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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Sunday, May 5, 2019

IDLE THOUGHT


In late September 1950, I began my undergraduate education at Harvard.  Taking the advice of Herb Winston, who had preceded me to Harvard from Forest Hills High School, I enrolled in Philosophy 140, Willard Van Orman Quine’s course on symbolic logic.  We used Quine’s own book, Methods of Logic, in which at one point he introduces a quick and dirty method of ascertaining the validity of certain inferences to which he gives the name “fell swoop.”  The phrase comes from MacBeth and originally meant the cruel, quick killing dive of a hawk or kestrel hunting for rodents and other small prey.  Quine had an unexpectedly puckish sense of humor, and at one point observed that there was an inverse to the fell swoop procedure, which, he suggested, could be called a “swell foop.”  The characteristic and astonishingly fast hunting dive by raptors is called a stoop.  So a fell swoop is a stoop.  I have often wondered whether the 18th century Irish playwright Oliver Goldsmith had that meaning in mind when he wrote She Stoops to Conquer. 

1 comment:

Dean said...

Per OED, Goldsmith used the verb seven years earlier in Vicar of Wakefield: "If you can stoop to an alliance with a family so poor as mine, take her." The entry for the sense of "stoop" relating to birds of prey tends to include "at" in the illustrative uses, e.g., "Whether the priest had stooped at the lure of a cardinal's hat I know not." That's a 1753 letter to Wyndham by Viscount Bolingbroke.