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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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
LECTURE ONE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d__In2PQS60
LECTURE TWO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Al7O2puvdDA

ALSO AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ONE THROUGH TEN ON IDEOLOGICAL CRITIQUE



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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

OFF TO CLASS

This morning I teach the third class on Plato's Gorgias in Duke University's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute [OLLI], a learning-in-retirement program where I have taught a number of courses as a volunteer.  I really like teaching in OLLI.  The students are all senior citizens, and they have lives, they are actually people, not just bundles of potentiality.  The trouble with spending fifty years teaching undergraduates and graduate students is that although at first you and your students are roughly the same age, after half a century, you have grown rather older and they are still the same age they were when you started teaching.

For a while, I bridged the gap with references to Star Trek, but that grew old in about the '90s.  Now, I am so out of touch with the cultural references of the young that when they make an allusion, I cannot tell whether they are talking about a rock group or a venereal disease.

My worst moment came several years ago when I taught a required graduate seminar for the UNC Chapel Hill Public Policy Department on "Normative Dimensions of Public Policy."  The students were bright and serious and had done a number of fascinating things in government or the non-profit sector before coming to graduate school, but they were clueless about certain things that I took for granted.  One day, a propos I cannot recall what, I made a passing reference to Gilbert and Sullivan.  It turned out that not a single student in the class had ever heard of Gilbert and Sullivan.  I am afraid I failed to conceal my dismay.

Today should be fun.  I will be talking about Plato's hilarious theory of true and false technes, or "arts."  After I finish with Socrates' claim that the laws urged on Athens by Pericles are to the souls of the Athenians as cosmetics are to their bodies -- making them look fit and healthy when in fact they are politically flabby and out of shape -- I will draw parallels to the 1960 Kennedy/Nixon presidential campaign.  I shall not have to tell the class who Kennedy and Nixon are.  They were there.

7 comments:

Jerry Fresia said...

Dear Professor,

Your blog these last few weeks have been a treasure. I know of no other blog where in a single blog I'm laughing out loud, sitting up straight, feeling moved, and/or googling your wonderful foreign (non-English) phrases. Congrats on your milestone of 1 million. That is one hell of a steady pace for 5 years. And it is amazing to think that in these last 5 years you may have reached more "students" than in all of your active years of teaching. I only wish other profs would do the same in "retirement." This blog has VARIETY and DEPTH. Can't beat it.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Thank you, Jerry. As I remarked long ago, you seem to "get me" more than almost anyone else. I especially like the fact that you are an artist. Cheers!

TheDudeDiogenes said...

I couldn't have put it any better than Jerry!

Magpie said...

"I shall not have to tell the class who Kennedy and Nixon are. They were there."


That's the bright side; the darker side is that you still have to tell them who Socrates, Plato and Pericles were (nobody there is THAT senior, hopefully?) :-).

I agree with Jerry: well-deserved congratulations, Prof.

David Hopp said...

Professor Wolff, I think the last few paragraphs of your "Deterrence" not-a-book would be appropriate for our class.

Charles Pigden said...

I teach the Gorgias too in one of my courses and there is continuing historical puzzle. What did the guy whose profession is often translated as 'beautician' actually DO for his l clients? Plato suggests that he made them look buffed, toned and even ripped when in fact they were not, but exactly how did he do this?

T Gent said...

Jerry Fresia: Ditto!

I'm actually struggling to keep up with all the wonderful material you've posted lately. Your son's essay is a pearl. And his style can be remakably similar to your own!