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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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

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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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

ON TO CAPITAL VOLUME I


Now that I have recovered from my big trip west and have finished doing the family taxes, it is time to prepare for Lecture Four.  As I indicated at the end of Lecture Three, I must confront the conundrum of Capital Volume I, and more particularly the mystifying opening chapters.  Why did Marx write that way?  Quite naturally, I shall start with the famous opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice.  This will lead me to a story about the Cub Scouts, followed by reflections on the Altar and the Throne.  Then, as you might anticipate, I shall pay an imaginary visit to my local supermarket, all of which will enable me to explicate the opening two sentences of Chapter One of Volume I of Capital.  Everyone ready?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

BACK FROM THE COAST


I am back from a five day family gathering in Palm Springs, where my son, Tobias, has a second home.  It was a grand event, made notable by the fact that my twelve year old grandson, Samuel, undertook at lunch one day to ask me about philosophy and religion!  I am clearly entering a new phase of grandparenthood.

While I was away, Robert Mueller indicted a slew of unreachable Russians, detailing in the indictment something of the scope of official Russian meddling in the 2016 election.  Also, almost as an afterthought, he announced a guilty plea from someone so obscure as to make George Papadopoulos seem like a media star.  The talking heads are all going on about the Russian indictments.  I want to focus on the nonentity.  You will of course understand that what follows is the sheerest speculation.  Nevertheless, I would be prepared to place a small bet that at least some of my speculation is on the money.  Here are quotes from two news stories that give us what little information we have:

“Separately, Mueller’s office announced that Richard Pinedo, of Santa Paula, California, had pleaded guilty to identity fraud. Pinedo, 28, admitted to running a website that offered stolen identities to help customers get around the security measures of major online payment sites. It was not made clear whether his service had been used by the Russian operatives.”

“Though Friday's news linked Pinedo to the ever-expanding investigation into Russia's role in President Trump's election night victory, his attorney painted him as an unwitting accomplice who has been cooperative ever since he was contacted by investigators.  ‘He was obviously shocked and his response was to acknowledge his wrongdoing, take responsibility and assist the special counsel's office in their investigation,’ attorney Jeremy Lessem said in an interview with The Times.”

Nobody has ever heard of Richard Pinedo, or so the news reports say.  But I would bet that at least one person has heard of Richard Pinedo and is sweating bullets.  Let me explain.  The Trump campaign tapped a firm named Cambridge Analytica to handle its data mining operations.  Here is what Wikipedia tells us:  Cambridge Analytica (CA) is a privately held company that combines data mining and data analysis with strategic communication for the electoral process. It was created in 2013 as an offshoot of its British parent company SCL Group to participate in American politics.”  Data mining is the new hi tech technique for micro-targeting voters in an election.  The 2008 Obama campaign brought the tactic to a new height of sophistication, and it has since then been a standard part of big league political campaigns.  Robert Mueller subpoenaed documents from Cambridge Analytica last December.  The data mining effort in the Trump campaign was headed up by Jared Kushner.

The manipulation of social media undertaken by the Russians faced two problems:  First, buying FaceBook ads and such leaves a money trail, and it is a crime for foreigners to engage in activities designed to affect an American election.  The origin of the money can be hidden by identity theft.  Enter Richard Pinedo.  Second, the Russians needed extensive databases of voters in selected locales in order to micro-target their efforts.  Enter the Cambridge Analytica Trump campaign.

If I am right, someone in Cambridge Analytica, working under Jared Kushner’s direction, recruited an efficient identity thief to steal some identities – credit cards and such – for use by the Russians, and then turned over data files to the Russians for their pro-Trumpm efforts.  That person does indeed recognize the name “Richard Pinedo.”  What is more, that person, and everyone involved with him or her, is guilty of conspiracy to commit a crime.  Never mind collusion, which talking heads endlessly tell us is not a crime.  Conspiracy very definitely is.

Which raises the obvious question:  Will Jared Kushner roll over on his father-in-law, who was certainly kept apprised of everything being done by the Russians?  Or will he choose to go to jail, as his father did?

I can hardly wait to find out.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

WESTERING

I shall return next Tuesday with news of the West Coast.

AN INSOLUBLE PROBLEM


With the third lecture up on YouTube and gathering views, my mind naturally has turned to Lecture Four.  There will however be a one week hiatus, because early tomorrow I fly to the west coast for a gathering of my entire extended family:  my big sister Barbara, my two sons Patrick and Tobias, my daughter-in-law Diana, and my two grandchildren Samuel and Athena.  I return late Monday, so the next lecture on Marx will be on February 26th.  This gives me time to mull over a fundamental problem I face for which there is no natural solution.

As I indicated at the end of Lecture Three, I will now turn to Capital itself, and my first task is to answer the complex and deeply important question: Why did Marx write that way?  I have, I believe, an entirely new and important answer, in the explication of which I must engage in a literary critical analysis of the opening chapters of the book.  Not a problem, you may say.  But I have no reason to believe that either the twenty or so people in the room or the many more viewers in the Cloud have ever read Volume I of Capital.  Imagine carrying out a deep literary analysis of The Brothers Karamazov or Moby Dick for an audience that has never read the book! 

I can read passages aloud, of course, but there is a limit to how much of that people will put up with.  What to do?  I am struggling with the answer, and in a week and a half you will be able to see whether I have handled this problem.

Now I must stop blogging, because it is time for me to sign in exactly twenty-four hours before my flight with Southwest to get my number in the boarding queue.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

THEY JUST KEEP COMING!

Here it is, the third lecture on the Thought of Karl Marx.  If I can keep the masses coming back after this one, I am home free.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

TRYING NOT TO DRIVE THEM AWAY

Tomorrow's lecture will be a mad dash through Classical Political Economy, complete with equations.  If this does not drive away the masses, then they are hooked.  I guess I am a total nerd -- this is the stuff I like the best.  It is remarkably interesting, especially the Ricardo.  One of the things I have always liked about Marx is his genuine respect for Smith and Ricardo, whom he recognized as having first rate minds.  Would that modern neo-classicals exhibited a similar classiness.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

THE ONION STRIKES AGAIN

It is raining this morning, so in lieu of a walk, I surfed the web for a bit and came up with this gem from THE ONION.  I will reproduce it rather than just link to it.

WASHINGTON—Heartbroken over the resignation of boyfriend Rob Porter from the Trump administration following reports that the now-former White House staff secretary had physically and emotionally abused his ex-wives, White House Communications Director Hope Hicks told reporters Friday she wished only to find one nice guy in the executive branch’s autocratic personality cult. “Every time I think I’ve found someone who shares my values in this legion of totalitarian sociopaths, they turn out to be nowhere near as good a guy as I first thought,” said Hicks, noting that the dating pool of single, oppressive pricks is fairly small, and connecting with a draconian tyrant who is also sweet and caring is increasingly difficult. “I just know the perfect, ruthless monster for me is out there somewhere in this fanatical hive mind of unfeeling narcissists—a selfish, vicious bastard who will sweep me off my feet. I just have to find the one for me.” As of press time, White House sources reported Hicks had been seen making eyes at a male colleague rumored to have good looks, kind eyes, and the appealing personality of a serial killer.