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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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, March 30, 2016

PRE-DAWN MUSINGS

More than forty years ago, when I was still relatively newly arrived at the University of Massachuesetts Amherst, I knew a Professor of Italian named Zina Tillona [she has since gone on to earn a law degree and now practices in Northampton, I believe]. A group of us were sitting around gossiping one day about a mutual acquaintance who had just been tapped for an administrative position despite no prior such experience. "I wonder what sort of Dean he will be," someone said, idly. Zina replied, "Well, most people do most things the way they do most other things."

Ay first, I thought the remark rather trite, almost tautological. But on reflection, I realized that it encapsulated a very deep truth. There are styles in human behavior, and those styles crop up across a wide range of activities, some trivial, some very important. So this man was likely to be a Dean in roughly the way he was a tennis player, a father, a teacher, or a lover. If he was fussy, obsessed with trivia, vindictive in his personal relationships, and perpetually late to parties or his children's teacher conferences, then he would almost certainly be fussy, obsessed with trivia, vindictive, and chronically late to appointments as a Dean.

Erick Ericson says something similar in Childhood and Society [I think.] People have styles in dreaming, he observes. Some always dream in color, others in black and white. Some have barren, simple dreams, others have cluttered dreams. And this is true regardless of the subject matter of the dream.

Why is any of this important, even granting that it is kind of interesting?  Because there is continuing speculation that  Donald Trump will "pivot" to the General Election once he secures the Republican nomination and will then cease to behave as he has these past nine months.  He will cease making vile misogynistic comments, quickly study up on the basic facts of foreign affairs, develop a robust ground game, and become a formidable candidate against [presumably] Hillary Clinton.


I seriously doubt it.  Most people do most things the way they do most other things.

2 comments:

ES said...

While I don't dispute the valuable lesson, your comment takes for granted that the Trump we are getting now is the real Trump, so to speak. People who suspect a change in character believe (whether rightly, I don't know) that the current Trump is no more than an act put on to appeal to certain demographics and that it therefore must both be the case and must be possible that his character will change when the time comes (either after securing the nomination or before if he loses ground).

Do you think such an assessment likely?

s. wallerstein said...

People can't change their personality structure or type, but they can change their social attitudes and behaviors.

In the last 45 years I've become a lot less sexist in my domestic and mating behaviors. While I was never a misogynist such as Trump is, I used to be chivalrously sexist.

Can they change such attitudes and behaviors in a few months? Well, when the women's movement first interrupted into my life in the winter of 1969-70 and I found myself pressured to become less sexist, I made an effort and made a lot of changes in a few weeks.