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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Friday, April 12, 2019

CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE


Professor David Auerbach forwarded to me this link to Isaac Deutscher’s 1955 takedown of Isaiah Berlin’s monograph Historical Inevitability.  I am a connoisseur of intellectual hatchet jobs, especially those that are done with a certain style, so I read it with enjoyment.  I have never been one of Berlin’s fans [and I am one of Deutscher’s fans] so I read the review with enjoyment.  There was, however, a tinge of sadness, because I owe Berlin a very large debt that I was never able to repay.  He was more or less directly the cause of my writing my most widely read work, In Defense of Anarchism.  It happened like this.

Harper & Row asked Arthur Danto to assemble ten philosophers willing to write lengthy essays, each on a different field of philosophy, to be gathered together into an impressive volume entitled The Harper Guide to Philosophy.  Arthur had rounded up nine splendid people, but Berlin had turned him down for the Political Philosophy chapter.  When I joined the Columbia Philosophy Department in 1964, Arthur asked me to substitute for the unwilling Berlin, and in order to get the $500 advance for my psychoanalysis, which was just then beginning, I said yes.  I wrote the essay in the summer of ’65, and five years later, after Harper had dumped the project, the essay was published by Harper Torchbooks under what is now its title.  Without Berlin, I might be just another tedious Kant scholar laboring in obscurity.

9 comments:

Chris said...

Ugh Berlin is the worst. Glad something good came out of his career.

Michael said...

Berlin also kept Deutscher out of the university by blacklisting him, so no tears lost ovee this review

Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...

Speaking of hatchet jobs, I recall Dr.Wolff giving an informal talk at UMASS on what I would characterize as the ‘structuralist/Althusserian turn in the Econ. Dep’t. It was in 1979 (I think) and delivered in a room in the student center. Hatchet job is too crass a term for the talk, rather it was an artfully delivered critique. Is that talk in your archives? I roomed with a couple of Econ grad students who spent a lot of time trying to convince me that Adorno and Marcuse couldn’t hold a candle to Althusser. Perhaps unfairly, it seemed to me that Althusser was simply tying to put a new philosophical spin on vulgar Marxism.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Alas, Chris, I do not think it is, though I will check. Those were the days!

DDA said...

@Michael above: Berlin's blacklisting of Deutscher was (allegedly) caused by that review. A petty man.

jgkess@cfl.rr.com said...

No (true) Kant scholars are tedious---with the possible exception of my room-mate.

Chris said...

Didn't Berlin also blacklist someone for being a homosexual? Could have swore I read that somewhere. Which shows just how committed to liberty and freedom that hack really was.

James Camien McGuiggan said...

Incidentally, if you like a good hatchet job, then I don't think you can do much better than this searing review of Bret Easton Ellis' most recent steaming pile. https://www.bookforum.com/inprint/026_01/20825

Bjorn said...

What is it about Isaiah Berlin that you guys dislike so much? I thought his profiles of various Enlightenment thinkers were actually very good. There's also a book about Marx, which I haven't read, but which some people I know consider a classic.