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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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

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Saturday, April 30, 2011

ON THE WAY OUT THE DOOR

While I have been grading seminar papers, visiting with my older son, and preparing to fly off to Paris, a lively discussion has taken place in the comments section of this blog about my response to Chris's question how I can be an anarchist and a Marxist. I have pretty much had my say, and I think the comments parse my views exactly correctly, so I shall not go on about what is, after all, an unimportant question [viz., what I think], but there is one small matter that I would like to say a word about. Plato was perhaps the most caustic critic of democracy in the history of Western philosophy [his only serious challenger for the title being Nietzsche], and he would never, ever suggest that Socrates complied with the sentence of death passed on him because it issued from a democratic state. I leave it to those better educated than I to offer informed observations on this matter, as in fact one commentator already has done.

There is something I wish to blog about of a quite different nature, and if I can check off all the last minute things on my To Do list, I shall post some observations later today.

3 comments:

English Jerk said...

I completely agree that Plato was hostile to pretty much anything that might go by the name "democracy," and Republic in particular is full of arguments in support of that view.

But it does not seem to me that the Socrates-figure of the early dialogues (including Apology and Crito, to which I was referring) has the same philosophical position as the Socrates-figure of the middle dialogues. I'm basically convinced by the arguments to that effect in the second and third chapters of Gregory Vlastos's lovely book, Socrates: Ironist and Moral Philosopher (Cambridge, 1991). But I'm also certainly not a specialist in ancient philosophy and I (along with Vlastos, I guess) could be quite wrong about this.

In any case, my previous comment about the early-Socrates-figure only used the term "democracy" to distinguish the state whose commands he feels compelled to obey (both in Apology and in Crito) from the rule of the Twelve, whose commands he did not feel compelled to obey. I put "democracy" in scare quotes both because Athens certainly wasn't a democracy in the literal sense of the word and because it's not clear to me that the early-Socrates-figure actually advocates a particular theory of how the state should be organized. The extended analogy between the state and the family is, of course, a commonplace in the ancient world, and in some ways I think that the early-Socrates-figure invokes it just to evade actually doing political philosophy (of the sort that Aristotle does in Politics and that Plato does sometimes in Republic).

But anyway: Happy May Day, Fellow Workers!

Pliny said...

What about The Laws?

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Far be it from me to disagree with Gregory Vlastos, a distinguished Platonist and a stand up guy! Socrates set a pretty high bar for the rest of us philosophers to jump over.