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Journal of the History of Philosophy, Volume 30, Number 4, October


1992, pp. 497-522 (Article)
3XEOLVKHGE\7KH-RKQV+RSNLQV8QLYHUVLW\3UHVV
DOI: 10.1353/hph.1992.0082

For additional information about this article


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Mathematical Construction,

Symbolic Cognition and the


Infinite Intellect: Reflections on

Maimon and Maimonides


DAVID

R. L A C H T E R M A N t

SALOMON MAIMON WAS, p e r h a p s , t h e first, a l t h o u g h certainly n o t the last, J e w ish t h i n k e r to u n d e r t a k e a t h o r o u g h collation o f m o d e r n p h i l o s o p h y in its
m o s t critical articulation, by Kant, a n d M a i m o n i d e a n i s m , t h e m o s t radically
p h i l o s o p h i c a l e x p r e s s i o n o f the p r e - m o d e r n Jewish tradition., U n l i k e Spinoza, w h o s e r e l a t i o n to M a i m o n i d e s is, o n the surface, u n r e l e n t i n g l y a n t a g o n i s tic, a n d unlike H e r m a n n C o h e n , f o r w h o m o n l y the ethical t e a c h i n g s o f t h e
p r o p h e t s a n d t h e sages a r e to be b r o u g h t in line with K a n t i a n m o r a l t h e o r y , ,
M a i m o n s o u g h t to h a r m o n i z e his r e v i s e d K a n t i a n i s m with t h e noetics a n d
e p i s t e m o l o g y o f M a i m o n i d e s . His a d o p t e d nora de plume s e e m s to be a p l e d g e
o f d u r a b l e , if always a m b i v a l e n t , loyalty to Rambam.s
tDavid R. Lachterman died on May zo, 1991.
' See the studies collected in Wolftnibfa~ltr Studitn zur AtgOd~rung(WolfenbOttei, 1977), especially Friedrich Niew6hner, " 'Primat der Ethik' oder 'erkennmistheoretische Begr~ndung der
Ethik'? Thesen zur Kant-Rezeption in der j0dischen Philosophic," 119-61; and the "Nachwort"
to SolomonMaimons Lebtnsgeschichu, neu hrsg. yon Zwi Batscha (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1984),
329-9z. A more general conspectus is offered by Nathan Rotenstreich, Jtws and German Philosophy: The Polemics of Emancipation (New York: Schocken, 1984).
9For Spinoza and Maimonides, see the classic statement by Leo Strauss, spinoza's Critique of
Religion (N.Y.: Schocken, 1965). Strauss's view of the conflict between Maimonides and Spinoza
has been mitigated or rejected by Shlomo Pines, "Spinoza's Traaa~us Thtologico-Pol;aicm,Maimonides and Kant," Scripta Hitroso!ymilana ao (1968): $-54 and by W. Zev Harvey, "A Portrait of
Spinoza as a Maimonidean,"Journa/of the Histo~ ofPMlosophy 19 0981): 15t-Ta. For Cohen, see
his concise statement in "Innere Beziehungen der Kantischen Philosophie zum Judentum,"
Jiidische Schrifttn (Berlin, 19~4), Bd. 1: a84-3o5; cf. Sylvain Zac, Laphidosophitreligituse de Hermann
Cohen, Avant-propos de Paul Ricoeur (Paris: Vrin, 1986), esp. t81--zoL
) On his change of name from Shlomo ben Yehoshua to Salomon Maimon, see Samuel Hugo
Bergman, The Philosophy of Solomon Maimon, trans. Noah Jacobs (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1967
[Hebrew original, 193z]), t - $ and n. z.
[497]

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T o illustrate how this loyalty is m o r e than merely p r o g r a m m a t i c and to


bring into relief some o f its ambivalent contours, I shall e x a m i n e certain
features o f Maimon's p h i l o s o p h y o f mathematics.
T h e central place o f mathematics in Maimon's elaboration o f Kant's t h e o r y
o f knowledge has, o f course, b e e n n o t e d and analyzed, sometimes in m a r k e d l y
d i f f e r e n t ways, by all m a j o r students o f his work, f r o m Kuntze, G u e r o u l t , a n d
B e r g m a n to Atlas and, most recently, Zac.4 In the main these scholars have
concentrated their attention o n the part assigned to differentials as the bridge
between n o u m e n a a n d p h e n o m e n a and on Maimon's anticipations o f late
nineteenth- a n d early t w e n t i e t h - c e n t u r y conceptions o f the p u r e l y formal,
arbitrary, or system-relative c h a r a c t e r o f mathematical axioms.5
My a d d e n d a to their work are focussed o n the roles played by construction
(Section i) a n d by symbolization (Section ~) in Maimon's teachings a b o u t
mathematical knowledge. O n c e these roles have been e x p o u n d e d , I shall t u r n
to Maimon's a n d Maimonides' noetic, in the h o p e o f establishning b o t h resemblances and discrepancies (Section 3).
1. CONSTRUCTION
Maimon's c o n c e p t o f mathematical construction remains tied, in some respects, to its Kantian source in the Critique of Pure Reason, even while being
significantly liberated f r o m it in o t h e r respects.
Let me begin, then, by citing Maimon's most vivid f o r m u l a t i o n o f the
power o f mathematical construction, f r o m his e n t r y in the Royal A c a d e m y
(Berlin) c o m p e t i t i o n o f i79~, Ober die Progressen derPhilosophie 0 7 9 3 ) :
God, as an infinite power of representation [Vorstellungsvermtgen], from all eternity,
thinks himself as all possible essences [Wesen], that is, he thinks himself as restricted in
every possible way. He does not think as we do, [namely], discursively; rather, his thoughts
4A full bibliography of secondary studies of Maimon (to 1966) appears in Noah Jacobs,
"Schrifttum fiber Salomon Maimon," in Wolfenbfitteler Studien, 353-95 (translated by G. Leisersohn from Kiryat Sepher 41 [1966]: ~45-62). The most important book-length studies to appear
after Jacob's terminus ante quem are F. Moist, La filosofia di Salomone Maimon (Milan: Feltrinelli,
1972), Sylvain Zac, Salomon Maimon. Critique de Kant (Paris: Editions du Cerf, 1988) and Jan
Bransen, The Antinomy of Thought: Maimonian Skepticism and the Relation betweenThought and Objects
(Ph.D. Dissertation, Rijksuniversiteit Utrecht, 1989).
5This emphasis is at least partly due to the Net-Kantian rediscovery of Maimon, as described
in Friedrich Kuntze, Die Philosophie Salomon Maimons (Heidelberg: C. Winter, 1912). On his
rendition of differentials, see 33 a if.; Ernst Cassirer, Das Erkenntnisproblem in der Philosophie und
Wissenschaft der neueren Zeit, Dritter Band (reprint ed., Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1917), 97-1o4; Samuel H. Bergman, The Philosophy of Solomon Maimon, 59-68; Martial
Gueroult, La philosophie transcendentale de Salomon Maimon (Paris: Alcan, 19~9), 54-68; and Zac,
Salomon Maimon, 155--71. For his treatment of the relativity of axioms, see Samuel Adas, From
Critical to Speculative Idealism: The Philosophy of Solomon Maimon (The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1964),
z19-48.

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are at one and same time presentations~complete exhibitions [Darstellungen]. I f someone


objects that we have no concept 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 mathemat/~a/
concepts are thought by us and at the same time exhibited as real objects [reelle Objekte]
through construction a priori. Thus, we are in this.respect similar to God. (IV, 2o;
Maimon's emphases) 6
M a i m o n ' s f o r m u l a t i o n is, on first hearing, an e x t r e m e version o f Kant's
quite Cartesian a p p r a i s a l in the first Cr/t/que, viz., that the m e t h o d o f constructing concepts in p u r e intuition a p r i o r i "becomes, so to speak, the m a s t e r o f
n a t u r e " (A725/B753). (On closer h e a r i n g the r e s o n a n c e s o f M a i m o n ' s similarity thesis e c h o not only Descartes a n d Kant, but his special r e a d i n g o f
M a i m o n i d e s as well.)
T w o "axes" o f construction n e e d to be distinguished, even t h o u g h they
m a y be said to m e e t at the point o f origin. I shall call these the "evidentiary"
a n d the " o p e r a t i o n a l " axes.
The Ev/dent/ary Ax/s. A l t h o u g h M a i m o n is o f t e n t h o u g h t o f as basically
m o r e Leibnizian t h a n Kantian, the e v i d e n t i a r y weight he gives to constructions tilts the balance o f his t h o u g h t towards a strongly Kantian position.
N e i t h e r the p r i n c i p l e o f identity (a = a), n o r its negative c o u n t e r p a r t , the
principle o f n o n c o n t r a d i c t i o n , n o r , finally, M a i m o n ' s o w n m u c h - v a u n t e d
"principle o f d e t e r m i n a b i l i t y " suffices, in its own right, o r in c o m p a n y with
any o f the others, to secure "an objective t r u t h " f o r m a t h e m a t i c a l p r o p o s i t i o n s
( I I I , 16o); that is, n o n e o f t h e m allow us, as finite minds, to c o n f e r on the
r e l e v a n t r e f e r e n t s o f such p r o p o s i t i o n s (right-angled triangle, for e x a m p l e )
the status o f "real" objects (IV, 35).7
T h a t s o m e t h i n g "worldly" answers to a n o n c o n t r a d i c t o r y c o n c e p t c a n n o t be
ascertained by analysis o f the c o n c e p t o n its own. But n e i t h e r can the principle
o f determinability, which p e r m i t s us to establish possible, n o n a r b i t r a r y liaisons
b e t w e e n subject c o n c e p t s - - t h e d e t e r m i n a b l e s (e.g., t r i a n g l e ) - - a n d p r e d i c a t e
c o n c e p t s - - t h e d e t e r m i n a t i o n s (e.g., isosceles, scalene a n d e q u i l a t e r a l ) - - r e v e a l
6Unless otherwise noted, all citations from Maimon refer to Salomon Maimon, Gesammelte
Werke, hrsg. Valerio Verra (Hildesheim: Olms, 1965-1976), Bde. l - 7. Volumes are indicated by
Roman numerals; the page numbers are those of the original editions (printed in Verra), since
several other reprints (especially in the Aetas Kantiana-Series) are also currently available. All
translations are my own.
7On the shadowy or vagrant distinctions between "reel" and "wirklich" in Maimon, see M.
Gueroult, La philosophie transcendentale, 47-49- A comprehensive study of the uses and vagaries of
"Sein," "RealiSt," "Wirklichkeit," "Existenz," "Objekt," "Gegenstand," and "Ding" in Kant and
the post-Kantian tradition is still outstanding. Essential to such a study would be Anneliese Maier,
"Kants Qualit~tskategorien," in her Zwei Untersuchungen zur nachscholastischen Philosophie (Rome,
1968), 7 l-147. Heidegger's remarks in Kants These fiber das Sein (Frankfurt a.M.: Kiostermann,
1967), 273-3o7, would also be of fundamental relevance.

