Sunday, January 11, 2015

R.P. Wolff's '25 must-read books for philosophy grad students'

Here.

Of course I'm not a philosophy grad student or philosopher, but for parlor-game purposes I could mention which I have read and haven't. But I think I won't, unless someone asks me to, in which case I'll do it in comments.

What might really get the traffic going here (relatively speaking, of course) would be an analogous list of 'must-read books/articles for grad students in IR'. Maybe I'll turn my thoughts to that at some point.

13 comments:

e julius drivingstorm said...

I got a chuckle from your comments at The Philosopher's Stone. Nice job.

LFC said...

Thanks.

I wasn't really intending to be esp. funny, tho i s'pose the cocktail-party remark was intended to be funny.

thusbloggedanderson said...

I doubt anyone not a student of Hobbes or an antagonist of the RCC needs to read the 2d half of Leviathan.

I suspect that Spinoza ought to make the cut over Leibniz, if only one gets picked.

And while Bentham might be necessary to a course on utilitarianism, I don't think he's 25-must-reads level. Hegel would be a better suggestion - the Philosophy of Right or of History, if the Phenomenology is taken to be too much gobbledygook.

LFC said...

TBA:
I suspect that Spinoza ought to make the cut over Leibniz, if only one gets picked.

This got hashed over in comments there and Wolff ended up saying he would include both of 'em.


And while Bentham might be necessary to a course on utilitarianism, I don't think he's 25-must-reads level. Hegel would be a better suggestion - the Philosophy of Right or of History, if the Phenomenology is taken to be too much gobbledygook.

I bought a used copy of S. Avineri's 'Hegel's Theory of the Modern State' but the chances of my reading it are slim, and the chances of my reading Hegel himself even slimmer.

Btw, you raised some questions about Gramsci on a Marx thread at CT a while ago. I think Gramsci worth reading -- I have read bits of the Prison Notebooks (Hoare, ed.). There's also a very short bk
on Gramsci by James Joll, who was an excellent historian. And a ton of secondary lit, of course, but I mention the Joll b.c it's short (in one of those 'modern masters' type series).

pubeditor said...

Wolff says, "you need somehow to familiarize yourselves with the metaphysical debates of the Middle Ages."

If it's impractical to tackle Aquinas or Eckhart or Occam directly, might I suggest Francisco Suarez? He's pretty late for Medieval philosophy, but he's still basically working within a scholastic framework, and he acts as a commentator on Aquinas, Scotus, and the rest.

(Not sure which book would work best; maybe Disputationes metaphysicae [1597].)

Agree w/ Anderson that the best stuff in Leviathan is in the first half; the rest is Hobbes carrying on a long argument w/ Robert Bellarmine.

Also, I second the push for Spinoza.

thusbloggedanderson said...

Joll, huh? Interesting - knew him from his "origins of WW1" stuff. Thanks!

LFC said...

@pubeditor

Yes, Suarez. Haven't read him, tho certainly heard of him. I'm slightly more familiar w Vitoria, at least at second hand.

Re Hobbes: I've read the chap or two in Leviathan, e.g. ch 13 i think it is, that IR people have to read. I neglected to take the survey hist of pol thought in college, stupidly. So have gaps, which am slowly filling here and there. Not inclined to plow through Leviathan, tho. (I did read Corey Robin's piece on Hobbes (reprinted from the Nation) in The Reactionary Mind.)

@TBA: I was suggesting Joll as a first word, rather than last; by now there are prob more recently written intros to Gramsci.

LFC said...

Incidentally, in the Hobbes piece in 'Reactionary Mind', Robin gives a clear exposition of Hobbes's view that personal liberty = essentially the absence of physical restraint on freedom of action or movement.

And thus (Robin, p.73):

"...wherever the law is silent, neither commanding nor prohibiting, we are free [according to Hobbes]. One need only contemplate all the 'ways a man may move himself,' Hobbes says in De Cive, to see all the ways he can be free in a monarchy. These freedoms, Hobbes explains in Leviathan, include 'the Liberty to buy, and sell, and otherwise contract with one another; to choose their own aboad [sic], their own
diet, their own trade of life, and institute their children as they themselves think fit; & the like.' To whatever degree the sovereign can guarantee the freedom of movement, the ability to go about our business without the hindrance of other
men, we are free. Submission to his power, in other words, augments our freedom. The more absolute our submission, the more powerful he is and the freer we are. Subjugation is emancipation."

I suppose you cd say it's maybe a bit of hyperbole for rhetorical effect, but I like the last line's echo, presumably deliberate, of the Orwellian slogan(s) from 1984 -- "freedom is slavery" [or whatever... I don't remember the exact wordings].

thusbloggedanderson said...

Hm, I wonder how that Hobbes line reads in the French translation ... assuming Rousseau read it?

LFC said...

@TBA

Well, I don't think of Hobbes and Rousseau as having much in common. E.g., R's "man is born free but he is everywhere in chains" is not something H. wd have agreed with, right? R's picture of 'the state of nature' is quite diametrically opposed to H's. (See R's Discourse on Inequality.)


Also, note that "subjugation is emancipation" is actually Corey Robin's line glossing Hobbes, not Hobbes's own sentence.

Or am I completely missing the point?

LFC said...

I should add that with respect to IR specifically, Hobbes and Rousseau are not in totally different universes, but this is not the place to go into that.

LFC said...

I raised the issue of Hobbes v. Rousseau on the state of nature in a post in July 2013, and the first comment in the thread was from TBA, suggesting that some have seen commonalities betw. H's sovereign and R's 'general will'. So we have, sort of, been through some of this before.

link

LFC said...

I've just left an additional comment on the thread at Wolff's blog, in case anyone's interested. Actually I may copy and paste it here, but not now as I need to get off the computer for the evening.