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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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, February 20, 2017

A PLEA TO MY READERS

On a normal day, this blog gets between 1500 and 3000 visits.  As near as I can tell, something like 5000 or so people world-wide follow the blog.  But only several dozen people comment with any regularity.  That, I gather, is normal for the blogosphere.  I would imagine that virtually all of my readers are anti-Trump, and that a majority, but by no means all, fall on the left side of the political spectrum.

I have been talking for several weeks now about the importance of winning House seats and state legislative and gubernatorial seats all across America.  The contest that has been mentioned on this blog a number of times is the by-election in April for the 6th Georgia House seat, with Jon Ossoff as the Democratic candidate, but there are important elections this year in Virginia and New Jersey and a good many other places.

Here is my plea:  Don't comment on the blog if that is your preference, but please, please, get involved locally if you happen to live in a state or district that has an election this year.  Give money, volunteer, make calls, ring doorbells, talk to friends, go to Town Halls, participate in demonstrations. whatever you find comfortable and, as they say in the trade, ego-syntonic, but DO SOMETHING.


42 comments:

s. wallerstein said...

Have you ever thought of taking a poll of your readers to see what their political positions are?

I assume that the 3000 daily visits may be 1000 or so regular readers, since your posts do not appear at any set hour and people may check back from to time to see if you've posted. Also people who follow a thread without participating will check back from time to time.

Anonymous said...

Professor Wolf, I'm currently listening to your Kant lectures, and find you to be a remarkable Kant scholar. I am a Trump supporter, but it does not negate the fact that I'm a reasonable person who attempts to acquire knowledge and truth from various sources. I have two questions. 1. Was Sidney Morgenbesser an Atheist? 2. Why wasn't Clinton's pro choice stance a deterrent in getting your vote? If the answer to my second question lay within the pages of your blog, please direct me to it. Thanks in advance..

Will

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I am very sorry to hear that you are a Trump supporter. I hope that as time passes you will come to question that judgment. As for Sidney, I am pretty sure he was an atheist, even though he was trained as a Rabbi. Clinton's pro choice position was one of the things that made her an acceptable candidate to me. Why on earth would you think otherwise?

Anonymous said...

You are a highly intelligent, rational father who could also be considered a political activist. All of those adjectives display the ability to choose, to exercise one's free will. Unborn babies who are alive in the womb do not have that same right. Did the thought of aborting your children ever cross your mind? Abortion is akin to child sacrifice to an idol. Why would you support such a barbaric ritual?

Also have you ever taken any interest in the works of Soren Kierkegaard? He is my favorite philosopher..

Will

s. wallerstein said...

Abortion does not involve "an unborn baby alive in the womb". It involves a fetus, which is not yet an unborn baby.

Roe vs. Wade specifies that abortion should take place before a fetus can survive outside the woman's uterus.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roe_v._Wade

Anonymous said...

Roe vs Wade failed to address the central issue in the abortion debate, which is, of course whether or not an unborn baby is a human being. The medical facts prove that life begins at conception. Given the evidence that human life begins at conception and since everyone agrees that human life should not be taken (this is obvious from the Moral Law), it seems there would be a consensus in this country to outlaw abortion except where the mother's life is in danger. This was the case before the Roe Court legalized and legitimized abortion on demand. Legalization helped to change the minds of many from believing abortion is wrong to believing it is acceptable.

Will

s. wallerstein said...

You're playing with words. Life begins at conception, fine, but that does not mean that whatever exists at conception is a human being. Thus, human life does not begin at conception.

Are you against the morning pill too?

s. wallerstein said...

Sorry: that should read "are you against the morning-after pill too'"

I. M. Flaud said...

On a whim I joined the Not My President's Day protest today in New York City. Somewhat to my surprise I found standing in the sun holding a "FREE SWEDEN" sign and chanting, "He's orange! He's gross! He lost the popular vote!" not only ego-syntonic, but therapeutic. [I also sent even more money to my senator's re-election campaign, but didn't mention it for Friday.]

Anonymous said...

No Mr Wallerstein, I'm not playing with words, its a scientific fact. I'm against the killing of unborn babies, if the morning after pill accomplishes fits the definition, then I'm against it.

s. wallerstein said...

Anonymous,

Are you against the death penalty?

wallyverr said...