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whether these possible liaisons are "realizable" o r "worldly. ''s C o n s i d e r the


example M a i m o n cites b o t h in (/ber die Progressen der Philosophie and, a y e a r later,
in Die Kategorien des Aristoteles (1794), i.e., the regular d o d e c a h e d r o n (IV, 35; VI,
l o l - x o 2 ) : "I can think o f a r e g u l a r solid which is enclosed by ten equal sides,
just as well as I can think o f a r e g u l a r solid enclosed by six equal sides" (VI, i o x 1o~t).9 T h e s e two objects o f t h o u g h t are alike in obeying both the principle o f
n o n c o n t r a d i c t i o n (unlike " n o n c i r c u l a r circle") and the principle o f d e t e r m i n ability (unlike "black circle"); the d i f f e r e n c e between t h e m is that only the
second yields, via construction, cognition o f an actual object, the cube, while
t h e r e are n o "real" o r "objective" r e g u l a r d o d e c a h e d r a . H e n c e , the two analytical principles are necessary, but not even jointly sufficient, to g r o u n d the "objective reality" o r "objective t r u t h " o f mathematical concepts or j u d g m e n t s . '~ (I
postpone discussion o f what it m e a n s that an infinite intellect knows m a t h e m a t ics analytically, not synthetically.)
T h e m o d e r n n o t i o n o f construction as the key to mathematical t r u t h and
existence has a rich h i s t o r y . " Suffice it to say h e r e that a direct line leads f r o m
Descartes's "construction o f a p r o b l e m " in L a G~om~trie, t h r o u g h the "construction o f an e q u a t i o n " in Leibniz a n d Wolff, to Kant's "construction o f a concept." All these instances involve a c o m p l e x interplay between interior m i n d
(Descartes's mens pura) a n d its e x t e r i o r " o t h e r , " w h e t h e r this is extension, or
body, or the given, o r sensible intuitions. C o n s t r u c t i o n is the mind's exhibitionism, its way o f m a s t e r i n g its " o t h e r " by i m p o s i n g u p o n , o r inserting into it as
into a m e d i u m , the c o u n t e r p a r t s o f its p u r e l y intellectual o r dianoetic f o r m a tions. And yet, this alien m e d i u m is not hospitable to all mind-originated
strangers; its partial x e n o p h o b i a is b r o u g h t h o m e by the fact that not all
(Cartesian) equations have "real" (as o p p o s e d to "imaginary") roots o r by the
impossibility o f fashioning a r e g u l a r d o d e c a h e d r o n .
Maimon sets out, not to eliminate o r to restrict this x e n o p h o b i c resistance
to the mind, but to reconceive a n d reposition the very m e d i u m o f construction
in such a way that the mind's d e p e n d e n c e on givenness o r exteriority is sesSee the valuable study by Sylvain Nacht-Elade, "Aristotle's Doctrine of the Differentia Specifica and Maimon's Law of Determinability," Scripta Hierosolyraitana6 096o): 292-48.
9Interestingly, Kant gives the same example of the regular hexagon in "Der einzig mOgliche
Beweisgrund zu einer Demonstration des Daseins Gottes" (Theorie-Werkausgabe,hrsg. W. Weichsedel, Bd. 2, p. 639). Leibniz discusses the inconstructible dodecahedron in Nouveaux Essais (Livre
III, ch. iii).
~oFor Maimon's way(s)of drawing the analytic/synthetic distinction, see his Versuch einer neuen
Logik oder Theorie des Denkens (1794) (V, 28-30; 193-24) and the comments of Martial Gueroult,
La philosophie transcendemale, 91-99 and Jan Bransen, Antinomy of Thought, 69-83. For the matrix
and wider setting of the question of analyticity/syntheticity, see the excellent study by JoOlle
Proust, Questions de forme: Logique et proposition analytique de Kant g~Carnap (Paris: Fayard, 1986).
~ See my The Ethics of GeometTy (New York: Roufledge, t989), 9o6-909.

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verely limited. This brings me to the second axis: How does construction
operate, for Maimon?
The Operational Axis. Again we must set out from the Kantian framework.
For Kant construction a priori is a transaction among (1) pure concepts of
the understanding, (2) transcendental imagination, and (3) the a priori forms
of intuition or sensibility, namely, space and time.~, A "constructed" concept is
a corresponding structure made present by imagination in temporal intuition
(i.e., arithmetical number) or in spatial intuition (i.e., geometrical figure).~s
Salient here is the alterity of intuition vis-a-vis understanding, an alterity
manifest in at least two respects: first, the concept is universal, while the
constructed intuition is, perforce, individual, and second, the concept has an
"interior" multiplicity (the plurality o f its marks), while the intuition is characterized by an "exterior" or extrinsic diversity of its components (i.e., distinct
temporal units or spatial segments).
Maimon denies the radical or absolute distinctness of understanding and
sensibility (II, i82; cf. II, 63). In the present context, his denial has this
fundamental consequence: time and space themselves belong, in the first
instance, to the conceptual order, not to the intuitive. In affirming this,
Maimon, in Samuel Bergman's words, "indicates his opposition to the Kantian

" N e e d l e s s to say, this is far from being the whole story, even in skeletal form. A pivotal
chapter would belong to Kant's often-ignored distinction (KdrV B 161 Anm.) between space (and
time) as "form of intuition" and space (and time) as "formal intuition." T o date, the most illuminating observations on this distinction can be f o u n d in Hans Graubner, Form and Wesen: Ein Beitrag
zur Deutung des Formbegriffs in Kants Kritik der reinen Vernunfi (= Kant-Studien, Erg~nzungsheft, Bd.
1o4) (Bonn: Bouvier, x97:t), 138-68 and Gerd Buchdahl, Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Science
(Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press, 1969), 606-15. Presumably, the constructed intuitions in mathematics are fashionings or sequential arrays of space or time as "formal intuitions."
,s It is, I think, impossible to discern a n d to follow the threads woven together into Kant's
theory of mathematical construction if one follows Jaakko Hintikka's reconstruction o f this as a
"logical" theory of the introduction of singular terms into proofs. See, among Hintikka's many
forays into this domain, "Kant's Theory of Mathematics Revisited," in Essays on Kant's Critique of
Pure Reason, ed. J. w. Mohanty and R. W. Shahan (Norman, Okla.: Univ. of Oklahoma Press,
1982 ), ~ o l - x 5. I set out my criticisms of Hintikka's interpretation in The Sovereignty of Construction
(New York: Routledge, forthcoming), Ch. 3. O t h e r insightful renditions of Kantian constructivism may be found in Robert E. Butts, Kant and the Double-Government Methodology
(Dordrecht: Reidel, 1984), 146-~ol and Gregor Bfichel, Geometrie und Philosophie. Zura Verhiiltnis
beider Vernu~t~senschaften im Fortgang yon der Kritik der reinen Vernunft zum Opus postumum (=
Kant-Studien, Erg~nzungshefte, Bd. 1~ l) (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1987), 37-131.
Fichte, in the wake of Maimon, adheres to a strong "constructivist" thesis. So, for instance, in
a posthumously published text from 181 e h e writes: "Evidence is just the absolute insight which
makes its entrance when we construct, for evidence extends only to the sphere which is to be
produced by construction . . . . This is precisely as it is in mathematics, which is commonly adduced as an example of construction" (Nachgelassene Werke, hrsg. I. H. Fichte, Bd. IX, p. 149).

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belief that intuition contains an e l e m e n t that is b e y o n d the concept but which,


nevertheless, d e t e r m i n e s the phenomena."~4
Maimon "rationalizes" the intuitive and, thereby, eliminates any f u n d a m e n tal heterogeneity between concept a n d intuition by extracting space a n d time
from the diversity or distinctness (Verschiedenheit) inherent in the conceptual
o r d e r itself. A bit m o r e precisely: It belongs to the very n a t u r e o f o u r thinking
or representing to refer intentionally to m a n y distinct "objects," w h e t h e r "object" here is taken to m e a n a static segment o f the manifold o f external sensation or an episodic incident in the manifold o f inner experience. This manyness or diversity i n h e r e n t in the intentional structure o f a t h o u g h t or a concept
is prior to any qualitative specification o f the differences in question. "For the
objects must first be t h o u g h t as diverse i~berhaupt before the diversity can be
d e t e r m i n e d in a definite fashion" (III, 16). Intrinsic diversity shows up, again
at the conceptual level, in two forms: topical or positional discreteness
(Auseinandersein) a n d sequential discreteness (Folge) (II, x7), in o t h e r words, as
spatiality (but n o t empirical space) a n d temporality (but not empirical time).
At this purely formal or conceptual level, spatiality and temporality are devoid
of any "material" characteristics, e.g., three- or n-dimensionality (VII, 8o),
infinite divisibility, isotrophy, equable succession, and the like.~s Such "material" characteristics belong, not to space a n d time as a priori concepts (specifications of p u r e diversity), but to their schemata or images p r o d u c e d by the imagination and w e d d e d to the particular sets o f empirical objects appearing in, or
to, sensible intuition. '6
This distinction between space a n d time as a priori concepts a n d their
imaginative schemata opens the gates to a flood o f phenomcnological and
systematic problems I m u s t circumnavigate here. However, it is crucial to
explore the impact o f this distinction on Maimon's conception o f the objects o f
mathematics and, correlatively, on his u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f how imaginative construction r e n d e r s those objects epistemically accessible to us.
,4Bergman, Philosophy of Solomon Maimon, 38. Cs also Charlotte Katzoff, "Solomon Maimon's
Interpretation of Kant's Copernican Revolution," Kant-Studien 66 (1975): 342-56. For a recent,
and deeply intriguing, attempt to mediate between sensibilityand understanding, see Werner
Flach, Zur Prinzipienlehre der Anschauung, Bd. 1: Das spekulative Grundproblem der Vereinzelung
(Hamburg: Meiner, a9.63).(Flach is a close student of the Neo-Kantians.)
'sCf. Atlas, From Critical to Speculative Idealism, 172.
'r
II, 133 (Schema), 347 (Schema), 427 (B//d); III, 15 (ein sinnliches Bild). See, too, the
extended statement: "Die VorsteUungenyon Zeit und Raum als Objekte der Anschauung an sich,
sind solche durch eine T~iuschung entstandene figtirlicbe Vorstellungsarten (IV, 260-66).
Maimon's doctrine of schemata is complicated by his (and Kant's) distinction between the "empiricar' and the "transcendental" schema and even more so by his claim: "Und eben dieses transcendentale Schema ist der C,egenstand der Elementargeometrie, so wie das dadurch Vorgestellte Gegenstand
der hthern Geometric ist" (Kritische Untersuchungen iiber den menschlichen Geist, VII, 188).

