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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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, January 8, 2015

REPLY TO A. CAMERON

A. Cameron asks why I equivocate on Spinoza but include Leibniz in my list of twenty-five.  I studied Spinoza's Ethics in a semester-long course with the great Harry Austryn Wolfson that was one of the high points of my undergraduate education, so I was inclined to put him in.  Wolfson taught him as, in effect, the last and greatest of the Medievals.  His course connected Spinoza to the great debates in the Christian/Jewish/Muslim tradition.  Leibniz, on the other hand, had a profound influence going forward on Kant and others.  In addition, I think the Ethics is really impenetrable without a guide [such as Wolfson's own magnificent two-volume study].

However, my advice in all such cases of uncertainty is, Read it!  This list is deliberately kept short and manageable in the perhaps vain hope that a serious graduate Philosophy student will actually attempt it. 

By the way, I notice that I made a mistake in the numbering [see Aristotle].  The list is actually 26, not 25, titles long.  I just reviewed it, and I think I had read maybe 24 or so of the titles [including a mess of the medieval stuff] by the time I got my degree, but I was only twenty-three then, so perhaps I may be excused.  Also, I had taken four courses in Mathematical Logic plus Nelson Goodman's course on his first book, The Structure of Appearance.

I pass over in silence the suggestion that I comment on books I have never so much as looked at.  I may be a blogging hacker, but I have some shreds of principles remaining!

6 comments:

mesnenor said...

I think Spinoza is, if anything, more influential than Leibniz, except that no-one could openly admit to being a Spinozist. Spinoza as a medieval is a strange way to look at him. To my way of thinking he's a key link in the modern re-appropriation of Epicureanism.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

OK. You win. Add him to the list. :)

Chris said...

Why could no one admit to being a Spinozist? I know several people who would say they are....

TheDudeDiogenes said...

I believe mesnenor meant that at the time of Spinoza, one could not admit one was a Spinozist.

While I only have a BA in Philosophy, having dropped out of my grad program after one semester in '06, my sense is that, as mesnenor said, Spinoza is probably more influential than Leibniz; I feel even more sure of that claim if we restrict it to academic Philosophy of, say, the past fifteen years.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

OK, I yield to the superior wisdom of the cloud. Put in Spinozaa [but do not take anyone out. 25 is not a sacred number.]

mesnenor said...

Yes, I was referring to Spinoza's influence on 17th and 18th century thinkers. If you used Spinoza's language or terminology or restated his views too openly, you'd be branded as a heretic and an atheist and have to spend all your time arguing against churchmen and book-burners. There's a lot of discussion in some of the secondary literature on Leibniz about whether Leibniz is really a Spinozist. I think Leibniz is less of a Spinozist than most. The fact that his system is based on a multiplicity of individual substances, makes him really quite fundamentally non-Spinozist. I think a lot of the traditional rationalist/empiricist division in the traditional English-language histories of philosophy serves to draw a line of separation between the British thinkers and Spinoza, whereas in fact Locke and Hume were probably much closer to Spinoza in their views than Leibniz was.

When Jefferson referred to "Nature's God" in the Declaration of Independence, that's Spinoza's influence right there. It was filtered through a number of British deist intermediaries, but it came from Spinoza.