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From the Great Hall of the Cooper Union in New York City. National Educational radio presents the Cooper Union forum series on peace love and creativity the hope of mankind. These programs were recorded by station WNYC. Here now is the chairman of the Cooper Union forum Dr. Johnson. The Fairchild this is your chairman Johnson speaking to you from the great hall of the Cooper Union where we are doing with our program. Peace love. We hope the hope of discussion of this moment has to do with the moral problems of war and peace. After all what could be more important at this moment. Discussion of the moral problems of war. Peace speaker is Algernon black. Mr. Black is no stranger to this far you know spoken here
on previous occasions and to most New Yorkers he is very well known as a leader of the society ethical culture. His background has nothing to do with Harvard College Columbia University the University of Colorado and the news for Social Research. In addition to being a religious leader the leader of one of New York society for Ethical Culture He is also on the board of directors of the American Civil Liberties Union. He is a sociologist who has written a great deal has talked a great deal and is a real human heart and if I might say so very sweet and delightful force in this whole problem of sociology and religion
and the development of mankind. It was a very great pleasure to me. To introduce to you Dr. blunt. Thanks. Thank you. It's a great honor to be asked to speak at Cooper Union and especially in this hall. I think you all know that this is a place where Abraham Lincoln spoke in a momentous and memorable address 100 years ago little more than 100 years ago. On the issue of slavery and the civil war. And many have spoken here so that it is an honor to be invited. But even more is the fact that the people come here to participate in the forum.
Are people who think for themselves. And I have great respect for. Those who come. And it's also an exciting audience because it's very mixed in background nationality and religion political viewpoints. It's not a group of people who listen passively. But I think I I speak the truth when I say listen actively. This is a period of great danger. Danger to the human race physically. Terms of physical survival. It's also a time of great danger emotionally psychologically. The point of view of mental health. And when people say it's a sick world or there's a great deal of corruption. Or people are not making democracy strong not making it work not getting it security for the
future. And they're really talking about the weaknesses with which we deal with one another. The need for sanity the need for reason thoughtfulness reflection. And maybe not everybody will be able to achieve this but this is a forum where one would like to believe that one could have a center of sanity and reason and reflection. So that the people who come here can do their own thinking and can act upon it in a constructive way. Because the world is not going to be saved from outside if it's going to live it's going to have to be because people like you take personal responsibility and this is the great moral problem really of how to bring this about that people take responsibility. Now I said that that Lincoln spoke here on slavery over 100 years
ago when this nation was torn. In a bloody and bitter civil war. And one way of looking at that is to say and this is a distinction that I make. It may not seem valid to you but it's sort of helpful to me that every society every group every tribe nation culture civilization develops not only a way of addressing in the food and in the weapons and utensils and all the artifacts and the family life and the beliefs about death and how to dispose of the dead. All the customs that have to do with religious beliefs but also what develops a moral code of things that are done and not done things that are good and things that are evil so that individuals can know in that society whether it's an Indian tribe or an Eskimo tribe or a South Sea Island culture.