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I f space a n d t i m e a r e in the first place concepts a n d " a f t e r w a r d s " intuitions


only by way o f the imagination's licit fictions,'7 what k i n d o f mathemata a n d
what m a n n e r o f c o n s t r u c t i o n would suit c o n c e p t u a l s p a c e a n d time? T o answer these twin questions we m u s t be willing to e x t r a p o l a t e f r o m M a i m o n ' s
express r e m a r k s , since these do not always e l a b o r a t e clearly a n d distinctly the
d i f f e r e n t strata o f " m a t h e m a t i c a l object" a n d "construction" r e q u i r e d to satisfy the theses he affirms.
Seen f r o m the perspective o f u n d e r s t a n d i n g , all concepts a r e relations,
purely abstract structures, a n d are logically i n d e p e n d e n t o f p a r t i c u l a r relata o r
substrata that "fulfill" t h e m , as so m a n y substitution instances f o r the variables
'x' a n d 'y' in t h e f o r m a t xRy.
So, with r e g a r d to the concept time, M a i m o n can say that "the f o r m o f
n u m b e r is p u r e time as c o n c e p t " (II, 2~: cf. ibid. $6, 69). H o w is this to be
i n t e r p r e t e d ? F o r M a i m o n , a n u m b e r is a p u r e ratio (of integers), i.e., the
" n u m b e r 2" is the ratio ~: 1 or, to generalize, a n y positive i n t e g e r n is simply
the ratio n: 1. A p a r t i c u l a r n u m b e r is wholly d e t e r m i n e d by its position in the
sequence o f ratios u : l , 2+1:1 . . . 9 + k : 1 (where k > 1). I n brief, M a i m o n
follows the m o d e r n , Cartesian, tradition in replacing &~tO~6g with ~.dryog o r
ratio. *s T i m e as the c o n c e p t o f o r d e r e d sequentiality is, then, the form o f
n u m b e r as such.*9 E n u m e r a t e d sets o f (sensible) objects a r e u n n e c e s s a r y here:
the p u r e relation n: 1 suffices to define and, indeed, to g e n e r a t e any n u m b e r
(where n > 1).
Where, then, d o i m a g i n a t i o n and, with it, c o n s t r u c t i o n e n t e r the picture?
At two points, which n e e d to be carefully discriminated. First, p u r e u n d e r standing is itself a l r e a d y "imaginative," that is, p r o d u c t i v e o f the o p e r a t i o n s it
enacts in t h i n k i n g t h r o u g h the n u m e r i c a l relation o f n: l, or, as in Descartes's
Regulae, the c o n t i n u o u s p r o p o r t i o n ~ : m :: m : n. *~ With these o p e r a t i o n s it
17See II, 133; III, 15 and 44, and compare Zac, Saloraon Maimon, 173-98.
,s See Jacob Klein, Greek Mathematical Thought and the Origin of Algebra, trans. E. Brann (Cambridge, Mass.: M.1.T. Press, 1968), 46-6o and cf. John Mayberry, "A New Begriffsschrift 0),"
BritishJournal for the Philosophy of Science 3 t (198o): ~31-54 for the further repercussions of the
modern abandonment of the Greek notion of dtQt~l~6gas an assembled account of a collection of
enumerable items.
,91 bypass here the question of the Status of the "unit" when infinitely divisible time is
construed as the form of number. In an addendum to his Versuch fiber die Transcendentalphilosophie
Maimon writes: "Die absolute Einheit (wie sie in der reinen Arithmetik betrachtet wird) ist eine
Idee, die niemals in der Anschauung (deren Formen Zeit und Raum sind, welche ins unendliche
theilbar sind) dargestellt werden kann" (II, 35o).
9~
Regulae ad directionem ingenii, Rule 6 and the commentary of J.-L. Marion and P.
Costabel ad. loc., Regles utiles et clairespour la direction de l'esprit en la recherchede la v~rit~(The Hague:
Nijhoff, 1977).
As always in such matters one is tempted to discover "anticipations" of modern conceptuality
in premodern thought. One symptom in late medieval and Renaissance arithmetical or logistical

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creates its own matter or stuff, in the shape of the abstract medium of relationality iiberhaupt, to be filled in by particular relations.
In a key passage from his Versuch einer neuen Logik (1794) Maimon writes:
"Every object of pure mathematics consists of the general stuff, space or time,
and a part/cu/ar form; both are a pr/or/, only with the difference that the stuff is
not produced [hervorgebracht] by the cognitive power, but is given a priori to it,
while the form is produced by the cognitive power in accord with the principle
of determinability" (V, 125).
The apparent inconsistency between one portion of this passage--"the
stuff is not produced by the cognitive p o w e r " - - a n d my previous claim can, I
think, be eliminated, or at least mitigated, as follows. T h e imagination, semu
stricto, to which Maimon consistently assigns mathematical construction and
which he calls "the faculty of fictions" (Erdichtungsvermtgen), is itself put to
work in two distinguishable registers, the symbolic and the ostensive. T h e
model for the first register is algebra; the mode/s for the second are arithmetic
and geometry as ordinarily or elementarily understood. '~
2.

THE

ALGEBRAIC

MODEL

In the too often ignored "Appendix" to his firstG e r m a n book, Versuch tiberd/e

TranscendenmIphilosophie (179 I), M a i m o n discusses at length "Symbolic Cognition and Philosophical Language" (II, s65-332). O f central concern to m e
here is his definition of "an object of symbolic cognition": ,It is a manner or
m o d e [Art]of thinking an object of intuition considered as itselfan object (but
not of intuition" (ibid.,s72). Symbolic objects correspond to what the Scholastics called "second intentions" or ~tus signatus, that is, they "objectify" the
manner of our thinking first-intentionalobjects (as in actus exerc/t~)." Sympractice foreshadowing Cartesian and post-Cartesian developments is the emphasis on numbers
as signs to be manipulated in calculation; see the important study by Hans Georg Knapp, "Zahl ais
Zeichen. Zur 'Technisierung' der Arithmetik in Mittelalter," Historia Mathematica 15 (1988): 11434. On the advent and early "practical" applications of Arabic algebra in Europe, see Frank J.
Swetz, Capitalism and Arithmetic: The New Math of the xSth Centu~) (LaSai|e, Ill.: Open Court, 1987).
One might conjecture that Descartes (and his followers) "theorizes" medieval and Renaissance
" T w o good "first approximations" to the status and role of algebra in Kant's thought may be
found in A. T. Winterbourne, "Construction and the Role of Schematism in Kant's Philosophy of
Mathematics," Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 12 (1981): 33-46 and Charles Parsons,
"Arithmetic and the Categories," Topoi 3 0984): 1 ~
(A key Kantian text occurs in his
"Reflexionen zur Mathematik" [Ak.-Ausg., Bd. XIV, pp. 54-55].)
9' The two pairs of distinctions (viz., first/second intentions, actu,~ exerc/tu.#actu,~s/gnatu.s) do not
coincide, but they do overlap, in the Medieval tradition. See L. A. Hickman, Logical Second
Intentions: Late Scholastic Theories of Higher-Level Predicates (Ph.D. Diss., University of Texas, Austin,
1971 ) and Gabriel Nuchelmans, "The Distinction Actuz Exercitus/Actus Significatm in Medieval
Semantics," in Meaning and Inference in Medieval Philosophy, ed. N. Kretzmann (Dordrecht:
Kluwer, 1988), 58-9o. It is one of the many merits of Jacob Klein's work, Greek Mathematical

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505

bolic cognition, furthermore, reaches far beyond the ambit of our intuitive
thinking (ibid., 279). Maimon takes as examples the number looo, Descartes's
chiligon and Euclid's p r o o f (E/ements II, 38) that triangles on equal bases and
between two parallel lines are equal to one another, in order to secure this
fundamental point: "We grasp their mode of origination [Entstehungsart] without intuiting them as already originated" (ibid., 273 ). T h e Entstehungsart of
any such unintuitable magnitude, as well as of geometrical figures taken in
their absolute exactitude, is also called its schema or form (ibid., 274-75). And
then Maimon draws the perhaps unexpected conclusion: "all empirical concepts and propositions, indeed all a priori concepts, insofar as they are not
merely forms, but objects o f intuition, as also all axioms of mathematics, are
excluded from symbolic cognition; only forms, therefore, that is, rules of the
mode of origination of objects, belong to symbolic cognition. The categories,
as well as algebraic formulae, are of this s o r t . . . " (ibid., 277; my emphasis).
This passage, together with other texts recollected before, warrants a number of speculations.
(t) When the pure understanding is at work in mathematics, form and
matter are only modally distinguishable, since the operations performed are
identical with the operations symbolically rendered or objectified.
(2) The explicit symbols of these objectified operations are the deeds of the
imagination, and this in a twofold manner:
(a) The symbols are themselves produced to stand in for the operations
they symbolize and, in fact, become in turn the matter for further operations.
(b) The imagination, "aping the understanding," as Maimon says, proceeds in accordance with a concept of the understanding as its rule of conduct
(Richtschnur; ibid., 133). Hence, the discrete elements of a cognitive operation,
"a," "'b,'" "c," for example, are arrayed by the imagination in a spatial field and,
via the latter, in a temporally indexed sequence, "a,," "b,," "ca." This spatiotemporal array/s intuitable or sensuous, and the space and time ingredients in
it are schemata or Bilde of the pure concepts of Auseinandersein and Folge.
(3) Crucial to this entire process of symbolic construction by the pure
imagination is the role of the schema as a guide to the mode of origination of
the relevant mathematical object or complex of objects. T h e imagination follows a rule or algorithm (Entstehungsregel; cf. II, 33 and 35) for the logical
genesis of the conceptual relations. The paradigm for such a rule, on
Maimon's account, is an algebraic formula (ibid., 277), since the sequential

Thought, that he calls attention to the importance of this distinction for the genesis of early

modern mathematics and physics (esp. p. 3o6, n. 324); one could also note that Leibniz still
employs the notion in actu signato in his early Dissertatiode arte c0ndnnator/a 0666), when speaking
of quality, quantity, and relation (see D/e philosophische Schriften, ed. Gerhardt [reprint, Hildesheim: Olms, 1965], IV, p. 35).

