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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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

TAKING MY HEAD OUT OF THE SAND

Now that Lecture Five is prepared and the polls have moved very slightly in Clinton's direction, I can bring myself to raise my head, sniff the wind, and take note of the latest furor in the race.  I have very little reason to believe that the current to-do about a former Miss Universe will make a noticeable difference in the outcome of the election, but it is fun to watch as Clinton baits Trump and Trump, like the bottom feeder that he is, takes the bait hook, line, and sinker.  If schadenfreude is all you've got, then at least revel in it, I say.

By the bye, I have finished the splendid Sapolsky book and am now deep into the Berwick and Chomsky book, Why Only Us?  Language and Evolution.  It is very dense, very compressed, and very slow going, but quite fascinating.  At this point I am almost halfway through the book, which is only 166 pages long, and I think that Chomsky's signature contribution to the subject does not appear until near the end.  I shall report back when I am done.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

AT LAST!

Here it is.   Lecture Four, replete with irrelevant stories and deep insights.  Enjoy.

MARKING TIME

Just exactly six weeks to go until the election results come in.  I have finished the Sapolsky book, which was a delight, and  have started on WHY ONLY US:  Language and Evolution, by Robert Berwick and Noam Chomsky.  What a difference!  This one is very chewy, very condensed.  

An hour to go until Lecture Four is up and available.  I shall provide a link when it is on YouTube.

Monday, September 26, 2016

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER LECTURE

Number four is recorded and should be up tomorrow.  This one features stories about Ronald Dworkin, T. D. Weldon, and Peter Strawson, and show-and-tell with fancy boards courtesy of Staples.  Also, a political rant at the end.

Next week, big stuff:  The Subjective Deduction [always a crowd pleaser.]

ANOTHER IDOL SHATTERED

Susan Stamberg, long-time much beloved National Public Radio personality, is among other things the author of the Susan Stamberg Five Second Rule, by which I have lived for years.  The rule states that when you drop a piece of food on the kitchen floor while cooking, if you pick it up within five seconds it is all right to eat it.  Now I learn that scientific tests have proved that the Five Second Rule is false.  Apparently, germs take less time than that to get on food that has fallen on the floor.

This will require an entire reordering of my culinary routines.

Is nothing sacred?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

PREVIEWS OF COMING ATTRACTIONS

Tomorrow I deliver and record the fourth Kant lecture.  I have decided to say something briefly about the fact that the election looms over this effort.  It seems odd not even to acknowledge it.  Even though I am still shunning the TV news and commentary and the web commentary, the anxiety remains.  I have been watching some Robert Sapolsky lectures on YouTube, and have learned that high levels of continuing stress are neurologically bad for you.  Not surprising.  Six weeks to go.  How on earth will I survive?

Friday, September 23, 2016

MURDER

I have just watched the newly released video taken during and after the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina.  It was murder, pure and simple.  I have no doubt the officer who killed Mr. Scott will eventually be exonerated.  This is an awful country.

YET ANOTHER RESPONSE, THIS ONE TO TED TALBOT

Ted Talbot offers the following comment:  “At the beginning of the Transcendental Aesthetic, when Kant says: “Diese [die Anschauung] findet aber nur statt, sofern uns der Gegenstand gegeben wird; dieses aber ist wiederum, uns Menschen wenigstens, nur dadurch möglich, dass er das Gemüt auf gewisse Weise affiziert” he seems to be attributing a causal relationship (“affizieren”) between objects in themselves and the mind, since „Gegenstand“ here is not the object as it appears to us (the “affecting” occurs prior to mental activity and gets the ball rolling). Is this talk of “affecting” merely the ladder that Kant will soon toss aside à la Wittgenstein, maybe hauling it out again for his ethical theory? (I think I may be raising what Sidney Morgenbesser would have called a "Philosophy 1 question"), but so be it.”

