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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Friday, December 29, 2023


I have been reading lately about serious inquiries into the possibility of extraterrestrial visitors to our planet, so I thought I would say a bit about how unlikely I think that is.

There are, it seems to me, three possibilities: the first is that some other group of sentient creatures picked up radio waves coming from earth, and came by to take a look; the second is that some sentient creatures were just wondering about in our galaxy and stumbled on this earth at a time when they could pick up radio waves and infer that somebody was here; the third is that some sentient creatures sent out search vehicles throughout the galaxy which picked up our radio waves, sent word back home, and brought folks looking to see who we were. I am leaving entirely out of consideration the possibility that we are being visited by creatures from other galaxies – they are so far from us that that seems to me entirely beyond the realm of possibility.

Radio waves travel at the speed of light and they were discovered in the 1880s here on earth. Let us suppose that the most advanced creatures we can imagine are capable of interstellar travel at a rate half the speed of light (I am not sure that is even theoretically possible but what the hell.)

The first and third possibilities mentioned above would mean that radio waves left earth at the speed of light – let us suppose, in the 1880s – and creatures came back to take a look. A little simple calculation tells us that those creatures would have to live no more than 40 light years away from us – 40 years for radio waves to reach them and 80 years for them to suit up and travel back.

Well, our galaxy is the Milky Way. It is roughly 80,000 light years in diameter, which means that it has a surface area (it is, so to speak, flat more or less) of roughly 20 billion square light years. The circular area around the home planet of these extraterrestrials within which they could receive messages from us and come back to see who was there is roughly 5000 square light years.  So unless thesse creatures happen to live in a circular area around us that is one four millionth the area covered by the Milky Way, possibilities one and three are ruled out. The possibility that these sentient creatures had just gone off on a 50,000 year jaunt and happened by just when we were sending out radio waves is so small I cannot even estimate it.

I rest my case.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023


It is now nine-tenths of a century since I was born.  My big sister, Barbara, is still 3 1/2 years older than I am and Susie is still almost a year older than I am.Today begins the 20 day period each year when Susie and I are the same age, but despite the fact that I fell in love with her more than 75 years ago, I still have not managed to catch up.

Later today I will do a zoom call with all my relatives on the West Coast, and I continue to plan for the study group I shall lead at Harvard beginning February 2.  Thirty-three people have signed up now, including nine members of the faculty, and I am looking forward to it with great anticipation, but my pleasure at all of these things is compromised and undermined by the terrible events unfolding in Gaza and elsewhere.

I often describe myself as a Tigger, and it is true that I am in general a cheerful person, but it is difficult these days not to become an Eeyore.  

Wednesday, December 20, 2023


These are hard times, and it is difficult to find fun in this world, so you have to take your enjoyment where you find it and be grateful for it. This decision by the Colorado Supreme Court is simply delicious. I have no opinion whatsoever on the correctness of their judgment nor do I have any idea what the Supreme Court is going to do, but what I am sure is that no matter what the Supreme Court does it is going to infuriate Republicans. If the Court decides to save the Republican from themselves by declaring that Trump is not eligible to appear on the ballot for the presidency, Trump and the Republicans will go wild. If they decide that their originalist interpretations of the Constitution do not count this time even though they count whenever they want them to count, they will look like fools. This is a gift from heaven. Enjoy it.

Saturday, December 16, 2023


 Buried in the blizzard of comments that have been posted on this blog concerning the Israeli/Hamas situation there have actually been several comments addressed to me, and I am going to try to answer them now.


First of all, I do not yet know whether my study group on Marx next semester will be recorded or whether it can be shared with others. I will find out and let you know later. 

Second, someone back there aways responded to my remark that I knew next to nothing about the Israeli situation by asking what I knew about South African apartheid or Afro-American studies when I demonstrated at Harvard and joined the Afro-Am department at UMass.  When I joined the anti-apartheid demonstration, I had already spent six weeks teaching in South Africa and had traveled around the country. I was hardly an expert but I felt comfortable enough with what I had learned to take a position. As for Afro-American studies, as I explained in the book I wrote about my experiences in that department, I knew less about the subject in an undergraduate major when I joined the department. I was invited to join by people who knew that I was ignorant of the subject but who thought I could help with the creation of the PhD program, which I did. At various times, I invoked the experience of Eastern European Orthodox Jewish communities at which I little Christian boy would come on the Sabbath and do things that the Jewish community was forbidden by their religion to do, such as lighting the candles. I referred to myself in a self-mocking way as the Shabbos goy of the Afro-American studies department. Only after I had spent more than 10 years in the department and read dozens upon dozens of books and learned a great deal from my colleagues did I feel comfortable about presenting my own views in a book. My total experience of Israel was a three day visit with my wife on our way to Paris one year about 20 years ago.


