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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Thursday, February 23, 2017

BIG NEWS

A story appeared yesterday in the TIMES with this headline:

7 Earth-Size Planets Orbit Dwarf Star, NASA and European Astronomers Say


You can read the entire story here.  This is enormously exciting news, and serves to put in perspective the horrendous stories appearing daily about the current Administration.  If life can be found elsewhere in the universe, that fact will dwarf everything now happening in our corner of this “fourth rock from the sun.”   Please God let our sister planet not be inhabited by Jar Jar Binks!

AN EXISTENTIAL WARNING

All of us are familiar with the famous poem, by Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

But the message it conveys, poignant and powerful as it may be, is in one way fundamentally false.  Yes, they [the Nazis] came for the Socialists, and for the Trade Unionists, and for the Jews.  They came, also, for the Homosexuals and for the Gypsies.  But they did not come for the Good Germans, the fine, upstanding Aryans with their arms outthrust in the Nazi salute and their sons enrolled in the Hitlerjugend.  For them it was all good, deeply satisfying, just what they had voted for, and it would have gone on being good if only the Nazis had not made the mistake of losing the war.

Now Donald Trump and his handlers are coming for the undocumented, they are coming for the transgendered, they are coming for the reporters, and soon they will come for the gays, for the women who dare to assert control over their own bodies, and for anyone who speaks against the government, who demonstrates against the Administration, who condemns the kleptocratic narcissist in the White House.

But they will not come for the true believers, the Trumpists, the haters, the misogynists, the homophobes, the xenophobes.  For them it is all good, deeply satisfying, just what they voted for. 
Let us not make the mistake of imagining that we are all in this together.  Irreducibly, ungetoverably, it is us against them, and every single person in America must answer the question of the old Union song:


Which side are you on?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

BELATED FRIDAY LIST

Since my life has been a little complicated lately, I neglected to add my pittance to everyone else's impressive list of activities.  My apologies.  Herewith a few items for next Friday's list:

Signed up for a small monthly donation to John L. Lewis.
Gave some more to Jon Ossoff's campaign.
Called newly elected Democratic NC Governor Roy Cooper, for whom I rang doorbells, and congratulated him on withdrawing efforts to defend NC's hideous voter suppression bill in the courts.
Called Senators Burr and Tillis to protest their support of Trump's new draconian assault on undocumented residents.

I figure we need to express our support when someone does something right.

Still struggling to get my head above water, but I have started preparing my Freud lectures.  Marx will come in the Fall.


AVE ATQUE VALE

Jim Westrich tells me that Kenneth Arrow passed away yesterday.  Arrow was 95.  Kenneth Arrow was one of the giants of modern economic theory.  I never met Arrow, so I will leave it to others to talk about him as a man, as a teacher, and as a scholar.  For me, he is and will always be the author of Social Choice and Individual Values, a 1951 monograph that was, I believe, his doctoral dissertation.  It contains his elegant proof of the so-called General Possibility [or Impossibility] Theorem, a generalization of the Paradox of Majority Rule.  Those who are interested can find a statement of the proof on my second blog, Formal Methods in Political Philosophy.  Arrow was an old New York socialist who retained, throughout his life, an unshakable progressive orientation.  I found his work to be genuinely beautiful.  It was expanded and developed by another admirable and brilliant economist, Amartya Sen, in Collective Choice and Social Welfare [1970.]


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

THE FREUD LECTURES

Here is the flier for my Freud lectures [minus the picture of the great man, which I could not figure out how to insert].




Four lectures on
The thought of Sigmund Freud
By
Professor Robert Paul Wolff
Emeritus Professor of Philosophy and Afro-American Studies
The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Mondays at 1 p.m. in Caldwell 213
March 27, April 3, April 10, and April 17, 2017


The lectures are open to members of the UNC – CH community and presuppose no prior knowledge of Freud’s writings or legacy.  The purpose of the lectures is to provide an introduction to the underlying methods, concepts, presuppositions, and results of Freud’s revolutionary work.  The focus of the lectures will be on Freud’s central psychological theories, not on his cultural critique.


Trigger warning:  There will not be much talk about sex.

PREVIEWS OF COMING ATTRACTIONS

As I have several times observed, the development of modern social science can be viewed as the progressive taking seriously of spheres of human experience that were previously ignored as infra dignitate.  Economics treats of the buying and selling of goods in the marketplace, a banausic activity that no gentleman would contemplate.  Anthropology began when the practices of South Sea Islanders were accorded the respect previously reserved for the amusements of lords and ladies, and graced with the epithet “culture.”  Durkheim launched Sociology with a detailed analysis of the phenomenon of suicide.  Freud created an entire medical specialty out of such detritus of human experience as dreams, jokes, and slips of the tongue.  And modern literary critics, weary of their endless contemplation of Greek tragedy and Romantic poetry, turned their attention first to that middle class amusement, the novel, then to movies, which were rechristened “films,” and finally even to such ephemera as television and comic books.

I have always admired this ability to – as my old friend Esther Terry would say – make chicken salad from chicken shit, but alas, I lack the gift.  Thus it is that the endless contemplation of the Trump presidency, rather than inspiring me to flights of creative imagination, has had the effect of making me stupid.


In an effort to recapture the life of the mind, I have decided to offer a short series of lectures on The Thought of Sigmund Freud, to be delivered – if they agree – at UNC and preserved for eternity on YouTube.  The arrangements are still being explored, but my hope is to record the lectures in March and April.  Later in this sesquicentennial year, I plan to mount a more extended series on The Thought of Karl Marx.

MY FIFTEEN MINUTES OF FAME

This is, without a doubt, the biggest moment of my life.  A grad student at UNC tells me that about a month ago my Kant lectures were advertised in an online comic book!!!  Here is a link to the site.  This way beats getting a favorable review in a journal nobody reads, or being footnoted in a thick obscure book.  Now if I could only keep time, I could take a musical act on the road.

When I was a boy, Looney Tunes was pretty much my speed.  And they say there has been no progress since the invention of the mechanical spinning jenny.