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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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




Total Pageviews

Saturday, November 9, 2013

HIATUS

I shall be out of town starting early tomorrow morning until late on Friday, November 15th.  Although I shall be able to read comments on my brand new IPhone 5S, I shall be unable to put up any new posts until after I return home.  It is hard to believe, but the larger world will hardly notice my absence.  Oh well.  Keep on snarking while I am away.

16 comments:

Michael said...

I find it ironic how some can preach and moan about income inequality while using personal resources in a way that perpetuates that very inequality. Does the marginal utility of owning an iPhone 5s outweigh the utility derived from donating those monies to OxFam and saving young peoples' lives in your view?

Chris said...

Capitalism is the source of stark inequality, not individual purchasing power and consumption. Now I'm not saying Wolff should/shouldn't buy a phone or should/shouldn't donate to charity, but it's quite clear if one understands how capitalism works, that his purchase is not the reason for wealth inequality around the world, and even had he not purchased it, he'd only be delaying someones poverty. The old saying, give a man a fish he eats for a day, teach a man to fish, yadah yadah. Except in this case he's taught under a capitalist system, and most of the fish goes back into reproduction too, maintaining inequality.

mesnenor said...

The very fact that he mentions the phone's brand name and model, rather than simply call it a "phone" is a clear indication that the phone in question is not simply a phone, but is a Veblen good, purchased solely to demonstrate purchasing power.

Chris said...

Okay, even if that were the case - and it's not at clear it is - equality/inequality statements are non-sequitur from the premise.



Chris said...

Wolff, just so you know, if you can read comments from your Iphone, you can also post comments. I do it from my iphone all the time. And no mesnenor, I'm not citing Iphone for Veblen reasons, I'm citing Iphone to late Wolff know the possibility of posting exist, and I've achieved it!


(FYI I actually forced my Iphone to sign all e-mails 'Sent from a cell phone' instead of 'sent from an iphone' to specifically NOT brag about my status).

Magpie said...


Until recently, Australians used to say "hoover" instead of "vacuum cleaner".

I never thought domestics, chambermaids and janitors were being snobbish...

mesnenor said...

@Magpie: That's not an apt analogy.

It's not the case that people use "iPhone" as a generic term for mobile phones. however Apple fanboys routinely use the term to describe their own devices.

It's the equivalent of referring to your car as your "Jag" or "Beemer" . . .

Magpie said...

Fair enough. However, your own example is unfair.

If speaking of one's "Apple iPhone 5s 16GB - Gold" has an oomph value - as you imply - it could hardly be said to be "equivalent" to that of one's "four-cylinder diesel XF Jag".

The former costs AUD 869 and it seems fairly ubiquitous, so, it doesn't impress me much. The latter (which, according to Google, is actually the cheapest Jaguar) would have set you back a much more impressive AUD 80,000 in 2011.

Your example seemingly suggests this is not so.

DISCLOSURE: I don't own either item and, to me, they are both costly. I use a pre-paid mobile (whose brand I'll omit), for which I paid last year AUD 18 (including AUD 10 in calls) and I walk whenever possible or take public transport, if I have to.

T Gent said...

Mesnenor: in Italy, people who have a Panda, which is the most cheap an cheerful of Fiat cars, will talk about their 'Panda' instead of their 'car'. That don't make it a Veblen good. Maybe it just has to do with a recognisable brand.

Michael said...

Chris: Your comments to the effect that "it's the system and not individuals" overlooks the key fact that the system emerges from the collective actions of individuals. If you lived in a "system" that endorsed and perpetuated gross injustice, would your own contributions toward these ends be vindicated by your instance that "this is simply the system I live in" ? It is precisely this kind of thinking that has given rise to so many heinous injustices in human history.

Chris said...

The system does not emerge from the actions of individuals, this is a voluntarist theory and frankly it has no explanatory power, since it cannot account for radical shifts in systems.

The system, if we want to call it that, exist prior to anyone individual and conditions those individuals. It is reproduced through the social relations of individuals, even if that is not their direct intention (e.g., I go to work for a salary, but I also reproduce capitalism, or I buy the more expensive bottled water to aid peasant farmers, but I still reproduce exploitation). Because systems exist prior to individuals, and are reproduced through social relations (i.e., more than one person), responsibility is not completely individualized for systemic problems. Moreover, any rectification to a systemic problem needs to be collectively, since its reproduction is always already collective.

Chris said...

Now I'm not saying people are morally guilt free, but what would happen for instance if we fired every CEO on wall street, but did not change the fundamental social relationship of capitalism? All the CEOs would be replaced and the system would keep on trucking in nearly identical fashion. Just like if Wolff does or does not buy an iPhone, chinese sweatshops aren't going away. Hell we could all stop buying iphones, but then they will either be unemployed, or put to work doing something else equally alienating and degrading. So let's figure out a more organized way to change social relationships, instead of pointing fingers at individuals for social ills.

Andrew Lionel Blais said...

That is an interesting conflict of views about the ontological status of the system I suppose that is the way to put it. Wondering, how so voluntarist? In any case, has anyone read John Searle's book, The Construction of Social Reality? I've started it several times, but it is immeasurably dull. Is it worth it?

Chris said...

I've read Searle. I prefer Critical Realism and Roy Bhaskar's book 'The Possibility of Naturalism'. It's a great discussion of the ontological status of social structures and their ability to be studied scientifically.

It's really clear though, none of us are responsible for capitalism, or for the democrat/republican party, but in our social relations we do reproduce them. Therefore in order to destroy them, we need to do it socially.

Magpie said...

So, we end up finding ontological questions.

It's interesting how the human-agency point of view (as opposed to the more structure-oriented one) lends itself naturally to moral/ethical considerations.

Jerry Fresia said...


Regarding the "iPhone5s" reference:

"Irony is a form of utterance that postulates a double audience, consisting of one party that hearing shall hear & shall not understand, & another party that, when more is meant than meets the ear, is aware both of that more & of the outsiders' incomprehension."