First of all, the passage that Professor Talbot quotes in the original German appears in the Kemp-Smith translation thus:  “But intuition takes place only in so far as the object is given to us.  This again is possible, to man at least, in so far as the mind is affected in a certain way.”  [ A 19 = B 33 ]

The simple answer to Professor Talbot’s question is, “Yes.”  But that, to ring the changes on the old joke, is less than he wanted to know about rainbows.  What is going on here is so complicated that I have given up any hope of including it in my lectures.  There are limits, after all!  However, I may be permitted to talk about it for a while on this blog.  Those insatiable for the subject can consult my book, Kant’s Theory of Mental Activity, where it is discussed at great length.

The text of the chapter called “The Deduction of the Pure Concepts of Understanding” is, in the First Edition, famously convoluted and apparently internally in conflict with itself, so much so that a great old Kant scholar, Hans Vaihinger, developed an elaborate “patchwork” theory of its composition.  According to this theory, Kant, in haste to bring the book to publication [because he was a hypochondriac and thought he would not live to finish it], stitched together drafts lying on his desk from his nine years of labor, apparently not noticing that they contained passages that were flat out in contradiction with one another.  No fewer than four layers or stages of the argument could be discerned, Vaihinger claimed, representing a development of the argument from its earliest stage, philosophically barely beyond the position Kant took in the Inaugural Dissertation of 1770, to its most mature stage, recapitulated coherently and successfully in the Second Edition rewrite of the chapter.

Now, as speculative history [Vaihinger did not actually have any datable documents from the Nachlass to which he could point] this is manifestly crazy.  The greatest philosopher who has ever lived [he and I agree on that], when he is writing what he correctly believes to be the most important thing he will ever write, fails to notice that in the space of 20 pages or so he says four different incompatible things!  Hello?  Seriously?

BUT:  Vaihinger was smart, and correctly identified a number of places in the text where Kant stops saying one sort of thing and starts saying something clearly different.  Indeed, if we simply divide the chapter up by paying attention to the argument in a very intense, careful manner, it all divides up into pretty much exactly the passages that Vaihinger claimed were different drafts on Kant’s desk.

One of the crucial “tells,” as professional poker players call those subtle indications that an opponent is bluffing, is precisely how Kant identifies the object of representations.  Sometimes he talks as though the object is a spatiotemporally delimited region of Appearances that affects our sense organs and produces perceptions, which is to say empirical intuitions.  Sometimes he talks as though the object is a “Transcendental object = x,” whose status is quite unclear.  And in yet other places Kant seems clearly to say that it is the Thing-in-itself that affects our sensibility, generating a diversity or, as he says, a manifold of intuition.

Now it clearly cannot be all three.  Indeed, these identifications are not just diverse, they are contradictory with one another.  One possible explanation of what is going on is Vaihinger’s Patchwork Theory of the Deduction.  Another explanation [mine] is that Kant has so complicated a story to tell, a story so different from any story that had ever been told before by a philosopher, that he can only lay it out in stages, as it were, each stage a complication of its predecessor, until the final full-blown story is given to us not even in the Deduction, but in the Second Analogy.


Professor Talbot’s invocation of Wittgenstein’s ladder is thus, in my view, quite apt.  Indeed, if I can keep it in mind, perhaps I will use it [with due credit to Professor Talbot.]

A RESPONSE

Now that I have completed my preparations for my fourth lecture on the Critique, I have some time to address several very interesting comments that have been posted here in the last day or two.  The first is a short comment posted by TheDudeDiogenes, the second a technical Kant comment by Professor Ted Talbot.  Each calls for an extended reply.  I shall respond to each in a separate post.

TheDudeDiogenes writes as follows:  Prof, perhaps of interest to you is this book review that I just read of The Happiness Industry, which review includes this gem: "What Davies recognises is that capitalism has now in a sense incorporated its own critique. What the system used to regard with suspicion – feeling, friendship, creativity, moral responsibility – have all now been co-opted for the purpose of maximising profits."  I think I shall have to read this book!  [The spelling suggests that TheDudeDiogenes is English.  Is this correct?]

