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Robert Paul Wolff's "The Philosopher's Stone."
December 8, 2011 6:38 AM   Subscribe

Robert Paul Wolff is most famous as the author of In Defense of Anarchism and as the "only person on the face of the earth who has read, cover to cover, Immanuel Kant's Inaugural Dissertation, Karl Marx's doctoral dissertation, and Newt Gingrich's doctoral dissertation." His memoir has also drawn considerable interest. But as a part of his blogging he has habitually offered "micro-tutorials" to encourage his readers to re-acquaint themselves with the classics of what might be called the Heroic Age in the study of society -- the writings of Marx, Freud, Weber, Ricardo, Mannheim, and others. His newest micro-tutorial, on Durkheim's Suicide, begins today.
posted by anotherpanacea (25 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite

 
Immanuel Kant's Inaugural Dissertation, Karl Marx's doctoral dissertation, and Newt Gingrich's doctoral dissertation

Yes, but did he read them in the originals, or translated into English?
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:51 AM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


anotherpanacea: "and Newt Gingrich's doctoral dissertation.""

I swear to God I'm not making this up:
If you'd like to discuss the doctoral dissertation with the current Republican presidential frontrunner, he'll be signing copies of his book tomorrow at Washington Union Station, at the convenience store across from Amtrak Gate A (right next to Sbarro) during the afternoon rush hour.

That's right. The leading GOP candidate has adopted the same messaging tactics as the crazy homeless guy with the huge signs. To complete the metaphor, I really hope they show up by bus, and that Callista helps Newt move the books with a granny-cart.

And, for what it's worth, the guy with the signs has more nuanced views on fiscal policy than Newt does.
posted by schmod at 6:52 AM on December 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Immanuel Kant's Inaugural Dissertation, Karl Marx's doctoral dissertation, and Newt Gingrich's doctoral dissertation

My God, dear sir, my heart goes out to you, whoever you are.
posted by blucevalo at 6:54 AM on December 8, 2011


Gingrich has a PhD in history? Wow, you know someone is evil when they HAVE studied their history and are dooming the rest of us to repeat it.
posted by DU at 6:56 AM on December 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


I guess I should have included the Wikipedia article.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:56 AM on December 8, 2011


Immanuel Kant's Inaugural Dissertation, Karl Marx's doctoral dissertation, and Newt Gingrich's doctoral dissertation

I'm not sure why, but this suddenly reminded me that Armageddon is part of the Criterion Collection.
posted by me & my monkey at 6:59 AM on December 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


via tumblr comes this pithy observation on Gingin's doctoral dissertation on the Congo
posted by infini at 7:06 AM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow, great find. Err, share. Thanks!
posted by notyou at 7:13 AM on December 8, 2011


An anarchist commenting on the writings of an oligarchist.
posted by goethean at 7:22 AM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, you know someone is evil when they HAVE studied their history and are dooming the rest of us to repeat it.

"And Gingrich beheld the Gilded Age, and saw that It was Good."
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:45 AM on December 8, 2011


This looks to be a very interesting post!

I'm only about six pages into the Freud article*, and I'm actually pretty impressed. He writes clearly, logically, and with great understanding. I look forward to reading the others. Lord knows I could stand to read Weber again without actually having to, you know, read Weber.

*I chose the Freud one because I figure I know enough about it to judge his precis and his ideas. Of course I might be wrong.
posted by OmieWise at 7:48 AM on December 8, 2011


"And Gingrich beheld the Gilded Age, and saw that It was Good."

more like "and Gingrich beheld the Heart of Darkness, and saw that it was Good."
posted by ennui.bz at 7:50 AM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ooh, he has read Kant, Marx, and Gingrich? (lots of cognitive dissonance just trying to write that sentence)

Reminds me of the Fish Called Wanda quote:

Apes don't read philosophy!
Yes they do, they just don't understand it.
posted by lothar at 7:56 AM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here he covers the aggressively ignorant evolution denialists who nonetheless get to avail themselves of modern (i.e. evolution-based) medicine when the chips are down. Yeah, I like this guy.
posted by whuppy at 7:58 AM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


There really is no reason to read an "original" PhD dissertation--if it has merit, it would be
put in more graceful form and published. Only the specialized researching scholar would or need bother to read the original work.

