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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Thursday, February 23, 2023


Somewhere in the blizzard of comments during the week that I was hors de combat, there was, I believe, a question about my views concerning Joe Biden’s age and its relation to the prospects for a second Biden presidential term. Since from my perspective Biden is just a young whippersnapper, I suspect I see it differently from those who are a mere 50 or 60 years old. But I will have a go at the question while I wait for the arrangements to be made for the reduced version of my formal methods lectures.


The presidency has never struck me as a particularly taxing job. You are surrounded by people whose entire function it is to give you what you want the moment you ask for it. When you travel, as soon as you get on the plane or in the bus or in the car, it leaves. If you need a book or paper or fact, you just say so and somebody brings it to you. All that is required of the job is that you make wise, thoughtful, knowledgeable, politically shrewd decisions over and over and over again.  Extraordinarily difficult, but not very tiring.


My first choice among the available 2020 candidates was of course Bernie, who is I think only a few years younger than Biden. In my own lifetime, I think Roosevelt was a good president, Eisenhower was a fair president, Kennedy was a disaster as a president, Reagan was worse than a disaster – not much there to tell one whether age is a factor for good or evil.


Biden has been, in my view, a quite astonishingly successful president despite having to deal with marginal majorities in the House and Senate and a combination of pandemic and economic crisis. I do not think Bernie would have done as well nor do I think any of the other candidates for the nomination would have done as well. What is more, despite Jerry Fresia’s understandable objections, I have been cheered by Biden’s direct and repeated championing of non-college-educated union workers, something I have not seen from a Democratic president in 50 years.


I think Biden will run again and I think he will win, because whether Trump actually gets the nomination or not, he will weigh so heavily on the Republican ticket that he will bring it down.  Unless Biden starts to go the way of Diane Feinstein therefore I think he ought to run again.


Contact Myraeka.  She is arranging a new time for a small group of students who could not attend the lecture because of a conflict but would like to hear the lectures.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023



After many weeks of fevered preparation and long nights spent rehearsing my lectures while lying in bed, I went to Wilson Hall to deliver the first of my lecture series on The Use and Abuse of Formal Methods in Political Philosophy. I had arranged for a very helpful graduate student to videotape the lectures and post the slides that I had prepared to accompany them and I was ready to roll. I got there a bit early and the only person there when I arrived was the young graduate student. 3:15 PM came and drifted to 3:20 PM and only two people showed up – a senior philosophy major and a graduate student who took my course last semester. That was it, the total audience for my lectures. I delivered the lecture I had prepared, and was dutifully videotaped, but I will confess that my heart was not in it.  Later, I checked and the associate chair had indeed sent out a circular memo reminding people of the event. There was simply no interest.


I will freely admit that I was seriously bummed. I decided that like a slightly over the edge container of yogurt, I had passed my sell by date. This morning I formally canceled the lecture series.


One of the virtues of great age is that when you suffer a humiliating defeat, you can reach back to earlier days and remember other humiliating defeats, thereby giving you perspective if not solace. In 1962, I was a young assistant professor at the University of Chicago. I teamed up with Sylvain Bromberger, a wonderful man with whom I had been a graduate student at Harvard, to teach a graduate seminar on the philosophy of history. We chose a nice seminar room with a table that would hold 20 or so students and prepared for our first meeting. Two graduate students took the course, and for the remaining weeks of the quarter, the four of us huddled together at one end of the long table and whispered to one another in low tones about the philosophy of history.


Then there is the talk I was invited to give the University of Maryland Baltimore campus. When I arrived I was taken to a large impressive lecture hall in which there were perhaps 10 people scattered around the several hundred seats. During my talk one or two of them got up and left. Afterwards, when I commented on the disappointing turnout, I was told by the member of the department who had introduced me that he was impressed by the turnout. It seemed that at the very same time the Baltimore Colts were playing a vitally important game and he was surprised that anyone at all came to my talk. It was he said evidence of my great attractiveness to the philosophers there.  I remained silent.


And of course I will never forget the time during one of my first trips to South Africa when I was invited to speak to the philosophy department at the University of Cape Town.  The member of the faculty presiding over the affair introduced me as Richard Rorty.


As Pooh Bah says in the Mikado while holding a small bag of money in his hand, “another insult, and by the feel of it, a light one.”


Monday, February 20, 2023


I am mostly better from the terrible headaches and eye infection that have afflicted me – it takes longer to recover when one is this old. Today I give the first of six two-hour non-credit lectures in the UNC philosophy department on the use and abuse of formal methods in political philosophy. I hope somebody shows up.

In preparation for these lectures, I did something I have not done in three years: I went to an actual hair salon and had an actual hair cut. Ever since the pandemic hit I have been using an attachment on my beard trimmer to give myself haircuts and although I have managed to avoid looking totally shambolic, they have not really been very good haircuts, but now I look about as good as I have ever will.