This is a phenomenon I talked about a long time ago.  The Sixties – a period actually stretching from the middle of the 1960’s to the middle of the 1970’s – was a time of protest, of upheaval, of challenge to the duly constituted authorities in universities, in government, and in popular culture.   Triggered in part by the threat of obligatory military service in Viet Nam, it was principally a protest of the young [separate from the historic Civil Rights Movement, which was the continuation of an historic struggle that had been going on for several centuries, and which involved men and women in the Black community of every age and station in life.]

The protestors expressed their dissent by their hair, their clothes, and their self-presentations, as much as by their music, their use of drugs, and their language.  In those days, one could pretty well judge a man or woman’s politics at fifty paces.  The protests were not long on deep political analysis, but they were perfectly designed to drive the powers that be insane.  My favorite example was an open letter addressed by the 1968 Columbia University protest leader Mark Rudd to the then university president Grayson Kirk, a pompous stuffed shirt surrounded by crowds of university vice-presidents.  Rudd might have opened his letter, in the style then coming in to fashion with a rude salutation, such as “Up against the wall, M____F____.”  Instead, with a stiletto-sharp sense of generational confrontation, he began with the salutation, “Dear Grayson”.  Kirk could have borne foul language, but to be addressed by an undergraduate by his first name was simply intolerable!

For a while, the assault on the norms of polite society continued apace, with proper adults outraged by the mere sight of young people going barefoot or wearing their hair long or not wearing ties and dresses.  [I would remind those of my readers who are too young to remember that on their first triumphant tour of America, the Beatles actually wore ties when they performed.  Their sole manifestation of countercultural rebellion was to wear their hair, carefully coiffed as it was, long enough to brush the collars of their jackets.]

Then a funny thing happened.  Capitalism raised its head, sniffed the winds, and caught the intoxicating scent of profit.  The Mad Men of Madison Avenue began to feature the familiar symbol of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in their ads.  Fashion models started to look like campus protestors.  Pretty soon, you simply could no longer judge someone’s politics at a glance.  Wiser and more experienced than the Grayson Kirks of this world, capitalism understood that there was no intrinsic connection between body piercings, tattoos, and Collective Ownership of the Means of Production.  The rebellion dwindled into a fashion statement.  Men with shoulder length hair and pierced nostrils might actually be Republicans!  Once again, Capitalism had conquered.  It was all rather sad, but quite predictable. 


Marcuse called it repressive desublimation.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

REALITY HAS SET IN

My first lecture has drawn more than 10,000 views.  My second has drawn more than 7000.  The third has thus far drawn 1300.  A few more weeks and we will be down to the sixty or seventy people actually interested in the Critique.  That will still be three times as many people as ever took my course on the book at one time, so it is not so bad.  But I must give up my dreams of going on the road with Beyonce.  

Monday I tackle the opening sections of the Transcendental Analytic, up to but most definitely not including the Deduction in A.  That is for the following week.  For Monday's lecture, I have had Staples create two large 2 foot by 3 foot poster boards, one with the Table of Functions of Judgment on it in great big letters and the other with the Table of Categories.  I have also bought an adjustable easel to display them.  Expensive, but I figure it is tax deductible [as presumably was the $10,000 Trump paid out of his charitable foundation for a portrait of himself to display in one of his hotels.]

I shall open my lecture by replying to a question posed, after my second lecture, on this blog, thus fusing these two very different forms of self-expression.  I imagine Plato did the same thing, incorporating into a later Dialogue a response to an objection raised in the Groves of Academe by his favorite pupil, Aristotle.  [This is a bit of wry self-deprecatory humor, for those with tin ears.]

A strange peace has descended on me now that I have not heard Chris Matthews' braying voice for nigh on a week.  I think after the election, if all turns out as I hope, I shall never go back to my former obsession with political commentary.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

THIS AND THAT

I gave a puff to Robert Sapolsky's book, A Primate's Memoir.  For those who would like a quick introduction to this extraordinary man, here is a TED talk he gave on Class Day at Stanford, where he teaches.  It is a delight.

