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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Friday, March 16, 2012

EMPTY CALORIES

A long, long time ago [possibly sixty-five years ago, when I was a regular reader of two pocket-sized pulp science fiction magazines, Astounding Science Fiction and Galaxy Science Fiction], I read a curious short story about a restaurant that served delicious but totally imaginary dishes to its patrons.  Since there was a significant danger that the customers might, upon leaving the restaurant, discover that they were still hungry, the proprietor had the waiters bring extremely tempting and quite real rolls and butter to the tables before the dishes ordered by the patrons were served.  The patrons would load up on the rolls, which were fortified with a variety of dietary supplements, and would never notice that the rest of their meal was an illusion.  [I cannot for the life of me recall the point of the story, or its denouement.]

I was reminded of the story yesterday evening as I launched into a seven hundred page Tom Clancy thriller called Against All Enemies that I had brought home from the library.  Tom Clancy novels are to reading what empty calories are to eating:  they produce the momentary impression that one has consumed a book, but turn out to have no intellectual or emotional nutriment whatsoever [nor any redeeming social value, but that is a matter for the Supreme Court to decide.]  After I had made my way 60 pages into the book, it dawned on me that I had already read it!  Now, I ask you, how is it possible, short of a dementia that I do not believe has yet afflicted me, to forget that one has read a seven hundred page book?  A book, what is more, that was published only last year.  I mean, could you just forget that you had read Crime and Punishment or Moby Dick?

When I checked the book out, the librarian, obviously concerned about an old guy taking out such a long book, warned me that the blue tape on the spine meant no renewals and no late returns.  I suspect I will get an odd look when I bring it back today.

That leaves me with Turing's Castle, to which I shall return.

1 comment:

Superfluous Man said...

Now, I ask you, how is it possible, short of a dementia that I do not believe has yet afflicted me, to forget that one has read a seven hundred page book?



I should probably post the original article, but I think the answer to your question is contained in an essay published in 1944. The article itself is easy enough to find by googling it, contemporary readers will find the following linked explanation perhaps easier to access as it is written in a more modern format:

http://www8.georgetown.edu/centers/cndls/applications/postertool/index.cfm?fuseaction=poster.display&posterID=3826

I am afraid Professor, that none of us can escape it without living the life of a Thoreau, and even then, I don't think he avoided it either. I will add that I knew Joe Bageant, not well, but well enough, and I think that Joe found that he could not escape it either, no matter valiantly he tried. To break free of the culture is virtually and practically impossible and I have tried myself. And I have come to understand that raging against it, well, Dylan Thomas's poem about raging until it ends is the ultimate answer I think. Non violently of course, but rage.