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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Friday, April 3, 2020


Next Thursday I shall spend an hour visiting a class on the Critique being taught by a professor at the University of Wyoming.  Not bad.


Anonymous said...

I said I would no longer comment on your blog after bullying by your readership. But your "praise" of Zoom is obviously ignorant of the nefarious control and phony "security" in this app:

Chris said...

From said article - "Among those who should be concerned about Zoom’s security issues, according to Citizen Lab, are “governments worried about espionage” and “businesses concerned about cybercrime and industrial espionage.”"

Though I work in IT, my feelings are ambivalent about technology. I am not sure that the good outweighs the bad, but during this time chat and video conferencing have been very helpful. Fostering communication can be a very good thing. Of course, it can also allow white supremacists to plan bombings, so I get back to ambivalent pretty quickly.

david said...

I will post here what I wrote to one of my students who raised similar concerns (no doubt some of you will hate it, but ...) :

"Hi XXXXX, I know this and have worried about it (and raised it). But I do not worry enough to do away with the opportunities it now provides. We have as culture already made this deal with the devil, and privacy is a fantasy. I am perfectly happy if you want to opt out of this, and we can find other ways for you to participate in the class “conversation”; but overall I think in these strange times that the functionality out weighs the risks. When I was in China, so many people said to me that they admired how the US did not engage in the surveillance that their govt. routinely employs; I always replied that we had just privatized what is government policy there. And that is where we are. I think in these strange days, which alas are about to get still stranger, the ability relatively simply to connect with one another in an intellectual and social project we believe in outweighs what is indeed a risk. But we live now some many ways in a world of risk, and for now, and for me anyhow, this is an acceptable one allowing us to engage in a set of conversations that seem to me important. I may one day regret this (I don't self-censor very well, as you know), but for now am looking forward to seeing whomever wants to show up online. My plan is to live these next months with a stubborn joy, but of course that cannot be one that puts others at risk, so please opt out if you want—-but let’s find ways that make you comfortable to stay in touch. Thanks for your concerns; it is important we are aware of what we are doing. As always you thoughtfulness is inspiring and challenging—and those are very good things."

Anonymous said...

All of these technologies have privacy and security issues - pick your poison.

Pedantus the Elder said...

Neither a commenter nor a tweeter be,
For tweet oft loses both itself and friend,
And commenting dulls the edge of punditry.

Tweetlet Act 1, scene 3, 75–77

Pedantus the Elder said...

Apologies -- that quotation was taken from the bad Quarto. The Glossator Platitudinus corrects this to

Neither a commenter nor a tweeter be,
For tweet oft loses both itself and friend,
And commenting dulls the edge of bloggery.

Tweetlet Act 1, scene 3, 75–77

The term 'bloggery' is an obvious pun on 'buggery.'

Dean said...

Chris' comment @10:25AM is encouraging to me, because I, too, once worked in an IT capacity (sysadmin of a small system), and the experience soon afforded me an ongoing ambivalence. Early on in this age of popular 'net I was able to use *e-mail* (imagine that!) to arrange a visit to several cities in the U.S. by a colleague in Zimbabwe to whom I'd been virtually introduced by a meatspace patron of my organization. That seemed at the time a marvelous achievement. But there is a cost not only to privacy and security risks, but to the sheer pressure imposed by the network effect to conform to the demands of the tools. For example, with the rise of instant messaging and texting, people stopped reading email with the urgency they once did. I refuse to migrate to alternative services that, frankly, I don't need *but for* the fickle behavior of others. (Okay, I'm fudging just a little. Obviously, I'll contribute to a comment board now and then.)

I agree with the professor's appreciation of relatively low-risk good that occasionally comes from tools like Zoom. Like so many others who now work from home under less than ideal technological circumstances, I find that it comes in handy, albeit not always without complication or interruption, never mind the security risks. I'm looking into alternatives, too. This morning I will conduct a meeting over Jitsi Meet, which is purportedly more secure than Zoom. One step at a time.

decessero said...

David, you are a ray of sunshine in the gloom: " My plan is to live these next months with a stubborn joy, but of course that cannot be one that puts others at risk, so please opt out if you want—-but let’s find ways that make you comfortable to stay in touch..." Not by playing possum, but eyes open, aware - and yet! I too am on that plan and trying to share it.

