Salomon Maimon.

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should be printed ; I asked merely remuneration for the


Solomon Maifuon

labour spent on it in vain. In this dispute Mendelssohn
remained neutral, because he thought that both parties
had right on their side. He promised to use his influence
with my friends, to induce them to provide for my sub-
sistence in some other way. But when even this was
not done, I became impatient, and resolved to quit
Berhn once more, and go to Breslau. I took with me
some letters of introduction, but they were of litde
service ; for before I reached Breslau myself, letters in
the spirit of those which Uriah carried had preceded me,
and made a bad impression on the most of those to whom
my letters of introduction were addressed. As a natural
result, therefore, I was coldly received ; and as I knew
nothing of the later letters, I found it impossible to ex-
plain my reception, and had made up my mind to quit

By chance, however, I became acquainted with the
celebrated Jewish poet, the late Ephraim Kuh. This
learned and high-minded man took so much interest in
me, ihat, neglecting all his former occupations and enjoy-
ments, he confined himself entirely to my society. To
the wealthy Jews he spoke of me with the greatest en-
thusiasm, and praised me as a very good fellow. But
when he found that all his complimentary remarks failed
to make any impression on these gentlemen, he took
some trouble to find out the cause of this, and at last
discovered that the reason lay in those friendly letters
from Berlin. Their general tenor was, that I was seeking

yin Autobiography. j^i

to spread pernicious opinions. Kphraim Kuh, a<t a
thinking man, at once saw the reason of this charge; but
with all the efforts he made, he could not drive it oul of
the heads of these people. I confessed to him that,
during my first sojourn in Berlin as a younj,' man without
experience or knowledge of the world, I had felt an irre-
sistible impulse to communicate to others whatever truth
I knew ; but I assured him that, having for some years
become wise by experience, I went to work with great
caution, and that therefore this charge was now wholly
without foundation.

Irritated by my disheartening situation, I resolved to
form the acquaintance of Christian scholars, by whose
recommendation I thought I might find a hearing among
the wealthy men of my own nation. I could not but fear,
however, that my defective language might form an
obstacle to the expression of my thoughts ; so I prepared
a written essay, in which I delivered my ideas on the
most important questions of philosophy in the form of
aphorisms. With this essay I went to the celebrated
Professor Garve, explained to him briefly my intention,
and submitted my aphorisms to him for examination.
He discussed them with me in a very friendly manner,
gave me a good testimonial, and recommended me also
orally in very emphatic language to the wealthy banker,
Lipmann Meier. This gentleman settled a monthly
allowance on me for my support, and also spoke to some
Other Jews on the subject.

272 Solofnon Maimon :

My situation now improved every day. Many young
men of the Jewish nation sought my society. Among
others the second son of Herr Aaron Zadig took so much
pleasure in my humble personality, that he desired to
enjoy my instruction in the sciences. This he earnestly
begged his father to allow ; and the latter, being a well-
to-do enlightened man of great good sense, who wished
to give his children the best German education, and
spared no expense for that object, willingly gave his con-
sent. He sent for me, and made the proposal* that I
should live at his house, and for a moderate honorarium
should give his second son lessons for two hours a day
in physics and belles lettres, and also a lesson in arithmetic
of an hour a day to his third and youngest son. This
proposal I accepted with great willingness ; and, not long
after, Herr Zadig asked me, if I would not also consent
to give lessons in Hebrew and elementary mathematics
to his children who had hitherto had for their teacher in
these subjects a Polish Jew, named Rabbi Manoth. But
I thought it would be unfair to supplant this poor man,
who had a family to support, and who was giving satis-
faction at any rate ; and therefore I declined this request.
Accordingly Rabbi Manoth continued his lessons, and I
entered upon mine.

