to a den1ystified Chris-
tianity to be the last of its kind. In 1799, David Friedlander (a disciple
of Mendelssohn and patron of Maimon) made a similar offer to the lib-
eral Probst Teller of Berlin in 1799. Finally, I(ant envisio11ed a similar
answer to the Jewish question, which he understood his student
Lazarus Bendavid (a prominent n1ember of the same circle) to have also
132 Chapter Four

proposed. So Maimon's apparently farcical request has a specific and


recognizable social and historical context, which he nlay have even slyly
gestured at with his talk of "light and truth."66 But for Maimon the
context of philosophical theory was always the nl0st important.
When Maimon proposed conversion to achieve "temporal as well as
eternal happiness," he was offering a precise translation of a central
MailTIonidean doctrine. The doctrine was what Maimon called the "at-
tainment ofperfection" (Erlangung der Vollkommenheit), or qinyan ha-
shelemut, and was possible only under COllditions ofmaterial well- being.
MailTIOn took this argument to its radical extreme in proposing that only
conversion to Christianity could seCllre the former and hence the latter,
but his argument had precedent. As noted in Chapter 2, Ashkenazi crit-
ics of the Maimonidean tradition claimed that it was precisely such rea-
soning that weakened the resolve of the conversos under the Inqllisition.
Only a year before he wrote his autobiography (and eight years after
the actual letter, if we take it at face value), in his conlmentary to the
Guide of the Perplexed, Maimon discussed this doctrine:
I<now that the true Good is the attainment of perfection, I mean to
say the bringing of [one's] intellectual potential to actuality ... and
whatever is a means to this attainment is good in relation to it [i.e.,
the true Good]. 67

This is fully in line with Maimonides' doctrine. Indeed, in Guide 111:27,


which MailTIOn briefly summarized in his ten-chapter epitolTIe, Mai-
monides not only makes the distinction between material and intellec-
tual or spiritual perfection, just adduced, but also discusses the former
precisely in terms of membership in a well-ordered polis, which is of
course what Maimon was seeking in his application for conversion, a
MailTIonidean entry ticket to Ellropean civilization, one might say.68

The attempt to bring closure to an autobiography-to rOllnd offa life-


almost inevitably stands as a kind of narrative surrogate for the death of
its subject, which the author cannot possibly describe. The desire for
noetic perfection, which, as I have shown, animates Maimon's Lebens-
geschichte and almost all his work, was also understood to be a drive to-
ward death in the Inedieval Hebrew philosophical and mystical tradi-
From Shelomo ben Yehoshua to SOlOlTIOn Maimon 133

tions that he drew upon. Conjullction or cleaving (devequt) with either


the active intellect ofAristotelian philosophy or the Shekhina ofIZabbala
was represented as a kind of prophetic rapture and was tied to tIle ex-
egetical tradition of the "kiss of God," by which Moses, the greatest
prophet, and his siblings were said to have died. 69
As vve have seen, in his earliest extant writings Maimon worries over
their reconciliation and the relationship betweell the Shekhina of the
IZabbalists and the active intellect of the philosophers. His later radical
Main10nidean perfectionism underlies and structures both his auto-
biographical self-understanding and his technical revision of IZant's
philosophy.
However, in both cases, this philosophical doctrine is employed and
undercut in the same gesture: MaimOll understood his life to be a search
for noetic perfection but represented it as comical and ullfulfilled; the
desire for knowledge was to be understood as a necessary striving toward
the infinite intellect, but it is not clear that there actually is such an en-
tity. The final chapter of Maimon's Lebensgeschichte brings these philo-
sop11ical themes together with MailTIOn'S ambivalent relationship to-
ward the Bildungsbiirgertum and a prescient sense of the direction of
German philosophical Idealism. It appears after his epitome of Mai-
lTIonides and is written in the forn1 of a comic allegory of the history of
philosophy, which he prefaces with the following ironic dedication:
For those of nlY readers who were cast into boredom by my earnest
portrayal of More Newochim [Guide ofthe Perplexed], I present, in the
name of both cOlupensation and conclusion, the following small
allegory. 70

This chapter has often been excised by editors and has been almost al-
together ig110red by critics,?l The inattention is, perhaps, abetted by the
apparent heavy-handed didacticism ofMaimon's allegory, together with
its crude good humor. In fact, however, the chapter draws subtly on me-
dieval Hebrew traditions of allegory, and, when read with care, can be
understood as having indeed been written "toward a conclusion" ofthe
Lebensgeschichte, his life history. The allegory brings together Maimon's
deep engagement with Maimonidean philosophy, IZabbala, IZant's
"Copernican revolution," and his own ambivalent relationship with the
134 Chapter Four

integrative ideal of Bildung prescribed by enlightened German society.


It is, in short, about the frustration of a philosophical eros and the im-
possibility of noetic, or even social, perfectio11.
Because the Schluss-I(apitel, or concluding c11apter of the Lebens-
geschichte, has never been translated into English before and has been
placed out of sequence or excised entirely from modern German edi-
tions, I will quote froIll it extensively in the discussion that follows. The
chapter is titled "The Merry Ball [Der Lustige Ball]: A Tale from the
Diary of a Friend," a description that Main10n immediately glosses
with the following footnote:
It is impossible for me not to think that my friend's story must be an
allegorical representation of the history of philosophy. Therefore, to
spare the reader the trouble of guessing, I will add a few notes, which
will provide the means for the interpretation of this allegory,72
This is, in fact, the first of twenty-eight such notes in which Maimon
gleefully provides what in the Hebrew literary tradition would be called
the nimshal (solution or internal meaning) of the mashal (allegory or
parable).73 Indeed, here as elsewhere in Maimon's work, it is important
to see the extent to which this chapter was conceived within the classi-
cal Hebrew genre of mashal and then transposed into German. Mai-
mon's long, schematic allegory has little in common with, say, the para-
bles of Lessing. Moreover, the chapter is placed immediately after
Maimon's presentation of Maimonides' famolls parable of intellectual
perfection at the end of the Guide ofthe Perplexed. This may also sug-
gest to the attentive reader that Maimon's description of the chapter as
a respite for those incapable of the rigors of even a11 epitome of Mai-
monidean philosophy is not quite in earnest. In fact, it is not only an
allegory of the history of philosophy but also a parable of perfection,
or, to be more precise, the two ultimately coincide, because the end of
both is real metaphysical knowledge.
"The Merry Ball" begins as follows (Maimon's notes appear in ital-
ics within the body of the text):
In --.-- a masked ball was held in honor of a celebrated woman.
It was said that she was exceedingly beautiful, even though no n1an
had ever seen her, for she was so devilishly obstinate. She could be
From Shelomo ben Yehoshua to Solomon MaitllOn 135

compared to a flickering light, just as one approached her she would


recede, and just at the moment in which one thought he possessed
her, she would disappear entirely. Her nan1e, I an1 honored to inform
you, is Madame M. [Metaphysics], or the mistress of her chan1bern1aid
Ph. [Physics], which is the same thing. For this woman was, as I have
said, concealed from sight, and all those who spoke of her beauty,
knew of her only through the chattering of her chambermaid.... All
of the Gentlemen who were gathered there competed against each
other for the honor of dancing with this alluring lady.... As they did
not yet know her tastes, they were forced to dance all sorts of dances
in order to find favor in her eyes, such as the aimable vainquer) char-
mant vainquer) passepied) dance dJamour) princesse buree) courante)
rigadoun) gavotte) sarabande, and so on.74

The allegory is, at the most obvious level, about the pursuit of meta-
physical reality behind mere appearances, the in1penetrable thing-in-
itself, personified as the noble but elusive Madame Metaphysik, who
is invisible or virtually so except for the traces she leaves in natural
phe110mena, which is only "the chattering of her chambermaid." The
dancers and their dances, as will shortly become clear, each represent a
figure or school of philosophy and its characteristic doctrines.
As I have shown, the idea that knowledge is driven by a kind of eros
was of central importance to Maimon, whose first work was, after all,
titled Hesheq Shelomo, or "The Desire of Solomon." Similarly, the per-
sonification of metaphysics, or philosophy more generally, as a desir-
able woman for whom gentlemen (I(avaliere) mllst engage in chivalric
competition is a topos of European literature. Mendelssohn, for in-
stance, was invoking just such traditions in a fairly stereotypical man-
ner when, in a moment of philosophical fatigue at the olltset of the
"Pantheism Controversy," he wrote that having seen his opponent "re-
move his visor" and demonstrate his worthiness, he would "retrieve the
gauntlet," which he had mistakenly thrown down, and retire from the
contest for the fair lady.7 5 Hegel employed a more striking and original
metaphor, which is closer in spirit to Maimon's allegory. In a famous
passage from the preface to his Phenomenology ofMind, written fifteen
years after Maimon's Lebensgeschichte, Hegel enigmatically described
the history of philosophy as made up of frenzied dancers.
136 Chapter Four

The true is thus the bacchanalian vvhirl in which no n1elnber is not


drunken; and because each, as soon as it detaches itself, dissolves
immediately-the whirl is just as much transparent and simple
repose.7 6
The progression of such dancers, each of whon1, in his "drunkenness,"
apprehends (or sin1ply is) a part of "the true," can be seen in retrospect
as the lTIOVen1ent of Spirit toward a complete and self-conscious
Bildung.
MailTIon was, along with many of his philosophical conten1poraries,
convinced that the history ofphilosophy had to be rethought in light of
IZant's critical turn. Maimon's Giva)at ha-Moreh is prefaced with a his-
torical primer on the history ofphilosophy, in which the crucial turning
points were Socrates and IZant, and which el1ded vvith MailTIOn'S revision
of the latter?7 His allegory, as we shall see, echoes this narrative, while
also, perhaps, toying with an identification between the ideals ofsociety
and philosophical truth. Nonetheless, it does not truly anticipate the his-
toriosophy that is compressed into Hegel's aphorism. However, as I
have suggested, Maimon's placement of the chapter directly after his
"boring lecture" on Maimonides' parable ofperfection and his descrip-
tion of the "allllring" (reizenden) Madame Metaphysik, whose elusive-
ness is like the flickering ofa light from a concealed place, suggest a more
specific set of Hebrew intertextual references.
In the falTIous parable at the end of the Guide ofthe Perplexed, which
Maimon translates extensively in the final chapter of his epitome, Mai-
monides ranks types of individllals in terms of their relationship to a
Icing, hidden in his palace. These ral1ge from those who are not even
within the city and have no knowledge ofthe king to those who know of
the Icing and desire to see him but have not yet even seen the walls ofthe
palace, and so on, up to those who have reached the inl1er chamber of
the palace and are on the verge ofseeing or hearing the kil1g. 78 This para-
ble has been the subject of centuries of interpretation al1d debate, but
the general nature ofits import is not in doubt, for Maimonides provides
lIS with it quite explicitly?9 The ruler, as in all classic mashalim, is God
and his subjects form humanity, which can be ranked on a scale of per-
fection in accordance with an individual's knowledge of God. The per-
fect nlan stands within the inner chamber ofthe palace, prepared for the
From ShelolTIO ben Yehoshua to Soloillon Main10n 137

possibility ofintercourse with the divine, which is both "the end ofman"
and a foretaste of the eternal life that awaits him. 80
The most perfect specimen of this type was, as mentioned, Moses,
whose life ended at precisely the n10ment in which he had fulfilled the
ends of life. This is, according to Main10nides, the deep exegetical
meaning of the scriptural staten1eIlt that Moses died "by the mouth of
the Lord" (Numbers 33: 38), or, in the words of the Talnlud, by the
"kiss of God." 81 It is this sort of death into eternal life that Maimonides
identified as the sllblin1e object of the Song ofSongs, thereby initiating
a whole genre of Hebrew interpretations. 82 In explicating both the rab-
binic traditions regarding Moses's death and his own final parable in
the Guide, Maimonides vvrote that
the apprehension that is achieved in a state of intense and passionate
love for Him is called a leiss, in accordance with the verse "Let hilTI
leiss n1e with the leisses of his mouth" (Song of Songs I : 2).83
Maimon's deliberate juxtaposition of the final allegorical chapter of his
autobiography with Maimonides' final allegorical discussion of perfec-
tion as the proper "end oflife" in both senses ofthe term begins to Sllg-
gest, theIl, that there may be more to this chapter than even his own glee-
ful footnotes on the history ofphilosophy sllggest. However, this kleine
allegorie differs importantly from MaiITIonides' mashal of the palace.
Both allegories describe a search for a personified yet unapproachable,
or virtually unapproachable, trllth. However, the image of an enticing
woman for whom the lover nlust strive is very different from that of a
hidden king. Indeed, although Maimonides explicitly thematizes the
erotic nature of the desired union, there is a significant and obvious dif-
ference. Not only are the genders switched, but it is the king who is the
active lover, just as in the Aristotelian nimshal it is the active intellectfhat
draws up the passive hun1an intellect into its timeless thOllght. In Mai-
mon's mashal the enticing Madame Metaphysik would appear to playa
more passive role.
However, Maimon was heir not only to the tradition ofMaimonidean
philosophy but, as we have seen, to that ofmedieval IZabbala as well. The
Shekhina of Zoharic IZabbala, the tenth and lowest of the Sefirot, cor-
responds to the active intellect, which according to MaiITIonides and
138 Chapter Four

others was the tenth and lowest ofthe Separate Intelligences. 84 This was
a relationship that, as we have seen in detail in Chapter 3, Maimon knew
and struggled with while coming to the position that the IZabbala was a
symbolic expression of natural truths.
The erotic nature of devequt is, needless to say, stronger and less sub-
limated in the kabbalistic tradition in which the Shekhina is understood
to be a feminine aspect ofGod, whose relationship to the mystic is often
that of an elusive beloved. 85 It is precisely such a passage in the Zohar
that Maimon drew upon in the construction of his allegory. In a deep
and puzzling parable of the Zohar, the Shekhina is personified as "the
beautiful maidel1 upon whom"-like Maimon's Madame Metaphysik-
"no one has set eyes." 86 In this passage, a mysterious figure sets out a
parable that would seem to be about both the Shekhina a11d the Torah
to two of the Tannaim of the Zohar, Rabbi Hiyya and Rabbi Yose.
Who is the beautiful maiden on whom no one has set eyes? A body
concealed, yet revealed? She COlnes out in the lnorning and is hidden
all day. She adorns herselfwith Jewels which are not.
. . . What a multitude of humans there are who dwell in confusion,
failing to perceive the ,;yay of truth that abides in the Torah, and the
Torah, in love, summons them day after day to her, but woe, they do
not as much as turn their heads. It is just as I have stated, the Torah
releases one word and comes forth fron1 her sheath ever so little and
then retreats to conceahnent again....
A parable. To what may she be compared? To a beautiful and
stately maiden, who is secluded in an isolated chamber of the palace,
and has a lover of whose existence she alone knows. For love of her
he passes by her gate unceasingly, and turns his eyes in all directions
to discover her.... She thrusts open a small door in her secret cham-
ber, for a moment reveals her face to her lover, then quicldy withdraws
it....
And when he arrives, she begins to speak with him, at first from
behind a veil which she has hung before her words, so that they il1ay
suit his manner of understanding.... Then behind a thinner veil of
finer mesh, she speaks to him in riddles and allegories, Aggada. When
finally he is on close terms with her, she stands disclosed face to face
with him and has intercourse with him on all her secret mysteries....
From ShelolTIO ben Yehoshua to Solomon MailTIOn 139

Now he is a perfect human being, a true husband of Torah, for to hin1


she has uncovered all her mysteries, holding back nothing. 87
This parable, like that of Maimonides', is far too rich and has been the
recipient of too much commentary to receive anything like full treat-
ment in the present context; however, it is important to note several of
its features for our purposes. In it, not only is a beautiful, mysterious,
and perhaps invisible noblewoman the object of desire, but she appears
and disappears in the same tantalizing way as Maimon's Madame
Metaphysik. Moreover, her attainlnent is explicitly understood to be an
erotic union that confers intellectual perfection.
It seems, then, overwhelmingly likely that Maimon, who knew the
Zohar well, was drawing on this passage in writing his final chapter. 88
Moreover, this passage itself may contai11 allusions to the Guide in its
representation of the perfect individual as one who has gained the inner
charrlber of the palace. Its description of the divine teaching as bei11g
quicldy revealed a11d then hidden agai11 has also been tied by interpreters
to Maimonides' description of glimpses of divine truth as flashes of
lightning elsewhere in the Guide. 89 In any event itis easy to see how Mai-
mon could draw elements from both medieval sources in constructing
his allegory. Finally, it is instructive to note that one of the main impli-
cations of the Zohar parable is precisely the multiple meanings of texts,
a lesson we would do well to keep in Inind in reading Main10n's chapter.
Although I believe it demonstrable that Maimon drew on the deep
and polysemous allegories of the Guide and Zohar just discussed, it is
important not to lose sight of the less sublime literary effects of his own
allegory. Let us return, then, to Maimon's allegory at its most obvious
and even farcical level as a history of philosophy. Thus, in describing
the Pre-Socratics, he writes (again, Maimon's notes appear in italics
within the body of the text):
Monsieur Ph. [Pythagoras) whose metaphysics was based upon number
theory and mathematical forms] maintained that it was necessary to
dance with a ruler, protractor and compass in hand and to deduce all
the steps mathematically. Monsieur X. [Xenophanes claimed that the
sole and infinite essence was an encompassed circle] was satisfied with
less than this. He stood and made a circle around the dance floor, and
140 Chapter Four

then clailned that it was possible to dance beautifully without even


moving from one's place [He denied all movement] . ... Monsieur H.
[Heraclitus] wept with sorrow and foresaw the con1ing conflagration.
[He taught that the rvorld will end in fire]. Monsieur L. [Leucippus)
lvho denied all the tenets of metaphysics and based his philosophy solely on
bare matter] sent the celebrated \tVOlnan to the devil and, since he was
an intelligent man, took the chalnbern1aid as his partner. Monsieur D.
[Democritus] di d the saIne. Then caIne the dandies who were called
S. [Sophists] and fluttered about like butterflies fron1lady to lady.90

Such passages have a whiff of the schoolroolTI in the obviousness of


their hun10r. Indeed, MaiITIOn'S con1pll1sive need to gloss them would
seem to be not only a mark of the exegetical consciousness that we have
discussed but also his need to both delTIOl1strate and deprecate his
European scholarly learning and its in1portance. It is important in this
C011text to remember that the narrative setting of this allegory is a for-
mal dance, which is precisely the sort of European setting in which
Main1011 could never have been comfortable and-whatever his intel-
lectual attainments in the public sphere of enlighte11ment discourse-
would never have been welcome.
This is not to say that Maimon's depiction of philosophy here is en-
tirely devoid of subtlety. His description of"Monsiellr PI." (helpfully
identified as Plato in the notes) and ofthe moderns shows a shrewd sense
of the nature ofpl1ilosophical progress:
He claimed that it was in1possible to woo the falnous woman through
dance, unless one directed one's eyes, throughout the dance to certain
pictures, which were floating in the Hall (which no other man had
seen) and arranged his steps according to these pictures. And it sud-
denly seen1ed to all those gathered that they could, in truth, see these
remarkable pictures, and they rejoiced over this revelation. Ho\vever,
after the first intoxication, they began to be embarrassed by their
faith, which they had adopted so light-headedly.91

Mter proceeding through Aristotle and the philosophers of late antiq-


llity in similar fashion, Maimon-perhaps from fatigue, or perhaps be-
cause it is in a real sense too close to home-skips the entire medieval
period, including Maimonides (the philosopher upon whom he has
FrOln Shelon1o ben Yehoshua to Soioinon Maimon 14-1

just lavished ten chapters of his autobiography), and proceeds with the
n10derns.
Then can1e the line of young gentlen1en. Even though they danced
with more skill and grace than those who preceded them, their success
was no greater. The old disputes returned and were renewed among
then1, and everything ren1ained as it was, only slightly revised. [The
new philosophers) it rnust be admitted., madegreat progress in methods of
thought) but when it came to metaphysics not a single neJV step Jvas forth-
coming. ] Finally one of the clever alnong then1 was no longer able to
tolerate this "Don Quixotism." He recognized that the famous lady
was nothing but a creature of the ilnagination whose appearance in-
spired wandering knights to great deeds, but ... also led to all sorts of
paradoxes. And not only this, but he also showed how these illusions
were created and how to guard against them. [Presumably ](ant is
meant here. ] 92

MailTIOn'S description ofIZant's position is in line with his heterodox in-


terpretation of the Critique ofPure Reason, discussed in Chapter 3, in
which the imagination (Einbildungskraft) may be the hidden source of
sensible intuition, rather than some external given. With this in mind,
we can now identify Madan1e M. more precisely not only as "Meta-
physics" but as the impenetrable thing-in-itself, which dissolves once
one realizes that it is, like the floating Platonic dance instrllctions, at best
a goad to the pursuit of an ever more complete knowledge. It is impos-
sible to dance with her precisely because she does 110t exist except as an
illusion born of the dogmatic il1terpretation of experience. Main10n
n1ay also have had in mind a strilG11g passage fron1 the Critique ofPure
Judgment (1790) in which IZant himself personifies the thing-in-itself as
a kind of l1l1approachable goddess, although his treatment of it is less
skeptical (one might even call it pious) than Maimon's.
Perhaps nothing more sublilne has ever been said or a thought ever
been expressed more sublimely, than in that inscription above the
Telnple of Isis (mother nature): ] am all that is that was and that Jvill
be and no mortal has lifted my veil.9 3

Maimon's skeptical reading of IZant implies that the veil may not be
lifted because there is nothing behind it, or to use his metaphor, there
142 Chapter Four

is nobody in the chamber but only tIle chattering of the chambermaid


outside. He closes the allegory with this point being pressed by a not
very mysterious interpreter ofI(ant (Maimon's note is in italic):
[IZant's criticis1l1] Inade a great impression, debates arose. There were
those who stubbornly insisted upon the existence of the lady, for
everybody had believed in her up until now, others despaired at this
turn of events. My friend [Who this friend is and what the content ofhis
words are) every reader) who understands these matters) will be able to
find for himself. It is not necessary that he be an Oedipus to unmask this
maskedfell01v.] , who was among them, entered into this dispute. He
did not merely agree completely upon the nonexistence of the lady,
but went further and argued that it was possible to be a worthy
gentle1l1an without devoting oneself to this product of the imagina-
tion' and demanded the two sides defend their positions against
proofs to the contrary.94
In Maimon's kleine allegorie, the figure who one needn't "be an Oedi-
pus to identify" radicalizes I(ant by arguing that there is no Madame
Metaphysik. All there is the dance, which one dances alone (or with
chambermaids). The placement of this allegory at the climactic end of
Maimon's long reconstruction of his identity is not incidental. It is an
allegory of the ultimately unfulfillable search for perfection that charac-
terizes both the history of philosophy and the individual philosopher.
Moreover, an elaborate costume ball given at an intellectual salon is
precisely a social expression of the public sphere in which Mainl0n des-
perately wanted to participate and was illcapable of participating in
gracefully. In the end, a perfect cleaving with the public sphere of En-
lightellment was just as impossible as one with the active intellect, the
Shekhina, or the divine Madame Metaphysik. The history of his life,
then, ends not with a vision of perfection but, apparently, with its im-
possibility. However, the final lines decline even this much definitive clo-
sure: "Thus ends the journal ofmy friend, and I long to know what the
elld was of this peculiar ball." 95
Five Literary Mterlife
A writer who has a good style is read. One who has expository power
is studied. One who has neither one nor the other, supposing him
however, to be in possession of weighty and new truths, is used.
His mind not his natTIe, is imperishable.
SOlOlTIOn Maimon, Philosophisches Worterbuch

When Maimon wrote the sentences quoted in the epigraph, he was im-
plicitly comparing his accon1plishn1ents as a philosopher and as a writer
to those of Mendelssohn al1d IZant. He had ul1derstood and come to
grips with IZant's Copernican Revolution in a way that Mendelssol1n
(and perhaps even IZant) had not, and yet he knew that his quirky cOln-
mentaries possessed neither the grace of Mel1delssohn's n1elliflllous
Gerlnan prose nor the architectonic grandeur of IZant's Critiques. He
was also, perhaps, positing yet another al1d even more attenuated ver-
sion of philosophical imn1ortality, ill which the mind merges not with
the eternal active intellect but with the future community of scholars.
His works wOll1d not be read, but the trllths that he had made his own
would survive and be llsed in the work of others.
And yet, a century after Maimon had written these words, his work
was, in fact, read and discussed, although not (and with good reason) in
the same reverential tones as that of Mendelssohn and IZant. In 1878, a
British philosopher named Shadworth Hodgson glossed Maimon's
oblique prediction with this bathetic note: "Thy name, too [would be
immortal], Maimon, ifany words ofmine cOll1d celebrate it. But he who
now writes has a pen as little potent as thine own." 1 Hodgson thought,
as Ernst Cassirer would a few years later, that Maimon had somehow
solved the problem ofthe given. As it turns out, Hodgson's pen was con-
siderably less potent than Maimon's, but Maimon's works as well as his
ideas have survived, il1 particular, his sparkling autobiography. 143
I briefly discussed Maimon's afterlife in European philosophy at the
end of Chapter 3. This was what Maimon, quite clearly, cared most
about, but his literary afterlife is largely the story of his Lebensgeschichte.
144 Chapter Five

Maimon's autobiography was popular for more than a centuryvvith both


Gerlnan and Jewish readers. It becan1e one of the key texts in both the
self-construction ofJewish identity and in the representation ofthe Jew
by non-Jewish writers. It was also translated into English, Yiddish, and
Hebrew. Maimon is known, then, through his autobiography, and yet it
is the fact that he was a significant philosopher-that 11e did make the
transition from Lithuanian prodigy to Aufklarer-that justified both
the writing and the reading of that autobiography.

Midway throllgh George Eliot's last novel, Daniel Deronda (1876), the
title character, a Jewish orphan raised as an English aristocrat, wanders
into a secondhand bookshop in East London and finds
something that he wanted-nalnely that wonderful piece of auto-
biography, the life of the Polish Jew Solomon Mailnon; which as he
could easily slip it into his pocket, he took from its place, and entered
the shop.2

The passage recounts in some detail Deronda's negotiations over the


book, as well as the presun1ed religiolls identity of any buyer interested
in such an iteln: "'You are perhaps of Ollr race?' ... Deronda colored
deeply.... 'No.'" Eliot, who had translated both Spinoza and Heine,
may well have looked for the book herself llnder sin1ilar circumstances.
In any event, she read Maimon's Lebensgeschichte closely in her research
for Deronda, paying special attention to t110se passages and chapters on
Jewish culture and religion that have often been excised by later edi-
tors. She left a carefully annotated copy of the same pocket-sized first
editio11, purchased by her character, in her library.3
Other close readers of the Lebensgeschichte in the nineteenth century
used the work in more personal ways. The nineteenth-century German
novelist Berthold Auerbach, whose estrangement from Judaism was
confirmed by his study ofSpinoza, presented a deeply sympathetic por-
trait of Maimon and his friend Ep11raim I(iih in his novel Dichter und
](aufman, published in 1839.
Nineteenth-century Eastern European Maskilim often saw them-
selves as attempting to make a similar transition to that of Maimon,
and some used his autobiography as a literary paradigm for their own.
Literary Afterlife 145

The transition that they were atten1pting was actually in fundamental


respects rather different, for what these Maskilim were attempting was
an internal reform of traditional Jewish society, rather than an escape-
escape being, if nothing else, far less likely a prospect in the nineteenth-
century pale of settlement than it had been in the enlightened Celltral
Europe of the late eighteenth ce11tury. The fact that such autobio-
graphies were writte11 in Hebrew or Yiddish and therefore addressed
to an exclusively Jewish audience is a lillguistic n1arker of this differ-
ence. 4 Nonetheless, autobiographical writers such as Mordechai Aaron
Guenzberg and Moshe Leib Lillienblum viewed MailTI011 as their great
predecessor, the archetype of the modern heretic, or apiqores, who has
described the pathologies of traditional Jewish society and made a
successful-or almost successful-break with it. 5 For these Maskilim,
Maimon served as a kind of homegrown Spill0za, alld one, moreover,
who had left a deeply persuasive aCCOllllt and indictment of a life alld
society that could be appropriated as something close to their own.
Both Gllellzberg, in his autobiography Aviezer, and Lillienblum, in
his Hattot Neurim, describe themselves as Talmudic child prodigies,
married at absurdly young ages, and traumatized, sexually and other-
wise, by their adolescent unpreparedness for adult life. 6 Not only is this
a topic first broached by Maimon, but, as Alan Mintz has shown, there
would seem to be a strong sense in which Lillienbillm simply cedes the
description of this period of his life to Gllenzberg, who, in turn, can be
seen to be responding to and radicalizing the account of Main10n. In-
deed, the number ofcoincidences between Guenzberg's autobiography
and MailTIOn'S strains credulity.7 Such suspicions ofa kind oftransferen-
tial identification are, perhaps, confirlTIed by an essay that Gllenzberg
wrote later in his career, in which he describes having made a pilgrimage
to Maimon's hometown ofNieswicz, where he inquired after the aban-
doned son whom Maimon had mentioned in his autobiography.8 The
implicit comparison with Maimon was recognized by readers of these
biographies well into the twelltieth century. Thus, ill a description of
Lillienblum's autobiographical travails, a Yiddish critic writes:
Fear for the end of this unfortunate overtakes the reader. For he
was no Solomon Maimon, whose cynicism helped him survive his
hardships. He was basically honest and sound. But he could not
146 Chapter Five

live without sOInething affirn1ative. Would he go tOInorrow to the


nearest body of water and drown hiInself? Would he, like that other
one, knock at SOIne Lutheran pastor's door? 9

The description of Maimon here as "that other one" is not incidental


but a deliberate allusion to the archetypal rabbinic heretic Elisha ben
Abuya, whon1 the Taln1ud refers to as Acher, the other. Of COllrse, what
made Maimon, ultimately, a figure of pride was that he had insulted
that Lutheran pastor and remained a Jew.
In a perceptive little essay Micha Joseph Berdichevsky wrote of
Maimon that he was a "simple Jew [yehudi pashut hu] even when he
stood beyond the borders [of Judaism]," and he compared him in this
respect to the leftist Hegelian and early Zionist Moses Hess. 1o The char-
acterization itselfis one Maimon would have appreciated. The Hebrew
word tehumim, translated here as "borders," alllldes to the Halakhic
borders beyond which al1 observant Jew must not walk on the Sabbath
and to a famous story about "the Other,',' Elisha ben Abuya, walking be-
yond them while his student Rabbi Meir remained behindJI But, of
course, it also describes the borders of Jewish society, which Maimon
was resolutely willing to leave behind withollt ever denying the fact of
his Jewishness. Berdichevsky, who held a doctorate in philosophy and
would become the great Nietszchean rival to Abad ha-Atn, the theorist
of Cultural Zionisln, read Maimon's autobiography as soon as he left
Volozhin, the leading Mitnaged yeshiva. 12 One might almost call Mai-
mon the "strong poet" of Eastern European apiqorsut, through wholn
later rebels against rabbinic tradition lnust define themselves. 13
Maimon was apparently not entirely forgotten within the borders of
the traditionalist world that he had replldiated in the nineteenth cen-
tury. In one of the great footnotes of nineteenth-century Hebrew liter-
ature, an early hagiographer ofRabbi Eliyahu ben Shelomo ofViIna pur-
ports to prodllce the text ofa long letter from the philosopher Solomon
MaimOl1 to his illustrious sometime mentor Moses Mendelssohn, in
which he describes a confrontation with the famous Vilna Gaon. The
footnote is attached to the ineffably terse statement that
he [the GaonJ lU1ew the discipline of philosophy to its end, and said
that he derived two good things from it: the seventy powers which
are within man, and one other thing. 14
Literary Mterlife 147

The remarkable story about Maimon and the Vilna Gaon that is con-
tained in this letter appears to be intended, at least in its extant version,
to demonstrate that the Gaon, and l1ence the culture that he repre-
sented, had nothing to fear fiom either the "Socrates of Berlin" or the
falTIous Lithuanian apiqores who had correspol1ded with IZant. It also
illustrates the way in which MailTIon's life was situated at the intersec-
tion of the worlds of traditional Lithuanian rabbinic scholarship and
the Haskala (among others).
In the letter, Maimon tells Mendelssohn how he ilTIpersonated an
Italian rabbi, thus explaining his shorn beard and short coat-Italians,
then, as now, were known for their fashion-a biblical grammarian
from Padua, in order to visit the Gaon. 15 He further claimed to be the
author of a book on Hebrew syl10nyn1s. 16 Maimon describes forging
letters of introduction, which describe hilTI as an emissary sent to learn
the Gaon's response to questions posed by contemporary heretics. The
Gaon responds masterfully, although, perhaps u11fortunately, the letter
details 11either the exact questions posed nor their al1swers. Afterward,
the Gaon graciously asks his visitor about the subject of his book.
[He said] explain the difference for me between: sason) simcha) gila)
rina) ditza) hedva [six biblical words for happiness]. And I answered
him according to lTIy opinion. He responded haven't you forgotten to
explain ditza? I said ditza isn't [a synonYlTI of] happiness in the holy
language. He responded ... doesn't our great Rabbi, Rashi, explain
ditza as meaning happiness? ... I answered hilTI that Rashi did not
know how to explain the peshuto shel Miqra . . . he responded in a
loud voice didn't our holy Rabbis, the lTIasters of midrash, explain it as
happiness, when they said "there are ten words for happiness," includ-
ing ditza? I responded that the masters of midrash also did not know,
because they were not alTIOng the n1asters of correct peshat. 17

