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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Monday, February 23, 2015

DE GUSTIBUS

My first book, Kant's Theory of Mental Activity, was what literary critics would call a "strong reading" of the Critique of Pure Reason.  I willfully ignored passages that did not comport with my deep interpretation of Kant's argument, and made much of passages that other readers might have passed over without much noticing them.  In defense of this patently unscholarly way of proceeding, I argued that great philosophers sometimes see more deeply than they can say, requiring us as readers to make daring and controversial leaps of interpretation if we are to wrest from the texts something of great value.  I freely acknowledged that readers adopting this hermenautical dictate might, indeed certainly would, arrive at utterly incompatible strong readings.  I took this not as a failing of my efforts but as a testament to the greatness of the philosopher being thus interpreted.

I have oftentimes said here that I do not like Hegel.  That prejudice, openly confessed, has provoked more comment than anything else I have ever said.  Now the reader and commentator to this blog whose Internet handle is classstruggle has posted a series of extremely long comments which, taken together, constitute, as he himself wryly remarks, a short essay on Hegel rather than a blog comment.  Clearly he [?] has delved deeply into Hegel's writings and has found there much of value, which he strives to bring to light and state in his own words.  It would be rude, indeed churlish, for me to suggest that he ought not to have spent his time that way.  I invite classstruggle, should he wish, to compose an extended essay on whatever aspects of Hegel's writings he finds most rewarding.  I would be happy to present it to my readers as a guest post.

4 comments:

TheDudeDiogenes said...

That would be welcome indeed as I too have a rather low opinion of Hegel (and so did many of my professors over the years - I have a BA and dropped out of an MA program in Philosophy).

Tom Hickey said...

Regarding your "unscholarly" book on Kant's CPR, certainly a seminal work in the Western intellectual tradition, you were already betraying signs of being a philosopher rather than merely a scholar. Philosophers characteristically use the work of the predecessors as the shoulders of giants to stand on and advance debate about the enduring questions that fall outside the purview of the sciences.

So I interpret that "unscholarly" episode as a positive sign rather than a failing. If all that happened was commentary on the past, there would be no future for the intellectual tradition. Rather, it is a dialectical process carried on through debate and argument, based on what has gone before and continuing it.

As Whitehead observed, Western philosophy is a footnote to Plato. And Plato didn't arise from nowhere either. Tracing it all back, the origins are lost in the mists of time and the future lies before us. But the same questions about the human condition endure because there are no absolute criteria for justification of an ultimate position.

classtruggle said...

Oh my, I did not expect to get home after a day's work and find on your blog yet another post about Hegel although I realise I am partially to blame here.

It is very kind of you Professor Wolff to extend such an invitation to one of your readers, especially a new comer like myself. Although I only recently started posting comments here, I have been following your blog for sometime now. The reason I visit your little home here in the virtual world, however, is not because of Hegel, or Marx or any other theorist I have squandered my youth reading but because of you, your incredibly warm personality, your devotion to scholarship and important social issues, and unbelievable modesty which puts many in academia who think they got it all 'figured out' to shame. I assume these are some of the reasons why others visit your blog as well.

I am no expert on Hegel; I just find in him and by extension, his philosophy great humanity and a wealth of knowledge (particularly his Lectures on Aesthetics which has been wonderfully translated into English by T.M. Knox and there is also the abridged version by the Paoluccis (Henry and his wife Anne).

So as much as I would like to take you up on your offer, I am sure your readers (me included) are much more interested in what you have to say about the world than any of the trivial things I have to say regarding poor old Hegel. And my supervisor would probably not be very happy to find out that I am spending time on things other than my dissertation.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Thank you so much for the kind words, which mean a very great deal to me. If the time comes when you like a little feedback on the thesis, send me an email.