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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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 17, 2018

THANK YOU


Thank you all for taking the time to reassure me that you are there, reading and enjoying what I have written.  I feel a little like Sally Field accepting her second Oscar, who said, famously, “I can't deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me.”  Your comments mean more to me than I can adequately say.

Why do they matter so much to me?  Not a trivial question for me to contemplate.  When I was young, I was more or less oblivious of the opinions of others.  I did not even read many of the reviews of my books.  I had had my say, and I was moving on, rather like an Impressionist painter [or so I imagined] who finished one canvas of sunflowers and began another.  But now, I am old.  In six weeks, I will turn eighty-five, and though that is, needless to say, only one year older than I am now, somehow the number has a certain resonance.  I want desperately to believe that the world is not quite yet ready to leave me behind, as it does all of us sooner or later.

I remarked a while back that in the building of which I am the “precinct rep” here at my retirement community, there are three people who are ten or eleven years older than I, making me feel middle-aged.  I shall try not to think of myself as old until I reach ninety.

So I shall continue writing and posting, and also teaching for as long as Columbia will have me.  In the Spring I shall give a lecture here at UNC Chapel Hill on “A Game-Theoretic Critique of John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice,” which will be videotaped and posted on YouTube.

Now I must prepare my Tuesday Columbia lecture.  A little later today, I shall write a lengthy post setting forth a portion of what I plan to say.  It is a critical look at the received Story of America and a sketch of an alternative and true story.

But again, thank you all.

Now, what on earth is an RSS Feed?

Friday, November 16, 2018

NIGHT THOUGHTS


I have been writing this blog now for ten years.  I started shortly after retiring, when I was in my middle seventies, and I am now, though it is hard to believe, in my middle eighties.  For much of that time, my posts have received a steady but slender stream of comments, and while there are some readers who post comments frequently, rather like students in a class who can be relied on to have something to say almost every day, the range of comments has been wide, and I have regularly heard from first time commenters, often from overseas.  I have found all of this enormously exhilarating. 

Recently, things have taken an odd turn.  The comments section of the blog has come to be dominated by a small number of men [they are all men, I am pretty sure], no more than half a dozen at most, who seem not so much to be responding to what I write as using the comments section as a sort of chat room.  The comments are almost all intelligent and knowledgeable, but they have little to do with what I am posting.

This tendency reached a point this week that calls for some acknowledgement by me.  On the 10th, I posted a brief 175 word comment, intended to be light-hearted or humorous, confessing that I had been wrong in predicting that Mueller would indict some more people last Friday.  Because I have been flying up to New York to teach each Tuesday, I have been posting less often.  What is more, I have been somewhat discouraged from posting by the apparent lack of connection between what I post and what appears as comment.  In the five days since that brief post, there have been 55 comments by a handful of people totaling more than 9000 words!

I will be honest.  I have stopped reading them all.  I feel as though my little on-line class has been hi-jacked, and I do not know what to do.  I even suggested to the most prolific of the usual suspects that he start his own blog, but to no avail.

I suspect, but of course I do not know, that there are many readers who are deterred from commenting by this development.  It is certainly true that I have lost the sense that I am leading a discussion. 

Now, it is open to me simply to ignore the comments section and go on posting, but I really do not want to do that.  For me, one of the rewards of this blog has been the sense that I was conducting a grand international seminar.  And although I routinely delete comments that are nothing more than advertisements for dissertation writing services, I do not want to start deleting serious, intelligent comments, even if they have little or nothing to do with what I have written.

If there actually are more than five or six readers of this blog, I would dearly love to hear from some of you, just to know you are there!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

BUT WHEN YOU'RE WRONG, YOU'RE WRONG


I got two things wrong [among many] and honesty requires that I acknowledge as much.  First of all, I predicted that Mueller would indict someone yesterday, and he didn’t.  I remain hopeful.  Second, I called the election a blue ripple, but subsequent analysis by wiser heads reveals that it was indeed a blue wave.  The turnout was astonishing, and the scope of the Democratic victory quite reassuring.  If we can survive until 2020, we have a good chance of crushing the Trump party.

My brief post about the forthcoming panel discussion at Columbia triggered some fascinating stories about campus organizing efforts, including a comment from one of the innumerable anonymati/ae about my own campus, UMass.  I am sufficiently old school to believe that union organizing remains a valuable progressive strategy.  When I was young, the AFL-CIO was the behemoth on the landscape.  I would not then have been able to foresee that public employees, faculty, graduate students, and med techs would be the future of the labor movement.

Live and learn.

Now, about Broward County.

Friday, November 9, 2018

COMING UP


Let me begin with a story.  I kind of think it dates from some time in the middle seventies.  I was invited to take part in a panel discussion in Lexington, KY at the university there on the topic of The Political Responsibility of Intellectuals, or something of that sort.  The affair was sponsored by the National Endowment of the Humanities [I think] and was explicitly aimed not at an academic audience but at the general public.  My fellow panelists were a pair of rather distinguished scholars:  Sam Weber, an extremely raffiné UMass Comp Lit professor, and Berkeley’s Martin Jay, the author of a first rate book on the Frankfurt School.  I took the assignment seriously, and talked about the political responsibility of intellectuals.  Weber gave an incomprehensible talk on Heidegger’s essay on technology and Jay gave a comprehensible but utterly irrelevant talk on images of vision and mirrors in nineteenth century French writings [pretty obviously cobbled together from what he was then working on.]  As the discussion developed, Weber and Jay made numerous references to Marx and other left intellectuals, presenting themselves as dyed in the wool lefties.  Somewhat miffed at having been so thoroughly upstaged, I asked them both at one point where they, as left intellectuals, stood on the subject of faculty unionization.  They stuttered and hesitated, hemmed and hawed, and managed to avoid taking a position.  If their feet had been any more made of clay, I could have conducted a pottery workshop.

