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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A BRIEF REPLY TO COMMENTS

Before continuing my narrative later today, let me take just a moment to reply to several comments.  Chris, about my personal feelings regarding Marx the man, I should perhaps have said a bit more.  Heaven knows, I do not hold it against Marx that he was combative in argument and did not suffer fools gladly.  That sounds like a description of me, after all [as well as of Noam, who has a way of eviscerating critics who are, he thinks, just stupid.]  What turned me off was learning that Marx took advantage of the family servant, getting her pregnant, and mooched money from colleagues whose annual income was actually less than his own, so that his family could maintain a properly bourgeois lifestyle, and even treated his lifelong colleague, Engels, with coldness, brushing off the news that Engels' mistress, whom Friedrich loved dearly, had died, instead hitting Engels up for some more money.  Marx treated those who were closest to him exploitatively, and in my book that is not excused by the fact that he was, and knew he was, a world-historical figure of great importance.

As for Ricardo's style, clarity and precision is, I suppose, in the eye of the beholder, but I have found Ricardo's Principles to be a model to be emulated.

And now to the always vexing subject of Hegel.  I cut and pasted the link to the essay by Dussel, Ian, and tried to read it.  I really did.  I found it impenetrable [and not merely because it appeared to have been translated not too well into English.]  I guess it is like the symphonies of Mahler, which send some people into ecstasies of delight and leave me looking frantically for the exit.  I freely grant that Marx was deeply influenced by Hegel, but his style in CAPITAL is nothing at all like that of Hegel, and is, I contend, actually clear and down to earth, despite the fact that he is dealing with incredibly complex and difficult issues.

Finally, about electing the president:  Since I believe that Gore won the 2000 election and had the victory stolen from him by the Supreme Court, there has not actually been any one elected while losing the popular vote since 1888.  [Al Gore, not universally considered a humorist, used to open his speeches with a great line:  "Good evening.  My name is Al Gore.  I used to be the next president of the United States."]  I for one would be quite happy to do away with the Electoral College, either by Constitutional Amendment or by a gimmick like the one now being pushed.

3 comments:

Chris said...

You're right that he should not have stooped the help, nor asked Engels for money when his lover died (I've read those letters, they are less than pleasant). But at least to his credit on the first one, people do have affairs, and still love their wives, and lead lasting relationships. In general, more recent biographies suggest that despite the affair (to a woman he was married to for something like 40 hours!) Marx and Jenny still loved each other, and made it work. Honestly, while I think an affair is wrong (and so did Marx as he'd often reproach Engels), 1 time in 40 years, of an overall loving marriage...I'd let it slide :)

I'm not saying Marx was a saint, but I would still suggest trying another biography of two. The consensus I read is that while he did sponge money off his friends, it wasn't exploitation in the Capitalist sense. They knew what they were doing, who they were helping, and the wanted Marx to publish all he could, knowing that feeding his belly, would feed his mind.

Just to push you on the Hegel issue. I found that in Capital some sections are Hegelian, and others are down to earth. I still think the chapter on money and value is teetering on straight Hegelian (and Marx says it's supposed to be), whereas the chapter on the accumulation of capital, or division of labor, is clearly not.

Chris said...

Sorry 40 years, not hours.

Will said...

Fair enough about clarity being in the eye of the beholder. But I'll note that Ricardo uses the word "labor" at times to refer to wages, and at other times to refer to labor, and this is not the only case of ambiguity. The Library of Economics and Liberty rates the Principles as being "grad school" reading level, the most difficult level assigned to any of the 19th-century classics: http://www.econlib.org/library/Topics/nineteenth.html. I could cite Marx's criticisms of it as well, though this would reek of the argument from authority.

On Hegel, I found this paper by Bill McColloch of interest, on the possible influence of James Steuart on both Hegel and Marx: http://economics.utah.edu/publications/2011_09.pdf