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display o f the terms o f some such f o r m u l a is, in principle, a g u i d e to the


arithmetical or geometrical objects satisfying it.
(4) W h e n Maimon turns expressly to the science of algebra (or to its cognates) the picture I have sketched thus far comes into sharper focus; in particular the necessity of ostensive construction as a c o m p l e m e n t to symbolic construction is b r o u g h t into relief. T w o pairs of overlapping distinctions are
pertinent here: first, that between die allgemeine Gr6ssenlehre a n d die reine (nicht
allgemeine) Gr6ssenlehre (V, 2) and, second, that between die Buchstabenrechnung
and die eigentliche Algebra (VII, 25ff.).*s A brief inspection o f these two distinctions will help us see how m u c h for Maimon, as for Kant, o r d i n a r y (or traditional) arithmetic and geometry belong to the esoteric or acroamatic plane of
exposition, while more sophisticated mathematics furnishes the main philosophical leads and the most exotic dilemmas.*4
In his Versuch einer neuen Logik (1794) Maimon compares the relation between formal logic and transcendental logic to the relation between "the universal theory of m a g n i t u d e s - - a r i t h m e t i c a universalis" and "the pure, but not
universal, theory o f magnitudes."
T h e first item in this second pair "abstracts not only f r o m all empirical
objects to which it is applied, b u t even f r o m all a priori d e t e r m i n a t e objects o f
pure mathematics, a n d considers only all possible forms or relations in which
magnitudes generally can be t h o u g h t , " while the second discipline "has for its
theme [Gegenstand] real objects determinable t h r o u g h construction a priori (V,
2). T h e pure, but not universal, theory o f magnitudes "makes use o f the
universal theory of m a g n i t u d e s only u n d e r the conditions o f a possible construction" (ibid.).
Arithmetica universalis is Newton's phrase for what Descartes a n d Wallis
called mathesis universalis.*5 M a i m o n understands arithmetica universalis as universal algebra, in the sense that the roots o f equations can be "indeterminable
(infinite)" or "impossible" (i.e., imaginary). T h a t is, in such cases no locus a n d
no m a g n i t u d e satisfying the values of the equation(s) can be exhibited in p u r e
,s A good sense of how die allgemeine Gr6ssenlehre was construed towards the end of the
eighteenth century may be gleaned from Friedrich Murhard, System der Elemente der allgememen
Gr6ssenlehre nach ihrem Zustand am nebst Literatur und Geschichte (Lemgo, 1798). Murhard's book,
and the relation between die allgemeine Gr6ssenlehre and seventeenth-century algebra and analysis,
deserve closer study.
94This should be obvious from Kant's reliance on the calculus in his Metaphysische Anfangsgriinde der Naturwissenschaften (cf. Biichel, Geometrie und Philosophie, 221-99) and from Maimon's
references to Cavalieri'sMethodus indivisibilium (II, 174; V, 2o5) and to analysis situs (II, 69).
,s On the pre-Cartesian history of the phrase see the indispensable monograph by Giovanni
Crapulli, Mathesis Universalis. Genesi di una idea nel XV1 secolo (Rome: Ateneo, a969).John WaUis's
treatise bears the tide Mathesis universalis seu Opus arithmetieum (London, 1657) and is, in part, a
critique of Descartes's geometrical perspective.

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507

o r sensuous intuition. T h e pure t h e o r y o f magnitudes is restricted to those


algebraically symbolizable f o r m u l a e whose values can be constructed: loci with
real (not complex) roots and, at least f o r Maimon, positive rational numbers. '8
T h e second distinction n o t e d above has the same tenor. T h e "literal calculus" (die Buchstabenrechnung) abstracts f r o m the issue o f the constructibility o f
the relations it yields by p u r e l y combinatorial means. So, for a p r i m e instance,
x = ~ / - a , w h e r e "a" is a positive integer, say 2, does not lead to any " d e t e r m i n able m a g n i t u d e " (VII, 25). " G e n u i n e algebra," on the c o n t r a r y - - a n d note
how faithfully M a i m o n echoes Descartes in calling this also "the solution o f
problems" (ibid.)--is c o n c e r n e d only with constructible magnitudes.
T h u s , while the "universal t h e o r y o f magnitudes" o r the "literal calculus"
seem at first sight to enjoy limitless combinatorial fertility, m a n y o f their
o f f s p r i n g p r o v e to be "wind-eggs," inasmuch as they are resistant to construction. Only " g e n u i n e algebra" o r "the p u r e t h e o r y o f magnitudes" serves as a
bridge between the p u r e thinking o f relations and "real (i.e., actual) objects."
What M a i m o n touches u p o n h e r e and elsewhere is the g r o u n d and treacherous e n i g m a o f symbolization per se. O n the o n e hand, if symbols transcribe
the operations o f p u r e t h o u g h t t h e r e are no intrinsic limits on the combinatorial possibilities o f p u r e t h o u g h t itself; t h e r e are, however, no g u a r a n t e e s that
any arbitrary symbolic f o r m a t i o n (array o f signs) will c o r r e s p o n d to a "real"
object or state o f affairs (see, again, the case o f ~ / - 2 ) . On the o t h e r h a n d ,
there is no mechanical m e t h o d for the discovery o f just those symbolic equations whose solutions are constructible, that is, d o yield "real" objects such as
loci o r rational n u m b e r s .
As M a i m o n remarks, a f t e r q u o t i n g at length a passage f r o m Newton's
Arithmetica Universalis o n the rules f o r a mathematical heuristic: "Newton's
prescriptions for discovery in mathematics strike me the way Klopstock's prescriptions for m o r e elevated p o e t r y do. Lucretius was not altogether w r o n g
when he c o m p a r e d discoverers to b l o o d h o u n d s " (II, 37o).'7
At all events, the evidence assembled so far points univocally to the conclusion that construction, far f r o m being merely an "extrinsic criterion, '''s is for
Maimon the h e a r t o f the matter. As first symbolic, and t h e n ostensive, imaginative construction allows us to traffic between the region o f p u r e t h o u g h t and
the d o m a i n o f the intuitive.
~ See Versuch fiber die Transcendentalphilosophie (II, 58, 77, lOO, 2e7-29).

97Leibniz, too, was intent on finding a systematic method for the discovery of algorithms; see
Paul Schreker, "Lcibniz and the Art of Inventing Algorithms," Journal of the History of Ideas 7
(1947): lo7-16. Lack of success in this domain explains why Vico refers to algebra as a divinatory
art (Operefilosofiche, ed. P. Cristofolini [Florence: Sansoni, a971], 353)9s M. Gueroult La philosophic transcendentale, 5o. Cf. Valerio Verra's remarks on construction
in Maimon in his "Nachwort" to Salomon Maimon, GesammelteWerke, Bd. VII, p. 712.

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It does so, as we have already begun to see, because imagination, obeying


the directions of p u r e understanding, exhibits the rules o f origination inherent in the operations o f the u n d e r s t a n d i n g itself. Construction and oriKination
work in t a n d e m , since the mind, for Maimon, as well as for Descartes, Hobbes,
Spinoza, a n d even Kant, is the matrix of generations.
This characterization is not transparent and, indeed, its opaqueness will
lead us shortly to Maimon's notion of the infinite or divine intellect. For the
moment, two features need emphasis along the route to that climatic notion.
First, as the matrix o f generation or logical genesis, the mind is not itself on
the move. Borrowing, as does Maimon, from the idiom o f the calculus of
fluxions, Gueroult makes the same point as follows: " T h e mode o f production, or, if one likes, the rule according to which the u n d e r s t a n d i n g thinks the
object, is clearly not itself t h o u g h t o f as in flux (fluente), but the determination
of the object following this rule can only be conceived as in flux.".9
Second, the motions or fluxions belonging to mathematics in its essentially
constructivist m o d e introduce inexorably a hiatus between the finite expressible rule or, as we would nowadays say, recursive algorithm, and its necessarily
infinite working-out in intuition. This is the penultimate link in the chain
leading to the thesis that " o u r u n d e r s t a n d i n g is a schema for the idea of an
infinite u n d e r s t a n d i n g " (II, 365).
T h e problem o f the incompletable character of certain mathematical
n o t i o n s - - t h e limit-value o f an infinite converging series of rationals, or the
quantity o f a ratio o f differentials d y / d x - - i s familiar to Maimon's readers (cf.
II, 351; 358). Less familiar, but even more thought-provoking, is Maimon's
discussion o f the incompletable character of m o r e elementary mathematical
tasks, such as the construction of a circle. In the article on " T r u t h " in his
Philosophisches WOrterbuch Maimon comments in detail on Descartes's famous
critique (La G~om~trie, Bk. II) o f the Greek geometers' division of construction
into "geometrical" a n d "mechanical" (III, 17o-72). At issue is whether the
graph constructed in accord with the algebraic equation of a circle (or of other
curves) can capture, so to speak, all the points belonging to the locus. Maimon
Opposes Descartes in d e n y i n g that it can. He writes: " H e r e reason requires
that we continue to multiply the points t h o u g h t o f ad infinitum, whereby this
construction approximates its concept; only t h r o u g h the complete achievement of this concept do we acquire a 'real' object a priori, an object which is
not otherwise possible" (V, 17~t). T h e alternative, to construct the circle simply
99For Newton's distinction between fluentes (the variables in an equation) and their fluxions
("the speeds with which they each flow and are increased by their generating motion"), see A
Treatise of the Method of Flu.x6onsand Infinite Series ( ~737), in The Mathematical Papers of lsao.c Newton,
ed. D. T. Whiteside (Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 1967), 1: z7.

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509

by mechanical or kinematic m e a n s - - a compass, say--yields only an a posteriori object.so A progressus in infinitum, Maimon asserts, "is the only way we
have of constructing a concept in a totally a priori fashion" (ibid).
Every finitely expresssed symbolic equation (e.g., x* + y' = k) is, then, the
format of an infinite task. Hence, even the capacity of our understanding to
generate a priori its own "objects" is held in bounds by the gap separating the
finite form of its rules of origination from the infinitude of the execution of
those rules in each particular case. We are incapable of passing, uno iactu, from
the finite rule to its infinite realization.
It is in this mathematical setting that Maimon's exotic, but not unparalled,
conception of an infinite intellect might be re-inspected. Recall the claim
about construction from which I began: "We are, in this respect, similar to
God." Similarity is not, of course, the same as identity. How, then, does the
constructive or generative activity o f the infinite intellect differ from our own ?
What light do Maimon's interpretations ofMoreh Nebuchim I, 68 throw on this
question?
Permit me to state my speculations in a very summary fashion:
(i) Maimon often contrasts finite with infinite intellect by saying that the first
is "symbolic" or "discursive," while the second is "intuitive" (see, e.g., II, ~oo). In
keeping with what we have learned up to now about his theory of mathematics,
we can take these contrasts to mean that a finite intellect is dianoetic; an infinite,
noetic. That is, "intuitive" in this context has to do with the immediate grasp or
apprehension o f some whole in its complete integrity; its objects are omnimodo
determinatum. "Symbolic" knowledge, as we saw, conveys formulaically the structure of a whole (an infinite series, for example) but must always be expounded
stepwise, indeed by a discursive progressus in infinitum.
Does "intuitive" have any other connotations when applied to infinite intellect? Does the latter require, for example, any analogue to the "matter" of our
sensible intuition? In other terms, is anything "given" to it? Maimon addresses
this question in a formidably obscure passage of his Versuch fiber die Transcendentalphilosophie (II, 250-5 l) and concludes that what is "given" to the infinite
understanding and (thereby) intuited by it is either an objectum reale which is
not thought by it or "a simple idea of the relation of a c o n c e p t . . , to something external to it." It cannot be said with any confidence that Maimon's
solution is clear. On the second option, the given as a relation, is the relation in
some sense given to the infinite understanding by itself?. Is theoretical intelso T h e question whether Cartesian algebraic/mechanical locus-constructions "exhaust" the
infinity of points on an everywhere-dense geometrical continuum is posed by Leibniz and taken
up, for example, by Vico's mathematical m e n t o r Paolo Mattia Doria. See my essay "Vico, Doria e
la geometria sintetica," BoUtttino de/centro di studi Vichiani lo (198o): l o - 3 5 .

