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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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





Total Pageviews

Monday, March 30, 2020

ROLLING MY TUB


Why do I blog when my country is threatened with the death of millions?  I can give no better answer than this passage from the Preface to Kierkegaard’s Philosophical Fragments:

"When Philip threatened to lay siege to the city of Corinth and all its inhabitants hastily bestirred themselves in defense, some polishing weapons, some gathering stones, some repairing the walls, Diogenes seeing all this hurriedly folded his mantle about him and began to roll his tub zealously back and forth through the streets. When he was asked why he did this he replied that he wished to be busy like all the rest, and rolled his tub lest he should be the only idler among so many industrious citizens. Such conduct is at any rate not sophistical, if Aristotle be right in describing sophistry as the art of making money. It is certainly not open to misunderstanding; it is quite inconceivable that Diogenes should have been hailed as the saviour and benefactor of the city."


11 comments:

Unknown said...

But in this case the roller of the tub is obsessed with making money--and ratings, essentially the same thing.

Dean said...

I have this passage pasted to my bathroom ceiling so I can look at it while bathing. It has come up about a dozen times on this blog - it's wonderfully versatile!

s. wallerstein said...

It's not only your country that is threatened with millions of deaths.

Anonymous said...

Robert Paul Wolff's contribution to this world is as an educator, not a philosopher, though he uses philosophy as an agent. We learn more about history and culture through his side comments such as Diogenes or the lady's not for burning, etc. than direct philosophy. When students respect the professor they search after what moves him or her.
That said, Diogenes spirit is dead as there are miilion Diogenes in this present day and age posting on twitter, etc. Its a new world. We get it, but Diogenes philosophy is saturated into the ether of the internet. Try to do something productive though futile in the end. This is called being heroic.

Dean said...

Wow, there's another Dean on the board! I'm sure that's not me @1:44 PM, because I don't have anything pasted on my bathroom ceiling, and anyway, I shower.

I don't quite know why, but this excerpt from K reminded me of Marcel Schwob's wonderful story about Crates.

Nick Pappas said...

Kierkegaard is certainly adding his interpretation and comment to the old tale, and Professor Wolff is certainly drawing on both the original story and Kierkegaard's added comment.

But let me just say a word about Diogenes the Cynic himself and what he means philosophically. To a lot of people the ancient Cynics offer only comic relief from the serious study of philosophy and no more. Serious scholars will say for instance "We have no record of a theory that Cynicism worked out," because in fact the movement mainly survives as quips and anecdotes about eccentric proto-hippie wanderers or adamites. This is especially true of Diogenes himself, the ancient philosopher about whom the most anecdotes exist.

And yet this very feature of Diogenes is a reason for us to spend more time studying him. I don't want to put words in Professor Wolff's mouth, but I suspect this is one of the things that draws him to stories about Diogenes. Many philosophers talk about action and the way their theories inform action. This is a philosopher who has bequeathed actions to the philosophical tradition and thereby invited later thinkers to reflect on what an action can do philosophically; which means, to reflect on what philosophical living is supposed to be like.

When Plato's Academy defined "human being" as "featherless biped," it was Diogenes who -- according to an old story -- went to the Academy and threw a plucked chicken into the lecture hall, saying "Behold the Platonic man!" He didn't just say "What about a plucked chicken?" -- a perfectly good counter-example, but more of the same intellectual back and forth. He threw the chicken into the school, so the Platonists could see what their definition was actually about.

And Professor Wolff at his keyboard is not forgetting the move to action. He gets up, he sits down to blog.

Anonymous said...

My fav Diogenes quote is:

Counter fate with courage, counter convention with nature, counter emotion with reason.

jgkess@cfl.rr.com said...

Wasn't it Diogenes who also advised that "one should counter convention by masturbating in public"? Hey, now there's a campaign slogan.

F Lengyel said...

@jgkess It was taken up, more or less, by former Democratic congressman Anthony Wiener.

mmorano said...

I have always enjoyed Kierkegaard but find this to be the case more so than ever before. Anxiety, despair, irony, loss of identity in modernity. And thankfully, some humorous characters! I'm working on school-related assignments and spending some time with Kierkegaard this week. Curious what everyone else might be currently enjoying reading?

Anonymous said...

Im reading The Tragic Sense of Life, by Miguel Unamuno. Im wondering what Professor Wolff thinks of this book. I think its fitting especially today.