Infinite Mind

  • Samuel Atlas


In the time immediately following the appearance of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason the old metaphysical systems were being undermined by the “all-crushing” (“der alleszermaltnende”) Kant and the new metaphysics of Fichte and the Philosophy of Identity had not yet come into their own. In this transitional period the attention of the philosophical world in Germany was centered in the interpretation of Kantian philosophy, and especially in the understanding of the concept of the thing-in-itself. With reference to the latter Jacobi and Maimon went further than their contemporaries. Reinhold and Beck, whose contributions consisted in interpreting and explaining Kant,1 made the Kantian philosophy accessible to wider circles. Reinhold’s interpretation of Kant betrays the difficulties and apparent contradictions of critical philosophy. Jacobi and Maimon, however, grasp the full implications of the new philosophy and with respect to the problem of the thing-in-itself draw the conclusions that necessarily follow from the principles of critical philospohy. Jacobi questions the possibility of the very concept of the thing-in-itself in a system of thought that declares the object of cognition to be confined to the realm of phenomena. His analysis, however, led him away from critical philosophy to romanticism and to the adoption of a philosophical viewpoint in opposition to Kant. Maimon, on the other hand, declares that the concept of the thing-in-itself belongs to the realm of ideas in the Kantian sense, which can be approached endlessly but never fully attained. Maimon thus gives meaning and significance to the concept of the thing-in-itself in the authentic spirit of the Kantian philosophy.


Human Mind Human Thought Intuitive Reason Metaphysical Reality Critical Philosophy 
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  1. See Karl L. Reinhold, Briefe über die Kantische Philosophie (1790), and Siegmund Beck, Einzig möglicher Standpunkt aus welchem die kritische Philosophie beurteilt werden muss (1796).Google Scholar
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    This seems to be ontological thinking in the same way that it is implied in some trends of modern phenomenology, especially as developed into ontological phenomenology by Max Scheler and Nicolai Hartmann. They all make the transition from the intentional character of our thought, i.e., that it is directed towards an object, to the ontological reality of the object. Maimon seems to have been aware of this problem. In his Krit. Unt., p. 161, Maimon tries to show that we have a concept of the absolute totality of the conditions implying the idea of an unconditional reality. This concept must have its ground in the function of our cognitive capacity. And since our sensibility and understanding are confined to the empirical realm and cannot be the basis for the unconditioned, this concept must have its ground in the capacity of reason (Vernunft). Having in mind the objection that may be raised, that it is not legitimate to make a transition from a mere form of reason to an object, Maimon writes: “Nevertheless, the concept cannot be completely empty; even though it is not of a constitutive nature and cannot determine an object, it has a regulative use, in that it directs our understanding to search constantly for the totality of the conditions and to proceed from condition to condition, and so on, ad infinitum.”Google Scholar
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    Cf. below, Chap. X, p. 192 f.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague. Netherlands 1964

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samuel Atlas
    • 1
  1. 1.Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of ReligionNew York CityUSA

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