Despite by level of ignorance, I will try to answer the question that was posed by somebody (I do not remember now who asked the question), namely what I would propose that the Israeli government have done in response to the Hamas attacks.


Let me say, to begin, that I do not think the attacks constituted anything remotely like a threat to the existence of Israel. Israel is the most powerful nation in the Middle East, the only nuclear power. The attacks on October 7 were fully as terrible as everyone has said but they no more constituted a threat to the existence of Israel then the 9/11 attacks in the United States constituted a threat to the existence of the United States.


Leaving aside what Israel should have done 50 years ago or 30 years ago or even 10 years ago or one year ago, what could it have done on October 8 in response to the attacks? I do not think there was ever the slightest possibility that Israel would do any of these things, but it could have and here is what I say.


First, they could have mobilized their military and paid attention to their intelligence services to make sure that such attacks did not happen again. Second, they could have worked as hard as they could to carry out a hostage swap, releasing as many of their prisoners as they needed to to get back the hostages. Third, Israel could have stopped supporting Hamas by green lighting transfers of funds to the Hamas operatives in Gaza from Qatar and elsewhere. Fourth, Israel could have launched a full-scale effort to support the creation of an independent Palestinian state. Fifth, Israel could have ordered its legendary security forces to start carrying out targeted assassinations of Hamas leaders, in Iran, Qatar, and anywhere else they could be found. They could make it clear that this was not a knee-jerk response to the attack but a full-scale assault on Hamas from the top down that would continue so long as there was anywhere in the world a Hamas leader who was still alive. Sixth, Israel could have launched constant Secret Service attacks on Hamas leaders in Gaza, after the hostages had been returned. Seventh, Israel could have pulled some of the settlements in the West Bank back into Israel and created the genuine possibility of a real Palestinian state. Finally, as part of this effort, Netanyahu could have kicked the extreme right wing parties out of his government and struck a deal with the centrist parties which included keeping him out of jail, this being his price for all of the above.


As I say, there was never the slightest possibility that the Israeli government would doing any of these things but they could have and it would have saved 20,000 or more Palestinian lives, gained them the immediate and undying support of the world community, and actually strengthened Israel and made it more secure.


Well, you asked and that is what I have to say.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023


While I have been watching the world go to hell, I have also been preparing to teach by zoom a study group next semester at Harvard on volume 1 of Capital.  This will be a noncredit study group meeting two hours a week for 12 weeks, and it gives me the opportunity to pull together everything I have ever done on Marx in one integrated narrative. At the moment, with a sign-up sheet still open, 18 people have said they want to participate. Of those 18, seven are members of the faculty, several are graduate students, and the rest are undergraduates, almost all of whom – faculty and students – are associated with the Social Studies program of which I was the first head tutor 63 years ago.  I am very excited about this opportunity and plan to pour into it such energies as I can mobilize.

All I can really do about the world is give money to organizations supporting Democratic candidates in the next election. I have given $4000 or $5000 so far, and I imagine I will give another $5000 before I am done with donations.

I read the many interesting comments on this blog about the Israeli situation and although I have strong feelings, I have not weighed in because I do not have any kind of specialized knowledge. There have been times in my life when the world was in worse shape than it is now, but I was young then and had hopes for the future. Now, as I am two weeks from my 90th birthday, it is difficult to feel that same hope.

Monday, December 4, 2023


I had been hoping that Trump would be trapped in the January 6 trial for six weeks or longer, forced to sit in the courtroom and listen to the case proceed against him. But I checked online, and apparently the answer is that he is not so forced. So long as he is present at the beginning of the trial, and voluntarily chooses to leave, he may do so and leave it to his lawyers to defend him. Pity, I had great hopes for the Spring.


In recent months, my Parkinson's has worsened to the point at which I find it very difficult to walk at all. Fortunately, the little electric powered scooter that I purchased from another resident here makes it very easy for me to get around the apartment and even to go down to the main building to have dinner each evening. What is really odd is that cognitivelly I seem unchanged. I spend a great deal of time thinking about the study group that I shall lead at Harvard starting at the beginning of February on volume 1 of Capital, I re-read old essays I have written, I follow the world news obsessively, and although I am of course slowed down a good deal from what I was in the late 1960s, when I was teaching at Columbia, I feel unchanged cognitively. In three weeks I shall be 90 years old and yet in my mind I feel 50 or 60.

Life is strange.