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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Tuesday, September 27, 2022


I posted about this six months ago but you will have to forgive me for repeating myself. There is renewed talk about Russia using "tactical nukes" in its war against Ukraine.  Can we all just please remember that a "5K tactical nuke" is the equivalent in explosive power of 10,000 cruise missiles -- Not 10 or 100 or 1000 but 10,000 cruise missiles.  What possible battlefield target would even be appropriate for a weapon of such horrific magnitude? Several of them could completely destroy Kyiv and everybody in it.

This is the nightmare that led me more than 60 years ago to start speaking publicly about matters of politics and war. It is not how I thought I would end my life.


An anonymous donor put us over the top. We have done our bit.  Let us hope it helps.

Sunday, September 25, 2022


 $75 more! We are almost there.

As we wrap up this match, I am embarking on a new project. In my file cabinets is a drawer filled with manila folders containing unpublished papers, talks, meditations and so forth. Some of these date back 60 years. I have decided to embark on a lengthy project of converting these to computer files and then posting them on my blog little by little. Some may interest those of you who have taken to reading this blog, some may not, but I have reached a point in my life when I feel the need to make these available to that little corner of the world that sometimes pays attention to what I write.

Right now, I am looking into optical character recognition programs and such and looking for someone whom I can pay as my assistant in this effort. At some point, before too long, I hope to start posting these essays and research papers and talks.

Meanwhile, I waited anxiously each bit of news on the further trouble that Trump is getting himself into.

I thank you all for joining me in the match. It is a small contribution we make but it is something, and that is really the most anyone can ask of us.


 Okay, thanks to Marc Susselman's splendid donation, we are now three quarters of the way there. Let us get some more donations and bring it up to the full 1000 so that I can move on to more interesting things

Saturday, September 24, 2022


A while back, I offered $1000 in a match 1 for 1 to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee or DLCC.  With Marc Susselman leading the way, and David Palmeter putting his $1000 next to mine to make it a 2 for 1 match, we managed to raise $3000 for the campaign.  The time has come to try it again.

I will match each donation to the DLCC 1 for 1 up to a limit of $1000. This time around, let us hear from those of you who did not donate the first time. If 40 of you will give $25 each I will match all of that with my $1000.

We can talk about the deeper meaning of it all later. Now is the time to do our little bit. Let us do it!

Friday, September 23, 2022


Teaching Capital this semester has had the effect of focusing my attention once again on the central theme of Karl Marx’s work, which is the exploitation of workers. At the same time, my considerable age and physical infirmities, combined with the death lately of so many persons whom I knew and who were, in one way or another, important to me, has led me to reflect on all the struggles to which I have lent my assistance over the past 70 years.


The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the union movement, the Civil Rights Movement and Black Liberation, Women’s Lib, Gay Liberation – what would the world look like today, I asked myself, what would America look like today, if all of these struggles had been completely successful? I lay in bed last night at about 1 AM turning this question over in my mind.


I tried to imagine an America in which a bit more than half of the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate were women, in which African-Americans, Latinx Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans were represented at every level in the pyramid of jobs in proportion to their numbers in the population.  I tried to imagine an America in which every citizen had guaranteed healthcare, an America in which the cost of education at every level was socialized so that no one carried a student debt, in which all workers were unionized and the guaranteed minimum wage was $25 an hour, an America in which all elections were free and fair, with no gerrymandering at any level in the electoral process, an America in which all parents, both male and female, had paid parental leave.  Suppose, just to take specific one example, that the principal shareholder of Amazon were not Jeff Bezos but a lesbian Native American.  Would this not be the fulfillment of my dreams? Could I then die, if not happy, at least with the sense that, in the words of Isaiah, every valley had been exalted, and every mountain and hill made low: and the crooked had been made straight, and the rough places plain?


But then I thought, even in such an Eden, it would still take a well-paid unionized Amazon worker 3 million years to earn as much as that lesbian Native American “Bezos” would be worth today.  It would still be the case that the grotesque inequality of income and the vastly more grotesque inequality of wealth would remain. It would simply no longer be the case that the inequality was color-coded or gender coded. We would be no closer in that imagined ideal world to the collective ownership of the means of production that Marx correctly identified, a century and a half ago, as the essential next step in the social relations of production.


Troubled and unsettled, I drifted off to sleep.

Thursday, September 22, 2022


I just read that Saul Kripke has died at the age of 81.  As I think I have observed on this blog, I knew Saul because he arrived at Harvard in 1959 when I was an Instructor there.  I was supplementing my salary by working as a freshman advisor and one of the students to whom I was assigned was a young man who had come to Harvard from the same Omaha high school as Saul.

