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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Monday, December 31, 2018

WINTER SOLSTICE BLUES


Well, it is New Year’s Eve again, and fog has descended on Chapel Hill, making the whole world look like one of those old sepia toned photographs.  I have never liked this time of year.  The days are short, the sun never  rises very high in the sky, and between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day, every day seems like Sunday – no mail, school closed down, everybody on vacation.  When I was young, I would go to the meetings of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association, which always met over my birthday [but not, I finally decided, for that reason.]   Since I have reached that stage in life when I retell old stories, perhaps I can cut and paste a story from my autobiography about the very first APA meeting I ever attended, in December 1951.

“My second year, as I recall it, the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association held its annual meetings in New York City. ….  I decided to attend, as I was home for the holidays.  The first day, I was standing with a group of Harvard philosophy graduate students, trying desperately to look older than my just-eighteen years, when Quine walked up to the group.  We all snapped to attention, as his eyes ran around the circle.  Then he looked at me and said, "Well, Wolff.  You must be the youngest person here."  I was utterly mortified.  “Yes," Quine went on, "It's good to see you here.  The sooner you start coming to these things, the sooner you will realize they are not worth coming to," and with that, he walked off, leaving me to wish that the earth would open up and swallow me.”

To this day, I can recall the circle of students and Quine’s look of mordant amusement.  It is difficult to believe that it was 67 years ago.

3 comments:

In The Dark said...

Then why the heck was Quite still coming, knowing what he did?!

I've skipped the APA every year and am a (very) late-year graduate student. No regrets. I personally prefer small specialist conferences, preferably ones with friends in attendance. And I try my best to liven the proceedings with generous sharing of my idiosyncratic intuitions and (god help my dear friends) moderate-length rants.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

An interesting question. Two possible answers: First, because in those days the program was by invitation, not by blind competition, so people like Quine were always asked. Second, because in those days the meetings were small and one came to see friends. Another explanation: He was just having his fun with a very young and impressionable student.

s. wallerstein said...

Maybe Quine sensed that you were a person like him, who with time would realize that the meetings were not worth attending, but we often attend social gathering that are not worth attending out of politeness. That he knew your name (professors don't learn the names of all their undergraduate students) and that he put you in the same category as himself, that of people who realize that the meetings are not worth attending, is a compliment to the philosophical promise he saw in you, the implicit premise being that the herd does not realize that such meetings are worth attending.

A good New Year to you and to everyone else!