When Main10n returns to his lodgings, he is detained by officials and


tried before seven leading members of the community, who find him
gllilty of shalTIing Torah scholars and administer lashes. Afterward,
"their spirit not yet quieted," Maimon is placed in stocks at the en-
trance to the synagogue during mincha with a sign tl1at reads "This is
the guilty man who n10cked the words of our holy rabbis," cursed and
spit upon "llntil it was like the River Jordan before me." This ordeal
14-8 Chapter Five

was prolonged, Main10n tells Mendelssohn, because "Vilna is not like


Berlin. In Vilna the masses from young to old do come [to the syna-
gogueJ at prayer tin1e." Nonetheless, he writes, he does not regret the
experience because he was able to meet a scholar "greater than all of
the scholars of the nations."
Of course, the meeting between MailTIOn and the Gaon never took
place and the letter is a forgery, as several nineteenth-century maskilic
historians illlmediately pointed Ollt after the publication of Aliyot
Eliyahu. 18 I can find no independent evidence that Mailllon was ever in
Vilna, and if he had been, it is extremely unlikely that he could have re-
sisted describing the encounter i11 his autobiography, wl1erein, inci-
dentally, the Vilna Gaon is n1entioned in passing, as an opponent of
Hasidism.
Maimon's autobiographical descriptions ofhis arguillents with Rabbi
Raphael IZohen and others may have served as inspiration for this tale,
or at least for its attribution. 19 The principal motivation underlying the
fictional encounter is probably the desire to fabricate an encounter in
which the towering intellectual saint ofLithuanian rabbinic culture bests
and punishes its most famous intellectual sinl1er, and to place both in lit-
erary proximity to the distressingly ambiguous Mendelssohn. Nonethe-
less, there is a kind of historical insight behind this nineteenth-century
fiction, for Solomon Main10n was amo11g those whose lives linked the
Berlin Haskala with Lithllanian rabbinic culture, and he was almost
the only one who played a significant role in European EnlightenlTIent
thought.
I have emphasized that one of the most striking things about Mai-
mon, and one that nineteenth-century Maskilim were well positioned to
appreciate, is the extent to which, in language, mannerisn1, and habit of
thought, Maimon was unable to break with tradition. Berdichevskywas,
of course, reacti11g to Maimon's autobiography (and perhaps thinking
also of himself) in his witty description of Maimon, but in tl1is respect
Maimon would appear to have presented himself with some accuracy.
Moreover, this aspect ofhis persona became central to Main10n's image
in tl1e nineteenth century. The most important memoir of Maimon,
outside his autobiography, is a curious work by MaiITIOn'S friend and
fellow Maskil Sabbattia Wolff titled Maimoniana oder Rhapsodien zur
Literary Afterlife 149

Charakteristik Salomon Maimons (1813), which is a kind of anecdotal


biography somewhat like Boswell's Johnson. The dominant theme of
Wolff's anecdotes is the ineradicable Jewish nature of Maimon's charac-
ter and his inability to speak German without a strong Yiddish accent.
ThiIS, to cite merely one incident here, Wolff describes Main10n as be-
con1ing so excited vvhile reading a treatise by the great lTIathematician
Leonhard Euler that he began swaying like a yeshiva student and lapsed
into a Talmudic singsong chant. 20
This question of the compatibility of "Jewish characteristics" with
European Enlightenment and Bildung and Maimon's struggle with
that ideal is another way of framing one of the key features of MailTIOn'S
life and work (including his ovvn representation of that life). As I have
noted in earlier chapters, not only is Maimon's German redolent of
Yiddish (the literary equivalent, perhaps, of readi11g modern mathe-
n1atics in Talmudic singsong), but also the generic form of his written
work-even his autobiograpl1y-is consta11tly veering toward that of
rabbinic commentary.
In Maimon's descriptions ofhin1self and the impression he made on
his GerlTIan-Jewish peers, one sees the begi11nings of the phe110menon
of the Eastern European Jew, or Ostjude, who is represented as every-
thing thegebildeten Jews of Germany have OVerCOlTIe. Thus, when Mai-
mon describes himself as a Polish Jew arriving in IZonigsberg "with a
heavy, dirty beard, in torn filthy clotl1es, my language a jargon COlTI-
posed of fragments of Hebrew, Jildisch-Deutsch and Polish, together
with gran1matical errors," an attentive reader can hear the ecl10es of
such descriptio11s in works throughout the next century. A generation
later, Heinrich Heine described SllCh a Jew in a sente11ce that simul-
taneously sums up the stereotype of the Ostjude and anticipates its
romantic reversal:
The Polish Jew with his barbarous fur cap, vermin infested beard, and
his jabber is certainly preferable to many other Jews I know who shine
with the magnificence of gilt-edged gover111nent bonds. 21
This stereotyping of the other as all that "gilt-edged" German Jewry
had ostensibly overcome has been characterized by Steven Aschhein1
as the "underside" of Jewish Enlightenment, for it was as much the
150 Chapter Five

construction of Jews intent 011 modernization and acceptance as of


Gentiles. 22 The construction of the Ostjude has generally been de-
scribed as a phenomenon of the nineteenth and early twentieth cen-
turies, but we can already limn all the essential characteristics of this
counter-ide11tity in Maimon's self-descriptions, alld the descriptions of
hilTI by Wolff and others.
The related question of MailTIOn'S literary style, or lack thereof, is
connected to a peculiar feature of Maimon's reception, namely, the
frequency with which Maimon canle to be contrasted with Moses
Mendelssohn as a kind of antithesis. If Mendelssohn, who was one of
the founders of modern literary German, was the archetypal figure of
the German-Jewish subculture, Maimon came to be represented as his
unruly, unassimilable other. 23 The historian Heinrich Graetz's invidi-
ous comparison of Maimon and Mendelssohn in the middle of the
nineteenth century, which I quoted in the introduction, is typical:
Whereas Mendelssohn reached the right way through Maimonides,
Solomon Maimon was led into error, doubt and unbelief and to the
end of his life lived an ain1less existence. 24
The unbalanced nature of Graetz's historical judgment was already
marked by his colleague Simon Bernfeld, who protested against the
distinctively German-Jewish animus that he discerned behind it. 25
Nonetheless, this contrast with Mendelssohn is a persistent feature of
the literature and has been restated as recently as 1992, in a popular
history of German Jewry that describes Maimon as Mendelssohn's
doppelganger, his "dark twin." 26
Occasionally, the valences have been reversed. Thus Israel Zangwill
wrote a rather contrived bit ofhistorical fiction titled "Nathan the Wise
and Solomon the Fool." The title was ironic, and Maimon, the unas-
similable Jew, was given to see what the urbane Mendelssohn (the model
for the sterling, ecumenical "Nathan the Wise" of his friend Lessing's
play) could not: that the Jewish Enlightenment project was doomed and
that Mendelssohn's own children would convert. 27 A subtler slight of
Mendelssohn comes from the pen of the great historian of Jewish phi-
losophy Harry A. Wolfson, who in describing the generation to which
both men belonged wrote:
Literary Afterlife

Some of them, like Solomon Maimon and Moses Mendelssohn,


achieved fame and distinction either through the profundity of their
thought or the elegance of their table talk. 28
Wolfson, who had been a student at the Slobodka Yeshiva before com-
ing to the United States and, despite a lifetime at Harvard, never lost
his Yiddish accent, may have identified with Maimon. However, the
largely self-created image of Maimon as the improbably gifted, yet bar-
barous, philosopher has predominated.
In 1911, Jakob FrOil1er published a new edition of the Lebens-
geschichte. In his introductory description of Maimon's origins, he im-
itated MailTIOn'S laboriously achieved cultural detachment:
Whoever desires to experience an ethnological sensation need not
venture to the far corners of the earth. For that a day's journey from
Berlin will suffice. One need only cross the border to find an ahnost
unknown human type full of mystery and wonder . . . to look with
astonishment at these people with their dirty caftans, their exotic
faces which, like ghostly apparitions frOITI times long lost, still haunt
the modern present. 29
Of course, Fromer's sensation was no lTIOre "ethnological" than Mai-
mon's or many of their Jewish readers. It was something closer to the
embarrassment oforigins, for Fromer, like Maimon, was himselfan Ost-
jude. 30 Interestingly, the Yiddish translator ofMaimon's autobiography
makes a similar set of assumptions in his introduction to the Lebens-
geschichte. J. Goldschmidt writes that Maimon was
a phenomenal event as a person, as a Jew and as a philosopher. Like
a young tree in a wasteland, without dew and without rain he ap-
peared unexpectedly and astonishingly in a dark and miserable land
without any means and rose extremely high-to the loftiest heavens
of thought ... but not a single event in his life aided the normal
development of his intellectual powers. 31
Of course, both authors are merely echoing Maimon's own assiduously
cultivated self-image as having come, as he wrote to !Zant, fron1 "the
woods of Lithuania" and appeared to his contemporaries in Berlin "like
a comet" and so on. 32
152 Chapter Five

It was just this exoticization of Main10n as "an almost unknown hu-


man type" who had nonetheless managed to cross the border to civi-
lization that irked Franz Rosenzweig when he read Fromer's edition of
Main10n's autobiography while serving in World War I. In a letter home
to his parents, Rosenzweig wrote:
It is nonsense to describe the condition of the Jews at that tin1e as
'barbaric' ('decline' etc.). We are talking about a self-sufficient culture
[eine geschlossene I(ulturJ. Only the individual (Maiinon) who aban-
dons it, beco1l1es a barbarian. Seen froin the outside, without linguis-
tic or factual knowledge, such a culture can only be understood as
barbaris1l1. 33
The ecumenical idea behind this ren1ark about cultural "others" is, in a
certain sense, obvious (it was ancient by the time Montaigne expressed
it), but it was rarely so to Maimon's Gern1an and Jewish readers in the
late eighteenth, nineteenth, and even twentieth centuries. The ques-
tions of Gern1an-Jewish cultural identity were sin1ply too close to the
bone for most of Rosenzweig's peers to share his insight.
Nonetheless, it has been part of my argument throughout this book
that such romanticism also needs to be ten1pered. It was, in part, Mai-
mon's inability to abandon the characteristic tropes and forins of the
rich literary culture in which he was raised that made him appear bar-
barous to his conteinporaries and later readers. Nonetheless, no culture
is homogeneous or "self-sufficient," certainly not that of premodern
European Jewry. In biographical fact, Main10n could not have suc-
ceeded had he not been able to draw on the tradition of Jewish philo-
sophical thought, which was one tributary of his literary heritage.

Maimon's autobiography had another effect on Rosenzweig. It intro-


duced him, as well as several previous generations of German-Jewish
readers, to a serious account of Maimo11ides' thougl1t, through Mai-
mon's ten-chapter epitome and innuinerable philosophical asides. In
fact, it was just this form of Jewish thollght against which Rosenzweig
was beginning to rebel when he wrote his letter. In a brief enigmatic
note to himself written a little while afterward, Rosenzweig notes that
Maiinon could be seen as the key figure betwee~ _I~a~~ ~I~~ :~-Ie~~1~3~ _
Literary Afterlife 153

Later, in his Star of Redemption, which, r011ghly speaking, marks the


end of the period of German-Jewish Enlightentnent thought that
Maimon helped to inaugurate, Rosenzweig decisively rebels against
precisely Mailnon's sort of philosophical idealisln. 511Ch philosophy, he
fatuously wrote,
vveaves the blue n1ist of its idea of the All about the earthly. For
indeed an All would not die and nothing ,vould die in the All. Only
the singular can die ... philosophy has to rid the world of what is
singular. 35

Mailnon's project of reading Maimonides through IZantian lenses


and vice versa, which he had followed explicitly in Giva)at ha-Moreh
and ilnplicitly elsewhere, including the Lebensgeschichte, had initiated
al1 interesting and important subtradition in modern Jewish thought,
which was Rosenzweig's main target whether he was explicitly think-
ing of Maimon or not. In Chapter 3, I lnentioned Hermann Cohen's
rejection of the suggestion that he was influenced by MaitTIon, and lny
speculations as to why. For Cohen the project was as much cultural-
a twinning of the heroes of Deutschtum and ]udentum-as it was philo-
sophical, and Maimon, a disreputable Ostjude, did not fit the cultural
profile. But the approach had appeal also to those who had no stake
in the ideal of German-Jewish symbiosis. Thus, the lTIodern editor of
the standard Hebrew edition of the Guide of the Perplexed) Yehuda
Even-Shmuel (IZa11fn1.an), a staunch Zionist, wrote an extensive three-
vol1une cOlnlnentary that was characterized by a generally IZantian
approach. 36 Likewise, two historians of Jewish philosophy, Jakob
Guttman and David Neun1.ark, interpret Main10nidean doctrine as
quasi-IZantian. 37
One can also see Maimon's influence in the work of Rabbi Joseph
Soloveitchik, the preeminent Orthodox Jewish theologian of the twen-
tieth century, a neo-IZantian and Mailnonidean. 50loveitchik cites
Maimon's comn1entary to Maimonides' Guide) Giva)at ha-Moreh, in
his most important work, Halakhic Man, which is, in part, an attempt
to keep his IZantian and Maimonidean comlnitlnents without (like
Maimon) devaluing the realm of Jevvish lavv. 38 Most recently (and per-
haps crudely) the Israeli popular philosopher ~l~d_ g~dily Y~s!l-~y~4u _
154 Chapter Five

Leibowitz has also read Maimonides through IZantian lenses, although


he has done so unaided by Maimon. 39
Franz Rosenzweig was not the only prominent German-Jewish
thinker to have read Maimon's autobiography. Walter Benjainin, Ger-
shorn Scholem, and Leo StralIss all read Jakob Fromer's 1911 edition
of the Lebensgeschichte as yOllng men. 40 Rosenzweig's philosophy was,
as I have noted, a decisive rejection of the modern neo-IZantian ra-
tionalism that Maimon helped initiate, as, in a different way was Scho-
lem's philological resuscitation of IZabbala. Scholen1 was more inter-
ested in Maimon's early kabbalistic work, parts of which he copied at
the Hochschule fur Wissenschaft des JudentulTIS on a trip to Berlin in
the 1930S.
In an early draft of the "Epistemo-Critical Prologue" in his brilliant
but failed Habilitationsschrift: The Origins of German Tragic Drama,
Benjamin quoted a passage froin Main10n's discussiol1 of The Guide of
the Perplexed in his autobiography. In his account of Main10nides' dis-
cussion of in what sense the two tablets of Sinai had been written with
"the finger of God," Maimon had repeated a striking comlnent from
Narboni's con1mentary. With regard to Maimonides' claim that the
tablets were not artificial but merely "the work of God," in the same
sense that, for instance, the cedars of Lebanon had been "planted" by
God, Narboni tells us of a medieval marvel with radically naturalist
intent. 41 Local Jewish dignitaries had shown him stones ostensibly
brougl1t from Mount Sinai, each ofwhich had the impression ofa bush,
in Hebrew sneh, like the burning bush encountered by Moses in his ini-
tial revelation, hence the name of the mountail1, Sinai. 42 Remarkably,
Narboni says, when he broke the rocks, each of the resulting pieces re-
tained the image ofthe bush, and he takes this as empirical confirmation
ofMaimonides' philosophical claim. That is, the initial tablets ofthe law,
which were written with tl1e very "finger of God," were sin1ply interest-
ing but el1tirely natural rocks. Maimon was struck by this comment and
expanded upon it in Giva)at ha-Moreh, as well as reproducing Narboni's
remark in his autobiography.
Benjamin was also struck by this image of the mark on the stones of
Sinai, whose "peculiar nature consists in the fact that it reproduces it-
self immediately on ever single piece that has broken off ... and this in
Literary Mterlife 155

infinity."43 But he had little interest in why Mailllon had taken it from
Narboni, let alone Narboni's original philological or metaphysical
point (or indeed who Narboni was). In Benjamin's fertile mythologi-
cal imagination, the shards of the stones upon which the original reve-
lation had been engraved became something like signatures of the di-
vine in1pressed on the physical world. 44
Leo Strallss, on the other hand, read Maimon in the radically natu-
ralist spirit in which he wrote. Strauss would appear to have first en-
coulltered the (for him) crucial esotericist idea ofapplying the Spinozist
description "theological-political" to Maimonides from Maimon's au-
tobiography, which he cited in an early essay.45 Nonetheless, Maimon
apparently played, even in the case of Strauss, a relatively minor role.
Strauss would doubtless have found his way to esoteric rationalism with
or without Maimon, just as Scholen1 and Rosenzweig would have re-
jected any such rationalism whether they had read Maimon or not.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, those scholars who have made a thorough


study of Maimon's philosophy have, for the most part, also been Jew-
ish. The leading twentieth-century interpreters of Maimon-Friedrich
IZuntze, Samuel Atlas, Samuel Hugo Bergman, and Nathan Roten-
streich-have all obviously viewed him as a figure of Jewish inspiration
even when dealing with the most technical aspects of his idealistic doc-
trine. Of these, Atlas, who was (like Harry Wolfson) a graduate of the
European yeshiva system and a formidable rabbinic scholar who bore
an ambivalent relationship toward the world of traditional Talmlldic
scholarship, had the most similar backgrollnd. Nonetheless, despite his
obvious, biographical ide11tification with Maimon, his work does not
engage with Maimon's style or personality in any serious way.46
I11terestingly, a fictional double of San1uel Atlas makes an appear-
ance in Isaac Bashevis Singer's Shadows on the Hudson, which was orig-
inally serialized in the Yiddish Forverts in the 1950S. A Jewish intellec-
tual named Zadok Halperin is described as having written works on
"IZant, Solomon Maimon and Hermann Cohen. . . . His Hebrew
monographs were studied at the University of Jerusalen1. His profi-
ciency in Talmud and other sacred studies knew no limits." At almost
the same time as Singer was writing his novel, a group of essays on
156 Chapter Five

Maitllon's philosophy was published in a Yiddish journal fron1 Buenos


Aires. 47
IZuntze, Bergman (who was an adolescent conlpanion of IZaf1(a's),
and Rotenstreich all gre\v 11p in an assilllilated Central European Jew-
ish milieu. If there is a weakness to the extraordinary vvorks that each
of thenl produced on Main10n, it is a tendency to view him exclusively
within the discursive context of IZantian pllilosophy, even when dis-
cussing his debts to Maimorlides. One of the nlore sllrprising scholars
of Maillloniana in the twentieth ce11tury has been Chaim Potok, who
wrote a good philosophical dissertation on Mainl0n's philosophy 11n-
del" Rotenstreich and Bergman that was never published. 48 With the ex-
ception of the first three pages, the work is entirely devoted to techni-
cal matters of epistenl0logy, but Oilly four years later Potok became
famous by writing a best-seller that brought the issues of apiqorsut to
popular Atnerican fiction in his novel The Chosen. In the following tell-
tale scene, Patok's years of studying Maimon's rugged Idealist philos-
ophy come to commercial fr11ition:
All right, nlY father said I see you want me to continue my story. Now
I an1 going to tell you another story, also a true story, about a Jewish
boy who lived in Poland in the second half of the eighteenth century.
As I tell you the story, think of Reb Saunder's son and you will have
your answer. This boy, Reuven, was brilliant, literally a genius. His
name was Solomon and later in life he changed his nanle . . . to Mai-
mono When he was young, he found that the Talnlud could not satisfy
his hunger for knowledge. His mind would not let him rest.... He
had a great mind but it never left him in peace. He wandered from
city to city, never finding roots anywhere, never satisfied, and finally
died at forty-seven on the estate of a kind-hearted Christian who had
befriended hinl.... Reuven, Reb Saunder's son has a mind like 5010-
n10n Main10n. 49
In Patok's novel, Mailllon becomes the historical emblem for the tragic
conflict between religion and secular lGl0wledge, the first tragic arche-
type for his hero "DanllY Saunders."
Historians within the Orthodox world did not forget Maimon after
his appearance in the notes of the Vihla Gaoll's hagiography, and he has
continued to be an occasional source of polemics again~~!!I~~Jll~uitQ(_
Literary Afterlife 157

philosophy or secular knowledge. As recently as 1992, an article ap-


peared that promised to answer the question, "How has the Enlight-
ennlent been disproved by history?" through reCOllrse to Mailnon's life
history.5o This trend goes back to the 11ineteenth century. Thus, the
generally nl0derate neo-Orthodox historian Zev Ya'avetz grollped
Mailnon together with Lazarus Bendavid and Marcus Herz as men
who sold their birthright for a right to participate in tIle Enlighten-
nlent, although to relnain for a monlent with the biblical allegory, Mai-
mon never really renounced the birthright of rabbinic culture, and
Herz and Bendavid never quite possessed it. 51
Mainl0n's Sllccess as a German philosopher legitinlated his value as
a vvorthy autobiographical subject, in his own eyes as well as those of
his original readers. However, his historical reception alrnost reversed
the process. Had he merely written his philosophical works withollt his
autobiography, it is llnlikely that even they wOllld have received as
much scholarly attention as they have. I-lis Lebensgeschichte has been
read for its style, even studied on occasion for its subtleties, and used
for purposes ranging from philosophical instruction to historical
polelnics. What would seem to be imperishable is, literally, the name
that Maimon gave hinlself in writing his autobiography.
Bllt perhaps it is still too early for such a judgment. Maimon's philo-
sophical work has, along with Gernlan Idealisnl nlore generally, enjoyed
an intellectual renaissallce recently. At the turn of the twenty-first cen-
tury, Maimon's philosophical work is being read in spite or perhaps even
because ofits difficult literary style, and studied for its exegetical genius
ifnot, perhaps, its expository power. As Manfred Frank declared ofMai-
mon in the pages of Die Zeit in 2004, "A great philosopher is waiting to
be discovered, and the research on him still stands at the beginning." 52
Conclusion
Everywhere in scholarly work n10re is promised than achieved.
SOlOlTIOn MailTIOn, "Der moralischer Skeptiker"

Solomon Maimon is famous (to the extent that he is famous) for two
extraordinary accomplishments within the German and Jewish Enlight-
enments of the late eighteenth century. He was among the very first
philosophical critics to truly engage the central problems of Immanuel
IZant's great epistemological project in the Critique ofPure Reason and
to sketch the contours of a post-IZantian German Idealism in response.
He was certainly the first writer to vividly depict the wrenching move
of an Eastern European Jew from traditional rabbinic culture to the
Western European Enlightenment, in his autobiography.
We might call the first of these accomplishments philosophical and
the second literary. On the face of it, they have little to do with one
another, except for the contingent fact that Main1on's achievements as
a philosopher legitimated his worthi11ess as an autobiographical sub-
ject (as Maimon himself well llnderstood). This, in fact, has been the
approach of writers on Maimon over the past two centuries. Philoso-
phers have treated his autobiography as a colorful footnote and have pro-
ceeded quicldy to the technical argumentation; historians have taken
Maimon's philosophical accomplishment as merely one of the earliest
and most dramatic illustrations of the Jewish e11try into European high
culture, and literary critics have generally ig110red the role ofphilosoph-
ical ideas, tropes, and argume11ts in Maimon's autobiography, let alone
their historical origins. Such approaches are justifiable within their dis-
158 ciplinary borders, but sometimes it is necessary to cross borders in order
to nlap important territory. As I have shown, Maimon's philosophical
and autobiographical works are n10re than merely contingently related,
and understanding the way in which they inforn1 each other helps to
Conclusion 159

illuminate the particular intellectllal and cultural n10n1ent in which Mai-


mon's comet burst across the German sky. (The meteorological meta-
phor is, of course, Main10n's.)
I have argued that a single, central philosophical theme animates al-
most all of Maimon's work fron1 his earliest unpublished Hebrew writ-
ings through his mature German and Hebrew philosophical work to his
self-invention in the Lebensgeschichte. Each ofthese works is written un-
der the philosophical sign ofnoetic, or intellectual, perfection, in which
the subject strives for a perfect knowledge that would be equivalent to
union with the divine mind, which he serially refers to as the active
intellect, the Shekhina, the infinite intellect, and the World Soul. In his
Hebrew writil1gs, Maimon uses the Hebrew Aristotelian term of art for
such perfection, shelemut ha-nefesh (perfection of the soul), along with
an associated cluster of Hebrew terms. In German, the word Maimon
often uses to express this ideal of perfection is Vollkomenheit.
In recognizing this continuity between Maimon's early unpublished
Hebrew work, his matllre Hebrew and German philosophical writings,
and his autobiography, I have also traced a kind ofmicrohistory ofideas
withil1 a single consciousness. In little more than a decade, Maimon
moved from being an exponent of what he called the "Jewish peri-
patetic philosophy" of the Middle Ages to being a forerunner, if not
a founder, of German Idealism, one of the n10st distinctively modern
philosophical systen1s. In 1778, when he wrote the Hesheq Shelomo,
Maimon still wrote from within the tradition of medieval Aristotelian
philosophy, especially as it was il1terpreted and radicalized by later phi-
losophers such as Moses Narboni. Twelve years later, when Maimon
published his Versuch iiber die Transcendentalphilosophie, in which he
criticized and revised IZant's philosophy, he was already anticipating
many of the characteristic arguments of Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel,
as well as the perhaps insoluble contradictions they faced.
Maimon's philosophical development is interesting on several levels.
In the first place it complicates the standard picture of the history of
Jewish philosophy. Thus, a distinguished historian of Judeo-Arabic
philosophy has recently written:
Jewish philosophy remained in varying degrees, indebted to Jewish
AverroislTI for its continued vitality into the sixteenth century. When
160 Conclusion

Jews began to philosophize again in the late eighteenth century,


Averroes and Aristotle were no longer their guides to the truth. l
The author was, no doubt, thinkillg ofMendelssohn, who was the fore-
most exponent of the so-called Wolff- Leibniz school of philosophy.
Maimon, who was the only other distingllished Jewish philosopher of
the late eighteenth century, is a clear counterinstance ofthis description.
In addition to MailTIonides, Mainl0n read Gersonides, Delmedigo,
Falaquera, and perhaps even Averroes hilTIself, in Hebrew translation.
He is the first l1l0dern editor ofNarboni, who was among the most rad-
ical and thorough of lnedieval Averroists. Nor will it do to silnply chalk
this up as another of Maimon's brilliallt idiosyncrasies. Isaac Euchel-
who studied with IZallt and who, as the editor of ha-Meassefand its as-
sociated publishing firm, had as Inllch responsibility for the propagation
of maskilic ideals as anybody else, translated Avicenna, wrote about
intellectllal perfection, and vvas Maimon's enthusiastic publisher-also
philosophized employing the terms of radical Aristoteliallism. Isaac Sa-
tanov, who succeeded Euchel at the Hinuch NeJarim publishing hOllse,
published a fourteenth-century Hebrew translation ofAristotle's Ethics
with a comlnentary that struggled with qllestions of intellectual per-
fection. Neither l1lan was a true philosopher, but their cases do tend to
show that when Jews began to philosophize again, they tllrned, unsur-
prisingly, to the medieval Jewish tradition, which inevitably read Aris-
totle through Maimonides alld sometimes read Mailnonides through
Averroes. More work needs to be done on these and other figllres to de-
termine the extent to which what I have called a medieval discourse of
perfection was still all important underlying structure ofJewish thought
in the late eighteenth centllry.
IfMaimon is a counterillstance to standard accounts ofthe end ofthe
Aristotelian period ill Jewish philosophy, he is also difficult to integrate
into the common distinction in the modern period between Jewish
philosophers and philosophers of Jewish origin. Thus, in a magisterial
survey of Jewish philosophy, tIle great intellectual historian Shlomo
Pines wrote:
Although lnedieval philosophers of Jewish origin for whom Judais111
does not constitute a primary philosophical theme are thought of as
Conclusion 161

belonging to the history of Jewish philosophy, a classification of this


kind applied to such modern philosophers of Jewish origin as Salomon
Maimon, Henri Bergson, Edmund Husser! and L. 1. Shestov might
lead to some significant conclusions but would nevertheless seem in-
appropriate. It would certainly not be in keeping with the intentions
of the philosophers themselves, and their views would be taken out of
their natural contexts. 2
This echoes Hannah Arendt's remark about Maimon as a paradigm
of the modern European Jewish intellectual, as a "conscious pariah,"
which I quoted in the introduction to this study. And, like Arendt's
comment, it too is mistaken, or at least misleading. Maimon can cer-
tainly be placed at or near the beginning of historical lines that include
Heine and Kafka on the one hand and Bergson and Husser! on the
other. However, unlike them, Jewish literary and philosophical tradi-
tion is, pace Pines, not merely a theme or interest of Maimon's; it is the
primary context out of which he always wrote, even when addressing
the most delicate questions of Kamian epistemology.
Maimon's progression from Maimonides to German Idealism is also,
of course, one of secularization, in which ideas such as God, the soul,
and immortality lose the last vestiges of traditional religion. In this re-
spect as well as others, the movements of Maimon's life reflect larger
trends. The point is methodologically interesting as well, for intellectual
histories of secularization have often seemed to presuppose either an
unlikely continuity of ideas expressed in texts of different historical
periods or some stable metasubject (say, European thought), which is
difficult to defend but seemingly hard to do without. In Maimon, we
have a thinker in whose work one can actually see the process in which
the radical potential of classical and medieval ideals are released in the
Enlightenment.
The point of this study has been, however, to understand Maimon as
the man thinking and not only the thought. In tracing thematic conti-
nuities between Maimon's Hebrew and German works and by showing
how they make sense as parts ofan individual life, at a crucial moment of
transition in Jewish and German history, I have tried to show, at the level
of the individual, how secularization and cultural conflict are expressed
in pain and dislocation, as well as the comedy of hard-won blasphemy.
Notes

Introduction
1. Arnulf Zweig, trans. and ed., Immanuel I(ant: Correspondence (Catnbridge,
England, 1999), pp. 3II - 2.
2. Zweig, I(ant: Correspondence, pp. 132-8.
3. For a biographical study, see Martin L. Davies, Identity or History: Marcus
Herz and the End ofthe Enlightenment (Detroit, 1995).
4. Zweig, I(ant: Correspondence, p. 293.
5. Zweig, I(ant: Correspondence, p. 292.
6. Zweig, I(ant: Correspondence, p. 312.
7. For a historical portrait of the salon, see Deborah Hertz, jeJvish High Society
in Old Regime Berlin (New Haven, 1988). The classic study of the significance of
such institutions as spaces for early Inodern public discourse is Jiirgen Habern1as,
The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, Thon1as Biirger, trans. (Caln-
bridge, Mass., 1989). For an application of a generally Habermasian Inodel to this
period in Jewish history, see the influential study of David Sorkin, The Transfor-
mation ofGerman jewry) 1780-1840 (Oxford, 1987).
8. Sololnon Maimon, Versuch iiber die TranJcendentalphilosophie) mit einem
Anhang iiber die symbolische Erkenntnis und Amerkungen (Berlin, 1790).
9. Solomon Maimon, GivaJat ha-Moreh (Berlin, 1791).
10. Solomon Maimon, Salomon Maimons Lebensgeschichte) Von ihm selbst
erziihlt und herausgegeben von I(arl Philipp Moritz (Berlin, 1792-3).
II. Alan Mintz, Banished from Their FatherJs Table: Loss of Faith and Hebrew
Autobiography (Bloomington, Ind., 1989), p. 10. This judgn1ent has been recently
confirmed in extensive detail in the con1prehensive study by Marcus Moseley, Be-
ing for M.,vselfAlone: Origins ofjewish Autobiography (Stanford, 2005).
12. Zweig, I(ant: Correspondence, p. 476.
13. Cf. Yinniyahu Yovel, Dark Riddle: I(ant) Nietzsche) and the jelvs (University
Park, Penn., 1999), pp. 18-9. Yovel suggests that this passage was actually in some
sense directed at Mendelssohn. This is simply n1istaken. Mendelssohn had been
dead for eight years, did not know Reinhold, and had a fairly cordial relationship
Notes to Pages 4- - 6

with IZant. Main10n, on the other hand, vvas both Reinhold's bitter rival and alTIOng
the lTIOst formidable of those who both understood "the critical philosophy" and
thought it could be improved.
14. SOlOlTIOn Main10n, Streifereien im Gebiete der Philosophie (Berlin, 1793).
15. For an anecdotal account of IZant's childhood that discusses his Lutheran
upbringing, see J. H. W. Stuckenberg, The Life ofImmanuel I(ant (London, 1882),
ch. 1. See also Ernst Cassirer, I(a'nt: Life and H10rk (New Haven, 1980), pp. 12-39;
and Manfred IZuehn, I(ant: A Life (Calnbridge, Mass., 2001), pp. 24-60.
16. The name ofthe town in which Dov Baer held court is transcribed variously.
'The spelling I adopt here is ll1eant to reflect Yiddish pronunciation rather than the
Polish orthography, in conformity with the usage of~ for exalTIple, Allan Nadler, The
Faith ofthe Mithnagdim: Rabbinic Responses to Hasidic Rapture (Baltimore, 1997).
17. These ambivalently related characterizations n1ay, in part, be traceable to
the lnedieval Christian question of vvhether to regard Jews as atavistic Old Testa-
ment biblicists or as adherents of a new Taln1udic heresy (nova lex). See Frank
Manuel, The Broken Staff: Judaism Through Christian Eyes (Calnbridge, Mass.,
1992), and Amos Funkenstein, Perception of Jewish History (Berkeley, 1993),
pp. 172-200. For Enlightenment attitudes toward Eastern Europe, see Larry Wolff,
The Invention of Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization in the Mind of the En-
lightenment (Stanford, 1994), especially ch. 7, on Poland.
18. Heinrich Graetz, History ofthe Jews (Philadelphia, 195 6 ), v. 5, p. 407.
19. For a recent, and ultimately unsuccessful, attempt to relate Maimon's early
kabbalistic interests to his later philosophy, see the otherwise excellent study of
Meir Buzaglo, Solomon Maimon: Monism) Skepticism) and Mathematics (Pitts-
burgh, 2002), pp. 130-5.
20. I think, for instance, that David Sorkin, who is the leading American histo-
rian of the Haskala, sometimes falls into this trap. For an early instance, see his
"Jews, the Enlightenlnent, and Religious Toleration: Some Reflections," Leo Baeck
International Year Book (1992), p. 10. Sorkin's most important recent studies-
Moses Mendelssohn and the Religious Enlightenment (Berkeley, 1997) and The Berlin
Haskalah and German Religious Thought: Orphans of [(nowledge (London,
2000 )-display similar tendencies on occasion. I discuss these issues a little further
in Chapter 2.
21. I quote from the most accessible recent edition, Salomon Maimons Lebens-

geschichte, Zwi Batscha, ed. (Frankfurt, 1984), p. 154. Here and throughout, I have
dravvn on the incomplete nineteenth-century English translation of J. Clark Mur-
ray, which has been recently reprinted, The Autobiography of Solomon Maimon
(Urbana-Chalnpaign, 2001). (A modern German scholarly edition that respects
the integrity of the original remains a desideratum, as does a complete and accu-
rate English translation.) The patron is actually identified, in the literary fashion of
the day, only as "H--." Davies, in Identity or History? identifies this figure as
Herz (p. 10 and fn. 28), as have others. Maimon's slighting of "H's" philosophical
Notes to Pages 7-10 r67

talents might be taken to undern1ine this identification, but it is Inore probably to


be understood as a deliberate insult of his former patron.
22. See, for instance, Maimonides' philosophical dictionary, Millot ha-Higayon
s.v. dibur: "The word dibur is an amphibolous tern1 which can mean 3 things. First,
that which distinguishes Inan who may intellect the intelligibles, learn the arts, and
distinguish evil from good, is called the faculty of dibur." Maimon had brought a
copy of this dictionary with hin1 to Berlin in an edition with commentary by
Mendelssohn; see Main10n, Lebensgeschichte, p. ISO. For Maimon's own explicit use
of this definition, see his remark that "the essence [of Inan] is as a Hai haMedaber,"
in his commentary to the Guide ofthe Perplexed (Mailnon, Giva)at ha-Moreh, S. H.
Berglnan and N. Rotenstreich, eds. [Jerusalem, 19 65], p. 35).
23. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 172.
24-. For the classical source of the tenn, see Mishna Sanhedrin 10: I, which ex-
cludes the apiqores fron1 the world to come, and the comn1ents of the Talmud, BT
Sanhedrin 99b, which describes such a person as one who disparages the Torah and
rabbinical authority.
25. "0 thou who first from so great a darkness were able to raise aloft a light so
clear, illumining the blessings of life, thee I follow, 0 glory of the Grecian race,"
in Lucretius, De Raerum Natura, W. H. D. Rouse, trans. (Cambridge, Mass.,
1924-), bk. III, p. 171. Con1pare, for instance, Maimon's remark that the Hasidim
are ranked beneath the "grossest Epicurean" in their failure to understand the na-
ture of perfection (Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 98), discussed in Chapter 2.
26. See the discussion ofSander Gilman,jewish Self-Hatred: Anti-Semitism and
the Hidden Language of the jews (Baltimore, 1986), pp. 124--32; and Ritchie
Robertson, "From the Ghetto to Modern Culture: The Autobiographies of Sa-
lomon Maimon and Jakob Fromer," Polin: A journal of Polish-jewish Studies 7
(1992), pp. 12-30.
27. The classic discussion of the Hebrew sources of Spinoza's philosophy is
Harry A. Wolfson, The Philosophy ofSpinoza (Cambridge, Mass., 1934-), 2 vols.
28. For a discussion of what might be called the "crypto-Spinozisln" of I(ant's
third Critique, see John H. Zammito, The Genesis of I(ant)s Critique ofjudgment
(Chicago, 1992), pp. 24-8-62.
29. See Frederick C. Beiser, The Fate ofReason: German Philosophy from [(ant
to Fichte (Cambridge, 1987), esp. pp. 4-4--126; and, more generally, David Bell,
Spinoza in Germany from 1670 to the Age of Goethe (London, 1984-).
30. The title of I(ant's oblique contribution to the controversy was "What
Does It Mean to Orient Oneself in Thinking?" (1786), recently retranslated in Al-
lan Wood and George di Giovanni, eds., Religion Within the Boundaries of Mere
Reason) and Other Writings (Cambridge, England, 1998), pp. I-IS.
31. Actually, in the Maimonidean form with which Maimon was familiar, it was
the triple identification of knower, known, and the act of knowing. See the exten-
sive discussion in Chapter 3.
168 Notes to Pages 11-13

32. Alisdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory (Notre Dan1e,
1984), p. 52, and esp. ch. 5,passim.
33. In particular, MacIntyre works vvith a rather unnuanced and rOlnantic idea
of the theoretical stability of the n1edieval religious Aristotelianisln of Aquinas and
others (e.g., Main10nides). Part ofvvhat I will sho\v about Main10n is that he self-
consciously releases the radical and even anti-ethical potential of this philosophical
tradition. MacIntyre's ongoing refonnulations and the cOlnlnentary and criticisn1
that these works have elicited is beyond the scope of this study.
34. Vivasvan Soni, "Affecting Happiness: The Emergence of the Modern
Political Subject in the Eighteenth Century," Ph.D. dissertation (Duke University,
2000 ).
35. For a con1prehensive discussion of the centrality of Bildung for modern Ger-
n1an Jewry, see Sorkin, Transformation ofGermanIervry. On the Aristotelian sources
for the developlnent of early ideas of Bildung, see Robert E. Norton, The Beautiful
Soul: Aesthetic Morality in the Eighteenth Century (Cornell, 1995), esp. ch. 3.
36. Wolfson, The Philosophy ofSpinoza, v. I, pp. vii-viii. Wolfson discusses Mai-
n10n's cOlnparison of Spinoza's account of the relationship between finite n10des
and an infinite God to the Lurianic doctrine of Tzimtzum, or divine contraction,
on pp. 394-5.
37. On the vexed question of Spinoza's Jewish education, see, now, Steven
Nadler, Spinoza: A Life (Can1bridge, England, 1999), ch. 4. For a critique ofWolf-
son's general approach, see Edwin Curley, Behind the Geometrical Method: A Read-
ing ofSpinozaJs Ethics (Princeton, 1988), pp. x-xii.
38. Zweig, I(ant: Correspondence, p. 175.
39. Moses Mendelssohn, "Morgenstunden," In Gesammelte Schriften Iu-
biliiumsausgabe, Alexander Altn1ann, ed. (Stuttgart, 1971), v. 3, pt. 2, p. 3.
40. I(arl Reinhold, "Briefe tiber die kantische Philosophie," Der Teutsche
Merkur, January 1787, third letter, p. 12.
41. Robert Pippin has produced an interesting and important body ofwork de-
voted to arguing for this characterization and working through its consequences.
For his most succinct statements, and references to his other work, see his Mod-
ernism as a Philosophical Problem: On the Dissatisfactions ofEuropean High Culture
(Oxford, 1991), esp. ch. 3, and his Idealism as Modernism: Hegelian Variations
(Cambridge, England, 1997), esp. ch. I.
42. In1n1anuel I(ant, Critique of Pure Reason, Nonnan I(elnp Smith, trans.
(New York, 1963), Axi-xii.
43. In1manuel I(ant, "An Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenlnent?" in
What Is Enlightenment? Eighteenth-Century AnS1vers and TIventieth-Century Ques-
tions, Jalnes Schn1idt, ed. (Berkeley, 1996), p. 58.
44. This is from the famous Davos disputation with Heidegger over the nature
of I(ant's philosophy, reproduced in Martin Heidegger, I(ant and the Problem of
Metaphysics, Richard Taft, trans. (Bloomington, 1990), app. 2, p. 172.
Notes to Pages 14-21 r69

45. I(ant, Critique ofPure Reason, B135.


46. Hannah Arendt, "The Jew as Pariah: A Hidden Tradition," Jewish Social
Studies 6 (1944), p. 100.
47. Interestingly, Arendt, succun1bing to a popular misilTIpression, included
Charlie Chaplin among her Jewish pariahs.
48. One place to n1ark the beginning of this revival of interest is in Beiser's
influential book, The Fate ofReason, ch. 10. More recent studies include those col-
lected in the excellent anthology edited by Gideon Freudenthal, Salomon Maimon:
Rational Dogmatist) Empirical Skeptic (Dordrecht, 2004). Manf1 ed Frank has re-
4

cently proclaimed Mailnon the great undiscovered philosopher of his generation (a


clain1 that was also heard in the nineteenth century), in Die Zeit, "Der Scharfsinn
des Herrn Main10n," June 3, 2004.
49. Sabbattia Wolff, Maimoniana oder Rhapsodien zur Charakteristik Salomon
Maimons (Berlin, 1813).
50. I(enneth L. Schlnitz, "The History of Philosophy as Actual Philosophy,"
Journal ofPhilosophy 85 (1988 ), p. 674.

Chapter One
1. A cOlTIplete list of such works would be tedious. However, in addition to the
treatment ofHeinrich Graetz, A History ofthe ]e'ws (Philadelphia, 1956), p. 6, and the
work of Hillel Levine, The Economic Origins ofAntisemitism: Poland and Its Jews in
the Early Modern Period (New Haven, 1991), p. 4and fn. 7, see, for example, Bernard
Dov Weinryb, The Jews ofPoland: A Social and Economic History ofthe Jewish Com-
munity of Poland) 1100 -1800 (Philadelphia, 1973). For a partial exception, see the
brief but nuanced discussion of MailTIOn'S proposed conversion in Jacob I(atz, Out
ofthe Ghetto: The Social Background ofJe1vish Emancipation) 1770 -1870 (Can1bridge,
Mass., 1973), pp. 114-15, and compare with n1Y discussion in Chapter 4.
2. Or thereabouts. The question of the exact date of Maimon's birth has been
the subject of son1e dispute. The date is generally put at 1754; see, for instance, En-
cyclopedia Judaica S.v. "Maimon, Solomon." This date follows Sabbattia Wolff's
early men10ir, Maimoniana oder Rhapsodien zur Charakteristik Salomon Maimons
(Berlin, 1813), p. 10, which was echoed by the first in1portant scholarly work
on MailTIon, Abrahan1 Geiger's "Salomon MailTIOnS Entwicklung," Jiidische
Zeitschrift 4 (1866), pp. 198-99. However, the date does not quite tally with vari-
ous ren1arks of Maimon, as was recognized by Friedrich I(untze, Die Philosophie
Salomon Maimons (Heidelberg, 1912), p. 502, who noted that in September 1794
Maimon wrote to Goethe, "Ich trete zwar erst in n1einem 42 Jahr." In his in1por-
tant introduction to the Hebrew translation of Main10n's autobiography, Pinchas
Lahover strengthened the case for n10ving the date backward to 1753, based on a
relTIark in Maimon's unpublished Hebrew manuscript Hesheq Shelomo, folio 19. As
Lahover also insists, Main10n's birthplace was certainly Sukoviborg rather than the
170 Notes to Pages 22-23

nearby Nieswicz (to which he later moved). See Solomon Main10n, Hayyei Shlomo
Maimon, Pinchas Lahover, cd., and Y. L. Baruch, trans. (Tel Aviv, 1941), p. 9.
3. For an overview of this economic arrangement, see M. J. Roslnan, The LordJs
Jews: Jelvish-Magnate Relations in Eighteenth-Century Poland (Cambridge, Mass.,
1989), esp. pp. 1-22. For an illulninating socioeconomic case study, see Gershon
Hundert, The Jews in a Polish Private T01vn: The Place of Opat01v in the Eighteenth
Century (BaltilTIore, 1992). The work of Hundert, Roslnan, and others has sub-
stantially revised the Inonochromatic portrait of Polish-Jewish relations painted by
previous historians. For a discussion of the Halakhic details of Jewish leaseholding
in Poland, see Edward Fram, Ideals Face Reality: Jelvish LalV and Life in Poland)
I550 -I655 (Cincinnati, 1997), ch. 6.
4. The bulk of Ashkenazi Jewry lived in the Polish Lithuanian COInmonwealth
throughout Inost of the eighteenth century. The population figure of 750,000 was
arrived at by Raphael Mahler, The Jelvs ofOld Poland in Light ofNumbers (Warsaw,
1958) (in Yiddish), on the basis of a 1764 census. For more recent discussions that
accept Mahler's reasoning, see Rosman, The LordJsJelvs, and Shaul Stalnpfer, "The
1764 Census of Polish Jewry," Bar IUan 24-25 (1989), pp. 41-147.
5. Solomon Main10n, Salomon Maimons Lebensgeschichte, Zwi Batscha, ed.
(Frankfurt, 1984), p. 15.
6. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 16.
7. Levine, Economic Origins ofAntisemitism, pp. 1-19,232-40. Levine refers to
Main10n's grandfather and his broken bridge at several key points throughout the
book and draws on Maimon's autobiography rather uncritically for his account of
eighteenth-century Polish blood libels as well. For trenchant criticism on this and
other scores, see the brief review of Gershon D. Hundert, American Historical Re-
vielv, 98 (October 1992), p. 1246, and cf. Hundert's similar criticisms of the work
of Majer Balaban and Wladyslaw Smolenski in the introduction to his Jelvs in a Pri-
vate Polish Town, p. xv. See also Levine's discussion in "'Should Napoleon Be Vic-
torious . . . ': Politics and Spirituality in Early Modern Jewish Messianism,"
Jerusalem Studies in Jelvish Thought 16-17 (1997), pp. 65-84.
8. Adam Teller argues for the specific historical plausibility of Mailnon's ac-
count, even if it should not be taken as typical, in "The Reliability of SoloInon
Maimon's Autobiography as an Historical Source," Gal-Ed: On the History of the
Jews in Poland 14 (1995), pp. 13-23 (in Hebrew).
9. For a brief statement of this position, see M. J. Rosman, "Jewish Perceptions
of Insecurity and Powerlessness in 16th-18th Century Poland," Polin I (1986),
pp.19- 27
10. Such two-generation households were exceedingly common, as Jacob I(atz
showed in his classic study "Family, I(inship, and Marriage in the 16th to 18th
Centuries," Jewish Journal ofSociology I (1959), pp. 4 -22.
II. Main10n n1entions his older brother Joseph in Lebensgeschichte, p. 32.
Notes to Pages 24 -25 171

12. Main10n, Lebensgeschichte, p. 3+. The rhetoric of this passage is interesting


and will be further discussed in Chapter 4.
13. A social history of this phenolnenon in eighteenth-century Ashkenaz is a
desideratuln, as is an analytical account of the logic and rhetoric used by such
prodigies and their teachers. For studies of the latter in the sixteenth and seven-
teenth centuries, see H. Z. Dinlitrovsky, "Leqet YosefveSugyot haTalInud (leTol-
dot I<lallei haDerush veHilluqim)," in Allei Sejer, Israel Ta-Shema, ed. (Ranlat
Gan, 1981), v. 4, pp. 70 - 116; and H. Z. Dinlitrovsky, "AI Derekh haPilpul," in Ju-
bilee Volume in Honor ofSala Baron, A. Hyman and S. Lieberman, eds. (New York,
1975), pp. III-8I.
1+. MailTIon, Lebensgeschichte, pp. 104-5.
15. Peter Beer (1758 - 1838), to take just one example, studied under Rabbi Ezekial
Landau of Prague but is never described as a Talmudic genius, as Mainl0n often is.
On Beer's education, see his Lebensgeschichte des Peter Beer, Moritz Hennann, ed.
(Prague, 1839), which owes much to Maimon's autobiography; and Michael Bren-
ner, "Between Haskala and IZabbalah: Peter Beer's History ofJewish Sects," in JeJv-
ish History and Jewish Memory: Essays in Honor ofYOsefHayim Yerushalmi, Elisheva
Carlebach, John Efron, and David Myers, eds. (Hanover, 1998), pp. 389-404. The
most con1plete portrait of Raphael IZohen is contained in Jacob IZatz, "Rabbi
Raphael Kohen, Moses Mendelssohn's Opponent," in Jacob IZatz, Divine Law in
Human Hands: Case Studies in Halakhic Flexibility (Jerusaleln, 1998), pp. 191-215.
(The question ofMailnon's teachers and actual Talmudic attainnlents was sharpened
for Ine by a chance conversation with Professor David Weiss Halivni.)
16. I esche\v here the tenn pilpul, which "vas already a polelnical term by the
sixteenth century and which was sometin1es wielded by maskilic critics of tradi-
tional Ashkenazic culture to include any sort of Talmudic reasoning at all. The
influence of classic Christian characterizations of Pharisaisln and their latter-day
descendants in enlightened Protestant and Deist polelnics against the Catholic
Church should not be overlooked. In the n10st technical sense, pilpulim were the
generally unpublished classroom disputations designed to sharpen students' wits.
For studies of the early development of Eastern European TalInud study, see
Mordechai Breuer, "The Rise ofPilpul and HillukilTI in the Yeshivot ofAshkenaz";
and Elhanan Reiner, "The Yeshivot of Poland and Ashkenaz During the 16th and
17th Centuries: Historical Developments Studies," in Jewish Culture in Honor of
Chone Schmeruk, Israel Bartal, ed. (Jerusalem, 1993), pp. 9-80 (in Hebrew).
17. On Raphael IZohen, see the entry in the Encyclopedia Judaica and the bib-
liography there, and below note 66. For a sense of IZohen's scholarly style, see his
work Torat Yekutiel (Berlin, 1772), a commentary on Shulkhan Arukh) Yoreh Deah.
For the more analytically probing style of Aryeh Leib Heller, see, especially, his
early work, Shev Shemateta (Lemberg, 1804), which also has a quasi-philosophical
introduction.
172 Notes to Pages 25 -28

18. See, for exan1ple, the characterization ofAchim Engstler in his Untersuchun-
gen zum Idealismus Salomon Maimons (Stuttgart-Bad Canstatt, 1990), p. 26.
19. For the eighteenth-century Ashkenazic, especially Polish, practice of n1ar-
rying boys off at this age, see the responsa of Mailllon's older rabbinic contempo-
raries: R. Jacob Emden, She)elat Yavetz (Altona, 1759), no. 14-, p. 18; and Rabbi
Ezekiel Landau, Noda be-Yehuda (Prague, 1811), no. 54-, p. 63. For a provocative his-
torical discussion of the phenoillenon, see David Biale, Eros and the Jelvs: From Bib-
lical Israel to Contemporary America (New York, 1992), pp. 127-30. For a demo-
graphic discussion, see Andrejs Plakans and Joel M. Halpern, "An Historical
Perspective on Eighteenth Century Jewish Fan1ily Households in Eastern Europe:
A Prelin1inary Case Study," in Modern Jewish Fertility, Paul Ritterband, ed. (Lei-
den, 1981), pp. 1-29. Plakans and Halpern note four instances of such n1arriages in
their Latvian data and reillark that "they would appear to require cultural rather
than den10graphic explanation" (p. 27). This is precisely right. Note that the hus-
bands of these n1arriages are listed without official occupation. They lllay very well
have been young scholars like Maimon.
20. See the discussion of Mai1110n and later Inaskilic memoirs in Biale, Eros and
the Jelvs, pp. 14-8 -52.
21. Mai1110n, Lebensgeschichte, p. 62. The coincidence of the chapter nUlllber
\vith Main10n's marriage age is likely a deliberate bit of Maimonian literary play.
22. Thus, for instance, Soloillon Dubno (1738 - 1813) tutored Moses Men-
delssohn's son Joseph (see Alexander Altmann, Moses Mendelssohn: A Biographical
Study [Tuscaloosa, Ala., 1973], p. 355); Isaac Satanow (1732-1804-) tutored for
several Berlin families (see Joseph I<Iausner, Historiya shel haSifrut haIvrit ha-
Hadasha [Jerusalen1, 1952], v. I, p. 165); and Manasseh ofIlya (1767-1831), a n10re
conservative Maskil, also worked as a family tutor (see Yitzhak Barzilay, Manasseh
ofIlya: Precursor ofModernity Among the Jelvs ofEastern Europe [Jerusalen1, 1999],
p.24-).
23. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 71. This incident plays a part in Sander
Gilman's speculative psychoanalytic reading of Maimon's Lebensgeschichte, in Jew-
ish Self-Hatred: Anti-Semitism and the Hidden Language of the Jews (Baltin10re,
1986 ), pp. 125-32.
24-. Mailnon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 24-, and see Zwi Batscha's editorial note 8.
25. For another example of Maimon's n1isogyny, see Lebensgeschichte, pp. 179-
81. I alll indebted here to a perceptive essay by Bluma Goldstein, which I hope she
will publish.
26. Mailnon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 97.
27. See Plakans and Halpern, "Historical Perspective on Eighteenth Century
Jewish Faillily Households."
28. For the Tahlludic origins of this tension, see Daniel Boyarin, Carnal Israel:
Reading Sex in Talmudic Culture (Berkeley, 1993), esp. pp. 134--66. Boyarin has
also explored later, nineteenth-century culturallnanifestations of the Inale ideal of
Notes to Pages 28-29 173

the Talmid Hakham, rabbinic hon10sociality, and their eventual repudiation, in


Unheroic Conduct: Tbe Rise ofHeterosexuality and the Invention of the jelvish Man
(Berkeley, 1997).
29. An unreliable tradition has Main10n Ineeting the Gaon and being placed
in stocks before the Vilna synagogue for his in1pudence. See the discussion of
the source for this story in my account of Main10n's literary afterlife in Chapter 5.
Main10n was, however, falniliar with the Gaon's reputation; see Lebensgeschichte,
p. 121.
30. For the account of the Gaon's sons, see their introduction to his COlnmen-
tary to Shulchan Arukh) Drah Hayyim) Biur haGra (standard ed.), in which the
Gaon forgets his family entirely while in an exalted spiritual state until a bowel
n10velnent returns his thought to Inundane Inatters. The first full hagiography is
Yehoshua Heschel Levin, Aliyot Eliyahu (Warsaw, 1859), vvhich contains several less
dramatic examples of a silnilar scale of values.
31. Elijah ben Solomon of Vilna, Biur haGra leMishlei, Moshe Philip, ed.
(Petah-Tikva, 1985), p. 263, on Proverbs 23: 30, cited in Emannuel Etkes' valuable
essay, "Marriage and Torah Study Atnong Lomdim in Lithuania in the Nineteenth
Century," in The jewish Family, David I(raelner, ed. (Oxford, 1990), pp. 153-75.
Etkes concentrates on the nineteenth century. I hope to return to the rhetoric and
eighteenth-century Lithuanian Jewish context of this and other related passages on
another occasion.
32. Main10n, Lebensgeschichte, pp. 78 and 86.
33. See the essays in Jacob IZatz, Halacha veI(abbala (Jerusaleln, 1985), and n1Y
discussion in Chapter 2.
34. The classic study that argues for the pairing of the Haskala and Hasidisn1 as
revolts against rabbinic authority is Jacob IZatz, Tradition and Crisis, 2nd ed. (New
York, 1993), although as Bernard Dov Coopennan notes in his afterword, this as-
pect of IZatz's account has had several recent challenges. M. J. Rosn1an has made
the most extensive counterargument in his Founder of Hasidism: A Quest for the
Historical Ba)al Shem Tov (Berkeley, 1996), but see the vociferous dissent of Allan
Nadler, The Faith of Mithnagdim: Rabbinic Responses to Hasidic Rapture (Balti-
more, 1996), p. 3 and passim.
35. For the attractions of both Hasidism and Haskala to eighteenth-century
adolescents like Main10n, see Biale, Eros and the jelvs, pp. 150 -61; and Gershon
Hundert, "Approaches to the History of the Jewish Family in Early Modern
Poland-Lithuania," in Thejelvish Family: Myths and Reality, Steven M. Cohen and
Paula E. Hyman, eds. (New York, 1986), pp. 17-28.
36. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 104. Con1pare the classic description of this
period by Simon Dubnow, "The Maggid and His Associates and the Center in Vol-
hynia (176o -72)," in Essential Papers in Hasidism: Origins to Present, Gershon
Hundert, ed. (New York, 1991), pp. 62-63.
174 Notes to Pages 29-31

37. Main10n, Lebensgeschichte, p. 110. Maimon actually uses initials, saying that
he traveled to "M--, where the leader B--lived," but the identity of the place
and leader have never been in doubt.
38. Although Main10n does not indicate exactly where he was living at the tin1e,
we can aSSUlne that he was still in Polish Lithuania, in the general vicinity of
Nieswicz, Slonin1, and Mohilna, so a trip to Mezeritch in Volhynia was a major un-
dertaking.
39. Interestingly, Maimon does not appear to be aware of Rabbi Israel Baal
Shen1 Tov (1700-1760) as a unique founder of the lTIOVement. He does, however,
i11ention another "BeShT," Joel Baal Shem, a well-known folk healer (it is not clear
whether MailTIOn is referring to the late seventeenth-century author of Mifalot Elo-
him, published posthumously in 1727, or his grandson and editor of the saIne
nan1e); see Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 108. On the lneaning of the honorific title,
see Gershom ScholelTI's discussion in Encyclopedia Judaica, s.v. "Ba'al Shem." In-
cidentally, Main10n's indistinct knowledge about the origins of the lTIOVen1ent may
support Moshe Rosman's argument, in Founder ofHasidism, that Israel Baal Shen1
Tov was only recognized retrospectively as the founder of a distinct moven1ent.
40. Main10n represents both "the founder of the Christian religion" and "the
notorious Shabatai Zevi" as similar critics of rabbinic hegemony. Of the former he
writes with dry irony that he succeeded in reforming "at least part of the Nation."
See Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 106.
41. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, pp. 102-3.
42. See Rivka Schatz-Uffenheimer, Hasidism as Mysticism: Quietistic Elements
in Eighteenth Century Hasidic Thought, Jonathan Chipman, trans. (Princeton,
1993) .
43. The nineteenth-century historian Joseph Flinn identified the proto-
maskilic Rabbi of Slonim in question as Rabbi Shin10n ben Moredechai, who
later provided an introductory approbation for Rabbi Baruch Schick's well-
known translation of Euclid's Elements into Hebrew. See Joseph Flinn, Safah le-
Ne)emanim (Vilna, 1881), p. 94. One of the n1edical textbooks appears to have been
Johann Adam I(ulmus, Anatomische Tabellen (Leipzig, 1741); I have been unable to
conclusively identify the others. See Shmuel Feiner, The Je'wish Enlightenment,
Chaya Naor, trans. (Philadelphia, 2002), esp. ch. 2.
44. Moses Shulvass, From East to West: The liVestward Migration ofJervs from
Eastern Europe During theI7th andI8th Centuries (Detroit, 1971), esp. pp. 79-125;
and William Hagen, Germans) Poles) andJelvs: The Nationality Conflict in the Pruss-
ian East) I772 -I9I4 (Chicago, 1980).
45. MailTIOn, Lebensgeschichte, p. 122.
46. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 123.
47. Marcus Herz had actually been among the enlightened Jewish students of
I(onigsberg, where he studied with I(ant, but by this time (1777 or 1778) he had
already moved to Berlin.
Notes to Pages 31 -33 175

48. By the tin1e MailTIon arrived in IZonigsberg, it had gone through nine edi-
tions. See Altn1ann, Moses Mendelssohn, p. 148.
49. See Alexander Altn1ann, "Moses Mendelssohn: The Archetypal Gern1an-
Jew," in The Jewish Response to German Culture: From the Enlightenment to the Sec-
ond World War, Jehuda Reinharz and Walter Schatzberg, eds. (Hanover, 1985), p. 3.
50. Mendelssohn hilTIself apparently considered rendering his Phiidon in He-
brew but decided it was too hard. Naftali Herz Wessely also considered translating
the work but gave it up. In 1765, Mendelssohn did compose a long epistolary essay
in Hebrew on the ilTIITIOrtality of the soul that drew on Hebrew classical sources to
ITIake si.n1ilar arglUTIents; see Altmann, Moses Mendelssohn, pp. 179-93. This work was
published posthun10usly as Sefer ha-Nefesh (Berlin, 1787) by David Friedlander. It is
to be distinguished fron1 the Hebrew translation ofthe Phiidon that was finally pub-
lished in the saIne year by Isaiah Beer-Bing, Fadon: Hu Sefer ha-Nefesh (Berlin, 1787).
The contemporary den1and for Hebrew translations of Mendelssohn is attested to
by Isaac Satanov in an appendix to his Sefer ha-Middot (Berlin, 1784), p. 138.
51. Main10n, Lebensgeschichte, p. 125.
52. lVlain10n, Lebensgeschichte, p. 129. On the term Betteljude and the large
nun1ber of Eastern European Jewish wanderers who fit the category at this tin1e,
see Shulvass, From East to West, esp. pp. 13-17 and pp. 70-74 and notes.
53. MaiITIon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 133.
54. The manuscript is now held by the Institute tor Microfilmed Hebrew Man-
uscripts at the Jewish National and Hebrew University Library, JerusaleITI, cata-
logued as MS 806426. Abrahan1 Geiger's conspectus, "Salomon MaiITIons En-
twicldung," is the first scholarly discussion, although it is briefand marred by aniITIUS
against the genre. The ITIanuscript was held by the ]udische Hochschule frOITI some-
time in the mid-nineteenth century until World War II, when it was apparently taken
to the United States by .l\lexander Guttn1an. With the exception ofthe pages copied
by Scholem, the manuscript was lost to view. It was rediscovered by Moshe Idel at a
Sotheby's auction of Guttn1an's collection in New York in 1981. On the subsequent
controversy over its rightful ownership and the eventual disposition of the Hesheq
Shelomo and other manuscripts, see H. C. Zafren, "From Hochschule to Judaica
Conservancy Foundation: The GuttITIan Affair," Je1vish Book Annual 47 (1989),
pp. 6 -26. I discuss parts of this manuscript in some detail in Chapter 2. One other
Hebrew manuscript from Maimon is known to be extant, Ta)alumot Holchma, an
account of Newtonian mathematical physics, written in the late 1780s while Mai-
ITIOn was in Breslau. It is briefly quoted and discussed in Samuel Hugo Bergman,
haFilosofia shel Shelomo Maimon, 2nd ed. (Jerusalem, 1968), app. B, pp. 201-4.
55. Main10n, Lebensgeschichte, p. 134. The anecdote is actually n10re plausible
than it might sound. Fish are COn1lTIOnly associated with the souls of the righteous
in Jewish folklore. For an entertaining account of a twenty-first-century reprise of
this incident in a traditional Ashkenazi community, see Corey IZilgannon, "Mira-
cle? Dream? Prank? Fish Talks, Town Buzzes," Ne1v YOrk Times, p. AI.
176 Notes to Pages 33-36

