Coming Soon:

Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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, April 17, 2017


Later today I shall give the last Freud lecture.  That and the pressures of preparing to move have absorbed my attention lately, which is why I have not weighed in on the interesting and extended discussions going on in the Comments section of this blog.  I hope after today to be able to reenter the fray.


Saif said...

Hello sir. I hope you are doing well. I'm from Pakistan and I watch your lectures regularly on Youtube. We haven't got many teachers and intellectuals like you in our institutions here but now I am feeling satisfied that I am alive in 21st century where I also have access to knowledge and ideas like any other developed country through Internet. My friends and I always wait for your new videos!! Thanks and have a nice day.

Unknown said...

Of topic: Does anyone know why Thomas Piketty’s thesis that capitalism inevitably leads to growing inequality hasn’t been a factor in the debates about inequality?

He got a lot of ink at first, but since then his book, like Hume’s Treatise, seems to have fallen dead-born from press. So far as I know (from the public press; I’m not an economist) he has not been refuted. I recall reading, shortly after publication, that someone who argued in the Financial Times that he was wrong was quickly shot down by a number of other economists. Since then, it seems to have been silence.

If Piketty has not been refuted, why isn’t the left using his arguments in the current debate? At the very least, I would have expected to see stories about economic papers refuting or supporting his thesis.

Chris said...

Professor Wolff,
Have you read Wittgenstein? And if so, do you have any thoughts on his work? I'm finding a relationship between the investigations and Marx's works which is rather appealing.

s. wallerstein said...


What relationship do you see between Wittgenstein's Investigations and the works of Marx?

By the way, doesn't Marcuse in One Dimensional Man use Wittgenstein's Investigations as an example of "one-dimensional" philosophy?

I'm not claiming that Marcuse is right, just that the similarity between Marx and Wittgenstein is not immediately evident.

Chris said...

You may be right about Marcuse, it's been a long time since I read the book, and I really need to re-read it.

Eagleton points out in his recent book 'Materialism', that both Wittgenstein and Marx are concerned with bodily practices as the origin of, for lack of a better term, knowledge claims. Our social practices condition and set the stage for the sorts of things we can and cannot know, and how we got about knowing said things. Wittgenstein of course refers to language games, but he emphasizes that they take place in a context that's social and practical, and Marx of course refers to various labor practices as social, variable, and also epistemically influential. In this, both are non-essentialist except in relation to the panoply of human practice.

Brian said...

I believe Wittgenstein was influenced by his relationship with Sraffa.

s. wallerstein said...

I know that Wittgenstein wanted to emigrate to the Soviet Union and to work in a factory. He even visited the Soviet Union to try to get a factory job, but it didn't work out.

Still, in his biography of Wittgenstein, Ray Monk presents Wittgenstein's desire to go to the Soviet Union as a purely spiritual quest, without any politics involved.

It may be that Monk overemphasizes or exaggerates Wittgenstein's political naiveté

Chris said...

I have Monk's bio next to me and want to read it asap. Thoughts on it Wallerstein?

Eagleton claims that Wittgenstein's politics were much more hospital to Stalin and the USSR than Monk cares to reveal. That it's a known fact that he read pro-labor magazines and newspapers, and was also for working class politics (seeing unemployment as an evil). But, like many Oxford and Cambridge philosophers, he had a reverence for social conservatism, and the preservation of high culture. So, leftist in economics perhaps, but rightist in other matters (if it makes sense to call people right wing for wanting to preserve high culture its ever commodified into instant gratification hedonistic shit).

s. wallerstein said...

I read Monk's biography about 20 years ago. It's very well-written (that's why it's so famous) and his depiction of Wittgenstein is fascinating, but it may not be accurate. The whole period, Wittgenstein's family, his friends and social circle, his eccentricities, his courage and creativity, his sense of duty are all worth reading about. Even if it's partially fiction, it's a good novel.

s. wallerstein said...

Just to give you an example I recall: during World War 1 Wittgenstein is in the trenches. Remember that his family is one of the most wealthy in the Austrian-Hungarian empire, but he volunteers for the front line. However, he can't stand being around the other soldiers, with whom he has nothing in common, and so instead of using his family influence to get a desk job in headquarters as most rich kids would do, he volunteers for the most dangerous job, one which involves being in the most frontline of the most frontline trenches by himself, with other soldiers around. Not that he is especially patriotic by the way. He's a fascinating figure.

s. wallerstein said...

Error: that should read "without other soldiers around", not "with other soldiers"

Chris said...

My only worry is, I hate reading most bios where there's hundreds of pages of "and then he got a job at x, then moved to y, then went to school at z, and married q, and....."

For instance, I've read 3a few Marx bios, and none of them help to clarify his philosophy, it's just a listing of life facts. Does Monk also clarify the thoughts of W?

s. wallerstein said...

Yes, Monk clarifies Wittgenstein's thought a bit, but it's mostly about his life. Monk, claims, as I recall, that there is a close relationship between Wittgenstein's life and his thought, perhaps closer than the relationship between Marx's life and his thought, maybe more similar to Nietzsche in that respect.