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lection an affair o f positing its own abstract, impelling, or shocking occasions


(AnstOsse)? (Fichte, inspired by Maimon, will explore this possibility.)
(ii) Still another distinction is mobilized in order to locate the difference
between finite and infinite intellect. We can achieve only VorsteUungen, representations, not Darstellungen, presentations or total exhibitions, while in the
case of the divine mind "the r e p r e s e n t a t i o n s . . , are at the same time presentations, that is, by the very fact that they are representations they [sc. the presentations] maintain objective reality outside the power o f infinite representation" (IV, 62).s, Vorstellung is Maimon's term for the necessarily partial and
incompletable synthesis our faculty o f cognition can effect (II, 349); a complete synthesis would be the perfect consciousness not only o f all the infinite
parts of an object, but also of their relations to the synthesis, that is, to the
subject of j u d g m e n t itself.s, (The integration of differentials would serve
Maimon as a good example here.) Thus, divine acts of thinking are productive
exhibitions o f real objects in their individual totality and mutual integration.
(Leibniz's "infinite analysis" is, therefore, for Maimon, the initiation of a complete synthesis.) Indeed, these are acts, as we shall see, of divine selfexhibition.
(iii) One final trait separates finite from infinite intellect. Our faculty of
cognition and o u r (transcendental) imagination work in accordance with rules
(regelmiissig), but not in virtue of an understanding of those rules (regelvers~ndig)
(cf. II, 2o). Consequendy, "the rules first acquire their reality through the
presence [Gegenwart] of the objects" produced, i.e., constructed in accordance
with them. "Before the objects exist in the mind [Gem//the] we could not know
under what rules they must be subsumed after they have been originated." So,
for instance, "the understanding prescribes a rule to the productive imagination, namely, to produce a space enclosed by three lines. T h e imagination obeys
and constructs the trilateral figure; but, look, at the same time three angles
obtrude themselves, which the understanding had not asked for . . . . The uns, On DarsteUung as "d6voilement" or "exhibition totale" see S. Zac, "L'Id6e de chose en sol
dans la philosophie de Solomon Maimon," Archives de Philosophic 51 (1988): ~29. It is one of the
lacunae in J a n Bransen's text, The Antinoray of ThougM, that no heed is paid to Maimon's "systematic" distinction between VorsteUung and DarsteUung.
s, In a very difficult note in his Versuch iiber die Transcendentalphilosophie (lI, 349) Maimon
writes: "So ist auch das volist,'indige Bewusstsein aller Theile der Synthesis u n d folglich auch der
Synthesis seibst, keine Vorstellung sondern, eine Darstellung des (Verstandes) Dings selbst." T h e
difference between Vorstellung and DarsteUung thus seems to be analogous to the Kantian distinction between the analytical and the synthetic unity of apperception; moreover, the curious final
phrase "eine Darstetlung des (Verstandes) Dings selbst" might hint at Maimon's resuscitation of
the Kantian "Ding an sich." This may cast doubt on S. H. Bergman's assertion " . . . for the
removal of the thing-in-itself signifies nothing more than his [Maimon's] return to the standpoint
of Aristode a n d Maimonides" (Philosophy of Solomon Maimon, 35).

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511

derstanding puts on an imperious face and says: 'A trilateral figure must have
three angles', as if it were itself the legislator in this affair, although in fact it
must obey a legislator completely unknown to it" (III, 174-75)I cite this passage at some length since it brings out more clearly than any
other in Maimon's work the logical, if not also temporal, gap between the rulegoverned production of an object or schema (an Entstehungsregel; II, 33) and
what flows of apparent necessity from the enactment of that rule. The legislative, or constructional, activity o f the finite mind is self-legislation only in an
attenuated sense, because the full meaning of the rule is always opaque to it.
Conversely, for an infinite intellect, similarly facile in the production of
objects by virtue o f a rule o f origination, there can be no such gap. Just as in
the case of Darstellung vis-a-vis VorsteUung, here, too, cognition o f the rule
entails simultaneous recognition o f all the infinite consequences of the rule.
God may have no imagination, for Maimon, but he does know all the rules.ss
3"

MAIMON AND MAIMONIDES

It is now time to consider, however briefly, the scale of Maimon's indebtedness


to his namesake Maimonides for the doctrine o f the infinite intellect. All o f the
major interpreters have been quick to draw attention to Maimon's commentary on Book One o f The Guide of the Perplexed, entitled Gibeath Hamore, and
especially to its exegesis of I, ch. 68, with its opening repetition o f " t h e dictum
of the philosophers": " . . . that He is the intellect [a/-'aq/] as well as the intellectually cognizing subject [al-'aqfl] and the intellectually cognized object [alma'qfi/]; and that these three notions form in H i m . . . one single notion in
which there is no multiplicity" (Pines trans., p. 163).
Two questions must be kept apart for present purposes: "How does
Maimonides understand this dictum?" and "How does Maimon understand
and adapt this dictum?"
As for the first question, no answer, however tentative, can be offered
without detailed exploration of the sources of the dictum Maimonides "cites."
Pines's thesis, that it "represents a stock formula used by practically all Aristotelian philosophers" (p. xcviii) seems to me to need amendment, since the formula, in exactly this wording, does not occur either in Aristotle or in the Greek
commentators Alexander of Aphrodisias or Themistius. However, it does
appear, with a slight difference in the sequence of terms, in al-Farabi, and
ss Maimon's accentuation of the role of ru/es in mathematics is noteworthy. This accent reappears in Fichte (see note t 3, supra) and gains greatest volume in Wittgenstein's meditations on
"fol|owing a role" in his Remarks on tM Foundations of Mathematics. Cf. Crispin Wright, Witzgenstein
on the Foundations of Mathematics (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard U.P., 198o), pass/m and Stuart G.
Shanker, W ittgemwin and the Turning-Point in the Philosophy of Mathematics (Albany: S.U.N.Y. Press,
a987), 23,5-56.

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m o r e t h a n once; f o r instance, in al-Madina al-fadila (Walzer edition, p. 7 o) a n d


in al-Siyasa al-madaniyya (Najjar edition, p. 35).s4 T h e salient lexical p h e n o m e non, in b o t h al-Farabi a n d M a i m o n i d e s , is that al-'6.cfil (most likely) r e n d e r s the
G r e e k 6 votbv o r ~6 voos162 the o n e t h i n k i n g o r intellecting, not v6TIotg, which
would be ta'aqq~/.s5 So, t h e question o f "sources" is all the m o r e unavoidable.
T h e likelihood that neo-Platonic, not Aristotelian, texts s t a n d in the backg r o u n d o f the d i c t u m is very m u c h w o r t h exploring, since it is in, e.g., Proclus'
Elements of Theology (Para. t 6 8 [Dodds]) that we find all the t e r m s later r e p r o d u c e d in M a i m o n i d e s ' citation: ~ttx~x~tQa ~t~tcp0~o~Se [sc. 6 vo~g] x a [ "~6 v o ~ 6 v
xa~ 6"~Lv o ~ ~ x ~ v o xct~ v o ~ a t ~q~' ~cnrr
voofnrtog. "Intellect, then, knows
b o t h what is intellected a n d the fact that it intellects it a n d that it [sc. the
intellect] is intellected by itself in the act o f intellecting."36
T h e Proclean evidence, t o g e t h e r with its a n t e c e d e n t c o u n t e r p a r t s in
Plotinus (e.g., Enn. V. 3.1, 2 4 - 2 7 ; V. 3.5, 2 8 - 4 8 ) , suggests t h a t the p a r a m o u n t
issue in these neo-Platonic "sources" is self-consciousness o r self-reflection,
i.e., how vo~g can k n o w that it is the a g e n t o f thinking (6 v o ~ v / , 6 voofrv) w h e n
it is at the s a m e t i m e identical with the "object" o f t h o u g h t , the voqx6v. Consequently, the issue is not the identity o f the actuality o f thinking, v6tlotg, with
the actual intelligible, as it is in Aristotle, Metaph. 12. 9.
Is the intent o f M a i m o n i d e s ' repetition o f this " d i c t u m o f the p h i l o s o p h e r s "
the s a m e as, o r c o g n a t e with, the intent o f the neo-Platonists?
H o w e v e r this last question m i g h t eventually be a n s w e r e d , M a i m o n r e a d s
the o p e n i n g o f Moreh I, 68 in a quite p a r t i c u l a r way, a way d e e p l y a n c h o r e d to
his theses c o n c e r n i n g m a t h e m a t i c a l construction as this has b e e n u n d e r s t o o d ,
a n d exemplified, by modern p h i l o s o p h e r s f r o m Descartes to Kant.
Recall o n c e m o r e t h e passage f r o m Ober die Progressen der Philosophie with
s4Alexander Airman, in his invaluable article "Maimonides on the Intellect and the Scope of
Metaphysics," Von der mittelalterlichen zur raodernen Aufldiirung (T~ibingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1987),
6o-129, calls attention to these and other Farabian passages (74, n. tlo), while noting that
"neither Aristotle nor Alexander had spoken of the triunity of intellectus, intelligensand intellectum"
(ibid.). Cf. Edwin Booth, Aristotelian Aporetic Ontology in Islamic and Christian Thinkers (Cambridge:
Cambridge U.P., 1983), 97-98 and esp. nn. a8-19, for further references. Most important to the
claims I am making here is the information that in the so-called "Long Recension" of the ps.Plotinian Theology of Aristotle the following passage occurs: "It is the knowledge and the knower
and the known, as we have said above." (See Paul B. Fenton, "The Arabic and Hebrew Versions of
the Theology of Aristotle," ~5~ and n. 6~). This passage seems strongly to suggest an originally
Neoplatonic inspiration for Maimonides' "dictum."
ssCf. Philipp W. Rosemann, "N6~lotg vofloe0~g und TA'AQQUL AT-TA'AQQUL. Das
Aristotelische Problem der Selbstbeziigiichkeit des Unbewegten Bewegers in der Kommentierung
Ibn Rusds," geitschriftfftr philosophischeForschung 4~ (1986): 543-61, and the translator's notes on
Arabic terminology in Averro~s. Grand Commentaire de la "M~taphysique" d'Aristote.. . Livre LamLambda, trans. Aubert Martin (Paris: "Les Belles Lettres," 1984), 257-70.
~Cf. the remarks by E. R. Dodds, Proclus: The Elements of Theology (Oxford, 1933), ad loc.

