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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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."

Total Pageviews

Monday, March 27, 2023




Anonymous said...

I was able to attend for a while, but had to leave after about 40 mins. Will it be posted on YouTube?

-Thank you

MAD said...

Professor, are the next lectures also on Mondays and will they use the same zoom link?

Eric said...

As you probably know if you have been reading this blog, there was a time in my life when I worked very hard to learn to play the viola. For eight years, I took a 90 minute lesson every week and practiced an hour a day. As a result of all this work, I became a pretty amateur fair violist.

You might appreciate this, Professor:


(Btw, the soloist was born in 1933)

Marc Susselman said...


That not a viola piece, it’s the Mendelsohn Violin Concerto. And, yes, Minister Farrakhan is/was an accomplished violinist. It does not make him any less a racist and anti-Semite. A lot of Nazis were excellent musicians and admired the music of Bach and Beethoven.

A brief off-topic side-note (more of my “stuff”):

I want to give a shout-out to Progressive Insurance and its “TV Dad” commercials, which you may have noticed recently. In the ads, Reginald VelJohnson, who used to portray the African-American father in the sit com “Family Matters,” portrays “TV Dad” who gives advice to White families about how to save money by purchasing Progressive Insurance. In a recent ad, two young girls, who are White, tell their Mom that they want a puppy, and their Mom rejects the idea because puppies are expensive. Then TV Dad appears and tells Mom that she could save money by buying Progressive Insurance, and suddenly a puppy appears on TV Dad’s lap. One of the girls shouts, “I wish TV Dad was always in charge!” This may seem like a small thing, but White and Black children watching TV around the United States are being taught that a Black person can give good advice to White people. The psychological social impact of such an ad cannot be overestimated. (I think I used that word correctly, Prof. Wolff.)

On the other end of the spectrum, it is reported that an elementary school in Florida has banned the showing of the movie “The Ruby Bridges Story.” One step forward, and one step back. How stupid.

And, if you missed my recommendation on a previous post, the other night on PBS Great Performances, they broadcast “Remember This,’ the story of Jan Karski, a professor at Georgetown University, who, at the age of 28, living in Poland, witnessed the Holocaust and reported it to leaders in Great Britain and the United States, disproving their later claims that they did not know. David Strathairn portrays Jan Karski in this poignant tour de force. You can watch it at the link below.

Marc Susselman said...


In April the movie “Chevalier,” about the French-Caribbean stellar violinist Chevalier de Saint-Georges who captivated Paris, is being released. He was a much better violinist, and accomplished swordsman, than Minister Farrakhan.

Marc Susselman said...

I almost missed the irony: A Muslim anti-Semite performing a violin concerto composed by a Jew.

LFC said...

One of the more interesting and better known of Karski's conversations in the U.S. at the time was the one he had w Felix Frankfurter. But since, unlike Marc, I'm trying to limit my comments here, I won't go into it.

Marc Susselman said...


They depict the meeting between Frankfurter and Karski in the presentation. Frankfurter rejected Karski's report of mass genocide. He claimed it was inconceivable, and therefore could not be occurring. The dramatization also depicts Karski's meeting with FDR. FDR did not ask a single question about what was happening to the Jews.

aaall said...

Folks tend to deny that which if accepted would inevitably call for difficult, expensive, or inconvenient choices - those matrices don't fill themselves. Also, moving past an ideological template is difficult. Consider how Russian genocide in Ukraine and semi-automatic center-fire rifles are dealt with in current U.S. discourse.

Of course the Nazis were willing to kneecap their war effort to more effectively murder Jews...

Marc, sadly not everyone in this country finds those inclusive commercials heart warming. Tucker Carlson, etc. flipped out over the M&Ms ones.

Never forget that we are basically overclocked chimps.

aaall said...

May be of interest:

Marc Susselman said...


As is not infrequently the case, your unique jargon confounds me. What is an “overclocked chimp”? Not even Google could help. Where/how do you find these expressions? The expression does not appear in “Planet Of The Apes.’

We may be “overclocked chimps,” but Tucker Carlson is a Neanderthal, and a duplicitous one at that – as Dominion has proved.

Barney Wolff said...

If I may dare to wade into this off-topic playground brawl, may I suggest Googling "overclock" by itself? And to be slightly more accurate, we might be described as overclocked apes, as we are not directly descended from chimps.

Marc Susselman said...

