My Stuff

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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Saturday, December 18, 2021


As I have been reporting, I was scheduled to teach an advanced undergraduate course at UNC Chapel Hill this spring, starting January 11. Several days ago, my wife and I had a serious talk about the dangers this posed. UNC does not require students to be vaccinated, although it does require them to wear masks, and professors are not even permitted to ask students whether they have been vaccinated. It seemed to me inevitable that I would  be presented with the risk of a breakthrough Omicron infection, something that the odds say would not for the most part be dangerous for someone fully vaccinated and boosted. But I will be 88 in nine days, my wife will be 89 in a month, and both of us have medical conditions that in some form or other compromise our ability to fight off infections. So I contacted the very supportive and helpful Chair and Associate Chair of the Philosophy Department and asked whether I could teach virtually by zoom. Well, it seems that is not possible. I would have had to request permission months ago and even then it is questionable whether it would have been granted. So I will not be teaching this spring.


Needless to say, at the rate the new variant is spreading, I think it is quite likely that by middle or end of January UNC will have gone to virtual teaching, but alas that will be too late for me. So now I need to find something else to keep me busy this spring. My first thought was to arrange on my shelves in chronological order of publication all the books I have published with the various editions and translations included. It is, I am aware, the sort of thing Mister Toad would do but my options are limited, after all. So I started this morning and the first thing I discovered was that I had a Turkish translation that I had completely forgotten about of the little book that Barrington Moore, Herbert Marcuse, and I published in 1965. That was fun.


This task will not take me very long so I am open to suggestions.


Eric said...

So now I need to find something else to keep me busy this spring.

J├╝rgen Habermas published a new book at age 90.
Just sayin. ;-)

Jason said...

Professor Wolff, I'm absolutely loving your course on ideological critique that's up on youtube. I'm currently plowing my way through Ideology and Utopia, with Land Filled with Flies waiting in the wings on my bookshelf, and I'm about to order The Signifying Monkey.

So maybe since you've done all that prep work for a class that now won't be happening, you could perhaps do like you did with ideological critique and record a series of lectures that you would have done at UNC and throw them up on youtube.

Eric said...

I'm glad you are choosing not to teach a class in person. I was worried you would go through with the plan, which seemed unduly risky to me.
I'm with Jason—I would very much enjoy seeing more of your video lectures, whether on the class you had intended or on some other topics in philosophy.

s. wallerstein said...

I vote with Jason and Eric on your doing more video lectures.

Since you've already prepared the class at UNC, why not start with that on Youtube?

Another Anonymous said...

Ditto the above.

Michael said...

Maybe a lecture or two on Graeber and Wengrow?

Plowman said...

I too am interested in the course you prepared, but would understand if you want to save it until UNC faces up to our present reality.
I for one would like to hear more from you about irony, in particular on Marx’s use of it (beyond what you said in Moneybags) and/or in light of Du Bois’ “double consciousness”.

Anonymous said...

These gMO shot 'vaccines' don't work. Just look at the map on vaccination rates and current outbreaks. Your risk of going out will be the same regardless of 'vaccination' status in a given area.

Time to accept the reality!

Michael said...

I know, "Don't feed the troll" and all, but I just wanted to say I'm very thankful to have my vaccine and booster, as the other day a family member and I came into contact with someone who ended up testing positive for COVID. We're still quarantining until the recommended testing date, but hopefully not any longer than that.

Of possible interest:
Vice: Redditors Give 'The Herman Cain Award' to Anti-Vaxxers Who Die of COVID

This is an example of (understandable!) schadenfreude and cruelty, but the bit about the "IPA" is also worth acknowledging.

Benny Roman said...

Just to add my voice to the chorus of others, I too would enjoy further YouTube lectures.

trane said...

I too would love to see more of your online lectures.


John Rapko said...

Have you finished with Graeber's and Wengrow's book? A couple of points that I would very much like to see you address, in place of throwing your pearls before potentially infectious UNC students, are: 1. You say that at least part of what they say about Rousseau and Montesquieu is plainly wrong. It's not plain to me. 2. It seems to me that part of what's of great theoretical interest in the book is their claim about the basic forms of freedom being the freedom to move; the freedom to disobey orders; and the freedom to imagine alternative political and social arrangements. Likewise with their claim about the basic forms of domination: through knowledge; through bureaucracy; through charisma.

LFC said...

@ John Rapko

I haven't read G & W, but they apparently say or imply that Rousseau came from wealth -- not correct. (There may be other mistakes of course, but as I say I haven't read it.)

John Rapko said...

LFC--I took the professor's remark to mean that some major part of what Graeber and Wengrow say about Rousseau and Montesquieu is mistaken, with the implication that this damages their overall account. I don't recall whether they said that Rousseau came from wealth, but if that's wrong it would hardly distort their account. The central critical point arising from their accounts of Hobbes, Rousseau, Montesquieu, and Turgot is that each willy-nilly contributes fundamental elements to the picture of human life they oppose: (a) societies form stable wholes that are governed by a single set of technologies, relations of production, and scales of organization--hunter-gatherer; agricultural; states--, and (b) these wholes occur successively in history, and the order of their occurrence is progressive and irreversible. I don't see that what Graeber and Wengrow say about the four thinkers named is 'plainly wrong' in a way that harms their account of the roles they play in building up the progressivist picture.

F Lengyel said...

Another vote in favor of online lectures, although I understand this is a lot of work. Charge us tuition.

LFC said...

@ J Rapko

Several years ago I decided to fill one of the many (sigh) gaps in my education by reading Rousseau's _Discourse on Inequality_. I wrote a comment re Rousseau just now but then I thought better of it, for a bunch of reasons. As I say, I haven't read G & W so I don't want to get into the discussion much further.

LFC said...

Re the main post: the book by L. Menand that I'm currently reading mentions, in a footnote, Daniel Markovits, _The Meritocracy Trap_. That might be something you (RPW) wd be interested in reading and posting about here, and it might produce an interesting discussion. Possibly it's come up here before - I don't recall.

Achim Kriechel (A.K.) said...

I think it is a pity that you cannot give your lecture, but I think your decision is absolutely right. However, I do not understand the university. Why are they so slow?

Here is my completely selfless proposal. Hold your lecture via Zoom for participants who register here on the blog. You might have the opportunity to approach someone to help you technically so you can focus on the lessons. If the difference in time zones allows it I would be thrilled to participate.

A very good friend, he is also an emeritus professor of philosophy and will be 93 in 3 weeks, was faced with the decision about 4 years ago whether to "finally" sort out his library of nearly 35,000 books for his heirs, or to do some more writing. Last month he sent me the proofs for the 3rd part of his project. The first two have already been published in 2019 and 2020.

Please have no illusions, we need what you and your generation have to say. Maybe more than ever, and in whatever form.

Charles Pigden said...

Just want to commend what seems ot e a wise decision. My own university has banned unvaccinated staff and students.

Alex Campbell said...

Bob, any interest in recording the course that you were planning to teach as a lecture series for YouTube? As usual, I'd be happy to help.

-Alex Campbell