Although I have sworn off TV political commentary, I occasionally sneak a look at the probabilities posted on the various poll synthesizing sites.  Nate Cohn [I think] on The Upshot has the unsettling habit of stating the probability that Clinton will win and then comparing that to a sports probability.  Thus, Clinton used to be at 90%, which is the probability that an NFL kicker will make the point after.  Now she is at 75%, which is the probability that an NFL kicker will make a 45 yard field goal.  This makes me deeply uncomfortable.  Imagine that as you board a flight, one of the cabin personnel says "Our chance of crashing is quite low today -- as low as the chance that a .350 big league hitter will strike out.  Welcome aboard!"

My plan to move to Paris if Trump wins has hit a snag.  Several of my relatives have told me that they intend to stay in m apartment there in that eventuality.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

HERE IT IS

All right, here is the link to the Third Lecture, posted on You Tube.  Enjoy!

Monday, September 19, 2016

MOVING RIGHT ALONG

Lecture Three has been delivered and recorded, and should be up on YouTube tomorrow.  We are getting into the meat of the Critique now.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

WHAT I AM READING

Having forsworn television political commentary and on-line statistical analysis of the election, I have a good deal of time on my hands, and in true retro fashion, I bethought myself to read a book.  My first effort was John Sandford's latest Lucas Davenport thriller, Extreme Prey.  Sandford has written twenty-six Lucas Davenport novels, all with the word "prey" in the title, and I think I have read fifteen or more of them.  They are all well-plotted and gripping, with two striking characteristics that distinguish them from the general run of cop novels, or procedurals, as they are sometimes called.  The first is that although they are urbane and sophisticated, they have an uncommonly large number of murders in them.   Most such books have one big murder, which the main character has then to solve, but in Sandford's novels, people drop like flies.  The other striking characteristic is that Sandford gives Davenport really snappy dialogue, quite delightful except for the fact that everyone in the novel talks snappy dialogue, which is, when you think about it, implausible.

The main drawback of Sandford's novels [and those of everyone else, save perhaps Simenon], is that no matter how careful and restrained I am, I read them much faster than he can write them, so as I turn the last page, as I did last night, I know it will be another year before the next one.

Fortunately, since lots of people write books, the solution is to move on to another author.  Guided, as I so often am, by my big sister, Barbara, I have now turned to a non-fiction work, A Primate's Memoir, A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life Among the Baboons,  by Robert M. Sapolsky.  I have just read the first two sentences, and they are so delicious that I had to stop and write this blog post.  Here they are:

"I joined the baboon troop during my twenty-first year.  I had never planned to become a savanna baboon when I grew up; instead I had always assumed I would become a mountain gorilla."

This bodes well.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

ALL HANDS ON DECK!

It is now clear that half of the voting adults in the United States, give or take a percent or two, are prepared to vote for Donald Trump.  That says something so terrible about those people that I find it difficult to contemplate.  I consider Trump a genuine threat to such democracy as we have in America, and hence a threat to any hope at all of positive progressive change.  Hillary Clinton is not that sort of threat.  If elected, she will continue the foreign and domestic policies of the past three quarters of a century, worse than some presidents, not as bad as others.  And the opportunity for real progressive change will remain, dependent as it always has been on the willingness of millions of supposed progressives to put their time, energy, and money where their ideals are.  Whether such democracy as we have can survive Trump is, for me at least, an open question.

If you agree with me, then right now is when you need to commit time and money to the effort to elect Clinton, which is the only way to defeat Trump.  Vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson or write in Karl Marx if you live in a safely blue state, like New York or Massachusetts or California.  It doesn't matter, and if it makes you feel good, go for it.  But if you live, as I do, in a so-called swing state, then you have an obligation to volunteer for the get-out-the-vote effort in your state.

The one thing we have going for us is Clinton's well-funded high quality on-the-ground political machine, which can make as much as 1-3% difference in the vote.  That is enough to switch a handful of swing states, which is all we need.