As you all know, I have been flying up to New York from North Carolina every Tuesday to co-teach a course at Columbia on Mystifications of Social Reality.  You may not have noticed that at the present time, the Columbia graduate student TAs have organized and have been trying unsuccessfully to get the university to enter into negotiations with them to bargain for a contract.  The students are associated with the UAW and have actually won their appeal to the NLRB [I hope I have this right] but the Columbia administration has dug in its heels and is refusing to bargain.  The grad students, who teach most of the sections in Columbia’s famous General Education program [which Columbia routinely touts when it is raising money from its alums], have called a strike for the week before final exams.  It turns out that one of the students in my course is a leader of the student union, and he has asked both me and my co-teacher Todd Gitlin to take part in a panel discussion on the subject two and a half weeks from now.  Needless to say, I jumped at the chance.

I have some personal experience with the subject, because in 1977, the faculty at UMass unionized, and in 1990 the grad students did so as well.  Faculty, especially at elite universities, tend to express worries that grad student unionization would destroy the delicate and exquisitely fragile mentoring relationship between them and their doctoral students, a relationship that they like to describe as the most rewarding part of the university teaching experience.  Now, for my first 19 years at UMass I mentored grad students who were not unionized, and for the next eighteen years I mentored grad students who were.  I can report that there was not the slightest difference for me between the two experiences.  But there was quite a lot of difference for the grad students, who successfully bargained for guaranteed tuition, academic fee, and health care fee waivers, family leave time, and even --  although UMass was dirt poor  -- pay raises.

I will let you know how the panel discussion turns out.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

PUSHING MY LUCK

Having made several predictions that turned out to be correct, I will try once more.  It is now almost seven a.m.  Today after the start of the business day, or tomorrow at the latest, Mueller will get his grand jury to hand up some more indictments, and these will strike at Trump's inner circle.  Once the indictments have been handed up and delivered to a court, they exist, and even if Trump's new AG lackey tries to shut Mueller down, the indictments will stand.

We shall see.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

WHEN YOU'RE RIGHT, YOU'RE RIGHT

One week ago, I made the following prediction, based on the assumption that the Democrats would take the House but not the Senate:

"The day after the results are in, Trump will without the slightest evidence of unease or hesitation pivot to being a non-partisan supporter of DACA guarantees, comprehensive immigration reform, infrastructure spending, guarantees for those with pre-existing conditions, and whatever else Democrats want that does not negatively affect his own financial interests.  Overtly, covertly, or implicitly, but in all events unmistakably, he will communicate it to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer that he will work cooperatively with them for the next two years so long as they squelch the Democratic lust for investigations of him or his family and allow him to summarily shut down the Mueller probe. 

This will pose a terrible dilemma for the Democrats, and I fear there is a grave danger that they will succumb, in which case they will pave the way for Trump’s re-election and the death of what remains of constitutional democracy in America."

It turns out I was exactly correct.

How should the Democrats respond to Trump's press conference today?

1.  They should make a great show of cooperating with Trump while passing a series of bills, which they send to the Senate, calling for:

   a.  Guarantees of protection for those with pre-existing conditions
   b. Infrastructure
   c. Protection for DACA recipients
   d. Comprehensive immigration reform
   e. Reuniting of children separated from their parents
   f. Protection of the Mueller investigation.

Let the Senate refuse to pass these and send them to the President.  They will become the platform of the 2020 campaign.

2.  Meanwhile,  the leadership should allow the several committees to initiate whatever oversight investigations they wish.

3.  They should leave impeachment strictly alone until Mueller issues his report.  If, in effect, he labels Trump an unindicted co-conspirator in impeachable acts, they should allow that report to simmer and bubble until they see whether Republicans decide they want to get rid of Trump.  Only when they have 2/3 of the Senate should they initiate impeachment proceedings.

Why do I say this?  Because a failed trial in the Senate would be far worse than no trial at all.  Recall what Ralph Waldo Emerson said.  "When you strike at a king, you must kill him."

Recall as well that if Trump is removed from office, we get Pence.  Far better to have a weakened, disgraced, and damaged Trump running for re-election.

SECOND THOUGHTS


I have taken my morning walk and had breakfast and I am beginning to regain my cheerful demeanor.  Matt’s cautionary comment was helpful.  It put me in mind of one of my favorite movie scenes from the great 1973 movie The Sting.  I am sure I must have alluded to it before.  Robert Redford goes looking for a legendary con man, Paul Newman, to learn how to take down Robert Shaw, who has had Redford’s buddy killed.  Redford finds Newman in a whore house over a carousel, and after Newman sobers up, he agrees to help Redford.  But he warns Redford [God bless the Internet, on which one can find anything, even a forty-five year old movie script]:  “I don't want a hothead looking to get even, coming back saying......"It ain't enough."  'Cause it's all we're gonna get.”

That is one of the great truths of life, especially of politics.  We took the House and a passel of governorships.  We ousted Scott Walker in Wisconsin and here in North Carolina we won enough state Senate seats to break the supermajority blocking the Democratic governor from vetoing the godawful bills passed by the Legislature.

I’m not going to be a hothead looking to get even, saying it ain’t enough, ‘cause it’s all we’re gonna get.