In passing: Hitler's early paintings now sell for a lot of money. Perhaps when Newt has his head carved onto Mt Rushmore, his diss will be worth a great deal.
posted by Postroad at 8:00 AM on December 8, 2011


Omiewise: He writes clearly, logically, and with great understanding.

Postroad: Only the specialized researching scholar would or need bother to read the original work.

He's a retired philosophy professor, which hopefully explains both of these. (Someday I aspire to both his clarity and his emeritus status.)
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:06 AM on December 8, 2011


Immanuel Kant was a real piss-ant who could drink you under the table
But Newt Gingrich was a son of a bitch whose thesis was unstable
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:31 AM on December 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


whuppy: "Here he covers the aggressively ignorant evolution denialists who nonetheless get to avail themselves of modern (i.e. evolution-based) medicine when the chips are down. Yeah, I like this guy."

Yes, me too -- that particular post doesn't say anything that some of us haven't already thought or read elsewhere but he sure says it well. Looking forward to exploring his blog and reading (or re-reading) the texts he's discussing. Seems like a great cold weather comfort and like it may be helpful in my ongoing attempt to overcome the sad fact that my liberal arts education was (at least partially) wasted by me being a 18-22 years old at the time.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:33 AM on December 8, 2011


I posted a link to this in an earlier election thread. It's a marvelous piece (Wolff's, not Gingrich's).

Proves the dude was a mediocre scholar and explains why he never got tenure at West Georgia.
posted by spitbull at 9:20 AM on December 8, 2011


Wolff's blog is great! He's a bit too soft on Obama for a self professed anarchist to my liking, but perhaps that's his age showing.
posted by bodywithoutorgans at 9:22 AM on December 8, 2011


On the other hand, Ann Dunham's (President Obama's mother's) really rather excellent dissertation was recently edited and published by Duke UP.
posted by spitbull at 9:22 AM on December 8, 2011


Some of my older readers may recall that in 1987, Allan Bloom, a dyspeptic epigone of the late unlamented Leo Straus, published an angry attack on modernity called the Closing of the American Mind. The book was two parts nostalgia for the classics [Plato, Machiavelli, and such] and three parts cry of horror at the Civil Rights Movement, the Anti-War Movement, Women's Lib, and all things countercultural. It also contained a thinly-disguised sigh of love to Mick Jagger, but of that, the less said the better. When the book appeared, ACADEME, the journal of the American Association of University Professors, asked me to write a review, which I did. Since the Preface to Bloom's book had been written by Saul Bellow, Bloom's colleague on the University of Chicago Committee on Social Thought, I chose somewhat maliciously to construe the text as a brilliant intellectual novel by Bellow, who had created a wonderfully funny, cranky, bilious U of Chicago professor whose name, "Bloom," was an obvious homage to Joyce. Despite appearing in a rather obscure publication [which I had actually not heard of until they asked me to review the book], the review had something of a success. One sweet but not too bright professor from somewhere in Pennsylvania actually called me to ask whether Bloom was real. She had called the University of Chicago, she said, and had been referred to a Research Assistant when she asked for Professor Bloom. This earnest young man assured her angrily that Bloom was indeed real ["I talked to him this morning."] and said he had been fielding calls all day long from people who thought his mentor was just a character in a novel.
posted by ovvl at 10:31 AM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is great. Durkheim's On Suicide is a fantastic work and I'm surprised it isn't more widely read with all the other political/sociological cannon stuff. Durkeim's notion of anomie, I think, is sort of especially relevant in our own times.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:07 PM on December 8, 2011


I liked Wolff's essay on Freud. He captures the essence of Freud's influence: a genius with unique ideas, some of which were wrong.
posted by ovvl at 2:34 PM on December 8, 2011


schmod: "I swear to God I'm not making this up:
If you'd like to discuss the doctoral dissertation with the current Republican presidential frontrunner, he'll be signing copies of his book tomorrow at Washington Union Station, at the convenience store across from Amtrak Gate A (right next to Sbarro) during the afternoon rush hour.
"

Thank you, schmod. That ought to screw up my commute today worse than those damned anti-abortion kids. Hudson News...never liked those shops, over-priced, crap selection of books, perfect for Newt.
posted by QIbHom at 10:33 AM on December 9, 2011


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