Well, Barney, I took your advice and Googled “overclock,” which informed me that “overclocking” is the maneuver of increasing the clock rate of one’s computer. So, an “overclocked chimp/ape” is a primate whose clock (intellect?) is operating at a higher speed? What would that have to do with commercials which increase one’s empathy versus a Neanderthal like Tucker Carlson, who rejects empathy? Sorry for my density.

Barney Wolff said...

I knew I should have restrained myself. Oh well.

Overclocking specifically refers to running a CPU at a higher clock rate than one for which its manufacturer is willing to guarantee reliability and lifetime. Thus, humans are subject to random failures of logic, empathy and general good sense. One can apply the classic rule of logic: Tucker Carlson is (barely) human; therefore he is subject to failures of logic, empathy and general good sense, in common with his viewers. As he is, like the rest of us, descended from apes, we conclude that evolution has no preferred direction and can just as well produce a decrease in intelligence as a increase.

I did not take the overclocking to refer to the commercials.

aaall said...

"I did not take the overclocking to refer to the commercials."


While I'm aware that our Pan relatives are just cousins, "chimp" just sounds better to me then "ape" (more properly "great ape"). I have long referred to we humans as "chimps on a roll" and Brad DeLong seems to have coined the "overclocked chimp" phrase.

Rather then intelligence, I was referencing both species capacity for warfare and genocide. It also seems to irritate folks who consider we humans as somehow special so that's a bonus.

Marc, why the shade on Neanderthals, considering that we Sapiens have Neanderthal DNA and I'm not aware of any evidence that they shared Sapiens proclivity for violence? What we do know is that where H. Sapiens showed up, other megafauna soon went extinct. Folks like Tuckums and Trump (for that matter, throw in Putin) are so very human.

I made friends with a Gibbon a few years ago. They are further out on the family tree and seem nicer.

John Rapko said...

On the gibbon question: for many years I showed the following clip of gibbons singing during the first class of the survey of world arts. It has convinced me inter alia to devote the rest of my life to meritorious acts sufficient that I might be re-incarnated as a gibbon:

Marc Susselman said...


Thank for your clarification, and I am pleased that you did not restrain yourself.

The clarification, however, opens up additional topics for examination. As you point out, overclocking means increasing the CPU speed beyond that recommended by the manufacturer, which therefore does not guarantee its reliability at the higher speed. At the higher speed, some computers will perform better, without breaking down. Some will not. The proportions of each is unknown at the outset, and only time will determine the proportion – the number of computers which perform better without breaking down may exceed the number which perform better, but eventually break down, and vice versa.

The same is true applying the metaphor to humans as “overclocked chimps/apes.” The overclocking may improve some of us, without our breaking down, i.e., turning out worse than our great ape ancestors. With some, the overclocking may ultimately result in adverse consequences. We do not know the proportion of one to the other. Aaall’s comment that, “We are basically ‘overclocked chimps’ implies that the proportion of the latter necessarily is greater than the proportion of the former, which is not necessarily the case And, in fact, the metaphor does relate to the Progressive Insurance commercial I alluded to. In the case of the executives at Progressive, they made a deliberate choice to make an advertisement which debunks a stereotype about African-Americans and shows a male African-American as TV Dad giving advice to Caucasians. This demonstrates their own sense of empathy, and is being utilized in a positive manner to increase the empathy of the rest of us. In the case of these executives, the “overclocking” had a positive result. This contrasts with Tucker Carlson, in whose case the “overclocking” has had an adverse result. (But, actually, not quite. As the emails which have been disclosed in the Dominion litigation reveals, Carlson is pretending that the overclocking had an adverse consequence; he has been duplicitous in his public support of Trump, while mocking him in private.)

Regarding my use of the word “Neanderthal” in a pejorative sense, this is the meaning which prevailed in society before the scientific research which aaall refers to invalidated that meaning. The evidence is pretty clear that Neanderthals were more intelligent than they have been given credit for, and that they in fact interacted and interbred with Cro-Magnons. Notwithstanding this evidence, however, it is also true that even among those who bear Neanderthal DNA, the Cro-Magnon DNA is dominant. The fact of the matter is that the Neanderthal sub-species is extinct, which has raised the question as to why the Cro-Magnons, even with the interbreeding, survived instead. This question was contemplated in a recent Nova segment, and it still appears that the Neanderthals were unable to adapt to environmental changes which the predominantly Cro-Magnon DNA bearers were able to survive. Whether that was due to superior intellect, or some other characteristic, is not known.

