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Monday, August 22, 2011


While I was beetling away, writing my 30,000 word "Introduction" to the Critique of Pure Reason, the world seems to have just gone on turning, quite oblivious of my labors. A good deal has been happening that in quieter times I would have commented on, so perhaps I should take a few moments to acknowledge reality.

By the way, my thanks to all of you for the variety of comments on the last several sections of the tutorial on Kant. Marinus, I find it easier to swallow references to Hegel when they are in the same sentence with references to Russell -- sort of like sugar-coating a pill. Harsanyi is an interesting character -- his deployment of formal tools is skillful, but sometimes in the service of rather odd ends. See his early criticism of Rawls [pushing the same line, by the way, that the Maximin rule of choice in the Original Position is formally indistinguishable from Utilitarianism.]

The major news, as I write this, is that the Libyan rebels have all but taken Tripoli, and it appears that in very little time -- perhaps hours -- Ghaddaffi will have been deposed. I do not read, write, or speak Arabic, and my only trip to the Middle East or North Africa was an unpleasant three-day tourist visit to Israel, so I will not presume to prognosticate. But this past six to eight months has been simply extraordinary, and it would not surprise me at all if there are more major changes to come. I was in favor of the U.S. and NATO support of the rebels, and I am very happy that it appears to have turned out well. What will happen now? I have no idea. Nor do I think it is the responsibility of the United States to play a role in the future internal affairs of Libya.

I have alreadty expressed my great pleasure at the recall of the two Wisconsin State Senators. I donated a fair amount of money to the effort, and will donate to the effort to recall Walker. Grassroots progressive political movements are our best hope for some sort of decent future, and we must support every one of them, wherever they crop up. I note, by the way, that the despicable little pipsqueak John Kasich, whio used to be all over TV as a "commentator," is now trying to sweet-talk the unions he screwed into reasoning together with him. It is a small victory, but these days one must savor every one of them.

And then there is the unleashing of Jon Huntsman. [I confess I am reminded of the killer rabbit in one of the of the wonderful old Monty Python movies]. For those who missed it, Huntsman published a Tweet defending the reality of global warming and the truth of evolution, and since then he has been attacking all of his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination as fringe characters with zero connection with reality. The common wisdom is that he has lost his mind and doesn't want the nomination. My guess is that that is all wrong. There is a fragment of the Republican Party [maybe 30%, I don't know] that is still in touch with reality, and he is playing for that group. I desperately don't want the Republicans to win the presidency [whatever Chris says], but I am genuinely frightened by what has happened in the Republican Party. I know what happened in Germany in the mid-thirties. The rise of a large, noisy, angry, bigoted, crazy rightwing political movement may be good electoral politics for the Democrats in the short run, but it is genuinely dangerous. If Hunstman's statements can start to change the public discourse, that is all to the good. We really do not need a rise of fascism in this country. We have gone far enough down that road already, and the weakness of the underlying economy will create the material conditions for a fascist party for some time to come.


NotHobbes said...

I am pleased to see the tyrannical regime of Gaddafi toppled but not wholly overjoyed at some accusations levelled at the rebels in Libya. Who are these rebels and are these tales of genocide true?

Robert Paul Wolff said...

As I indicated, I am entirely incompetant to answer those questions. What will become of these revolutions? Who knows? The French Revolution gave us Napoleon [which was actually a mixed blessing for freedom in Europe.] The American Revolution cemented slavery in place for three quarters of a century. The Russian Revolution gave us Stalin. And the Versailles Treaty gave us Hitler [more or less.] Far be it from me to try to predict the future!

Chris said...

Just to clarify, I don't think you want the Republicans to win. Nor do I want them to. Given these two truisms, it doesn't necessarily follow that you must vocally support Obama.

I'll offer a clarifying example. I despise Wal Marts practices, employee treatment, and slave-labor camps overseas. I do not support Wal Mart openly. I do not recommend other people go there. But I do shop there from time to time because I'm poor.

The same can be said of Obama. I'm not saying don't vote for the man over Republicans, I'm just saying don't praise him either.

Hope this clarifies things a bit.

Josh Kroner said...

I agree with all you said about revolutions. Wish the needs of the populous overruled those of the military and moneyed classes, but alas, reality seems to always favors the powerful. not sure if I have faith that relative republican sanity (do I detect an oxymoron?) in the likes of Jon Huntsman will prevail over the scarey fringe in the likes of Perry and Bachmann...

I am interested in what you found "unpleasant" with your visit to Israel. I am going next year with the hope of talking to both Jews and Arabs.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I can summarize it in one moment. Susie and I had arranged for a driver/guide to take us around and show us stuff. He turned out to be a colonel in the Israeli army reserve. At one point, he waved his hand at a valley now peopled with Israeli settlers and said, "This was all totally empty until we came here." It was as brutal as the 18th/19th century American fiction that this was a virgin unpeopled land until the English settlers arrived. I froze.

Josh Kroner said...

Sorry Bob, that would kick me in the gut too! And not unlike most revolutions, the immigration of Jews to Palistine began with a worldwide anti-Semitic tyranny that left few options to European Jewish survivors after the war but has also led to the oppressed becomming the oppressors and tyrants. Still, I will go, talk and am prepared to get kicked in the gut many times.