56. Mailnon's actual description is slightly n10re coy. He halfheartedly blalnes


his acquaintances for taking hin1 to "lustigen Gesselschaften, in Wirtshauser, auf
Spaziergange und zuletzt auch in--und dieses alles auf ihre eigne IZosten" (Mai-
lnon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 170). Main10n's dissolute ways are also described by
Berlin conten1poraries, such as Sabbattia Wolff and Lazarus Bendavid, whose Inen1-
oirs are discussed later.
57. Main10n entered the Altona Gyn1nasiun1 Christianeun1 the following year
in 1784.
58. On the Jerusalem affair, see Altlnann, Moses Mendelssohn, pp. 514-52, espe-
cially as supplen1ented and corrected by the san1e author in his introduction and
notes to Moses Mendelssohn, Jerusalem: Or on Religious Pmver and Judaism, Al-
lan Arkush, trans., with introduction and con1n1entary by Alexander Altmann
(Hanover, 1983).
59. For interesting speculation along sin1ilar lines, see Allan Arkush, "Solon10n
Main10n and His Jewish Philosophical Predecessors: The Evidence of His Autobi-
ography," in Rene1ving the Past) Reconfiguring Jewish Culture: From al-Andalus to
the Haskalah, Ross Brann and Adaln Sutcliffe, eds. (Philadelphia, 2004), pp. 149-
66. In his rather alnbivalent chapter-long eulogy of Mendelssohn, Main10n n1akes
their substantive philosophical and political disagreen1ents a little n10re explicit; see
Main10n, Lebensgeschichte, pp. 158-67, esp. p. 166 (on Spinoza). I hope to return
to a detailed exegesis of these passages and the related question of their approaches
to IZabbala as a orn1 of Jewish allegorical n1yth on another occasion.
60. Lowenthal's piece was adapted from a series of newspaper articles he wrote
in the n1id 1920S on "German Jewish Intellectual Culture" for the short-lived Judis-
ches Wochenblatt, translated and republished in Critical Theory and Frankfurt Theo-
rists: Lectures) Correspondence) Conversations (New Brunswick, 1989), pp. 5-14. See
also Leo Lowenthal, "Cedars of Lebanon," Commentary, May 1946, p. 73.
61. Todd IZontje, Private Lives in the Public Sphere: The German Bildungsroman
as Metafiction (University Park, Penn., 1993), p. 37. The quotation of Anton Reiser
is also taken froln IZontje.
62. See the con1mentaries of R. Moses Isserles to Shulkhan Arukh) Orakh
Hayyim, p. 695 ff., and, for example, the daring eighteenth-century joke reported in
the name ofR. Jonathan Eybeschutz in Menachen1 haCohen, "Parparot lePurim,"
Mahanayim 79 (1963), p. 40. For a general discussion, see Jeffrey L. Rubinstein,
"Purim, Liminality, and COlnmunitas," AJS Revie1v 17 (1992 ), pp. 247-77.
63. An undated twentieth-century brochure published by the Gymnasium
Christianeuln comlnemorates the attendance of Maimon and the nineteenth-
century Gennan philosopher S. L. Steinhem and contains the text of two educa-
tional certificates, the first of which is dated November 1783 and refers to Maimon
as merely "ein junger Mann, judischer Nation, namens Solomon aus Lithauen."
The second certificate, dated February 1785, refers to him as "Salomon Maimon,
Notes to Pages 36-38 177

aus Littauen gebiirtig." See San1uel Hugo Berglllan, The Philosophy of Salomon
Maimon, Noah J. Jacobs, trans. (Jerusalem, 1967), p. 2, fn. 2. (The footnote does
not appear in the Hebrevv edition). For the Gymnasiun1 Christianeun1's place in
the Auftlarung, see Franklin IZopitzsch, Grundziige einer Sozialgeschichte der
Auftlarung in Hamburg und Altona (Han1burg, 1982), pp. 713-38.
64-. Every proposed liberalization of Jewish rights in Prussia fron1 1780 until
1812 included a provision requiring Jevvs to take a fixed surnallle in place of their
patronymic. Other provisions included conducting business in Gern1an rather than
Yiddish and shaving off one's beard. See Dietz Bering, The Stigma of Names: Anti-
semitism in German Daily Life) I8I2 -I933, N. Plaice, trans. (Ann Arbor, Mich.,
1992 ), pp. 27-4-3
6S. Mailllon could conceivably have known of the fourteenth -century philoso-
pher Shelon10 ben Menahelll Prat Maimon, who was the last influential teacher of
philosophy in Provence. His work and that of his students did circulate in lllanu-
script fonll in eighteenth-century Eastern and Central Europe. On this Main10n,
see Colette Sirat, A History ofJe1vish Philosophy in the Middle Ages (Can1bridge, En-
gland, I98S), pp. 397-98; and Ernst Renan, Les ecrivans juifs du XIV siecle (Paris,
184-3), pp. 4-07-13
66. For a discussion of IZohen's perhaps apocryphaln1ission in which he deter-
mined that the Maggid was not a Talmid Hakham at the behest of the Vilna Gaon,
see Simon Dubnow, Toldot haHasidut (Tel Aviv, 1932), pp. 4-63 -6S; and Wolf Zeev
Rabinowitsch, Lithuanian Hasidism from Its Beginnings to the Present Day, M. B.
Dagut, trans. (London, 1970), p. 13. On his opposition to Mendelssohn, see Alt-
lllann, Moses Mendelssohn, pp. 383-88.
67. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, pp. 188-89.
68. The refusal to grant one's wife a divorce is not aillong the original rabbinic
list of the twenty-four actionable causes for excollllllunication (see T B. Berakhot,
19a), but it is mooted in the later Ashkenazi responsa literature. See the sources
cited by IZatz, Tradition and Crisis, p. lIS and notes.
69. Heinrich Heine, Religion and Philosophy in Germany, John Snodgrass,
trans. (Albany, 1986), p. 70. Heine's reillarks on Mendelssohn, whom he falllously
compares to Luther, are also perceptive.
70. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 191. Perhaps because of the ensuing contro-
versy, Maimon mentions then1 only by their initials. I follow the plausible identifi-
cations of Altmann, Moses Mendelssohn, p. 363 and note.
7!. Jacques Chretien de Beauval Basnage, Histoire des Juifs: depuis Jesus-Christ
a
jusquJa present) pour servir de continuation Phistoire de Joseph (Rotterdan1, 1706-
II). It was widely read, reprinted, and translated throughout the eighteenth cen-
tury. Indeed, Maimon may have had help frOlTI the Yiddish paraphrase by Mena-
hen1 Amilander, Sheyris Yisroel (Amsterdan1, 174-3), or the English translation, The
History of the Je1vs from Jesus Christ to the Present Time (London, 1708), which is
178 Notes to Pages 39-41

prefaced vvith a denunciation of Deis111, which Basnage's "an1azing chain of Prov-


idence refutes," by the translator, Tholnas Taylor. In any event, Mailnon no-
where else, to n1Y knowledge, den10nstrates knowledge of French, nor, unlike
Mendelssohn, does he discuss or allude to French writers other than Rousseau,
vvho vvas already translated into German.
72. Naftali Herz Wessely, Divrei ShaloWl ve-Emet (Berlin, 1782), p. 45, cf.
PP55-5 6 .
73. See Basnage, Histoire des Juifs, bk. 3, ch. 10 -28, on IZabbala; bk. 4, ch. 6 on
Mailnonides' account of creation; and bk. 4, ch. 7, and bk. 7, ch. 32 on Spinoza.
74. Basnage's book offended eighteenth-century Christian sensibilities for op-
posite reasons. See, for exan1ple, Anonylnous, Remarks on Some Books Lately Pub-
lished) viz Basnage)s History of the Jews) Whiston)s Eight Sermons) Lock)s Paraphrase
and Notes on St. Paufs Epistles) and LeClerc)s Bibliotheque Choise (London, 1709),
p. 2: "I think I find n1yself obliged to say that it is not to be read without Cau-
tion.... Basnage ... too COln1110nly insults the Fathers and other Christians in
favour of the Jews, and of the Mahometans; and vvith a very unnecessary diligence
has weeded the Talmud and other Rabbinical Books."
75. Barukh Schick, Qyneh leMiddah (Prague, 1783). On Schick, see later
discussion.
76. Presulnably the work bears some relation to the section of Hesheq Shelomo
titled "Maaseh Hoshev," folios 153 -266, although that would appear to have been
written earlier. Maimon's shiurim there extend through higher algebra.
77. Barukh Schick, Uqlides (The Hague, 1780), which is falnous because in the
(unpaginated) introduction he claims that R. Eliyahu ofViIna, the Vilna Gaon, en-
couraged its publication and told hiln that "for every deficiency a lnan has in the
sciences, he has ten ... in the science of Torah."
78. See the excellent study of David Fishman, Russia)s First Modern Jelvs: The
Jews of Shklov (New York, 1995), esp. ch. 2. Fishlnan argues, in fact, that Wessely's
relnark, quoted earlier, was in direct reference to Schick's visit to Berlin (p. 36).
79. See, for example, Mendel Lefin, Modah le-Binah (Berlin, 1789), a work of
health education, subsidized and published by the Berlin Maskililn. On Lefin, see
Nancy Sinkoft~ "Benjamin Franklin in Jewish Eastern Europe: Cultural Appropria-
tion in the Age of Enlightenlnent," Journal of the History of Ideas 61 (2000),
pp. 133-52, and Out of the Shtetl: Making JeJvs Modern in the Polish Borderlands
(Providence, R.I., 2004), especially chs. 1-3.
80. See Introduction, p. 2.
81. Mailnon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 197.
82. Main10n, Lebensgeschichte, pp. 196-97.
83. It is possible to interpret Rabbi Manoth as a kind of digressive doppelganger
who exelnplifies the Inissed possibilities of Main10n's life: a traditional Polish rabbi
who teaches Torah and supports his family. Indeed, his name can be read as a He-
brew pun (manoth is the plural form of the Hebrew word for portion or payment).
Notes to Pages 41-45 179

84. For IZiih's biography, see Meyer I(ayserling, Der Dichter Ephrainz I(iih: Ein
Beitrag zur Geschichte der deutschen Literatur (Berlin, 1864), and the critical dis-
cussion of Gilman,jelvish Self-Hatred, pp. 115-21.
85. Ephrailll Moses IZiih, Hinterlassene Gedichte (Zurich, 1792), e.g., v. I, p. 157.
86. For a fictional portrait of their friendship, see Berthold Auerbach, Dichter
und I(aufman: ein Lebensgemiilde aus der Zeit Moses Mendelssohn (Stuttgart, 1860).
87. Main10n, Lebensgeschichte, pp. 198-99.
88. See, for exan1ple, the use of the term in Alexander Baun1garten, Aesthetica
(Berlin, 1750), and in Mendelssohn's faillous prize essay Of1763, reprinted in Moses
Mendelssohn, Gesarnmelte Schriften jubiliiumsausgabe, Alexander Altn1ann et aI.,
eds. (Berlin, 1929), V. 2.
89. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 199.
90. For an insightful study that focuses on just this episode \vith an eye toward
the literary representation of the Aguna, see Blun1a Goldstein, "Deserted Wives:
Agunas on German Soil in Glild's Memoirs and Soloillon Mailllon's Autobiography"
(forthcoilling).
91. Wolff, Maimonia, p. 177.
92. See the discussion of Frederick Beiser, Fate of Reason: German Philosophy
from I(ant to Fichte (Cambridge, 1987), esp. pp. 105-7. Part of Main10n's transla-
tion is preserved in Giva)at ha-Moreh; the rest is lost.
93. Beiser, Fate of Reason, pp. 172-77. The two versions of the infamous
"Feder-Garve Review" have been translated and annotated in Brigitte Sassen,
trans. and ed., I(ant)s Early Critics: The Empiricist Critique of the Critical Philoso-
phy (Cambridge, England, 2000).
94. Gnothi Sauton oder Magazin zur Erfahrungsseelenkunde appeared from 1783
to 1793. On Maimon's involvement with the journal, see Liliane Weissberg, "Er-
fahrungsseelenkunde als ald(ulturation: Philosophie, und Lebensgeschichte bei
Salomon Maimon," in Der Ganze Mensch: Anthropologie und Literatur: lvissenschaft
in achtzehnten jahrhundert, H. J, Schings, ed. (Stuttgart, 1994), pp. 298-328. On
Moritz, see Mark Boulby, I(arl Philipp Moritz: At the Fringe of Genius (Toronto,
1979); and Martin L. Davies, "I(arl Philipp Moritz's Erfahrungsseelenkunde: Its
Social and Intellectual Origins," Oxford German Studies 16 (1985), pp. 13-35.
95. Solomon Maimon, Philosophisches Wiirterbuch oder Beleuchtung der lvichtig-
sten Gegenstiinde der Philosophie in alphabetischer Ordnung (Berlin, 1791).
96. Soloillon Mailllon, Giva)at ha-Moreh, Isaac Euchel, ed. (Berlin, 1791).
97. Soloillon Maimon, Salomon Mai1nons Lebensgeschichte, IZarl Philipp Moritz,
ed. (Berlin, 1792-93).
98. As noted in the introduction, note II, Alan Mintz and Marcus Moseley have
both concurred in this judgment. See also my discussion in Chapter 4. Perhaps it
should be noted that a case could also be made for the seventeenth-century work
of Leon de Modena, Hayyei Yehuda (Warsaw, 1911). Modena's work is informed by
the rhetorical traditions of the Renaissance and is often interior in focus, but it also
180 Notes to Pages 45-47

includes tvvo ethical ,vilIs. See Mark R. Cohen, trans. and ed., The Autobiography of
a Seventeenth-Century Venetian Rabbi: Leon Modena)s Life ofJudah (Princeton,
1988 ).
99. M. Vishnitzer, ed. and trans., The Memoirs of Ber of Belechow (London,
1922), which provides several interesting sketches of mid-eighteenth-century Jew-
ish life. The genre distinction between autobiography and n1emoir is put crisply by
Roy Pascal: "In the autobiography proper, attention is focused on the self, in the
n1en10ir or ren1iniscence on others" (Design and Truth in Autobiography [CaIn-
bridge, Mass., 1960 ], p. 5).
100. The Memoirs were not published until 1896, under the editorship of David
IZaufmann, as Die Memoiren der Gliickel von Hameln (Frankfurt, 1896). The only
complete translation was rendered by her descendant (and among other things
Freud's "Anna 0."), Bertha PappenheiIn, in Gern1an in a private edition (Vienna,
1910). The English edition, edited by Marvin Lowenthal, The Memoirs ofGluckel of
Hameln (New York, 1932), omits a good deal.
101. D. IZahana, ed., Megillat Sefer (Warsaw, 1896).
102. IZahana, Megillat Sefer, p. 3.
103. Cf. George Misch on the high medieval autobiography: "The son writes
for the benefit of his fainily what he heard fron1 his father. ... He adds his own life
history and that of his children and grandchildren and binds it all together with
worldly advice and ethical exhortation," in Geschichte der Autobiographie (Frank-
furt, 1969), p. 585. And with regard to Ghickel's familial autobiography, compare
Dipesh Chakrabarty's remarks on women's autobiographies in India between 1850
and 1910, which tend to be about extended fainily rather than individuals ("Post-
Coloniality and the Artifice of History: Who Speaks for the Indian Past," Repre-
sentations 37 [winter 1992 ], pp. 8-9).
104. This genre is, along with letters, prefaces to books, and other authorial
asides, one of the key sources tor premodern Jewish self-narrative. See the invalu-
able collection of Israel Abrahams, HebreTv Ethical Wills (Philadelphia, 1938). Leo
Schwarz, Memoirs ofMy People (Philadelphia, 1960), also includes English transla-
tions of several different forn1s of early Jewish self-narrative.
105. Solon10n Maimon, Uber die Progressen der Philosophie (Berlin, 1793); Solo-
n10n Main10n, Versuch einer neuen Logik oder Theorie des Denkens (Berlin, 1794-;
reprinted Berlin, 1912); Solomon Main10n, Die I(athegorien des Aristoteles (Berlin,
1794-); Solon10n Maimon, Bacons von Verulam neues Organon (Berlin, 1793); and
Solomon Mailnon, Anfangsgriinde der Ne1vtonischen Philosophie von Dr. Pember-
ton, F. Bartholdy, trans. (Berlin, 1793), a translation of Henry Pen1berton's popu-
lar exposition of the Principia, titled A Vie1v of Sir Isaac NeJvton)s Philosophy
(London, 1728).
106. Solomon Maimon, Salomon Maimons Streifereien im Gebiete der Philoso-
phie (Berlin, 1793).
Notes to Pages 47-50 181

107. 1lnn1anuel 1Zant, I(ant: Philosophical Correspondence) 1759 -99, Arnulf


Zweig, trans. and ed. (Chicago, 1967), pp. 2II-12, and discussion in the intro-
duction.
108. Boulby, I(arl Philipp Moritz, p. 28.
109. 1Zarl i\ugust Varnhagen von Ense, ed., Briefwechsel Zwischen Rahel und
David li'eit (Leipzig, 1861), v. 1, p. 254-; and 1Zarl August Varnhagen von Ense, ed.,
BriefwechselZwischen Schiller und Goethe (Leipzig, 1912), v. 1, letters dated Septem-
ber 12 and October 1794-. See also the discussion of Silnon Bernfeld, Dor Tahapu-
chot (Warsaw, 1897).
no. Solon10n Maimon, I(ritische Unterschungen iiber menschlichen Geist oder
das hijhere Erkentnis und Willensvermiigen (Leipzig, 1797).
III. The letter, signed "S. Maimon. Siegerdorf near Freistadt in Silesia 7. Feb-
ruary. 1800," was recently discovered, along with another letter, by Florian
Ehrensperger in an archive of Bendavid's papers. I thank hin1 and Yitzhak Melamed
for bringing it to IllY attention.
II2. P. Tscheggey, "Uber Saloillon Main10n und seine letzten Stunden," I(ro-
nos einem Archiv der Zeit (1801), reprinted in Wolft~ Maimonia, pp. 257-59.
113. "I asked hin1 ifit was not possible that there lnight be a future state. He an-
swered that it was possible that piece of coal put on the fire would not burn; and
he added that it was a most unreasonable fancy that we should exist forever. Well,
said I, Mr. Hun1e, I hope to triulllph over you when I lueet you in a future state;
and reillember you are not to pretend that you are joking with all this infidelity.
No, No, said he, but I shall have been so long there before you conle that it will be
nothing new," in James Boswell, An Account of My Last IntervieTv 1vith David
Hume) Esq) in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Nonnan IZemp Sn1ith, ed.
(New York, 1935), pp. 98-99. Cf. The Correspondence ofJames Boswell, Charles
Fifer, ed. (London, 1976), V. 3, pp. 73-74-. For the appearance of this account in
Germany, see Reinhardt Brandt and Heiner 1Zlemme, David Hume in Deutschland:
Literatur zur Hume-Rezeption in Marburger Bibliotheken (Marburg, 1989), p. 60.
114. In his Transcendentalphilosophie, Maimon wrote that "the morally good is
only good because it is true" and that anything less than metaphysical truth was
n1ere obedience to norms (p. 408). This clain1 is echoed in his last published work,
"Der lnoralische Skeptiker," Berlinisches Archiv der Zeit und ihres Geschmackes
(1800), pp. 246-47.
lI5. On the distinction between knowledge of "good and bad" and lnetaphys-
ical knowledge, see, for exalnple, Giva)at ha-Moreh to Guide 1:2. For Mailnon's
philosophical struggles over questions of cognition and imn10rtality, see n1Y dis-
cussions in Chapters 2 and 3.
n6. Immanuel 1Zant, Religion Within the Mere Limits of Reason, Allan Wood
and George di Giovanni, trans. (Cambridge, England, 1998), p. 93, note.
II7. Quoted in Heidi Thon1ann Te\varson, Rahel Levin Varnhagen: The Life
and Work ofa German Jewish Intellectual (Lincoln, 1998), p. 81.
182 Notes to Pages 50 -54

lI8. Lazarus Bendavid, "Uber SalOITIOn Main10n," National Zeitschrift fur Wis-
senschaft (Berlin, 1801).
119. Sin10n Bernfeld, Michael Sacks (Berlin, 1900), p. 3 (in Hebrew); cf Simon
Bernfeld, [(ampfende Geister imJudentum (Berlin, 1907), esp. pp. 105-19. A cen-
tury later, the editor of a new edition of Maimon's autobiography sent a letter to
the rabbi of Glogau for information on 1\1aiinon's burial and "vas told that ''\ve
know nothing ofMaimon's grave," in Jakob Froiner, ed., Salomon Mainl/ons Lebens-
geschichte (Berlin, 1911), p. 486.
120. Fro111er, Salomon Maimons Lebensgeschichte, pp. 35-40.
121. Yitzhak Melamed and Florian Ehrensperger visited Siegersdorf and tell n1e
that the stone is still referred to as the Denkmal of "IZalkreuth's Jew."
122. Wolff, Maimonia.

Chapter Two
1. Solomon Maimon, Salomon Maimons Lebensgeschichte, Z\vi Batscha, ed.
(Frankfurt, 1984), p. 128.
2. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 150. Mendelssohn's edition of Maiinonides'
ltvfillot ha-Higgayon was first published in Hamburg in 176r.
3. The press was established in 1784 as the publishing arm of the Free School of
Berlin. See the classic study of Moritz Steinschneider, "Hebraische Drucke in
Deutschland," Zeitschrift fur die Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland 5 (1892),
pp. 154-86. On Euchel, see Shmuel Feiner, "Isaac Euchel, Entrepreneur of the
Haskala in Gernlany," Zion 52 (1987), pp. 427-69 (in Hebrew).
4. Amos Funkenstein, Perceptions ofJelvish History (Berkeley and Los Angeles,
1993), pp. 234-35 ff. In the following paragraphs, I use different examples of the
scholastic pursuits of these Maskilim than Funkenstein chose, for the sake of the
present exposition.
5. For a recent argument that the generational distinction is crucial to an
understanding of the radicalization of the Haskala, see David Sorkin, The Ber-
lin Haskalah and German Religious Thought: Orphans of I(nolvledge (London,
2000). For distinctions between writers ofHebrewjYiddish and Gennan, see Isaac
Eisenstein-Barzilay's classic articles "The Treatment of the Jewish Religion in the
Literature of the Berlin Haskalah," Proceedings of the American Acade1ny ofJelvish
Research 24 (1955), pp. 39-68, and "The Ideology of the Berlin Haskalah," PAAJR
25 (1956), pp. 1-38. Moshe Pelli concurs in mapping the linguistic distinction more
or less directly onto that between moderates and radicals in The Age ofthe Haskalah
(Leiden, 1979). For an early insistence on the difference between Maskiliin of
Eastern and Western Europe, see Jacob Raisin, The Haskalah Movement in Russia
(Philadelphia, 1913).
6. See James H. Lehman, "Maimonides, Mendelssohn, and the Me'asfim: Phi-
losophy and the Biographical Imagination in the Early Haskalah," Leo Baeck Insti-
Notes to Pages 54 -56 183

tute Year Book 20 (1975), pp. 87-108, esp. pp. 101-3. The Inotto vvas long-lived and
widespread enough to have been picked up and quoted by Jalnes Joyce in Ulysses
(l'Jew York, 1961), p. 687.
7. I know of no definitive history of this phrase. It was perhaps suggested by
Maimonides' daring Deuteronon1ical choice of titles for his great code, Mishneh
Torah (literally, "second Torah"), which he underlined with the introductory claim
that "one could read the Written Torah and this book and learn all Torah without
having read any book between them." For an explicit use of the equation in later
rabbinic literature, see, for exalnple, Rabbi Hayyim Bachrach, Teshuvot Havot Yair,
p.19 2 .
8. Aaron Wolfson-Halle, "Siha be-Eretz ha-Hayyiln," ha-Meassef 7 (1794-7),
briefly discussed by Lehman, "Main10nides, Mendelssohn, and the Me'asfim," and
in some depth by Moshe Pelli, "On the Genre of 'A Dialogue in the Hereafter' in
Hebrew Haskala Literature," Proceedings of the Eighth World Congress of Jewish
Studies (1982), pp. 209 - 15.
9. Isaac Euchel, ed., Moreh ha-Nevuchim im Shnei Perushim (Berlin, 1796). Sa-
tanov is a fascinating figure who has yet to receive extended, perceptive treatlnent.
Incidentally, Altmann conjectures that Satanov n1ay have been the fellow "Polish
Jew residing in Berlin for the sake of study" who saved Maimon from being ex-
pelled from Berlin a second time for his possession of Millot ha-Higgayon (Alexan-
der Altmann, Moses Mendelssohn: A Biographical Study [London, 1973J, p. 354).
10. Mendel Lefin, trans., Moreh haNevuchim (Zolkiew, 1828), published post-
hun10usly and in direct competition with the third edition of the Main10n-Satanov
Giva)at ha-Moreh. However, it may actually have been published five years later, in
1833, despite the date on the title page; see Moreh naNevuchim le-Rabbenu Moshe
ben Maimon, Michael Schwarz, trans. and ed. (Tel Aviv, 2002), v. 2, app. 3, p. 748,
fi1. 18.
II. The previous publication had been the Renaissance edition of Sabbioneta
(Venice, 1553). See Jacob I. Dienstag, "Maimonides' Guide ofthe Perplexed: A Bib-
liography of Editions and Translations," in Occident and Orient: A Tribute to the
Memory of Alexander Scheiber, Robert Dan, ed. (Leiden, 1988), pp. 98-100. On
this and other publications of the Wulffian Press in Jessnitz, see Alexander Alt-
n1ann, "Moses Mendelssohn's lCindheit in Dessau," Bulletin des Leo Baecks 1nsti-
tuts 10 (1967), pp. 237-75, and Azriel Shohat, 1m Hilufei Tekufot (Jerusalem, 1960),
p. 207-8. For Mendelssohn's Maimonidean scoliosis, see the maskilic hagiography
of Isaac Euchel, Toldot Rabbenu haHakham Moshe Ben Menahem (Lemberg, 1860),
P23
12. Cf. the opening characterization of eighteenth-century Maskilim in Harry
Austryn Wolfson, "Solomon Pappenheim on Time and Space and His Relation to
Locke and Iunt," in Studies in the History ofPhilosophy and Religion, Isadore Twer-
sky and George Williams, eds. (Calnbridge, Mass., 1977), pp. 606-7. An analogous
desire to find connections between Hebrew literary traditions and contemporary
184 Notes to Pages 56 -57

Enlighteninent discourse also helps to explain the centrality of biblical literature to


the Haskala.
13. David Sorkin first set out his case in "Froin Context to COlnparison: The
Gern1an Haskala and Reforn1 Catholicisn1," Tel Aviv jahrbuch fUl!' deutsche
Geschichte 22 (1991), pp. 23-58. He n1akes the case n10st extensively in his Berlin
Haskalah and German Religious Thought, which builds on his earlier book on
Mendelssohn, Moses Mendelssohn and the Religious Enlightenment (Berkeley and
Los Angeles, 1996). For explicit confrontations with Funkenstein's question, see
David Sorkin, Moses Mendelssohn and the Religious Enlightenment (Berkeley, 1997),
p. 169, n. 36, and "En1ancipation, Haskalah, and Refonn: The Contribution of
Atnos Funkenstein," jeJvish Social Studies 6 (1999), esp. pp. 105-6.
14. COlnpare, for instance, Sorkin's mild characterization of Isaac Euchel in The
Berlin Haskalah and German Religious Thought, pp. 112-13, with that of the widely
quoted impression of the (rather n10derate) rabbi of Berlin, Tzvi Hirsch Levin:
"Truly it is a world turned upside down. Once pigs ate acorns (Eichel), and now
Euchel eats pig," in Israel Zinberg, A History ofjeHJish Literature, Bernard Martin,
trans. (Cincinnati, 1976), p. 135, fn. 34
15. In his Moses Mendelssohn, Sorkin ignores SOlne of Mendelssohn's subtler uses
of radical philosophical texts, especially those of Maiinonides, and does not forge
a tight enough connection between Mendelssohn's texts and that of the "moder-
ate" Hispano-Jewish tradition. See the critical review of Lawrence IZaplan, "Review
of David Sorkin, Moses Mendelssohn and the Religious Enlightenment," AjS Review
21 (1998), pp. 300-307, which makes SOlne points on a related score (albeit too
harshly). The n10st recent vigorous case for a radical reading of Mendelssohn is Al-
lan Arkush, Moses Mendelssohn and the Enlightenment (Albany, 1994), especially
chs. 6 and 7. One text that n1ight repay study in this regard is a Inanuscript of
Mendelssohn's teacher Israel Zan10sc's con1Inentary to the I(uzari in the hand of
his most fainous student. The manuscript, which Adain Shear first showed Ine and
is held by the Israel National Libraries Institute of Manuscripts, should be carefully
exan1ined for scribal additions, n1arginalia, signs of einphasis, and so on in COIn-
parison with the published text, Sefer haI(uzari im Shnei Beurim (Warsaw, 1880).
16. See the characterization of Nancy Sinkoff, "Benjan1in Franklin in Jewish
Eastern Europe: Cultural Appropriation in the Age of Enlighteninent," journal of
the History of Ideas 61 (2000), pp. 133-52. Sinkoff cites the work of Sorkin on
Mendelssohn and others in her characterization ofLefin. (It SeelTIS to Ine, on quite
independent grounds, however, that her characterization of Franldin is unduly
Inoderate. )
17. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 86.
18. At10ther less likely candidate Inight be one of the Neoplatonic works of
Isaac Israeli, who was an older conten1porary ofSaadia. The earliest extant work of
Jewish Aristotelianisin is the Emunah Ramah of Abraham Ibn Daud (ca. 1110-
1180). For earlier anticipations of Jewish Aristotelianism (to which Maiinon would
Notes to Pages 58-59 185

not have had access), see Shlolno Pines, "A Tenth Century Philosophical Corre-
spondence," Proceedings of the American Academy of je1vish Research 24 (1955),
pp. 103-36.
19. Mailnon, Hesheq Shelomo, folios 19-20 (MS 806426, Institute for Micro-
fihned Hebrew Manuscripts at the Jewish National and Hebrevv University Li-
brary, Jerusalem). It remains an open question as to whether the algebra textbook
is an original production or (as is perhaps lnore likely) a translation or paraphrase
of a contemporary Gennan textbook. See Chapter I, note 77, for speculation on its
. relation to the textbook comlnissioned in the 1780s and lnentioned in Lebensge-
schichte, p. I91.
20. I am indebted to Yitzhak Melalned for insisting on this point in several
discussions.
21. On the self-referential titles of rabbinic books, see the classic essay of Solo-
lnon Schecter, Studies in judaism (First Series) (Philadelphia, 1911), pp. 270-82. Of
course, not all such titles were both eponyn10us and then1atically appropriate.
Yohanan Allelnano (1435 -after 1504), one of the Renaissance scholars who taught
Pico della Mirandola Jewish lore, also titled a book Hesheq Shelomo with silnilar
noetic connotations, but I have no evidence that Main10n was aware ofAllemano's
book. On Allemano's perfectionisn1, see Hava Tirosh-Salnuelson, Happiness in
Premodern judaism (Cincinnati, 2003), pp. 412-23. On the other hand, Solon10n
Cohen (d. 1902), a leading Lithuanian Tahnudic scholar of the nineteenth century,
gave his classic work of legal novellae the title without an apparent allusion to any-
thing but his nalne.
22. Mailnon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 85.
23. See Steven Harvey, "The Meaning of the Term Designating Love in Judeo-
Arabic Thought and Some Relnarks on the Judeo-Arabic Interpretation of
Maimonides," in judeo-Arabic Studies, Norn1an Golb, ed. (Atnsterdam, 1998),
pp. 175-96.
24. See Jacob IZlatzkin's great lexicon of lnedieval philosophical Hebrew, Otzar
Munahim ha-Filosojiya (Berlin, 1927-33), which lists Perfectio and Vollkommenheit
as the Latin and Gern1an equivalents of shelemut. All three have the connotation of
a thing or act that has been con1pleted. IZlatzkin actually dre\v on Mailnon's Gi-
va)at ha-Moreh on occasion for the identification of n1edieval Hebrew and lnodern
German philosophical terms. See, for example, IZlatzkin, Otzar, s.v. "Behina."
25. Mailnon, Hesheq Shelomo, folio 3.
26. Albeit not precisely. The Nicomachean Ethics begins with the n10re conlplex
argument that goods correspond to ends and that Eudaernonia is the highest hu-
man good, although Main10n's statement that "knowledge of this purpose is very
useful for the conduct of lnan" closely paraphrases Nicomachean Ethics, 1094a23-
4. Mailnonides' Guide, and thus the entire medieval Jewish philosophical tradition,
was deeply influenced by the Ethics. However, the earliest Hebrew source for lnore
or less direct knowledge of Aristotle's text vvas through the fourteenth-century
186 Notes to Pages 60 -62

translation of one of Aven~oes' commentaries to the Ethics, which has now been
published in a critical edition by L. V Bern1an, ed., Averroes Middle Commentary
on AristotleJs Nicomachean Ethics in the HebreJv version of Samuel Ben Judah
(Jerusalen1, 1999). MaitTIon, however, would appear to be using a n1anuscript ofthe
Sefer haMiddot of Meir ben Solomon Alguadez (fl. 1390 -1+10), which was trans-
lated from the Latin translation of Boethius. A selection from this version of the
Ethics was later published with a cotTImentary by Maimon's friend Isaac Satanov.
27. MaitTIon, Hesheq Shelomo, folio 3, quoting MaitTIonides, "Introduction," to
Perush haMishnayot) Zeraim.
28. Mishna Peah I: I and B. T. Shabbat 127a. I quote this rabbinic staten1ent, from
literally hundreds of others, because it is part of the daily morning liturgy and
hence of the shared religious culture. The originally intended scope of "everything
else" was all the other commandments, but it was commonly quoted more broadly
as a curricular mandate as well. On the Lithuanian ideology ofTalmud Torah in the
late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, see Norman Lamm, Torah for
TorahJs Sake in the Works of Rabbi Hayyim of Volozhin and His Contemporaries
(New York, 1989).
29. For a perspicacious account of the early Main10nidean controversies over
the place of philosophy in the curriculum, see Bernard Septimus, Hispano Jewish
Culture in Transition (Cambridge, Mass., 1982).
30. Maimon, Hesheq Shelomo, folios 3-4. The passage continues with a quota-
tion of scripture that metaphorically describes the extent of Solomonic scientific
wisdom: "He spoke on the purpose of the creation of the trees the grasses and an-
in1al species: 'And he spoke about the trees-from the cedar that is in Lebanon to
the moss that goes out in the wall-and he spoke about the beast, about the bird,
about the reptile and about the fishes' (I<ings 1,5: 13), which demonstrated that he
possessed the divine spirit." (The resonance between Solomon's name Shelomo and
the word for perfection, shelemut, was a fortuitous coincidence for the tTIedieval
adoption of him as the philosopher-Icing.)
31. Maimon, Hesheq Shelomo, folio 6.
32. Cf. Maimonides, Guide, 111:27 and 111:51.
33. Maimon, Hesheq Shelomo, folio 16.
34. Maimon, Hesheq Shelomo, folio 17. The doctrine that Aggadic lore contains
hidden philosophical truth is MaitTIonidean, see Guide of the Perplexed 1:63. The
complaint that Talmudists think the road to heresy is paved with biblical grammar
is also a medieval topos, going back, at least, to the great eleventh-century philol-
ogist Jonah ibn Janah, Sefer haRiqma, Yehuda ibn Tibbon, trans. (Frankfurt, 1856),
and repeated often in maskilic texts.
35. Maimon, Hesheq Shelomo, folio 17.
36. Maimon, Hesheq Shelomo, folio 17.
37. Maimon, Hesheq Shelomo, folio 129. This passage and the one quoted next
have been discussed by Moshe Idel, Hasidism: BetJveen Magic and Mysticism (Al-
Notes to Pages 63-66 187

bany, 1995), pp. 39-+0, although it seen1S to lTIe that they are more skeptical of
kabbalistic doctrine than Idel allows. The book is sealed and the drealTI uninter-
pretable because there is nothing in them unless one simply stipulates (for theo-
logicopolitical reasons) that they are metaphorical renditions of Maimonides. I am
indebted to Prof. Idel, here and elsewhere, for several discussions regarding Mai-
lTIOn and the Hesheq Shelomo in particular.
38. Maimon, Hesheq Shelomo, folio 1+2.
39. Maimon, Hesheq Shelomo, folios 17-18.
+0. Maimon, Hesheq Shelomo, folio 18.
+1. See the early fifteenth-century discussion of Profiat Duran, MaJaseh Efod
(Vienna, 1865), pp. 1-5, and the discussion of Isadore Tvversky, "Religion and La\v,"
in Religion in a Religious Age, S. D. Goiten, ed. (Ne\v York, 197+), pp. 69-82. Cf.
Dov Rappel, "The Introduction to the Ma'aseh Efod of Profiat Duran," Sinai 100
(1987), pp. 7+9-95 (in Hebrew).
+2. For instance, Abraham Abulafia's distinction between the theosophical
IZabbala ofSefirot and his own prophetic IZabbala, collected in Adolph Jellinek, ed.,
Philosophie und ICabbalah (Leipzig, 185+), pp. 33-38. Maimon actually distin-
guishes between two sorts of TalITIudists (see the Hebrew text of Hesheq Shelomo,
folio 16), but they quickly coalesce into one antitheoretical party.
+3. Isadore Twersky, "Talmudists, Philosophers, IZabbalists: The Quest for
Spirituality in the Sixteenth Century," in Jewish Thought in the Sixteenth Century,
Bernard Dov ~oopenTIan, ed. (Cambridge, Mass., 1983), p. ++0. And see Twer-
sky's other studies on the theme: "Religion and Law"; "Joseph Ibn IZaspi, Portrait
of a Medieval Jewish Intellectual," in Studies in Medieval Jewish History and Liter-
ature, Isadore Twersky, ed. (Cambridge, Mass., 1979), pp. 231-57; and "Law and
Spirituality in the Seventeenth Century: A Case Study of Rabbi Yair Hayyim
Bacharach," in Jelvish Thought in the Seventeenth Century, Isadore Tvversky and
Bernard Septimus, eds. (Cambridge, Mass., 1987). For a substantive philosophical
narrative that covers lTIuch of the same ground, see Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, Hap-
piness in Premodern Judaism, especially chs. 5, 6, 7, and 9.
++. Aristotle, De Anima, 3:5. I quote from D. W. HalTIlyn, trans. and com-
mentary, AristotleJs De Anima) Books II and III (Oxford, 1968), with slight revi-
sions in light of the translation contained in J. Barnes, ed., Complete Works ofAris-
totle: The Revised Oxford Translation (Princeton, 198+), for present expository
purposes.
+5. MaiITIOn'S lU10wledge of Alexander, whom he refers to in the Hesheq She-
lomo, folio 297, was mediated by Maimonides, who quotes hilTI several times. For
Maimonides' use and lmowledge ofAlexander, see the "Translator's Introduction"
to The Guide ofthe Perplexed, Shlomo Pines, trans. (Chicago, 1963), pp. lxiv-lxxv.
+6. Cf. Aristotle, Metaphysics, VII:7, 1032a32-b2.
+7. Needless to say, I am simplifying an extraordinarily complex story for pres-
ent exegetical purposes. The clearest account of the development of the doctrine
188 Notes to Pages 66-68

of the active intellect is Herbert A. Davidson, Avicenna) Alfarabi) and Averroes on