In this house I was able to carry on but little study
for myself. In the first place, there was a want of books;
and, in the second place, I lived in a room with the
children, where they were occupied with other masters

An Autobiography. 273

every hour of the day. Besides, the liveliness of these
young people did not suit my character which had already
become somewhat stern ; and therefore I had often occa-
sion to get angry at petty outbursts of unruliness. Con-
sequently, as I was obliged to pass most of my time in
idleness, I sought society. I often visited Herr Hiemann
Lisse, a plump little man of enlightened mind and cheer-
ful disposition. With him and some other jolly com-
panions I spent my evenings in talk and jest and play of
every sort. During the day I strolled around among the

In other families also I soon became acquainted, par-
ticularly in those of Herr Simon, the banker, and Herr
Bortenstein, both of whom showed me much kindness.
All sought to persuade me to devote myself to medicine,
for which I had always entertained a great dislike. But
when I saw from my circumstances, that it would be
difficult for me to find support in any other way, I
allowed myself to be persuaded. Professor Garve intro-
duced me to Professor Morgenbesser, and I attended his
medical lectures for some time ; but after all I could not
overcome my dislike to the art, and accordingly gave up
the lectures again. By and by I became acquainted with
other Christian scholars, especially with the late Herr
Lieberkiihn, who was so justly esteemed on account of
his abilities, as well as for his warm interest in the welfare
of mankind. I also made the acquaintance of some
teachers of merit in the Jesuits' College at Brcslau.

2 74 Solomon Maimon :

But I did not give up wholly literary work in Hebrew.
I translated into Hebrew Mendelssohn's Morgenstmiden.
Of this translation I sent some sheets as a specimen to
Herr Isaac Daniel Itzig in Berlin ; but I received no
answer because this excellent man, owing to his business
being too extensive, cannot possibly give attention to
subjects that are not of immediate interest to him, and
therefore such affairs as the answering of my letter are
easily forgotten. I also wrote in Hebrew a treatise on
Natural Philosophy according to Newtonian principles ;
and this, as well as the rest of my Hebrew works, I still
preserve in manuscript.

At last, however, I fell here also into a precarious
situation. The children of Herr Zadig, in pursuance of
the occupations to which they were destined in life, en-
tered into commercial situations, and therefore required
teachers no longer. Other means of support also gra-
dually failed. As I was thus obliged to seek subsistence
in some other way, I devoted myself to giving lessons ;
I taught Euler's Algebra to a young man, gave two chil-
dren instruction in the rudiments of German and Latin,
&c. But even this did not last long, and I found myself
in a sorrowful plight.

Meanwhile my wife and eldest son arrived from Po-
land. A woman of rude education and manners, but of
great good sense and the courage of an Amazon, she de-
manded that I should at once return home with her, not
seeing the impossibility of what she required. I had

A^i Autohio^raphv. 275

now lived some years in Germany, had happily cmanri
pated myself from the fetters of superstition and religious
prejudice, had abandoned the rude manner of life in
which I had been brought up, and extended my know-
ledge in many directions. I could not therefore return
to my former barbarous and miserable condition, deprive
myself of all the advantages I had gained, and cxjK)se
myself to rabbinical rage at the slightest deviation from
the ceremonial law, or the utterance of a liberal opinion.
I represented to her, that this could not be done at once,
that I should require first of all to make my situation
known to my friends here as well as in Berlin, and so-
licit from them the assistance of two or three hundred
thalers, so that I might be able to live in Poland inde-
pendent of my religious associates. But she would
listen to nothing of all this, and declared her resolution
to obtain a divorce, if I would not go with her immedi-
ately. Here therefore it was for me to choose the less
of two evils, and I consented to the divorce.

Meanwhile, however, I was obliged to provide for the
lodging and board of these guests, and to introduce them
to my friends in Breslau. Both of these duties I per-
formed, and I pointed out, especially to my son, the
difference between the manner of life one leads here and
that in Poland, while I sought to convince him by so-eral
passages in the Moreh Nebhochim, that enlightenment of
the understanding and refinement of manners are rather
favourable than othenvise to religion. I went further : I

276 Solomon Maimon :

sought to convince him, that he ought to remain with
me ; I assured him, that, with my direction and the
support of my friends, he would find opportunities of
developing the good abilities with which Nature had en-
dowed him, and would obtain for them some suitable
employment. These representations made some im-
pression upon him : but my wife went with my son to
consult some orthodox Jews, in whose advice she thought
she could thoroughly confide ; and they recommended
her to press at once for a divorce, and on no account to
let my son be induced to remain with me. This resolu-
tion, however, she was not to disclose till she had
received from me a sufficient sum of money for house-
hold purposes. She might then separate from me for
ever, and start for home with her booty.

