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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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, August 17, 2010

A NEW FANTASY GAME

While Susie and I were in Seattle for the wedding of my son's wife's brother, we stayed at an upscale hotel that delivered a copy of the NY TIMES to our door every morning. So it was that I came across the Op Ed column by Gail Collins, one of my very favorite columnists, in last Saturday's edition. Her Op Ed was a celebration of the anniversary of Women's Suffrage, and at one point, Collins wrote, "Sometimes I fantasize about traveling back in time and telling my historical heroes and heroines how well things worked out in the end." I stopped dead in my tracks, because that is one of my favorite fantasies. In my case, it is composers and philosophers whom I would like to visit. I imagine myself returning to eighteenth century London to see David Hume. Hume, as all Hume scholars know, published A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE anonymously when he was still in his twenties, and it got lambasted by the reviewers. Much later in life, Hume wrote, wryly, that the book "fell stillborn from the presses." I just would like to tell him, face to face, that it is now considered the greatest work of philosophy ever written in the English language.

Then there is Mozart. I imagine myself magically transported to the court of Emperor Joseph II [and also blessed with a perfect command of colloquial German, but never mind that]. I introduce myself as a visitor from the twenty-first century, and inform him that in that far distant future, he is well remembered. As he preens himself, I add, "because of your association with a young man who is in this very room." Then I turn and say, "and that young man is the immortal composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart." After that, I pull out a battery operated CD player with great sound reproduction and slip in a CD of the Emerson String Quartet playing one of Mozart's Haydn quartets [being careful not to play something he hasn't yet composed.]

Well, you get the idea. Anybody want to join the fantasy?

5 comments:

Carl said...

"The best proof we have that life is good, and therefore that there may perhaps be a God after all, who has our welfare at heart, is that to each of us, on the day we are born, comes the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. It comes as a gift, unearned, unmerited, for free.

"How would I like to speak just once to that man, dead now these many years! 'See how we in the twenty-first century still play your music, how we revere and love it, how we are absorbed and moved and fortified and made joyful by it,' I would say. 'In the name of all mankind, please accept these words of tribute, inadequate though they are, and let all you endured in those bitter last years of yours, including the cruel surgical operations on your eyes, be forgotten.'"

—J. M. Coetzee, Diary of a Bad Year

Robert Paul Wolff said...

That is marvelous! Thank you. Of course, for Bach, I would like to play a recording of the B Minor mass, which was never performed in his lifetime.

What could one possibly say to Socrates?

Chris said...

Great fantasy, except for Mozart's quartets I'd use the recordings of the spectacular Quatuor Mosaïques (as good as the Emersons are).

:)

M said...

This reminds me of one of Kierkegaard's best passages. At the beginning of the second part of Either/Or ("The Immediate Erotic Stages"), he says (in paraphrase) that while there's no sense in trying to rank the really great composers, nevertheless Mozart is the best of all.

I use this line a lot when I get into arguments about the greatest philosophers ever. I'm more than willing to concede that there's no possible way to rank Plato, Aristotle, Hume, and Kant (and, in some of my moods, Spinoza). Still, Kant is the greatest philosopher ever.

andrEw said...

I would try to help people catch disease/bad habits early. two examples that come immediately to mind are gareth evans and river phoenix, although for different reasons.