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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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, January 13, 2010

NAVEL-GAZING

A lifetime as a professional philosopher is not a good preparation for blogging. As I have remarked before, philosophy considers things sub specie aeternitatis, whereas blogging is essentially a form of gossip. Some of you may be old enough to remember the great old musical comedy film, Bye, Bye, Birdie, a send-up of the Elvis mania. Early in the movie is a marvelous song "Have you heard about Hugo and Kim?" [sung by a group of high school students calling one another on the phone to gossip about the fact that Hugo has "pinned" Kim --you have to be of a certain age to know what "pinned" means. It does not refer to wrestling.] Anyway, most of what passes for political commentary in blogs, and on television, for that matter, is really just a variant of "Have you heard about Hugo and Kim?"

All of which creates major problems for me as a blogger. I ought to be blogging madly just now about Harry Reid's injudicious remarks about Obama, about Steve Schmidt's revelation that Palin did not understand why there are two Koreas, about Harold Ford's flirtation with a run for the Democratic Party nomination for Gillibrand's Senate seat, about Tiger Woods' meltdown, about the Jay Leno/Conan O'Brian kerfuffle. But the sad fact is that I really do not care about any of these things. They are completely absorbing the attention of the blogosphere right now, and in six or seven minutes they will be replaced by half a dozen equally uninteresting non-events, which will give way to another group, and so on ad nauseum.

I am quite capable of blogging about less than world-shaking matters -- witness my repeated references to the health of my cat, Murray. But I do feel an underlying obligation to devote my blog posts to matters either of real intellectual interest [such as the origins of the notion of Natural Law] or to issues of political and public policy about which I think I have something worthwhile to contribute to the public discourse. And, opinionated though I am, such things do not arise reliably on a daily basis.

Several things are happening just now that are worthy of comment, but about which I have little or nothing to say. Most important, I would say, is the terrible earthquake that has just devastated the capital city of Haiti, Port-au-Prince. I hope against hope that the loss of life is not too great, but all I, or any of us, can do, is sit and wait.

On the legal front, the most fascinating event now unfolding is the trial in California challenging the Proposition 8 overturning of the California Supreme Court's legitimation of same-sex marriage. This challenge, led quite surprisingly by conservative lawyer and Bush v. Gore victor Ted Olsen, has been widely viewed in the LGBT legal rights community as an unwise and precipitous suit, carrying with it the grave danger that at the Supreme Court level same-sex marriage could be declared by this Court as definitively not a right guaranteed by the Constitution, thereby setting back decades of efforts. Yesterday, an extraordinary exchange took place in the court. The upholders of Proposition 8 have chosen to take their stand on the claim that same-sex marriage threatens the stability of heterosexual marriage. This has always struck defenders of same-sex marriage as a bizarre claim, and in court, the judge forced the lawyer defending Prop 8 to answer the question, "How does same-sex marriage threaten heterosexual marriage?" After a pause described by spectators as long, the lawyer replied, "I don't know, I don't know." It was, however this all turns out, a memorable moment.

On the political front, the gossip lately has all been about the supposed meltdown of the Democratic Party, signaled by the decision of Chris Dodd and Byron Dorgan not to seek reelection this year. I do actually have something to say about that matter -- not about the decisions of Dodd and Dorgan, but rather about the context in which those and other similar decisions should be viewed. I will try to sort that out tomorrow.

But this is the day on which I begin teaching a research study group [i.e., non-credit course] in the UNC Philosophy Department on Karl Marx's economic theories. Tomorrow, I give my first Freud lecture at Duke. Strange as it may seem for someone with half a century and more of teaching experience, I am actually a trifle nervous. This morning, I started re-reading Chapter Two of my book, Understanding Marx, and I was both impressed by how much I once knew about the subject and appalled by how much I have forgotten. I see that I shall have to do some serious preparation to keep up with the interesting assortment of graduate students and faculty who have signed up for the study group.

Oh, by the way, Murray seems to be doing just fine.

1 comment:

Ann said...

Please give our regards to your very fortunate students from your blogging "Wolff pack."