My Stuff

https://umass-my.sharepoint.com/:f:/g/personal/rwolff_umass_edu/EkxJV79tnlBDol82i7bXs7gBAUHadkylrmLgWbXv2nYq_A?e=UcbbW0

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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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





Total Pageviews

Monday, November 21, 2022

WAKING NIGHTMARES

Seven years ago, in 2015, I did a deep dive into the rules governing the allocation of Republican Party convention delegates in the different states, and demonstrated on this blog that if Donald Trump could get a steady 30 – 35% of the voters in the various primaries, he would win enough delegates to secure the nomination even without the so-called “superdelegates” allocated by Republican Party rules. I am not aware that any of the states have made significant changes to their rules, which essentially gives the winner of a primary all or most of the delegates. It is my impression, although only that, that Trump can reasonably expect to command at least 1/3 of the delegates in the upcoming primaries for the 2024 election. If, as seems likely, as many as a dozen candidates announce their candidacy, then unless Ron DeSantis can actually secure more than half of the delegates not committed to Trump in the early primaries, Trump will start to build up what will appear to be an unbeatable lead in delegate commitments. The anti-Trump forces in the Republican Party could forestall such an event by all combining behind a single non-Trump candidate, but we know that will not happen.

 

By the way, being in jail is not an obstacle to running for president. Just ask Eugene Victor Debs, five-time nominee of the Socialist party in the first part of the 20th century, who ran for president the fifth time in 1920 while in jail and got 3 million votes.

 

Sunday, November 20, 2022

THIS AND THAT

For those who did not recognize the passage quoted by Fritz Poebel in his comment, you will find it in the second paragraph of the Introduction to David Hume’s great work A Treatise of Human Nature. I have long believed that Hume is the greatest philosopher to write in the English language. I first studied the Treatise in the fall of 1951 and love to return to it from time to time.

 

Well, well, well. Samuel Alito has been outed as having leaked an important Supreme Court decision 10 years ago. John Roberts must be beside himself.

 

It occurred to me yesterday as I lay in bed thinking that this is now the 75th anniversary of an event that loomed large in my family and in my own teenage years. In 1942, the Westinghouse Corporation established something called the Science Talent Search, a nationwide competition for high school seniors which involved both a written examination and a report of an individual science project. The chair of the biology department in Forest Hills High School, Paul Brandwein, decided to make a big push for the Westinghouse in 1947–48, and my big sister Barbara was one of a number of students at Forest Hills who entered the Westinghouse. She not only did well enough in the examination to be one of the 400 students nationwide to win Honourable Mention, her research project was good enough for her to be selected as well as one of the 40 students who went to Washington DC for a week-long visit, during which the students were interviewed about their projects. (Forest Hills had four winners that year, an astonishing accomplishment.)


At the end of the week, the review committee selected one boy and one girl (that is the way they were talked about in those days) as grand national winners and Barbara was the Westinghouse grand national girl winner. She won a $2,400 scholarship, which paid for four years of tuition at Swarthmore College, from which she eventually graduated summa cum laude.

 

Barbara’s research project was on phenocopies in Drosophila Melanogaster, which is to say fruit flies. She conducted her research in the basement of our little house in Kew Gardens Hills but some of the critters got loose and would migrate upstairs to the dining room where they hovered in a little cloud over the dinner table each evening.

 

After many years, the Westinghouse Science Talent Search became the Intel Science Talent Search, and is apparently now the Regeneron Science Talent Search.  Alexandria Ocasio–Cortez was a winner of the Intel competition her senior year in high school.

 

As Barbara’s little brother, I was of course expected to try out for the Westinghouse as well. My first thought for a project was to take metalworking shop, make a pair of slide calipers, and go to Chinatown to measure their heads of first and second generation Chinese-Americans to see whether there was any difference. When that did not pan out, I had a go at an analysis of the flora and fauna of a pond in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.  Eventually I did some silly analytic geometry project. I did get an Honorable Mention and can still remember telling my girlfriend, Susie (now my wife), how disappointed I was. She tried to convince me that it was still something to get an Honorable Mention, but I knew better.

 

 

Saturday, November 19, 2022

OLD MOVIES

In Blazing Saddles, Madeline Kahn does a spectacular send-up of Marlene Dietrich as Lili von Shtupp singing “I’m Tired.”  That is the way I feel. I am sure some of it is age and my struggle with Parkinson’s Disease, but even if I were younger and healthier, I think I would simply be weary of the endless disputes with those who are all on the same side of the great political divide as I am.

 

Next semester, I have offered to give a series of free lectures in the UNC Philosophy Department on “The Use and Abuse of Formal Methods in Political Philosophy,” and I hope they can be arranged.  Lord knows, those lectures will not make the world a better place, but I would find it peaceful and soothing to spend my time explaining rational choice theory and collective choice theory and Game Theory to interested graduate students. I mean, it cannot do any harm (save, perhaps, to the reputation of John Rawls, but he can survive my animadversions.)

