Classstruggle, who has posted many lengthy comments on this blog, some running to several comment spaces, posted a brief comment to my post titled “Keeping My Hand In” that troubled me greatly, and I should like to respond, even though to do so is in a way rather bad-tempered of me. He [?] said, regarding my report that I had sent copies of the Meditations, the Monadology, Hume’s Treatise, and Kant’s First Critique to a student I am mentoring, “I may have a PDF copy of some of these texts (not that I have read them or care to really). But if I can be of any help, you just let me know.”
That was a very generous thing for him [?] to do, and yet here I am caviling at the parenthetical aside.
That aside is such a profoundly unMarxian thing to say that I had to respond. I think I am safe in assuming that classstruggle holds Marx in the very highest esteem. And yet, Marx was one of the most widely and deeply educated people in Western civilization of the past three or four centuries at the very least. He gobbled up books the way the Cookie Monster gobbles up cookies. I cannot even begin to imagine how he managed to read as much as he did. And this was not mere obsession or a demented notion of a good education. Marx used ideas, quotations, suggestions, facts, and arguments from an unimaginably broad array of written sources, in at least seven different languages and a dozen disciplines. Those of us who find inspiration and guidance in the thousands of pages Marx wrote ought, it seems to me, to learn from his practice. We ought to read the great literature of our culture, from antiquity onward. We ought to read widely in history, in sociology, in the sciences, and yes, in the neo-classical economics we claim to disdain. Let us follow Marx’s own practice, and embrace the famous saying of the poet Terence, “Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto,” or “I am a man, I consider nothing that is human alien to me.”
Now, I am sure that classstruggle has many pressing obligations that might keep him [?] from reading Hume’s Treatise or Kant’s Critique, but I would urge that he allow himself [?] to feel some passing regret at the missed opportunity.