I have arranged for the lectures to be videotaped and put on YouTube so eventually anyone who wants to watch them will be able to.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, February 12, 2023


 Several people have made comments to which I should like to respond but I have felt so terrible for the past week that I have been unable to. My apologies. I hope soon to recover sufficiently to be able to get back in form. One word: the Barney Wolff who comments from time to time is indeed my cousin. His father was my father's brother, and our grandfather, after whom he is named, was Barnett Wolff, one of the leaders of the New York City socialist party and the cofounder of the Brooklyn branch of that party. I think we share a great family pride in this connection.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023


Unexpectedly, reluctantly, against my instincts and predilections, I am becoming a convert to Joe Biden. He was my last candidate in the 2020 primary and although I gave money to him and voted for him it was really only because the alternative was unthinkable. But there is no way to deny the facts. Biden is the most pro – union Democratic president since Roosevelt. He is the first Democratic president I have ever heard say that he wants men and women who do not have college degrees to get good middle-class jobs – not that he wants him to go to college but that he wants them to get good middle-class jobs despite not having college degrees and is prepared to put the weight of his presidency behind policies designed to accomplish that. When he said last night that this is not your father’s Democratic Party, it is your grandfather’s Democratic Party my heart swelled.


Now to be honest, I did not actually hear much of the speech as it was being delivered. On Sunday I was struck down by the most ferocious headache I have ever had in my life, pain that lasted when I went to the emergency room and afterward and did not ease up until Monday morning when I saw my doctor and got a shot that diminished the pain. Apparently I have developed something called “cluster headaches,” a condition that is painful, not dangerous, and transitory. One of its symptoms or signs is that my right eye is swollen almost shut, a fact that I find disorienting even when the pain is not present. I have great faith in my doctor, who assures me that I will get better and have no lasting consequences from this affliction, the causes of which, he says, are not known. So I heard some of the speech and watched some of it today before going off to have an MRI.


With the exception perhaps of Bernie Sanders and a handful of other Democrats, there is nobody in the party who talks like this and I love it. No, I have not forgotten what he did for Clarence Thomas and to Anita Hill, never mind all the other things in the past 40 years or more. But for whatever reason, he talks more like my grandfather, the socialist leader of Brooklyn in the first decades of the 20th century that he does like any of the hotshot young lefties who have sprung up in the party.

Saturday, February 4, 2023


It was not a Stealth bomber carrying nuclear weapons. It was not an intercontinental ballistic missile. It was not an Imperial Death Star ready to destroy the earth. It was just a goddamn great big balloon. Give me a break!

Friday, February 3, 2023


Last night, as I lay in bed awake at about 2 AM, I found myself turning over in my mind the kerfuffle in Florida about the AP African-American history course in Florisa high schools. Before going to bed, I had listened to a long discussion of the subject between Chris Hayes and Ta-Nihisi Coates.  Now I should explain that the only high school course in history I ever took was Mr. Wepner’s course on European history, and that was 75 years ago, so I am really not up to speed on high school history courses or AP courses (which apparently means “advanced placement”).  But I have the following thoughts, for what they are worth.


Let us suppose that seniors taking an AP American history course for a semester meet five times a week, 50 minutes each time (is this correct? I have no idea.) That is roughly 4 hours a week. I am going to assume that the students all have cell phones and that they spend maybe three hours a day, seven days a week on them texting, sexting, exploring social media, tweeting, Lord knows what else. That is, let us say, 20 hours a week, which is five times as much as what they spend in their AP American history course.


Ron DeSantis does not want them to study African-American history. But Ron DeSantis has no control over what they find on their phones. So here is my proposal. A group of distinguished historians of African-American history should get together and post online a series of little lectures, discussions, videos, and so forth on aspects of African-American history. Each of these posts should state clearly that the material contained therein is not considered appropriate by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for high school seniors to encounter. Young people should be urged not to watch this material, not to tweet about it, not to send messages about it to their friends, and certainly not to mention it in class. Anyone encountering this material accidentally on his or her phone should be warned that if they live in Florida, the governor does not want them to know about it.


My guess is that within 72 hours more young people in America would know about what was in this material than could be accomplished by a $300 million government grant to the US Department of Education.  I mean, does anyone actually believe that young people these days derive their primary understanding of the world from what they are told by teachers in high school classrooms? I am 89 years old and even I know that that is nonsense.

Thursday, February 2, 2023


My curiosity piqued by the decision by Ron DeSantis to attack the AP black studies courses in Florida high schools, I went back and reread the third chapter of my book Autobiography of An Ex-White Man. If you want a clear, transparent, well-written statement of the essential outlines of the true history of the United States, take a look at it.  It is, in a sense, a summary of what I learned from my colleagues during my 16 years as a professor of Afro-American Studies.