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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON THE THOUGHT OF KARL MARX. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for Robert Paul Wolff Marx."




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Sunday, February 4, 2018

BRIEF REMARK

A brief remark prompted by Ed Barreras’ concerns about frat boy comments.  Verbal aggression, speaking generally, is a good thing, especially as an alternative to physical aggression.  The general rule about verbal aggression – satire, snark, ridicule, obscenity – is:  punch up, not down.  When satirists ridicule politicians, that is punching up.  It may be outrageous, excessive, shocking, utterly unwarranted, but it is fair, because the victim can simply return the favor.  When nerds make fun of frat boys, more power to them [although I will admit that I went beyond the bounds of fair criticism when I filled a desk drawer with water and dumped it out the window on some drunk Final Club members at Harvard in ’52.]  Let us have more Jonathan Swifts and Alexander Popes, if we can find them.  As for Paul Ryan, he richly deserves all the abuse we can heap on him.  And no, I do not think there are any admirable Ayn Rand lovers, at least none that are older than fifteen.


8 comments:

Debra Campbell said...

I agree with the Ayn Rand comment. I blame the influence of Atlas Shrugged for so much of what is wrong in our culture today. In her influential novel she provided the perfect rationale, "pursuit of excellence," for unfettered selfishness and for heartlessness to masquerade as a virtue. All of my friends and loved ones who voted for Donald Trump are Ayn Rand devotees. If Trump is the horrible rash covering the surface of this country right now, Paul Ryan promulgating the philosophy of Ayn Rand is the underlying disease. What is even more insulting to my sense of decency is watching Paul Ryan push policies guided by those beliefs on the less attentive public under the guise of "freedom" and "Christian values." I blame Paul Ryan much more for the problems of today than Donald Trump. Ryan knows exactly what he is perpetrating. Trump is just enjoying the attention and counting his money.

Howard Berman said...

We have to be careful about verbal aggression, to make sure the aggression stays verbal and avoids escalation into actual violence (say like a football game).
Verbal aggression is a fine art

Ed Barreras said...

I take this post as granting me permission to punch up at “frat boys” since I am a nerd. Alright then, I rescind my apology from the previous post, and now acknowledge that “frat boy” denotes something quite different than merely “one who pledges a fraternity.” And “Rand-loving frat boy” is another beast altogether.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Indeed. Punch up! These are perilous times. We need pugnacious protectors of truth, justice, and what we would like the American Way to be [to almost quote Superman.]

Ed Barreras said...

Aye aye, Captain. I apologize for having gone briefly soft. What was I thinking?

s. wallerstein said...

I run into a certain number of apologists for the system who will defend it claiming that capitalism has been a powerful engine for ending poverty, that socialism is inefficient and can turn tyrannical, that the society of consumption is the highest instance known of human freedom. I don't buy any of those arguments, but if they are not pure sophism (and they well may be in some cases), they indicate a concern for the well-being of others.

The Ayn Rand crowd, on the other hand, is special: they don't care about the well-being of others. If capitalism screws people over, well, too bad for them, they say: there are winners and losers in life and I'm a winner, so why should I bother about the losers? That lack of concern for the well-being of others indicates a semi-sociopathic lack of empathy, which is chilling and dangerous.

You can argue with someone who claims that capitalism is the most effective engine for ending poverty, but you can't talk to someone who just does not care about others.

Hey Man said...

I have never thought much of Kant's (second?) postulate of practical reason regarding immortality. But the recent wickedness of many powerful persons and their evasion of justice almost make me sympathetic to it. Morality seems to demand that there be a hell for such persons.

Anonymous said...

Even Ayn Rand is, I’m sorry to say, well above the intellectual capacity of the average trump voter.

People are afraid and uncertain about the future and unfortunately Trumps racism and xenophobia appeals quite well given that context, rousing old tribalist tendencies that have served humanity’s survival at the group level quite well in the past. It is more just evolved base instinct than some particular intellectual theory.