Intellect: Their Cosmologies) Theories of the Intellect) and Theories of Human Intel-
lect (Oxford, I992).
48. See, for exanlple, the coslnological description of Main10nides, Mishneh
Torah) Hilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah, ch. 3.
49. Davidson, Avicenna) Alfarabi) and Averroes, p. 44.
50. Nicomachean Ethics, X:7. The question of vvhether, in fact, this "vas Aris-
totle's ultinlate conclusion and how it fits with his earlier description of the good
life as cOlnposed of a balanced diversity of goods has becolne a renewed issue of
philosophical discussion in the last generation; see the essays collected in Atnelie
O. Rorty, ed., Essays on Aristotle)s Ethics (Berkeley, I980), and Richard IZt-aut, Ar-
istotle on the Human Good (Chicago, I987). The noetic doctrine fanlously echoes
statenlents in Metaphysics, bk. I2, and is argued in greater detail in the Eudemian
Ethics, on which see Anthony I(enny, Aristotle on the Perfect Life (Oxford, I992),
esp. pp. 86 -II2. The Aristotelian tension between practical and intellectual virtues
reappears in Mailnonides' work.
5!. John H. Randall Jr., Aristotle (New York, I960 ), p. I44.
52. This an1bivalence between the religious impulse to Inake the object of con-
templation the divine being itself and the coslTIological scruples to restrict it to the
active intellect as a kind of epistemological denliurge stand at the very beginning
of the tradition and run through Jewish discussions of the subject. Alexander held
the active intellect to be identical to the unnl0ved mover of the Metaphysics, but
Plotinus already restricted it to a lower intellect; see H. J. Blulnenthal, Aristotle and
Neoplatonism in Late Antiquity (Ithaca, I996), pp. I7-I9. For the effect of this on
the Jevvish philosophical tradition, see the careful equivocations and qualifications
of Mailnonides, Guide I:I and 1:68, as well as the exegetical argunlent of his Com-
mentary to the Mishna Pereq Heleq.
53. Jonathan Lear, Aristotle: The Desire to Understand (Canlbridge, England,
I988), ends up arguing for this roughly Alexandrian position on textual and sys-
telTIatic grounds vvithout reference to the traditional conl1nentaries; see pp. I35-5I
and 293-320.
54. TB. Berakhot, I7a, which Maimonides apparently rephrased to enlphasize
the contrast between the senses and the intellect. The precise theoretical back-
ground of Rav's saying is unclear. It is an exegesis of the biblical description of the
nobles of Israel at Sinai, "And they beheld God and ate and drank" (Exodus 24: II),
which is paradoxically taken to mean that the vision replaced food and drink; see
the cOlnmentary of R. Isaac Alfasi, ad loco
55. Maimon, Hesheq Shelomo, folio 7, quoting Maimonides, Commentary to the
Mishna Pereq Heleq. Cf. the parallel text and discussion in Maimonides, Mishneh
Torah) Hilkhot Teshuva, 8: 2 ff., together with the literalist strictures of Rabad, ad
loc., who objects to the disembodied abstraction of the MailTIonidean afterlife.
Notes to Pages 69-70 189

56. Maimon, Hesheq Shelomo, folio 8. Hatzlachat ha-adam is another Hebrew


Aristotelian term of art for the ultimate human good, which corresponds to the
more familiar Latin summum bonum.
57. Maimon, Hesheq Shelomo, tolio 8. The image of the active intellect lighting
the candle of the human intellect is overdetermined. In De Anima 3.5, Aristotle
compares the action of the intellect to the way in which light activates colors, a sug-
gestion that both recalls a whole set of Platonic images and gives rise to descrip-
tions such as Maimon's throughout the medieval and early modern period. In the
specific intellectual context oflate eighteenth-century Hebrew thought, Maimon's
words evoke a more determinate cluster of allusions. A well-known Aggadic di-
gression in the Talmud describes the righteous in the divine presence: "To what
are tzaddikim likened when they are next to the Shelzhina? To a candle in the pres-
ence of a torch." When Maimon wrote this passage, he had only recently left the
circle of the Maggid of Mezeritch, where this was a frequently quoted Talmudic
passage, because (like the image of the drop of water in the sea) it suggested the
possibility of losing one's ego in a union with the divine.
58. Shlomo Pines has famously taken Alfarabi's skepticism to be more radical
and far-reaching than this in "The Limitations of Human Knowledge According
to Alfarabi, Ibn Bajja, and Maimonides," in Studies in Medieval Jewish History and
Literature, Isadore Twersky, ed. (Cambridge, Mass., 1979), pp. 82-104. But I fol-
low the reconstruction of Davidson, Avicenna, Alfarabi, and Averroes, pp. 70 -73.
59. Pines, "Limitations of Human Knowledge," pp. 109-IO.
60. Maimonides, Guide 1:74, p. 221.
61. One way to motivate this extraordinary idea philosophically is to pursue the
question of the identity conditions tor a given essence. There can be only one
essence of wood, because part of what it means to be an essence is to be stripped of
all particularity. If a thought just is the essence itself, then not only is my thought
identical to that essence, but so is yours. So my activated material intellect cannot be
distinct tt-om yours. We are of the same mind, literally. For an illuminating textual
explication of related arguments, see Alfred Ivry, "Averroes on Intellection and
Conjunction," Journal ofthe American Oriental Society 86 (1966), pp. 76-85.
62. It was precisely this Averroist doctrine of "Monopsychism" that Aquinas
strove to avoid in his explication ofAristotle's doctrine ofthe intellect. See Thomas
Aquinas, On the Unicity of the Intellect Against the Averroists, Beatrice Zedler,
trans. (Milwaukee, 1968). For a concise secondary account, see Fernand Van Steen-
berghen, Thomas Aquinas and Radical Aristotelianism (Washington, D.C., 1980),
esp. pp. 29-75. For a comparison of Maimonides and Aquinas with Avicenna on
this issue, see Harry Blumberg, "The Problem of Immortality in Avicenna, Mai-
monides, and St. Thomas Aquinas," in Harry Austryn Wolfson Jubilee Volume, Saul
Lieberman, ed. (New York, 1965), pp. 165-85 (English section). For an interesting
modern defense ofAquinas's position against that ofthe Arabic commentators, see
190 Notes to Pages 70 -72

Franz Brentano, The Psychology ofAristotle) in Particular His Doctrine ofthe Active
Intellect, Rolfe George, trans. (Berkeley, 1977).
63. Maimon, Hesheq Shelomo, folio 8.
64. The case with regard to Maimonides' position on the state of the sciences
is vexed, for he (along with others) regarded Aristotelian astronomy as flawed. In
an important and controversial article, Shlomo Pines has argued that this in1plied
a deep skepticism about the possibility of real conjunction with the active intellect,
in "The Lilnitations of Human I(nowledge." For argun1ents to the contrary, see
Alexander Altn1ann, "Maimonides on the Scope of the Intellect," in Alexander
Altmann, VOn del" mittelalterlichen zur modernen Aufkliirung: Studien zur Judis-
chen Geistegeschichte (Tubingen, 1983), pp. 60-129, and Herbert Davidson, "Mai-
monides on Metaphysical I(nowledge," in Maimonidean Studies, Arthur Hyman,
ed. (New York, 1995), v. 3, pp. 49-105
65. See Main10nides' introduction to The Guide of the Perplexed, in which the
rhetoric strives to convey precisely this image.
66. Mailnon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 145.
67. Cf. the remark of Mendelssohn's early teacher, Israel Zan10sc, Netzach Yis-
rael (Frankfurt, 1741): "The ancients knew nothing of this science, so why should
I mention every point at which they erred, as there are so many?" (p. 20a), al-
though it is not made in this metaphysical context.
68. A similar set of puzzles about whether the referential function of names and
natural kinds can be explicated in terms of definite descriptions led to the so-called
Direct Theory of Reference, in the Anglo-American philosophy of the 1960s and
1970S. For an influential argument that the contents of one's mind cannot deter-
mine one's reference to a natural kind (like gold), see Hillary Putnam, "The Mean-
ing of 'Meaning,'" in his Mind) Language) and Reality: Philosophical Papers (Cam-
bridge, Mass., 1975), v. 2.
69. See the discussions of Gad Freudenthal, "Human Felicity and Astronon1Y:
Gersonides' War against Ptolemy," Da)at 22 (1989), pp. 55-72 (in Hebrew); and
Menahem I(ellner, "Maimonides and Gersonides on Astronomy and Meta-
physics," in Moses Maimonides: Physician) Scientist) and Philosopher, Fred Rosner
and Samuel I(ottek, eds. (Northvale, N.J., 1993), pp. 91-96. Gersonides gives the
position a Whiggish turn in his commentary to the Song of Songs: "While each of
us will apprehend either nothing or very little, when all that is apprehended is gath-
ered together, a worthy amount will have been gathered," in Levi ben Gershon1,
Commentary on Song ofSongs, M. I(ellner, trans. (New Haven, 1998), p. 23.
70. See Levi ben Gershom, The Wars of the Lord, Seymour Feldman, trans.
(Philadelphia, 1984), v. I, especially chs. II and 13.
71. Main10n, Hesheq Shelomo, folios 8- 9.
72. Maimon's objection that such a doctrine gives every ignoramus at least a
measure of immortality is the opposite of Maimonides' great fifteenth-century op-
ponent, Hasdai Crescas, who objected that any doctrine of immortality as acquired
Notes to Pages 72-76 I9I

intellect did nothing for the pious nonphilosophers, in his fifteenth-century an-
tiphilosophical classic, Or ha-Shem. For discussion of Crescas's critique of Aris-
totelianislll on this point, see the unpublished dissertation of Warren Z. Harvey,
"Hasdai Crescas' Critique of the Theory of the Acquired Intellect" (Columbia
University, 1973).
73. Main10n, Hesheq Shelomo, folio 9.
74. See the classic discussion in the title essay of Leo Strauss, Persecution and
the Art of Writing (Chicago, 1952 ).
75. For a systematic application of this schelna to the first Inedieval Jewish phi-
losopher, see the lllonograph of Alexander Altillann and S. M. Stern, Isaac Israeli)
a Neoplatonic Philosopher of the Early Tenth Century: His Works Translated with
Comments and an Outline ofHis Philosophy (Oxford, 1958), esp. p. 149 and pp. 185-
91, who follow the discussion of H. R. Schwyzer, "Die zvveifache Sicht in der
Philosophie Flotins," Museum Helveticum (1944), esp. pp. 89-90. For Mai-
Inonides' brief discussion of the active intellect as the giver of forms, see Guide,
11:4 and II:n, passim, and the discussion of Davidson, Alfarabi) Avicenna) and
Averroes, pp. 78-79.
76. Derashot ha-Ran was published several tilnes in the late seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries, and I have not located the precise edition that Maimon used.
For a modern critical edition, see Leon Feldn1an, ed., Derashot haRan (Jerusalem,
1973). The passage that Maimon con1n1ents on here is found in the first version of
Sermon 5, p. 68.
77. Mailnon, Hesheq Shelomo, folio 40. 'The rabbinic saying is quoted fron1 Gen-
esis Rabba, 68; cf. Leviticus Rabba 8.
78. The attentive reader may note that the Shekhina, which had appeared to
play the role of the active intellect in the Maimonidean text Maimon quoted, has
now becolne passive and explicitly feminine when Maimon renders the schen1e in
the sefirotic terms of the Zohar. The "Holy One Blessed Be He" is the ninth Sefira,
Yesod, which is generally gendered male. For a discussion of related issues of gen-
der symbolism in sefirotic IZabbala, see Moshe Idel, "Sexual Metaphors and Praxis
in the IZabbala," in The Jewish Family: Metaphor and Memory, David IZraemer, ed.
(Oxford, 1989).
79. Cf. Shlomo Pines's suggestion that if God cognizes the system of forn1s of
the universe, then he would be "identical with ... the scientific systeln of the uni-
verse . . . this would n1ake him something coming perilously close to Spinoza's
attribute of thought" ("Translator's Introduction," Guide, p. xcviii). Maimon's
interpretation, I suggest, takes him perilously close to the attribute of extension
as well.
80. Pines, trans., Guide 1:69, p. 167.
81. Maimon, Hesheq Shelomo, folio 285.
82. Isaac Melan1ed, in "SaIOITIOn Maimon and the Spectres of Spinozisln," pa-
per presented at the Maimon Conference, Van Leer Institute (JerusaleIE~~~~~l,-
192 Notes to Pages 76 -78

has also noted this passage and suggests that Main10n's luonist elaboration is luiss-
ing or even conceivably censored. It is true that this passage appears on folio 285
and that the extant manuscript reSUlues on folio 297. However, it is not clear
\vhether Main10n hiluself numbered the n1anuscript and whether whoever did
n1ight not have siluply slipped a digit (only the odd pages are nUlubered, so the
next nun1ber should be 287). In any event the passage does not take up the whole
page and does not break off fl~agn1entarily.
83. See the discussion of Gershom Scholem, "Devekut, or COll1n1union with
God," in his Messianic Idea in judaism and Other Essays on jervish Spirituality (New
York, 1971), esp. 208-10.
84. Dov Baer of Mezeritch, Maggid le-Devarav le-YaJaqov (I(oretz, 1781),
p.26b.
85. On the Maggid's pantheislu, see Rivka Schatz Uffenhein1er, Hasidism as
Mysticism: Quietistic Elements in Eighteenth Century Hasidic Thought, Jonathan
Chipn1an, trans. (Princeton, 1993), esp. ch. 8. This aspect of his thought was espe-
cially developed by his student and Mailuon's conten1porary Schneur Zalman of
Liadi, on whom see Rachel Elior, The Paradoxical Ascent to God: The I(abbalistic
Theosophy ofHabad Hasidism, Jeffrey Green, trans. (Albany, 1993).
86. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 114.
87. Joseph Weiss, "Via Passiva in Early Hasidislu," collected in Joseph Weiss,
Studies in Eastern European jewish Mysticism and Hasidism (London, 1985),
pp. 69-94, esp. n. 10, where he locates the salue hon1ily in the work of a student
of the Maggid, Rabbi Uzziel Meisels, Tiferet Uzziel (Warsaw, 1862), p. 39b. For a
related use to which the Maggid put this verse, see Rivka Schatz- Uffenheiluer, ed.,
Maggid Devarav le-YaJaqov le-Maggid Dov Ber mi-Mezeritsh (Jerusalen1, 1990),
sec. 196, p. 315. Cf. Idel, Hasidism, pp. 195-98.
88. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, pp. 102-3.
89. Main10n, Lebensgeschichte, pp. 102-3.
90. With regard to Vital's work, Mailuon wrote that "leaving out what was en-
thusiastic [Schwiirmerische] and exaggerated, it contained the principle doctrines
of psychology" (Lebensgeschichte, p. 78). Cf. the Maggid's remark with regard to
Vital's most in1portant work: "I teach everyone that all of the [sefirotic] teachings
described in the book Etz Hayyim also apply to this world and the human being"
(Rabbi Dov Baer of Mezeritch, Or ha-Emet, Levi Isaac of Berdichev, ed. [Bnei
Braq, 1967], p. 36d).
91. Mailuon, Lebensgeschichte, pp. 77-80, and compare the testimony of
Schneur Zahuan of Liadi in a recently discovered contemporary docun1ent, pub-
lished in the Lubavitch journal I(erem Habad (1990), app. 2, in which he describes
his curriculluu of studies under the Maggid.
92. See, for exaluple, Rabbi Eliyahu ben Sheloluo of Vilna, Biur ha-Gra le-
Mishlei, on Provo 8: 19, and his con1n1entary to Song ofSongs) passim.
Notes to Pages 78-81 193

93. Rabbi Hayyif\! of Volozhin, Nefesh ha-Hayyim, Y. Rubin, ed. (Bnei Brak,
1989), p. 221. The work was published posthumously in 1814 but reflects currents
in the late eighteenth-century mitnagdic response to Hasidism.
94. Rabbi Hayyim ofVolozhin, Ruah Hayyim (Jerusalem, 1976), p. IO.
95. For a sample of Euchel's translation of Avicenna, see "Sefer ha-Refuot," ha-
Meassef(I794), pp. 93-95 The rest of the translation remained unpublished.
96. Isaac Satanov, Sefer ha-Middot (Berlin, 1790).
97. See, for instance, Moshe Pelli, Be-Maavqei Temurah: Iyyunim be-Haskala
ha-Ivrit be-Germaniah (Tel Aviv, 1988), pp. 13-14 and notes. Pelli relies, especially,
on Paul Hazard's account, European Thought in the Eighteenth Century (Glouces-
ter, Mass., 1973).
98. See Klatzkin, Otzar, s.v. "Osher." Maimon uses the term in this sense in the
Hesheq Shelomo several times, for example, folio 16.
99. The article appeared in ha-Meassef 4 (1788), p. 237.
IOO. In Naftali Herz Wessely, Divrei Shalom ve-Emet (Berlin, 1782), we find per-
haps the earliest instance of this ambivalence. Wessely's call for enlightenment in
terms of "the Torah of man" (i.e., Bildung), which is the necessary supplement to
the "Torah of God," is also couched in the traditional discourse of perfection and
exhibits this ambivalence between an intellectual telos and something more cultural.
IOI. Solomon Maimon (Anon.) and Isaac Euchel, "Panim haMoreh," ha-
Meassefs (1789), pp. 243-63.
I02. Maimon and Euchel, "Panim haMoreh," pp. 261-63. A list of more than
two dozen prominent subscribers in 19 cities followed.
I03. In Abraham Geiger, ed., Melo Hofnayim (Berlin, 1840), p. 18 (Hebrew sec-
tion). Earlier versions ofDelmedigo's letter were published in Yehuda Leib Meises,
Qjnat haEmet (Vienna, 1828), pp. 228-32, and, originally, in Delmedigo, Sefer
Elim, where Maimon and Euchelmight have encountered it. On the complicated
and uncertain provenance of these differing versions, see the discussion of David
Ruderman, jewish Thought and Scientific Discovery in Early Modern Europe (New
Haven, 1995), pp. 146 -52.
I04. Shem Tov ben Joseph ben Shem Tov was the last great figure of the Shem
Tov family whose representatives were found among both the great defenders and
opponents of philosophical rationalism in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
Many of Shem Tov's key comments can be read as responding to and moderating
Narboni's Aristotelian radicalism. For discussion of one such instance, see Bernard
Septimus, "Shem Tov and Narboni on Martyrdom," in Studies in Medieval jewish
Thought, Isadore Twersky and B. Septimus, eds. (Cambridge, Mass., 1987),
pp. 447-55 (on Guide III:34).
105. Narboni, known in the Latin tradition as Maestro Vidal, has been the sub-
ject of several important studies over the last few decades. For recent overviews, see
Colette Sirat, A History ofMedieval jewish Philosophy (Cambridge, England, 1985),
pp. 332-41, and the introductory essays in Alfred Ivry, ed., MaJamar al Shelemut
194 Notes to Pages 81-84

ha-Nefesh (Jerusalen1, 1977), and IZaln1an Bland, trans. and ed., Epistle on Conjunc-
tion with the Active Intellect (New York, 1987), which is a Hebrevv translation of and
supercolnn1entary to Averroes's n1iddle cOlnlnentary on Aristotle's De Anima.
106. For a conspectus of Delmedigo's works, see Isaac Eisenstein-Barzilay,
YiJseph Shlomo Delmedigo (Yashar of Candia) (Leiden, 1974), but the n1aterial
ought to be revisited in light of criticism such as that of Ruderman, Jewish Thought
and Scientific Discovery. Sirat places Dehnedigo at the very end of her survey of
n1edieval Jewish philosophy (Medieval Jewish Philosophy, p. 411), although one
might also place hin1 alnong the first of the figures of early Jewish modernity (he
was familiar with Galileo). He is not to be confused with his n10re famous ances-
tor, Elijah Delmedigo (1460-1493), author of Behinat haDat, and translator of
Averroes and others for Pico della Mirandola.
107. It should be noted that, unlike SOlne of the so-called Latin Averroists at
the University of Paris in the thirteenth century, the Averroism of these Jewish
writers was lnuch lnore straightforward: They translated, commented on, and ap-
plied the works of Ibn Rushd, SOlne of which only survive now in the He brew
translation. This is not to say that they possessed all of Averroes' con1lnentaries or
that they did not depart froln his interpretations in in1portant ways. For the classic
nineteenth-century studies of these figures, see Moritz Steinschneider, Die he-
braischen Ubersetzungen des Mittelalters und die Juden als Dolmetscher (Berlin,
1893), and Ernst Renan, Les Ecrivains Juifs Franfais du XIvc siecle (Paris, 1893).
108. I adopt here the language of Jiirgen Habennas, The Structural Transfor-
mation ofthe Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category ofBourgeois Society, Thon1as
Burger, trans. (Can1bridge, Mass., 1989). See also Jacob IZatz's classic discussion of
the "semi-neutral society," in Out of the Ghetto: The Social Background ofJelvish
Emancipation) 1770 -1870 (Canlbridge, Mass., 1973).
109. Indeed, late medieval Jewish critics of philosophy repeatedly blamed the
apostasy of n1uch of Spanish Jewry on the religious disloyalty bred by such a phi-
losophy. An early instance of this is Joseph ben Shem Tov's unfavorable cOlnpari-
son of Spanish conversos with the Ashkenazi martyrs at the time of the Crusades,
in I(evod Elohim (Ferrara, 1556), p. 27a-b. The accusation and accompanying unfa-
vorable comparison with unphilosophical Ashkenazi Jewry becan1e a topos. It was
revived as a partial historical explanation by Yitzhak Baer, who was also ilnplicitly
cOluparing Spanish Jewry of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries to the modern
enlightened German Jewry of which he was a product, in his History of the Jelvs in
Christian Spain (Philadelphia, 1966).
110. Maimon, Giva)at ha-Moreh, p. 1.
III. I have translated hatzlachat ha-enoshit literally here as "hulnan excellence."
It is another Hebrew Aristotelian term of art and plays the same role as the sum-
mum bonum does in parallel Latin discussions.
112. Pinhas Eliyahu Hurwitz, Sefer Ha-Brit (Jerusalem, 1990), p. 189, and cf.
pp. 362-63. The book was originally published anonymously in Briinn in 1797 and
Notes to Pages 84-89 195

relnains popular in the Haredi world. Remarkably, it cOlnbines a defense of the re-
ligion in post-Lurianic terms with a pre-Copernican account of natural science. For
an account of Hurwitz's career, see Zinberg, A History of]eJvish Literature, v. 6,
pp.260-72.
113. In this passage, Hurwitz actually goes on to invoke IZant, in rather naive
counter-Enlightenlnent fashion, as having shown the ilnpossibility of establishing
n1etaphysical proofs on the basis of reason, thus Inaking room for kabbalistic faith.
114. Mailnon, Giva)at ha-Moreh, p. 5.
lIS. The Inore con1n10n Ineaning of shevi is imprisonlnent, but I don't think it
is the intended n1eaning here. For the theIne of exile in Mailnon's self-presentation,
see also Chapter 4.

Chapter Three
I. Solomon Mailnon, Salomon Maimons Lebensgeschichte, Zwi Batscha, ed.
(Frankfurt, 1984), pp. 201-2.
2. For characteristic quotations, see, for example, Salnuel H. Berglnan, The
Philosophy of Solomon Maimon, Noah J. Jacobs, trans. (Jerusalem, 1967), p. 217;
San1uel Atlas, From Critical to Speculative Idealism: The Philosophy ofSolomon Mai-
mon (The Hague, 1964), p. IO.
3. See, for exalnple, Natan Rotenstreich, "On the Position of Main10n's Phi-
losophy," Review ofMetaphysics 21 (I968), pp. 534-45, who explicates the sources
of Mailnon's philosophy in tern1S of this coalition. For the latter list of philosoph-
ical systems, see Mailnon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 2IO.
4. In1n1anuel IZant, I(ant: Philosophical Correspondence) 1759 -99, Arnulf Zweig,
trans. and ed. (Chicago, 1967), pp. 70 -76. The letter; dated February 2I, 1772, con-
tains IZant's earliest critical musings. One wonders whether Herz showed it to
Main10n while he was drafting his Transcendentalphilosophie in 1789.
5. See the useful account of IZant's understanding of Leibniz in Henry Allison,
I(ant)s Transcendental Idealism: An Interpretation and Defense (New Haven,
1983), esp. pp. 19-21 on the "theocentric model."
6. Immanuel IZant, Critique ofPure Reason, Norman IZelnp Slnith, trans. (New
York, 1929), A50/B74-A5I/B75.
7. IZant, Critique, BI39.
8. IZant, Critique, AI4I/BI80-I.
9. Maimon, Versuch uber die Transcendentalphilosophie (Berlin, 1790), p. 62, and
see his cOlnmentary on p. 362. Cf. also Maimon, Giva)at ha-Moreh (Berlin, 179I),
p. IOI.
IO. Sololnon Maimon, Streifereien im Gebiete der Philosophie (Berlin, 1793), p. 38.
II. I say "prescient" because it seems to me that in ilnportant respects this form
of rule skepticism anticipates that with which Wittgenstein grappled. See the clas-
sic and controversial account of Saul A. IZripke, Wittgenstein on Rules and Private
196 Notes to Pages 89-97

Language (Oxford, 1982). This sin1ilarity has also recently been noted by Paul
Franks, All or Nothing: Systematicity) Transcendental Arguments) and Skepticism in
German Idealism (Can1bridge, Mass., 2005), p. 153. I hope to return to this point
on another occasion.
12. Maimon, Gesammelte Werke, V VelTa, ed. (Hildesheiln, 1965), v. 4, p. 465.
13. Frederick Beiser, The Fate ofReason: German Philosophy from I(ant to Fichte
(CaInbridge, Mass., 1987), p. 292.
14. Maimon, Transcendentalphilosophie, p. 64.
IS. Maimon, Uber die Progressen der Philosophie, in Main10n, Gesammelte Werlze,
v. IV, p. 20.
16. MailTIOn, Gesammelte Werke, v. III, pp. 174-75, quoted in Lachtern1an,
"Mathen1atical Construction, SYlnbolic Cognition, and the Infinite Intellect,"
pp5 10 - 11.
17. Maimonides, Guide ofthe Perplexed, 1:1, p. 23.
18. Main10n, Giva)at ha-Moreh, p. 33.
19. Maimon, Giva)at ha-Moreh, p. 29.
20. My interpretation of these passages is closest to David Lachterman, "Math-
ematical Construction, Symbolic Cognition, and the Infinite Intellect: Reflections
on Maimon and Maimonides," Journal of the History of Philosophy 30 (1992),
pp49S-S 1 9.
21. Maimon, Giva)at ha-Moreh, p. 103.
22. Mailnon, Giva)at ha-Moreh, p. 107 (this may be the only "vork of IZantian
philosophy in which son1e version of the intellectus archetypus is continually, if per-
haps ironically, "blessed").
23. I an1 being deliberately imprecise in Iny staten1ent of the principle, because
there has been no end to nuances and redefinitions on this matter. For an in1portant
collection of philosophical and exegetical essays, see Willian1 L. Harper and Ralf
Meerbore, eds., I(ant on Causalit)) Freedom) and Objectivity (Minneapolis, 1984).
24. Maimon, Transcendentalphilosophie, pp. 187-88 and 370-73, and cf. Mai-
mon, VCrsuch einer neuen Logik oder Theorie des Denkens (Berlin, 1794), GW V,
pp.489-9 0 .
25. Maimon, Giva)at ha-Moreh, p. 109.
26. MailTIOn, Giva)at ha-Moreh, p. 110.
27. See Maimon's essay, "Auszug aus Jordan Bruno von Nola, von der Ur-
sache," in Magazin zur Erfahrungsseelenkunde 10 (1793). The description "knight
errant of philosophy" is from Pierre Bayle, Historical and Critical Dictionary:
Selections, Richard Popkin, ed. and trans. (New York, 1965), s.v. "Bruno."
28. Beiser, Fate ofReason, ch. 10, passim.
29. MailTIOn, Giva)at ha-Moreh, p. 81, and cf. p. 53.
30. Bergman, The Philosophy ofSolomon Maimon, p. 217; Atlas, From Critical to
Speculative Idealism, p. 10. Friedrich IZuntze, Die Philosophie Salomon Maimons
Notes to Pages 97- ror 197

(Heidelberg, 1912) is probably still the Illost thorough study of Maimon's n1ature
philosophy.
31. Ernst Cassirer, Das Erkenntnisproblem in der Philosophie und Wissenschaft
der neuren Zeit (Darmstadt, 1917), v. 3, pp. 97-104. Jan Bransen, The Antinomy of
Thought: Maimonian Skepticism and the Relation Between Thought and Objects
(Dordrecht, 1991), and cf. Achim Engstler, Unterschungen zunil Idealismus Salomon
Maimons (Stuttgart-Rad Cannstatt, 1990).
32. MaiInon, Lebensgeschichte, pp. 154-55.
33. IZalman Bland, trans. and ed., The Epistle on the Possibility of Conjunction
1vith the Active Intellect by Ibn Rushd 1vith the Comnilentary ofMoses Narboni (New
York, 1982), p. 22 (Hebrew section, p. 2), and see p. 113, note 5, on the possible
source of this "quote."
34. Spinoza's use of Averroes and, of course, MaiInonides is well known. For
his use of Narboni, see Harry A. Wolfson, The Philosophy of Spinoza (Cambridge,
Mass., 1934), v. I, pp. 134-35 (on privative judgInents).
35. Michael FriedInan, I(ant and the Exact Sciences (Can1bridge, Mass., 1992).
36. Apparently it is now possible and considered logically preferable to conceive
of calculus on the "Cauchy-Bolzano-Weierstrauss" conception of convergence,
which does not involve the idea of continuous (ten1poral) Inotion toward a lin1it
but rather a fonnal, static counterpart based on "quantifier dependence and order
relations" (roughly speaking, lists), but this was not the case for MaiIllon. For the
state of calculus in the second half of the eighteenth century, see Carl Boyer, The
History of the Calculus and Its Conceptual Development (New York, 1949). On
IZant's understanding and use of the calculus, see FriedInan, I(ant and the Exact
Sciences, esp. pp. 72-80.
37. IZant, Critique, A166/B207-11. Extensive Inagnitudes are the result of the
projection of the given, a posteriori intensive n1agnitudes (resulting from a caress
or han1Iner blow) into time and space, which are a priori.
38. See Maimon, Transcendentalphilosophie, esp. pp. 32-35, and Beiser, Fate of
Reason, p. 297, whose explanation I follow here.
39. The most thorough discussion is in IZuntze, Die Philosophie Salomon Mai-
mons, esp. pp. 331 ff. See also the positive appraisal of Cassirer, Das Erkenntnis-
problem, v. 3, pp. 97-104
40. Main10n, Giva)at ha-Moreh, p. 82, and cf. his Transcendentalphilosophie,
P377
41. Benedictus de Spinoza, Ethics, G. H. R. Parkinson, trans. (Oxford, 2000),
I, prop. 8, scho1. 2.
42. Cf. Main10n's Die I(athegorien des Aristoteles (Berlin, 1794), in which he
presents Aristotle in decidedly Main10nidean and Spinozistic fashion.
43. The best discussion of this doctrine is now Oded Schechter, "The Logic of
Speculative Philosophy and Skepticism in MaiInon's Philosophy: Satz der Bes-
198 Notes to Pages 101-105

timmbarkeit and the Role of Synthesis," in Salomon Maimon: Rational Dogmatist)


Empirical Skeptic, Gideon Freudenthal, ed. (Dordrecht, 2003), pp. 18-53.
44. Leo Strauss, "Der Ort ver Vorsehungslehre nach der Ansicht Mainlunis,"
Monatsschrift fur Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums 81 (1937), p. 104, notes
that he takes the application of the phrase fronl MailTIOn'S relTIark in the Lebens-
geschichte that the Guide is "theological-political in plan, purpose and method."
For his characterization of Lcibniz (,vhich influenced Fichte), see Maimon, Uber
die Progressen der Philosophie, v. IV, pp. 58-60.
45. MailTIOn, Uber die Progressen der Philosophie, p. 60, cf. Lebensgeschichte,
p.166.
46. Maimon, Uber die Progressen der Philosophie, p. 58.
47. The interpretation of the useful conspectus of David Baumgardt, "The
Ethics of Salomon Mainlon,"Journal ofthe Hist01"y ofPhilosophy 1 (1963), pp. 199-
210, is compromised by a failure to realize this and an inlpossible attempt to keep
MailTIOn within the IZantian categories of contemporary German lTIoral discourse.
48. Maimon, J(ritische Untersuchungen uber den menschlichen Geist (Berlin,
1797), p. 265
49. Maimon, J(ritische Untersuchungen uber den menschlichen Geist, pp. 255-57.
50. MailTIOn, Giva)at ha-Moreh, p. 35. Note that Maimon explicitly cross-
references his Transcendentalphilosophie, pp. 100 ff., thus compronlising his
anonymity.
51. MailTIOn, Gesammelte Werke, v. VII, pp. 249-50, and cf. 277-79.
52. Maimon, "Der Moralischer Skeptiker," Berlininsches Archiv und ihres
Geschmackes (1800), p. 292.
53. Thus Friedrich Holderlin, in a letter to his brother, dated January I, 1799,
wrote, "IZant ist der Moses unserer Natur, der sie aus der agyptischen Erschlaffung
in die freie einsame Wiiste seiner Spekulation fuhrt, und der energische Gesetz
vom Heilegen Berge bringt."
54. IZant, Critique of Judgment, Werner Pluhar, trans. (Indianapolis, 1987),
p. 402, and see sees. 76 and 77, passim.
55. F. W. J. Schelling, System o.l Transcendental Idealism, Peter Heath, trans.
(Charlottesville, 1978), p. 27. For a recent clailTI of Schelling's priority, see Rolf-
Peter Horstmann, Die Grenzen der Vernunft: Eine Unterschung zu Zielen des
Deutschen Jdealismus (Frankfurt, 1991); Horstmann identifies Schelling as the only
one who not only pressed the familiar arguments against the Transcendental Ide-
alisnl of IZant's first Critique but also claimed to see the solution in the notion of
intellectual intuition in the third Critique.
56. For Schelling's recognition of MailTIOn'S important contributions on a re-
lated matter, see F. W. J. Schelling, VOm Ich als Prinzip der Philosophie (Leipzig,
1911 ), p. 73.
57. In several works, Robert Pippin has argued that the later developments of
Idealism were true to IZant's nlost basic insight. See, for example, Robert Pippin,
Notes to Pages 105 - 107 199