This pretty plan was faithfully followed. By and by
I had succeeded in collecting some score of ducats from
my friends. I gave them to my wife, and explained to
her that, to complete the required sum, it would be
necessary for us to go to Berlin. She then began to
raise difficulties, and declared at once pointblank, that
for us a divorce was best, as neither could I live happily
with her in Poland, nor she with me in Germany. In
my opinion she was perfectly right. But it still made me
sorry to lose a wife, for whom I had once entertained
affection, and I could not let the affair be conducted in
any spirit of levity. I told her therefore that I should
consent to a divorce only if it were enjoined by the courts.

A /I Autobiography. 277

This was done. I was summoned before the court.
My wife stated the grounds on which she claimed a
divorce. The president of the court then said, " Under
these circumstances we can do nothing but advise a
divorce." " Mr. President," I repHed, " we came here,
not to ask advice, but to receive a judicial sentence."
Thereupon the chief rabbi rose from his seat (that what
he said might not have the force of a judicial decision,
approached me with the codex in his hand, and pointed
to the following passage : — " A vagabond, who abandons
his wife for years, and does not write to her or send her
money, shall, when he is found, be obliged to grant a
divorce." " It is not my part," I replied, " to institute a
comparison between this case and mine. That duty falls
to you, as judge. Take your seat again, therefore, and
pronounce your judicial sentence on the case."

The president became pale and red by turns, while the
rest of the judges looked at one another. At last the
presiding judge became furious, began to call me names,
pronounced me a damnable heretic, and cursed me in
the name of the Lord. I left him to storm, however,
and went away. Thus ended this strange suit, and
things remained as they were before.

My wife now saw that nothing was to be done by
means of force, and therefore she took to entreaty. I
also yielded at last, but only on the condition, that at the
judicial divorce the judge, who had shown himself such
a master of cursing, should nOt preside in the court.

278 Solomon Mawion :

After the divorce my wife returned to Poland with my
son. I remained some time still in Breslau ; but as my
circumstances became worse and worse, I resolved to
return to Berlin.*

* "Afterwards when he spoke of Poland, he used to be deeply
affected in thinking of his wife, from whom he was obliged to
separate. Pie was really veiy much devoted to her, and her fate
went home to his very heart. It was easy when the subject came
up in conversation, to read in his face the deep sorrow which he
felt ; his liveliness then sensibly faded away, he became by and by
perfectly silent, was usually incapable of further entertainment, and
went earlier than usual home." Alaimoniana, p. 177. He seems,
however, at a later period, to have at least spoken to his friends
about marrying a second time ; but the project was never carried
out. Ibid., p. 248. — Trans.

An Autobiography. 279


Fourth Journey to Berlin— Unfortunate Circumstances— Help —
Study of Kant's Writings — Characteristic of my own Works,

When I came to Berlin, Mendelssohn was no longer in
life,* and my former friends were determined to know
nothing more of me. I did not know therefore what to
do. In the greatest distress I received a visit from Hcrr
Bendavid, who told me that he had heard of my unfor-
tunate circumstances, and had collected a small sum of
about thirty thalers, which he gave to me. Besides, he
introduced me to a Herr Jojard, an enlightened and
high-minded man, who received me in a ver)' friendly
manner, and made some provision for my support. A
certain professor, indeed, tried to do me an ill turn with
this worthy man by denouncing me as an atheist ; but in
spite of this I gradually got on so well, that I was able
to hire a lodging in a garret from an old woman.

I had now resolved to study Kant's Kritik of Pun
Reaso?i, of which I had often heard but which I had
never seen yet.f The method, in which I studied this

* He died 4th Jan., 1786. — Trans.

t Kant's work must still have been quite new, as it appeared in
1781. — 7>a«j-.

