Reading Maimon

by Beth Metcalf

It has been asserted that it is not possible to oppose Hegel.  To oppose Hegel’s relational forces of opposition merely puts us right back into the Hegelian oppositional system.  There is no way out!  And this is very true if we begin with Hegelian presuppositions.  There is no way to escape Hegel if we assume Hegel’s negative relations of opposition.  When we make Hegelian assumptions, there will be no way to avoid Hegelian conclusions.  But Deleuze shows us that it is not necessary to make Hegel’s assumptions.  Hegel’s assumptions derive from the very “image of thought” that Deleuze calls “dogmatic”.  Deleuze rejects Hegel’s relational forces that are in the image of conceptual identity.  Such relations are not forces at all.  They are merely elements of already formed matter in constant relations of infinite variability that maintain conceptual identity.  Deleuze tells us that, in order to escape Hegel, we must reach forces that are not negative relations of opposition.  We must reach pre-individual forces of singularity that are not relations of already formed matter.  We must reach the sub-representative ‘Idea’ of univocality in order to reach multiplicities.  I think it is instructive to read Salomon Maimon’s (1) critique of Kant in order to understand why relational forces leave out difference. 

Maimon criticized Kant’s duality between sensible intuitions and concepts of the understanding (2).  Such duality maintains a homogeneous structure of conceptual identity.  It assumes correspondence between many sensible intuitions of things in extension, on the one hand; and concepts of comprehension that unite the manifold, on the other.  Extension and comprehension, when in relations of identity or opposition, are merely constant relations of ‘variability’.  In contrast to Kant’s many sensible intuitions united into one manifold, Maimon reached what Deleuze calls ‘Ideas’ in ‘variety’ or ‘multiplicity’. 

Deleuze says (Difference & Repetition 173) that the Idea “integrates variation, not as a variable determination of a supposedly constant relation (‘variability’) but, on the contrary, as a degree of variation of the relation itself (‘variety’)….If the Idea eliminates variability, this is in favour of what must be called variety or multiplicity.  The Idea as concrete universal stands opposed to concepts of the understanding, and possesses a comprehension all the more vast as its extension is great.”

Deleuze’s ‘Ideas’ as concrete universals are singular varieties possessing a comprehension all the more vast as its extension is great.  That is, instead of inverse relations of opposition that unifies a manifold, Ideas are direct positive relations in reciprocal presupposition.  This ‘reciprocal presupposition’ is not a constant relation of variability between a conceptual form (comprehension) and sensible intuitions (extension), which would merely maintain conceptual identity.  Rather, extension and comprehension are heterogeneous series of singular couplings in positive relations (relations external to their terms).  Deleuze calls these ‘disparate couplings of intensity’ (see DR 222).  They are singular conditions of variety or multiplicity.  How can Deleuze’s forces be confused with anything similar to Hegelian relations internal to one Conceptual Image of variability?  Hegel’s variable relations merely maintain invariance. 

Deleuze credits Maimon with introducing the unthought into thought.  Maimon recognized that Kant’s inverse relation between sensible intuitions, on the one hand; and concepts of the understanding, on the other; merely totalize the manifold into one homogeneous structure of possible experience.  (Essay on Transcendental Philosophy 49-50) In contrast, Maimon thinks of a proposition as a synthesis of subject and predicate.  But this synthesis must not be thought as an inverse relation that would merely maintain a constant relation of variability.  The subject (determinable) of a synthesis can be thought without reference to the predicate (determination).  But the predicate can’t be thought without reference to a subject.  Therefore, the subject is substance, and the predicate is the accidents of objective modifications.  Subject is the conceptual form.  Predicate is sensible intuition.  The subject is undetermined in itself.  In itself, it has no material content.  It needs the determination of a predicate to become an actual synthesis.  Also, by itself, the predicate is undetermined.  Any oppositional relation of duality between subject (concept of understanding) and its predicate (sensible intuitions) is merely an oppositional relation internal to one homogeneous form of conceptual possibility.  Maimon saw this as Kant’s mistake.  It leaves out material difference.  In order to correct Kant’s mistake, Maimon uses a third intervening form (Deleuze would call it ‘form of the determinable’) for his transcendental condition (3).  One subject comes into synthesis with one predicate.  The singular condition of an objective synthesis lies in the predicate’s objects of determination.  That is, the ground of a synthesis is objective determinations of a predicate.  If a predicate gains or loses any of its constituent parts, it changes the nature of the synthesis.  The synthesis becomes a new form of determinability.  It changes the nature of the subject of the synthesis to become a new concept – a new singular concrete universal.       