For Anonymous,

Professor Wolff did a short series of posts, which he called an "appreciation", of Kierkegaard's Philosophical Fragments, starting at

http://robertpaulwolff.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/kierkegaards-philosophical-fragments.html

Anonymous said...

I'm not against the death penalty.. I will have to read is posts on Kierkegaard.. Thanks for the info..

s. wallerstein said...

Anonymous,

Now I'm confused about your position. You stated above that human life should not be taken and that that is obvious from the moral law. Now you say that you're not against the death penalty. But doesn't the death penalty involve taking human life?

Anonymous said...

Mr Wallerstein, there is a distinct difference between the definition of murder and to kill. Putting to death, someone who has taken a human life without just cause is reasonable, but to put to death someone who hasn't committed such a crime is unjust. How much more is it unjust to put someone to death who has neither the power to kill, the knowledge to kill, nor will to kill....

h said...

Dear anonymous, do you find anything objectionable about cracking an egg and flushing it down the toilet. Is that murder of unborn chicks?

Anonymous said...

Unborn chicks are not created in the image of their Creator, possessing the ability to reason. Huge difference and not even a close comparison...

s. wallerstein said...

Anonymous,

How about the U.S. drone policy?

The U.S. fires their drones at suspected terrorists (no due process of course), and inevitably, a rew people who have neither the power to kill nor the knowledge to kill nor the will to kill, women (maybe some of them pregnant), children, neighbors, die in the process. They call it "collateral damage". What's your take on that?

s. wallerstein said...

Sorry another typo: that should read "a few people", not "a rew people".

Anonymous said...

Mr Wallerstein,

You neglect to include the intent of the individual. Mechanical mistakes occur with automated equipment. Your illustration is lacking true depth. The decision of abortion is one based upon the human will, not mechanical errors..

s. wallerstein said...

Drone policies involve no mechanical mistakes. They want to kill an alleged terrorist: he's surrounded by his family (wife and children) and there are some neighbors nearby: they don't have MacMansions in Yemen or Afghanistan and people live close to one another. So they fire a drone and kill the whole lot to get rid of the alleged terrorist. What about that?

Anonymous said...

Having served in the U.S. Air Force, I beg to differ. Mechanical mistakes, system failures do occur, sometimes taking the life of the pilot or other military personnel and sometimes civilians. I'm not saying its the cause in all cases, but you cannot compare a war on terrorism to abortion. It's not a fair nor reasonable comparison.

s. wallerstein said...

I don't know how we can procede in this conversation if you refuse to acknowledge that U.S. drone policy intentionally kills women, children and neighbors in order to kill alleged terrorists.

However, I have a final question for you. The U.S. intelligence services are pretty smart guys, I'm sure you will agree. Let's say that they figure out that in some village in Yemen most of the kids grow up to be Jihadists.

Now being basically nice people, the U.S. intellligence services realize that if they give some abortion-producing drug to all pregnant women in the village, they will save lives in the long-run, because the women will abort the future terrorists and they (the U.S.) won't need to fire any more drones at the village, the drones causing the deaths not only of children, but also of women and innocent bystanders. What's more, if future terrorists are aborted, no U.S. military personnel will ever need to put their lives in danger combating terrorists.

Would the U.S. intelligence services be justified in giving the abortion producing drug to the pregnant women, who they have calculated are likely to give birth to future terrorists?

Ed Barreras said...

Anonymous,

Let's say you see a car barreling down a hill, and it is about to hit a young child standing at the bottom. You can easily push the child out of the way, saving his life. But you choose not to do so, and the child is killed by the car. Aren't you, in a very real sense, responsible for this child's death? Isn't your failure to save the child a morally repugnant act?

Now, assuming you live a relatively comfortable life by Western standards, you are in fact responsible for such deaths on a daily basis. A great deal of your expendable income could go toward saving the lives of countless innocent children who are dying in impoverished parts of the world. All you need to do is push a button to make a donation -- the equivalent of pushing the child out of the path of the speeding car. Let's say, for the argument's sake, that it takes $50 to save a child from death by malnutrition. That means that for every $50 you don't donate, you are responsible for the death of a child in the exact same sense as in the speeding car example.

So the question is, Why don't you donate every dollar you can spare to saving a malnourished child? Could it be because, contrary to your sloganeering, life is not anabsolute value?