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which I began. We do have a concept of God as "an infinite faculty of representation" thanks to o u r experience o f construction, in which "all the concepts of
mathematics are thought by us and at the same time presented or exhibited as
real objects" (IV, 20). Maimon goes on, at the conclusion of the passage: "God,
therefore, thinks all real objects, not merely in accord w i t h . . , the principle of
contradiction, but in the way we think the objects of mathematics (although, to
be sure, in a more complete fashion), that is, He produces them at the same
time as He thinks them" (ibid.).
Now compare part o f Maimon's Hebrew commentary on Moreh, I, 68:
"These forms of similarity [and difference] define the understanding and
distinguish it from everything else. It follows from this that the inteUigibilia,
that is, the forms aforementioned, are the understanding itself; similarly, the
intelligens, that is, the cause which produces the said forms, is the understanding, for the entire force of its operation /s the understanding i t s e l f . . , its
operation is independent o f time."s7 And a bit later, " . . . the infinite understanding, praised be He, produces [mo~ with the help of the forms of understanding the objects themselves, which are the inteUigibilia. This possibility becomes evident in arithmetic where numbers are both intellectual forms and
their objects as well."~ B
It should already be apparent from these passages that Maimon's attention
is focussed, not on the self-knowing of vo~g, as in Proclus, and not on the
identity of the intellect in actu with the mtelligibilia in actu, as in Aristotle, but
rather on the production or making of the intelligibles by means of the mind's
self-directed operations. Maimonides' dictum is "modernized" into the equivalent of atemporal logical genesis: verum et factum convertuntur.s9 This is especially evident when we take note of the reference to artithmetic in the second
passage and remember that in pure arithmetic, on Maimon's theory, the relations or structures constituting numbers subsist or are intelligible independently of their relata. Hence, the "forms of understanding," such as difference
and similarity, are the very same as the objects they are enlisted by the understanding to produce (cf. II, 19o).
This is equally, perhaps more evidently, true in the case of symbolic alge~TGibeath Hamore (Berlin, 1791), ed. S. H. Bergman and N. Rotenstreich (Jerusalem: Israel
Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1966), lo 3.
sa Ibid., p. lO7; cf. Lebensgeschichte, 27 l, where Maimon repeats this interpretation of Guide 1,
68, but in the language of "Vorstellung," not of the Hebrew sekhel.
~9See the important comparative studies by Vincenz Rufner, "Ens et verum ConvertunturFactum et verum convertuntur. Zur Problematik mittelaltlicher und neuzeitlicher Ontologie,"
PhilosophischesJahrbuch 6o 0 9 5 o ) : 4 o 6 - 3 7 and J. A. Aeersten, "Wendingen in Waarheid. Anselmus van Canterbury, T h o m a s yon Aquino en Vico," Tijdschrift voor Filosofie 49 (1987): 187-2~8
and the criticisms of Vico's thesis ad,aanced by Stephen Gaukroger, "Vico and the Maker's Knowledge Principle," History of Philosophy Quarterly 3 (1986): 29-44.

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bra, w h e r e t h e "objects" i n v o l v e d are n o t h i n g o t h e r t h a n t h e o p e r a t i o n s o r


originative rules o f the u n d e r s t a n d i n g symbolically "objectified" (cf. I I , 278).
M a t h e m a t i c s , in its distinctively m o d e r n m o d e , is the p a r a d i g m o f the i d e n t i t y
o f t h o u g h t a n d the real, the p a r a d i g m f o r G o d as well as f o r finite m i n d s . O n e
m i g h t e v e n say, e m e n d i n g a f a m o u s line f r o m Plutarch, " G o d is always d o i n g
algebra."4o Finite intellection is t h e infinitely p r o l o n g e d , o r p o s t p o n e d , app r o x i m a t i o n to this algebraic G o d . M a n ' s m i n d seems to be t h e m o s t f e c u n d
m i m i c o f t h e divine. ( M a i m o n ' s o n l y i n d e p e n d e n t treatise o n m a t h e m a t i c s is
o n algebra, t h e u n p u b l i s h e d m a n u s c r i p t M a ' a s e h Chosev.)
W h a t e p i s t e m i c status d o e s this " s u b l i m e idea" (II, 65) o f t h e infinite u n d e r s t a n d i n g possess, a c c o r d i n g to M a i m o n ? A n d , in view o f its status, w h a t a r e we
to m a k e o f t h e a l r e a d y cited claim that " o u r u n d e r s t a n d i n g is a s c h e m a o f t h e
idea o f t h e infinite intellect" (II, 365)?
T h e texts, o n first r e a d i n g , s e e m to f u r n i s h s t r o n g , p e r h a p s i n s u p e r a b l e ,
e v i d e n c e t h a t M a i m o n r e g a r d e d " t h e infinite u n d e r s t a n d i n g " solely as a " r e g u lative" idea, a n d n o t at all as a " c o n s t i t u t i v e " idea.4, I n s u c h a n e v e n t , the idea
w o u l d h a v e h y p o t h e t i c a l a n d subjective validity, b u t w o u l d lack all constitutive
a n d objective "reality" (Wirklichkeit).
I n d e e d , at o n e e n d o f t h e s p e c t r u m , M a i m o n s u g g e s t s t h a t "we c a n . . .
p r o b l e m a t i c a l l y a s s u m e a n intellectual b e i n g w h o s e r e l a t i o n to all objects o f
n a t u r e is t h e s a m e as t h e r e l a t i o n o f o u r t h i n k i n g c a p a c i t y to t h e objects o f
4oPlutarch, Mora//a 718c (from his Quaestiones convivales, Liber I I).
41Cf. the discussion in Frederick C. Beiser, The Fate of Reason: German Philosophy from Kant to
F/chic (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard U.P., a987), 293-95- Beiser takes Maimon to waver between
an earlier "constitutive" position and a later "regulative" position, although only two years separate the texts he cites; nonetheless, he is certainly right to point to the poss/b/e influence of Kant's
third Critique, sent to Maimon in May of 179o, on the reformulation of the latter's conception
(ibid., 37 l, n. 23).
For the sake of comparison, and in order to promote further study, permit me to cite the
following explorations of Kant's notion of an inteUectus archetypus and of its fate in the hands of his
always vacillating partisans: Klaus Dfising, "Asthetische Einbildungskraft und intuitiver Verstand,
Kants Lehre and Hegels spekulativ-idealistische Umdeutung," Hegel-Studien 21 0986): 87-128;
Valerio Verra, "Immaginazione transcendentale e intelletto intuitivo," in Hegel interprete di Kant, a
cura di V. Verra (Naples: Prismi, 1981), 67--89; Manfred Frank, " 'Intellektuale Anschauung'.
Drei Stellungnahmen zu einem Deutungsversuch yon Seibstbewusstsein: Kant, Fichte, H61derlin/
Novalis, in D/e Aktuali~ der Fr~romantik, hrsg. Ernst Behler und Jochen H6risch (Paderborn: F.
Sch6ningh, 1987), 96-126; and Xavier Tilliette, "H61derlin und die intellektuale Anschauung,"
in Philosophic und Poesie. Otto POggeler zum 6o. Geburtstag, hrsg. Annemarie Gethmann-Siefert, Bd.
I (Stuttgart: Frommann-Holzboog, 1988), 215-34.
In my judgment, discussion of Kant and the Kantian legacy in the matter of intellectual
intuitiord/nte/Jzaus archetypus should be anchored to his letter to Marcus Herz of Feb. 21, 1772,
where "the key to the whole secret of heretofore obscure metaphysics" is the discovery that we are
neither passive, receptive minds, nor divine, archetypally productive minds (Briefe, hrsg. Jiirgen
Zehbe [G6ttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 197o ], 45-50).

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mathematics" (IV, 61).4, We need only call to mind Kant's definition of a


prob/ema~ j u d g m e n t (KdrV A74/B loo) as one where "we assume the affirmation or denial as merely possible, at our pleasure" to see that this assessment
would place Maimon's "sublime idea" on shaky ground.
At some distance from this one extreme point of the spectrum we find him
explicitly asserting: "We have no concept of God as an object and, nonetheless,
we can determine His relation to us . . . . Algebraic formulae (note that
Maimon substitutes algebra here for Maimonides' "geometrical figures" [Pines
trans., p. 74]) often lead us to the concept of the infinite as to a limit concept,
which is, indeed, "not of constitutive, but still of regulative u s e . . , a concept
which is of great importance in metaphysics."4~ Reason's demand that we
select the viewpoint of "the idea o f a completely perfect faculty o f thought"
(III, 169) still seems to carry only methodological, not substantive import.
And yet, Maimon's disagreement with Kant over the nature and classification of/deoa may alert us to the Possibility that while retaining lexically Kant's
"regulative/constitutive" distinction, he nevertheless gives his "sublime idea" a
constitutive, nonhypothetical, function, one bound up with the schematic relation between finite and infinite intellect. What is "regulative" 0tQbg fi~tOs may
turn out to be "constitutive" (@ q~6o~t).
Maimon, in opposition to Kant, divides "ideas" into ideas o f understanding
and ideas of reason (II, 78-83; cf. ibid., 365-67), where the first class is
defined by material incompleteness or (virtual) completeness (ibid., 78-79),
the second, by formal completeness. Asymptotes are an instance of the first
class; the infinite understanding turns out to be the unique member of the
second class. T h e point around which Maimon's debate with Kant turns can
now be fixed: Can the Idea(s) of Reason be exhibited or represented in intuition, and thus acquire "objective reality?"
For Kant, the three Ideas of Reason, viz., "the complete subject," "the
complete series of conditions," and "a complete totality [lnbegrif]] of the possible," or, more familiarly, the soul, the universe and God, can never be given in
any possible experience;4~ they are "transcendent ideas." This means, additionally, that they can never be schematized by the imagination. At best a "typic"
(KdpV) or a "hypotyposis" (KdU) can be produced, both of which are much
weakened versions of the full-fledged schemata provided for the categories
4, Cf. his remark in "I~ber die Progressen der Philosophic": "Gott bringt die Objekte derNatur
auf eben die Art wie wir die Objekte der MathematOt durchs Reelle Denken, d.h., d u t c h Kortstrul~ion
hervor, diese Objekte werden yon ihm dem Ideal der hOchsten, der Materie mOglichen,
Vollkommenheit gem~iss hervorgebracht."
43Lebensgeschichte, ~61, Anm.
*~See Kant, Prolegomena, Para. 43.

