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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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, October 29, 2011

QUESTION TIME

Several comments on my Weber mini-tutorial, in particular that of Marinus, seem to me to call for responses, so I shall pause a moment in my writing of the mini-tutorial to offer some reactions to the comments.

I really have three things to say about Marinus' comment, which takes exception to my characterization of Calvinism. First of all, in any dispute between us, you must take his word over mine. He has first-hand personal experience of Reformed Christianity; I do not. Obviously, what he says should carry more weight than what I say. Second, I am afraid I am guilty, as I warned, of trying to rush through Weber's extremely complex and finely nuanced description of the varieties of Reformed Christianity and the psychodynamics of the various versions of it. Once again, I urge everyone to read the original essay, rather than relying merely on my summary exposition of it. Weber has some fine pages describing the self-confident, positive, even triumphant feeling tone of the lives of the early Calvinists, which I have failed to capture in my summary.

Finally, I want to emphasize that Weber is talking about the very early stages in Reformed Christianity -- the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, for the most part -- and almost certainly that religious movement was, in many ways, different from modern-day versions of the same faiths. This is important for our purposes in this mini-tutorial, because Weber [as I think I have indicated] is careful to note that once capitalism gets established and becomes the dominant economic form, people who have no connection at all to reformed Christianity of any sort are compelled by the pressures of market competition to adopt the same rigorously rational, carefully calculated economic practices whose origins Weber is tracing to the secularization of a particular religious ethic. I shall try to make some of this a good deal clearer in the next and subsequent Parts of the mini-tutorial.

As for what to read on the Thirty Years War, I am afraid my knowledge is about half a century out of date! In preparation for my very first academic position, teaching European History at Harvard to undergraduates [I explain in my Autobiography how this unlikely turn of events came about], I read, among other things, most of a twenty-volume series, edited by William Langer, called The Rise of Modern Europe. One of the volumes, The Age of the Baroque, by the famous old Harvard Political Theorist, Carl J. Friedrich, "covered" the Thirty Years War. That, I am embarrassed to say, was my principal source of information about the subject. I think we can confidently assume that in the sixty years since that book was written, an entire library of historical monographs has brought our knowledge of the period forward. By the way, in the Wikipedia entry on Friedrich appears the following wonderful sentence: "He presciently predicted and laid out a theoretical framework for the European Union, and also predicted, from his perspective as a scholar of totalitarianism, that the United States would turn towards dictatorship. His best guess as to when this might occur was the year 2000."

5 comments:

Don Schneier said...

Accepting Marinus' criticisms, does it remain the case that Grace is always bestowed, and never earned?

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Yes, according to the Reformers. That is absolutely central.

Michael said...

There's even a name for the heresy that grace (or salvation or whatever) can be earned: Pelagianism.

Don Schneier said...

(Sorry for the belated response--I've been among the numerous electrical non-Elect in Western Mass. the past few days.) Am I correct in distinguishing a deity who bestows Grace from Kant's divine rewarder of Virtue?

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Yes, because grace is not a reward for anything. It is a free gift.