Saul actually attended two or three of my lectures on the Critique of Pure Reason the next year before deciding there was nothing in it of interest to him. I have some stories to tell about Saul from those days but I think I have already told them in my autobiography so I will simply note his passing here.


In the past few days, comments on this blog by John Rapko and others together with the news I have had of the experiences and career problems of former students have reminded me once again of how fortunate I was to pursue a career in the Academy during what will certainly be looked back on in the future as the golden years of the American academic profession.  I have on several occasions observed that when I went to college in 1950 only five percent of American adults had college degrees whereas now a third do. The enormous expansion of higher education in America after the Second World War created for a time an insatiable demand for professors. Graduate students in elite philosophy departments were getting tenure track job offers before they were ABD! The expansion of the Academy also created a market for academic books which made it almost impossible for publishers to lose money on them. Virtually any academic book would sell enough copies to college libraries and the extended family of the author to enable the publishers to break even. Editors would visit campuses and ask professors whether they had ideas for books, for which they would then write contracts on the basis of a one-page prospectus. At the better colleges and universities, the teaching load was “two and two” which meant two courses a semester. Thus a full-time job consisted of teaching six hours a week, 32 weeks a year.


Before the second world war, during the depression, there were very few academic jobs with the result that in a high school like the one to which I went in New York City, a number of the teachers had doctorates and would in better times have pursued careers at the college level. Now, if what I have read is correct, as many as two thirds of the courses offered in colleges and universities in America are taught by adjunct or part-time instructors who are paid a pittance and have no healthcare or pension benefits.


Naturally we all thought we were brilliant but in the words of the old saying, we had been born on third and thought we had hit a triple.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022


We all recall that great line of dialogue delivered by Tom Hanks in A League Of Their Own.  It came to mind when I read the astonishing headline that Magnus Carlson, the world chess champion, had resigned after one move in a game against a strong teenage competitor, charging that the young man was cheating.

Cheating? There is no cheating in chess. How could you possibly cheat?

Well, now that there are computer programs that are way stronger than any human chess player, it is at least conceivable that a player might devise a way to be fed a move found by a computer program.

Sigh.  I prefer the old days

Sunday, September 18, 2022


Well, the fall semester is upon us and it is time for me once more to offer my services as a zoom visitor to anyone teaching a course at a community college, undergraduate college, graduate University, or adult education program who would like me to visit a class. Because I teach on Mondays, that day is out but any other day is fine and remember, my fee is quite reasonable, namely zero.

Saturday, September 17, 2022


The undergraduates in the course have the option of writing two shorter papers or one longer paper at the end of the semester. For those choosing the two paper option, I have prepared some suggested topics, although they are free to write on a topic of their own choosing if they wish.  I thought some of you might be interested in the topics I prepared for them. Here they are,

1.         In the manuscript on Alienated Labour, Marx presents an inspiring picture of the truly human character of unalienated labour by way of contrast with the appallingly inhuman conditions of nineteenth century factory work.  No doubt that account captures quite nicely how the folks at Apple headquarters in Cupertino feel about their work.  But humans cannot live on apps alone, and even in the wonderful world after the revolution someone is going to have to tend the machines and slaughter the chickens and sew up the seams of new T-shirts and do all that other tedious labor that does not seem quite to measure up to Marx's Romantic vision of unalienated labor.  How, if at all, might this problem be dealt with in a socialist society and economy?


2.         The development of capitalism has been quite uneven, progressing in some countries rapidly and in other countries quite slowly.  What problems does that fact pose for the sort of international working class movement Marx envisions in the Manifesto?


3.         Write a Marxian critique of the Occupy Movement.  Or, write a critique of Marx from the perspective of the Occupy Movement.  Or, write critiques of both Marx and the Occupy Movement from some other perspective.   I don't care.  Just make it penetrating and interesting and original.


4.         What is the difference, if any, between mystification and good old garden-variety stupidity, ignorance, and superstition?


5.         Do some research on the concept of the fetish as it turns up in Cultural Anthropology and write a paper on Marx's use of the term in the section of Chapter One of CAPITAL entitled "The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret Thereof."


6.         Choose some work of Philosophy or Economics or Political Science or Anthropology with which you are really familiar and do an analysis of the relationship between the linguistic structure of the text and the structure of the reality the author is attempting to capture.  [Warning:  this is super hard, and if I were in the business of giving out brownie points, anyone taking this would get extra brownie points just for trying.  On the other hand, it is real easy to crash and burn with this one.]


