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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Monday, January 9, 2017

MILESTONES

Originally, milestones were literally large stones, probably painted to stand out, set at regular intervals along a highway [which is to say a road that was raised up above the surrounding fields or woods through which it ran -- not to be confused with a turnpike, which was a road entry to which required payment of a fee, or toll, after which a pike stretched across the road would be turned or rotated, allowing one to continue.]  Be that as it may, this new year marks a milestone along my life's journey.  It is now just sixty years since I earned my doctorate in Philosophy at Harvard.

Nineteen fifty-seven was a banner year for the Harvard Philosophy Department.  Twelve us earned the Ph. D. that year.  My fellow PhD-niks began their teaching careers, but I had a different job:  Buck Private.  Shortly after commencement, which was in early June, I boarded a bus in Central Square with fifty or so other young Massachusetts National Guard volunteers and drove off for Fort Dix, New Jersey, where we all began Basic Training.  My six months of active duty, followed by five and a half years of weekly meetings and two-week summer camps, was not motivated by an exaggerated patriotic fervor, but by my desire to avoid the alternative, which was two years in the Regular Army and two years in the Active Reserve.  

Looking back with the benefit of six decades, I can honestly say that I am glad to have had the opportunity to wear my nation's uniform.  Those six months taught me several very valuable lessons [for the details of which you may read Volume One, Chapter Five of my Autobiography], and gave me forever after street cred in arguments about U. S. foreign and military policy.  The innocent question, "Which branch of the military did you serve in?," asked of an opponent during a debate, gave me a bundle of what they called in the old Dungeons and Dragons "hit points."

I have had my doctorate so long that sometimes I imagine that "Dr." is my first name, sort of like Major Major Major in Catch 22.  

Rather more important is the fact that this year marks the sesquicentennial of the publication of Volume I of Das Kapital.  I have not heard of any celebrations scheduled to mark the event -- certainly I have not been invited to any -- but as Willy Loman's wife, Linda, says in Death of a Salesman, attention must be paid.  Perhaps the best way for me to add my respects, like the little juggler juggling before the statue of the Virgin Mary, is to deliver, record, and post a series of lectures about what is, after all, one of the greatest books ever written.  Let me meditate on it some.  I shouldn't think that is what Willard Van orman Quine and Nelson Goodman had in mind for me sixty-seven years ago when they taught a sixteen year old Freshman, but they are dead and I am not, so I figure I am free to follow my own star.

3 comments:

Tim said...

I'd be very interested to watch the lectures!

I wanted to say, also, that there is at least one such celebration. A group I am involved with here in the UK, the Marx and Philosophy Society, will be putting on a one-day conference in February (if that counts as a 'celebration'). Details TBC http://marxandphilosophy.org.uk/society/about. And you are, of course, welcome to attend should you happen to be in the neighbourhood!

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I will be in Paris, as it happens, but I shall have to pass on attending. Let me know how it goes.

Unknown said...

Enoch says:

Another vote for the lectures!