Well whether it's a more developed advanced civilization the individual can know what's expected of him if he's the man and what's expected of her if she's a woman. And not only how to behave but what you can count on in other people. This is a moral code and there been thousands and thousands of such codes. And I guess wherever people have lived in a community they've developed it. Now at a time that you have a moral code the people are initiated into this and they believe it. Very often it is said that it has some supernatural sanction from the gods or from God or from some Scripture and so on but however it's justified and sanctified there it is. And in the ancient world one of the things that people accepted as part of the moral code was slavery. The idea that one person can own another person can own many people. Whether he kept his them in war or kidnaps them or buys them in the market. Or gets them in payment for debt
whatever way slaves were gotten slavery was accepted as moral and the moral problem was that the master should be kind to his slaves. He should take care of his life and what he sick or old if he really were compassionate. Slavery could be a decent institution and the slaves should be loyal and work hard and take care of his master. This is the morality problem of the master in the slave under a slave morality. There came a time. When the slaves revolted in many places but also where people who were not slaves said the only institution is wrong. It's not a question of being a good slave or a good master or a bad slave or in a bad master. The problem is to get rid of slavery itself because if you would take the deeper proposition that every human being has a value in in self
not just in a market not just for somebody else's use but intrinsic value worth in himself. Then nobody can own another human being and buy and sell him and nobody can have a price put on him because a person is priceless. Whether it's good looking or homely whether he's brilliant or dumb Larry strong or weak whatever it is if a human being. We attribute to him a value in himself and we treat him with respect and we try to help him and arrive at a security and a freedom and a fulfillment. And this is the struggle against slavery and some nations freed their slaves without going to war about it as you know emancipated their slaves. And we were one of the late groups this USA of ours with all our democracy. We had written it into the Constitution. We compromised with slavery from the very beginning and the abolitionists were part of a
struggle to awaken us to the fact that we must get rid of this institution that is the moral code of slavery was unethical put it that way. Tested by a deeper ethic by deeper values it couldn't stand. And the moral relativism that some of your more intellectual sophisticated people may hold. There is one proposition I would wish we could agree about that slavery is wrong and maybe we could even agree on some other propositions and one would believe that nobody should be punished for something he hasn't done. That is the whole idea of a fair trial. Maybe we can put down some other propositions that we would say were basic ethic for modern man. And now when you look at the war problem for many people in this century and especially in this generation war itself has come into question just as slavery came into question at a certain time.
And one of the agonies of the human race at this time is the agony over war the dread of war. And in many people we don't know how many a desperate desire to be rid of it. Now we were brought up to believe that war was part of our morality. Most of you were brought up that way I was. As a child. I participated in that preparedness Day parade while I was still in high school. That's 50 years ago 1970. Short time in human history long in a person's life. My life on a Madison Square Fifth Avenue. And and yet we said that war was right. World War 1 to stop the Kaiser. And some of us thought that World War
2 was right to stop Hitler. Stop miscellany to stop the Japanese authorities. So we've had two great world wars and many of us were brought up and believed in that deep in and that is the fact that war has been considered part of the heroic in human life. You go back to Roman times and Greek times. The war you're in in the Middle Ages the night. This is a noble man this is a heroic man this is a courageous man. He symbolizes something very wonderful in man. Courage sacrifice loyalty. Sometimes he's fighting because he believes in God as a Crusaders did in Christ or in Allah and Muhammad. Or Israel and the God of Israel.
Sometimes that is because he believes in a way of life. Sometimes it's a freedom. And almost every war maybe we could say every war has to it's own people usually represented something with a moral purpose. And the war has been accepted as a moral war because it had a moral purpose. And good people and thinking people intelligent people educated people have accepted those as the rational explanation and justification for the sacrifices of their lives their son and have rewarded with medals and honor and monuments. Those who have gone to war for those purposes. Now it's hard if you are a pacifist or you if you are a war resister if you are desperately against what's happening now it's hard for you to appreciate that positive moral concept with it also in the past was the idea that you
don't kill civilians. And not only do you not kill civilians but you don't just in theory at least you don't take their property. You don't write their women you don't poison their wells and contaminate their crops. But is between military men. You don't go after helpless people without arms without training. That's been part of it and also in the dealing with prisoners. Even the military prisoners of war you don't kill the wounded. And that I know the limits at least in the minds like you don't use dum dum bullets you don't use gas. And you don't use maybe nuclear weapons. So if the purpose was noble and moral and approved and sold to the people the method also is limited. And I think those two elements have played a part
plus the concept of loyalty and in fact to speak about war and peace means right away that you're in the problem of what do you mean by loyalty. Do you mean unquestioning obedience to the government. Or do you mean critical thinking. And in a democracy do you mean the people should really do some thinking about it maybe share in the decision and maybe differ about the decisions about a war. Well if you were able to look at war objective Lee without emotion just describe it as you describe any other kind of behavior scientifically. How would you describe it I was thinking of this today. I didn't go look up definitions. But obviously one purpose of war is to either defend a bit of land defensive war a war in which people fight because they're invaded or attacked.
