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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

MAKING DO WITH WHAT YOU'VE GOT


jerry fresia's comment about physics as opposed to molecular biology brings to mind an old story  about nigel ffyfe-wittington, a little boy at a posh english private school.  world history was required of all the boys, and it had been taught for as long as anyone could recall by an old duffer who, somewhat absent-mindedly, set the same question on his final examination each year -- list the kings of england in chronological order, starting with william the conqueror.   this quirk was well known and was passed on from generation to generation of the students, who would ignore everything in the course but make sure to memorize the kings of england.  well, as luck would have it, the year nigel took the course, word somehow filtered back to the history master that the students were on to him,  and he decided to change the question.   When the boys opened the exam, they were stunned to find a new question:  differentiate between the major and minor prophets of the old testament.  The boys fiddled with the exam and twiddled their pencils, unable to recall a single prophet.  nigel stared off into the distance for a bit and then, to the astonishment of his classmates, began to write furiously, covering several sheets of the exam booklet.  the history master sadly graded each exam zero, saving for last nigel's exam, for which he had great hopes.  When he opened it, he found that nigel had written:  far be it from me to make invidious distinctions among these learned and saintly gentlemen, but if you would be interested in a chronological list of the kings of england ...
 
well, far be it from me to attempt to judge the relative merits of physics and molecular biology, but ...

3 comments:

David Auerbach said...

One of my two favorite final exam stories is about Hilary Putnam's final in his Recursion Theory course. (you only need the sketchiest bit of knowledge of what recursion theory concerns; the classic quickie explanation is the contrast between leaving a note for the milkman everyday, saying "leave a bottle of milk today" vs. leaving the milkman one note saying "leave a bottle of milk today and read this note tomorrow").
Anyway, I'm told that Hilary's final consisted in: Make up a good question and answer it.
To which my friend Hal (probably others over the years) wrote:
Make up a good question and answer it.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

that is truly authentically spectacular.

Jerry Fresia said...

If anyone is interested in current thoughts about time, check out Brian Greene's youtube video (part of his Elegant Universe series, I believe) here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44ngv-8b8FM

You can jump in at the 19 min point if you wish to get the essence of the video.