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and concepts o f the understanding.45 F o r Maimon, in contrast, these ideas (or,


m o r e accurately, this o n e idea), while certainly not objects o f intuition, are
objects o f u n d e r s t a n d i n g , objects which, although not immediately a n d in
their own right, can nonetheless be k n o w n by us as d e t e r m i n a t e objects by
means o f their s c h e m a (viz., "what is given o f them in intuition"; II, 366). We
can thus ascribe reality to the Idea(s) o f Reason, via an intuitable schema, a
work o f the p u r e imagination. W h a t can be schcmatized possesses, if only
mediately, "objective reality."
This thesis helps us to u n d e r s t a n d those texts in which M a i m o n claims
m o r e for the idea o f infinite intellect than a purely methodological, regulative,
function. So, f o r example, in Gibeath Hamore, he construes Genesis 1 : 9 7
(harlem elohim bara oto: "In his image H e created him") and Maimonides' gloss
(Pines trans., p. ~ ) as follows: "Finite reason and infinite reason are thus o f
the same kind; they d i f f e r only in degree."46 Or, in Versuch ~ber die Tramcendentalphitosophie: " . . . the syntheses o f the finite and o f the infinite u n d e r s t a n d i n g
are forraaliter o f o n e a n d the same kind [einerlez]; they are distinct only materialiter. Since the f o r m e r can make this synthesis only partially intuitive, what
remains is symbolic; the latter, on the contrary, r e p r e s e n t s the whole to itself
intuitively" (II, xoo; the e x a m p l e is that o f asymptotes).
W h a t brings t o g e t h e r the thesis that the Idea(s) o f Reason can be
schematized a n d the claim that finite r e a s o n is created "in the image" o f infinite
reason? Once again, the inaugural passage f r o m fQber die Progressen der
Philosophie is p e r t i n e n t : "God, as an infinite power o f representation, thinks
H i m s e l f f r o m all eternity as all possible substances [Wesen], that is, H e thinks
H i m s e l f as limited/restricted in every possible way" (IV, 2o).
O n e m o d e o f divine self-limitation is n o t h i n g o t h e r than the finite intellect.
W h e t h e r Spinozist o r Leibnizian on this issue,47 M a i m o n in any case subscribes
to the t h o u g h t that finite intellect is itself a schema, o r as Kant sometimes says,
a m o n o g r a m , the u n i q u e l y identifiable signature (KdrV AI42/B181 ) o f its
source. What seems to be at work in Maimon's thinking h e r e is a double
schematization. At the first level, the idea o f the infinite mind projects itself
via self-limitation into the m e d i u m o f finite mind, which mimics it in its discursive thinking o f p u r e relations and their originative rules. At the second level,
45See the studies by Jean Beaufret, "Kant et la notion de DarsteUung," in Dialogue avec
Heidegger, I. II (Paris: Minuit, 1973), 77-1o 9 and Werner Flach, "Zu Kants Lehre yon der
Symbolischen Darstellung," Kant-Studien 73 0982): 452-62.
46GibeathHaraore, 9a.
47See Maimon's remark in Oberdie Progressender Philosophie(IV, 36): "Nach der Art wie ich
mir LeibnizensSystem denke (will dieses ein Leibnizianer nicht zugeben, so mag es Spinozas System
heissen) beziecht sich der unendliche Verstand Gottes auf alle m6gliche Dinge oder wenn man
will, Welten,die in Ansehung, seiner zugleich wirklich sind" (emphases in original). Note, too, that
Maimon had referred earlier (3o) to Leibniz's "exoterische Lehrart."

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this discursive thinking is, so to speak, clothed in intuitive dress by the operations o f the imagination, operations yielding schemata o f the operations o f the
finite u n d e r s t a n d i n g (cf. II, 366). T h e course o f this "double schematization"
might be m a p p e d thus: purely logical relations or forms --* algebraic/symbolic
forms ---, arithmetical and geometrical "objects."
T h e " p r o o f " that this abstract m a p has a real model comes f r o m Maimon's
dissection o f the general " a n t i n o m y o f [finite] thinking." This is a proof, one
might say, a tergo. According to him, "on one side reason c o m m a n d s us not to
ascribe any reality [Realitiit] to a concept except insofar as it can be constructed, because the reality o f what cannot be constructed is merely problematical. On. the other side, reason requires that the proposition [Satz] arising
simply f r o m the complete concept, as it is t h o u g h t by the [finite] u n d e r s t a n d ing, should hold true [gelten solO, b u t not the proposition arising f r o m the
incomplete concept, as it is constructed by the imagination" (V, 164).
T h e mathematical imagination, labile as it is, on the move between formal
u n d e r s t a n d i n g a n d sensuous intuition, testifies to its divine origin by trafficking in that antinomy, that polarity.4S
Maimon, in his x791 essay on the power o f prophecy (III, 276-98 ), once
more taking Moreh Nebuchim as his proof-text, glosses Book II, chapter 3 6, on
the prophets' imagination, as the result o f divine overflow (Ausfluss--fayd.):
" T h a t u n d e r s t a n d i n g a n d imagination are not as heterogeneous as one commonly thinks can be seen if we consider that all our concepts, as, for example,
the categories, are n o t h i n g other t h a n products of the transcendental imagination" (III, 61).49 Being created in the image o f the divine does not lead to, n o r
does it invite, participation, conjunction, or identification. On this point
Maimon is at odds with al-Farabi a n d Maimonides. Rather, the polarization o f
the imagination between the infinity o f the concept and the finitude o f the
intuition is the sincerest f o r m o f imitation.
Sylvain Zac has recently posed a question to which my analysis will also
point: "But this schema, p r o d u c t o f the imagination, is it created by God? Is it
the reflection of the Idea which c a n n o t be exhibited in intuition?"s ~ Let me
put his question somewhat differently: Is all that I have said about and cited
4sCf. Jan Bransen's extended study of this antinomy (The Antinomy of Thought, 94-134).
Bransen's conclusions--e.g., "Our accounts of the relation between thoughts and objectsimply an
Antinomy. Hence, the character of their structure is aporetic. We should, nevertheless, resist the
temptation to solve the problem involved" (t66)--are very much the opposite of my own, based
on Maimon's quasi-regulative version of Maimonidean noetics.
49In promoting the (virtual) identity of the transcendental imagination and the understanding Maimon stands as the direct predecessor to Hegel (G/aubenund Wissen,Jubil~iumsausgabe,
hrsg. H. Glockner, Bd. l, pp. 297-99) and to Heidegger (Kant und das Problem der Metaphysik
[Bonn, 19~9l, Para. 26-35), both of whom see this identity as latent in Kant's own texts.
50Zac, "L'Id~e de chose en soi," 226.

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from Maimon until now "proof-positive" that the infinite u n d e r s t a n d i n g is a


fiction, a sublime fiction, but a fiction nonetheless? After all, Maimon is noteworthy, or notorious, for having introduced a theory o f fictions into both
philosophy a n d mathematics.5' Isn't his self-intellecting, self-limiting God the
"supreme fiction"?
Imagination is n a m e d "the faculty o f fictions" (Erdichtungsverm6gen; I I, 19).
But is a fiction invariably an illusion, a source o f dialectical semblance?
Maimon takes pains in his Philosophisches WOrterbuch to discriminate a m o n g
three kinds o f fiction: the necessary, the effective (wi~rkliche [sic]) and the
possible (III, 37). A triangle, gold, and a h i p p o g r y p h exemplify the three
kinds, respectively.
Although M a i m o n makes no mention here o f the infinite intellect, the
question o f its m e m b e r s h i p in some one of the three classes o f Erdichtungen is
ineluctable. Is G o d like a triangle, or like gold, or like Pegasus? It would
simply be consistent with Maimon's other statements to say that the infinite
intellect is the analogon o f a triangle, a necessary fiction, not because they both
exemplify a part-whole relation, but because the first class "is not only not
opposed to truth, but is the condition o f the latter" (III, 4a). T a k e n literally,
this means that the construction o f a triangle, whereby its objective reality a n d
the truths flowing f r o m it are established, presupposes the activity of taking all
the c o m p o n e n t s (parts a n d consequences) together (see III, 37 on Zusammennehmung as a s y n o n y m of Erdichtung). A n d this synthetic or synoptic activity in
turn presupposes the purely noetic activity of a p p r e h e n d i n g all possible relations of identity a n d difference apart from their actual relata. T h e first kind o f
fiction, in o t h e r words, presupposes a mind, an infinite mind, for whichf0rms
are objects (II, 64-65).
Later, in a note to the entry, Fiktion, Maimon went on to clarify this point
by distinguishing between "a real idea" and "an imaginary idea or fiction" (III,
lO). Opacity o f shifting vocabulary apart, Maimon's two examples convey his
meaning fairly clearly: A 'real idea' is instantiated by 'an infinite series
whereby an irrational root is expressed,' an 'imaginary idea' by the convention
of setting the cosine o f a right-angle equal to o, so that the cosines o f all angles
9 ~ will be ~ o. T h e latter is a methodological ploy, the former, a manifestation of our passage f r o m finite procedures to infinite results. As Samuel Atlas
s, The "classic" statement of philosophical fictions as heuristic and so quite distinctively
nonconstitutive is, of course, Hans Vaihinger, The Philosophy of 'As If', trans. C. K. Ogden (New
York: Harcourt, Brace, x924; German orig., 1911). Vaihinger's views of Maimon are definitively
refuted by Samuel Atlas, "Solomon Maimon's Doctrine of Fictionand Imagination," HebrewUnion
CollegeAnnual 4o-4 a (1969-7o): 363-89 . See also the more exuberant treatment in Noah Jacobs,
"Maimon'sTheory of the Imagination," Scripta Hierosolymitaua6 096o): 249-67.

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puts it: " H e n c e t h e t e r m 'fiction', which M a i m o n s o m e t i m e s uses with r e f e r ence to ideas, has n o d e p r e c a t o r y connotation."5~
T h a t Wahrheit a n d Erdichtung m a t e , that "the finite intellect" is a f e c u n d
fiction, does not, h o w e v e r , settle all the questions M a i m o n ' s t h e o r y generates.
As a close s t u d e n t o f M a i m o n i d e s , h e is a m p l y a w a r e o f the a m p h i b o l o u s or
equivocal c h a r a c t e r o f precisely those expressions e n t e r i n g into, a n d c o m i n g
from, the m a t r i x o f his " s c h e m a . " T e r m s that a r e a m p h i b o l o u s (mushakimk) o r
equivocal (mushtarik) d o m i n a t e the first b o o k o f Moreh Nebuchim, to which
M a i m o n ' s H e b r e w c o m m e n t a r y is d e v o t e d . U n d e r w h a t a p p e a r s to be a similar
inspiration, he t o o k u p the topic o f philosophical a n d rhetorical tropes in a n
essay p u b l i s h e d in 1783 as p a r t o f his Streifereien im Gebiete der Philosophie (IV,
2 4 7 - 7 2 ) a n d a g a i n in his s t u d y o f "Die philosophische S p r a c h v e r w i r r u n g e n , "
published in 1797 ( V I I , 2 1 3 - 5 8 ). T h e tropical climate o f l a n g u a g e invites
M a i m o n to try to d r a w a line o f d e m a r c a t i o n b e t w e e n equivocal p o e t r y a n d
univocal p r o s e (II, 3o3 ff.), so that the prosaic m i g h t b e c o m e a m o r e t e m p e r ate zone for b o t h p h i l o s o p h y a n d m a t h e m a t i c s .
Even so, M a i m o n does n o t cast his discourse in the f o r m o f a "philosophical
calculus" or a characteristica universalis (cf. II, 324).ss H e recognizes, if only
implicitly, that his o w n l a n g u a g e will be p e r v a d e d by equivocity, a m p h i b o l y ,
and analogy, especially w h e n he a t t e m p t s to s p e a k o f the highest matters. T w o
passages are m o s t r e v e a l i n g o f this.
T h e first is in the G e r m a n p a r a p h r a s e o f p a r t o f Moreh Nebuchim I, 68.
W h e r e M a i m o n d e s in a later c h a p t e r ( I I I , 2o; Pines trans., p. 482) is quick to
add, if p e r h a p s , only esoterically, t h a t " k n o w i n g " w h e n said o f G o d a n d o f the
finite intellect is said " h o m o n y m o u s l y , " and, e v e n m o r e to the point, that "we
can d r a w [no] a n a l o g y with r e g a r d to it [sc. divine knowing], but [it is] a totally
d i f f e r e n t thing," M a i m o n , o n the c o n t r a r y , says explicitly that the t h r e e f o l d
3, Atlas, "Maimon's Doctrine of Fiction," 374- It should be remarked, however, that on other
occasions "fiction" and "idea" are colligated in a "deprecatory," or at least restricting, manner.
See, for example, Versuch fiber die Transcendentalphilosophie(II, 263-64), where Maimon argues
that the fictions employed in the differential calculus can legitimately be said to be ideas with a
regulative use. Only when, e.g., both an infinite series and its last term are "represented" do we
have on hand an "idea" (presumably, an "idea of reason"). When the series is represented merely
as a progressusin infinitum the representation is a useful "rule of understanding."
5sIn the appendix "On Symbolic Cognition and Philosophical Language," Maimon cites at
length A. G. K,~istner'sbiting critique of the use of the mechanical "algebraic calculus" in mathematics, and then turns the same critique against those "philosophical calculators" who "calculate
in accbrdance with certain systems pro f0rma, without understanding these systems themselves"
(II, ~79-82). This critique does not prevent Maimon from elaborating a rudimentary symbolism
for his new, content-sensitive, theory of the syllogism; cf. Bergman, Philosophyof SolomonMairaon,
Appendix II: "Maimon's Logical Calculus." It may also be noted that Maimon's critique of purely
formal, quasi-algebraic, philosophical reasoning is conducted in much the same spirit as Hegel's.