That's right and in their in their home turf if you like. That's a defensive war. And in a defensive war you would expect people even pacifists. Even many people are for the peace movement to defend the country they live in to defend their own lives the lives of those they love and the sense of the community which made their own life possible. And even you know I'm speaking particularly those of you who are part of the peace movement. If this country had vision visibly an invasion and you could see the boats coming and you could see the planes coming and leave out the missiles and the other things that you haven't got time to see. But I'm talking about visible invasion and threat and attack that many people are for peace would say. I got to get myself a gun. And many would would change quite the pattern of thinking. The problem is the second kind of war which most of us don't believe in. And that's the aggressive war the
war of aggression against another people. Where you go into somebody else's turf where you go into somebody else's land. Now obviously when your go to take land to enlarge your own country when you go to take resources or you go to get women. When you go for some other purpose that has to do with imposing your will on some other people. Your way of life your religious beliefs your god your institutions of politics your economic. Or your go to make profit out of their resources out of their land out of their oil or their fruit or their crop or whatever it is you find riches there and you haven't got them. Now many people who would be for a defensive war in the same sense that you are. You justify self defense between individuals. We say Thou shalt not kill. And if a person plans to kill another person and in other words deliberate premeditated murder
we punish this as the most severe thing we excuse it if it's in self-defense. The excuse if it's accidental. But we don't excuse it if it was deliberately planned because that kind of thinking is a threat to the whole community. Threat to all life first degree murder. Well what about not when an individual does it out of hatred jealousy whatever other motivates him. What if the government doesn't the government of the people mobilize its resources mobilizes the people indoctrinate them stirs them with fear stories them to believe that their basic values are threatened. All stories I'm to believe that they really are concerned what happens to another people. Whether they really care about those people or not.
But in some way in other words it involves the people and the resources of the people and plans weapons and deadlier weapons and then commits an aggressive war. You know many people I believe in every country would stand for a defensive war even that even if they're trying to get rid of war. You know they say they're for peace they will fight a defensive war that can be shown to them but will not fight in an aggressive war a war of aggression the kind of thing that miscellany did to Ethiopia with a shameful thing an obscene thing to bomb the villages. That is pilots might test their planes and test their pilot and their bombing abilities. Well when Germany March when Hitler marched through Europe into Poland into Holland Belgium and the dropping of bombs on London the Battle of Britain. All that for what.
For the sake of the people of Europe for the sake of Germany or for the sake of Hitler or a small group what was and so when Japan went into Manchuria in the thirties. It is this kind of thing we condemn. Partly because we believe every people should have the right to live and determine its own destiny. Part of because our humanity is violated and partly because when you have a war of that type it's pretty obvious it's not just against military people between people who are somewhat equal where strength and skill and war. Has a certain maybe a certain nobility like again your life but where you're really crushing people with the Perrier machines or preparation or surprise and which weapons which don't distinguish between the military and the civilian and we know that in every war the number of the percentage of civilians that are killed increases. Now always were civilians who were injured by
wars. There always was kidnapping and rape and mutilation always was robbery destruction and certainly was death of civilians. And there was death also not due to the will of the military but because of the side effects that starvation. Disease. Drought famine. So on. But the percentages increased in World War 2. About half the people killed were civilians. Millions. Not always by bullets or bombs though many were. And we were party to that. We bombed some time so there was nothing left. Just a smoldering mess. And maybe some cadaverous looking people coming out without any hair or skin out of the rubble. This was civilians because it becomes more difficult with modern warfare to separate
because you're striking at the centers of economic production and military production. Ball bearings oil parts of planes and tanks guns and ammunition. And that's where civilians are. We increase the the amount of the killing and an aggressive war and aggression. We particularly have that in the other person's country and many of us have agonized about this in relation to the current war. But the other war the third kind of war which we have a problem about even more than the aggressive is the intervention war. If you believe in self-determination How do you come to believe in her eventually and other person and other nations affairs. When we fought the American Revolution we didn't want anybody in it really to stop us. When we were in the Civil War there were some people that were siding with a Southern group
