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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

MORE FOLK WISDOM

Here I am again, with another bit of folk wisdom to pass on to the young. This one is not mine, however. Thirty years ago, or so, when I was still relatively newly arrived at the University of Massachuesetts Amherst, I knew a Professor of Italian named Zina Tillona [she has since gone on to earn a law degree and now practices in Northampton, I believe]. A group of us were sitting around gossiping one day about a mutual acquaintance who had just been tapped for an administrative position despite no prior such experience. "I wonder what sort of Dean he will be," someone said, idly. Zina replied, "Well, most people do most things the way they do most other things."

Ay first, I thought the remark rather trite, almost tautological. But on reflection, I realized that it encapsulated a very deep truth. There are styles in human behavior, and those styles crop up across a wide range of activities, some trivial, some very important. So this man was likely to be a Dean in roughly the way he was a tennis player, a father, a teacher, or a lover. If he was fussy, obsessed with trivia, vindictive in his personal relationships, and perpatually late to parties or his children's teacher conferences, then he would almost certainly be fussy, obsessed with trivia, vindictive, and chronically late to appointments as a Dean.

Erick Ericson says something similar in Childhood and Society [I think.] People have styles in dreaming, he observes. Some always dream in color, others in black and white. Some have barren, simple dreams, others have cluttered dreams. And this is true regardless of the subject matter of the dream.

Why is any of this important, even granting that it is kind of interesting? Because lefties like me have to take seriously the idea that Obama will be the same sort of president that he was a community organizer, a state legislator, a senator, and a campaigner. It is natural for him to seek consensus, to listen to those with whom he disagrees, to look for something on which he can agree with his opponents, and on which he can build. His orientation is progressive, but he is not confrontational or ideological and he is very slow to anger.

We may like these features of his style of personality or not, and I think we can agree that they served him extremely well in the run for the presidency. But it is foolish of us now to want or expect him to channel our inner Dennis Kucinich.

Most people do most things the way they do most other things.

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