7.         If you have taken a college or graduate Economics course, analyze the difference between the sorts of questions asked by the classical Political Economists and the questions asked by modern neo-classical economists, with special attention to the ideological significance of those differences.


8.         And now, the ever reliable and familiar "compare and contrast":  Compare and contrast the language of the Manifesto with that of Chapter One of Capital.

Saturday, September 10, 2022



Thank you, Eric, for sending me Jerry Fresia’s book!  I look forward to reading it.


Schug, what a wonderful memory of those old days! Thank you for writing about them. I went back and looked over my files from that time and could not figure out which student you were. But it warmed my heart to know that I had succeeded in reaching you in that class.


While I was searching my files, I came across a talk that I gave to The Radical Philosophy Association on April 19, 1986. It is called “Should Marxists Give up the Labor Theory of Value?” I had completely forgotten about it and if I can figure out some way to turn it into a computer file, I will post it here on my blog.


Now that I am old, I have been thinking about hiring a graduate student from UNC to work as my assistant and convert a number of things like that into a form in which I can post them on my blog. I wrote a good deal in those days without having any intention of publishing it and I would enjoy having those materials available to anyone who wishes to read them. That was a time when I spent a good deal of effort mastering the mathematical literature on the modern reinterpretation of Karl Marx. I am convinced that movement was intellectually important and ought not to be forgotten.


Well, I have had just about all I can take of television commentary on the death of the Queen. I have nothing against the lady, but there is a limit. Meanwhile, I await the outcome of the “special master” kerfuffle. I am absolutely convinced on the basis of no evidence whatsoever that the Justice Department has found Trump either selling or threatening to sell secrets obtained by him from those classified documents, and if I am correct, then that really will be the end of him.


It is, I suppose, an evidence of my irrepressible optimism that I am becoming convinced the Democrats will hold the House and pick up two seats in the Senate.

Friday, September 9, 2022


Six days a week, I go down to the lobby of the building in which Susie and I live to get the mail. There is always a large pile of mail, and almost all of it is for Susie who is on virtually every promotional mailing list imaginable. Yesterday, when I picked up the mail, there was a small plastic wrapped package for me – anIn intriguing rarity. I opened it and found a copy of a book that I had not ordered and in fact was unaware of.


The book was originally published in 1988 and has an intriguing title: Toward an American Revolution: Exposing the Constitution and Other Illusions. I took a look at it and began to read it. The first chapter is called “Afraid to Reflect” and begins with a rather troubling characterization of three 18th-century Americans, who turn out to be Washington, Adams, and Jefferson. At the moment I am swamped with a variety of tasks large and small, but I look forward to reading the book.


Oh, did I mention that the author is Jerry Fresia?

Thursday, September 8, 2022


I have just learned that the brilliant essay on Lord of the Rings by Charles Mills did not go missing but was in his papers at his death and has now been published. I have just read, or rather reread, the essay and it is as wonderful as I remembered. Once I manage to get a link to the essay in its published form I will post it here.

So the world is not all bad

Sunday, September 4, 2022


Thank you all for the very thoughtful and supportive responses to my personal reflections on age and disability. Your evident warmth and sympathy supports me and makes it easier for me to deal with my own particular array of problems.

Saturday, September 3, 2022


Well, I have fussed as much as I can over my next lecture, in which I confront the very difficult first chapter of Capital. The high point of the lecture will be my imaginary field trips to a medieval Catholic Cathedral and a contemporary supermarket, the rationale for which I think I have already explained. I stayed up late last night watching Serena Williams play her last match, an emotionally rather wrenching experience. And of course, I have been keeping track of the steady march by the Justice Department toward indicting Donald Trump. But none of that is what has really been occupying my mind lately, and I thought I would take a few moments on this Saturday afternoon to write about what has been concerning me. This is quite personal and will be of almost no interest to all of you who comment on politics and such like things on this blog, but I would like to memorialize here what has been going on in my mind. It concerns my ongoing struggle to come to terms with my Parkinson’s disease – to come to terms with it both practically and also emotionally.


