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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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

QVELLING

An unknown commentator just put up the following comment:
"Prof Wolff visited South Africa in the late 1980s and gave a number of spectacular lectures. He joined us in placard protests against apartheid. If I recall correctly, he joked at the time that he did not get arrested for protesting against the Vietnam War and was hoping that he could make up for it then. None of us got arrested, despite the protest being filmed by the police. What a privilege to have heard his lectures and engage him broadly on a range of topics. Hope he sees this and remembers the visit.

Thank you for making yourself available to so many aspiring or budding political theorists. You have no idea of the incredible impact you had on a generation of students at Wits University."

It is impossible for me to say adequately how thrilled I am by this comment. That was the first of what would be more than 40 visits to South Africa over the next 30 years. I spent five weeks lecturing to the second year philosophy class at the University of the Witwatersrand, and I fell in love with the country. I have, of course, written at length about this in my autobiography. It was out of that trip and my subsequent involvement in the anti-apartheid movement at Harvard that I created University Scholarships for South African students, an organization that I ran all by myself for 25 years. Through that organization I was able to offer scholarships (or bursaries, as they were called) to 1600 or more young poor black men and women so that they could attend historically black universities and technikons in South Africa.

Many of you will recall the passage in Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov in which Grushenka tells the story of the bitter old woman who gives an onion from her garden to a passing beggar, and onion which her guardian angel later uses in an attempt to pull her out of hell. I have long thought that if there is a hell, and if I, as I suspect, that is where the good Lord sends me, my work in South Africa will be the onion that offers me a way out.

My thanks to "unknown" for the comment and for reminding me of that long and rewarding chapter in my life.

6 comments:

Jerry Fresia said...

1600! Wow. That is quite an accomplishment. Do you have follow up data on how they did, how many graduated?

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Alas, no. I know about several and have stayed in touch with one and every so often I hear from someone whom I supported years ago but because the historically black universities lacked much of the standard administrative support structure that the wealthy white universities have, they do not have active alumni associations that could give me that information. It is just a drop in the bucket, of course, but for 25 years of my life South Africa was my second home even though I only went there twice a year for two weeks or so at a time. At the end of it all, in 2015. The University of the Western Cape conferred an honorary degree on me and in an extraordinary turn of good luck the titular Chancellor of the University was then none other than Desmond Tutu, so when I knelt as is the custom to have the degree conferred upon me it was Tutu who conferred it. It was, I think, taking all and all, the greatest honor of my life.

Charles Pigden said...

Of course when the angel offers to pull you out of the pit with aid of your South African achievements you must remember not to kick back on the other lost souls who have seized on to your legs. (not even if one of them is Donald Trump)

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Bravo, Charles Pigden! I shall try, but whether I am capable of that act of Christian love depends, I fear, on whether God gives me the gift of grace.

Unknown said...

Prof, I wrote the comment about South Africa. My name is Ivor Sarakinsky and you kindly made time to discuss my M thesis with me on Utopia. I eventually completed and am now teaching at Wits after spending time at other Universities. Alas, no longer in political theory, but in Public Governance ... I remember your lectures on Game Theory, Marx and Literature in particular and that was a bit more than 30 years ago. Thank you for your inspiration and engagement.

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