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Tuesday, May 4, 2021


Before I make a preliminary effort to answer my big sister’s question, there is something I would like to talk about on this blog, something quite personal which for a very long time I have hesitated to bring into this medium. Fifteen months ago I was diagnosed with the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. The original symptom was a tremor in my left hand and also micrographia so bad that I can no longer read my own handwriting and have turned to this splendid program put out by Dragon as a substitute. A second very troubling symptom is something with the odd name “festination.” Sometimes, about two miles or so into my morning walk I start to walk faster and faster as though my feet were running after something despite my efforts to slow down. In general my walking has become more afflicted with a kind of stumbling which is especially noticeable around the apartment but this uncontrollable faster and faster walking is rather scary and threatens to make me fall. Parkinson’s is a progressive and incurable disease, of course, and living here in a retirement community I have seen several people in advanced stages of it who seem, to put it as cruelly as I can, like zombies. Since I am 87, which is late to come down with this disease, there is no telling how long I will live or indeed how long it will be before I am simply confined to a wheelchair. The optimistic projection, I suppose, is that I will die of something else before I reach that point. My mind is clear, or at least as clear as it has always been, my memory is unimpaired, and happily my politics do not pose a threat to my health, so at this point I plan to go on as I have for as long as I can.


I would like all of you to do me a favor. Please do not express the sympathy that I know a great many of you will feel and do not tell me stories about people you have known (or even about yourselves) with Parkinson’s. I have never been one to put my business out in the street, as my colleagues in the Afro-American studies department would have said, and I do not want to start now but I simply felt that I could not go on talking with you every day while keeping quiet about something that so deeply concerns me.


Thank you for listening. I will post this and later today talk about something much more interesting, namely what tendencies in mature capitalism offer the possibility of a transition to socialism.


David Palmeter said...

I'm sorry to hear of your Parkinson's. My wife was diagnosed with it 3 years ago. We've just moved into a "senior living" facilty which makes my helping her much easier.

An Architectural Historian said...

Thank you for sharing, dear professor. I do believe we will go on enjoying your posts for quite some time, which is cause for cheer.

s. wallerstein said...

You ask us not to express sympathy, but it's hard not to.

All my best....

Jordan said...

Best wishes, Prof. Wolff. Rest assured that you will have an engaged audience here as long as you are able to write. Let's hope it's still a good long time.

tyler said...

Professor Wolff,

You have understandably asked for us to withhold expressions of sympathy, so I will respect that. But as someone who has regularly read your blog for almost ten years, I did want to say this. I have only commented on a few rare occasions, but I have been a reader of this blog since 2012, when I was in my final year as a philosophy undergraduate. I went on to grad school in a very different field, but I've kept up with this blog as well as your recorded lectures as a way of continuing with my interest in philosophy while engaging in other pursuits. I was even inspired to seek out your books on Kant, Marx, and Rawls along the way. I'm now in the very final stages of my PhD, and I've learned a great deal both from the blog and those books. I don't always agree with your conclusions, but your writing and lectures have helped me see important things about figures like Kant and Marx that I otherwise would not have. My own work is no doubt influenced by yours in some surprising and perhaps not so obvious ways. This is all simply to say that I've very much enjoyed reading this blog and your other work over the years. I look forward to reading it for many more.

trane said...

Professor Wolff,

I second Tyler on this one. I read your blog regularly, have done so over several years now, and I enjoy all posts. The personal ones, the political ones, the bookish ones, the funny ones... all of them:-) .

I have also read one of your books (the one on Rawls), and watched several of your youtube lectures.

I am about half your age, and from a different corner of the world than you (Denmark). I have never met you in person. But when I read your blog and see your lectures, I learn a lot, and I get a strong feeling of you as 'a whole human being'.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings, hopes and digressions with all os us.

Best regards,

Jon Rosenthal said...

The most important words you wrote:

"My mind is clear, or at least as clear as it has always been, my memory is unimpaired, and happily my politics do not pose a threat to my health, so at this point I plan to go on as I have for as long as I can."

There are not so many who can make this claim at any age. Keep going.

Anonymous said...

What trane and tyler said. I don't post, but I've read your blog for 10 years now, through the formal methods tutorial, the Marx tutorial, the appreciations, your fish menus from the arrondissement, lots more the details of which I've forgotten but the sense and sensibility of which I've absorbed. It's simply wonderful. Thanks so much for keeping it up.

Unknown said...

Respecting your wish, I will not say more than that I really do understand. That being said, I think that Parkinson's will not stop you at all. I am a final year King's College London student currently reading In Defense of Anarchism as part of the assigned reading. There is a wonderful community of people who enjoy reading your work and discussing it, all around the world. We support you. :)

Very best regards,

Jim said...

Professor Wolff --

Samuel Beckett: "You must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on. You're on earth. There's no cure for that."

That being said, medical science continues apace -- despite your previous misadventures with the profession. My recent involvement with medical residents has been remarkably eye-opening. Who knows what the future may bring?

Ernst Bloch: We cannot reliably predict the future (paraphrased here). Just sayin'.

-- Jim

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Thank you all for reading,
God bless"

charles L. said...

Not sure how to make sense out of your opening remark to your personal note, i.e. " before i answer my big sisters question"... So would i be missing your intention if i ask, what is your big sister's question?, assuming, as i must that you do have a big sister.

charlie Lamana aka UMass' gypsy scholar called by Robert J. Ackermann

s. wallerstein said...


Take a look here:

M said...

Professor Wolff it is a continual pleasure to read your work. There's so much noise in the internet these days that I deliberately keep a list of your latest posts and savour them, reading them slowly. THe mix of Kantian scholarship, political insight and just general anecdotes.