that were perfectly ready to come into the USA on that side and we've got to battle it out ourselves. I'm not saying every civil war and intervention problem is a simple as that or it's the same everywhere I'm just saying if you want to try to think about the morality that's involved here which some would say all right war is never good. Sometimes it may be necessary but necessary in defense. If I'm going to participate but not an aggressive war and intervention war I'd want to be sure of my facts. And I'd like to paint make some judgment myself. So here's another area then of the moral problems of war and peace. I spoke first of all of the ethics of our time challenging the moral code of acceptance and ennobling of war as part of the institutional life and morality of our time. Many people are
saying this is a century in which we must get rid of war is just the thing that man has lived through each had it for thousands of years. We've had our dose of it in the 20th century with two world wars and we've had many other wars the India-Pakistan the China-Japan Israel Arab Korean War. You can name more of them but we can't afford to go on this way. And it's crazy. And the margin of gain from war and the margin of loss is so out of kilter now. And of course then you come down to the nuclear war. And you know there's a little book out now which you all should read it's no pleasure believe me I kept carrying it around somebody sent it to me and I postponed reading it to light thought I could take it. I don't know what it was but I was sure I wouldn't like it. But it's the book a little book which embodies the BBC broadcast. And it is attempt to tell the British people of England.
What is that going to. What is going to happen in the event of a nuclear attack. And what is being done right now about which most of the people of Britain don't know anything. That is that the government is assuming that there might be a nuclear attack and the government is preparing for it. This involves then what will happen in the in the early warning system. What will the government do before the early warning system shows that something is coming toward anyone in the way of international ballistic missiles and so on with nuclear war. Of course England has islands and its concentrated population and the targets are wide open. It's a small area you've got to do is hit that and there's no doubt that the Soviet Union has missiles aimed at the nations of NATO and Europe and if any war starts that those missiles will carry nuclear
warheads to the senators not military centers but the centers of the population. It'll destroy economic and military targets but it will destroy people it will destroy cities and three hydrogen bombs on a city like London or a city like New York or Edinburgh or Glasgow take any of them in England. What will this do. What percentage of the people of England will be wiped out immediately by either the wind of the blast which will be the force of the hurricane. Over 100 miles an hour. Which will not only blow things down but kill people by flying debris. And the second thing is the fire which will immediately go in temperature to 800 degrees or a thousand degrees of 5000 for all I know because this is the nuclear fission
of the hydrogen bomb it gets to be something like the heat of the sun the fire that's in the sun and six miles and 10 miles away from the place where a hydrogen bomb falls. Things will be lifted to that kindling point if you know chemistry and physics. Many things in this hall would begin to burn. Obviously the wood is certainly the claw would just break into flames if you raise the temperature of this room a certain amount would you raise it 800 degrees and things you never thought would burn will burn. So it was fire and people will catch fire without anybody setting them on fire. But beyond that is the radiation. Most of us have become somewhat conscious of this and scared of it because of all the fact that we have a plague among us now of cancer and leukemia. And the medical profession knows about it is not a thing we talk about very much but there's no question
about it. We all think about it for ourselves. We never know who is going to strike and is not a family where it hasn't struck.
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Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind
The moral problems of war and peace, part one
Producing Organization
WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program presents the first part of a lecture by Algernon D. Black, leader, The Society of Ethical Culture.
Series Description
This series presents lectures from the 1968 Cooper Union Forum. This forum's theme is Peace, Love, Creativity: The Hope of Mankind.
Media type
Producing Organization: WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Producing Organization: Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
Speaker: Fairchild, Johnson E.
Speaker: Black, Algernon D. (Algernon David), 1900-1993
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-10-13 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:19
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Chicago: “Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; The moral problems of war and peace, part one,” 1968-03-06, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 21, 2024,
MLA: “Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; The moral problems of war and peace, part one.” 1968-03-06. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 21, 2024. <>.
APA: Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; The moral problems of war and peace, part one. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from