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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

HOLY GEEKWORLD, BATMAN

Good grief.  I think I just did it.  I scanned a page onto my computer successfully with my ancient printer.  I tried to buy Adobe and discovered I alrady have it.  I then converted the .pdf file with a click to WORD!!!  As le bourgeois gentilhomee says in Moliere's play of the same name, I have been speaking prose all my life and did not know it.  

A TECH QUESTION

So far as I can tell, I am running Windows 10 on my computer.  Does anyone wish to weigh in on what is the best OCR package I can get for converting scanned typescript essays?  If they are going to end up as .pdf files, then I will need a good conversion program as well, so an OCR program that is capable of generating WORD files directly would be nifty, if such exists.

Monday, November 20, 2017

A WORD OF EXPLANATION

I linked to the story yesterday and I have written about the general subject at length, but because this is far and away the most immediately important matter before the public, and the world, I will write about it again.  I refer to the report that “The top nuclear commander in the U.S. [Gen. John Hyten] said Saturday that he would reject an “illegal” nuclear attack order from President Donald Trump, and would instead steer the commander in chief to other “options.””

Let me once again explain what is at issue here.  During the decades-long nuclear standoff with the Soviet Union, American military planners were fearful that a nuclear first strike would knock out communications, and perhaps also kill the President and Vice President and others in the chain of command, thus making it impossible to launch a nuclear counterstrike.  They knew that their early warning systems would give them no more than fifteen minutes in which to detect a launch of Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles and then send a launch order to nuclear submarine commanders or hardened silo officers before the arrival of the Soviet missiles.  In order to make deterrence credible, they had to devise a system capable of reacting with that speed.  The solution was a command system for nuclear missiles that bypassed the chain of command and went directly from the President to those actually in control of, and capable of launching, US ICBMs.  Since there was no way of anticipating where the President might be when that fifteen minute window opened, it was decided to assign senior officers, carrying a communications device and launch codes, to accompany the President literally everywhere.  This device came to be called “the nuclear football” because of its shape.

The cold war is long over, and countries like North Korea who possess nuclear weapons and might be moved to launch their ICBMs at the United States [never mind how unlikely this is] are not capable of the sort of first strike that would threaten the command structure of the American military.  But the nuclear football still exists, and with it, at least in theory, the bypassing of the chain of command that it presupposes.

Enter Donald Trump, who is widely believed, by those who have seen him up close and know him best, to be capable in a fit of pique of ordering a first strike, let us say at North Korea.  Assuming that this assessment of Trump’s mental state is accurate – as I believe it is – we thus face a simply devastatingly disastrous prospect.  General Hyten, who understands all of this intimately and lives with it daily, is saying that he would interpret as illegitimate a Trump command to launch a nuclear strike in the absence of the sort of information for which the current system was originally designed.


This is the very best news I have heard since Trump was elected.

THE RIGORS OF PANHANDLING

As I have mentioned, I am embarked on an effort to recapture and organize a lifetime of writing.  As I started working through a file drawer of unpublished papers, I came across a copy [misfiled] of a fund-raising letter that I mailed out on January 25, 1991 for my newly created charitable organization, University Scholarships for South African Students [USSAS].  My principal gimmick for getting USSAS started was to buy the mailing lists of a number of American academic organizations – The American Philosophical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the English and American Literature branch of the Modern Language Association, and so forth.  Then I rounded up big names in those fields to co-sign a letter I drafted [Jack Rawls declined], and sent out appeals to all the members.  By the time I was done, I had sent out 85,000 letters.  Considering the distinction of the letter signers, I had high hopes, but folks with experience in the fund-raising business warned me to expect no more than a one or two percent response, a caution that proved quite accurate.


The letter I stumbled on yesterday went to all the members of the American Economics Association.  Let me tell you who signed it:  Kenneth Arrow, Alice Rivlin, Paul Samuelson, Amartya Sen, Herbert Simon, and Joseph Stiglitiz.  Five Nobel Prize winners!  And only about 2% of the economists who got the letter mailed in some money.  Don’t be fooled by the likes of Sheldon Adelson, the Mercers, and the Koch brothers.  Raising money is hard.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

THE BEST NEWS OF THE DAY

This may not seem like much, but it is far and away the best news not just of this day but of many days.

NAVEL GAZING

I have begun the slow process of reading through my file drawer of unpublished essays and working papers as a first step in a larger effort to create an archive of my writings.  Almost at once, I came upon a rather lengthy exchange between myself and Richard Wolff, the disinguished Marxist economist, concerning the concept of overdetermination as it appears in the writings of Althusser.  The exchange, which is undated, seems to have been written in the late '70s, when both of us were a great deal younger.  It is a typescript from the dawn of the modern age before people worked on computers.  When I figure out how to get it into WORD, I will share it with all of you.

Friday, November 17, 2017

SEX IN THE CITY

I feel a need to say something about the recent flood of revelations of sexual harassment, sexual violation, and outright rape by prominent men, even though I do not really have anything to contribute to the discussion beyond what many others have said and are saying.  I cannot very well run a blog and yet ignore what everyone is talking about.  Like everyone else, I am struck by three things. 

First, it is almost always the case that a man who is outed for one act of sexual abuse or harassment turns out, on closer examination, to be a serial abuser or harasser.  It is not at all surprising that once a woman has the courage to come forward and report what was done to her, many more women appear who have been treated in the same way by the man.  These are patterns of behavior deeply rooted in the man’s character.  Needless to say, getting away with it once merely emboldens him to try again and again.

Second, it is quite often the case that the man revealed as a sexual abuser is, by any reasonable objective aesthetic measure, an unattractive slob.  Harvey Weinstein is the poster boy for this feature of abuse.  I mean, let’s face it, very few sexual predators look like Brad Pitt.  Nor is it surprising that the abusers are often a good deal older than their victims.

Third, it is, I take it, obvious that these stories are more about the abuse of power than about sexuality simpliciter.  There is nothing intrinsically immoral about a man making sexual overtures to a woman [leaving aside marital status and such], or indeed to many women.  Some men find a favorable response all or most of the time [did anyone ever say no to Humphrey Bogart?], and some strike out all the time.  There is a delicate balance between being too diffident and improperly pushy, to be sure, but between a man and a woman of equal status and social power, there is nothing improper about either of them signaling an interest in sex.  The real problem arises when a man with social or economic or political or sheer physical power over a woman uses that power to compel a woman to submit to sex [or, for that matter, to anything else, but that is part of a larger discussion.]

By the way, an idle observation by a compulsive cable news watcher:  I have now seen six or eight panel discussions of sexual harassment featuring male and female anchors, commentators, and the like.  Every one of the women on those panels is, to my eye, physically more attractive than any of the men.  It is worth reflecting on what that tells you.


Which brings me to Roy Moore.  His behavior all those years ago was repetitive, creepy, pathetic, abusive, and in at least one case outright illegal.  It is also a gift from God, because it might just give the Democrats an otherwise unwinnable Senate seat at a crucial moment.  Like Josh Marshall of TPM Daily, I am extremely leery of the Republican desire to initiate an effort to expel him from the Senate, should he be elected.  I think that would set an extremely dangerous precedent.  Let us suppose my dreams come true and several real socialists [not faux socialists like Bernie Sanders] are elected to the Senate.  Does anyone doubt that an effort would be made to unseat them, an effort supported by many Democratic senators as well as all of the Republicans?  If Moore is elected, let him serve in that august body.  He will be a constant thorn in the side of the Republican Party, who deserve him.