Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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.

To contact me about organizing, email me at rpwolff750@gmail.com




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Monday, March 27, 2017

IN THE CAN

The first Freud lecture is "in the can"  [or more precisely in the camcorder], and should be up on YouTube in two days. On to Lecture Two!

BREAK OUT THE CHAMPAGNE BOTTLE

I launch my Freud lectures today.  Let me offer one lovely tidbit as a preview.   By common agreement, Freud's most important book is The Interpretation of Dreams, first published in 1900.  My copy of the translation by an important analyst, A. A. Brill, dates from 1913.  I got it secondhand for two bucks.  Today we tend to think of Freud as old news, outdated, a relic, and nobody, but nobody, is shocked by his theories of infant sexuality.  But it was not always thus.  Pasted to the flyleaf of my copy is the following notice:

                                      Publisher's Note

The sale of this book is limited to 
Members of the Medical, Scholastic, 
Legal, and Clerical professions.

At least it was not translated into Latin.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

DOES ANYONE KNOW?

I just got back from the supermarket where I was shopping for dinner.  As I was unloading the bags, I turned on Joy Reid on MSNBC [ I like her], and caught a bit of her interviewing two attractive young people [young to me!], a woman who is challenging Steve King in an Iowa House race next year and a man who is challenging Darryl Issa in a California race.  This is the sort of news I have been hoping to see.  Does anyone know anything about either of them?

LEVERAGE

Before taking my walk, I am spending some time reading on line, and I just came on this op ed piece from the Washington Post about what it is like to be on the receiving end of the calls flooding in to Congressional offices.  It seems clear that the groundswell of opposition to the Republican "health" bill, both at town halls and in phone calls, had a good deal to do with its failure.

As I read the column, what struck me was how much influence was exerted by a relatively small fraction of a Congressperson's constituent base.  There are 700,000 people in a Congressional District, more or less, but calls from only several hundred people a day -- say 2,000 over a ten day period -- can overwhelm a Congressional Office and create the impression of a tsunami.

Having read with awe your accounts of your weekly activities, I am moved to pledge that every day I will call Senator Burr's office. urging him to pursue more vigorously his rather lackadaisical investigation of Russian interference in the American election.  Who knows?  It might make a difference.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

REACHING FOR THE STARS

Well, I have been having my fun cackling at Trump’s incompetence as a negotiator and snickering at the embarrassment of the Congressional Republicans, and that’s all right, ‘cause politics ain’t beanbag, as Mr. Dooley observed.  But I like to preen and posture as a genuine philosopher, so it behooves me to take seriously the intellectual roots of the man who is universally acknowledged to be the deepest thinker on the other side of the aisle, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

I think we all know that Ryan draws his philosophical inspiration from the writings of a prominent Russian-American thinker, Ayn Rand.  Now, I imagine that most of you have spent your time reading the writings of Karl Marx and Immanuel Kant and Max Weber, and Karl Mannheim, and even Georg Friedrich Hegel, but you may have neglected the profundities of Rand, so I thought I would say just a very brief word about her contributions to the great tradition of Western Philosophy.  My aim is to encourage you to delve more deeply into the corpus of her writings, so that you will gain insight into the sources of the power of Paul Ryan’s thought.  It is, after all, unusual to have a serious student of Philosophy serve as Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Rand, like all great philosophers, is known for a single core proposition from which she seeks to derive the particulars of her theories.  Descartes gave us cogito, ergo sum, Kant gave us The Categorical Imperative, Hegel gave us thesis, antithesis, synthesis.  What is Rand’s foundational principle, her claim to philosophical fame, as it were?

Here is a brief passage plucked from my copy of the 1961 summation of her thought, For The New Intellectual:
“To exist is to be something, as distinguished from the nothing of non-existence, it is to be an entity of a specific nature made of specific attributes. Centuries ago, the man who was—no matter what his errors—the greatest of your philosophers, has stated the formula defining the concept of existence and the rule of all knowledge: A is A. A thing is itself. You have never grasped the meaning of his statement. I am here to complete it: Existence is Identity, Consciousness is Identification.
Whatever you choose to consider, be it an object, an attribute or an action, the law of identity remains the same. A leaf cannot be a stone at the same time, it cannot be all red and all green at the same time, it cannot freeze and burn at the same time. A is A. Or, if you wish it stated in simpler language: You cannot have your cake and eat it, too.
Are you seeking to know what is wrong with the world? All the disasters that have wrecked your world, came from your leaders’ attempt to evade the fact that A is A. All the secret evil you dread to face within you and all the pain you have ever endured, came from your own attempt to evade the fact that A is A. The purpose of those who taught you to evade it, was to make you forget that Man is Man.”

And there it is:  A is A.  Who would be so foolish as to deny it?   A is A.  From there it is mere elaboration to derive the Republican health bill, “a task that is more an amusement than a labour,” as Kant says in the Preface to the First Edition of the Critique of Pure Reason.

If we on the left could cease our petty snarking and elevate ourselves to this plane of rationality, think what we might achieve in cooperation with our brothers and sisters on the Right!


WHITHER NOW?

