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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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
LECTURE ONE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d__In2PQS60
LECTURE TWO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Al7O2puvdDA

ALSO AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ONE THROUGH TEN ON IDEOLOGICAL CRITIQUE



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Sunday, June 19, 2016

SUNDAY MORNING MUSINGS

1.         I have started reading a book recommended by my sister, Barbara:  Beethoven for a Later Age, a memoir by the Takács quartet’s first violinist, Edward Dusinberre of his experiences with the quartet.  The book begins with Dusinberre’s recollections of his audition with the other three members of the quartet, all much older, all Hungarians, and all having played together for a long time.   As Dusinberre tells it, he was a very nervous twenty-four year old, fresh out of Conservatory.  His account focuses in great detail on the details of the music that had been chosen for the audition, in this case Beethoven’s Opus 59 number 3, the third Razumovsky.  As it happens, I have played this quartet [see my June 5, 2016 post], but at a very low level of technical competence.  Reading Dusinberre’s thoughts about the subtle interplay of the instruments and the musicians gives me some small sense of the chasm between my playing and theirs.  I had thought the differences were mostly technical.   The chapter is something of a revelation.


2.         Yesterday, prodded by curiosity, I did a quick check of the file drawers in which I keep materials, in chronological order, from every course, tutorial, section, and discussion group I have taught over the past sixty-one years.  I discovered that between 1960 and 1992, I taught the First Critique fourteen times – I then transferred to an Afro-American Studies Department and turned my attention to other things.  On twelve of those occasions, I used the system of required weekly Kant Summaries that I learned from my teacher and predecessor at Harvard, Clarence Irving Lewis, and twice I did not.  In late August, when I launch my videotaped lectures on the Critique, I shall of course not be able even to require that participants read the text, let alone write Kant Summaries, and once the lectures go into the Cloud via YouTube, there is no way at all to know who will be viewing them or what, if anything, they will read as an accompaniment to the viewing experience.  I plan simply to assume that viewers are reading the text as they watch.  I cannot imagine how else to teach so difficult a book.

6 comments:

s. wallerstein said...

How should the first-time, non-professional reader of the Critique proceed?

Should they skip over paragraphs or sections that they can make no sense of and thus, make their way through the whole book and get a general, albeit not precise, idea of what it is about? Or should they stick with paragraphs or sections that they can make no sense of and run the obvious risk, time being limited, of not finishing the book?

My previously used method with difficult philosophical texts, for example, Spinoza's Ethics or Sartre's Being and Nothingness, is to skip stuff that I don't understand, but maybe that won't work for Kant's Critique.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

It wouldn't hurt to read my book with it, but maybe wait for the lectures. I hope they will help.

Matt said...

but maybe wait for the lectures. I hope they will help.

That's the thing with good lectures(*) - they can turn texts that are mystifying or otherwise hard to penetrate into accessible things. (Or, they can show that seemingly transparent texts are more complicated than we might at first think.) I'm sure these will be a benefit for people for a long time.

(*) I'll admit that I really liked the bit in J.B. Schneewind's introduction to Kant's lectures on ethics, when he said "Anyone who has studied or taught Kant's _Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals_ must have wondered how even Kant could make such difficult thoughts clear to beginners (which his students usually were). The third set of lecture notes suggests one answer - a not very encouraging one. ... We present excerpts [of lectures when Kant was presenting ideas from the groundwork] showing how Kant explained his main theses to students for the first time. We have, of course, no record of how much Mronovius and other students understood what Kant said. It seems fairly clear, however, that Kant taught his ethics no better than we do."...

Robert Paul Wolff said...

That is a great quote from Jerry. I suspect he is right. If the Prolegomena are any indication, kant was awful at explaining his own greatest philosophy.

formerly a wage slave said...

A precarious employee cannot enjoy such a luxury as this: "the file drawers in which I keep materials, in chronological order, from every course, tutorial, section, and discussion group I have taught over the past sixty-one years."

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I am well aware that I have led a charmed life. I do not apologize for that. I simply think that it imposes on me a continuing obligation to find ways out of solidarity to try to assist those less fortunate. I certainly do not imagine that I have in some way earned the comfort I enjoy.