The Autobiography of Solomon Maimon review – The TLS

Referring to Solomon Maimon’s first important work, the Versuch über die Transzendentalphilosophie or Essay on Transcendental Philosophy (1790), Immanuel Kant wrote to his Jewish student Markus Herz that “one glance at the work made me realize its excellence and that not only had none of my critics understood me and the main questions so well as Herr Maimon, but also very few men possess so much acumen or such deep investigations as he”. Maimon was becoming an influential figure in the German and Jewish enlightenments, and Kant was not the only admirer: others included Fichte, Goethe, Hegel and Schiller.

In his autobiography, published in Berlin in two volumes in 1792–93, Maimon set out to recount how, “striving for intellectual growth’’, he “extricated himself from the fetters of superstition and religious prejudice” in order “to seek the truth”, giving up religious obscurantism for the “religion of reason”. This superb new edition – edited by Yitzhak Y. Melamed and Abraham Socher, and skilfully translated by Paul Reitter – is the fullest yet available in English: Melamed and Socher have restored text cut in J. Clark Murray’s abridged translation of 1888.
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