The day after the election, if Clinton wins, I will be the first one to start talking about a national movement to bring pressure on her from the left.  I have already donated so much money to Bernie Sanders that he has started sending it back -- $300, since I exceeded the legal limit.  And I just got back from several hours in downtown Chapel Hill registering voters.

It is up to you to do your part.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

SMALL VICTORIES

Today's NY TIMES crossword puzzle was the hardest Thursday puzzle I have ever done.  I had to come back to it three times before I solved it.

The John Sandford novel, by the way, is proving to be an excellent defense against election news.  The only problem is that I am already halfway through it.  There really is a great deal of time in the day when one is not constantly checking the web for political gossip or watching cable news.

HELP

Someone posted a long comment, and before I could read it I accidentally deleted it and I do not seem to be able to get it back.  Would whoever posted it please repost it?   I am terribly sorry.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

MAKING CONNECTIONS

I just realized that an obscure and often ignored throwaway line in the Transcendental Aesthetic of the Critique [ A 27 ] gives me a way to talk briefly about Karl Mannheim's Ideology and Utopia, which was the subject of the first three of my lectures on Ideological Critique  Nifty.

KANT LECTURES REMINDER

Lectures One and Two on the Critique of Pure Reason are now on YouTube [link at the top of this blog.]  Several people have asked which edition of the Critique I am using.  It is the translation into English by Norman Kemp-Smith, available at Amazon.  I am working on Lecture Three now.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

GET IT WHILE IT'S HOT

Here it is, by popular demand, Lecture 2 in my immortal series on the Critique of Pure Reason [everything on the web is immortal, like nuclear waste.]  This one starts with a nifty story about me and Bertrand Russell ]and goes downhill from there.]  On to the Transcendental Aesthetic!

GOOGLE HAS ITS LIMITS

I asked Google whether I can produce geometric diagrams using WORD [this is for next week's lecture on the Transcendental Aesthetic.]  Sure enough, up popped a link to a video with the answer -- IN ARABIC!!!

I shall continue to look.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

WHAT TO DO AFTER YOU SWEAR OFF POLITICS

My self-imposed ban on political cable news and internet election commentary has left something of a hole in my day, which I fill with walks and visits to YouTube to watch videos of baroque music.  This afternoon I listened to a lovely performance of Monteverdi’s great duet for two countertenors [or, in this instance, a countertenor and a soprano], Zefiro torna.  I first heard this piece in Sanders Theater at Harvard, with the great countertenor Russell Oberlin singing the lead voice.  This must be fifty-five years ago or thereabouts, when countertenors were just making their way in the American classical music world. 

The first countertenor to appear in America [in the 20th century, at any rate] was of course Alfred Deller.  I heard him also at Sanders Theater, and his voice range was so unfamiliar to American audiences that Deller made it a point to make a little speech, just so folks could hear that his speaking voice was in a customary male range.  Deller was not, in fact, a true countertenor, I believe, and wonderful though he was, the singers who came after him have been markedly better.


One small personal story about countertenors.  Back in 1986 or thereabouts, I was driving my son, Tobias, home from high school one day and I asked, as a father will, what he had been doing lately in school.  He replied that he had joined a madrigal group there which gave concerts in period costumes and all.  I was delighted, and replied that when I was at Harvard as an undergraduate, I had sung madrigals with two of my friends.  “What are you singing?” I asked.  He replied by opening his mouth to sing a few bars.  Out of his mouth came a pure, exquisite countertenor voice.  I was so delighted that I said, “Tobias, that is the most wonderful thing any son of mine has ever done!”  Inasmuch as Tobias’ older brother had by then earned a reputation as the strongest junior chess player in America, it was not an idle compliment.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

COLLATERAL DAMAGE

I have been suffering debilitating pain in my neck and shoulders for some days now, and after several visits to the doctor, I have concluded that it is muscular tension [perhaps a pinched nerve] brought on by anxiety over the election.  I have stopped my endless watching of cable political shows and my obsessive surfing of the web for scraps of news about the campaign.  I will continue to volunteer for the North Carolina campaign [I have just returned from several hours registering passersby on Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill], but otherwise I will work on my Kant lectures  and try to survive until election day in November.  