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identity in G o d "is t h o u g h t only by analogy [analogisch] with a finite p o w e r o f


representation. "54
T h e second passage occurs in his essay o n linguistic c o n f u s i o n in philosophy a n d draws its lessons f r o m an acute interpretation o f Euclid's Data.
"Givenness" (Gegebensein) in that Euclidean text55 "has two d i f f e r e n t m e a n ings," one, that w h e n 'a' is given, 'b' is given, too, w h e r e "the a n t e c e d e n t
contains the c o n c e p t o f a n arbitrary givenness, while the c o n s e q u e n t contains
the c o n c e p t o f a necessary c o n s e q u e n c e , " the other, that "a line is given w h e n
a n o t h e r line can be f o u n d which is equal to it" (VII, 231 ). T h i s duality in the
m e a n i n g o f "givenness" in a mathematical text leads Maimon, via a m e d i t a t i o n
on w h e t h e r the irrational V 2 is o r is n o t given, to a startling reflection o n the
role o f the expression "es giebt" in the conflict between the theist a n d the
atheist. H e p r o p o s e s that the parties to the conflict b e c o m e familiar with "all
the m e a n i n g s " o f that expression, so that we can then ask "Is there [giebt es] a
God j u s t as t h e r e is a h o u s e o r a tree, o r is there a G o d just as t h e r e is a triangle
[which can be exhibited as an object t h r o u g h an a priori construction] o r j u s t as
there is a square r o o t o f 2 [which c a n n o t be so exhibited]? T h e n all conflict will
be at an e n d " (VII, 232 ) .
But, M a i m o n does not tell us how this question is to be answered. T h e
conflict e n d u r e s .
T h e question w h e t h e r infinite intellect is a m e r e regulative fiction o r a
robustly constitutive fiction repeats the Vergilian m o t i f o f passage between
Scylla a n d Charybdis M a i m o n chose as the e p i g r a p h for his Versu~ch ~ e r die
Tra~cendentalphilosophie: " D e x t r u m Scylla latus, laevum implacata C h a r y b d i s /
obsidet" (Aen. I I I , 420). It is as well a r e e n a c t m e n t o f the conflict b e t w e e n
d o g m a t i c Schwiirmerei a n d baleful skepticism, between superstition (Aberglaube) and d o u b t (Zweifel), the alpha a n d o m e g a o f M a i m o n ' s philosophical
lexicon.
Do the divine a n d t h e h u m a n merit separation o r binding? I n his r e m a r k s
~Maimon, Lebensgeschichte, 271. For the issues raised by Maimonides' text, see Barry S.
Kogan, " 'What Can We Know and When Can We Know It?' Maimonides on the Active Intelligence and Human Cognition," in Moses Maimonides and His Time, ed. Eric L. Ormsby = Studies in
Philosophy and the History of Philosophy, vol. 19 (Wash., D.C.: Catholic Univ. of America Press,
1989), 121-37. Kogan shows to what extent Maimonides' "epistemology" is tied to his theory of
prophecy and of its occasions. This lends even more importance to Maimon's study of his namesake's prophetology (Gesammelte Werhe, III, 276-98). It is also noteworthy that in the passage cited
Maimonides uses the term 'ilm, or "science," although earlier in the same chapter he uses idrak, or
"intuitive apprehension."
55For an ancient attempt to make sense of Euclid's notion of "the given," see Marinus (5th c.
A.D.), the Neoplatonic commentator on the Data (apud Euclid, Opera Omnia, ed. J. L. Heiberg and
H. Merge, vol. 8). For a more recent view, see Robert H. Schmidt, "The Analysis of the Ancients
and the Algebra of the Moderns," A Golden Hind Editorial (Fairfield, Conn., ~987), t - t 5.

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on trennen and verbinden in an essay o f 1792 Maimon's concludes with another


apt tag-line: "Medium tenuere beati / T h e blessed are the masters of the middle."s6
EXCURSUS

It may be objected that the distinction between "Aristotelian" and "Neoplatonic" is tenuous at best and certainly was not drawn sharply by the most
prominent Arabic-language thinkers. At least three strands of argument
would have to be discriminated from one another.
(l) It is certainly true that al-Farabi, e.g., wrote a short treatise on "The
Harmonization of the Opinions of the Divine Plato and Aristotle" (Kit~b alJam" bayn ra~ay al-.hak[mayn Aflatan al-il~M wa-Aristfil,alis, in alfar6.h"s philosophische Abhandlungen, ed. F. Dieterici [Leiden, 189o]), continuing a Hellenistic tradition exemplified by Porphyry, among others. (See R. Walzer, "Porphyry and the Arabic Tradition," in Entretiens sur l'antiquiti dassique, t.x2:
Porphyre [Geneva, 1966 ], 273-99]). As always, however, one must assess the
tenor and intention of this Farabian work. Muhsin Mahdi, in his translation,
Alfarabi's Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle (Glencoe, Ill., 196~), describes it as
"popular and political" (4). It might also be noted that the work itself mirrors
the ambivalence in the relation "harmony/disharmony" by citing the spurious
correspondence between Plato and Aristotle, in which the latter speaks of his
rationale for writing in a way accessible only to his adherents (Dieterici, ed.,
"The Harmonization," 7, cf. Majid Fakhry, "AI-Farabi and the Reconciliation
of Plato and Aristotle," Journal of the History ofldeas 26 [1965]: 469-78 and
Miriam A. Galston, "A Re-examination of AI-Farabi's Neoplatonism," Journal
of the Histo,3 of Philosophy 15 [1977]: a3-32 ).
(9) The place of the so-called Theology of Aristotle, derived in the main from
Plotinus, is complex and elusive. Avicenna, for example, calls its authenticity
into question. See the extract from Avicenna's "Letter to Kiya" in Paul Kraus,
"Plotin chez les Arabes," Bulletin de l'Institut d'Egypte 23 0 9 4 o - 4 1 ) : 272, n. 3
and the English translation in Dimitri Gutas, Avicenna and the Aristotelian Tradition: An Introduction to Reading Avicenna's Philosophical Works (Leiden: Brill,
1988), 63-64. Understanding of this matter must henceforth be rooted in the
fundamental studies by F. W. Zimmermann, "The Origins of the So-Called
Theology of Aristotle," and Paul B. Fenton, "The Arabic and Hebrew Versions of
the Theology of Aristotle," in Pseudo-Aristotle in the Middle Ages: The "Theology" and
Other Texts, ed. Jill Kraye, W. F. Ryan, and C. B. Schmitt (London: The
Warburg Institute, x986), 11 o - 2 4 o and 241-64, respectively. See particularly
Fenton, 261, n. 19, where Mulla Sadra (d. 1641) is cited as remarking that
s6See "Einleitung zur neuen Revisiondes Magazins zur Erfahrungsseelenkunde" (I II, 98-29).

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Avicenna read the Theology "as if it had been written by Plato rather than
Aristotle."
(3) These doxographical and paleographical matters to one side, the distinction I am trying to draw has to do with the philosophical differences
between two versions of the "identity thesis" rehearsed in Maimonides' dictum. In one version, here labelled "Aristotelian," the issue is the two-term
idendty of V6TIOLgand its VOTIT6V, an identity guaranteeing that what vo~g
intellects cannot be "more honorable" (zL~tLcbz~Qov)than vo~g itself (Metaph.
I e. 9.1974b99-3o). In the second version, here labelled "Neoplatonic," the
issue is the three-term identity among "what is intellecdng," intellection and
the intellected; this issue is, I think, the (remote) ancestor of the theme of selfknowing as self-consciousness. Note that, for Aristotle, knowledge seems always to be "of another" and o f itself only ~'v ~aQ~ff7~ "as a by-work" (ibid.
z974b36 ). T h e transformation o f Aristotle at the hands of Plodnus and other
Neoplatonists is illuminated by Gerhard Huber, D ~ Sein und das Absolute.
Studien zur Geschichte der ontologische Problematik in der spi~tantiken Philosophie
(Basel: Verlag fiir Recht und Gesellschaft, i953), esp. Ch. i: "Die ontologische
Auslegung des Seins als Geist." Maimonides' version seems to be the second,
"Neoplatonic" one and Maimon's "productive" modification of Maimonides
would thus be o f a piece with his modern reading of thinking as essentially
making or even self-making.
What is needed, to clarify and to test these historical and philosophical
hypotheses, is a closer analysis both of the Neoplatonic discussions of the
identity of vo0g / voTI-C6v. See, for a start, F. M. Schroeder, "Conversion and
Consciousness in Plotinus, Enneads 5, ] [io], 7," Hermes 1 ]4 0986): 184-94;
and the interpretations of Moreh, I, 68 offered by Maimonides' Hebrew commentators, Crescas, Ephodi, and Shem T o b ben Joseph Ibn Shem Tob,
among others. T h e comments o f the three authors named are printed in the
Warsaw edition of Samuel ibn Tibbon's Hebrew translation of The Guide (Warsaw, z87~).

Pennsylvania State University