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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Saturday, November 3, 2018

KANT'S THREE QUESTIONS


We are now a bit more than eighty-two hours before the first returns are reported, so it is time to draw some conclusions about the election.  Conclusions?  Am I not getting ahead of myself?  I think not.  It is certainly too early to say who won, but it is not too early to say what we have learned.

First, it is no longer possible even for the most determined both-sides commentator to hide from the truth about Trump.  He is a flat-out unapologetic racist and a wannabe fascist dictator.  Most of us knew that, of course, but it is always useful in the public arena to have manifest truths confirmed and acknowledged.

Second, there are roughly 230 million or so Americans eighteen or over, and at least sixty or seventy million of them are flat out racist lovers of fascism.  I say this because at this point, it is not possible to support Trump strongly and not be a racist who yearns for fascism.  The Republicans may lose the House.  Nate Silver even says they have a slender chance of losing the Senate.  They may lose as many as ten governorships.  When the election is behind us, Trump may be indicted, impeached, forced from office, or defeated in 2020.  But when he is finally gone, there will still be sixty or seventy million racist lovers of fascism in America.  That is the America we live in.

Third, there is a sizeable cadre of supporters of progressive policies, some of whom are even comfortable calling themselves socialists, whatever that means to them.  How many?  It is difficult to say.  As a percentage of the population, fewer than there were when my grandfather was young, to be sure, but they exist, and their numbers may actually be growing.

Fourth, the Democratic Party is threatened with a significant progressive transformation, one that the leaders of the party will resist as strongly as they can get away with.  It is at this point quite unclear how that struggle will come out, although I am pretty sure that our cause has been helped by Trump.  Does this mean socialism has a chance?  I am afraid not.  Socialism is bad for business.  Enough said.

Kant posed three questions:  What can I know?  What ought I to do?  What may I hope for? 

I can know that I live in a country founded on racism, nurtured on inequality, and committed to as much in the way of world domination as it can manage.

I ought to do what I can to make this country a little less unequal, a little less racist, a little less imperialistic.

I may hope that before I die, I see Donald Trump humiliated, impoverished, and ignored.

Now, I shall sit by the television set and await the results.



7 comments:

s. wallerstein said...

"Second, there are roughly 230 million or so Americans eighteen or over, and at least sixty or seventy million of them are flat out racist lovers of fascism."

A lot of people are more politically ignorant, simpler and yes, stupider than you imagine. People may had lots of reasons for voting for Trump, all of them bad, but not necessarily due to racism and still less to fascism (insofar as "fascism" still has any meaning).

I followed very closely the coverage of the recent Brasilian election, where Jair Bolsonaro, probably more racist and fascist than Trump, won. Bolsonaro made many racist and homophobic declarations, yet when the media interviewed black and gay Brasilians, many of them voted for Bolsonaro because he was "going to crack down on corruption and crime". They didn't even notice or paid no attention to the racist and homophobic (and misogynistic) declarations that shocked you and me.

Charles Pigden said...

Following on from Wallerstein, there is a lesson here for left-wing , centre-left or even not-horribly-reactionary political parties: Only select, push and promote candidates who are personally CLEAN. Crooked or even mildly grubby politicians can do your cause a lot of damage.

MS said...

My sister just emailed me the following story, What Has Trump Done To Us, America?

I decided to share it.

https://forward.com/opinion/412816/what-has-trump-done-to-us-america/?utm_source=Sailthru

Jim said...

Professor Wolff --

This may be the blog post to end all blog posts. I love the the 3rd paragraph where you state that there are 60 or 70 million Americans who are "flat out racist lovers of fascism." Not sure that it is quite that simple, but I do get your drift.

I like the posing of the the three Kant questions. However, don't you think that your answer to the third question is a bit personal? You may, no doubt, feel entitled to it, but my hope is not simply that people see through Trump's lies and demagoguery and that he is eventually discredited for it -- many of his supporters do see through it. They simply rationalize it as a means for "getting things done" in Washington. My "hope" is that they come to realize the damage he is doing to the fabric of the country.

