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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

HOW SOON THEY FORGET


All of us, I take it, are familiar with printed warnings, especially on milk and other dairy items, that a quart of milk or tub of cottage cheese is to be removed from the shelves after some specified date.  This is usually referred to as the “sell-by date.”

Yesterday, I traveled once again to New York to teach at Columbia University.  The trip began uneventfully, at six a.m. when I pulled out of my parking slot and headed for Raleigh Durham Airport, but it quickly deteriorated into a classic air travel sad story.  We pulled back from the gate on time at 8:10 a.m. and headed for the active runway, in light rain, but as we waited our turn to take off, the pilot announced that LaGuardia had just announced a one hour ground halt, so we sat.  After an hour, the pilot announced another one hour delay, so we continued to sit, but just as he was revving up the  engines for our much delayed takeoff, he announced that there was a mechanical problem that had to be fixed, so he returned to Gate D5, from which we had departed, full of hope, two hours earlier, and were told we could deplane but should remain in the area of the Gate as we might be leaving at short notice.  Half an hour later, we pulled back once again.  The mechanical problem?  A lack of appropriate differential pressure in the toilets meant that they would not flush until we reached 18,000 feet.  [I am not making this up.]  Finally, seven hours and fifty-five minutes after leaving home, I sat down at the seminar table, five minutes before the class was scheduled to begin.

That was when I got the real shock of the day.  One of the graduate students in the seminar told me that he had gone to see Professor Akeel Bilgrami about some philosophical issues.  Bilgrami is a quite senior member of the Philosophy Department who currently holds the Sidney Morgenbesser Professorship of Philosophy.  When Bilgrami suggested that the student consult some of the writings of Robert Paul Wolff [very flattering], my student replied that he was currently taking a course with Wolff.  Bilgrami replied, “But that is not possible.  He died ten years ago.”

Now, I freely admit that it has been thirty years since I have attended a meeting of the American Philosophical Association, and almost that long since I last published anything at all in a Philosophy journal, but, I mean, really!

Pretty clearly, I have passed my sell-by date and should be removed from the shelf before I give some unsuspecting consumer the intellectual version of food poisoning.

12 comments:

s. wallerstein said...

Your haven't passed your sell-by date, as far as I can see from reading your posts.

Maybe Bilgrami has passed his sell-by date or maybe he should consult a psychoanalyst about his unresolved unconscious conflicts with older male philosophers such as yourself.

Jerry Brown said...

What's it been like being dead, for ten years no less? You could solve many of my more philosophical questions by answering...

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Well, things get a little thin, like I no longer care as much about who wins the World Series, and of course I don't have to pay taxes, but mostly I get up several times every night to go to the bathroom. Do you suppose the next world has soft toilet paper? Here is an odd thing I didn't expect: even when you are dead you get a year older every year.

Jerry Brown said...

Thanks, that's somewhat comforting. It doesn't sound that much different than not being dead. Actually, getting up to go to the bathroom does sound a whole lot better than not getting up.

LFC said...

Stories like this are a big part of why I read this blog. I mean, you can't make this sh*t up.

One advantage, I suppose, of being "dead" is that RPW can escape certain blog-like niceties, such as following up on an -- informal and tentative, to be sure -- indication that he was going to comment on three books he reported himself to be reading some months ago. One was about "modern monetary theory," the second about primates etc. (Frans de Waal [?]), and the third was Sedgwick's Epistemology of the Closet. I believe he only wrote about the first one, on MMT. I can sort of understand if he decided not to read beyond the preface of the Sedgwick, but I was kind of looking forward to the post on the primates book.

Unknown said...

No no sir. You are not milk but wine! Complexity and depth accompanying the age.
Regardless, that's one very funny story!
I hope your student after hearing that didn't turn white and proclaim he had been taking class with a ghost!
Thanks for the daily Lol.

NP

Charles Pigden said...

Sucks to be Bilgrami - he will be mortified when this gets about! What was the RPW piece that that he recommended?

Anonymous said...

Well, in a quantum universe (which this one is supposed really to be) you could be dead--and alive. Schroedinger's Wolff. Anyway, if Bilgrami is right, then you're proof that there is life after death, so there's no need anymore for theology or existentialism.--Fritz Poebel.

Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...

Your sell-by date isn't the issue, it seems Prof. Bilgrami's use-by date is the problem. Apparently his (I assume) has already expired. I propose we abandon speculation on the accommodations in the after-life. Per Occam, it is simpler to adopt the Catholic view that our souls will be reunited with our perfect bodies and no accommodations are needed.

Anonymous said...

Halloween is over, but maybe you can still visit Prof. Bilgrami's office and demand to eat his braaaiiinnn....

Ted Talbot said...

Unbelievable coming from someone holding the Sidney Morgenbesser Professorship of Philosophy...

rjladd said...

Definitely not past shelf life. I just bought a Signet paperback edited by Robert Paul Wolff titled "Ten Great Works of Philosophy."

A great read, with nice introductions to each section. However it doesn't indicate who did the translations of Plato and Aristotle.

I'm glad I found your blog! Thanks