In the aftermath of the enormous legislative defeat for Trump and the Republicans, now is the time to plan the way forward.  I think we can confidently anticipate more and more bad news for Trump and his crew on the Russian front, which will weaken their ability to get anything done.  They are on their heels, two months into their presidency, and we ought not to allow them to recover.  We shall of course meticulously follow Robert Shore’s advice and grant each and every one of them the legal presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

As I see it, with regard to health care, the Democrats ought to draft and put forward legislation calling for the transformation of the Affordable Care Act into a single-payer Medicare-For-All system.  They will of course not even be allowed to bring the proposal to the floor of the House – that does not matter.  What matters is to make this the ­de facto Democratic position.  Nancy Pelosi should “accept’ Trump’s facetious call for a bi-partisan approach and invite him to join with her in supporting a Single Payer plan.  [It goes without saying that I do not need to advise her on legislative tactics.  Nor do I need to teach her how to suck eggs, as the saying goes.]

Right now, we need to capitalize on the Republican defeat by doing everything we can to elect Ossoff to the House in the Georgia by-election.  He is apparently assured of surviving the first round, but after that it gets dicey. 

Can any of you tell the rest of us about other up-coming local elections to which we ought to be lending our support?  The idea is to try to create the reality, or at least the appearance, of a groundswell, a wave, a national uprising.  The general principle is, Hit ‘em when they’re down.


My natural Tigger has come to the fore and I am hopeful that we can turn this into some genuine advances.

THE REAL FRIDAY LIST 8

You folks are really astonishing.  Look at what poured in yesterday!  Well done, well done.  Let me just list all of the reports and then I will try to offer some thoughts on  the way forward.  Here goes:


Friday List 8
Chris said...
Gave some money to the TYT (the young turks) fund to hire more anti-establishment reporters. They just hired Dylan Ratigan, and David Sirota.

Slow week for me as well... Donated to Ossof and In These Times and did a few online petitions...

David Palmeter said...
Made my weekly donation to the Ossoff campaign--and get 15 or 20 emails a day from asking for more!

David said...
1. I attended and spoke at a union meeting about a potential strike on May Day.

2. In response to the testimony of a former student before the school board, I organized a meeting to discuss how we can integrate ethnic studies curricula into our social studies courses. (Is this a political act? If trying to help empower young people of color is a political act, then I will count this organizing as political.)

3. I called Sen. Cantwell's office to thank her for her public opposition to dismantling the ACA and to encourage her to hang tough in her opposition to the nomination of Gorsuch.

Tom Cathcart said...
Tried to get a bunch of rural, conservative Lutheran leaders to explore ways to support sanctuary for undocumented immigrants. That went over like a fart in an elevator.

C Rossi said...
1. Called the office of Rep Patrick Meehan (PA-05) to urge him to votes against the execrable American Health Care Act (which alas was not voted on); each time I was told that the mailbox was full. I took this as a good sign.
2. Registered for the general assembly for the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia (anyone who has seen the movie "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" with Charles Laughton and remembers the scene in which Quasimodo [Laughton] holds Esmerelda and claims "Sanctuary, Sanctuary" cannot help but be stirred by sanctuary.
3. Called the office of the hopeless Pat Toomey (R-PA) (Mr. Club for Growth which would be better called the Club to Keep a Boot on the Neck of the Poor) urging him to oppose the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court ( I don't expect much from this effort)
4. Wrote to Sen Bob Casey (R-PA) (when did politicians became known as Bob and Pat and Bill and Jimmy rather than Robert, Patrick, William, and James) urging him to continuing his opposition of the Trump agenda.


Charles Perkins said...
1. Spent government money on queer theory. Went to a conference and talked about gender and gay men.
2. Tried to explain what queer theory is (who can say, really) to about four people on the way to the conference.
3. Donated to Jon Ossoff for the second time.
4. I joined stampstampede.org! It's a cool project, where people are stamping their cash, to protest money in politics. Regardless of whether or not it works, it is a lot of fun. http://www.stampstampede.org/
5. Sent the following postcards to my representatives a few days before the health care vote: https://vk.com/id313285303?w=wall313285303_139%2Fall
I'm very pleased with them.
6. Made nice with a friend I had previously shouted out about politics and alienated. Mistake. Corrected.
7. Called (last week) my city council and Chuck Edwards, NC state senator who is trying to promote an affirmative action program for Republicans in my hometown's city government. http://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2017/02/28/new-senator-says-asheville-forced-into-districts/98548786/
8. Received membership cards from NAACP and ACLU.
9. Continued making a monthly contribution to the NC state senate Democratic Caucus.
10. Continued toying with the idea of supporting or starting an NC non profit that would push a left-wing educational effort--counteracting these organizations: John Lock Society, Ayn Rand Society.
11. Participated in a successful fundraising effort for _Cellar Door_ the official undergraduate literary magazine at UNC, which does good work, but has been having trouble with austerity.
12. Took this opportunity to set two goals for next week:
Watch Roy Cooper's (NC Governor's) State of the State address and find two good things he is doing and write him a thank you note.
Respond to Rep. Patrick McHenry's weekly newsletter with a phone call.

I. M. Flaud said...
More money to Jon Ossoff. More emails to various senators.

DML said...

A little late on this, but actually did some stuff this week...

1. Went to a county level planning meeting for Our Revolution. Ended up on a small committee dedicated to promoting cross-solidarity with a local immigrant rights group. We are planning a "bystander training" for well meaning white folks in conjunction with the immigrant rights group. Also made plans for the May Day strike.

2. Spoke at my local city council meeting in favor of making our town a sanctuary city. I'm happy to report that it looks like this will pass when they vote on it, and it even has the support of the police chief.

3. Attended a letter writing party, wrote letters to my federal reps about NEA and NEH cuts, and letters to my state reps about the minimum wage.