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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Saturday, September 12, 2020

MY KEVIN BACON MOMENT

 

Five years ago I wrote a little post for this blog on the concept of degrees of separation in the course of which I noted that I am connected to Jeremy Bentham by only two degrees of separation. In view of the fact that Bentham’s greatest and most often read work was published 240 years ago, this is a reasonably remarkable fact. For those who did not read that post or have forgotten it, I will explain briefly that in 1954 I had tea with an 82-year-old Bertrand Russell. Russell’s godfather was none other than John Stuart Mill – my first degree of separation – who in turn was the godson of Jeremy Bentham, my second degree of separation. Thus the undergraduates in the course on the thought of Karl Marx that I taught at UNC Chapel Hill this past semester are in turn connected to Bentham by three degrees of separation.

 

I am afraid I cannot say the same of Plato.

12 comments:

Dean said...

I am connected to Kevin Bacon by two degrees, having interviewed his personal assistant some years ago.

Seems to me that you are separated by three degrees to Bentham: Russell, Mill, Bentham. One degree of separation would mean you met/know/transacted with/slapped/fathered/etc., Bentham.

Isn't the first degree a given? We're always one degree removed from our closest acquaintances.

Guy Tennenbaum said...

I think it’s remarkable that you met Bertrand Russell. I know he lived into the 1970s (barely), but I think of him as an Edwardian figure, part of the world of fools in old-style hats and coats, to quote Philip Larkin.

David Palmeter said...

When I was in college I met Alexander Kerensky and Harry Truman who came to speak. I assume that Kerensky met Lenin; if so, I'm two degrees from Lenin. And I'm two degrees from Stalin, Churchill, and FDR who are among the many Truman met.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Dean, I don't think so. Since I know my wife personally, I am not separated from her. No?

Robert Paul Wolff said...

whoops. Google says you are right, Dean. Who am I to argue with Google?

Unknown said...

Also two degrees from William Gladstone, who, unlike Mill, Russell remembered very clearly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DH7wzs6XRk

jeffrey g kessen said...

Tea with Bertrand Russell? That's impressive. Ahh, for the days of tea and an enlightened company. Nowadays it's just beer and Google---well, maybe a little spliff on the side.

Dean said...

There are two degrees of separation between me and my wife.

Dean said...

^Different Dean than the one yesterday at 10:06 PM, who was me.

Anonymous said...

I once spoke to Eisenhower on the phone, so am two degrees from Churchill, and hence, three degrees from everyone who was anyone between 1800 and 1965. So there.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Churchill was born in 1874 and Napoleon died half a century earlier and he was certainly someone, but still, I am impressed that you spoke to Eisenhower. How come?

Anonymous said...

Churchill quoted in official biography of having met most of the great heavyweights of the 19th century born after 1800 that lived to about 1885. He referenced conversations those individuals had with luminaries going back another 50 years, but that stretches the degrees linkage to thinly circumstantial.

My great grandfather and grand uncle ran a famous bar/restaurant in Manila 1920-41. They knew Ike and MacArthur. Played bridge with Ike. In 1960, my great uncle visited with us, told me about Ike. I doubted the story, whereupon he picked up the phone and called the White House. After about 15 minutes, Ike comes on the line and they talk old times in Manila. Uncle introduces me on the phone and I say "Hello". Ike says "Hello" and a couple of pleasantries. I would have preferred having lunch with Bertrand Russell.