I. M. Flaud said...

I wonder where such moral controversies are resolvable in principle, except temporarily and provisionally by the legal and political system. The suggestion by a historical figure in logic of my acquaintance that the United States should have a red supreme court for red states and a blue supreme court for blue states sounds almost like a serious proposal to me these days..

h said...

Anonymous. Fetuses come from a sperm and an egg. God doesn't even give his blessing. With chicks the same principle applies.You were supposed to learn this in third grade. God had nothing to do even with the big bang. Your view point is antiquated and you are making up your own scientific facts perhaps out of perversity.
Your logic is sound but your facts are from a galaxy far far away and a long time ago.
Using junk facts has real world consequences. God does not give his special blessing for each conception like a priest for a wedding.
I think you should get used to that

Anonymous said...

Gentlemen, the issue is abortion, not hypothetical scenarios that do not even compare to a mother murdering her own child. How about this hypothetical scenario, lets suppose your mothers aborted you, but you are still conscious of your spiritual, but non-material existence. What would you have to say to her, if it were possible for you to communicate?

Ed Barreras said...

Anonymous,

What is hypothetical about innocent children dying from malnourishment and easily treatable/preventable diseases? You claim to be gravely concerned about preserving innocent life, yet you don't bother to save the lives of some of these innocents. Why not?

What you're asking us to imagine is vaguely nonsensical. But how about this. My mother once revealed to me that she seriously thought about breaking up with my father when they were dating? Had she done so, my life would have been effectively annihilated. Does this mean that she had a moral responsilbity to me to stay with my father and marry him? I don't think so. Nor do I think there is an essential difference between the possiblity of my parents' breakup and the possiblity that my mother would have had an abortion when "I" was weeks'-old fetus.

Aside from that, abortion is perhaps the most discussed philosophical issue there is. It's very hard to imagine advancing an argument that hasn't been said before a thousand times before. At this point we just have to accept that there's a stalemate.

Anonymous said...

Mr Barreras,

Do you have any children? If you don't, do you plan on having any?
There is a logical disconnect here, malnutrition in other countries is not the same as a mother having in most cases premarital sex and rather than being loving and responsible toward the outcome, she would rather toss it out for a few mins of pleasure.. huge gigantic difference my friend..

Ed Barreras said...

It seems rather puritanical to focus on the "pleasure" of premarital sex, given that, for someone who was truly opposed to abortion on principle, the marital status of the woman who has an abortion should be immaterial to assessing the morality of the act.

But I agree there is a "huge gigantic" difference, and it's this. We should be morey gravely concerned for a five-year-old in, say, Somalia who is dying from malnourishment and parasitic infection than for a 6-week-old fetus. For only the former is cognizant of itself as a person -- a self emerging from a past and projected into the future, capable of loving and being loved, and so forth.

As I mentioned, it's probably not worth pursuing this further.

Anonymous said...

You took my words out of context, which is typical of an ultra liberal mindset. The focus isn't premarital sex or any pleasures associated with the act. The issue is abortion, a mother murdering her baby. In Somalia, a child who dies of malnourishment, due to environmental conditions is not the same as a mother murdering her own child, while its still in her womb. Again Mr Barreras, you are attempting to water down the issue, simply because you can not justify nor defend your pro-choice stance.. Good night Mr Barreras..

Ed Barreras said...

It's more like you supplied an irrelevant context. The abortion issue is conceptually distinct from the morality of pre-marital sex -- a fact you now admit -- so bringing it up to begin with was pointless, except to take a puritanical dig at women who do engage in pre-marital sex.

And the point of my discussion, once again, is that if you truly place an absolute value on life, you would prevent innocent children from dying, especially when the cost to you is trivial -- you have a obligation to do this just as you would be obliged to push a child out of the way of a runway car. You have insisted that the moral considerations in the two cases are "not the same" and that there's a "huge gigantic" difference, but you have presented no arguments for your position. So who's the one failing to justify his stance?

And by the way, those who are pro-choice generally do not accept that abortion is murder or that a fetus is a "child" understood as a human person. Your insistence on these terms is question-begging.

At this point, you would be best helped by going to the library and picking up a volume on the morality of abortion. Speaking for myself, I've engaged in this conversation enough.

TheDudeDiogenes said...