"Avoiding Gern1an Idealism: Kant, Hegel, and the Reflective Judgenlent ProblelTI,"
in Pippin, Idealism as Modernis'fn: Hegelian Variations (Cambridge, England, 1997),
pp. 129-55. With regard to MailTIOn, see the remark ofTheodor Adorno: "I Blust add
that you should not run away with the idea that IZant's critical achievement was sim-
ply forgotten by the post- Kantian philosophers, starting \vith SOIOlTIOn MailTIOn,"
in Adorno, I(ant)s Critique ofPure Reason (Stanford, 2000), p. 49.
58. Daniel Brezeale, trans. and ed., Fichte: Early Philosophical Writings (Ithaca,
1988), pp. 383-84. For discussions ofl\1aimon's influence on Fichte and further ref-
erences to MailTIOn in Fichte's work, see Atlas, From Critical to Speculative Ideal-
ism, pp. 316 -24, and BerglTIan, Philosophy ofSolomon Maimon, pp. 169-81.
59. For Hegel's explicit rejection of mathematics as the kind of paradign1 that
Maimon held it to be, see his Preface to the Phenomenology ofMind, Walter I(auff-
lTIan, trans. and notes (Garden City, N.r, 1965), pp. 62-69.
60. I am indebted in this brief comparison to conversations with Frederick
Beiser as well as his article, "Maimon and Fichte," in Salomon Maimon: Rational
Dogmatist) Empirical Skeptic, Gideon Freudenthal, ed. (Dordrecht, 2003),
pp. 133-48.
61. G. W. F. Hegel, The Logic ofHegelfrom the Encyclopedia ofthe Philosophical
Sciences with Prolegomena, William Wallace, trans. (Oxford, 1874), pp. 89-90, and
see Berglnan, Philosophy ofSolomon Maimon, pp. 182-86.
62. See the introduction to Giva)at ha-Moreh; Uber die Progressen der Philoso-
phie, and the "kleine Allegorie" of the final chapter of the Lebensgeschichte, dis-
cussed later.
63. Nathan Rotenstreich, "Position of Maimon's Philosophy," p. 544-.
64-. Maimon, Sefer Moreh Nevuchim im Shenei Perushim: Moshe Narboni
u-Perush Giva)at ha-Moreh (Berlin, 1795; Sulzberg, 1828; Warsaw, 1871).
65. Johann Erdmann, Versuch einer 1vissenschaftlichen Darstellung der Geschichte.
der neuren Philosophie (Leipzig, 1848).
66. Wilhelm Dilthey, "Die Rostocker I(anthandschriften," Archiv fii11' Ge-
schichte der Philosophie 2 (1889), p. 613, quoted in Bergman, The Philosophy of Solo-
mon Maimon, pp. 238-39.
67. Hans Vaihinger, Commentar zu I(ants ](ritik (Stuttgart, 1881), 2 vols.,
draws on MailTIOn on several occasions. Vaihinger's own philosophical work, Phi-
losophy (CAs-If/) C. 1(. Ogden, trans. (London, 1902), was deeply indebted to Mai-
mon's theory of the imagination, although Samuel Atlas, From Critical to Specula-
tive Idealism, argues convincingly that Vaihinger's interpretation of Maimon on
these n1atters is mistaken.
68. For an overvievv of the philosophical affinities between the two thinkers, see
Bergman, Philosophy ofSolomon Maimon, ch. 14.
69. In Vaihinger's Commentar zu I(ants ](ritik, v. I, p. 21, Cohen's prose style
is, perhaps maliciously, compared to Main10n's.
200 Notes to Pages 107-112

70. Friedrich I(untze Inade a more substantive case in "Salon10n Main10ns the-
oretische Philosophie," Logos 3 (1912), to \vhich Cohen took exception in the third
edition of I(ants Theorie der Erfahrung (Berlin, 1915), p. 540, fi1. 1.

Chapter Four
1. Salon1on MailTIon, Salomon Maimons Lebensgeschichte, Zwi Batscha, ed.

(Frankfurt, 19 84), p. 7.
2. This is the real cultural significance of Mendelssohn's famous criticisn1 of

Frederick II's choice to COlTIpOSe poetry in French rather than Gern1an. See Alt-
n1ann, Moses Mendelssohn (Tuscaloosa, Ala., 1973), pp. 71-72.
3. For an excellent concise discussion of the ideal of Bildung, see George
Mosse, "Betvveen Bildung and l~espectability," in The Jelvish Response to German
Culture: From the Enlightenment to the Second World War, Jehuda Reinharz and
Walter Schatzberg, eds. (Hanover, 1985), pp. 1-16. Steven AscheilTI has developed
the connection between the Bildung ideal and the caricature of the Eastern Euro-
pean Jew in Brothers and Strangers: Eastern European Jelvs in Germany and Ger-
man Jewish Consciousness (Madison, Wise., 1983). These thelTIeS will be pursued at
greater length below.
4. I(arl J. Weintraub, The Value ofthe Individual: Selfand Circumstance in Au-
tobiography (Chicago, 1978), esp. ch. I, who takes into account the medieval exan1-
pIes of self-narrative unearthed by George Misch, Geschichte der Autobiographie
(Frankfurt, 1969), 5 vols.
5. George Gusdorf, "Conditions and Lin1its ofAutobiography," in Autobiogra-
phy: Essays Theoretical and Critical, Jan1es Olney, ed. (Princeton, 1980 ), p. 37.
6. Philippe Lejeune, Lire Leiris: Autobiographie et langage (Paris, 1975), p. 16.
7. Erik Erikson n1akes an analogous point to Gusdorf and Lejeune in a psycho-
logical register when he writes that autobiographies are inevitably attelTIpts "at
recreating oneself in the in1age of one's own n1ethod in order to n1ake that image
convincing" (Erik Erikson, Life History and the Historical Moment [New York,
1975J, p. 125).
8. Thus, Madan1e de Stael's salon guests would retire each to his or her own writ-
ing desk to write expressive private letters to one another. See Jiirgen Habern1as, The
Structural TIl'ansformation ofthe Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category ofBour-
geois Society, Thomas Burger, trans. (Cambridge, Mass., 1989), pp. 67-69.
9. Christian Wilhelm von DohlTI, Uber die verbesseren die Juden (Berlin,
1782 -3).
10. Lazarus Bendavid, Etwas zur Charackterisitick der Juden (Leipzig, 1793);
David Friedlander, Akten Stucke) die Reform der jiidischen I(olonieen den Preusischen
Staaten betrefend (Berlin, 1793). Cf. the lTIOre moderate Saul Ascher, Leviathan
(Berlin, 1792). On this phase of the public debate, see also Steven Lowenstein, The
Berlin Jewish Community (Oxford, 1994), pp. 77-83.
Notes to Pages 112-II4- 201

II. For Friedlander's representation of Polish Jewry in this context, see As-
cheim, Brothel's and Strangers, pp. 17-19, and the analysis of Friedlander's Allten
Stiiclu in David Sorkin, The Transfol'mation of German Jewry, 1780-1840 (Oxford,
1987), pp. 75-78. This trend ofthought was exacerbated by the fact that Poland was
then undergoing partition by Russia and the German states.
12. The term Lebensgeschichte, literally "life history," can denote either biogra-
phy or autobiography. It is not insignificant that, at the time, there existed no dis-
tinctive German word for the latter genre. The English autobiography did not enter
the English lexicon until I8ro and only later migrated to the German as autobiogra-
phie. See Oxford English Dictionary, S.v. "Autobiography," and Jakob and Wilhelm
Grimm, Das Deutsches Worterbuch (Leipzig, 1877), s.v. "Autobiographie."
13. Philippe Lejeune argues that this is always the case in "Autobiography and
the Third Person," New Literary History 9 (1977), pp. 27-50.
14-. W. E. B. DuBois, The Souls ofBlack FOUl ( ew York, 1989), p. 5. Paul Gilroy
has reintroduced this consciousness to current critical discussion in his Black At-
lantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (Cambridge, Mass., 1993). Gilroy's
point is that such a double consciousness, however painful the tension, allows for
unique insight. I do not claim this much for Maimon.
IS. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 14-6.
16. "Homo sum, nihil humanum a me alienum puto," Maimon, Lebens-
geschichte, p. 14-4-, quoting Terence (Publius Terantius Mer), Hauton Timoru-
menos, J. H. Gray, trans. (Cambridge, Mass., 1895), 1.77. Most of Maimon's classi-
cal allusions are to well-known sources, such as this one. It was, as Peter Gay notes
(in The Enlightenment: An Interpretation-The Rise of Modern Paganism [New
York, 1966], p. 128), a favorite of Enlightenment authors.
17. Both the air pump (the creation of a vacuum) and the harnessing of elec-
tricity were emblematic scientific achievements ofthe age, and their public demon-
stration was a staple of the Enlightenment public sphere. For evidence of the use
of air pumps in the Berlin Haskala, see the work of Mendelssohn's elder con-
temporary, Aaron Gumpertz, Megaleh Sod (Lemberg, 19ro), p. 35. On the cultural
place of experimentalism in the Enlightenment, see the influential discussion of
S. Shapin and S. Shaffer, Leviathan and the Air Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Ex-
perimental Life (Princeton, 1985), esp. ch. 2, and in the Jewish context, see David
Ruderman, Jewish Thought and Scientific Discovery in Early Modern Europe (New
Haven, 1995), pp. 332-38. In a famous 1768 oil painting, Joseph Derby depicted
a rather distraught family witnessing the suffocation of a pigeon in Experiment on
a Bird in an Air Pump (National Gallery, London). On the spectacular electrical
experiments of scientists such as Franklin, who occasionally electrified a turkey
tor dinner guests, see 1. Bernard Cohen, Franklin and Newton: An Inquiry into
Speculative Newtonian Experimental Science, and Franklin)s Work as an Example
Thereof (Philadelphia, 1956).
202 Notes to Pages 114 - 118

18. The allusion is noted (although not in the philosophical context discussed
later) in HaiITI Shoham's suggestive study of the influence of the Aujklarung on
the Haskala, Inspired by German Enlightenment (Tel Aviv, 1996), p. 114- (in He-
brew). The translation is, as is generally the case with Maimon, his own. Cf. the
translation of Mendelssohn's Biur: "von deinem Lande, von deinen1 Geburtsorte,
und von deinem Vaters Hause," loco cit.
19. See, for exaITIple, Moses Main10nides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolaters, I: 2
(standard editions), and Moses Maimonides, Guide ofthe Perplexed, ShlOITlO Pines j

trans. (Chicago, 1963), 111:29. Although MaiITIonides vvas Maimon's almost in-
evitable fraITIe of reference, the identification of Abraham as a philosopher has its
origins earlier, in late antiquity. For other sources with which Maimon would have
been fan1iliar, see, for example, Bereshit Rabba 38: 6, and the sources collected by
L. Feldman, "AbrahaITI the Greek Philosopher in Josephus," Transactions of the
American Philological Association 71 (1968), pp. 14-3-58. He is less likely to have
known of, for exaITIple, Philo's Migrations ofAbraham, later employed in Hegel's
account of Abrahamic alienation in the Early Theological Writings.
20. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, p. II.
21. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 12.
22. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 13.
23. The phrase Luftmensch, which in its early, more innocuous connotations
had a sin1ilar sense, came into circulation only later. Maimon may have had in mind
the Hebrew tenTI batlan, which initially applied only to those who 1vasted their op-
portunity for pure study (including those who did so by being "economically use-
ful") but was later used in something like the sense that Maimon uses the phrase
"holy idlers" (heilegen mufligangers).
24-. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 33.
25. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 25.
26. P. Lahover, "Introduction," in Solomon Maimon, Hayyei Shlomo Maimon,
P. Lahover, ed., and Y. L. Baruch, trans. (Tel Aviv, 194-1), p. 28 and n. 2, suggests
that Maimon may have been alluding to the childhood skepticisITI of the original
apiqores, Epicurus himself, who is reported to have doubted Hesiod's Creation
myth in Diogenes Laertius, Book 10: 2. I find the particular suggestion charming
but unlikely.
27. Although secondary explanations for this choice offirst texts abound, be-
ginning with Vayikra Rabba 7: 3, its cultural motivation remains obscure. A partial
reason Inay lie in a punning interpretation of the first verse of Leviticus, not "And
the Lord called to Moses ... " but rather "And the Lord read to Moses." Thus the
teacher reads to the child as God read to Moses. Nonetheless, the fact that this in-
struction is with regard to ITIOOt rules of the sacrificial cult calls for further expla-
nation. For sources and synthetic accounts of this educational practice in the
medieval and early modern periods, see SiInha Assaf, Meqorot le-Toldot ha-Hinukh
Notes to Pages 118-122 203

be-Yisrael (Tel Aviv, 1925), v. I, p. 122; Israel Abrahan1s, ]e1vish Life in the Middle
Ages (Ne\v York, 1981), pp. 350-51; and Hern1an Polack,]e1vish Folk1vays in Ger-
manic Lands (I648-I806): Aspects ofDaily Life (Can1bridge, Mass., 1971), p. 55.
28. Main10n, Lebensgeschichte, p. 28.
29. See the discussion ofThomas Houbka, Resplendent Synagogue: Architecture
and Worship in an Eighteenth Century Polish Community (Hanover, 2003), pp. 85-
86. A younger Lithuanian contelTIpOrary of Main10n's, Solomon Bennett, did in1-
migrate to England in 1789 and eventually becaille a painter. On him, see A. Bar-
nett, "Solomon Bennett, 1761-1828: Artist, Hebraist, and Controversialist," Jewish
Historical Society ofEngland Transactions 17 (1953), 91-111, and Todd Endelmann,
The je'ws ofGeorgian England: Tradition and Change (Philadelphia, 1979), pp. 142-
44 and 155-57
30. As codified authoritatively in Shulchan Aruch) YOreh Deah) Hilchot Avoda
Zara (laws concerning idolatry), ch. 141: 1-8 and COmlTIentators there. There were,
incidentally, eighteenth-century Jewish collectors of art, and occasionally a Jewish
notable would sit for a portrait in prelTIaskilic Western Europe, but the artists were
not Jewish. For a discussion of Jewish art collectors as a case of early embour-
geoisen1ent, see Azriel Shohat, 1m Hilufei Tekufot (Jerusalem, 1960). On the de-
VelOplTIent of the practice of rabbinical portraits, see Richard Cohen, jewish Icons:
Art and Society in Modern Europe (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1998).
31. Pirqei Avot, 3: 7
32. For a theoretical discussion ofsuch textual appendages, see Gerard Genette,
Paratexts (Minneapolis, 1995). It is perhaps worth noting that the illustrations of
many Hebrew title pages were often not specifically designed for these books but
were sin1ply borrowed frolll the files of the printer.
33. For one edition Main10n lTIight have read, see Mashal ha-J(admoni
(Zolkiew, 1727).
34. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 30.
35. The edition Maimon read was David Gans, Nehmad ve-Naim (Jessnitz,
1742). On Gans and his intellectual context, see the rather exuberant book of
Andre Neher, David Gans: ]e1vish Thought and the Scientific Revolution of the I6th
Century (Oxford, 1986).
36. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 31. The diagralTI, which is sin1ply a set of con-
centric circles, appears in Gans, Nehmad ve-Naim, p. 8.
37. MailTIOn, Lebensgeschichte, p. 31.
38. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 47.
39 . Christian Wolff, Metaphysik oder die Lehre von Gott) der Welt und der Seele
des Menschen (Frankfurt, 1739) is the most likely edition for Mailllon to have come
by, but it does not seem well suited for wrapping butter.
40. Moses Hadas, ed., Solomon Maimon: An Autobiography, J. Clark Murray,
trans. (New York, 1947), pp. x-xi.
204 Notes to Pages 123-125

41. Main10n, Lebensgeschichte, pp. 222-23.


42. Mailnon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 66 (lny italics). This passage was pointed out
to Ine by Blulna Goldstein, to wholn I am indebted for sharpening my under-
standing of Main10n's autobiographical project at several points.
43. Jean Starobinski, "The Style of Autobiography," in Autobiography: Perspec-
tives Critical and Theoretical, James Olney, ed. (Princeton, 198o ), p. 75.
44. Such titles generally include or allude to the given name of the author
through the quotation of a fragn1ent of biblical verse, in the case of Gans's Zenzah
David, the liturgical reformulation of Zechariah 6: 12.
45. Mailnon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 44.
46. See Main10nides' authoritative code, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Tahnud
Torah, 3: 1.
47. In a ritual that began in n1edieval Ashkenaz and was still practiced in one
fonn or another in Maimon's tilne, a child \vas initiated into school on the festival
of Shavuot, which celebrates the giving of the Torah. The child is wrapped in a tal-
lit and carried by his father to the teacher-just as a Torah would be carried. He
is then induced to lick honeyed Hebrew letters fl"om a slate and plied with delica-
cies inscribed with verses. That is to say, the child is initiated into the forn1al study
of Torah through rituals that n1ake hiln into a kind of cultural metonym for the
Torah. See the study by Ivan G. Marcus, Rituals ofChildhood: Jelvish Acculturation
in Medieval Europe (New Haven, 1996), see esp. pp. 75 -78. In another rituallnore
associated with Central Europe, the linen cloth, called a vimpl, upon which a boy
was circun1cised in Central Europe and parts of Eastern Europe was later decora-
tively elnbroidered with the child's name and birthdate and presented to the syna-
gogue to be used as a binder for the Torah scroll. See the suggestive paper of Bar-
bara IGrshenblatt-Gin1blett, "The Cut That Binds: The Western Ashkenazic Torah
Binder as Nexus Between Circulncision and Torah," in Celebration: Studies in Fes-
tivity and Ritual, Victor Turner, ed. (Washington, D.C., 1982), pp. 136-46.
48. Harvey Goldberg, "Torah and Children: Some Symbolic Aspects of the Re-
production of the Jew and Judaisln," in Judaism from Within and Without, Har-
vey Goldberg, ed. (New York, 1983), pp. 107-30, \vhich also provides con1parable
exalnples for non-Ashkenazi Jewish cultures.
49. Claude Levi-Strauss, The Savage Mind (Chicago, 1963), ch. I, passim.
50. Michael Warner, "The Mass Public and the Mass Subject," in Habermas
and the Public Sphere, Craig Calhoun, ed. (Calnbridge, Mass., 1992), pp. 382-83.
51. Mailnon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 34 (n1Y emphasis).
52. Mailnon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 67.
53. To adapt the terms of the Tel Aviv School's theory of allusion, in Maimon's
allusion to biblical verses here and elsewhere, Mailnon activates a whole network
of texts and reorganizes the reader's understanding of their meaning. Maimon's
talk of "Hercules' pestle" or quotations of schoolboy Latin activate rather poor
and uninteresting netvvorks. See the classic study of Ziva Ben-Porat, "The Poetics
Notes to Pages 126 - 133 205

of Literary Allusion," PTL: A Journal for the Descriptive Poetics and Theory of Lit-
erature I (1976), pp. 105-28.
54. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 241.
55. J. Clark Murray, "Translator's Preface" to Solon10n Main10n, Autobiogra-
phy, J. Clark Murray, trans. (London, 1888), p. xxxvi.
56. Marvin Lowenthal, ed., The Memoirs of Gluckel of Hameln (Ne\v York,
1932), p. xxxvi.
57. Lilliane Weissberg, "Salon10n Main10n Writes His Lebensgeschichte, a
Reflection on His Life in the (Polish) East and Gern1an West," in The Yale Compan-
ion to Jelvish Writing and Thought in German Culture) I096 - I996, S. Gilman and Jack
Zipes, eds. (Nevv Haven, 1997), p. II3, con1es close to suggesting sOlnething like this,
although she does not work it out in detail or note that the crucial issue is that of
Maimonidean perfection. Cf. also her interesting (but in the end, I think, un\vork-
able) further suggestion that the textual gaps and leaps in Main10n's text can also be
understood as reflecting the con1plicated structure of the Guide ofthe Perplexed.
58. Mailnon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 128.
59. Mailnon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 163.
60. Mailnon, Lebensgeschichte, pp. 167-68.
61. These were the Fragments of Ancient Poetry) Collected in the Highlands of
Scotland) and Translated from the Gaelic or Erse Language (Edinburgh, 1760),
which were actually largely or con1pletely the work ofJalnes Macpherson. See Paul
J. deGategno, James Macpherson (Boston, 1989), and for recent revisionist scholar-
ship, see Howard Gaskill, ed., Ossian Revisited (Edinburgh, 1991).
62. Main10n, Lebensgeschichte, pp. 168-69.
63. Main10n, Lebensgeschichte, p. 169.
64. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, pp. 171-72.
65. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, pp. 182-83 (italics in the original).
66. I hope to return on another occasion to the ilnplicit interpretation, cri-
tique, and parody of Mendelssohn's Jerusalem that are scattered throughout the
Lebensgeschichte.
67. Maimon, Giva)at ha-Moreh (Berlin, 1791), p. 35.
68. Main10nides' argun1ent in Guide 111:27 is actually sOlnewhat subtler. Here
perfection of the body refers to moral and civic virtue, but perfection of the soul
actually refers to the holding of "correct opinions" by the populace incapable of
philosophical thought that imparts the true and final perfection. See the lucid in-
terpretation of Lawrence 1Zaplan, "[ Sleep But My Heart Waketh: Maimonides'
Conception of Human Perfection," in The Thought of Moses Maimonides: Philo-
sophical and Legal Studies (Lewiston, 1990), pp. 130 -66.
69. Here, and throughout this chapter I sumlnarize philosophical and kabbal-
istic doctrines with an eye only to present expository purposes. For a wide-ranging
and suggestive essay on rapturous death in Jewish literature, see Michael Fishbane,
The [(iss of God: Spiritual and Mystical Death in Judaism (Seattle, 1994), ch. 1.
206 Notes to Pages 133 -138

70. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 316.


71. One exception to this critical inattention to the final allegorical chapter is
Sander Gilman's discussion, which offers an interesting psychoanalytic interpreta-
tion. Unfortunately, Gilnlan does not connect the chapter to the chapters on Mai-
nl0nides that precede it or take into account the nlore general philosophical con-
text of the chapter. See Sander Gilman, Jewish Self-Hatred: Anti-Semitism and the
Hidden Language ofthe Je1vs (Baltimore, 1986), pp. 128-30.
72. Mailllon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 320.
73. Maimon uses the term allegory, \vhich for nlY purposes here I will use in-
terchangeably with parable and take to be the translation of the Hebrew literary
term mashal. For a discussion of the genre in its early rabbinic stages, see David
Stern, Parables in Midrash: Narrative and Exegesis in Rabbinic Literature (Cam-
bridge, 1991). Mainl0nides' famous remarks on mashalim is contained in his intro-
duction to Guide of the Perplexed. For a discussion of the genre of medieval alle-
gory that Mainl0nides initiated and with which Maimon was familiar, see the
classic essay of Frank Talmadge, "Apples of Gold: The Inner Meaning of Sacred
Texts in Medieval Judaism," in Je1vish Spirituality: From the Bible Through the
Middle Ages, Arthur Greed, ed. (New York, 1986). Peter Heath's Allegory and Phi-
losophy in Avicenna (Philadelphia, 1991) is a nlethodologically sophisticated study
of cognate issues in Arabic philosophy.
74-. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, pp. 316-17.
75. In a letter to Reimarus at the outset of the Panttheismusstreit.His opponent
was F. H. Jacobi. Moses Mendelssohn, Schriften zur Philosophie) Aesthetik und Poli-
tik, M. Brasch, ed. (Hildesheiln, 1968), v. XIII, p. 157.
76. In the relatively felicitous translation of Walter IZaufmann, Hegel: Texts and
Commentary (Garden City, N. Y., 1965), p. 70, and see pp. 71-72, n. 4-.
77. Maimon, Giva)at ha-Moreh, pp. 6 -18.
78. Maimonides, Guide ofthe Perplexed, 111:51, p. 618.
79. For a moderate religious interpretation that would not have been accept-
able to Maimon, together with a good survey of other nl0dern approaches, see
MenahelTI IZellner, Maimonides on Human Perfection (Atlanta, 1990).
80. Main10nides, Guide ofthe Perplexed, 111:51, p. 618.
8!. B. T Baba Batra, 17a.
82. For the first of the genre, see Abraham Halkin, "Ibn 'Aqnin's Commentary
on the Song of Songs," in Alexander Marx Jubilee Volume, R. IZohut, ed. (New
York, 1950), pp. 215-4-2.
83. Maimonides, Guide ofthe Perplexed, 111:51, p. 628.
84-. A remark of Maimonides, using the term Shekhina in its earlier, nontheo-
sophie sense of divine presence, encouraged the identification; see Maimonides,
Guide ofthe Perplexed, 1:21, p. 4-9, and commentators, ad loco It is possible that Mai-
IDonides was in fact already aware of a kind of proto-kabbalistic hypostasis of the
Shekhina, which he sought to neutralize.
Notes to Pages 138-142 207

85. Although it functions in a radically anti-anthropomorphic systeln, it would


seem fair to say that the active intellect is figured as male, as can be seen, for ex-
alnple, froln Mailnonides' use of the Song of Songs I: 2. It is interesting, then, that
its kabbalistic counterpart is the unquestionably female Shekhina, the "daughter of
the IZing," "Bride of Tife1I'et," and so on. Despite recent interesting work by Eliot
Wolfson and others on sefirotic gender dynalnics, I know of no direct discussion of
this issue.
86. CCUlimta shapirta ve-leit lah einayin))J Zohar II, 99b (Parshat Mishpatim),
literally the "Beautiful Maiden Without Eyes" but con1rnonly interpreted to refer
to the lnaiden's invisibility in view of the context of the passage as a whole; see, for
exan1ple, the translations of Gershon1 Scholem, Zohar: The Book ofSplendor (New
York, 1949), p. 87 and note, and Daniel Matt, Zohar: The Book of Enlightenment
(New York, 1983), p. 123. Eliot Wolfson has presented an ingenious, perhaps con1-
pelling, interpretation of the staten1ent that retains its literal sense. According to
Wolfson, the statement refers parabolically both to the Torah as the "eyeless" text
whose sense is ilnparted by an interpreter "full of eyes" and to the Shekhina, which
receives its form and "color" from the Sefira of Yesod (in Wolfson, "Beautiful
Maiden Without Eyes: Peshat and Sod in Zoharic Hermeneutics," collected in The
Midrashic Imagination: Jewish Exegesis) Thought and History, Michael Fishbane,
ed. [Albany, 1993], pp. 155-203, esp. pp. 185-87 and notes). For our purposes it is
only ilnportant that Main10n read and drew upon the text in its traditional
interpretation.
87. In the translation of Scholem, Zohar, pp. 87-90, slightly lnodified in light
of the original text.
88. This passage, and its associated doctrines, had a trelnendous effect on sub-
sequent Jewish literature. A younger Hasidic contemporary of Mailnon's, Rabbi
Nahlnan of Bratslav (1772-1810), for instance, personified the Shekhina in one of
his fan10us stories as "The Lost Princess," who is always just beyond the grasp of
the tireless viceroy, until he finally saves her, "although I don't ren1elnber how," in
Sippurei MaJasiyot (Ostrog, 1813), "First Tale." Mailnon, as we shall see, sin1ilarly
defers final narrative closure.
89. For the in1age of lightning, seeMailnonides.Guide of the Perplexed, 1: In-
troduction, p. 13. Daniel Matt suggests a connection between the Maimonidean
and Zoharic parables, in Zohar, p. 252, note to "Even though I have said."
90. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 317 and notes.
91. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 318 and notes.
92. Mailnon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 319 and notes.
93. In1lnanuel I(ant, Critique ofJudgment, James Meredith, trans. (Oxford,
1978), p. 317, n. 51.
94. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 319 and note.
95. Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, p. 320.
208 Notes to Pages 143-146

Chapter Five
I. Shadworth Hodgson, Philosophy ofReflection (London, 1878), p. 17.
2. George Eliot, Daniel Deronda (Hertfordshire, 1996), p. 320, written in 1876.
3. For the plausible suggestion that Eliot was drawing on experience for this
scene and a brief discussion of her use of the Lebensgeschichte, see Israel Abrahan1s,
"George Eliot and Solon10n Main10n," in Israel Abrahan1s, The Book of Delights
and Other Papers (Philadelphia, 1911), pp. 242-46. For a recent biography that
shows the relatively direct ways in which Eliot drew fron1 her life for her fiction, see
IZathryn Hughes, George Eliot: The Last Victorian (New York, 1991), especially
pp. 303-24, on the cOlnposition of Daniel Deronda.
4. On Main10n as an autobiographical exen1plar, see Marcus Moseley, Beingfor
Myself Alone: Origins ofjeTvish Autobiography (Stanford, 2006), as well as the ear-
lier studies ofShlTIuel Werses, "Darkhei Autobiografiya be'tkufat ha'Haskala," col-
lected in Shn1uel Werses, Trends and Forms in Haskala Literature (JerusalelTI,
1990), pp. 249-60 (in Hebrew), and Alan Mintz, Banished from Their Father)s
Table: Loss ofFaith and Hebre1v Autobiography (Bloon1ington, 1989).
5. Nachn1an IZrochmal, perhaps the greatest of the Eastern European Maskilim,
also read Maimon closely, as can be evidenced by a letter to his son Abrahan1, which
paraphrases a passage from Main10n's Giva)at ha-Moreh on n1ethods of learning
and the attainn1ent of perfection. The letter is published in S. Rawidowicz, ed.,
ICitvei R. Nachman ICrochmal (London, 1961 ), p. 427.
6. For the influence of MailTIOn'S frank account of his adolescent n1arriage, see
David Biale, Eros and the je1vs: From Biblical Israel to Contemporary America (New
York, 1992), pp. 152-56.
7. For a suggestive partial list, see Menuha Gilboa's recent essay on Maimon's
autobiography "ShelolTIo Maimon: Sefer Hayei Shelon10 Maimon," in Bein His-
toriya leSifrut: Sefer YovelleYitzhak Barzilai, Stanley Nash, ed. (Tel Aviv, 1997),
pp. 80 -81 and notes.
8. M. Guenzberg, Devir (I), letter 67, cited by Gilboa, "Shelomo Maimon,"
p.82.
9. David Frischlnan, Gr;shtaltn (Mexico City, 1948), p. 147, translated in Lucy
Davidowicz, The Golden Tradition: jewish Life and Thought in Eastern Europe
(New York, 1967), p. 131.
10. Micha Joseph Berdichevsky, ICitvei Micha Yosef Bin Gurion (Berdichevsky):
Maamrim (Tel Aviv, 1960), pp. 201-5.
II. B. T. Hagiga, 15a-b.
12. A. Holtzlnan, Hakarat Panim (Tel Aviv, 1984), p. 194, n. 20.
13. Another instance is Peter Beer, Lebensgeschichte des Peter Beer, Moritz Her-
mann, ed. (Prague, 1839), p. 9, in vvhich Beer discovers Maimonides in a way sus-
piciously silnilar to that in which Maimon discovered the work of David Gans. The
discovery of forbidden literature also becomes a topos in the literature. A similar
Notes to Pages 14-6 - 14-8 209

story is repeated about Mendel Lefin and Joseph Solon10n Dehnedigo's Sefer ha-
Elim, in S. J. Fuenn, Qjryah NeJemnah (Vilna, 186o), pp. 271-73. For the theory
behind the fan10us phrase "strong poet," see Harold Bloon1, The Anxiety of
Influence: A Theory ofPoetry (New York, 1973).
14-. The letter was first published in Yehoshua Heschel Levin's hagiography of
the Gaon, Aliyot Eliyahu (Warsaw, 1859), pp. 31b-32b, fn. 34. I believe that the "70
powers in Inan" is likely to be a reference to doctrine that the hun1an being is a n1i-
crocosmos, an idea further elaborated by the Gaon's student Rabbi Hayyiln of
Volozhin, in Nefesh Ha-Hayyim.
15. On Italian Jews as a contemporary model ofcosn10politan and sophisticated
Jewry for the German Haskala, see Lois Dubin, "The Rise and Fall of the Italian
Jewish Model in Gennany: From Haskalah to Reforn1, 1780-1820," in Je1vish His-
tory and Je1vish Memory: Essays in Honor ofYOsefHayim Yerushalmi, Elisheva Carle-
bach, John M. Efron, and David N. Myers, eds. (Hanover, 1998). Dubin quotes
Euchel: "The Jews in Leghorn ... shave their beards and style their hair, there is
no difference between their dress and that of the [other] inhabitants. They speak
the language of the people correctly and eloquently like one of their orators"
(p. 273). See also Dubin, "Trieste and Berlin: The Italian Role in the Cultural Pol-
itics of the Haskalah," in Tmvard Modernity: The European Model, Jacob IZatz, ed.
(New Brunswick, 1987), pp. 189-224. There was traffic between Lithuania and
Padua. Raphael Levi of Hannover (1685-1779) was born in Vilna and studied med-
icine in Padua. He also studied with Leibniz, served as his secretary, and corre-
sponded with Mendelssohn in his old age. See Israel Zinberg, A History ofJnvish
Literature, Bernard Martin, trans. and ed. (Cleveland, 1972-78); and Alexander
Altmann, Moses Mendelssohn: A Biographical Study (London, 1973), pp. 159-61 and
the sources cited there. Finally, see Nahum Gelber, "Le-toldot ha-rofiln ha-
Yehudiln be-Polin ba-Meah ha-18," in Shay le-Yeshayahu: Yovelle-Yeshayahu Volfs-
berg, 1. Tirosh, ed. (Tel Aviv, 1956), pp. 34-7-71, who lists six Jewish doctors fron1
Poland who studied in Padua in the eighteenth century.
16. For the importance of questions of the rabbinic interpretation of biblical
language for the early Haskala, see Jay Harris, Hmv Do We I(nmv This? Midrash and
the Fragmentation of Alodern Judaism (Albany, 1995) on Naftali Herz Wessely's
Gan Naul (1778).
17. Levin, Aliyot Eliyahu, p. 32b.
18. A note added to the fourth edition, in response to the criticisln published
in the Russian maskilic journal ha-Carmel, v. I, no. 5 (1872), pp. 234-35, and by the
historian Heinrich Graetz suggests that the letter writer Inay have been the con-
troversial preacher Abba Glosk rather than Mailnon. This is hardly more likely be-
cause Glosk may not have existed outside the ilnagination of the Romantic poet
Adelbert Chan1isso, who wrote a poem about him in 1811. For a recent, if SOlne-
what credulous, discussion of the figure of Glosk, see Hayyim Shohan1, Inspired by
German Enlightenment (Tel Aviv, 1996), pp. 100-103 (in Hebrew).
210 Notes to Pages 14-8-151