Marc Susselman said...

Is the Ruby Bridges movie not appropriate for young White children, because it teaches that “mean White people” persecuted Blacks? Must it be balanced with a movie (“Lilies Of the Field” ?) showing White and Black people getting along?

aaall said...

Marc, I assume much of the problem some folks have with the Ruby Bridges movie is grandparents not wanting to face difficult questions from grand children.

"...Neanderthals were unable to adapt to environmental changes..."

Amazing how those "environmental changes" seem to happen around the time Homo sapiens shows up. Some Homo sapiens show up from Siberia and there go the Smilodons, mammoths, and dire wolves. I assume that at some point the Neanderthal's presence became inconvenient.

Also, there are those who see our species as exceptional, specially created, having dominion, whatever. The overclocking meme merely seeks to put those assertions in perspective. No need to over-litigate it.

Marc Susselman said...


Re Neandertals v. homo sapiens, is this a case of homo sapiens privilege?

aaall said...

Privilege, like political power, grows out of barrel of a gun (or spear).

The lawyers amongst us might appreciate this:

Marc Susselman said...


Yes, I saw this. Disney, like Progressive, deserves a lot of credit for standing up to DeSantis by opposing the legislation he has endorsed which penalizes members of the LBGTQ community.

The Rule Against Perpetuities is a very complicated worded rule originating from 14th century England. It plays a prominent role in Law School courses devoted to Wills and Estates (ugh). Coincidentally, it also played a prominent role in the movie Body Heat, in which Kathleen Turner seduces Florida attorney William Hurt, whom she has targeted because she knew that he had drafted a will which violated the Rule, and wound up in his being sued for legal malpractice and being sanctioned by the Florida State Bar. Great movie.

Marc Susselman said...

qqqll is the new pseudonym for aaall.

s. wallerstein said...

Strictly speaking, Tucker Carlson probably does not lack empathy.

He empathizes with people most of us don't empathize with, for example, with the January 6 2021 rioters or with violent police officers. He doesn't empathize with oppressed racial minorities or with lbgtq people.

According to psychologists, people tend to empathize with those groups they identify with or agree with.

For that reason, Paul Bloom, psychologist at the University of Toronto, has written a book titled "Against Empathy" where he points out the shortcomings of empathy as a guide to our ethical actions and advocates for what he calls "rational compassion".

Here's a conversation of Bloom with Robert Wright where he explains his position.

Anonymous said...

Carlson doesn't empathize with the downtrodden, he despises their weakness of mind and how easily he can take advantage of them.

LFC said...

Anonymous @10:19 a.m.
S.w. did not say that Carlson empathizes with the "downtrodden." You're responding to a comment that no one made.

I myself have no idea whether Carlson empathizes with anyone or not, and it's a question that doesn't interest me much. My guess however is that he does not empathize with anyone; he does not strike me as having even a selectively empathic personality, but rather one, at least from the on-air clips I've seen, that projects fake sincerity and sliminess.

s. wallerstein said...


According to psychologists, there are two types of empathy.

The first is the "I feel your pain" type of empathy and that's what most people mean when they use the word.

The second is cognitive empathy, which is the ability to read others, to understand what is going on in their head, what their motives are, etc.

A person can score high on cognitive empathy without much "I feel your pain" empathy. For example, a skillful con artist can score high on cognitive empathy.

Thus, even if Tucker Carlson fakes his sincerity, which is very possible, he probably has a well-developed cognitive empathy ability, which enables him to say what his public wants to hear.

LFC said...

Ok, I was not familiar with the "cognitive empathy" usage. I suppose Carlson may have that, yes.

s. wallerstein said...

Quick Google search gives me this:

What is the difference between cognitive empathy and affective empathy?
Empathy can be separated into two major facets. Cognitive empathy refers to the ability to recognize and understand another's mental state (part of theory of mind (ToM) or mentalising) while affective empathy is the ability to share the feelings of others, without any direct emotional stimulation to oneself (3).

aaall said...

A successful con artist has to score high on CE.

Classic take:

Marc Susselman said...


I have one question: How do you come up with these arcane sources of information?

LFC said...

I don't know exactly how aaall comes up with his links, but there's really nothing arcane about The Baffler; it's been around for years. I wouldn't call it arcane, at any rate. An early 19th-century treatise on the disinfecting powers of chloride, which I just saw cited in a Wikipedia article -- now that's arcane.