LFC said...

Polonius (cf. Pedantus above) was wrong about commenting on blogs. Comments are a substantial part of many (not all) blogs' value and interest.

Anonymous said...

Your commenters miss the point.
Read the Citizen Lab report:

Their comments are the equivalent of saying "gee, this KGB/FSB tool for helping nuclear scientists stay at the forefront on nuclear weapons engineering and science is GREAT! Gotta thank Stalin/Khrushchev for helping us with this freebie tool! Really helpful.

I know there are a lot of Marxist wannabe "revolutionaries" who use this site, but your "realpolitik" is atrocious. Have you no clue who your true friends and enemies are? I think it is hilarious that Trump thinks Putin is his "best buddy", but you people think Zoom is your "best social communication tool". Precious! Absolutely precious!

What I love about "scholars" is that their noses are stuck so deep in their books and their ideology that they forget to come up for a breath, a fresh look, an honest look at the real world. It is so much more comforting to cling to ideology and prejudice and the lovely, lovely words, words, words. The more precious and erudite the words the better! The greatest failing of "the Left" is that they are so busy leading the "revolutionary vanguard" and in their endless meeting of their "central committee" with its "democratic centralism" where the soul is sold to the devil for "the Cause".

Call me a fool, but I believe in democracy, the self organizing from the bottom up by honest people who are struggling with the real world. History is littered by the corpses of those sacrificed for "ideology" and "the beautiful idea". I accept that mobs are ugly and irrational. But I can live with that better than I can live with the cold-blooded calculation of a self-appointed elite who use "Marxism" as their rationale for creating some of the greatest mass murders of the 20th century.

So continue to use Zoom. I'm sure the Xi Jinping and the Chinese politburo with appreciate your enthusiasm.

Enam el Brux said...

Anonymous, since you understand game theory and have an intuitive sense of property relations, read this and get back to us. said...

With respect to that last, "Anonymous", Comment---the gentleman said, "Call me a fool...". So I will, your'e a fool. So there. Now that I've complied with your wishes, we can be friends.

marcel proust said...

As I recently heard, the "S" in Zoom stands for Security.

s. wallerstein said...

What possible interest could the Chinese politburo have in Professor Wolff's comments on Kant's Critique or even on Marx's Kapital?

Michael said...

"Surely, no self-respecting advocate of human rights would even reluctantly agree to use a hugely popular video-conferencing app during these circumstances! Anyone who insinuates otherwise must, despite their posturing, be a sympathizer to murderous tyrants! ... Hey, what do you mean, 'That's kind of brash'? Don't be so critical of me, you bully!"

Anonymous said...

This comments section is creepy. A gang of all-too-earnest leftists who shun or ignore anyone who opposes their leader, some long-retired academic whom they refer to as "the Professor". The Professor flies off the handle when his followers fall out of line in the comments by failing to properly grasp something about his latest pearl, usually its irony. He scolds them and they fall, chastened, back into line.

Dean said...

"This comments section is creepy." Some might say that's an analytic proposition.

s. wallerstein said...


This blog is not what it appears to be. Behind the apparent creepy comments is a secret organization run by the Professor, who is not really a Professor, but I can't tell you what he or she really is. All of the comments, except yours, are in code as are the so-called Professor's seemingly leftie posts. From time to time an innocent outsider such as yourself stumbles into this blog and we generally humor him or her, but you have a right to know that we are all engaged in a very important top-secret mission. For whom or for what I am not at liberty to tell you. Rest assured, however, we are not aliens from another galaxy.

Enam el Brux said...

Even s. wallerstein's comment was in code, except for the last sentence, which applies with some exceptions, case in point.

Michael said...

I giggled. But to be serious...

Relative to the rest of the Internet, I think "creepy" here is unfortunately a MAJOR overstatement - unless you haven't glanced at many (e.g.) YouTube arguments of a very ordinary sort.

(Here's a glimpse of what Internet cruelty at its most damaged and sociopathic looks like.)

What I posted earlier, I thought, was essentially a paraphrase of Anonymous's commentary, exaggerated (lightly, in my opinion) to highlight how over-the-top it seemed. I consider myself pretty sensitive to online cruelty, and rarely address others in that tone, and sincerely apologize if it was hurtful, BUT - the gist of the commentary, if I'm not mistaken, was that RPW and his readers, and "The Left" in general, are so many dishonest, irrational ideologues, who as such are able to disguise or overlook their intellectual complicity in oppression and mass-murder. So, I found the commentary ridiculous and insulting, and responded in kind, which admittedly is playground logic.

