It may come as a shock, but the University of Havana (North) currently offers no philosophy class devoted to our patron saint, Karl Marx. Sure, half of the courses here analyze things “from a Marxist perspective” but there is no class that takes an in-depth look at Marx’s philosophy and its relationship to Hegel’s. But one group of ambitious sophomores are trying to change that. Vanguardists!
They’ve written a groveling letter to Professor Neuhouser of the Philosophy department, which somebody (lol) forwarded to Bwog. In the letter, the sophomores—”all of [whom] are professed Marxists or are at least very sympathetic to Marxism”—request that Professor Neuhouser create and teach “a semester-long seminar on Hegel/Marx, preferably either an entire course on the Phenomenology of Spirit and/or on Capital, Vol. I from a philosophical/historical perspective.” Because only professed Marxists ought to take such a class, or have a claim for one? Whatever, they’re Marxists, not liberals.
Professor Neuhouser has already offered to lead an independent reading group on Capital for these Very Young Hegelians, but they feel that they need a formal course as preparation to “fulfill what [Marxist philosopher Theodor] Adorno believed had been missed in his time: the realization of philosophy.” They’ll even promise Professor Neuhouser that they won’t sleep in class, sort of: “you won’t find any of us sleeping in such a class (okay, perhaps this may be an exaggeration; I personally sometimes have difficulty with my sleeping schedule).” Still, though.
It takes a while for a department to get a new course approved—remember “Occupy the Field”?—so the earliest this seminar could be offered would be next fall. But one thing’s for sure: if and when this class is eventually added to the syllabus, we’ll hear about it on Fox News.
Update: Professor Neuhouser has responded to the sophomores’ letter:
Next year I plan to teach Hist. of Phil. III and my Hegel lecture course. The latter especially would be good for students in your situation to take. I hope to be able to teach Eur. Social Phil. in 2014-15; when I teach that course we spend half the semester on Marx. (You could take that course even if you’ve taken it with Prof. Honneth, since the readings will be entirely different.)
The full letter:
I write to you only as a messenger of a much larger body of students from the Class of 2015.
All of us desire one thing, and one thing only, from the Philosophy Department before we graduate: a semester-long seminar on Hegel/Marx, preferably either an entire course on the Phenomenology of Spirit and/or on Capital, Vol. I from a philosophical/historical perspective. All of us are either philosophy, sociology or anthropology majors; all of us have taken both European Social Thought and European Social Thought II: Critical Theory (Frankfurt School) with your collegue Axel Honneth; all of us are planning to take Twentieth-Century Philosophy with Taylor Carman next semester. All of us are professed Marxists or are at least very sympathetic to Marxism, have read quite a bit from authors in the Marxist tradition (as well as from 19th/20th century continental philosophy as a whole), all of us have “faith” in, as Lukacs put it, the (materialist) dialectic. We someday wish to fulfill what Adorno believed had been missed in his time: the realization of philosophy.
Yet to our embarassment none of us has every truly confronted Hegel on his own terms, at least not outside of a second-hand account of his system or the reading of various excerpts. Neither have any of us gone through the whole of Capital, outside of, yet again, several companions to the text or excerpts. We realize both of these authors’ magnum opa are incredibly dense. We also realize that they are towering figures in the history of philosophy, particularly the philosophy we most enjoy. These facts only fuels our appetite further.
I write to you because we all know you are not only the resident expert on these authors/this philosophical school in Columbia’s Philosophy Department (aside from Honneth), but also because we know you have offered a Hegel seminar in the past. If we have a Kant seminar offered every spring (some of us have taken that class or plan to next semester), then we feel we deserve a shot to grapple with Hegel, with you at as our guide. Some of us, in fact, met you (myself included) personally at the Philosophy Department’s Open House in the last academic year, in which we expressed our interest for a course solely focused on Marx. You were kind enough to speak to us afterward, telling us that you’d be more than willing to participate in a Capital reading group with us (“from an orthodox Marxist perspective,” you said, much to our delight). I suppose this is our belated response: we want not just a reading group, but an entire class devoted to the two authors. At the very least, a semester course on Hegel’s Phenomenology to get us grounded.
We realize petitioning for, preparing, and teaching such a course is not in any way an easy task. Nonetheless, we believe that our preparation and enthusiasm can make the course incredibly productive, both to you and to us. You won’t find any of us sleeping in such a class (okay, perhaps this may be an exaggeration; I personally sometimes have difficulty with my sleeping schedule) or taking any of the assignments lightly. We admire your scholarship and we wish to be given the opportunity to receive your instruction.
If we were to see a Hegel, Hegel/Marx or Marx class in the Bulletin come the Fall of 2013, or the Spring of 2014, we’d be forever grateful to you. Like I said before, we promise we’ll make it worth your trouble.
Let me know what you think of this proposal.
P.S.: Forgive me if at any point in this letter I’ve been disrespectful or out of line.