Therefore, Maimon finds a ‘form of the determinable’ that intervenes between the oppositional dualities of subject and predicate which, in themselves, would both be undetermined.  The ‘form of the determinable’ must be a singular positive coupling.  Negative oppositional determinations must be excluded because they determine only one form of possibility in general.  Only positive determinations are included in the actual, because they exclude each other through difference, not opposition.  The subject may be thought disjunctively with different determinations in a predicate to arrive at disparate objective syntheses.  Maimon’s varieties (something like Deleuze’s multiplicities) are concrete universals whose ‘comprehension is all the more vast as its extension is great’. 

Maimon asserts that a same subject can find synthesis with only one predicate, and a same predicate can have synthesis with only one subject.  One predicate is constituted by certain objective parts.  That predicate, with its parts, can belong to only one subject; and the same subject can have only the parts of its own predicate.  If a predicate divides (i.e., loses or gains parts) it changes the nature of its subject.  It becomes a new synthesis.  Any assemblage of determinations can belong to only one form of a determinable substance.  Determinations in a predicate cannot be separated from its subject without changing the nature of its synthesis.  That is, one subject and one predicate are a positive coupling, formed in reciprocal presupposition.  Each is a singular form of the determinable that intervenes as a third term.  Therefore, just as Deleuze-Spinoza says there is only one substance per attribute (4); for Maimon, there is only one predicate of determination per determinable subject.  Any synthesis of subject and predicate is a singular form (Deleuze’s ‘form of the determinable’).  It is a third term that transforms a subject/object duality.  This form intervenes between an undetermined subject and an undetermined predicate. 

Deleuze says, (Expressionism in Philsoophy 335), “In short, what is expressed everywhere intervenes as a third term that transforms dualities. Beyond real causality, beyond ideal representation, what is expressed is discovered as a third term that makes distinctions infinitely more real and identity infinitely better thought. What is expressed is sense: deeper than the relation of causality, deeper than the relation of representation.”

Maimon’s determinations of a predicate function like Deleuze’s ‘disparate intensity’ (Difference & Repetition 222).  Maimon’s intensive determinations of a predicate can divide or augment, but not without changing in nature or form of the determinable.  Intensive couplings of extension (determination) and comprehension (determinable) are positive syntheses in reciprocal presupposition.  They differentiate forms to spatialize time into singular varieties of concrete universals (multiplicities).  

Predicates are singular assemblages of determination.  If an assemblage of determination can be thought in different syntheses, then it is a substance (i.e., a determinable).  But different syntheses can’t be thought at the same time.  Different determinations of a predicate are thought at different times, while a subject persists.  Subject persists.  Predicate changes.  That is, the subject is said as the same while the synthesis of which it is said is different.  Time determination and space determination arise together.  Things can only be thought through time.  Things change in time.  But this change must not be confused with a constant relation of variable subjective perspectives that represent only one moment in time.  Rather, like Deleuze’s ‘intensity’, there is space-time determination that, with division, must change in nature.   

Deleuze says (Difference & Repetition 237) “Division [of homogeneous extensive quantities] can therefore take place and be continued without any change in the nature of what is being divided…..[T]he fiction of a homogeneous quantity vanishes with intensity.  An intensive quantity may be divided, but not without changing its nature.  In a sense, it is therefore indivisible, but only because no part exists prior to the division and no part retains the same nature after division.”

