Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

To contact me about organizing, email me at rpwolff750@gmail.com




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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

MORE REPORTS FROM THE OLD PEOPLE’S FRONTLINES

The lady who lives directly under us on the second floor is an elegant, interesting resident of ninety-five who has actually lived here for thirty-one years, virtually since Carolina Meadows was opened.  There are big plans to enlarge this CCRC, powerfully opposed by virtually all of the residents [it is already the largest CCRC in North Carolina], and she suggested I make an appointment with the new manager to quiz him about some things.  I did so, and today she stopped by the jigsaw puzzle table while I was hard at work on a 1000 piece monster to find out how it went.  I made my report, and then we chatted about, among other things, the food here [the subject of considerable conversation and complaint, as you might imagine].  In the course of our chat, she revealed that when she lived in Cambridge, many years ago, Julia Child was her neighbor.  They were friends, shopped at the same butcher, and she learned a good deal about complex sauces from Julia.


I mean, really.  Will wonders never cease?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A DRAMATIC PERSONAL RESOLUTION, AND IT IS NOT EVEN NEW YEAR'S EVE

For longer than I can recall, I have been in crisis mode, listening to hours of cable news every day, reading endless commentary, writing end-of-civilization posts for this blog, and generally being miserable.  I have not observed that this has made the world a better place, but it has seemed unavoidable.  On Saturday, I will go to Paris for two and a half weeks.  I have decided to go wild and have fun.  Nothing too outré.  I shall shop at the market, cook in my little kitchen, sit in the café, attend early music concerts, perhaps take a bus ride, like that.  Don't condemn me.  I have my limits.

IN CASE YOU HAVE ANY ROMANTICIZED NOTIONS OF HOW MUCH BETTER IT WAS IN THE OLD DAYS

While I was wandering around on the web, I came upon a lengthy story about a woman I had never heard of who died three days ago at the age of 105.  Marian Cannon Schlesinger was, by this account, an interesting and accomplished person.  She was married for thirty years to Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., L’il Arthur as he was known around Harvard Square to distinguish him from his famous professor father, Arthur Schlesinger, Sr.  Marian Cannon Schlesinger’s sister was married to the great scholar of China John Fairbank.  [This was an era when brilliant Radcliffe students, instead being encouraged to continue their studies, were expected to marry smart Harvard students and keep house for them, but that is for another blog post.]  If you spent eleven years hanging around Harvard Square, as I did, you will be interested in the gossip in the obituary.  You can read the whole thing here.  

One brief quote from Marian Schlesinger really caught my eye, since it confirmed the impression I had formed from afar.  Writing of the Kennedy White House, she said, “I had a curious feeling that great decisions were made in an almost frivolous way, like the Bay of Pigs fiasco, which from my remote perch seemed to have been run by a bunch of hubris-mad teenagers, mostly Yale boys, who dominated the Central Intelligence Agency and who looked upon the Cuban enterprise and the catastrophe rather like a Harvard-Yale game they would win next time.”  This line deserves to go into the histories of that time, if it has not already done so.

Monday, October 16, 2017

HOW IT IS DONE NOWADAYS

Idly surfing the web, I came upon this story in the Washington Post about the discovery of a so-called kilonova, the collision of two neutron stars one hundred thirty million years ago.  There are many exciting details in the story, including the news that the observations confirm a claim made by Albert Einstein a century ago about gravitational waves.  But what really caught my eye was the fact that the scholarly article announcing the discovery listed roughly 3,500 authors!  The work was a world-wide collaboration, involving not only huge multi-million dollar arrays of equipment but enough scientists to staff the STEM departments of a dozen universities.

I thought of my tea with Bertrand Russell sixty-three years ago.  He had been reported as saying that, had he to do it all over again, he would not have chosen philosophy as his field.  I asked him what he would have chosen, and he said unhesitatingly, Physics. 

This is where the forefronts of knowledge are, here and in Molecular Biology.  The era of the research team in a laboratory headed by a senior scientist has given way to an entirely new stage of scientific development, one in which thousands collaborate.


I wish I were young enough to see how this will all play out.

SIC TRANSIT

Richard Wilbur, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry and one of the "Amherst Poets," died on Saturday at the age of ninety-six.  On New Year's Eve, 1954, I danced with his wife.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

WHAT'S UP

A week from today, Susie and I go to Paris, returning November 9th.  As usual, I shall continue blogging.  A week from Thursday, we dine with our friends Anne Berry and Philip Minns.  Philip runs this blog on all matters French, and I find it an indispensable aid to understanding life and politics there.  Philip worked for many years as a simultaneous translator, both for governments and for corporations, a calling that leaves me speechless with astonishment. 

I hope and expect that my Columbia talk with go up on YouTube some time before we leave for Paris.  I will be very curious to read your reactions, should you spend some time watching it.  One word of explanation for those of you who have no connection with Columbia.  At the very beginning of my remarks, I tip my hat to Bob Belknap and Carl Hovde, two friends, now both dead, who were, like myself, young members of the faculty half a century ago.  The older people at the talk will know that both became, in their day, much loved Deans of Columbia College.  I did not mention Edward Said, whom I was privileged to know, although not as well as I would have liked.  Those opening remarks were just a little inside baseball to establish my street cred with the locals.


As for the Marx lectures, I still have not found any takers willing to offer me a venue for the talks.  You will recall that I tried standing in front of my bookcases and lecturing to my desk for the Ideological Critique lecture series, but I found that so weird that I decided not to do it again.  I may be forced to return to my desk and bookcases for the Marx lectures if no one at Columbia is interested in sponsoring them.

THIS IS INTERESTING

Leonard Pitts, in this Op Ed, presents himself as a Centrist who has reluctantly concluded that the Democratic Party has to take a hard turn to the left.  When your opponents ask to sign up, it is as good omen.  Take a look.  It is worth reading.

Note, by the way, that the hard left agenda he proposes would have been thought Centrist when I was younger.  That is a good measure of just how bad things really are.