19. There are features of the letter and its presentation that suggest that it n1ay
have son1e authentic basis. Levin provides a long and credible chain of tradition as
\vell as a detailed discussion of how the letter \vas intercepted and the Halakhic de-
liberations over whether it would be opened, given the falnous lnedieval edict of
Rabbenu Gershon1 against opening the n1ail of others. Finally, it is written in a fine
Inaskilic Hebrevv, possessed by few inhabitants of Levin's cultural world. Ifthe letter
is authentic and n1erely n1isattributed, the language, the grammatical interests, the
genuine an1bivalence over rabbinic authority, and the talk offorgery allinight point
to Main10n's friend and colleague Isaac Satanov, but this is n1erely a hypothesis.
20. Sabbattia Wolff, Maimonia) oder Rhapsodien zur Charakteristik Salomon
Maimons) aus seinem Privatlebengesammelt (Berlin, 1813), p. 89, and COlnpare the
infonnal biographical sketch of Lazarus Bendavid, "Uber Salon10n Mailnon,"
National-Zeitschrift fur Wissenschaft) I(unst und Gewerbe in den Pruessischen Staa-
ten) nebst einem I(orrespondenz Blatte I (1801), pp. 91-93.
21. Heinrich Heine, The Poetry and Prose ofHeinrich Heine, Frederic Ewen, ed.
(New York, 1955), pp. 690-91, written in 1823.
22. See Steven Aschhein1, Brothers and Stranger's: Eastern European Jelvs in
Germany and German Jelvish Consciousness (Madison, Wise., 1983), p. 14.
23. For a succinct staten1ent of Mendelssohn's cultural significance, see Alexan-
der Altmann, "Moses Mendelssohn: The Archetypal German Jew," in Jewish Re-
sponse to German Culture: From the Enlightenment to the Second World War, Jehuda
Reinharz and Walter Schatzberg, eds. (Hanover, 1985), pp. 17-31.
24. Heinrich Graetz, History ofthe Jelvs (Philadelphia, 1956), v. 5, p. 407.
25. Silnon Bernfeld, Dor Tahapuchot (Warsaw, 1897).
26. Ruth Gay, The Jelvs of Germany (New Haven, 1992 ), p. 37.
27. Israel Zangwill, Dreamers of the Ghetto (London, 1898), pp. 261-302, as
"Main10n the Fool and Nathan the Wise."
28. Harry Austryn Wolfson, "Solomon Pappenheim on Time and Space and
His Relationship to Locke and IZant," in his Studies in the History ofPhilosophy and
Religion (Calnbridge, Mass., 1977), p. 608.
29. Sololnon Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, Jakob Frolner, ed. (Munich, 1911),
Pp7- 8 .
30. Fromer, who modeled himself on Maimon, wrote his own autobiography,
TTrJm Ghetto zur modernen I(ultur: Eine Lebensgeschichte (Heidelberg, 1906). On
him, see Aschheim, Brothers and Strangers, p. 237.
31. Quoted in Zinberg, A History ofJelvish Literature, v. 8, p. 131.
32. Con1pare the remark of the American philosopher Morris Raphael Cohen,
who was born in Maimon's hometown of Nieswicz. Ironically, in his autobiogra-
phy, Cohen seems intent on showing the cultural richness of his birthplace through
reference to Mailnon: "Nor did Neshwies forget that it had been the home of
Solomon Mailnon, the greatest Jewish philosopher since Spinoza or Rabbi Isaak
Elhanon, one of the great rabbis of the nineteenth century, and of Sholner (M. M.
Notes to Pages 152-155 211

Shaikewich), the Dumas of modern Yiddish literature," in A Dreamers journey: The


Autobiography of Morris Raphael Cohen (Boston, 1949), p. 25. (Cohen apparently
en1igrated when he was 3.)
33. Franz Rosenzweig, Briefe und Tagebiicher, Ernst Simon and Edith Rosen-
zweig, eds. (Berlin, 1935), pp. 97-98.
34. Rosenzweig, Briefe und Tagebiicher (3 February 1918), p. 510. I owe this ref-
erence to my friend the Rosenzweig scholar Benjalnin Pollock.
35. Franz Rosenzweig, The Star of Redef1ltption, William Halla, trans. (New
York, 1970 ), p. 4.
36. On the alleged Jewishness of the neo- IZantian project in general, see the
idiosyncratic reflections of Jacques Derrida, "Interpretations at War: IZant, the Jew,
the Gennan," Ne1v Literary History 22(1) (winter 1991), pp. 39-97, and Jiirgen
Habermas, "The Gern1an Idealism of Jewish Philosophers," in Philosophical-Polit-
ical Profiles, Frederick Lawrence, trans. (Cambridge, Mass., 1983), pp. 21-43.
37. J. Guttman, Philosophies of judaisrn, David Silvennan, trans. (New York,
1962); and David Neulnark, Toldot Filosofiya be-YisraYel) (al-pi seder ha-mehkarim
(New York, 1929), especially v. 2.
38. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Halakhic Man, Lawrence IZaplan, trans. (Philadel-
phia, 1981), p. 144, notes 10 and II, which treat Maimon and Cohen together, and
p. 162, note 138. For discussions of Soloveitchik's neo-IZantianism, see Aviezer
Ravitsky, "Rav Soloveitchik on IZnowledge: Between Mailnonides and the Neo-
IZantians," Modern judaism 6 (1986), pp. 119-47, and the monograph of Reinier
Munk, The Rationale ofHalakhic Man: joseph B. SoloveitchikYs Conception ofjewish
Thought (Amsterdam, 1996), esp. ch. 5.
39. See, for exalnple, Yeshayahu Leibowitz, The Faith of Maimonides (Jerusa-
len1, 1991).
40. Scholem's lightly annotated personal copy is now held at the Hebrew Uni-
versity in the Gershom Scholem Library. Scholeln also located and managed to
copy part of the manuscript of Mailnon's Hesheq Shelomo, which had been held by
the Hochschule until its dissolution under Hitler and is novv deposited in Israel's
National Library, where the original, autographed copy is now also held (see Chap-
ter I, note 54). However, Scholem does not appear to have Inade a close study of
the contents of the Inanuscript.
41. Moses Maimonides, Guide ofthe Perplexed, 1:66, and Narboni, Beur le-Sefer
Moreh ha-Nevuchim, J. Goldenthal, ed. (Vienna, 1852).
42. Narboni would appear to get his etYlnological speculation fron1 Abraham
ibn Ezra's con11nentary to Exodus 3: 6.
43. Walter Benjan1in, Gesammelte Schriften, R. Tieden1ann and Hennan
Schweppenhaus, eds. (Frankfurt, 1972 ), 1:934.
44. See the discussion of Beatrice Hanssen, Walter BenfarninYs Other History:
OfStones) Animals) Human Beings) and Angels (Berkeley, 1998), p. 40, and Chap-
ter 2 of this book.
212 Notes to Pages 155 - 161

45. Leo Strauss, "Del' Ort del' Vorstellunglehre nach del' ansicht Maimunis,"
Monatsschrift fur Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judenthums (1937), p. 104, n. 34;
also, see Iny discussion in Chapter 4-.
46. For an interesting vantage point on Atlas, see the recent biography of his
friend Rabbi Yehiel Weinberg; see Marc Shapiro, Betlveen the Yeshiva World and
Modern Orthodoxy: The Life and Works of Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg (London,
1999), which suggests the extent to which Atlas also ren1ained torn between tvvo
vvorlds.
4-7. Isaac Bashevis Singer, Shad01vs on the Hudson, Joseph Shern1an, trans. (New
York, 2000), p. 23; and see the Yiddish journal Davke (1954-).
48. Hennan Potock, "The Philosophical Rationalisln of Solon10n Maimon,"
Ph.D. dissertation (University of Pennsylvania, 1963). (N.b. Potock later sin1plified
the spelling of his name to Potok.)
49. Chain1 Potok, The Chosen (New York, 1967), p. 113. Cf. the image of apiqor-
sut in the Yiddish novel by Saul Saphire, Shloyme Maymon: Historisher roman (New
York, 1954).
50. Yoseph Udelson, "Solon10n Maimon, A Second Look at the Enlighten-
n1ent," BJOr HaJTorah:Journal ofScience) Art) and Modern Life in the Light ofthe
Torah II (1992 ), pp. 123-33.
51. Zev Ya'vetz, Sefer Toldot Yisrael (Tel Aviv, 1955), v. 13, pp. 168-69.
52. Manfred Frank, "Der Scharfsinn des Herrn Mailnon," Die Zeit, June 3,
2004. Study of Maimon's philosophy will be greatly advanced by the recent ap-
pearance of a new scholarly edition of Main10n's Versuch uber die Transcendental-
philosophie (Halnburg, 2004-) with an enlightening introduction and notes by
Florian Ehrensperger.

Conclusion
1. Alfred Ivry, "Jewish Averroism," in The Columbia History of Western Philoso-
phy, Richard Popkin, ed. (New York, 1999), p. 208.
2. 5hloll10 Pines, "Jewish Philosophy," in Studies in the History of Jewish

Thought, W. Z. Harvey and M. Idel, eqs. (Jerusalem, 1997), p. 39.


Bibliography

This bibliography is varied, but not very Inuch n10re so, I hope, than a serious con-
sideration of Main10n's life and work necessitates. I have listed Mailnon's collected
works as well as the various editions that I have consulted. There are two further
sections. In the first section, I list other prin1ary works cited; in the second, sec-
ondary works. I have olnitted a few texts, which are cited in the notes and whose
inclusion here seemed superfluous. Conversely, I have listed some works that vvere
not explicitly cited. The distinction between primary and secondary works is always
son1ewhat arbitrary, or interest relative. I include memoirs and novels in which
Maimon (or one of his books) appears as prin1ary texts.

Works by Maimon
Main10n, Solon10n. Bacons von Vi:rulam neues Organon (Berlin, I793).
- - - . Gesam71zelte Werke, V Verra, ed. (Hildesheiln, I965), 7 vols.
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(Tel Aviv, I94I).
- - - . Hesheq Shelomo. MS 806426, Institute for Microfiln1ed Hebrew Manu-
scripts, Jewish National and Hebrew University Library, Jerusaleln (I778).
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- - - . Lebensgeschichte, Jakob Fromer, ed. (Munich, I9II).
- - - . Philosophisches Wijrterbuch oder Beleuchtung der 1vichtigsten Gegenstiinde
der Philosophie in alphabetischer Ordnung (Berlin, I79I).
- - - . Salomon Maimons Lebensgeschichte, Zwi Batscha, ed. (Frankfurt, 1984).
- - - . Solomon Maimon: An Autobiography, Moses Hadas, ed., and J. Clark
Murray, trans. (New York, 1947).
- - - . Streifereien im Gebiete der Philosophie (Berlin, 1793).
- - - . Uber die Progressen der Philosophie (Berlin, 1793).
- - - . Vi:rsuch einer neuen Logik oder Theorie des Denkens (Berlin, I794).
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(Hamburg, 2004).
214 Bibliography

- - - . Versuch uber die Transcendentalphilosophie) mit einenz Anhang uber die


symbolische Erkenntnis und Amerkungen (Berlin, 1790).
Anonyn10us [Solon10n MailTIOn], and Isaac Euchel. "Panin1 haMoreh." ha-Meassef
4 (1789), pp. 243-63
Maimon, Sololnon, and F. Bartholdy, trans. Anfangsg1/'unde der Newtonischen
Philosophie von Dr. Pemberton (Berlin, 1793).
- - - . ICritische Untet'schungen tiber menschlichen Geist oder das hijhere Erkenntnis
und Willensvermijgen (Leipzig, 1797).
Mailnon, Solomon, and Isaac Euchel, ed. GivaJat ha-Moreh (Berlin, 1791).
- - - . GivaJat ha-Moreh, S. H. Berglnan and N. Rotenstreich, eds. (Jerusaleln,
1965).
Maimon, Solomon, and IZarl Philipp Moritz, ed. Salomon Maimons Lebens-
geschichte (Berlin, 1792-3).

Primary Texts
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Atnilander, Menaheln. Sheyris Yisroel (At11sterdam, 1743).
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the Jews) WhistonJs Eight Sermons) LockJs Paraphrase and Notes on St. Pau[Js
Epistles and LeClerc)s Bibliotheque Choise (London, 1709).
Aquinas, Thomas. On the Unicity of the Intellect Against the Averroists, Beatrice
Zedler, trans. (Milwaukee, 1968).
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196 8).
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Mendelssohn (Stuttgart, 186o).
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Beer, Peter. Lebensgeschichte des Peter Beer, Moritz Hermann, ed. (Prague,
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Bendavid, Lazarus. Etwas zur Charackteristick der Juden (Leipzig, 1793).
--~. "Uber Salomon Maimon." National Zeitschrift fur Wissenschaft (Berlin,
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Ber of Belechow, The Memoirs of Ber of Belechow, M. Vishnitzer, ed. and trans.
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Index

Abraham, II4, 202n19 Allenlano, Yohanan, I85n2I


Absolute Idealis111, 47, 105 angels, 68
Abulafia, Abraham, 1871142 anticlericisnl, 9
Abuya, Elisha ben, 146 antinomianisnl, 82
Acher (the other), 146 Anton Reiser (Moritz), 35, III
acosnlis111, 77, 105 apiqores. See heresy
acquired intellects, 72 Aquinas, Thonlas, 189n62
active intellect (nous poietikos/sehel ha-potd) Arendt, Hannah, 15, 161
account of~ clear, 188n47 Aristotelianism
in De Anima (Aristotle), 65-67, 137-38 coslnological, 66 -67
as Downward Way, 74 and Delmedigo, Joseph Sololnon, 81
and fonns, 191n75 in Giva)at ha-Moreh (Maimon), 83
image of, 189n57 and Haskala, 78 -79
Mainlon on, 69 -70, 75 and Hesheq Shelomo (Mailnon), 59-60,
Mainl0nides on, 68 -69 63
as nlale, 197n85 Jewish, 184-85n18
and mathenlatics, l0S nledieval, 14, 69, 86
and nlatter, sublunar, 89 and perfection, 10 - II
in Inedieval philosophy, 108 and study, life of~ 67
philosophical tradition of, 64-67 Aristotle
and telos, human, 79 through Averroes, 160
Adorno, Theodor, 199n57 Ethics, 59, 185-86n26
afterlife, 68 -69, 72 and four causes, 60
Aguna (grass widow), 37 and good life, I88n50
air pump, 201n17 and Halakha, 60
alchemy, 71 and Hebrew readers, 55, 60
Alexander of Aphrodisias, 64, 188n52 on intellect, image of~ I89n57
Alfarabi (Herbert Davidson), 66-67, 189n58 and knowledge, 66
algebra, 58. See also nlathelnatics through Maimonides, 160
alienation, II3, II8 Mainl0n's history of~ 140
Aliyot Eliyahu (Vilna), 148 medieval interpretation of, 67
allegory, medieval Hebrew traditions of~ 133 and science, 60
1232 Index

art, representative, II8, II9 ben Schelon10, Eliyahu, Rabbi (the Vilna
Ashkenazi culture Gaon)
in Polish Lithuanian Conlnlonvvealth, and devequt, 78
I70n4- in exile, self-in1posed, 31
preillodern, 5 and t~1nlily duties, 28, I73n30
and rabbinic authority, 28, 29 and Mainl0n, Solol11on, confrontation
astrononlY, 72, II9, 120 vvith, 14-6, 14-7
Atlas, Sailluel, 97, 155 study, lite ot~ 28
Auerbach, Berthold, 144- on Torah study, 78
Auj7ddrunB. See Enlightennlent; Gernlan ben Shen1 Tov, Joseph, I93nI04, 194nI09
Enlightennlent ben Solon10n, Elijah, I73n3I
Attj7diirunB philosophers, 4 ben Yehoshua, Shelonlo. See Main10n, Solo-
autobiography n10n
closure to, 132 ben Yehoshua, Shelon10 (f:1ther of Solon10n
developlnent of tenn/genre, 20InI2 Mainl0n),84
Erikson, Erik, on, 200n7 Bendavid, Lazarus, 48, 50, II2, 131-32, 157
as genre, IIO Benjan1in, Walter, 154-55
111edieval, 180nl03 Bennett, Solon10n, 203n29
as nlodern project, 14- Bel' of Belechov, 45
and order of life, IIO Berdichevsky, Micha Joseph, 146, 148
won1en's, in India, 180nl03 Bergl11an, Sailluel Hugo, 105, ISS, 156
autononlY, radical, 13 - 14- Bergson, Henri, 161
Averroes, 55, 98, 99, 160, 194, 197n 34 Berlin, Saul, 37
Averroisn1, 81-82, 159-60, 194nl07 Berlin Jewish Enlightennlent (Haskala). See
Aviezer (Guenzberg), 145 Haskala
Berlinische Monatschrift (journal), 44
BaJal Shem (tenn), 174 Bernfeld, Sin10n, 50, 150
Baer, Dov, Rabbi (Maggid of Mezeritch) Betteljude (ternl), 175n52
Hasidic Court of~ described,s Bildung
and IZohen, Raphael, Rabbi, 37 Aristotelian sources tor, 168n35
Mailllon's account of~ 5, 29, 76 defined, II, IIO
as n1anipulator, 76 and Eastern European Jews, 200n3
and perfection, systenl of~ 92 in Gernlan Enlightennlent, 80
Baer, Yitzhak, 194nI09 for Genllan Jewry, 1110dern, 168n35
Bahya, Rabbenu,59 Hegel's use ot~ 106
"barbarisnl," of Jewish culture, 151, 152 and history of philosophy, 136
Basnage, Jacques, 38, 39 and intellectual perfection, 108
batlan (tenn), 202n23 as Mailnon's goal, 126
Beer, Peter, I7InI5, 208nI3 in Salomon Maimons Lebens.geschichte,
Beiser, Frederick, 89, 97, I99n60 108
ben Abrahanl Crescas, Asher, 81 vs. shelemut ha-nefesh (perfection), 83,
ben Main10n, Moses (Moses Mainl0nides). 130, 162
See Mail11onides, Moses vs. talmid hakham, 162
ben Moredechai, Shimon, Rabbi, I74-n4-3 BildunBsroman, 17
Index 233

blasphen1y, 19 and conceptual categories, 88, 89


Book ofthe Healing ofthe Soul (Ibn Sinna), en1piricis111 vs. rationalis111 in, 86
79 and Enlightenlnent ideals, l2
Brahe, Tycho, Il9 and Herz, Marcus, letter to, I, 2, 9
Bransen, Jan, 97 and intuition, 86
Bruno, Giordano, 95-96 and knovvledge, 86
Main1011 on, I, 2, 9, 43 -44, 85, l41
calculus, 99. See also n1athen1atics Schen1aticisn1 section, 88
Cassirer, Ernst, 13-14, 97, l43 Second Analogy, 88
categorical in1perative, l03 and sensibility, 86 -87
causality, 86, 96 transcendental idealisn1 of~ l2
cause, as category, Il7 and understanding, 86 -87
Chalnisso, Adelbert, 209n18 and universal concepts, 88
Chaplin, Charlie, l69n47 Cultural Zionis111, l46
Chosen) The (Potok), 156
cognition Daniel Deronda (Eliot), l44, 208n3
and active intellect, 66 Davidson, Herbert (Alfarabi), 66 -67
Aristotelian picture ot~ 87 De Anima (Aristotle), 65, 67
and consciousness, 107 de Stael, Madalne, 200n8
and divine n1ind, 47 death, 132-33, 137
and God, 76 Delmedigo, Joseph Solo1110n, 8l, 82,
in Hesheq Shelol'l1o (Mailnon), 59 103n106
IZant's account ot~ 87, 90, 104 Derashot haRan (Nissiln), 58, 73, 19ln76
111icrostructures of, 14 Derby, Joseph, 20Inl7
and n10rtality, 69 devequt (union with the divine)
and telos, hun1an, 83 and early lnodern Jewish intellectuals, II

Cohen, Hennann, 107, 153 erotic nature of~ 138


Cohen, Morris Raphael, 2Ion32 and Hasidisn1, 76
Cohen, Solon10n, 185n21 through self-annihilation, 77
con1n1entary, Je"wish intellectual traditions and Taln1ud study, 78
ot~ 47 and Torah study, 78
Commentary on the Mishna (Main10nides), and World Soul, l7
55, 60-61 dibur (tern1), 167n22
Confessions (Rousseau), l09, III, l26 Dichter und [(aufman (Auerbach), 144
consciousness, 107 Dilthey, Wilhehn, 107
Creation (MaJaseh Bereshit), 62, 82 divine lnind, 47, 50, 67, 95, 98
Crescas, Hasdai, 190n72 divine truth, 139
critical philosophy. See Critique ofPUlt'e divorce, 37, 43, l77n68
Reason (IZant); IZant, lInn1anuel Divrei Shalom ve-Emet (vVessely), 38
criticism, l2 doctrine of attainn1ent of perfection, 132
Critique ofJudgment (IZant), 9, l04, l05, doctrine of differentials, 99
l4l Downward Way, 73, 74, 89, 101
Critique ofPure Reason (IZant), 86, 87 dualisn1, 47, 73, 104-5
and causality, 88 Dubno, Solon10n, l72n22
234 Index

DuBois, VV. E. B., II3 evil, 103


Duran, Profiat, 81 exconlmunication, 34, 36 -37, 177n68
exile (Shevi), 84
electricity, 201n17
Elements (Euclid), 40, 174n43 Feiner, Shnluel, 30
Eliot, George, 144, 208n3 Fichte, Johann Gottlob, 14, 48, 102, 104,
Enlden, Jacob, Rabbi, 46 105, 107
enlpirical phenonlena, II4 fideisnl, 72
elnpiricisln, vs. rationalisln, 86 final cause, 103
Emunah Ranta (Daud), 184n18 finite nlinds, and sensibility, 100
Enlightenment finite/infinite intellect, 95, 97, 98, 99, 105
anticlerical spirit ot~ 9 First Cause, 41
and anti- Judaism, 4 first-person voice, 45, II3
definition, 13, II5 fish, and souls of the righteous, 175n55
and equality of Jews, Christians, 82 forbidden literature, 208-9n13
and German language, 120 -21 fonn and Inatter, 74, 100
and happiness, II, 79 four causes, Aristotelian, 60
and I(ant, 12-13, 14 Frank, Manti"ed, 157
and Maskililn, 55 Franklin, Benjainin, II4, 20In17
and medieval Hebrew scholasticisln, 36 freedoIn, 13 - 14
and perfection, 10 - II Friedlander, David, II2, 131
radical, 18 Fromer, Jakob, 50 -51, 151, 2Ion30
and reason, 9, 12-13 Funkenstein, Anl0s, 53-54, 55, I84n13
and scientific achievements, II3, 2011117 Fiinn, Joseph, 174n43
struggle for, 109
Epicurean (apiqores), 7-8 Gans, David, II9, 120, 203n35
Epicurus, 202n26 Gaon, Saadia, 57
Epistle on the Possibility of Conjunction with Gaon, Vilna. See ben Schelonlo, Eliyahu,
the Active Intellect (Averroes), 98 Rabbi (the Vilna Gaon)
equations, 100 Garve, Christian, 41, 42, 44-
Erdlnann, Johann, 107 Geiger, Abrahan1, 16
Erickson, Erik, 200n7 German Enlightenment, 17,27,4-4, 80,
Ethics (Aristotle), 59, 160, 185n26 177n63. See also Enlightenment
Ethics) The (Spinoza), II, 95, 97 German Idealism
Euche!, Isaac and divine intellect, 10
characterized, 184n14 and intellectual intuition, 104
and Giva)at ha-Moreh (Maimon), 80-81, interest in, revival of, 16, 157
82 Maiinon, Solomon, as forerunner of, 9,
and ha-Meassef(journal), 53, 79, 160 90, 10 7
and Maimon, Solomon, faith in, 94 and Schelling, 104-
and Inaskillic ideas, 160 German Jewry, 149-50, 194nl09
translation by, of Ibn Sinna, 79 German language, 120 -21, 122
Eudaemonia (happiness), 67, 68-69,79, Gernlan philosophy, 121, 122
I03,185n26 German-Jewish Enlightenment, 153
Even-Schn1uel (I(auflnann), Yehuda, 153 German-Jewish identity, lIO, 152
Index 235

Gersholn, Levi ben (Gersonides). See Goldschlnidt, J., 151


Gersonides good/evil, 103, 181nn5
Gersholn, Rabbenu, 210n19 Graetz, Heinrich, 5-6
Gersonides, 71, 72, 190n69 Guenzberg, Mordechai Aaron, 145
Gilnlan, Sander, 206n71 Guide ofthe Perplexed (Mainlonides)
Giva)at ha-}';foreh (Mailnon) allusions to, 139
anonylnous publication ot~ 84, 95, 101 and Aristotelianism, 82
and Aristotelianisnl, 92 conlluentators on, 81
and Bruno, Giordano, 95, 101 creation in, 82
and Euchel, Isaac, support of publication and Ethics (Aristotle), 185n26
by, 80 -81, 82, 84 God's knowledge of particulars, 82
finite /infinite intellects in, 92-93 imnl0rtality, and hUlnan knowledge, in,
God in, 97 82
and Hebrew readers, 106 and Jewish enlightennlent, as elnbleol ot~
Narboni in, 154 32
opening stateolent, 83-84 and Jevvish religious doctrine, 82
perfection in, 92 Mainl0n's cOlnnlentary to, 3, 52, 53, 132.
philosophy, as introduction to, 106 See also Giva)at ha-Moreh
philosophy, history ot~ in, 136 lnedieval Aristotelian tradition, 90
Satanov, Isaac, cOlnoleotaries to, 54 Mendelssohn, as reader ot~ 55
understanding in, 93 Narboni on, 81
Glosk, Abba, 209n18 parable at end ot~ 136 -37
Gliickel of Hameln, 45, 126 passive /active intellects, 92
Gnothi Sauton oder Magazin zur Er- radical interpretations ot~ 10
fahrungsseelenkunde (journal), 44, Gunzberg, Aryeh Leib, Rabbi, 25
III Gusdort~ George, no
God Guttlnan, Alexander, 175n54
as eternal, II7 Guttolan, Jakob, 153
as final cause, 75
and forms, cognition of, 191n79 ha -Am, Allad, 146
in Hesheq Shelomo (Mainl0n), 75-76 Habilitationsschrift: The Origins of German
atop hierarchy of universals, 100 Tragic Drama (Benjaolin), 154
as idea, regulative, 97 Hadas, Moses, 122
Jewish covenant with, 84 Halakha, and representative art, lI8
and knowledge and creation, as equiva- Halalchic Man (Solovetichik), 153
lent, 91 Halakhic vs. natural law, 60
knowledge of, by individuals, 95, 136 -37 Halevi, Judah, 56
as material cause, 74, 75 -76, 94, 95 ha-Meassef(journal), 53, 79, 80, 81, 160
and particulars, knowledge of, 82 happiness. See also Eudaemonia
in Salomon Maimons Lebensgeschichte, II7 and doctrine of attainnlent of perfection,
and self-contelnplation, 67 132
and understanding, infinite, 91 in Enlightenment, 79
Godhead, the (Ma'aseh Merkavah), 62 and eternal truths, contemplation of, 67,
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang, 3, 47-48 68-69
Goldberg, Harvey, 124 vs. eudaelnonic bliss, 103
236 Index

Main10n on, 103, 132 hatzlachat ha-enoshit (hun1an excellence),


and telos, hUl11an, II, 103 II, 79, 194nIIl
ter111S for, 79, 147 Hayyin1 ofVolozhin, Rabbi, 78, 209n14
Hasidin1 Hebrevv language, 3, 24, 38-39,40
al1d Berlin, Saul, 37 heder, 23 -24
and devequt, 77 Hegel, Georg Wilhehn Friedrich
and Haskala, debate vvith, 17 and Absolute Idealisl11, 102
institutional, 29 and Bildung, 106
and Jevvish l11odernity, early, II and critical philosophy, 104
l11edieval predecessors of~ 79 and intuitive intellect, 104
and Mitnagdut, argun1ent vvith, 78 and Main10n, Solol110n, 14, 104, 105
l11ysticisn1 of~ IS and philosophy, Inetaphor for, 135, 136
and perfection, 30, 77, 127 Heidegger, Martin, 168n44
ranks ot~ early, 29 Heine, Heinrich, 15-16, 37, 144, 149,
as revolt against rabbinic authority, 177n69
173n34 Heller, Aryeh Leib, Rabbi, 25, 171n17
in Salomon Maimons Lebensgeschichte, 76 Heraclitus, 140
Haskala (Berlin Jevvish Enlightenn1ent) herem (excoI11n1unication), 36-37
and autobiography, as genre, 3 heresy (apiqorsut)
biblical literature and, 184n12 and divorce, 37
and critique of traditional Jewish society, and Epicurean (tenn), 7-8
4 and Mail110n, 50lo1110n, 16
and Divrei Shalom ve-Emet, 38 and 111edieval Jewish philosophy, 52-53
as doon1ed project, ISO and philosophy, 62
educational goals ot~ 40 and Taln1udists, 186n34
vs. European Enlightenl11ent, 43 Herz, Henriette, I
historiographic tendencies in study of~ 6 Herz, Marcus
and Italian Jews, 209n15 and Enlightenn1ent, 157
and Jewish Inodernity, early, II and IZant, I, 9, 44', 86
journals, 53 in IZonigsberg, 174n47
literary style t:lvored by, 55 and Main10n, 50lo1110n, 2, 4, 6, 42, 195n4
and Mail110nides, Moses, 53, 78 as parvenu, IS
and l11edieval Jewish thinkers, 53-54, 79, and Yiddish, 8
84 Hesheq Shelomo (Main10n)
nature of, argued, 18 Aristotelianisn1 in, 59-60, 63, 159
and Polish-Jewish society, criticisn1 ot~ 24 cognition in, 59
radicalisn1 and, 53, 182n5 God, as Inaterial cause, in, 75 -76
as reforn1 l11ovel11ent, 56 Hebrew writings alluded to, 58
as revolt against rabbinic authority, intellectual perfection in, 61, 77
173n34 introduction to, 75
and Taln1udic study, 25 Jewish peripatetic philosophy in, 80
underside of~ 149 -50 IZabbalists in, 62-63, 64
Hattot Neurim (Lillienblun1), 145-46 Mail110nides in, 60 -61, 63, 68, 75
hatzlachat ha-adam (art for the ultimate 111anuscript, disposition of, 33, 175n54,
hun1an good), 79, 189n56 2IIn4
Index 237

Inonisn1 in, 73 iinagination, 91, 141, 142


as notebooks, set ot~ 58 in11110rtality
pantheisn1 in, 75, 94 and acquired intellect, 66
perfection in, 62-64, 90 and aIchen1Y, 71
philosophers, Aristotelian, 63, 64 as "beautiful drean1," 50
in SalO'fJ10n MaiJll10ns Lebensgeschichte, 59 Crescas, Hasdai, on, 190 -91n72
and science, 61, 63 and devequt (perfection), 67
Taln1udists in, 62, 64 individual) 73, 90
telos, hun1an, 59, 60, 62 as knovvledge of eternal essences, 71
title ot~ 58 -59 Main10n on, 50, 143, 190 -9In72
Torah, 62, 63 individualisn1, elite, 129-30
and Transcendentalphilosophie (Main10n), individuality, IlO
85 infinite intellect, 97, 100, 101, 133
unpublished, 33 infinity, problen1 ot~ Il7-I8
Hess, Moses, 146 Inquisition, 132
hiddushim (novel interpretations), 25 intellection (Haslzala), 83
Hinuch Ne'arin1 publishing house, 160 intellectual intuition, I(ant and, 104, 105
Histoire de Juifi (Bas11age), 38 intellectual perfection. See perfection
historiographies, 6, 136 intellectus archetypus, 86, 196
history of philosophy, 106, 133, 134-37, 139- intellectus ectypus, 86
42 intuition, 86, 87, 96
Hiyya, Rabbi, 138 intuitive intellect (intellectus archetypus) , 87,
Hodgson, Shadworth, 143 101, 105
"holy idlers," lI6, 2021123 Israeli, Isaac, 184n18
hun1an being, as n1icrocosinos, 209nI4 Italian Jevvs, as 1110del for Ger111an Haskala,
hUInan n1ind, as discursive, 87 209nI5
hlunan soul, 66
hlunan telos. See telos, hU111an Jacobi, F. H., 206n75
hun1ans, as sin1ilar to God, 91 Jacob's ladder, 93
Hun1e, David, 50, 85, 86, 96, I8InII3 JerusaleJift (journal), 131
Hurwitz, Pinhas Eliyahu, 83-84 Jerusalem affair, I76n58
Husser!, Edn1und, 161 jerusale'fJ!l: Or on Religious Power in Judaisnl
(Mendelssohn),34
Ibn Ezra, Abrahan1, 58 Jerz, Marcus, 31
ibn Janah, Jonah, I86n34 Jevvish art collectors, 203n30
Ibn Rushd (Averroes), 55, 194 Jewish artists, lI8, 203nn29, 30
ibn Shen1 Tov, Joseph ben SheIn Tov, 81 Jewish autobiography, 16
Ibn Tibbon, San1uel, 55 Jewish biological and cultural reproduction,
idealis111, 14, 107, 106. See also Gennan 124
Idealis111 "Jewish colonies," lI2
Idel, Moshe, 16, I75n54, 186 -871137 Jevvish covenant with God, 84
identity, loss ot~ 103 Jewish culture, as textual, 124
identity c011ditions, tor a given essence, Jewish en1ancipation, 109, lII-I2, lI5
I89n6I Jewish Enlighten111ent (Haskala). See
Illui (Taln1udic prodigy), 24 Haskala
238 Index