I can't help but wonder how Anonymous could possibly miss the fact that Prof. Wolff explicitly states in his short site bio that he is an atheist - and so appeals to being created in god's image, as the basis of any issue, are a non-starter.

s. wallerstein said...

Anonymous,

One more question.

Are you against abortion if a woman gets pregnant as the result of a rape?

Anonymous said...

Mr Barreras,

Pre marital sex is not irrelevant from a moral perspective, it just happens to coincide with most cases of a single mother optioning for an abortion, I'm only filling in the blanks of what the statistical data shows. Considering that pre-marital sex in the normal sense involves both a man and a woman, any "puritanical dig" would have to include both genders, and a self inflicted moral wound to myself.
If of course, that was the case as you suspect, but as I'm saying now, it was not.

Mr Diogenes,

I'm an admirer of Professor Wolf, and someday I hope to persuade him of the errors which exist in relations to his non-belief in God.

Mr Wallerstein,

That would depend upon the mental state of the woman after the rape. I do think in such a horrific case, adoption would be preferred over abortion...

s. wallerstein said...

Anonymous,

You're suggesting that a woman, after suffering the horrible trauma and violation of her most intimate being which is rape, carry around the product of that rape for 9 long months instead of having an abortion just because of some medieval idea about fetuses having a soul or spiritual existence.

Of course, you're in your right to have any theological ideas you wish about the fetus, but to impose them on the victim of a rape and to prevent her from striving, which is undoubtedly difficult in the case of a rape, to leave behind her trauma and live a normal life is just cold and inhumane and machista.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wallerstein,

Life begins at the moment of conception. Please take a look at the scientific data...

s. wallerstein said...

Anonymous,

First of all, could you give us a name, even a fake one?

Second, we've been through this before. I agree that life begins at the moment of conception, but that does not imply that the fetus is a human being or a person, just a living being.

Third, on the one hand, we have a real, living woman, traumatized by rape, suffering from post-traumatic stress, which can be diagnosed by a psychiatrist and possibly by a general practice doctor, who needs to leave behind her trauma and lead a normal life. In short, she wants to abort the fetus which is the product of rape: the psychiatrist agrees that to abort it will be a big step towards mental health.

Fourth, on the other hand, we have a theory, yours, about the status of the fetus. You have no way to prove it, no scientific data which can show us that the fetus is a human being, and there's a long Christian theological tradition, which you seem to subscribe to, which sees abortion as a horrible sin. That's a respectable tradition of course, and no one wants to force women who subscribe to it to abort. We only want to allow women who do not subscribe to it to abort, in this case, if they are raped.

So in this case, it's the unprovable Christian theory of the sinfulness of abortion vs. the mental health of a real living woman. If you've ever known a woman who was a rape victim, I'm sure that you're aware of the psychic damage done by rape.

So you choose: prolong the suffering of the real living woman for 9 more months or let her abort.

TheDudeDiogenes said...

This is a tangent, but I think s. wallerstein makes a convincing case. In support, though it doesn't seem necessary, I would like to mention Judith Jarvis Thomson's violinist thought experiment. In short, even granting Anonymous' claim that a fetus is deserving of full moral standing, i.e. a human person in philosophical terms, is not a slam dunk against abortion rights. No individual is ever obliged to allow their body to be used by another person without consent (and yes, JJT deals with the objection that sexual intercourse equals consent to pregnancy; in short, it does not).

Paul Kern said...

This is the most cogent argument for abortion I've ever read. It's by Garry Wills, a devote Catholic and author of several books dealing with religion. This is from a 2007 article.

http://www.latimes.com/la-op-wills4nov04-story.html

s. wallerstein said...

Paul Kern,

Thank you. It's worth reading.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wallerstein,

If you read my first few posts on this thread, you will see that I've signed my real name more than once, and I shall do it again at the conclusion of this post. If a fetus is a living thing, why would you not consider it a human being, considering that it has all of the necessary chromosomes to classify it as such. I have also stated that abortion in the case of rape should depend upon the mental state of the woman, which probably would be less likely to improve after an abortion is granted. There have been cases when women who have been raped, developed a bond with their unborn child and nevertheless opted to keep him or her, rather than dispose of their precious cargo.

Of course my believe is based upon a Christian standard, but even if I were to metaphysically dissolve that standard, I would still be against abortion.

Will