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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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, June 29, 2020

DOWN MEMORY LANE


I suppose Shakespeare, from time to time, fussed and fretted over his quills, trying to get them sharpened in just the right way so that he could write his immortal sonnets. And no doubt Plato, from time to time, encountered a resistant tablet. Well, I spent this morning on a lengthy phone call with a Dragon tech expert trying to get my voice recognition program to work. He was very patient with me and talked me through an endless series of revisions until finally he managed to make it work. So here I am now, once again dictating rather than doing my traditional hunt and peck.

It is difficult to know which medical, economic, or political horror to comment on – there are so many. I do genuinely believe that Trump is going down the tubes and is likely going to take the Republican Senate majority with him. Like everyone else, I am terrified each time I say that, knowing what happened in 2016. But this really does feel different. Now if we can just persuade Joe Biden to stay in his basement until November 3 we may be all right.

Earlier today, I received an email message from a professor in Texas who assigns my essay, “Beyond Tolerance,” in a course he teaches. He wondered whether perhaps I would be willing to write something in the form of an update for his students next fall. Since I published the essay 55 years ago and probably have not read it in 50 years, I thought I should take a look at it before I had a go.  Several things struck me immediately. First, there is no evidence in the essay that women are part of the human race. That was rather embarrassing. Second, there is almost no evidence that race played an important role in American politics. That too was rather embarrassing. Perhaps the best thing I could do is write an essay attacking my essay.

Stay tuned.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you could do a zoom lecture on A Critique of Pure Tolerance. I would love to hear it.

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

Perhaps instead you could use it as on opportunity to demonstrate that enlightenment is an lifelong proposition.

LFC said...

I happen to own a paperback copy of _A Critique of Pure Tolerance_, the book in which Prof. Wolff's essay "Beyond Tolerance" appears. Picked it up in a used bkstore a few yrs ago. However, I've never done more than dip into it briefly despite its relative brevity. But just paging through it now I've decided I may want to read it at some point. Some interesting passages in Marcuse's essay -- not that I wd necessarily agree.

Thilini Prasadika said...

Looking forward!

Jim said...

Professor Wolff --

Your point about eliding women and race in the Tolerance essay is both timely and important. You can also say the same about gay and trans individuals. When I look back at key critical texts, I see the same paucity of these issues. Think of someone like Marx, who endeavored to engage in a "critical examination of everything." Think of the efforts of the Frankfurt School and its extended members. The lesson here is that no matter how radical and critical we think we are, no matter how learned, we are always missing something. Until, of course, it hits us smack dab in the middle of our face. We can potentially offer an excuse by suggesting that these issues simply did not pass the radar screen of these critics at the time. But it is not because these issues did not exists at those times. The question then becomes WHY these issues were ignored, avoided, or remained unacknowledged. This is something I struggle with everyday. I try to "keep up," but how? It requires a concerted effort.

-- Jim

Jerry Fresia said...

A critique of your own work might be the most engaging way to do an update especially if your humor comes through as it does in this brief little blog.

s. wallerstein said...

Jim,

The Critique of Pure Tolerance appeared in 1965. Back then the concept of "transgender" did not even exist as far as I know. There were "trans-sexuals" and "drag-queens", neither of which is exactly the same as a transgender person as we understand them today.

As for gays, they were largely invisible in the closet. I lived in New York City at the time, a fairly sophisticated milieu, but as I recall, I only knew one out of the closet gay person among my friends and classmates. A very close friend of mine, with whom I shared a room for several months, turned out to be gay, but I had no idea of that. People were a lot less open about sex back then and even less open about being gay.

I don't know how old you are, but the 60's, as we now know them, really didn't begin in
1960, but in 1964 or 1965, so the so-called sexual revolution was just starting when the book came out.

On the other hand, the civil rights movement was in full swing and Betty Friedan had published her pioneering feminist book, the Feminine Mystique, in 1963.

Jim said...

S. Wallerstein --

I recognize and agree with your point. However, the thing about gender awareness is that it is continually evolving as we speak. Note how conservative commentators are often irritated and annoyed by the periodic additions to the LGBTQ moniker. A similar evolution has been taking place in the discipline of critical disability studies. What this tends to reveal is the intersectional nature of these issues. My point was not to highlight the shortcomings of Professor Wolff's essay. Rather, it was to highlight the need for those of us who endeavor to be good critical theorists and critical historians to always be aware of these issues -- no matter how marginalized or concealed they may be in our present or past moments.

-- Jim