Je\vish folklore, fish in, 175n55 Critique ofJudgment. See Critique of


Je\vish identity, self-construction of, 14-4- Judgment (Kant)
Jewish intellectual life, three main parties of Critique ofPure Reason. See Critique of
IZabbalists, 62-63, 64-, 77 Pure Reason (IZant)
philosophers, Aristotelian, 63, 64-, 77 "crypto-Spinozisln" ot~ 167n28
Tahnudists, 62, 64-, 77 and dualisn1, 101, 106
Jewish law, 61 earliest critical n1usings of, 195n4-
Je"wish lite, n1id-eighteenth-century, 180n99 and Enlightenn1ent, 12, 13, 14-
Jevvish literary tradition, IS, 16 Heidegger, Martin, on, I68n4-4-
Je\vish 111an, identified vvith Torah, 124- and Herz, Marcus, I, 2, 3, 9
"Je"wish question," II2, 131-32 in history of philosophy, 136
Jewish religion and culture, 109 Idealism, 17
Jewish religious doctrine, as means, 82 intellect, as discursive, 87
Jewish rights in Prussia, 177n64- intellectual intuition, 104-
Jewish self-narrative, early, 180nlo4- intuition, 87
Jewish social order, II5-16 intuitive intellect (intellectus archetypus),
Jewish society, borders ot~ 14-6 96, 105
Jewish surna111es, 177n64- and "Jewish question," 131-32
Jews of Poland, 22, 23, lIS on Jews, 4-7
Journal fur Aufkliirung, 4-4- and knowledge, practical, 103
Judais111, attelnpt to rationalize, 6, 64-, 109 and ](ritik (criticisln), 12
judglnents, correct hU111an, 101 Lutheran upbringing of, 166n15
and Mailnon, Solomon, 14-, 85, 88
IZabbala and mathematics, 99, 197n36
as alternative conception of Judaisln, 5 and Moses, compared to, 104-
as Jewish allegorical Inyth, 176n59 and passive vs. intuitive intellect, 90
and Mailnon, Solomon,S, 57 and Reinhold, IZarl Leonhard, 3- 4-
as philosophy, 75 and scholasticism, 9
and Shekhina, 137, 138-39 and sciences, 99
and spiritual typologies, 63, 64- and sense impressions, 14-
as syn1bolic expression of natural truths, sociohistorical significance ot~ 13
138 transcendental idealisn1 of, 13, 96, 102
and syn1bols, 75 and Transcendentalphilosophie (Mailnon),
IZabbala of Sefirot, 187 104-
IZat1<:a, Franz, IS and understanding, 93-94-
IZalkreuth, Adolt~ 4-8, 50, 51 IZepler, Johannes, II9
IZant, In11nanuel I(ing Solomon, 61
as "all-destroyer," 12 "kiss of God," 133
and calculus, I97n36 knowledge
and Cartesian probleln of body/soul, 88- and a priori concepts, 86
89 actual, 66
as Christ-like figure, 12 Aristotle on, 10, 66
and cognition, 14-, 90, 104- and creation, as equivalent to God, 91
and conceptual categories, 88, 89 empirical, 91
and Copernican Revolution, 14-3 and eros, 135
Index 239

by infinite intellect, 101 logic, 100


IZant on, 86 Logic (Hegel), l0S
Main10n on, 90 Luftmensch (tern1), 202n23
and objects, intuiting, 91
and universality, 82 MacIntyre, Alisdair, 10, II
IZohen, Raphael, Rabbi Macpherson, Jaines, 205n61
and Baer, Dov, Rabbi (Maggid ofMeze- Maggid of Mezeritch. See Baer, Dov, Rabbi
ritch), 177n66 (Maggid of Mezeritch)
and excon1n1unication, 36 Maharal of Prague, II9
and Mai1110n, Solon10n, tested, 25, 36-37, Main10n, Shelon10 ben Manahen1 Prat,
148 177n65
Mendelssohn, opposition to, 177n66 Main10n, Solo1110n
portrait of~ 171n15, n17 Childhood) Family) and Personal Life
in Posen, 32 birth, 21
and Talmudic study, prin1acy of~ 4-3 birth date, 169n2
J(ritik (criticisn1), 12 birthplace, 169 -70n2
J(ritische Unterschungen iiber menschlichen burial, 51-52, 18211II9
Geist oder das hiJ"here Erkenntnis und childhood, 5, 21, 25 -26
WiUensvermiJ"gen (Main10n), 48 death, 48 -51
Krochn1al, Nachinan, 208n5 divorce, 37, 43
IZ(ih, Ephrain1, 41-42, 144 education
IZuntze, Friedrich, 97, ISS, 156 in Altona GY111nasiun1 ChristianeuIn,
35-36, 38, 176n57, 176n63
Lachover, Pinchas, II7 autobiography, described in, 23 -24
land n1agnates, 22 phannacy, study of~ 129
Landau, Ezekial, Rabbi, 171n15 as Tahnud prodigy,S, 26, 33, 78, II8,
Lapidoth, Moses, 27-28 125, 144, 162, 171n15
latifundia (large estates), 22 fan1ily
Lebensgeschichte (tenn, "life history"), background, 22
2011112 brother (Joseph), 170nII
Lebensgeschichte. See Salomon Maimons children, 27, 28
Lebensgeschichte father (ben Yehoshua, Shelon10), 84
Lefin, Mendel, 40, 54, 55, 56 grandfather, 170n7
Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhehn, 41, 85, 101, 198 Inisfortune, 26
Leibowitz, Yeshayahu, 153 -54 mother, 27
Lessing, Gotthold Ephrai111, 9, 98 Inother-in-law, 125
Leucippus, 140 son (David), 27, 41, 4 2, 43
Levi of Hannover, Raphael, 209n15 wife (Sarah), 26, 27, 37, 41, 42, 43
Levine, Hillel, 22-24 Inarriage, 26-27, 37, 172n21, 208n6
Levi-Strauss, Claude, 124 name, 21, 36, 84, II2-13, 157
liberal arts, 122 origins, 4, 5, 151
lightning, image of~ 207n89 suicide atten1pt, 34-35, 130
Lillienblum, Moshe Lieb, 145 as tutor, 26 -27, 40 -41
Lisse, Hien1ann, 40 Characterized
"Livnat ha-Sapir" (essay), 58 ambivalence, 13, 45, 102, 106, 122, 133
240 Index

as apiqores, 41, 50, 51, 163 Aristotelianisn1. See lnain entry


as Auftlarer, 55 Averroes, 160
as barbarous, lSI, 152 Baal Shell1 Tov, Israel, Rabbi, 173n39
as "conscious pariah," IS, 161 Berlin Jewish elite, 98
as dissident Jevv, 9 Delll1edigo, Joseph Solol110n, 160
dissolution of~ 176n56 eclecticisll1, 16
as exile, II4, 124, 130, 195nII5 Enlightenlnent, 7, 18, 55
as gifted, lSI Fichte, Johann, 48, 105
as heretic, 16, I07, 145, 146 Gans, David, 208nI3
in1age, in nineteenth century, 148 Gaon, Vilna, 173n29
Jewish characteristics of~ 149 Garve, Christian, 42, 44
n1isogyny of, 172n25 Gerll1an philosophy, 12I, 122, 133
as OstJude, 149, ISO Gersonides, 160
otherness, 16 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 47-48
as polyglot, 12 Hasidisn1, 15, 17, 29, 76, 77, 167
rage of~ 123 Haskala, 12, 18, 29, 78 -79
"ravvness" of~ 2, 4, 42, IIO Herz, Marcus, 98
self-presentation, 2, 8 in1agination, theory of~ 199n67
as "silllple Je\v," 146 Jevvish literary and philosophical tradi-
as un-Gern1anic, 107 tion, IS, 16, 77, 159, 161
as vagrant, 32 I(abbala, 5, 29, 32, 133, 166nI9
Yiddish accent of~ 149 I(ant, Ilnn1anuel. See main entry
Influence of I(ohen, Raphael, Rabbi, 43
as Auftlarer, 144 I(iih, Ephrailn, 42
as autobiographical exell1plar, 208n4 Lapidoth, Moses, 27-28
in The Chosen (Potok), 156 Lithuanian rabbinic ideaology, 61
as exponent of Jewish peripatetic philoso- Main10nides. See Giva)at ha-Moreh;
phy, 57 Maill10nides, Moses
011 Gennan Idealisll1, 107, 159 Maskililn,38
in history of Jewish philosophy, 159-60 111athen1atics, 36, 58, 99, I05, I07,
as "holl1egrown Spinoza," II 175n54
as idiosyncratic thinker, 57 n1edieval Aristotelianisn1, 69
as journals editor, 2-3, 44 lnedieval coslnology, 96
as key figure between I(ant and Hegel, lnedieval philosophy, 57, 64-65, 83, 84,
152 98-99, I08
on later thinkers, 16, 153 -55 Mitnagdin1, 77
and literary afterlife, 18 Mitnaged, IS
as 1110dern European Jewish intellectual, n10dern Gennan philosophy, I08
161 n10dern philosophy, encountered, 121
as publicist for Enlightenment, 40 Inodernisn1, 55
as radical Maill1011idean, 56 modernity, 12, 29
on Rosenzweig, 153 1110rality, 17InII4
Influences on and Contempora1t<ies neo- I(antian 1110velnent, I07
Alexander of Aphrodisias, 66, 187n45 Orthodox historians, 156 -57
Index 241

patrons IZonigsberg, 30 -31


and belles lettres, 128 Posen, 32
Bendavid, Lazarus, 48, 50 at Rosenthaler Gate, 32, 52, 127
in Berlin, 48 Philosophical Concepts and Movements
and Bildung, 126 Absolute Idealis111, 47, 106
Block,~arcus, 38 acosn1isIn, 77
disappointn1ent of~ 33 -34 active intellect, 64-66, 74, 89, 108
Friedlander, David, 38, 131 alchen1y, 71
in Han1burg, 130 allegory (tenn), 206n73
Herz, ~arcus, 86, 129, 166 -67n21 cognition, 47, 59, 72
in Holland, 130 Copernican revolution, 133
and hU111anities, study of~ 128, 129 devequt, 77
Itzig, Daniel, 38 divine intellect, 95
IZalkreuth, Adolt~ 48, 50, 51 divine 111ind, 47, 50
~endelssohn, ~oses. See main entry dualisIn, 73, 104-5, 106
~oritz, IZarl Philipp, 47 finite /infinite intellect, 9, 94, 99, 107
in Niegersdorf~ Silesia, 48 God, 74, 97
philosophical esotericisn1, 101 ~ain10nides' description of~ 95
PlatonisIn/neoplatonism, 73 as n1aterial cause, 75 -76, 94, 95
post- IZantian idealis111, 57 as regulative idea, 97
practical knowledge, 103 thanks given to, 101-2
pre1110dern Jewish thought, 7 happiness, 131, 132
rabbinic literature, 24-25 history of philosophy, 106, 136
Reinhold, IZarl Leonhard, 4, 166n13 Idealisn1, 48
science, 3,57, 61, 71-72, 122, 129 in1n10rtality, 50, 72, 128
Speculative Idealis111, 97 infinite intellect, 106
Spinoza, 9-10, 33, 95, 98, 106, 108 intellection (Haslzala), 83
Taln1lH.i, 24 -25 intellectual intuition, 104-5
Taln1udic culture, 122, 123 intellectual perfection. See perfection
Tal111udisIn, 5, 14-15, 29, 77, 187n42 intuition, 89
telos, hun1an, 83 intuitive intellect, 101
theoria, ideal of~ 129 knowledge, 10, 43, 59, 97, 103, 135
tradition, inability to break with, 148 1110deration, 127, 128
Transcendental IdealisIn, revision of~ 85 InonisIn, 47, 76, 77, 80, 192n82
Tscheggey, J. S., 49 naturalisn1, 61
Locations pantheis111, 77
ful1sterda111, 34 perfection. See main entry
Berlin, 2, 38, 40, 43, 48, 52, 53, 127, 129 Principle of Deter111inability, 99, 100, 106
banished fl,'oIn, 130 skepticisIn, 45, 90, 97
entry to, 121 telos, hU111an, II, 77-78
n10ve to, 32, 33 thing-in-itselt~ 105
patrons in, 131 truth, 124, 126
Breslau, 40, 41, 42 understanding, 89, 90 -91
Hamburg, 34, 35 union (devequt), 17, 73-74, 76, 159
242 Index

Upvvard Way, 95 Livnat ha-Sapir, 62


vVorld Soul, 17, 47, 50, 106, 108, 128 lnetaphysical alnbivalence in, 101
Social Considerations and Move'fnents n10dern editors of~ 126
Bildung, 13, 57, 83, 108, 130, 162 Philosophisches Wijrterbuch, 45
Bildungsbiirgertum, 133 and rabbinic con1n1entary, fonn of, 149
conversion to Christianity, proposed, 35, Salomon. Maimons Lebensgeschichte. See
130 -32, 169nI wtain entry
cultural detachn1ent, 151 self-contradiction in, 101
cultural translation, 8 survival of~ 143
Enlightenn1ent, 14 - 15 TaJalumot Hochwta (Hebrew Inanu-
European Jevvish n10dernity, 4 script), 185n54
French language, 178n71 Transcendentalphilosophie, 45, 85, 97
Gern1an Enlightenn1ent, 12 translations by, 38, 44, 55
Gern1an language, 30, 36, 40, 121 Uber die Progressen der Philosophie, 46
punished, 147-48 Versuch einer neuen Logik oder Theorie des
Yiddish, 8 Denkens, 46
As Subject ofStudy Versuch iiber die Transcendentalphiloso-
biographical approach, 6 phie, 2-3, 44, 80
chronology of life, 17 Maimonia) oder Rhapsodien zur Charakte-
exoticization of~ 152 ristik Salomon Maimons (Wolff),
guides to, 54 -55 148-49
historians on, 158 "MailTIoniana," 18
historiographic tendencies, 6 Main10nidean and Spinozistic post- IZantian
and I(ant's system, 97 idealisn1, 77
scholars identified, 155 -57 Maimonidean cOlnmentary, radical, 81
Written Works MailTIonidean doctrine, IZantian interpreta-
algebra textbook, Hebrew, 39-40 tions of, 153 -54
Anfangsgriinde der Newtonischen Philoso- Main10nidean idealisn1, 49, 50
phie von Dr. Pemberton, 47 Main10nidean philosophy, 5, 63, 108
biblical verses in, 125, 204n53 Main10nidean tradition, Ashkenazi critics
continuity alTIOng, 161 of~ 132
Der Moralischer Skeptiker, 103-4 MailTIonides, Moses. See also Guide ofthe
Derashot ha-Ran, 73 Perplexed (Mailnonides)
Die ](athegorien des Aristoteles, 46 and active intellect, 68-69
Gern1an philosophical writings, neglect on Aristotle, 160
of~ 106-7 Commentary on the Mishna (Mai--
GivaJat ha-Moreh. See main entry lTIonides), 55, 60 -61
in Hebrew, 24, 36, 39-40, 56 God, described by, 95
Hesheq Shelomo. See main entry and Haskala, 53, 78
](ritische Unterschurtgen iiber mensch- in Hesheq Shelomo, 60 -61, 63, 68, 75
lichen Geist oder das hijhere Erkennt- and Mendelssohn, Moses, 55
nis und Willensvermijgen, 48, 103 Millot ha-Higayon, 52
letters, 12, 47, 146, 147, 148, 169n2 Mishneh Torah, 32, 55, 61, 183n7
literary critics on, 158 in Salomon Maimons Lebensgeschichte, 61,
literary style, 7-8, 101, 150 -51, 163 126, 152
Index 243

al1d Shekhina, 206n84- as archetypal figure of Gern1an.. Je\vish


Spinoza, use of by, 1971134- subculture, ISO
Manasseh of Ilya, 172n22 artistic interests of~ 128
Manoth, Rabbi, 4-0, 178n83 and belles lettres, 128
Marburg School, 107 and conversion, challenge to, 131
111arriage, early, 14-5, 1721119 cultural significance of~ 210n23
Mashal ha-]Cadmoni, lI9 and Enlightennlent, 14-
Maskilinl. See also Haskala on exconllllunication, 34-
critique of traditional culture by, 6 and Haskala, I
eighteenth-century, characterized, 183n12 Hebre\v translations of~ 175nso
and Enlightenn1ent discourse, 55 and Herz, Marcus, I
and Maimon, Sololnon, 38, 4-0 hunchback ot~ 55
nledieval predecessors of~ 79 on inlnl0rtality of soul, 128, 175n50
1110ral discourse, 79 and I(ant, 12
and rationalisln, philosophical, 55 -56 and Mailllon
and Salomon Maimons Lebensgeschichte, aesthetic education, 128
14-4--4-5 Berlin, asks Mailnon to leave, 33 -34-, 53
and science, 55 -56 break with, 7
Inaterial world, as aspect of God, 74- c0l11pared, 14-3, ISO -SI
lllathematics conversations \vith, 128
calculus, 197n36 criticized by, 101
Hegel's rejection of~ I99n59 introduction to, 33
and infinite intellect, 99 letters exchanged, 14-6, 147, 14-8
and I(ant, 99, 197n 36 patronage ot~ 2, 121, 127
knowledge, as paradigm of~ 107 relnonstrates Maimon, 7
and Maimon, 58,99, lIO translations, advises Mailllon to under-
and Inetaphysics, 139 take, 38-39
and objects, intuiting, 91 and Mainlonides, 55
medieval philosophy and n1edieval Jewish philosophical tradi-
and active intellect, 103 tion,54-
Aristotelianism, 69, 96 and "Pantheism Controversy," 135
and Enlightenment, 36 Phiidon, translating, 175n50
and Hesheq Shelomo, 159 radical reading ot~ 184n15
Jewish, 9, 52-54-, 79, 81, 108, 160 and Reinhold, I(arl Leonhard, 165-66n13
language and topoi of, 79 son (Joseph) tutored, 172n22
and perfection, discourse of, 160 as Talmudist, 24
radical, 90, 98-99 and Wolff- Leibniz school of philosophy,
terminology of~ 83 160
Megillat Sefer, 4-6 111etaphysical truth, II4-
Meier, Lipnlann, 4-1 nletaphysics, and modern philosophers, 139,
Meisds,Uzziel, Rabbi, 192n87 14-0, 14-1
Inelnoirs, n1askilic, 172n20 Metaphysics (Aristotle), 66
Memoirs (Gliickel of Hameln), 126 Metaphysics) or the Doctrine of God) of the
Mendelssohn, Moses World) and ofMan)s Soul (Wolff),
as ambiguous, 14-8 121
24-4- Index

"Metaphysik, Madal11e," 135, 136, 137, 139, Neun1ark, David, 153


141, 142 Nicomachean Ethics (Aristotle), 66-67, 79,
Millot ha-Higayon (Mail11onides), 52 185n26
Mintz, Alan, 3 Nissin1 of Gerona, Rabbenu, 58
Mirandola, Pico della, 185n21 noetic perfection, 93, 132, 133, 159
Mishneh Torah (Mailllonides), 32,55, 61,
183n7 On the Heavens (Aristotle), 66
Mitnagdin1, 77 On the Sublime (Longinus), 128
Mitnaged, 17, 29, 79 osher (happiness), 79
Modena, Leon de, 179-80n98 Ossian, 129
n10dernislll, 55 OstJuden (Eastern European Jevvs ), 149
n10dernity, European Jewish transition to,
4,12 pantheisl11, 75, 77, 98
n10nis111, 47, 73, 76, 77, 80 "Pantheisn1 Controversy" (Pantheis-
Monopsychisn1, 189n62 musstreit),9
morality, 103 particulars, God's knowledge of~ 82
More Newochim (Guide of the Perplexed), 133 passive intellect, 64-66, 86
Morgenstunden (Mendelssohn), 44 passivity, and activity, 87
Moritz, Karl Philipp, 35, 44, 47, 109, II3, Pelle, Moshe, 79
126 perfection (shelemut ha-n~fesh/Vollkomen-
Moses, 104, 133, 137 heit)
Moses of Narbonne (Narboni). See Narboni as Bildung, 108
Murray, J. Clark, 126 through devequt, 77
and differential equation, 100
Nahn1an of Bratslav, Rabbi, 18, 208n88 discourse of~ 193nIOO
Narboni (Moses of Narbonne) and divine intellect, 10
and alternative idealislll, 102 and Ethics (Aristotle), 160
Aristotelian radicalisn1, 193nl03 and Hasidil11, 30, 167n25
and Epistle on the Possibility of ConJunc- in Hesheq Shelomo, 61, 62-64
tion with the Active Intellect (Aver- and history of philosophy, 106
roes),98 intellectual, 53, 100
in Giva)at ha-Moreh (Main10n), 154 and Jewish intellectual traditions, 64
and Guide of the Perplexed (Maimonides), and Main10n, 50l0111on, later work of~
81,94 64
Mailllon, influence on, 102, 103 Maimonidean ideal of, 53
"Nathan the Wise and 50lon10n the 111askilic discussions of~ 80
Fool" (Zangwill), 150 as notional possibility, 71
and naturallavv, vs. Halakhic law, 60 parables ot~ 134, 139
and natural sciences, 38 -39 of philosophers, 61
naturalisn1 of, 61 in Salomon Maimons Lebensgeschichte,
5pinoza, use of by, 197n34 108
studies of~ 193 -9411104 search for, 142
Nefesh ha-HaJryim (Hayyilll), 78 through union with active intellect, 90
Nehmad ve-Naim (Gans), II9, 124 Phaedo (Plato), 31
neo-IZantianisn1, 97, 107, 2IIn36 Phiidon (Mendelssohn), 31
Index 245

Pheno'J!J!tenololJY ofMind (Hegel), 135, 136 radical Aristotelianisn1, 160. See also
philosophers. See also individual Aristotelianisn1
philosophers radical Main10nidean tradition, 83
Aristotelian, 63, 64 Radzivvill, l(arol Stanisla\v, Prince, 22, 27
as heretics, 63 rationalism, and Maskilin1, 55
in Hesheq ShelO1no (MailTIOn), 63 reason, and Enlightenn1ent, 9, 12-13
historical studies of~ 18 Reinhold, l(arl Leonhard, 3, 4, 12, 89
individuality of argun1ents, 18 - 19 religion, 82, 90
intellectual perfection of~ 61 Reli,tlion and Philosophy in Gennany
on Main10n, Solon10n, 158 (Heine),37
vs. talmid halzham, 62 representative art, II8, II9
philosophical radicalisn1, 53 R.osen, MadalTIe, 129
philosophical \vriting, n1ldtiple levels of Rosenthaler Gate, 32, 52, 127
n1eaning in, 101 Rosenzweig, Franz, 152
philosophy, history ot~ 106, 133, 134-37, Rotenstreich, Nathan, 106, 155, 156
139-42 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 109, III, 126
physics, 71, 135. See also science
Pietisn1, Gern1an, 35 Salomon Maimons Lebens,geschichte (Mai-
pilpulim (tern1), 171n16 n10n). See also MailTIon, Solon10n
Pines, Shlon10, 160-61, 189n58, 19In79 Abrahan1 alluded to, II4
Pippin, Robert, 168n4l, 198n57 alienation, III, II3, II8
Pirqei Avot, II8 allegory ending, 17
Plato, 31, 140 allusions, II4, 125
PlatonislTI, 98 an1biguity in, II3
Plotinus, and active intellect, 188n52 alTIbivalence in, 45, 120, 122
Poland, land magnates in, 22, 23, III, II5 anecdotes in, 53
Polish Jews, II5, II6, 127-28, 170n3 anonyn1ous publication of~ 45
"popular philosophers" (popular- Auerbach, Berthold, read by, 144
philosophen ), 41 and autobiography as genre, IIO
Potok, Chain1, 156 as Bildungsroman, 17, 162
Principle of Detern1inability (Grundsatz del" books, discussed in, 26, II8, II9, 120,
Bestimmbarkeit), 99, 100, 101, 106 121
Principle of Sufficient Reason, 33, 41, 121 bridges in, 22-23
PrololJomena to Any Future Metaphysics candidness, 109
(Kant),44 chapters excluded 6,'0111, 126
public sphere, enlightened discourse of~ 125, class analysis in, II6
142 Confessions (Rousseau), con1pared to,
PurilTI, 35 109, III
Pythagoras, 139 didacticisn1 ot~ 133
Eliot, George, read by, 144
rabbinic authority, 173n34 exegetical nature of~ 4
rabbinic books, II9, 185n21 final chapter ot~ 133, 134-37
rabbinic hon10sociality, 173n28 first chapters, published, III
rabbinic textual practices, 17 first person in, use of~ 45, II3
rabbinical portraits, 203n30 and GenTIan language, 120 -21, 122
Index

Goethe, Johann vVol(gang von, read by, study ot~ need tor, 183n9
+7-4-8 as tutor, 1721122

Haskala critique of traditional Jewish so- Schelling, Wilhelm Joseph, 102, 104-, 104-
ciety in, 5 Schick, Baruch, Rabbi, 4-0, 174-n4-3
as historical source, 21 Schiller, Friedrich, 3, 4-7
and individuality, lIO Schmitz, Kenneth, 18
and infinity, problem ot~ II7 Scholem, Gershom, 16, 154-, 2IIn4-0
introduction by Karl Philipp Moritz, 109, SCience
II3 Aristotelian, 60
Jewish emancipation in, 109, 1II-12, II5 and Hesheq She/olno (Maimon), 6/, 63,
and Jewish identity, 14-4- 71-72
Jewish social order in, II5-16 and Maimon, Solomon, II4-, 122
literary afterlife ot~ 14-3-4-4- and Maimonides, 61
literary style ot~ 4-, 4-5, II4-, II7, 157 and Maskilim, 55
and Maimonides' philosophy, 126, 152 "Searching for Light and Right in a Letter
Maskilim, read by, 14-4--4-5 to Mr. Moses Mendelssohn" (essay),
memories in, 123-24- 34-
and metaphysical truth, lI4- Sefer Em~mot l'e-Deot (Gaon), 57
misogynist theme in, 27 Sefel' haMiddot (Alguadez), I86n26
narrative stance in, II3 Sefer haRiqma (Janah), I86n34-
and noetic pertection, desire tor, 132, 133 sefirotic gender dynamics, 297n85
and order, finding in life, II4- sensation, 100, 107
Polish Jews in, 6, III, II5, II6 sense impressions, 14-
preface to second part, II3 sensibility, and finite minds, 100, 101
Radziwill, Prince, in, 22 sensible intuition, 94-, 14-1
and reading public, IIO, III sensible representations, 86
reliability ot~ 31, 53, 170n8 ShaJaget Aryeh (Gunzberg), 25
scholarly attention toward, 157 Shadows on the Hudson (Singer), 155
subtleties of, II3, 157 Shekhina
success of, 4-5 and active intellect, 137, I9Il178
translated, 14-4- as temale, 74-, 207n85, 138
and Unbildung, IIO as "full of eyes," 207n86
and the Zohal', 18 and Maimon, Solomon, 74-, 138-39
salons, 165n7, 200n8 and Maimonides, 206n84-
Satanov, Isaac and perfection, impossibility o( 14-2
as eclectic, 56 personified, 138, 207n88
and Ethics (Aristotle), publication of, 79, in the Zohar, 138-39
160 she/emut ha-nefesh (intellectual perfection/
letter, disputed, as author of, 21OnI9 perfection of the soul), II, 17, 93,
and Maimon, Solomon, 183n9 162, I85n24-. See also perfection
and Maimonides, Moses, 55 Shestov, L. 1.,161
and medieval Jewish philosophical tradi- shevi (exile), I9511I15
tion,54- shofar, 37
and Mendelssohn, Hebrew translations Singer, Isaac Bashevis, 155
of,175n50 skepticism, 4-5, 97
Index 247

Socrates, 31, 136 and perfection, intellectual, r62


Solomon, King, 58 -59 vs. philosopher, 6r-62
Solovetichik, Joseph, Rabbi, 153 socioreligious structure supporting, 130
Song of Songs, r37, I90n69 Tahuud, 38, 6r, 78, II6, n8
Soni, Vivasvan, II Taln1udic culture, 122
Sorkin, David, 56, I66n20, r83flI3 Taln1udic prodigies, 24, 124
Spanish Jewry, r94nr09 Taln1l1dic scholars. See talmid halzham
speculative logic, roo Taln1udic study, 25, 26, 63, 123
Spinoza, Benedict (Baruch) de Taln1udiso1, 29, 61, 62, 64, 77
and Auerbach, Berthold, 144 tehumim (borders), 146
and Averroes, use of, I97n34 Teller, Probst, 131
conden1nation ot~ by Basnage, Jacques, telos, hluuan
39 and active intellect, 67
defense ot~ by Hegel, 105 Aristotelian question ot~ 59, 60
Hebrew sources for philosophy ot~ and Bildung, II
I67n27 in Hesheq Shelomo, 58, 59, 62
Jewish education ot~ I68n37 and Jewish world, competing parties, II
and knowledge, "third kind" ot~ 97 and Main10n, Soloo10n, 59, 80, 83
and Main1on, Sololuon, 95 and perfection, 71, 92, 103
and Maimonides, use ot~ I97n34 and talmid hakham, 77-78
and Narboni, use ot~ I97n34 texts, luultiple 111eanings of, 139
and substance vs. luode, 100 textuality, and Torah, 124, 125
"Theologia Politica," lor "theocentric luodel," r95n5
Spinozisn1, 9 theoria, Aristotelian, 82
spiritual typologies, 63 theory of differentials, 107
Star ofRedemption (Rosenzweig), 153 thing-in-itselt~' 92, 107, 141
Starobinski, Jean, 123 thinking. See cognition
Steinheo1, S. L., I76n63 thought, force of (Denkraft) , 109
stones of Sinai, r54 -55 thought, n1ethods ot~ and o1odern philoso-
Strauss, Leo, 154, ISS phers, 141
"strong poet" (phrase), 209nr3 thoughts, and sensible intuitions, 96
study, life of, 67 Torah
Sukoviborg, Lithuania (Poland), 21 and children, 204n47
superstition (Aberglaube), 45 as "eyeless" text, 207n86
surnames, Jewish adoption of, 36 and Hesheq Shelomo, 62, 63
study of for own sake (Torah Lishma ), 78
"talking anin1al" (ha,i ha-medaber/redendes and Tahuud, 61
Tier),7 and Tahuudists, 62
talmid hakham and textuality, 124, 125
and art, n8 transcendental, bridge to particular, 89
vs. Bildung, r62 Transcendental Idealisn1, revision ot~ 85, 96,
as commodity, 26 105
"holy idler" status, 162 transcendental logic, 100
Maimon, Solon10n, as, 78 Transcendentalphilosophie (IZant), 12, 85
male ideal ot~ r72-73n28 Tscheggey, J. S., 49
248 Index

tutors, 172n22 Wessel)" Naftali Herz, I74-n50, I93n100


Tvversky, Isadore, II, 64- Woltl~ Christian, 9, 33
Tzi1H-tzu'JIn (divine contraction), 168n36 Wolft~ Sabbattia, 18, 43, 51, 148, 149
Wolfson, Harry A., II, 150
Uber die Progressen der Philosophie (Mai- Wolfson-Halle, Aaron, 54-, 55
mon),4-6 \\Torld, origination of~ 88
Unbildung, no vVorld Soul (rttah ha-ola111)' Weltseele)
understanding, 90, 95, 100, II7 and cognition, 96
union, 67, 73 -74-. See also deveqttt and dualisn1, overcon1ing, 47
unity, 80, 101 and Gern1an Idealisln, 108
universal intellect, 75 and infinite intellect, 95, 96, 97, 108
universal reason, vs. religion, 82 and union (devequt), 10, 17, 50
universality, and knovvledge, 82 Wulffian Press, 55
Upvvard Way, 73, 74-,95, 101
Xenophanes, 139-40
Vaihinger, Hans, I99n67
Varnhagen, Rahel, 48, 50 Ya'avetz, Zev, 157
Veit, David, 48, 50 Yiddish language, 8
Versuch iiber die Transcendentalphilosophie Yose, Rabbi, 138
(Main10n), 2-3, 88-89, 90 -91, 159
Vilna Gaon, the. See ben Schelon10, Zadig, Aaron, 40
Eliyahu, Rabbi (the Vilna Gaon) Zalman of Liadi, Schneuf, 192n85, 1191
von Dohn1, Christian Wilheln1, III- 12 Zamosc, Israel, 1841115
Zal1gwill, Israel, 150
Warner, Michael, 125 Zema David (Gans), II9, 120, 124-
Weiss, Joseph, 77 Zohar, 39, 137, 139