Published online by Cambridge University Press: 16 March 2021
A cursory account of Maimon’s philosophical development, gleaned from his Autobiography, suggests a gradual emancipation from early Jewish influences toward a life-changing encounter with the thought of Immanuel Kant. However true in outline, this account does a disservice to the lasting influence of Maimonides upon all precincts of Maimon’s thought, and especially on his practical philosophy. In Maimon’s moral writings of the 1790’s, one finds a Maimonidean-inspired rationalism leading him to reject the Kantian “primacy of the practical” in favor of the superiority of intellectual perfection to moral perfection, a conclusion also in keeping with Spinoza, another important influence upon Maimon’s intellectual development. This rejection, in turn, leads Maimon to amend the theoretical foundations of Kantian practical philosophy by reconsidering the foundations of that philosophy; in Maimon’s words, “to show, in some deviation from Kant, that the morally good is good only because it is true.” Thus, while there is no doubt about Kant’s profound affect upon Maimon’s philosophical development, one cannot understand Maimon’s departures from Kant apart from the influence of Maimonides, which comes to light with special clarity in Maimon’s moral writings.
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