In thinking through Marx, I recently came up with the following formulation, based on my days of high school debate:

“RESOLVED: That the establishment of a [advanced critical languages program at Williams], is a more valuable goal than the expansion of economic diversity within the Student Body.”

The Lincoln-Douglas format, of course, requires individuals to argue each side of the proposition in quick succession. Wonderful training.

The phrase in brackets is, of course, shorthand for one of my own personal hopes and visions. Feel free to substitute some other seemingly ‘socially worthwhile’ project– more resources for the study of Economics, for instance, or some kind of co-ordinate program in Diplomatic History, an open electronic college, renewed athletics facilities, a College “devoted to the enrichment and well-being of our region” through practical projects, … and so forth. I’m using my store of ideas; surely you have more, and surely each of our visions is as potentially questionable as it is potentially laudable.

We need not agree with all of the projects in specific, and indeed will not. All of you, could and would do a better job than I just did, of suggesting particular projects for the College. Perhaps an integrated program of tutelage in the sciences and mathematics (or English); perhaps an expanded tutorial program (yes, each has been done). Where should our focus and efforts lie?

Three propositions:

1: Evaluate the “resolution” above as a summation, iterating through the imagined value of each possible project that could be inserted for the phrase in [brackets]. I believe that the sum of the area under such a curve is, intuitively, greater than whatever Marx may be suggesting.

2: (Corollary) Attempt to substitute the right side of the equation– Marx’s project– with any imagined [braketed] project above. Again intuitively, I do not believe any proposed bracket [project] can be substituted on the right side of the equation and leave the resolution with the same meaning. What does this say about Marx’s project, and the ‘nature’ or ‘identity’ of the formula presented?

3: (Presumption or Conclusion) This thought experiment indicates a fundamental inequality between Marx’s proposition and traditional (daresay I “conservative”) visions of advancement (daresay I, in Arendt’s words, “love of the world?”). Cf. Frank’s mockery of all our mortal visions.

What does the above say about Marx?

Footnote: (Or “extra credit:”) Which Marx are we talking about?

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