I have never been any sort of athlete, heaven knows, although 75 years ago I was a member of a gymnastic team in my high school called The Captain’s Corps.  We worked out on the parallel bars, walked around on our hands and such – not very impressive stuff – but I gave all that up when I went to college and that was my last encounter with organized athletics. Still and all, over the decades, I did the Canadian Air Force exercises, swam each morning in the pool I had built in my Massachusetts house with the proceeds from a successful textbook, and when I retired and moved down to North Carolina, I began a regime of daily early morning walks which I kept up for than 10 years. When Susie and I bought the apartment in Paris, I began taking a one hour walk each morning around the fifth, sixth, and seventh arrondissements, some of which I memorialized on this blog.


I continued the walks when we moved to Carolina Meadows five years ago and it was a point of great, albeit rather sophomoric, pride that I became known as an early morning walker. I got to know the other early morning walkers and also their dogs and it helped me to deny that I was in fact growing old. Then, a year and a half ago, I developed a tremor in my left hand and after consulting three neurological specialists, looking for one who would give me good rather than bad news, I was finally forced to accept the fact that I had developed Parkinson’s disease.


I had seen several people here at Carolina Meadows in the last stages of that terrible disease, bound to a wheelchair, virtually immobile, looked after by their husbands or wives, and although my symptoms were quite mild, I struggled terribly with the fact of my diagnosis. But I continued to take my morning walks, pushing myself to get my heart rate up because of literature I had been given to read by a physical therapist that indicated that 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five days a week seemed to have the effect of slowing down the progress of the disease.


Then, last October, disaster struck. At the end of one of my walks I developed what is called “festination” which is an uncontrollable ever more rapid walking in which, in effect, your feet run away with you until you fall. I stumbled into the lobby of the building where I live, half fell against the wall, lowered myself slowly to the floor, and could not get up until two security guards saw me and helped me to my feet. My early morning walks were over.


I bought a recumbent exercycle and began doing 30 minutes on it five days a week, something that I have kept up faithfully ever since. But I grew more and more unsteady and began to develop what the doctors describe as freezing and stumbling as I walk, particularly when I am turning around or trying to make my way in the apartment from our bedroom to my bathroom or from the kitchen to my study.  I began to use a three wheeled roller which I now take with me everywhere I go.


At first, I was embarrassed, ashamed, terribly self-conscious about the fact that I was using the roller, even though in a retirement community like this one a great many other people use similar devices.


Little by little, I have started to make accommodations and adjustments in my life in response to the limitations imposed upon me by the Parkinson’s. I have begun to take advantage of the transportation service offered to residents here, both for myself and for Susie.  Several weeks ago when I had some physical therapy sessions, the transportation folks picked me up in front of our building and took me to the health center so that I did not have to park and walk to the building.


I have already talked about the fact that the course I am teaching meets not in the philosophy building, which at UNC Chapel Hill is completely handicap inaccessible, but across campus in another building which has a handicap accessible entrance in the rear. To help me with the frustrations and complexities of navigating the UNC website and associated services and to assist me in the classroom posting slides on the screen in front of the blackboard, I hired a young man who has just completed his doctorate in philosophy and who recorded and posted on YouTube my lectures on Marx, Freud, and Kant.


All of this is of course relatively trivial and hardly worthy of much comment, except that it has been extraordinarily difficult for me to accept the fact that at the age of 88 with Parkinson’s disease, I can no longer do what was easy for me to do even five years ago.


One of the lesser effects of Parkinson’s is a condition called micrographia. My handwriting, which was never very good, has become so crabbed and unsteady as to be unreadable.  Since I never did learn to touch type, I have spent my entire life typing with my two forefingers but the Parkinson’s and the associated tremors make that so random a process that I cannot rely on those fingers to write anymore. Fortunately, there are dictation programs that are really quite good and so as I sit here at my desk, I am speaking into a headphone and writing on the computer much faster than I ever could have before.


Because of my condition, which is progressive and not curable, and because I am also the principal caregiver to my wife, I decided to sell our Paris apartment so that we would have the money we will need for ever more extensive care as we grow older. My neurologist has been encouraging – she says that the principal threat to my well-being at this point is my age, not my disease. She expects that I will have 5 to 7 more years perhaps before I am really constrained by the disease, and since at that point I would be perhaps 95 years old, if she is correct I cannot really complain. (Well, to be honest, I can complain and I do so to myself a good deal, but that is neither here or there.)


I appear to be cognitively undiminished, but everything is harder for me now and takes me longer. I do not think I could teach two courses or more at the same time as I did without the slightest difficulty during most of my career.


But I do not think I shall go gentle into that good night, and I shall most certainly rage against the dying of the light. Meanwhile, I keep my spirits up by imagining Donald Trump indicted.