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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Monday, September 1, 2014


Naive as I am about all things technological, I was oblivious of the ubiquity of this phenomenon of audio and video recorded lecturing, so the rash of interesting comments triggered by the idea of my recording my Marx lectures caught me by surprise.  I think I had encountered the acronym MOOC, but had certainly not remembered it.

Chris, I accept happily Noam's revision of the old Quaker injunction to "speak truth to power."  [I refer to him thus because I actually knew Chomsky back in the day and counted him a friend.  Indeed, as the saying goes, I knew him before he was Noam Chomsky.]   I have been trying to speak truth about power most of my life.  Indeed, what else is In Defense of Anarchism?   But it is also a useful exercise to speak truth to power, even if you think that power already knows that truth.  The seductiveness of wealth and entrenched power, especially when it masks its real nature and goes unchallenged, should never be underestimated.

Let me illustrate with one little personal story from my early days.  During the time that I was a student at Harvard and then an Instructor, McGeorge Bundy was Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, which was then [and perhaps is still] the most powerful academic administrative position at Harvard.  Bundy's later performance as National Security Advisor demonstrates, if indeed demonstration is needed, that he had an extremely refined and well-tuned sense of raw power.  As I have several times related, I replaced for a year my Philosophy Department mentor, Morton White, on a committee planning a new undergraduate interdisciplinary major to be called Social Studies.  During that year, Bundy pushed approval of the new major through the Harvard faculty.  Like all majors at Harvard, Social Studies would need a Head Tutor, which meant some junior flunky to do the administrative scut work that senior members of the faculty shun.  Instead of calling me into his office and asking me whether I might want the position [which I certainly did], Bundy showed up at the Winthrop House Senior Common Room one day for lunch, and when I walked in late from a class, he looked up and said, "Ah, here is the new Head Tutor of Social Studies,"  the very first I had heard of it. This was, on his part, a typical display of power, albeit about something very trivial.  The idea was at one and the same time to fluster me with my pleasure at the announcement, to present himself as a casual and genial man, and to show by this act that he and he alone controlled the plum, which he could bestow on anyone he chose.  I regret to say that I did not have the self-awareness, at twenty-six, to understand what was happening, nor the moxie to give him the finger, verbally.  [I did several years later, but that is another story.]

Tony, your cautionary remarks about sounds one might not want the microphone to pick up is giving me pause.  Perhaps I should get hold of a device like the one you are talking about and try it out before I commit myself to what may turn out to be a never-ending embarrassment. 


Tony Couture said...

Yes I would try it out on your grandchildren, or others who might appreciate being etched in time (not a cop stopping you for a speeding ticket). I have recorded my young daughter and son for fun in order to learn how to use it, however a large classroom with many (noisy) people would pose a problem. I understand you will have a class or 20-50 students and faculty at Chapel Hill (my guestimate) for the Marx class, so side noise should not be a problem (coffee slurping, etc.). It is fun to use and a great tool for philosophical rumination. I have to set up 2 courses next week at UPEI (Phil 102: Intro to Ethics = The Republic, Walden, On Liberty; and Phil 353: Philosophies of Communication = ALfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent to Crypto Anarchy, Chomsky and Anders Breivik as Cyber-terrorist). Both courses will be podcast and put online so that guests can sign in and observe from their distance the course being taught (handouts, outlines are put online in the same place to access). So you could also observe the philosophical use of this tool in action--maybe also its misuse! I apologize for my Sandelization of scandal in philosophy, or scandalization of Sandel as a pawn of Harvard. Perhaps I have been reading too much Armand Mattelart, you know Belgian pastry type philosophy of communication. Back to work!

Tony Couture said...

BY the way, this recorder is similar to what I use, search it online to find the user manual pdf file at sony or look on

ICD PX333 Digital Voice Recorder
by Sony (amazon price is $52)

It should come with a USB cable to attach to a computer USB port, and a CD or instructions on how to put the Sound Organizer (editing) files on your computer. It has settings for lecture rooms or other meetings, and ways to up or lower the quality (changes size of files). My recorder makes MP3 type files which can be played almost any where.

You could record some music for listeners of your blog and try putting it online to see how much work it is or is not.

There are many more exotic recorders, I go for the cheap reliable basic one. You use the recorder with a computer keyboard so that you can rename files, put them in order, and so on. Many philosophers could improve themselves by using this tool. Imagine what history would be like if they had a recorder at Cambridge University in England, the night that Wittgenstein threatened Karl Popper with a poker....

Chris said...

Just to be clear, I wasn't making the correction about Chomsky to be flippant or contrary, I just like the way Chomsky breaks down the popular slogan "speak truth to power".