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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Thursday, September 11, 2014

A RESPONSE TO TONY COUTURE

Pretty clearly Tony Couture's involvement with podcasting and such like things is way, way beyond mine.  I would hate to think that I was following in the footsteps of Leo Strauss on anything!  Oddly enough, Strauss and I overlapped at Chicago.  I taught there from 1961-63 when he was in full flower.  I never met him, but I did have a run-in with his acolyte, Joseph Cropsey, who was then, if I recall correctly, an Assistant Professor in the Political Science Department.  As part of my deep involvement in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the late '50s and early '60s, I had made a study of the relationship between military strategy and foreign policy, actually writing a book about the subject [The Rhetoric of Deterrence] which I was unable to get published [although Noam was very encouraging and said he thought it should be published.]  I had gotten to know the grand old man of the Political Realist school of foreign affairs, Hans Morgenthau, at Chicago, and he suggested I offer a course on military strategy and foreign policy in the Political Science Department.  [Chicago in those days was endlessly receptive to people teaching in departments other than their own.]  When I submitted a proposal to the Department Chair, Cropsey opposed it vehemently [he was no dope], but Morgenthau prevailed, and in the Fall quarter of 1962, I did indeed offer the course to fifteen students or thereabouts.

That same Fall, I offered the same course in U of C's adult education program in downtown Chicago.  October '62 was of course the occasion of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when John F. Kennedy brought the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation.  Since I was teaching the theoretical, technical, and historical materials that served as background for the crisis, I was as aware perhaps as anyone else in Chicago just how close to disaster we were coming.  I had our little VW bug loaded up with dried food, water, and a Geiger Counter, and plane reservations for my wife and myself to Canada and Mexico [depending on which way the prevailing winds would be blowing the radioactive fallout.]

As the Russian ships sailed closer to Cuba, I received a call from Marc Raskin, who was then serving on Mac Bundy's staff in the Old Executive Office Building.  Marc asked what I was doing about the crisis [!]  I said I had a Geiger Counter in my car.  He was very disapproving of me, and told me I should be doing whatever I could to deflect the coming confrontation.  I had no idea what he thought I could accomplish as an unknown Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Chicago [and an E-3 enliksted man in the Illinois National Guard, but he did not know that.]  "What are you doing?" I asked.  He leaned closer to the phone [I swear I could hear him do it] and said, sotto voce, "We are trying to reach the Pope."

I think it was at that point that I decided we were lost.

2 comments:

Tony Couture said...

Interesting anecdote about the early 60's at U of Chicago. I was born in 1960, so to some extent I am glad they recorded Professor Leo Strauss so that we can now listen to what was going on, and it helps keep the legend's feet on the ground somewhat to be able to actually hear Strauss pontificate as he lectures--no one is really questioning or arguing against this "star." I have read Moneybags must be so lucky and one impression I had was that your hermeneutics appeared similar to the Straussian way of reading texts with layers of meaning meant for different audiences. I don't know Strauss well and I am probably not interested much in what he has to say, though worried about all the money and effort being put into spreading his ideas by this institute (who funded it? The Koch Brothers?). I know you are not a Marxist mystic revealing the truth under Marx's surface to the astounded world, you don't share Strauss's ultimate values. Capital is not a sacred text but an eruption of philosophy in a new direction, with a new complexity, that you wish to analyse and understand, not be swept into the mystery. Maybe Strauss is your ultimate opposite, your antipode. I met H-G Gadamer at McMaster U in the late 1980's and he defended the Straussians by saying something like they really gave you an excellent education (they were good professors), but then he also told me Heidegger was a great professor who lectured to his students while staring out of the windows of the class instead of making eye contact with them. I think they mythologize good education. A prof who won't look students in the face and talk to them as human beings is missing that, and that is what worries me about podcasting and using the distance education software.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

And then there is the small fact that Heidegger was a Nazi. I mean, that ought to count for something, no?