That is, homogeneous extensive relations continue without any change in nature of what is divided.  However, this fiction vanishes with intensity that changes its nature with division.  Maimon’s synthesis is not a dual relation between subject and object.  Before there can be complete determination, Maimon finds a form of the determinable that intervenes as a third term that transforms dualities.  It is singular difference, not general variability.  The ground of a synthesis is determinations of a predicate.  Without the determinations of a predicate, there can be no actual synthesis through time.  Negative predicates are excluded because their oppositional relations determine conceptual sameness, not objective difference.  Only positive reciprocal relations are included, because they exclude according to difference, not opposition.  Oppositional relations merely conceive of time as variable subjective perspectives in one homogeneous conceptual form of space-time.  Then, all real difference of time-determination is cancelled.  Then, a synthesis is only symbolic.  But with time-determination that changes the nature of space-time, ‘perspectivism’ is multiplicities of singular concrete universals.  The synthesis of substance and accident can apply only to things changing in nature through space and time. 

The determinable subject (concepts of the understanding) and determinate predicate (sensible intuitions) are heterogeneous series whose relations are external to their terms.  Therefore, (ETP 17-18) Maimon warns against thinking of space and time as a priori intuitions.  Rather, they are a priori forms of intuition.  That is, they are on the side of the determinable subject, not the determinate predicate.  Only with time-determination can space and time become intuition by being brought into a unity under a concept.  Categories are meaningless without time-determination.  Time-determination is meaningless without the categories of substance (determinable subject) and accidents (determinate predicate).  Categories are meaningless without determined objects in the predicate.  We can have no insight into the possibility of the form of a synthetic judgement without intuitions.  We can only think by means of the categories but have no cognition of this without intuition.  There can be cognition only by means of subject persisting (said as same) and predicate changing (with real difference) through time.   

Maimon’s categories are subject (substance) and predicate (accidents).  Their synthesis changes form and matter according to time-determination.  For Maimon, time is the determinable form of relating objects to one another.  (ETP 24-5) A ‘relational concept’ is the synthetic unity of constituent parts thought at the same time.  Continuity of movement through space and time must not be confused with variable relations of subjective positions which merely maintain one conceptual form of possibility at one moment in time.  For Maimon, relational concepts are correlates in a common form of space-time.  Correlates of opposition (e.g., reality and its negation) cannot be thought independently of each other.  We must ask, ‘Are correlates in the same determinable form of time and space, or not?’  Varieties or multiplicities are based on singular correlates.  A correlate is a constituent concept-intuition relation in a common form of spatialized time.  A correlate is incommensurable with those in different spatialized times.  Correlates are singular and cannot be totalized into one conceptual form of identity. 

Therefore, Maimon’s relations of identity and difference are not the same as relations of identity and opposition.  Maimon’s categories (ETP 63-4) refer to things determined by conditions.  Identity and difference are relational concepts (correlates).  One cannot be thought without relation to the other.  Intuitions can be judged only by whether or not they are in same form of space-time.  Relations of identity and difference are conditions of singular multiplicities.  They are not general relations of identity and opposition.  Identity and difference are correlates that share a ‘form of the determinable’ as their common condition. 

Maimon sees that reality and its own difference cannot be in opposition.  Correlates determine multiplicities of conditions.  They are positively related in singular varieties of multiplicity.  Relational concepts are correlates that form disparate varieties (forms of internal difference).  They give rise to incommensurable multiplicities that cannot be totalized into one Conceptual Image.  Maimon’s relational concepts (varieties or multiplicities of correlates) are in contrast to Hegel’s constant relation of variable opposition.

This is what Deleuze finds in Maimon.  Maimon was not content with Kant’s homogeneous form of possibility between sensible intuition and conceptual form.  Such homogeneity merely holds everything into one structure of generality without any creative difference.  Maimon understood that we must reach heterogeneity in the form of the determinable.  It must be an empty form of time that is not already filled by a priori forms of intuition in correspondence with a priori categories of understanding.  Such a priori synthesis is merely symbolic, not real.  For Maimon, there can be no synthetic judgement without intuitions.  There can be no possibility of synthetic propositions a priori. 