2 8o Solomon Maimon :

work, was quite peculiar. On the first perusal I obtained
a vague idea of each section. This I endeavoured after-
wards to make distinct by my own reflection, and thus
to penetrate into the author's meaning. Such is properly
the process which is called thinking oneself into a system.
But as I had already mastered in this way the systems of
Spinoza, Hume and Leibnitz, I was naturally led to think
of a coalition-system. This in fact I found, and I put it
gradually in writing in the form of explanatory observa-
tions on the Kritik of Pure Reason, just as this system
unfolded itself to my mind. Such was the origin of my
Transcendental Philosophy. Consequently this book must
be difficult to understand for the man who, owing to the
inflexible character of his thinking, has made himself at
home merely in one of these systems without regard to
any other. Here the important problem. Quid juris 1
with the solution of which the Kritik is occupied, is
wrought out in a much wider sense than that in which it
is taken by Kant ; and by this means there is plenty of
scope left for Hume's scepticism in its full force. But
on the other side the complete solution of this problem
leads either to Spinozistic or to Leibnitzian dogmatism.

When I had finished this work, I showed it to Marcus
Herz.* He acknowledged that he was reckoned among
the most eminent disciples of Kant, and that he had

* The name is left blank by Maimon, but is known to be that
which I have inserted. See Fischer's Geschichte der neueren Phi-
losophie, Vol. v., p. 131. — Trans.

An Autobiography. 981

given the most assiduous application while attending
Kant's philosophical lectures, as may indeed \yc seen from
his writings, but that yet he was not in a position to pass
a judgment on the Kritik itself or on any other work re-
lating to it. He advised me, however, to send my man-
uscript directly to Kant himself, and submit it to his
judgment, while he promised to accompany it with a
letter to the great philosopher. Accordingly I wrote to
Kant, sending him my work, and enclosing the letter
from Herz. A good while passed, however, before an
answer came. At length Herz received a reply, in which,
among other things, Kant said : —

" But what were you thinking about, my dear friend,
when you sent me a big packet containing the most
subtle researches, not only to read through, but to think
out thoroughly, while I am still, in my sixty-sixth year,
burdened with a vast amount of labour in completion of
my plan ! Part of this labour is to furnish the last part
of the Kritik, — that, namely, on the Faculty of Judg-
ment, — which is soon to appear ; part is to work out my
system of the Metaphysic of Nature, as well as the Meta-
physic of Ethics, in accordance with the requirements of
the Kritik. Moreover, I am kept incessantly busy with
a multitude of letters requiring special explanations on
particular points ; and, in addition to all this, my health
is frail. I had already made up my mind to send back
the manuscript with an excuse so well justified on ail
these grounds ; but a glance at it soon enabled me to

282 Solomon Mai?non :

recognise its merits, and to show, not only that none of
my opponents had understood me and the main problem
so well, but that very few could claim so much penetra-
tion as Herr Maimon in profound inquiries of this sort.
This induced me . . ," and so on.

In another passage of the letter Kant says : — " Herr
Maimon's work contains moreover so many acute obser-
vations, that he cannot give it to the public without its
producing an impression strongly in his favour." In a
letter to myself he said : — " Your esteemed request I
have endeavoured to comply with as far as was possible
for me ; and if I have not gone the length of passing a
judgment on the whole of your treatise, you will gather
the reason from my letter to Herr Herz. Certainly it
arises from no feeling of disparagement, which I entertain
for no earnest effort in rational inquiries that interest
mankind, and least of all for such an effort as yours,
which, in point of fact, betrays no common talent for the
profounder sciences."

It may easily be imagined how important and agree-
able to me the approbation of this great thinker must
have been, and especially his testimony that I had under-
stood him well. For there are some arrogant Kantians,
who believe themselves to be sole proprietors of the
Critical Philosophy, and therefore dispose of every objec-
tion, even though intended, not exactly as a refutation,
but as a fuller elaboration of this philosophy, by the
mere assertion without proof, that the author has failed

An Autobiography. 183

to understand Kant. Now these gentlemen were no
longer in a position to bring this charge against my book,
inasmuch as, by the testimony of the founder himself of
the Critical Philosophy, I have a better right than they
to make use of this argument.