I have never been very good at relaxing, and it seems counterproductive to work on being relaxed, but I need to find some way to come to terms with the fact that close to half of adult Americans are prepared to vote for Donald Trump.  I am not a patriot, and I am, I thought, under no illusions about America, but I confess that even I have been devastated by the level of support in this country for a fascist racist xenophobic buffoon.

On the other hand, there have been more than 7,800 views of my first Kant lecture.  I am thinking of going on the road doing stand-up as an opening act for Beyonce.  My riff on the Transcendental Deduction has always been a crowd pleaser.

Friday, September 9, 2016

A RESPONSE TO JON CULP

Jon Culp asks a very important question, a fully satisfactory reply to which is, unfortunately, beyond my abilities to supply.  Here is what he says:

“Bob, can you tell me, how can someone be a Kantian after the advent of non-Euclidean geometry, relativity theory, and quantum mechanics, each of which undoes some of the supposedly a priori elements of his philosophy? I'm not implying that you *are* a Kantian, but perhaps you could enlighten me.”

First let me give a simple answer, which is rather superficial.  It never occurred to Kant that Euclid’s  Elements and Newton’s Principia were not the last word in mathematics and physics.  The arguments he gives in the Aesthetic, even if they are in their own terms totally successful, only prove that there is some mathematics of space that can be known a priori to be universal and necessary.  He never makes the slightest effort to derive the axioms of Geometry from the arguments of the Aesthetic.

Similarly, the argument he begins in the Analytic of Concepts and [on my interpretation] brings to a close in the Second Analogy only shows, even if it succeeds, that there is a science of nature the fundamental principle of which [the Causal Maxim] can be established with necessity a priori.  The most that that demonstration shows is that the science of nature is a closed system, presumably compatible with Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, or String Theory, or whatever other theories of nature physicists come up with.  Now in fact Kant wrote a book called Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science in which he does actually try to pull Newtonian physics out of the conclusions of the Critique, but it is a flop, as you might expect.

So, at that superficial level, Kant is safe from Jon Culp’s question.  But that does not at all address the much deeper questions to which Kant, it seems to me, has no real answers.  Among these are:

1.         Once we attain some sophistication about axiomatised systems, and understand that there can be many alternative geometries or algebras, none of which has any greater claim to being rooted in mind-dependent forms of intuition than any other, what are we to make of such systems?

2.         What is the relationship between the fundamental principle of physics [the Causal Maxim, in some form or other] and the endlessly many particular physical laws derived from experimental observation and theory construction [the Problem of Induction, as it is called in some iterations]?

Kant really has nothing interesting or important to say about these questions, alas, and in fact seems not even to have recognized their possibility.


Well, that is a bit of a letdown, I am afraid, but there it is.  By the way, I do not consider myself a Kantian.  I do consider myself a Marxist, but that is another story entirely.

CURIOUS

On Monday, I shall give my second Kant lecture, but I am already preparing Lecture Three, which will be devoted to the Transcendental Aesthetic.  Naturally, I shall spend some time in that lecture explaining why Kant believed that Geometry consists, for the most part, of synthetic propositions that are known a priori.  In search of useful illustrations of this important claim, I took down from the shelf my old copy of Book I of Euclid's Elements which, I see from the flyleaf, I bought used many years ago for two dollars.

When I was a boy in high school, Euclid had already been superceded.  I am curious.  Has anyone out there ever actually been called on in school to look at the Elements?  It is really rather elegant.  Cartesian Geometry [named, of course, after Descartes] is vastly superior mathematically, but nowhere near so charming.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

THREE URGENT QUESTIONS

1.  Why do telephone scam operations hire creepy sounding people from India?

2.  Why do they tell the creepy callers to identify themselves as "Mr. Washington"?

3.   What is the best way to get them to stop calling?

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

VANITAS VANITAS OMNIA VANITAS

How right M. de St. Colombe was to flee the enticements of the court at Versailles and isolate himself on his country estate, there to spend endless hours perfecting his mastery of the viola da gamba.  