Deleuze tells us that the criterion for a principium individuationis (singular difference) cannot be resolved by the facts.  Difference is not a conceptual relation among facts.  Repetition is not an extrinsic difference among objects subsumed under a same concept.       

“So long as we take difference to be conceptual difference, intrinsically conceptual, and repetition to be an extrinsic difference between objects represented by the same concept, it appears that the problem of their relation may be resolved by the facts.”  (Difference & Repetition 26-7)       

This was Maimon’s criticism of Kant.  Kant’s conceptual difference (categories of understanding) seem to be resolved through the appearance of facts (sensible intuitions).  That is, Maimon did not agree that a singular individuation can be found in an extrinsic difference between already formed elements and their relations of generality.  Such negative-oppositional relations of conceptual identity are represented in a structure of generality.  However, such ‘conceptual difference’ is not ‘singular difference’.  Singular difference is not to be found in the form of possible experience in general.  And Maimon’s criticism of Kant also applies to Hegel.  For Hegel, ‘the real is rational and the rational is real’.  The intelligible is sensible, and sensible is intelligible.  Hegel’s relational elements maintain a conceptual a priori image of variable relations of facts.  But the form of the determinable must be the form of time – empty of a priori empirical content of sensible intuitions.  The transcendental condition of singular determination cannot be resolved by facts that are already in a conceptual form of generality.

Kant claims that categories are a priori conditions of possible experience.  But Maimon claims (ETP 114) that categories, as syntheses of substance and accident, must be grounded in objective conditions of the predicate; and cause and effect are conditions of alteration in objects.  However, if two states of substance and its accidents are completely different, then there could only be the many accidents that could never form a unity.  And if they were completely the same there would not be two states, but same state in the identity of a concept.  In either case, there would be no unity of the many and no perception of alteration.  So, the two states of alteration must be part identical and part different.  However, this must not be taken to mean that the part that is identical is the concept (identity in the concept).  Rather, the concept persists because it is said as same subject.  It does not mean that the part that is different is merely a relation of variability.  Rather, difference is singular varieties through time that, with this division, change the nature of their form.  Maimon’s process of singular determination, is this univocal form of the determinable that is said a same, but is not the same.  Cognition is the synthesis of persistence and change through time.  That is, the synthesis says the determinable subject as same, but the predicate’s determination of which it is said, is difference.  Categories, themselves, change in nature.  There are no Representational categories.  There is internal difference that determines singular varieties, not a same unity of a same manifold in many/one opposition.   Apart from synthetic unity of substance and accidents through time, categories are meaningless; because there can be no synthetic judgement without sensible intuitions.  There can be no possibility of synthetic a priori judgements. 

Maimon fulfils what Deleuze calls the first and second syntheses.  However, he does not reach the counter-actualizations of Deleuze’s third synthesis.


(1) Essay on Transcendental Philosophy, by Salomon Maimon, translated by Midgley, Somers-Hall, Welchman, and Reglitz, 2010.

(2) (DR 218) Deleuze notices that Kant’s “harmony of the understanding and sensibility” depends on a transcendent “appeal to a miracle”.

(3) Deleuze tells us (DR 85-6), although Kant understood that in order to avoid direct correspondence between the undetermined and determination, he had to first reach a form of the determinable that is a third value intervening between terms of a duality.  However, whereas Kant’s form of the determinable merely determined one conceptual form of possible experience, Maimon showed that the form of the determinable must inject real difference in order to introduce the unthought into thought.  To introduce the unthought is to create new concepts – to find difference that is not merely an a priori determination of possibility.  To introduce the unthought into thought, time must be spatialized and space temporalized with real difference. 

(4) Deleuze-Spinoza says there can be only one substance per attribute (Expressionism in Philosophy 28)  “….[T]here cannot be two or more substances of the same attribute”. 

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