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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Saturday, December 28, 2013

THANK YOU ONE AND ALL

It has been a grand eightieth birthday, and I want to thank all of you who sent birthday greetings and wishes -- Marinus Ferreira, Jerry Fresia, Tim, GT Christie, Chris, Nick, Turkle, Lounger, Levinebar, Matt, Chris [a different one, I am pretty sure], Magpie, and my old student Andrew Lionel Blais.  Thank you also to the many folks who sent me emails and even e-cards, to whom I have responded by email.

My mind has been so taken up with the impending birthday that I have neglected to ask what I will concentrate on once the day is passed, as it now is.  My walk this morning was devoted to thinking about that question, and later today [after I have gone to the local Time Warner Cable office to correct some obscure problem with my cable box] I shall try to put my thoughts in order.

This blog has become a grand endless seminar, with participants entering and leaving at will and returning yet again, a Symposium [without the sex, of course].  I think of it as continuous with my fifty years of active university teaching, a way to pass on what was passed on to me by Harry Austryn Wolfson and Willard van Orman Quine and Clarence Irving Lewis and Sam Beer and Raphael Demos and all my other teachers sixty years ago and more. 

In the greatest statement ever penned of the conservative sensibility, Edmund Burke described the state as "a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born."  I may reject Burke's celebration of the state, but I embrace his conception of the relationship each of us has to what has gone before and what is yet to come.  When I take a student through the exercise of writing a page a day of her doctoral dissertation, I still can see in my mind's eye the gentle rebuke that C. I. Lewis penned in the margin of the paper I wrote for him on Hume sixty two years ago:  "I would hope it is not an evidence of that temper in philosophy that can offer the objection to everything and advance the solution to nothing."

9 comments:

Andrew Lionel Blais said...

Do you still have that paper? What was it about? What had you said that evoked that response from Lewis?

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I still have every paper I wrote as an undergraduate! The paper was a slashing attack on Hume [by an eighteen year old, mind you!] Lewis was ancient, in my eyes. He was at the time eleven years younger than I am now.

Andrew Lionel Blais said...

According to the Wiki, Lewis discovered philosophy at age 13. So, I suppose that he was familiar with the philosophy-in-the-hands-of-a-teenager phenomenon. Tell, how was he consider as a philosopher? Did people think of him as on par with James, Dewey or Whitehead?

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Lewis was, in my opinion, one of the mostr important American philosophers -- a much better philosopehr than James, a more rigorous thinker than Dewey [whose influence was enormous, especially in education], and for my taste, more interesting than Whitehead. His book, MIND AND THE WORLD ORDER, is the best piece of epistemology written by an American. He is virturally forgotten now, in part because his groundbreaking work in Modal Logic was totally superceded by Kripke's work.

David Auerbach said...

Ahh, you share my opinion of C.I. Lewis. There's a whole coterie of underreputed philosophers from that era and before. McTaggart, Wisdom and Lewis all leap to mind. I think his work in modal logic got a one-two punch: first my Quine &Co. denigration of the modalities and then by Kripke & Co. revival.
A.N. Prior is another neglected such. Perhaps less neglected (and less so this week) is Peter Geach.

Michael said...

I would love to hear more about your interactions and study with Harry Wolfson. Reading about his work and life always fascinated me.

T Gent said...

A delayed happy birthday to you, Prof! I love the fact that you got arrested to win your sons' approval.

Joseph Streeter said...

Very interesting about Lewis. I heard an interview a short while back with Cheryl Misak, who also thought Lewis a very important figure - as I remember it, she suggests that his reputation has suffered in part owing to misrepresentations of his work by Quine.

LFC said...

(Belated) happy birthday.

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Re:
"...a way to pass on what was passed on to me by Harry Austryn Wolfson and Willard van Orman Quine and Clarence Irving Lewis and Sam Beer and Raphael Demos and all my other teachers...."

In my last semester of college (in 1979), I took a course on British politics taught by Beer (along with one of his colleagues). Though it was mostly a lecture course there were occasional discussions, and I remember how seriously Beer took students' remarks and opinions. It was clear that he saw teaching as a central part, if not the central part, of his job. (I knew that already, based on his reputation from Soc Sci 2 [which for some reason I didn't take], but I'm glad that I experienced it directly.)