At this time I was living in Potsdam with a gentleman
who was a leather-manufacturer. When Kant's letters
arrived, I went to Berlin, and devoted my time to the
publication of my Transandental Philosophy. As a
native of Poland I dedicated this work to the king, and
carried a copy to the Polish Resident ; but it was never
sent, and I was put off from time to time with various
excuses. Sapietiti sat !

A copy of the work was also sent, as is usually done,
to the editor of the Allgemeine Littcraturzeitung. After
waiting a good while without any notice appearing, I
wrote to the editor, and received the following answer :
—"You know yourself how small is the number of those
who are competent to understand and judge philosophical
works. Three of the best speculative thinkers have
declined to undertake the review of your book, because
they are unable to penetrate into the depths of your re-
searches. An application has been made to a fourth,
from whom a favourable reply was expected ; but a review
from him has not yet been received."

I also began to work at this time for the Journal fiir
Aufkldrung My first article was on Truth, and was in

284 Solomon Maim on :

the form of a letter to a friend* in Berlin. The article
was occasioned by a letter which I had received from this
friend during my stay in Potsdam, and in which he wrote
to me in a humorous vein, that philosophy was no longer
a marketable commodity, and that therefore I ought to
take advantage of the opportunity which I was enjoying
to learn tanning. I replied, that philosophy is not a
coinage subject to the vicissitudes of the exchange ; and
this proposition I afterwards developed in my article.
Another article in the same periodical was on Tropes, in
which I show that these imply the transference of a word
not from one object to another that is analogous, but
from a relative to its correlate. I wrote also an article
on Bacon and Ka?it, in which I institute a comparison
between these two reformers of philosophy. The Soul of
the World was the subject of another discussion in this
journal, in which I endeavoured to make out, that the
doctrine of one universal soul common to all animated
beings has not only as much in its favour as the opposite
doctrine, but that the arguments for it outweigh those on
the other side. My last article in the journal referred to
the plan of my Transcendental Philosophy; and I explain
in it that, while I hold the Kantian philosophy to be ir-
refutable from the side of the Dogmatist, on the other
hand I believe that it is exposed to all attacks from the
side of the Scepticism of Hume.

* Samuel Levi, according to Maimoniana, p. 78. — Trans.

//// Autobiography. age

A number of young Jews from all parts of Germany
had, during Mendelssohn's lifetime, united to form a
society under the designation, Society for Racarch into
the Hebreiv Language. They observed with truth, that
the evil condition of our people, morally as well as
politically, has its source in their religious prejudices, in
their want of a rational exposition of the Holy Scriptures,
and in the arbitrary exposition to which the rabbis are
led by their ignorance of the Hebrew language. Ac-
cordingly the object of their society was to remove these
deficiencies, to study the Hebrew language in its sources,
and by that means to introduce a rational exegesis. F*or
this purpose they resolved to publish a monthly periodical
in Hebrew under the title of F^Ck^Dn, The Collector^ which
was to give expositions of difficult passages in Scripture,
Hebrew poems, prose essays, translations from useful
works, etc.

The intention of all this was certainly good ; but that
the end would scarcely be reached by any such means, I
saw from the very beginning. I was too familiar with
the principles of the rabbis and their style of thought to
believe that such means would bring about any change.
The Jewish nation is, without reference to accidental
modifications, a perpetual aristocracy under the appear-
ance of a theocracy. The learned men, who form the
nobility in the nation, have been able, for many centuries,
to maintain their position as the legislative body with so
much authority among the common people, that they can

286 Solomon Maimon :

do with them whatever they please. This high authority
is a natural tribute which weakness owes to strength.
For since the nation is divided into such unequal classes
as the common people and the learned, and since the
former, owing to the unfortunate political condition of
the nation, are profoundly ignorant, not only of all useful
arts and sciences, but even of the laws of their religion,
on which their eternal welfare is supposed to depend, it
follows that the exposition of Scripture, the deduction of
religious laws from it, and the application of these to
particular cases, must be surrendered w^holly to the
learned class which the other undertakes the cost of
maintaining. The learned class seek to make up for
their want of linguistic science and rational exegetics by
their own ingenuity, wit and acuteness. To form an
idea of the degree in which these talents are displayed,
it is necessary to read the Talmud along with the com-
mentary called Tosaphoth^ that is, the additions to the

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