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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

RESPONSES TO SOME INTERESTING COMMENTS

1.  To Ludwig Richter:  How fortunate you were to have the opportunity to study with -- as my colleagues called him -- Jimmy Baldwin.  When I joined the Afro-American Studies Department at UMass I discovered that my office had once been occupied by Baldwin!  I felt that I was walking in the footsteps of giants.  My teaching is, I think, a form of gift-giving.  It is, though it sounds pretentious to say, an act of love.  Incidentally,  part of that gift-giving is a showing of myself.  It always amused me that in the end-of-semester student evaluation forms that I would receive back after the end of each class, there appeared repeatedly the complaint, "talks too much about his family."  It never stopped me.

2.   To Tony Couture:  Your take on Rawls is radically different from mine, but I would not dream of trying to talk you out of it.  You have made out of Rawls the man and his work an entirely different construction from mine.  I am not sure how successfully you can appeal to it to make clear passages or arguments that are otherwise mysterious -- which is always my test for myself when I am evaluating my own interpretation of a difficult text.  But then, you may have a quite different measure of success.  I think I can spot an interpretation of a text that is just flat out wrong, but with any powerful text, there can be many alternative readings.  That is one reason why we keep reading Plato rather than simply accepting Aristotle's view of the man and his philosophy [after all, who in the history of philosophy would be better suited to judge!]

3.  To Jerry Fresia:  My judgments are disinterested at least in this sense -- I care very much that my students see the ideas in their clarity, purity, rigor, and thus beauty, but not at all that they embrace the conclusions of the arguments that constitute those ideas and believe their theses.  My goal in this course coming up is most certainly not to make the students Marxists, but to lead them to grasp the complex understanding I arrived at in what I call my "vision." 

2 comments:

Tony Couture said...

I think you refer to what I say about The Law of Peoples as a sign of some late socialist leaning (it was unfinished because Rawls had a stroke, so I am imagining a book he could have written). Or perhaps you refer to his belief in Walzer's just war doctrine (which he locates only in nonideal theory, which he attempts only much longer after he has defined justice in ideal theory). My argument is that Rawls knew in the end that he failed to carry out the basic project formulated for the first time in Walter STace's (notorious) 1947 essay, The Zionist Illusion. See this link to Stace to see what got Rawls started
http://www.princeton.edu/paw/web_exclusives/more/more_letters/letters_stace.html
, and what I think is that Rawls' unpublished dissertation (A Study in the Grounds of Ethical Knowledge Considered with Reference to Judgments on the Moral Worth of Character, supervised by W. Stace)--which I have a copy of and use as a resource in my argument--also shows us the long distance view/ironic messaging. The reminiscence about Burton Dreben, the one interview in the Harvard Review of Philosophy, and the taped biographical interview with Thomas Pogge are the only official sources for studying his views on war. If you need a tag, call my argument the "Radio Rawls argument," as I am saying that his work is projecting a larger vision which is hidden in the postmodern liberal dress, the bourgeois version of Rawls as a mirror of America. My view is that he failed also to finish his task, so we need to pursue it further. This is your theory of ironic philosophy applied to Rawls, with one audience being his contemporaries (you or I) and the other audience as the audience of the Great Books, or future generations, or ?

Tony Couture said...

I confess that I was not clear as to why you did not want to argue about Rawls or return to these matters, then I thought I better check Wikipedia on RP Wolff to see if I could be enlightened (not sure if I am allowed to call this "Wolff for Dummies" but pardon me). In the contents of the Rawls archive at Harvard, they also list some correspondence between Rawls and yourself regarding your Realizing Rawls by Thomas Pogge review in The Journal of Philosophy. I have your Understanding Rawls book, but have not yet read it. The literature on Rawls is so vast that no one has covered it all, and you write so much that it is easy to lose track. My dissertation supervisor, Evan Simpson (Ph.D. from Duke, McMaster prof for many years) wrote an article called "Socialist Justice" also criticizing Rawls. The moral of the story: check Wikipedia before you talk about Rawls! I gave up trying to write an intellectual biography of Rawls, it was too hard to see the man behind the veil.