At last count, there had been 7,132 views of my first Kant lecture. Already I am asking myself, "What can I do to keep them coming back?"  My fantasies run to an international tour, with a back-up quartet of modal logicians and power amps.  We could call ourselves The Noumenal Five.  

I was wise all those years ago to leave the Ivy League.  I suppose this is Andy Warhol's revenge.


Sunday, September 4, 2016

BUSY, BUSY

Now that my lecture notes for the second Kant lecture are complete, I have turned my thoughts to the third lecture, which will deal with the Transcendental Aesthetic.  The concept of intuition is of course central to that passage, and although it was a familiar philosophical term in Kant's day [intuitio], it does not today have anything like the same meaning.  Kant for the most part talks about sensible intuition, but I need to explain as well the even more obscure notion of intellectual intuition, which Kant, Spinoza, and many other philosophers of that period attribute to God.  How to explain the notion of intuition that is active rather than passive, intellectual rather than sensible, creative rather than receptive?

It occurred to me that one lovely way is by allusion to one of Handel's most exquisite arias, "Where'er I walk" from the opera Semele.  Jupiter has taken the mortal Semele as a lover, and when she aspires to see him in his true form [which would kill her, as indeed it does eventually] he seeks to divert her with earthly pleasures.  You can hear the aria sung beautifully here.  The words are:

Where'er you walk
Cool gales shall fan the glade
Trees where you sit
shall crowd into a shade
Trees where you sit
shall crowd into a shade
  Where'er you tread
the blushing flowers shall rise
and all things flourish
and all things flourish
Where'er you turn your eyes
Where'er you walk
Cool gales shall fan the glade
Trees where you sit
shall crowd into a shade
Trees where you sit
shall crowd into a shade.

The point is that because he is a God, indeed the most powerful of the Gods, his words are not a promise of cool gales and blushing flowers, they are the creation of these delights. For Jupiter, to form the image of something is to bring it into existence.  His intuition is intellectual.  

My only problem is that I have no way of playing it for my class.  How I wish I had a beautiful tenor voice!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

BAIT AND SWITCH

I have just finished preparing my notes for the second Kant lecture, and I am afraid it will be a good deal chewier and less chatty than the first lecture.  Sort of like the State Fair sideshow barker who entices passersby to buy tickets with promises of naked ladies and two-headed cows, and then when they are inside offers them instead a quick look at a pickled octopus.

I hope the geeks and true believers are pleased.

HOLY NOUMENON, BATMAN!

YouTube says there have been 4,161 views of my first Kant lecture since it went up three days ago.   In 1954, I bought a tiny 197 cc motorcycle in Oxford, England and rode it to Rome.  I called it the ding nicht an sich because it was a phenomenal bike.  I did not realize then that sixty-two years later I would become a rock star.  Do you suppose anyone would like to see my killer impression of Leibniz?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

WHY READ BOTH THE FIRST AND SECOND EDITIONS OF THE CRITIQUE?

Wallyverr raises the question why editors of editions and translations of the Critique routinely include the first and second edition texts when that is hardly the standard practice in Literature and other disciplines, and is not even the universal practice in Philosophy.  Let me give my answer, and not presume to speak for Norman Kemp Smith or Paul Guyer, et al.  My reason is simple.  In my effort more than half a century ago to reconstruct the core argument of the Critique in a form that I considered to be coherent, powerful, and philosophically important, I found that the key to that reconstruction lay in passages that Kant included in the First Edition and removed from the Second Edition.  Indeed, the passage I consider the most important in the entire work [the so-called Subjective Deduction of the First Edition] is explicitly disavowed by Kant in the First Edition Preface [although in a curiously hedged and self-contradictory fashion] and omitted from the Second Edition.

All this will become clear as the lectures progress, but there are many complex and puzzling matters to be dealt with before we get to that point.