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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Sunday, May 13, 2012

CHARACTER IS DESTINY

As Heraclitus observed, character is destiny [Fragment 121, for those who keep track.]  Or, as my old friend Zina Tillona observed many years ago, when we were sitting around wondering what sort of dean a friend of ours would be, "Most people do most things the way they do most other things."  Her point, and perhaps that of Heraclitus as well [who knows about the pre-Socratics?], was that people have styles of behavior that do not change even when they are elevated to more exalted positions.  A woman who lined her carefully sharpened pencils on her desk with the points exactly in a row when she was in school will probably be an obsessive neatnik when she becomes CEO of a multi-national corporation.

Which brings me to the story that has just surfaced about Mitt Romney's behavior as a prep school boy.  If you do not live under a rock, you probably have heard that Mitt reacted to a classmate who dyed his long hair blond and wore it over one eye by expostulating, "He can't do that.  It isn't right."  After brooding about this offense to his All-American sensibilities for several days, Mitt rounded up a posse of boys and assaulted the poor kid.  As the others wrestled him to the ground and held him, while he cried and pleaded with them, Mitt took a pair of scissors and cut off bunches of his hair.

A youthful prank, Mitt's defenders say.  Asked about it, Mitt chuckled, amused at the description of the event, saying first that he had no recollection of it [even though five [!!] of his classmates came forward and confirmed it independently], then that he was sure no one thought the boy was homosexual, and finally that if he had said [!!] anything to offend, he was sorry.

People grow up, they gain experience, they learn a great deal about the world, but they do not really change all that much.  A young man of sixteen who is a privileged, mean-spirited bully whose idea of amusement is assaulting the weak and helpless tends to grow into a privileged, mean-spirited bully of an adult man whose idea of amusement is assulting the weak and helpless.  Mostly what he learns in life is how to conceal his character more successfully, so that it is not quite so obvious what a despicable coward he is.

Romney is learning, as many have before him, that a run for the presidency is a very bad way of concealing one's faults.

5 comments:

Andrew Lionel Blais said...

Exactly.

Anthony said...

Character in this sense is an entirely appropriate consideration for a nation leader, in my opinion.

d. tovar said...

Thanks very much for this post and especially the Heraclitus quote, but I believe that the citation is incorrect. Unless there are different ways of numbering the fragments, the fragment is number 119.

http://www.heraclitusfragments.com/files/ge.html
(and on the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, if you have access)

Thanks again!

Robert Paul Wolff said...

D. Tovar, I am outed! I do not read Greek and I do not own a volume with the Fragments in it. I trusted to the Web. That will show me.

Leslie Lim said...

I love this post, and I was absolutely thrilled to see the other links that you published that go along with this topic. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I am happy to be a new follower. :)

Count
www.imarksweb.org