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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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, January 30, 2010

IN MEMORIAM

Two men with whom my life intersected have passed away in the last forty-eight hours. The first, Howard Zinn, is, I am sure, known to most of you. Howard was for half a century and more a voice of all that is good and decent and sane on the left. He worked in a World War II shipyard before going to college, and there became deeply involved with working class movements in a way that persisted until his death, at the age of eighty-seven. Many people on the left knew Howard much better than I, and beautiful tributes have appeared from the pens of Bob Herbert of the NY TIMES and Daniel Elsberg. When I was young, in the 50's, there were few men and women of mature years on the left who could serve as role models to those of us who were unwilling to believe that to grow old was to turn to the right. For all the decades since, Howard offered young people that model.

The second man who has just died is Dr. Bertram Schaffner, who passed away peacefully at ninety-seven. Those who read this blog will know that Schaffner was my psychiatrist in the late 40's when, as a troubled teenager, I was sent to him by my parents to treat obsessive and terrifying fears of death. In ways I could never have anticipated, his life and mine crossed and recrossed. Like me, he went to Harvard at an early age [he at fifteen, I at sixteen]. Like my sister, he completed his undergraduate education at Swarthmore College in their splendid Honors Program. Like my son, Tobias, Schaffner was gay, and although he was forced to keep that fact secret for many, many years, he worked with gay patients and was among the first psychiatrists to treat patients who had contracted the AIDS virus. He was a gentle, decent man.

Erik Erikson has a beautiful passage in his great work, Childhood and Society, that can serve as a fitting epitaph to the lives of both Howard Zinn and Bertram Schaffner:

"[The possessor of integrity] knows that an individual life is the accidental coincidence of but one life cycle with but one segment of history; and that for him all human integrity stands or falls with the one style of integrity of which he partakes."

requiescat in pace

5 comments:

Dr. Tanya Mears said...

I was especially sad about Howard Zinn. Cathy has a picture of him and Adam after the talk he gave on campus way back when. It looked like 2000 Adam was meeting 2040 Adam. They were even wearing the same outfit.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

That was a wonderful event. You recall that he spoke about his early life. That was when I learned that he had worked in a shipyard. For once, the good guys get to live into old age.

Lee said...

Dear Mr. Wolff I just finished reading the comments you wrote about Bert Schaffner in another posting.

I too am a former patient.

It is comforting to read what you wrote and to read the other article by Ms. Breen.

Bert was a wonderful man not just as a therapist but as a friend and mentor.

Someone posted a short film about Bert and he is interviewed as well. Wouldn't he be surprised to be seen and heard on the computer since he really did not like using them.

Anyway when you google him you will find the film and I am sure that you and your son will be pleased to see it.

I hope to meet you at the memorial service whenever it is held.

Lee Goldé

Lee said...

Dear Mr. Wolff I just finished reading the comments you wrote about Bert Schaffner in another posting.

I too am a former patient.

It is comforting to read what you wrote and to read the other article by Ms. Breen.

Bert was a wonderful man not just as a therapist but as a friend and mentor.

Someone posted a short film about Bert and he is interviewed as well. Wouldn't he be surprised to be seen and heard on the computer since he really did not like using them.

Anyway when you google him you will find the film and I am sure that you and your son will be pleased to see it.

I hope to meet you at the memorial service whenever it is held.

Lee Goldé

d said...

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Zinn after I attended a talk he gave at Binghamton University shortly after the 2008 presidential election. What a wonderful man and equally wonderful speaker.

I remember thinking to myself during the talk, "He's so energetic for his age. I hope he can keep this up for years to come. It'll be a sad day when he passes."

It certainly was.