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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Saturday, December 5, 2009

OLD FRIENDS

Susie and I own a small apartment in the heart of old Paris, which we rent out when we are not there, using as our sole medium of advertising the classifieds at the back of the New York Review of Books [look for "Paris 5th -- Blue State Special"]. Yesterday, an old, old friend from graduate student days, who had stumbled on the ad, reconnected with me via email. Ingrid Stadler and I were graduate students in philosophy together at Harvard in the middle fifties, both of us interested in Immanuel Kant. She went on to spend her entire career at Wellesley College, from which she is now retired. Indeed, in 1983-64, when she was on leave, I replaced her as a visiting professor.

Ingrid is a very slight woman, barely over five feet tall, always rather elegantly dressed. She was married then [and still is, I believe], to Steve Stadler, who was in business. We were all as poor as church mice, living in modest digs and, on rare occasions, splurging on a group outing to the original Joyce Chen restaurant, where we ate as fast as we could to get our share of the food [that is how I perfected my chop stick skills.] Steve and Ingrid, by contrast, lived in a real apartment on the Charles River, drove matching sports cars, and had a life. Save for the very pregnant Henny Wenkart and the ill-fated Joe Swanson, she was, I think, the only married grad student. If I remember rightly, one year Steve hired a barge and some musicians and for Ingrid's birthday floated her down the Charles to the strains of Handel's Water Music. How cool is that!

When I had completed the manuscript of my first book, Kant's Theory of Mental Activity, in the summer of 1961,I asked Ingrid to read it, which she did, making many useful suggestions. I did not realize it then, but that would be the last time I would ask anyone to read a book I had written before sending it off to the publisher!

Why, you might wonder, so deviant a bit of scholarly behavior. The reason, I now realize, is that I do not view my writing as scholarship. I think of it as story telling -- the story of an idea -- or as the painting of a picture. One cannot imagine the young Matisse sending a canvas to Cezanne for comments and criticisms -- "I think a little more chrome yellow in the upper right hand corner, Henri" -- or appending to a still life the notation, "For the shape of the pear, I am indebted to Renoir." Perhaps this is why my books have so few footnotes, and often no bibliography, a fact that irritates my scholarly friends, who, when they have completed a manuscript, spend endless hours nailing down the correct references to the books and articles they have cited.

Ingrid says that when she has solved the problem of how to post a comment, she will do so. I very much hope that she will.

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