Apologies again, and I will simply offer a thought that has come to me through many unpleasant experiences. If your view on something is such that anyone who does not accept it must, according to your view, be morally or intellectually perverse, or extremely, perhaps willfully stupid - then that alone is prima facie evidence that your view should be carefully reevaluated, or heavily qualified, or prefaced with a modest acknowledgement that "I don't mean to insult you by believing this, and I understand if it sounds extreme, and for that reason I've accepted it only with reluctance and difficulty," etc.

(A favorite illustration comes from Wittgenstein's writings on religion. Somewhere in discussing Frazer, he urges the reader to resist concluding (with Frazer) that religion represents "sheer stupidity" on the part of the bulk of humankind. I tried to keep this in mind while gradually emerging from an "aggressive atheist" phase.)

I regard this as more than just platitudinous advice on conversational etiquette. I think it's a matter of personal integrity, and something that can be healing and constructive in the spheres of social and emotional health. That's a major reason I find it troubling to witness - and personally take part in - the antagonism and polarization we see in politics.

Regards - Michael

Jennifer said...

Risks of Zoom aside, I must say that my class is bubbling with excitement for next week's class. Because we are working our way through the Critique, we recognize how RPW's lifetime of Kant scholarship will deepen our understanding.

TheDudeDiogenes said...

{Hearty chuckle} said...

Hmmm, Michael "giggles", and The Dude Diogenes "chuckles". God-damn it boys, let's get it together. Is it giggling or is it chuckling?

j.rapko said...

Comrades! I have just left a 36-hour zoom meeting of the Central Committee, presided over by our Fearless Professor. I am sorry to report that once again we tried to sell our souls to the Devil in exchange for a piece of The Cause, but once again The Devil refused. He insists that he will only exchange a piece of The Cause for an honest democrat who breathes and takes honest looks at the world. Can anyone give me the name of such a being?

marcel proust said...

J. Rapko: Joe Biden, the legitimate heir of [strike]/Hilary Clinton[/strike] Barack Obama.[/humor]

Chris said... - One of my favorite webcomics by xkcd. The punchline (if you don't want to visit the link) is "My life improved when I realized I could just ignore any sentence that started with "technically".

I would rewrite that for the present context to "My life "improved" when I realized I could just "ignore" any comment that included "scare quotes"."

Fearless Professor, I await guidance on how best to dismantle our democracy using messenging apps.

Anonymous said...

I'm a different Anonymous from the one who you're all responding to.

My take on this blog is that most of people here find RPW's ideas and expertise valuable, both in and of themselves and for the exchanges they provide. As I've inferred, the folks who routinely comment seem to be a hodgepodge of everything including liberals, democrats, socialists, Keynesians, anarchists, and anti-authoritarians, all of different stripes, and with wide variation in terms of being intellectuals vs activists, being strategic / utilitarian vs being "pure," etc., being focused on electoral politics vs movement-building.

People on this blog don't agree about everything, and so they probably don't agree about Zoom, Google, Facebook, etc, though I'm willing to be they're all willing to learn and read more. As such, a link to an Intercept article is welcomed in the spirit of sharing knowledge, information, and resources.

Living one's politics / values is a continual struggle, and too much complacency can keep us from seeing our complicity in destructive systems.

And yet the current political / pandemic moment we're in begs commentary and an opening up of possibilities. I'd be curious to hear RPW and others' ideas about how resilient or how wounded they think global capitalism is right now, and what alternative institutions might step into its place. After we all lose our jobs is as good a time as any to organize for the transition to a fairer set of socioeconomic arrangements that meets our needs and allows us all to thrive. said...

Marcel Proust. Your, "Comments", have become suspiciously brief. This is not in keeping with the Master's tendency. Pray, do give us more in the way of protraction---lest we begin to despair of your authenticity.

Anonymous said...

To Chris,

I'll see your xkcd and raise you Futurama,

Unknown said...

Just a innocent question here lol.
Zoom, can anyone watch these classes? Is it a free service?

Thank you mates.