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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Thursday, November 24, 2016

HEGEL SCHLEGEL, A BEI GEZUNT, SO LONG AS HE LOVES HIS MOTHER

Among the many responses to my plea for guidance on what to do next were several suggesting lectures on Hegel.  My aversion to the great mystifier is well known, but I take all guidance seriously, so I thought I would hunt up Charles Taylor's 1975 book on Hegel to see whether I had actually read it and even, perhaps, made comments.  I bought the book when it came out because Taylor was, and still is, an enormously distinguished philosopher well-versed in the Anglo-American school in which I was brought up.  The book was easy to spot on my shelves because it is huge [568 pages] and rather distinctive.  I climbed up on my library ladder [the H's are on a high shelf] and took it down.  It is, appropriately, called Hegel.

Well, it does appear that I read it, or at least tried.  The opening pages are covered with underlinings and lengthy marginal comments, only a few of which, I fear, can be reproduced on a blog that draws little children and the faint of heart.  But my comments peter out on page 148, the first page of a chapter perhaps significantly titled "Self-Consciousness."  Since Taylor thought Hegel worth a book of this heft, I am forced to concede that there must be something to him, but I am damned if I can figure out what, so I will content myself with suggesting that those who are interested should seek out Taylor's book.

Which leaves me at loose ends.  Let me say that I have decided to try to combine my commitment to opposing Trump with some semblance of my former life, so I shall continue to blog about philosophy, literature, morning walks, and the like while also not allowing the passage of time to convert my outrage to resigned acceptance.

There is a practical problem that limits my ability to create more YouTube lectures.  The UNC Philosophy Department very kindly permitted me to use their classroom for the filming of the Kant lectures, but I am not a member of the Department, and there is a limit to how much I can impose on them.

I could go back to doing "tutorials" in the form of a series of blog posts, and indeed I may do that, but having known the excitement of the footlights and the cheers of the crowd [so to speak, hem hem ;) ], I am loathe to put away my grease paint.

I like the idea of a teach-in on the Trump threat, but I cannot figure out how to stage it.  I have in mind a series of guest appearances in which a variety of individuals are videotaped talking about various aspects of the crisis we face, to be posted seriatim on YouTube.  But I do not have the facilities for it.  I bet Noam does at MIT [they have everything].  Maybe he will have a go.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Professor Wolff,

first of all, sometime in the coming years I'm going to sit down and reread the first Critique. And then I plan to listen to your lectures as well.
For the moment my job forces me to concentrate on more mundane topics, especially terrorism. Of course there are some philosophical questions related to that. For example the simple question whether we need a state to protect us and how far this state may go in fighting its enemies(I have strong sympathies for anarchism, but it seems a strong Hobbesian state is more equipped to handle extreme violence by non-state-actors, or by by anyone else for that matter). To make things short, my blatantly selfish suggestion is that you give some lectures on political philosophy, especially with an eye to real-life-problems we have today.

Ulf Brueggemann

Jack Samuel said...

You might find Robert Pippin's *Hegel's Idealism: The Satisfactions of Self-Consciousness* a more accessible (and plausible) way into Hegel, if you're prepared to give him another chance. If Taylor's is a key work in the resurgence of anglophone interest in Hegel, Pippin's is equally important in the now-more-popular "post-Kantian" reading of Hegel, which de-mystifies much of the mystery, deflates much of the metaphysics, and naturalizes the religiosity of Taylor's reading. As the name suggests that way of reading Hegel puts him much more closely in contact with issues you're already concerned with (Taylor is something like a modern "right-wing" Hegelian, whereas Pippin's Hegel is in many ways situated between Kant and Marx).

The Pippin is also, notably, much shorter.

Jerry Fresia said...


I think one of things you do well is comment on and explain the current political/economic scene. And it is somewhat probable that the primary thing separating me from my Trump loving relatives is having been at UMass, Amherst during most of the 70s and early 80s. Maybe you could organize a 15-30 minute talk and open it to questions, having shopped that talk around to all sorts of groups in your area. I think there is a great hunger for explanation and further I think the appetite for left analysis is growing as well. A little grease paint and you're good to go.

Regarding Hegel: The first 100 pages or so of Taylor's book is probably the most underlined and commented on pages of any book I own. The story, to mention one emphasis, of how self-realization (expressivism) emerged and its virtue in terms of freedom/emancipation is important, and certainly central to art and politics, not to mention Marx.

Alan Nelson said...

Please "impose" another youtubed lecture series on us!

richard lewis said...

Dear Professor. Have you looked at David Graeber's 'Debt: the first 5,000 Years'? I think it's the kind of iconoclastic work you would find very interesting, partly because it overlaps with your own anarchist leanings and partly because of its anti-positivist methodology, in which every civilizational value is interrogated using a very sharp historical anthropology (and not a trace of post modern weasel-words). It's just a very ambitious piece of anarchist social theory and it would be fun to hear your take on it. (the first 200 pages are the key theoretical contribution).

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Richard Lewis, I have just ordered it from Amazon. I will look at it and tell you what I think. Thanks.