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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Wednesday, August 8, 2012


My apologies for being absent from this blog for several days.  The semester is about to begin at Bennett College [way too early, in my opinion, but there it is], and there are a host of administrative matters to which I must attend before the students arrive.  I spent much of yesterday on campus going from office to office, meeting the people with whom I have been corresponding by email.  This morning, at 8:30 a.m., when a "Faculty-Staff Institute" convenes for everyone at Bennett [except the students], I shall be there, listening and learning.  Greensboro is a mere one hour drive from my home, but although I regularly made an even longer commute between Boston and Amherst in the eighties, it seems I am older now and have, as they say in baseball, lost a step or two.  The story is told that when Joe DiMaggio was near the end of his career, he could not fire a rifle shot from the outfield to home plate with quite the ease of his younger years, so he would push himself, early in a game, to uncork a scorcher, just to warn the runners on the opposing team not to try to take an extra base on his aging arm.  I am pushing myself to show up for everything at the very beginning of the year, hoping that I can then ease off and coddle myself just a trifle.  As the United Negro College Fund did not say, but might have, "a body is a terrible thing to lose."

While I have been away from the blog, the Olympics have ground on.  Beach volleyball is a bit like a MacDonald's cheeseburger.  After you have watched enough of it, you begin to think that it tastes better than track and field.  But I am afraid I shall never develop a real fan's appreciation for doubles ping pong.  On the other hand, when Tirunesh Dibaba shot forward in the bell lap of the women's 10,000 and sprinted away from the field, I was genuinely thrilled.  During my entire life, running has been something that I have shunned, and even now, when I take my morning four mile walk, if I try to jog for just a few yards along the way I give it up and go back to walking.  So watching her performance was a revelation.

The political campaign grinds on, of course, and since I have taken it upon myself to comment on the passing scene, I feel that I must offer opinions about these political ephemera.  Fans of Monty Python and the Holy Grail will recall the encounter with a terrible killer rabbit, which was clearly a cinematic anticipation of Harry Reid.  Reid, for the three or four people in the world who have been too caught up in synchronized swimming to attend to important matters, is the U. S. Senate Majority Leader who claims to have been told by a well-placed source that Mitt Romney paid no taxes at all for ten years.  Romney's flat refusal to release his tax returns has reduced the Romney campaign to fulminating that Reid is a "dirty liar," a charge I particularly enjoy because Reid is the highest-ranked elected Mormon government official in American history.

There is an old saying -- when you go to a gun fight, don't bring a knife.  Liberal commentators, whose rule of thumb is that when you go to a knife fight, bring a folding fan, have tut-tutted about the impropriety of Reid making a charge based on an anonymous source.  Republicans, having spent the past two generations savaging their Democratic opponents with the dirtiest of dirty tricks, are apoplectic at the thought of someone doing unto them what they have routinely done unto others.  I freely confess that it has gladdened my declining years to see someone on my side finally decide that politics is war.  For those who seek a deeper, more intellectually satisfying analysis, I refer you to the discussion of Chapter One of Karl Mannheim's Ideology and Utopia in my tutorial on Ideological critique, posted on

Just yesterday, Romney got it into his head, for reasons that passeth all understanding, to try to improve his standing with American Jews by taking a swipe at kibbutzim.  America, he said, is not a kibbutz.  We stand on our own feet as individuals.  Now, as anyone even fleetingly in touch with American social and political life knows, for the American Jews most deeply supportive of Israel, the kibbutz is a sacred icon, as revered [and misunderstood] as the Christ-like pictures of JFK that for generations have graced the front parlors of homes in Boston's Irish neighborhoods.  I cannot begin to fathom what went through Romney's brain as he delivered that gratuitous insult.

Well, it is time for me to begin my commute.  More anon.


P. J. Grath said...

There is a general slowing throughout the blogosphere, as teachers and students alike regather their classroom energy, wits, and academic materials. I admire your endurance and resolution but am glad not to be going back to school myself any more. Summer is my pedal-to-the-metal season, September my breathing space. Somehow, though, I find myself reading Leibniz and wondering why he doesn't get more credit for anticipating so much of Kant.

Don Schneier said...

My Olympics viewing has been cynicism-free. No matter what the event, these are all astonishingly talented people, of all sorts, engaged in bona fide meritocratic competition. In striking contrast to the pettiness-as-usual charade.

High Arka said...

My Olympics viewing has been disturbed by the terrible shooting of the Sikhs recently. Only our elected officials should be allowed to carry out strikes on religious people, using properly licensed and guided terrorist removal systems.

LFC said...

Like the paragraph about Romney and kibbutzim. Is it still the case, though, that the kibbutz is a 'sacred icon' for American Jews most supportive of Israel? (No doubt someone has researched this, but I don't know, am just speculating.) It's quite possible, I would think, that those American Jews whom Romney is hoping to attract don't care much about the kibbutz. I mean, one can't really get around the fact that the kibbutz is a communal, 'socialistic' institution, no matter how hard one tries to misunderstand it.