Thursday, November 17, 2022

FEVERED NIGHT THOUGHTS

                                         Will Trump get the nomination?

 

Loyal readers of this blog with good memories will recall that seven years ago I carried out a series of speculations and calculations about the Republican nominating process based on information I found online concerning the rules of the various states for selecting delegates to the nominating conventions. The rules governing the selection of delegates in the Republican states, which I do not believe have been changed, give an outsized advantage to an individual who wins a mere plurality of the votes in primary elections. If Trump really has a 35% to 40% block of faithful supporters who vote in primaries, my guess is that he can lock up the nomination before enough people leave the field so that he is only competing against one or at most two opponents in later primaries.  If he gets the nomination, he will lose the election in a landslide. If he does not get the nomination, my guess is he will persuade enough of his supporters not to vote to throw the election to the Democrats,

 

Speaker of the House

 

You have all, I am sure, read of the problems Kevin McCarthy is having assembling 218 votes for his bid to be Speaker of the House.  He has the support of a majority of the Republican House members, but he needs all but two or three of them because the entire House votes to choose the Speaker. 

 

Recall that one does not have to be a member of the House of Representatives to be chosen as Speaker.  If the 214 or so Democrats in the House can pull four or five Republicans with them, they can choose someone to serve as Speaker who is not a member of the House.  Is there someone who might fill that bill?

 

Let me propose Liz Cheney. To be clear, Cheney’s politics are what used to be called right wing Republican, so there is no way that she would agree to serve as Speaker in order to advance a progressive legislative agenda. But she might very well be prepared to agree to use the power of the Speakership to block efforts, for example, to impeach Biden and other members of his administration.

 

Just a thought.

 

 

 

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

STILL WAITING

Sorry to have been away. I am still trying to process the unexpected results of the election. The fact that one week after the election there is still a very slender chance of the Democrats holding the House is astonishing. Considering how well the Democrats did down ballot, I think our little effort giving money to the DLCC was a good choice.

 

I am coming to the end of my UNC course, which will very probably be the last course I ever teach. The UNC philosophy department does not have the money to hire me in the next academic year and the limitations placed upon me by the Parkinson’s give me little hope of being able to continue beyond that time. However, I have offered to give a series of noncredit lectures next semester on Formal Methods in Political Philosophy and since I am not asking to be paid, I think it may be possible.

 

I think I will be here to see the 2024 election but that may be my last. I was born the year that FDR was inaugurated for the first time and had almost finished college before I saw a president who was not a Democrat. My older son, Patrick, was born shortly before Lyndon Johnson announced that he would not run for reelection and I was up in the middle of the night giving Patrick a bottle and watching television in the kitchen when I heard the news that Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated.

 

I was in the card catalog room of Widener Library looking for a book when I noticed a little group of people gathered around a radio at the checkout desk and discovered that Kennedy had been shot in Dallas.

 

I went to my first political rally in the fall of 1948, a Henry Wallace rally at Yankee Stadium, and when it rained ended up with my friend Johnny Brown watching a Rex Barney no-hitter in the Polo Grounds across the river.  (It is said that when Orthodox Jewish boys start to study Talmud, the teacher puts a drop of honey on the page and tells the boy to kiss it so that ever after he will associate the sweet taste of the honey with the study of Talmud.  I think seeing a no-hitter on the evening that I had intended to attend a political rally had a somewhat similar effect on me.)

 

Well, it is time to start preparing my lecture on Herbert Marcuse’s 1969 book, An Essay on Liberation.

 

  

Saturday, November 12, 2022

SILVER LINING

There is a good chance that the Democrats will hold the Senate and an outside chance, against all odds, that they will hold the House. The Democrats have done quite well down ballot with the little bit of financial help we gave to the DLCC. 

 

With only 51 senators at best, here would be little or no chance in the next two years for the Democrats to pass progressive legislation, even if they were by some miracle to hold onto the House. But there is a silver lining.

 

Many of the provisions in the several pieces of large social and economic legislation that the Democrats passed in the first two years of Biden’s ministration only start to kick in January 1 or even later. Meanwhile, there is reason to hope that in the next year and a half inflation will ease significantly.  So the Democrats should be well positioned to win the 2024 election.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

THE MORNING AFTER

I have made an important discovery about myself. I do not do well with only four hours of sleep.


I think we have a very good chance of holding the Senate and even an outside chance of holding onto the House.  That outcome would be little short of a miracle. I have had somewhat the same thought that Marc Susselman expressed about the 2024 election.  If Trump does not get the Republican nomination, I doubt that he will run as an independent candidate but he will almost certainly try to take as many of his own supporters as he can away from the Republicans and that would have the same effect.


The first item on my bucket list, as they call it, is to sit in front of my television set and see Trump led away in an orange jumpsuit.  It does not seem too much to ask for.


Next Monday I start lecturing on Marcuse.  I am not sure whether that is perfectly appropriate or wildly irrelevant. We shall see.


Now, let me take a nap…