As an attempt at solace, we could say that the country has been in tighter political spots in the past and has pulled through -- that this is simply one more tight spot we must and will eventually get past. The elephant in the room, however, casting doubt on this solace is the effect of climate change happening now. The Administration's lack of acknowledgement of this issue throws a wrench in our complacency. Once the coastal cities are ceded to the oceans (most likely in 20 years given the latest UN report on climate change), the rich can easily relocate inland, while the poor are displaced or simply die. One more reason why this election is so critical.

Although I like to believe that retirement is a long way away, I have been thinking about Denver, Colorado and Quito, Ecuador as possible retirement locations in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change. (I will let S. Wallerstein weigh in on the prospects of Quito).

Finally, let's not completely disregard a socialist hope just yet. Just recently, a student of mine "came out" to me as socialist. He said, "I can't really talk to my friends about this, but I know you will understand." Hope?

-- Jim

MS said...

Jim,

I share Prof. Wolff’s hopes regarding Trump’s fate, but I expect two of them are unlikely – that he will be impoverished and ignored. He has too much money for the former, and too many deluded supporters for the latter. I will be satisfied if he is humiliated.

Regarding your concerns about climate change, I just learned yesterday that there is a pending federal lawsuit in Oregon in which the plaintiffs, ranging in age from 11 to 22, are arguing that the government’s climate policy is endangering their lives and liberty. On Friday, the Supreme Court denied a motion by the Trump administration to stay the proceedings pending review of its motion in the 9th Circuit to have the lawsuit dismissed. Justices Gorsuch and Thomas ruled in favor of granting the stay.

Curious about the nature of the complaint, I found a site discussing the lawsuit and its history and which also provided access to the major pleadings and orders. Although the lawsuit has so far survived several motions to have it dismissed – due, apparently, to a very liberal and conscientious trial judge – if the lawsuit survives the trial (scheduled for early 2019), it will face major obstacles on appeal with respect to several judicial doctrines, e.g., standing and proof of causation. But the primary obstacle, I believe, is the relief being sought. In general, there are only two forms of relief that a plaintiff can request – monetary damages and injunctive relief. The plaintiffs, of course, are not seeking monetary relief. They are seeking injunctive relief – a ruling by the trial court ordering the government to take certain steps to reduce the likelihood of climate change. Such relief is, as far as I know, unprecedented in American jurisprudence. It challenges the doctrine of the separation of powers. While the S. Ct. has, on occasion, issued injunctive relief against a sitting President, e.g., the order that President Nixon release his tapes, an order directing the government to take particular affirmative action on a policy is unheard of, and does challenge the separation of powers. Should the plaintiffs prevail at trial, the case will certainly find its way to the S. Ct., where I am quite sure the Court will rule that the relief being sought is not justiciable, i.e., not subject to judicial disposition. I suspect that even some of the liberal justices will join in that ruling. Although I expect that the plaintiffs will ultimately lose, I applaud their creative effort.

For those interested in reading about the history of the lawsuit, you will find it here.

https://www.ourchildrenstrust.org/us/federal-lawsuit/

You can review the 100 page Complaint, and other orders and motions, here:

https://www.ourchildrenstrust.org/court-orders-and-pleadings

The site also provides access to a petition which readers can sign in support of the litigation.

MS said...

This has nothing to do with the upcoming election or politics.

I just listened to a story on the NPR program Radiolab that highlights the ethical dilemmas that can confront criminal defense attorneys. It tells the story of two defense attorneys who, in 1974, were charged w/ criminal and ethical misconduct for protecting the confidentiality of their client’s communications. It is a compelling story about two attorneys who paid a heavy price for doing, from an attorney’s perspective, the right thing. The case has become a paradigm regarding legal ethics, but is still controversial. Some readers may not agree with what the attorneys did. You can hear it here.

https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/the_buried_bodies_case

s. wallerstein said...

Jim,

I've never been to Quito. I imagine that as climate change advances, Quito will be full of refugees from the coastal and tropical regions of Ecuador and that housing prices will rise radically.

Santiago, Chile, which is inland and with an altitude of over 500 meters, is suffering from a serious drought which, they say, will increase as climate change advances.